Choosing Soundcard and Mic

Here is what I have to choose from. I’m going to be recording acoustic, electric guitar and a synthesizer. I’m probably going to buy a Shure 57 for recording guitar. But I’m not sure which sound card to buy. I have a budget of under 200$ but I can be a bit flexible. If the product you recommend is not there then please list it anyways. I want the best quality I can get out of this amount of money.

You do bump into one problem almost immediately. The M-Audio stuff is very nice, but they typically use ASIO software drivers and Audacity doesn’t support ASIO. You can try it anyway, but, there are a lot of postings from people who say, “I have an M-Audio [some part number] and it will not [some complaint]”

It’s always something odd like missing one channel or distorts the sound.

The SM57 is a very nice microphone, but it’s professionally balanced (three gold pins on the bottom) and it needs to match the sound card.

I can give you pieces, I guess. We use these “cute” Peavey mixers at work and they seem to run well.

The application is one or two people sitting at the front of a room giving a training lecture with one microphone in the audience for questions. The mixer directly supports four microphones, as well as headphones to monitor the performance and a simple equalizer.

It’s an analog device, so we cable it into the Line-In (blue) socket of a large, deskside computer to record it. It will also plug straight into a Mac. It will probably not plug into a PC laptop without one of the other USB soundcards in our list.

Whatever you pick has to say in clear English, “Stereo Line-In” or “Stereo High-Level In.”

With all that, it’s never going to sound like a Recording Studio. The system does have a very gentle background noise (hiss) and I’m sure if I measured it, it would have some small distortion, but for the bux, this should totally do it.

You will probably never have to worry about the quality of the mixer, because the quality of your room is going to be far worse. I lucked out in a big way. The first family that moved into my house had a son that played drums. The small third bedroom is soundproofed.


Maybe E-MU Tracker Pre USB 2 (~149US$) + Shure 57 mic.

You’ll get all needed software bundled with E-MU.


That looks like a good idea. Do you have any personal experience of any kind with this device? Will you write a review?

Any words, any experiences.


Anymore suggestions?

Any of these look appetizing yet? They all come from a slightly different bias.

There’s a whole range of USB microphones that have their own talents and shortcomings. They can work really well, but they have slightly low level and you can’t ever get further than six feet away from the computer.


I couldn’t find the exact one but this would work right? I should be able to pair it with a Shure 57? And I should be able to record my Microkorg?

Sorry, I’m completely new to this stuff.

No experience with this model but, I’m using E-MU 0404 USB for recording/music playback.
Tracker Pre is made more for recording purposes (inserts available) so that’s why I suggested it rather than the 0202 USB which is an excellent device as well for the price. Tracker Pre has equal ADC with 0202 and 0404 USB and equal DAC with 0202 USB and also can be used either as bus powered or using external power supply.

Here are reviews of E-MU 0404 USB and 0202 USB (Tracker Pre is quality wise somewhere in between these two models. There’s Tracker Pre review, done by Audio Fanzie, linked on E-MU site but, IMO, those benchmark results there are weird.


Ultra Low Latency USB-2 drivers, but they don’t say by who, and latency happens at the computer, not the preamp. Remember ASIO problems.

That seems to do everything you want. You do need to know that it doesn’t have two inputs. It has one-and-a-half. If you want to record from your cassette machine or other stereo line-level device, you can’t plug the microphone in at the same time. They share the Left connector. I can’t tell from the description, but it appears that whatever you plug into Left stays on the Left. You need to place the microphone in the sound field later in post production.

It looks like you can plug a guitar into Right and your SM57 into left and record them both, but I can’t exactly tell. That will take serious post production later.

That Peavey Mixer I posted about can record the microphone on both left and right at the same time. It can mix two microphones and guitar in real time.

Google for that model number + complaints.

One other comment. It’s pretty much exactly what you need probably for about the next week. Then you’ll be selling it for something better/bigger/more complex.

But that’s later.


So the 202 will work for me?