On thing that Renegade didn't mention, but I know he can talk about, is the ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL issue of having a good microphone.
It is painful to listen to someone who has recorded with a bad microphone, and nothing will send people away faster.
Yes. Mics are CRITICAL!!!
Ok. So here's the deal. I have no software and I usually use the built in mic on my laptop. I use my bathroom as my recording studio. Do you guys have any suggestions on how I can make everything more professional? Which is a good mic? Where is the best place to record? ~HUGS~
Don't even bother using your built-in mic. They're absolute garbage. And that's being nice.
Give it a spin then listen to yourself. You'll hear that it's literally painful to listen to.
The best mic money can buy for bang for buck is the Shure SM58. Period. Nothing comes remotely close for the money. Yeah, you can get better mics for $5,000 or so, but you will never find a better mic than the Shure SM58 for the money. It's about $100 US, and the best bet. Actually, they have another version of it that has an on/off switch, but that's a detail.
Check here for a comparison of a cheap $50 mic and the Shure SM58:http://renegademinds...ryID/53/Default.aspx
I have an MP3 with a comparison there. It will literally blow your mind. $50 vs. $100 and the difference is out of this world.
I have other mics as well, but for the money, you cannot beat the Shure SM58. It's the standard for vocal mics. It's durable and just works beautifully.
You will need an XLR to 1/4" audio jack adapter though. You can buy cords for that no problem. However, don't buy into the hype on cord quality. Just get a cheap cord as it is good enough. The uber-expensive ones are not worth it.
For your audio card, that's a problem... If your sound is crappy with the Shure, then you need a better sound card. Any sound card with a "mic" jack that's a 1/8" jack will likely sound like garbage. They just don't work. Period. You can try it, but you're unlikely to get any kind of decent quality. I have NEVER had a sound card with a 1/8" audio jack that worked well enough to actually use the audio.
So, for sound cards, look into decent ones. Cards with a break-out box are generally good, or an external audio device is another option.
I use a Edirol UA-25 for my mic and headphones. It's quite good, and not very expensive (all things considered that is).
There are many others that are very good though.
I would not recommend any Creative Labs cards though. I've used them in the past, and had the same quality problems with their 1/8" audio jacks -- they just do not work. You cannot record audio that is remotely usable.
Now, if you're looking for a really cheap alternative, check into USB mics and headphones or headsets.
I've used Logitech and Microsoft headsets in the past, and they're simply excellent for quality - all things considered. They'll run you between $30 and $100 or so, but the audio you get from them is infinitely better than you'll ever get through a 1/8" jack.
Currently, I have a Microsoft USB headset that I bought for my wife as she calls me from her office on Skype, and her computer's built in mic is just painful to listen to. Literally painful. It hurts my ears. I want to scream when she calls. (And she still hasn't figured out that in order to use them, she actually needs to take the headset to the office... grrrr...)
However, the quality is very good, and may be good enough for what you need.
I also have a Logitech USB mic that is quite good, but nowhere near as good as my Shure. It's a cheap option again, but like my Microsoft USB headset, the quality is "good enough for chatting".
If you're recording for professional use, you will likely want to go for the professional mic setup though. You'll want a solid sound card and mic.
Check out reviews for the Shure SM58. You'll very quickly find out that it is the best mic in the world for the price. I am not exaggerating. It really is. However, it is a voice mic. You won't want to use it for instruments. That's what the SM57 is for.
For audio devices, well, there are a bajillion of those out there. You can spend anywhere from $20 to $10,000 on one. But I'd guess that you can get something decent for what you need in the $100 to $250 range. Later you can always upgrade if you happen to need anything more, which is unlikely.
M-Audio is an excellent brand for cards/devices. They have some great gear, and I'd recommend them highly. However, they do tend to get pricey quite quickly. This is likely about what you'd want:http://www.m-audio.c...en_us/MobilePre.html
It's $180, but you can probably get it for less somewhere. Check online at Zzounds or somewhere.
One of the advantages of buying an M-Audio device is that you get Pro Tools SE. Pro Tools is THE premiere software/hardware for studios. So, if you ever get deeper into things, you're already versed in Pro Tools.
I can't really recommend anything beyond Audacity for you though. I've only ever used professional audio software as every attempt I've made at using consumer-level software has been frustrating for me and I've abandoned it.
However, that was a while ago, so you should check on that. Maybe someone can recommend some decent, cheap software for you. Audacity is free, but... DO NOT encode MP3s with it -- it does NOT work properly. (Perhaps fixed now, but last I checked, no dice.)
But as above, Pro Tools SE comes with most M-Audio devices, is professional quality, and something you won't regret.
I use Samplitude and FL Studio, but there are many other solutions out there. Cubase, WaveLab, Audition, SAW Studio, etc. etc. There are LOTS. SAW Studio is probably THE biggest, meanest one out there. What it can do is just insane. You'll never need that amount of power. Nobody does. Except perhaps for the NSA as it spies on millions of people's phone calls.
If I were to prioritize, I would go this route:
2) Sound card
Knowing the general prices on things, for a good setup, I'd budget like this:
1) Mic - $100 (Shure SM58 period)
2) Sound card - $100 to $250
3) Software - Free or included with sound card or under $100
4) Location - Not possible to budget for this
For a cheap setup, I'd go this route:
1) Sound card - $100 to $250
2) Mic - USB mic under $100
3) Software - Free, with sound card, or under $50
4) Location - As above
However, for a "cheap recording studio"... What you *can* do is buy a large plastic garbage can or similar object (I'm not kidding) and line the inside with cloth (like a blanket or bed sheet) then hang it upside down and record inside of that. I've heard of people doing that before, and heard the results -- it works. I've not tried it, but I wouldn't hesitate if I needed to.
I hope that helps out some.