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Looking for advice, or answer to a really dumb question...


durhamboy
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OK, so I'm intending to build a home recording system, possibly Prosonus Audiobox, or similar featured Scarlett, suitable software and a pair of reasonable powered monitors and decent headphones. I was also planing on getting a small combo amp, purely for home practice when a bright idea (or possibly not so bright idea?) hit me. Would I really need a small amp for practice, or would my recording system fill the same role? Does a DI/interface plus monitors/headphones negate the need for a practice amp? ( I'm retired, the kids have grown up and left us with the space for a dedicated music room, so I don't even need amplification anymore.) These days I try not to be the music gear consumer I used to be, so would I really need the extra piece of gear a new amp would be?  Any thoughts or suggestions?

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I’m sure others will disagree but I’m going to say that you don’t need an amp. Nice headphones make a big difference, so choose ones you find comfortable and good to listen to music on. A direct signal through a good interface will give you a much nicer tone than a tiny amp, especially when playing with drum loops / backing tracks etc, plus you’ll eliminate external noise and not worry about annoying others in your house. An amp on the other hand means you’ll be listening to the room acoustics as well as the amp itself, and you’ll be tweaking it for weeks trying to fight with the resonant peaks of your victorian floorboards (or whatever), and you’ll wonder if a bigger / better amp will give you better results (which it never will), inevitably leading to wanting to buy more equipment. So from personal experience my advice is to keep it simple and focus on a nice direct signal, reliable daw, good headphones and a comfortable chair.

If you have a huge detached house with nice acoustics, and you like to get punched in the chest by bass noises, that’s a whole other matter - then you really do need an amp. But for general home recording and practice, I don’t think you do.

I have 2 amps at home, I play through one of them at minimum volume maybe once every couple of months, the rest of the time I’m on headphones unless I’m at a gig or rehearsal.

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Thanks for the reply, everything you've said sounds logical to me, hopefully not just because I was sort of leaning that way anyway.... I've noticed some good deals on headphones and monitors recently so it could be time to act. (There are times when having the monition option could be handy, my wife has a Yamaha Clarinova electric piano, so family jams are an option😉

 

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Yes , I like the option of the amp sim options in DAW, so many options. I'm looking forward to entering todays world of home recording. (Back in the late 70's I had a Sony two track reel to reel about the size of a large suitcase for home recording of song ideas, oh how things have changed...)

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As other have said, you won't need a practice amp - your monitors and/or headphones will fulfil that role once you connect your bass to your computer via an audio interface DI.

That's not to say practice amps aren't useful - I use mine for the purpose of re-amping - but they're not essential for home recording.

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While you don't NEED a practice amp for recording, When you are not recording, the ability to simply fir up your amp and play is a lot more immediate than having the start up the computer load the DAW pick a plug-in and accepted routing before you can hear anything.

Sometime you need that immediacy to keep the creativity flowing.

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34 minutes ago, BigRedX said:

While you don't NEED a practice amp for recording, When you are not recording, the ability to simply fir up your amp and play is a lot more immediate than having the start up the computer load the DAW pick a plug-in and accepted routing before you can hear anything.

Sometime you need that immediacy to keep the creativity flowing.

Probably worth pointing out, there's a few variations of how things are all connected. The above scenario, which I think is:

Bass --> instrument input of audio interface --> DAW  --> output (probably headphone socket of computer or output of audio interface)  to montors

WILL produce latency of some kind. 

 

If you use direct monitor out on the audio interface (if it has one) there is no latency - because there is no A-D conversion - and no need to fire up the DAW either. My audio interface has the relevant controls, I am not sure if that many others do.

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Thanks for all the valuable comments and information folks. 

Paul, I understand your concern about latency, a possible issue I was aware of, though only from having read about it, rather than any real experience. Some things will no doubt be a "suck it and see" approach as I find my way through a whole new field of music. At this point I'm looking towards a Prosonus Audiobox, which has direct out jacks, which I assume are for monitors, though perhaps I'm assuming too much?  Still more research to do, what's the famous line, something about unknown unknowns?

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8 hours ago, BigRedX said:

While you don't NEED a practice amp for recording, When you are not recording, the ability to simply fir up your amp and play is a lot more immediate than having the start up the computer load the DAW pick a plug-in and accepted routing before you can hear anything.

Sometime you need that immediacy to keep the creativity flowing.

Agreed. Also if your only means of amplification is wedded to your computer - your natural instinct is to sit in front of the computer to play your bass. Sometimes it's nice/healthy just to turn off the computer, and play through an amp & detatch from technology!

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22 hours ago, BigRedX said:

While you don't NEED a practice amp for recording, When you are not recording, the ability to simply fir up your amp and play is a lot more immediate than having the start up the computer load the DAW pick a plug-in and accepted routing before you can hear anything.

Sometime you need that immediacy to keep the creativity flowing.

 

21 hours ago, paul_c2 said:

Probably worth pointing out, there's a few variations of how things are all connected. The above scenario, which I think is:

Bass --> instrument input of audio interface --> DAW  --> output (probably headphone socket of computer or output of audio interface)  to montors

WILL produce latency of some kind. 

 

If you use direct monitor out on the audio interface (if it has one) there is no latency - because there is no A-D conversion - and no need to fire up the DAW either. My audio interface has the relevant controls, I am not sure if that many others do.

 

It's probably worth noting here that in many cases, an interface can work in 'standalone mode', ie it routes audio when not connected to a computer. As such, you can certainly use an interface in place of a practice amp, not needing to turn on the computer and either playing through your studio monitors, or headphones, both connected to the interface.

Similarly, unless you're specifically relying on a particular processed bass sound that is being provided by a VST within the DAW, you'll probably find that direct monitoring your input signal from the interface will suffice, certainly I almost never record 'wet', preferring to track dry, then mix and apply effects in the mixing process.
When you're direct monitoring via an interface, latency has zero effect, this is because you're feeding your monitors/headphones straight from the input of the interface*, and not having it travel to the computer/DAW, then back to the interface/monitors post processing.
Obviously when you're direct monitoring, you can still hear any tracks/sessions being played from the computer for play along etc.

*Also, when you're direct monitoring, there is still A/D/A conversion, but that conversion is <1m/s, so will never be heard. It's the journey to and from the DAW, and the processing being added in the DAW, that potentially adds latency.
The latency added very much depends on the complexity of the session you have loaded (amounts of processing, VSTs, midi etc), and the power of your computer. If you have a decent computer, and not much of a hefty session, reducing the sample-rate within the DAW will usually lead to next-to-no perceivable latency if you want to monitor through the DAW and not direct from the interface.

Happy to answer any further questions if needed :)

Simon // Focusrite

Edited by Sibob
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If you have a relatively decent machine and enough RAM, latency is not really an issue any more. I use a Focusrite Clarett 2 Pre thunderbolt interface into a 2012 iMac, old as hell version of Logic, and prior to that I used a 2008 MacBook Pro with a tiny MOTU Microbook USB interface, I've had zero issues with latency with either. I still use the Microbook sometimes, it's fine. You adjust latency settings in your DAW, as well as standalone amp plugins. 

Playing through a mountain of plugins may cause issues in some cases, but realistically an amp sim and a couple of other bits won't harm anything. But it does depend on what music you want to play - if you like complex signals with 20 pedals in a row going into 3 different amps, and want to recreate that in a DAW, it may give you latency issues. But if you want to record some bass in real time to a drum loop and some other instruments, latency is not going to be a problem.

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Sibob, project_c, thank you for the details and your experiences and knowledge concerning latency and recording. I tend to run pretty clean most of the time, old school I suppose? Not much in the way of effects to my preferred bass sounds, more about a fairly clean sound from quality pickups and the instruments characteristics. I'm a compulsive fiddler, tinkerer and builder, probably why I began building and modifying guitars and basses in the first place, so I'm quite looking forward to the journey into the recording unknown and if what i try doesn't quite work as  I imagine, learning and changing might.

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