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mcnach

Using phone as a multitrack recorder: technical question

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I have no trouble recording on my laptop/PC, for which I use a simple but nice little USB interface, a Focusrite Scarlett Solo that gets powered via USB, so no faff with external power supplies etc. That's great, right?

Well, no, apparently that's not portable enough for me :D

 

I seem to spend most of my time not really recording 'properly' but capturing snippets, riffs, ideas, using a Zoom H2 (with its built-in mics) or my mobile phone! Sound quality is not a huge concern, but I would ideally like to build up a track into a demo of sorts. Is it possible? Well, it looks like it is! So I'm trying to figure out what equipment I need in order to make multitrack recording on my phone with just the tools that I could carry with me in my gigbag/amp case.

[ yes, I know, using the laptop would be simplest and it's portable, right? The thing is that these days I use my laptop for work a lot, and it lives on my desk plugged into a million peripherals and apart from the inconvenience, I need a lot of processing power for my work (big data analyses), so that's all I'm using it for (and browsing BassChat of course ;) ) so please don't try to disuade me and instead help me find a way to make little demos on my phone with a multitrack app :) ]

 

Software: I've been playing around with the n-tracks app on my android phone (Motorola G5S plus)... it's pretty damn good! Using n-tracks as a simple audio multitrack is very simple, and its basic built-in drum machine does the job... so this is good. I've tested it using the phone's microphone, and it works well. Of course, it'll sound a lot better if I can just record directly my guitar/bass on the phone via USB. That's where I need a little help.

 

For recording on my PC, I simply have my guitar/bass (or occasionally a microphone) plugged into the Focusrite Solo, and the Solo is then connected to my PC via USB. The Solo interface uses the USB cable to both power the unit and transfer the audio data... but I cannot do that with my phone, so I need another way to get the audio into n-track on my phone. Some newer phones can use its USB port to power other devices, but not mine... so that rules out any USB-powered unit: it's got to be battery operated (that would actually be very cool) or using an external power supply.

 

It *may* be possible to use a splitter for the combined TRRS headphone/mic port, so that I can plug both my headphones on one socket and input the audio using the other socket. I don't have that cable yet. It's cheap so I ordered one to see. That would be the simplest way to do this if I can get the right levels... being a mic input I suspect it may not play well with the output of FX pedal or a guitar directly.

I can use an adaptor to plug the output of a suitable USB interface into my phone, as long as the USB interface is *not* powered via USB. However, it seems that every small USB interface is USB-powered, and I didn't want to spend £200 on a larger one. Is there anything out there that will not be too large physically, powered via an external power supply (or batteries!), and won't be too expensive?

I'm even considering a small mixer, as that could be pretty handy too. There are many that can work as USB interfaces, but I encounter the same issue... the smaller ones are USB-powered. The smallest I found that look ok is the Xenyx Q802USB:

https://www.behringer.com/product.html?modelCode=P0ALM

preview_1.jpg

That one has a separate power supply, so the USB port at the back can be used to connect to my phone and transfer the audio that way. It's about £60-70, so cheap enough and a little mixer can always be handy for other things.

I thought there must be other crazy people here using their phones as a multitrack recorder too, so I was wondering what people use, or if you know of a smaller suitable solution, I'm all ears. :)

 

 

 

 

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12 minutes ago, mcnach said:

if you know of a smaller suitable solution, 

H4n?

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44 minutes ago, jrixn1 said:

H4n?

I have the H4n Pro which works a charm and sound quality is very good. 

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38 minutes ago, jrixn1 said:

H4n?

 

Ah, that brings me memories... I used to own an H4 long ago (not the H4n, but its precursor - I sold it and bought the H2 as it suited me better... I never used the multitrack recording option). Great little recorder, and it had a 4-track recording capability too. As a stand-alone ultra-portable solution, the H4n is indeed fantastic. 

I'm looking for ways to use n-track on my phone 'though. The larger display and intuitive layout is perfect (I was able to record a couple of things in minutes without even glancing once at the manual :D ).

 

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5 minutes ago, Bobthedog said:

I have the H4n Pro which works a charm and sound quality is very good. 

 

They're great units indeed.

 

To give you an idea of how much I want to use my phone... I have a Zoom R16 multitrack recorder somewhere in the loft. Any normal person would have just gone up and fished it out: it's got built-in microphone, signal processors for guitar with a million effects, runs on batteries, can easily record 8 inputs at once... It's simple enough right? :D I never got along with it 'though, but I keep it because I hope one day I'll put it to good use 😛

I really like the format/display of n-tracks on my phone. I like it so much that I also bought the computer version, so that I can easily shuttle projects between phone and PC. I'm committed to n-tracks now!!! :D 

I'm just looking for a way to get the audio signals into n-tracks on my phone via its USB port (which means whatever unit I use as an interface cannot be USB-powered). I'll probably end up getting a mixer like that Q802USB above, as it'll be useful for other stuff too and it's cheap... but ideally I'd like one of its smaller relatives, the problem is they're all USB-powered.

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22 minutes ago, SubsonicSimpleton said:

I've had success using a powered USB hub between my ipad and a couple of different bus powered devices which draw more power than the ipad can supply.

Here is a link I found very helpful

http://auriaapp.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=11150

 

oooh, that's intriguing! Thank you! 

I've got a couple of nice power packs that I could use for this (2.4A per port, so they should be ok - Anker Powercore 20100). Definitely worth trying, thank you! :)

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I usually go with a Yamaha session cake ( battery powered) into the garageband app of my iphone for audio, or Focusrite Impact app if I want audio+video simultaneously. recorded several online collabs with that combo. 

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4 hours ago, Painy said:

A quick search online found this - although still not the cheapest option. It does run off AAA batteries though and looks like it has some pretty decent features. 

https://m.thomann.de/gb/roland_go_mixer_pro.htm

Screenshot_20200919_064623.jpg

 

Hmmm, that looks pretty interesting, thank you! Sure it's more than I was hoping to pay, but it's tiny, can run on batteries... definitely on my list now, thank you! :)

I'm going to try first the 'trick' that @SubsonicSimpleton posted earlier, because if that works well then I just use my Focusrite Solo and buy nothing but a couple of little cables. But if I struggle, this one is now high on my list, than you! :)

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1 hour ago, jimmyb625 said:

Have you looked at an irig? I've not used the guitar version, but the irig-pre works great with my android galaxy.

 

Oh! That looks good indeed and it's under £50, a one stop tool that does it all (analog input but that's not a problem) I must check that out. :)

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19 hours ago, ordep said:

I usually go with a Yamaha session cake ( battery powered) into the garageband app of my iphone for audio, or Focusrite Impact app if I want audio+video simultaneously. recorded several online collabs with that combo. 

 

Do you just connect the Sessioncake directly?

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1 hour ago, mcnach said:

just connect the Sessioncake directly?

yes, although I have to use a lightning to 3.5mm adaptor for iphone.

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9 hours ago, ordep said:

yes, although I have to use a lightning to 3.5mm adaptor for iphone.

 

Aha! 

Do you know that I already have a Sessioncake? I haven't used it in ages so I entirely forgot about it. [*]

Of course, I ordered an iRig2 yesterday morning, yup :D (they were even cheaper than I thought, £37 delivered, from Andertons)

 

Well, between the iRig, the Sessioncake, and that amazing idea to get around the USB-power issue that would allow me to use my Focusrite USB interface... something is bound to work! :D 

... and I may just ending up getting a small tablet anyway, just for that stuff, no need to be very powerful. I realised that it would be a handy tool to bring to rehearsals (only one of my bands is rehearsing now, once a week, but that may be put on hold soon again, the way things are going, so no hurry). 

This is what happens when my band activity drops and I am left with too much time on my hands 😛

 

[*] Since I moved to our new place, I must have a lot of stuff still stored that I am forgetting I even own. Maybe I should spend a weekend checking my treasures and selling what I don't need :facepalm:

Edited by mcnach

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Between the iRig, SessionCake and H4N you have more inputs than the Beatles had for Sgt Pepper and your phone has more processing power than the moon lander. I'm looking forward to hearing what you come up with, should be awesome!!

I know what you mean about laptops that become desktops due to the number of leads plugged in though 😞

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36 minutes ago, Richard R said:

Between the iRig, SessionCake and H4N you have more inputs than the Beatles had for Sgt Pepper and your phone has more processing power than the moon lander. I'm looking forward to hearing what you come up with, should be awesome!!

I know what you mean about laptops that become desktops due to the number of leads plugged in though 😞

 

Of course, you had to come here and point out the harsh truth: I'll end up recording basic drum beats, four chord progressions and little more :D So much technology wasted... if only I were able to have this when I was in my 20s and time was not the scarce commodity it is now!

I sometimes think we've all been misled. I mean it's 2020 and life is not that much different, on the surface, from what it was in 1975. No flying cars or silver 'space' suits... However, look at what we can do with a tiny devide that fits in ur pocket. My first programmable calculator that I used for my engineering degree had just over 1K of RAM, and I thought it was magic.

 

(I do not have an H4n, 'though, not that it makes any difference :D) 

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In case any of you is still fooled into thinking that I am a sensible reasonable kind of man...

I may have just bought a little android tablet, with the right functionality that would have made this thread completely unnecessary to start with :D

However, I've learnt a couple of tricks here (thank you all! :) ) that I am very happy to know about. 

 

The iRig2 arrived today and it seems to work well, I just need to RTFM and figure out how to adjust latency in n-track. No biggie (I hope!), but of course, I started messing about with the built-in instruments (keyboards... lots) and it's hard to access all the little buttons on the little screen on my phone, so that's what finally pushed me to get a tablet. 

Still... I'll keep n-track on my phone too. A multitrack on my phone! I can't get over how unbelievable this would have seemed to me 20 years ago. Then use the tablet around the house, take it to practices, writing sessions... 

The future is here, and I didn't even know it...

 

 

Edited by mcnach

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Looks a lot like Bandlab, which we're using for remote collaboration too.

1 hour ago, mcnach said:

In case any of you is still fooled into thinking that I am a sensible reasonable kind of man...

Basically what you are saying is that you like fiddling about and that solving the problems is as much part of the fun as playing the instruments.

Sounds pretty reasonable to me! :biggrin:

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1 hour ago, Richard R said:

Looks a lot like Bandlab, which we're using for remote collaboration too.

Basically what you are saying is that you like fiddling about and that solving the problems is as much part of the fun as playing the instruments.

Sounds pretty reasonable to me! :biggrin:

 

In a nutshell! :D

I have a long history of projects I start, and then lose interest the minute I know how to overcome its hurdles.

At work, a big part of what I do is figuring out solutions to problems, and that part I love. Once I know how to solve the problems, all I want is to teach someone to do it so that I can move on to something else...

I hope this one will be one of those situations where I actually use what I learnt ;)

 

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