Atom netbook vs new PC vs handy recorder thing

Talk about your MIDI interfaces, microphones, keyboards...

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colonel_panic
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Atom netbook vs new PC vs handy recorder thing

Postby colonel_panic » Tue Dec 26, 2017 12:44 pm

Hello folks.

I had a look at the various information, but everything seems quite dated. So I thought it might be an idea to ask about the most up-to-date information.

My use case is recording my ukulele, guitar and singing practice onto digital files, mostly so I can hear myself playing and find the bad spots, but also in the future for sharing with others. I might also want to record multi-track and slow tracks down, but I'm not bothered really.

I've been looking at the equipment most of you seem to use, and it is quite a lot more esoteric than anything I have at home. It's made me think about My day-to-day computer is an Atom based netbook. Single Core, RAM maxxed out at 2GB, and an SSD. I realise how basic it is by modern standards, but I simply don't need more for anything I do. Plus I love the small size, stellar battery life, convenience, cheapness and not having to worry about leaving it on a train. Currently, it is running Lubuntu, but that is an anomaly, I will probably switch back to Debian next month, with a bit of trimmed fat.

I don't need spectacular audio quality. I am a bit mystified why you'd want to record at bitrates that go much beyond CD quality, really. Let's say in this use case, I'm happy for the finished product to be below CD quality, maybe the odd YouTube video. I'm not making a CD, yet.

If I were to buy a USB interface and a microphone (maybe two microphones?), would I find performance acceptable?

Option two is to buy a portable recorder like a Zoom H1. I am sure it would be good enough, but it seems a bit fiddly to use compared to Audacity.

Option three is to upgrade and get a faster computer. I am opposed to this, really, because I like what I have now. It is a shame tablets replaced netbooks; they are not nearly as useful, and you have to wonder about the motives of the companies that develop the software.

I'd appreciate your advice.

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English Guy
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Re: Atom netbook vs new PC vs handy recorder thing

Postby English Guy » Tue Dec 26, 2017 4:43 pm

Try looking at the PC version of raspbian, modified debian for performance on low power machines.

colonel_panic
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Re: Atom netbook vs new PC vs handy recorder thing

Postby colonel_panic » Tue Dec 26, 2017 8:53 pm

Thanks! Interesting project! I will have a look this weekend.

Saying that, my instinct is to step away from anything modern, and look at older software. If you aren't going online with it, there's not really an issue if you don't have security updates.

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kbongosmusic
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Re: Atom netbook vs new PC vs handy recorder thing

Postby kbongosmusic » Thu Dec 28, 2017 5:38 am

Hi Chris. I can recommend the Zoom H1. I just tested this for you, I recall reading that it can function as an audio interface. So I tried that out on Linux, and it worked at 16bit/44khz stereo. I had to upgrade the firmware, that is easy enough to do. You do need an older style mini USB cable(slightly larger mini end). So you can plug it in, and when you power it up it asks if you want to use it as an interface, press go button, and it acts as an interface, in/out. Worked straight away with Linux/Audacity. I picked all of mine up on Ebay used. I use it primarily for recording music if I go out to take in some local music, or some local open mic jams. I have tried out a bunch of hand held recorders, starting with the older Philips voice tracker LFH0662, mono record, but worked surprisingly well. I tried a few others that I didn't like so much, a Philips DVT1300, a Sony ICD-UX70. Then splurged on a Zoom Q3(does basic video), it delivered really nice recordings, but is a little bulky and consumes 2 AA batteries in 3-4 hours, and you can't turn the bright LCD off, so I made a cover for it. Then I picked up the Zoom H1 since I liked the Q3. It's a little smaller(a good thing), and only uses a single AA battery, get maybe 4-5 hours on a single one(another good thing). Has a nice low power black/white LCD, easy button operation. You need a small flash card for it, but I like that, more flexible that way. I like to do the recordings direct to MP3 as apposed to WAV, as the files are smaller and easier to deal with, for what I'm using it for I don't think the MP3 compression is losing much in fidelity. I use the auto-volume leveling, works good, I don't want to have to play around with it when when I'm out, just want to turn it on and forget about it. I'm a big fan of Audacity, use it for serious recording, overdubbing, works great. I've recently discovered a cool app called MP3directcut, it's a windows app, I'm told it can be run under wine, haven't tried that yet. Previously used Audacity which works OK for cutting up and tagging these recordings, but it can be time consuming and the mp3directcut works without re-encoding the mp3s, it is very quick. Audacity can be annoyingly slow loading and working with 2 hrs of audio, and it requires re-encoding(lossy process) or saving in the rather large 32-bit native format. So mp3 has interleaved data it sticks in with the audio that allows you to adjust levels without re-encoding. This is important if you want to normalize(bring up to optimal levels for playback). I didn't know that until I discovered this mp3directcut program. So this program allows me to cut it into individual songs, tag name them, it is a quicker than Audacity, with no lossy re-encoding to a compressed format(mp3). Although I still use Audacity to test the final levels. Audacity is a nice swiss army knife tool. I do use a fancy 24-bit interface at home, and it does give a slight bump in quality and headroom in the safe confines of home, it sounds like for your purposes the H1 would work well and be a good starting point.

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chaocrator
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Re: Atom netbook vs new PC vs handy recorder thing

Postby chaocrator » Thu Dec 28, 2017 9:42 am

i would not use atom-based machine for anything but perhaps MIDI-only tasks.
had an atom-based netbook for a year, and it was slow like a nightmare.

colonel_panic
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Re: Atom netbook vs new PC vs handy recorder thing

Postby colonel_panic » Thu Dec 28, 2017 12:07 pm

Interesting comments. Thanks guys! kbongosmusic, I really appreciate the detailed response. I like the idea of the H1, it means less junk hanging around when I'm not using it. I think that might be the winner.

chaocrator, netbooks are fabulous! All my life I dreamed of such a useful, powerful little computer. I currently have Lubuntu running on it because someone asked me a question about Lubuntu, but when I get round to reinstalling my Debian setup I can have a fully working Linux desktop within 30 seconds from switching on. The i5 notebook with 16GB RAM running Windows 10 that I use for work isn't that fast! Plus the battery on the netbook runs longer, and it is a nicer size. Brilliant machine!

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magicalex
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Re: Atom netbook vs new PC vs handy recorder thing

Postby magicalex » Thu Dec 28, 2017 12:55 pm

You could maybe get a usb stereo mic like the Blue Yeti or the mono Behringer C-1U (I'm sure there are plenty of others too).
My name is Sandy and I sing songs: SandySingsSongs.com

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Re: Atom netbook vs new PC vs handy recorder thing

Postby tavasti » Thu Dec 28, 2017 1:06 pm

colonel_panic wrote:My use case is recording my ukulele, guitar and singing practice onto digital files, mostly so I can hear myself playing and find the bad spots, but also in the future for sharing with others. I might also want to record multi-track and slow tracks down, but I'm not bothered really.

I've been looking at the equipment most of you seem to use, and it is quite a lot more esoteric than anything I have at home. It's made me think about My day-to-day computer is an Atom based netbook. Single Core, RAM maxxed out at 2GB, and an SSD. I realise how basic it is by modern standards, but I simply don't need more for anything I do. Plus I love the small size, stellar battery life, convenience, cheapness and not having to worry about leaving it on a train. Currently, it is running Lubuntu, but that is an anomaly, I will probably switch back to Debian next month, with a bit of trimmed fat.

Unfortunately, I don't have such hw, but if I would be in similar situation, what I would do:

- Borrow some usb interface from somebody.
- Try recording from it

For recording I would use non-daw or audacity. If you can record, then ok. If not, then you don't have enough cpu. I would expect that there is enough power for that.
Linux veteran & Novice musician

Hear my music at https://audiu.net/users/tawaste

ufug
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Re: Atom netbook vs new PC vs handy recorder thing

Postby ufug » Thu Dec 28, 2017 5:31 pm

In your situation, I would definitely get an external device. You can make more music if you spend less time tinkering with/being frustrated by a computer.

I have a Tascam DP-004 I've used off and on for about seven years. You can find them for USD50 on eBay. They are super compact (like a small paperback book) and have decent sounding pair of condensor mics built in. They are similar to the Zoom devices in some ways, but depending on your background the hardware might feel more familiar than the Zoom (it's basically a really powerful cassette four track without the cassettes).

They stopped making them a couple years ago, but they still make the 8 track version which looks nicer in every respect. More $ but it has a backlit display, 2 xlr in, access to the SD card without going through the battery compartment, reverb, and it exposes more functions through hardware rather than scrolling through a gazillion functions with the wheel.


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