Home studio / practice rig

red king

Junior Member
Hey guys

I'm planning out how to put together a home studio / practice rig and hopefully some of you can give me some advice.

The first purpose is really a practice rig so that I can play with headphones and have a decent sounding amp modeller and mix in songs played by a computer, whether it be just straight off the album or backing tracks.

The second purpose would be to record for the purpose of song writing, so I'd want recording software, drum programs, a way to simulate bass, a way to record guitar and a way to record a vocal.

My initial thoughts are: 

1. Small mixer
2. Amp modeler / USB interface
3. Recording software
4. Decent headphones & microphone

should do the trick.  The big question is...how do you set this up and what is the best to go with?  I see that the POD stuff is probably pretty good, but quite pricey.  The Behringer V-amp is probably decent enough to do the job at a fraction of the cost, unless there is something technologically wrong with it that makes it a complete waste of money.  Also, I am in the process of upgrading our home computer, so the big question is...do I stick with a PC platform and Windows compatible programs, or should I be getting a MAC?

I appreciate your input as I am completely lost here.



small mixer: make sure it dosnt suck your tone. I have a rolls line mixer that turns everything into crap once its in it.

amp modeler: test them out the same way you do for a guitar amp. Bring your guitar AND headphones to the store and test them out. I use a POD, They rock

Recording software/ computer: whoever is giving you adivice on this one will tell you to get a mac or pc depending on which they use. I use a Mac but Id say use the computer you are comfortable with. Also depends on the software you want to use. Pro-Tools is real easy to use but doesnt have some of the midi options that other programs have. I use Reason and Logic. Logic is probably the most complex midi/recording software I have ever used, it's not readily aparent at first how it works the first time you use it but it does EVERYTHING. check out Apple's website and take a look at their video demos of the software.

Take a long look at this stuff before you go spending the money on a new computer. I use a PC all day long and know how to get around on it but would never use one as my recording rig. You may have the reverse with being used to a PC and not really like the way a Mac works.

I have about the most simple setup I can imagine.  First, I use Macs.  I used to use Pro Tools Free on my G3 iMac.  Needed a drum machine for that.  Once I picked up my G5 iMac, GaraeBand took care of all my personal recording needs.

I use a Tascam US-122 USB interface.  It'll record 2 channels into the computer.  Between the mics and the USB interface, I use an ART TPS II 2-channel tube preamp to help warm things up a bit.  GarageBand is cool because you can program drums and bass and record / edit them within the software.  Software instruments like drums / bass can be easily edited to cut / paste / change pitch, ,meter, whatever.  Much easier than a drum machine.  For guitar, I either mic up my 4x12 cab with, or just record direct using my POD 2.0.  No mixer needed in this scenario.  It's about as simple as you can get.

Regarding GarageBand, It came with my G5.  I'm not certain about system requirements on the Macs.  You can buy it as part of the iLife suite for like $99 as I recall.  It only runs on Macs though
Line6 Toneport UX2 is both your digital I/O and your pod-based amp modeler. It has two XLR powered inputs as well as stereo line in and instrument inputs (2). You shouldn't need a mixer, even, if it's just you. It can record and do amp modeling for two inputs simultaneously. I don't think there's a comparable product out there.
PC or mac, I record on PC and hate macs. Others are the opposite. I think macs come with garage band, which is basic recording software, on a PC you'll have to buy it, though PCs are so much cheaper you'll easily be able to do this. I use cakewalk which I like and don't know about any others. I think it's really the software, and not the platform, and you can get most software for either platform. Buy the computer you like best, you can record on either one no problem. The days of Macs being better for creative types and PCs for business are over I think.
Mics, there's all kinds, of course. A large-diaphragm condenser is the default first mic purchase. MXL has a bad rep from what I know. The AKG 'perception' line is supposed to be good value. You didn't mention prices specifically but mics are where people go nuts and end up with 19 different ones.
Another cheap and good thing to get is one of the basic tube preamps. They'll warm up your vocals nicely especially if your mic is low-end. Good luck and have fun, it's like learning a whole new instrument.
What kind of sounds are looking to get/record? I have a pile of interfaces/modler units, and have never been happy with the results personally, in my pseudo-humble opinion, if you have an effects/amp setup that gives you the sound you want, you're better off buying a real quality mike and miking the amp into whatever your recording interface is.

As to home recording software goes, I've been using various versions of the Cakewalk Sonar/Home Studio Deluxe for several years; it is pretty easy to master/work with, but also had it's limitations; I recently bought ProTools 7 and an Mbox2, but am still in the process of learning the software, it's pretty complex, but in conjuction with one of the ProTool interface/control surfaces overcomes my major issue with the Cakewalk products, i.e., it's an interface that does not impart ANY additional "noise" to speak of to the recording process. The drawbacks are that the software will run on a limited number of PC/MAC hardware platforms and the learning curve is very steep.

One thing I can ensure you of is that if you introduce any form of mixer, other than one integrated into a very expensive audio interface like the DigiDesign gear, you will wind up introducing hum/noise into the recording.

How much budget do you have to put this together?
Besides all the rest, I would advocate keeping your old computer, stripping it out and using it as a music-only dedicated rig. Most software problems come about as a result of recording a track, reading your e-mail, recording a track, visiting Warmoth, recording a track, check out Boom-Boom's latest vid, recording a track.... computers store information by throwing it at a revolving disk in the hard drive, and wherever it sticks is where it is (until you defrag). The less stuff piling on, the easier everything goes. You can actually record and store music on a really dimwitted rig - 800 MB, 40 gb hard drive - if it's not piled up with confusion & Boom-Boom.
thanks for all your responses.  I don't really have a budget in mind yet because I don't really know what I need to get.  It sounds like its thumbs down on the Behringer V-Amp then?  What about the POD classic 2.0?  I don't really want to get more than I need.  Of course, whenever you buy what you think you need, you end up saying, damn, I wish I had that "ZXY" for $50 more.

I think whatever computer we end up getting, it will be solely for "media projects" and no random internet surfing as we have 2 other computers for that.  The last time I bought a computer, I got "duped"  :icon_jokercolor:  into buying a SONY Vaio for this great moviemaker program so that we could edit our own wedding videos.  Turns out this damn computer shits on everything that isn't a Sony proprietary product, so I can't even get an MP3 player to work on this POS!  I won't make that mistake again.  Needless to say, our wedding videos are still unedited.

Anyways, as far as a practice station goes, what about a POD, mixer, headphones?  So that I can mix together the POD and music from, say the computer and practice to that with headphones.  Or is there an easier way to do that by interfacing with the computer?  I'd like to keep it simple, but I don't want to rely too much on running a bunch of stuff through the computer, because ultimately it will end up running too slow and be a pain in the ass.  The recording functionality is really secondary as I want to set up something that is easy for me to practice with other media such as albums, videos, or instructional videos without having to set up a bunch of stuff all the time.

thanks alot for your input!!


Toneport UX2! It's a POD 2.0  (and a bass pod), has a metronome, has vocal preamps, phantom power to mics, etc. USB I/O. Includes everything but recording software. Just get that and a mic, and you can start recording, no mixer. Add the other stuff later.
I agree with the TonePort UX2 recommendations.  If you are only using it for direct to computer stuff, its really everything you are going to get from the POD 2.0 for a much cheeper price.  Plus, you can buy add on effects packs that will basically give you everything in a POD XT and alot of the stuff from the Vetta.  And yes, it has bass and vocal modeling in it as well.  Its easy to use, and works very well.  As for recording software, I recommend Ableton Live.  I think the UX2 may even come with a copy of the LE version but I can't remember.  Ableton is great for recording and being able to mix and match loops and such.  It also have very good MIDI support. 

Most good quality music related software will run on either Mac or PC, so go with what you like - I'm a Mac guy personally, but I know people who have used a TonePort on PCs without any issue at all. 

My setup is as fallows:

TonePort UX2
MXL Condenser Mic
Evolution 249c Midi controller keyboard (now part of M-audio)
Core 2 Duo iMac
Ableton Live 5
Reason 3.5
The tone port certainly looks great for recording, but is it useable for practicing?  I want to mix the modeller with other media (mp3's or dvd's) to practice with.


Hey red king, I'm not trying to hijack here, but this topic has a particular interest for me, and starting a new topic when you are all talking about this stuff already seems superflous.  I just sold my 8 year old Fostex hard disk recorder and am planning to get a Toneport UX2.  It seems that it does indeed come with a LE version of Ableton, but what I'm wondering is what everyone here thinks is the best recording software for when I get bored with the dreaded LE version.  Is Abletons higher end stuff what I should be looking into, Steinberg perhaps? GarageBand sounds good, but I don't have a Mac.  I know that my application will have a lot to do with what is best for me, so here is what I'm looking for.  I would like to be able to make reasonably good sounding recordings here at home that I can give to the old bandmates.  I have guitars and bass, but would like drum looping stuff, as I can't exactly record live drums here.  Vocals aren't that much of a concern for me, I'm am not now, nor will I ever be, the singer.  Is the LE going to be enough, or am I right in assuming that I will find it limiting in a very short time?  Like I said, I've been using the digital 8 track for a while, so all this stuff seems so very new to me.  Guide me!
I've never tried to simultaneously play an mp3 and use my toneport, but I have no idea why it wouldn't work. When the toneport is plugged in, it becomes your computers sound card so anything you play comes out through the toneport's headphone out. I'll try it later tonight but I'm totally sure it can do this. Guitlouie, one nice piece of software to have is the FREE audacity. It's basic but totally free, no ads or bs, and worth putting on your computer. I like the cakewalk stuff personally so far, and it plays nice with drum loops (which I'm discovering too, I'm sick of playing bongos all the time!) and plug-ins. The whole thing is as complicated as you want to make it. In my own recordings of up to 6-7 tracks, electrics and acoustics and vocals, I haven't come across anything I want to do that I can't. I'm sure the competition is good too.  If you're actually playing musical instruments and not mucking around with midi stuff, I imagine they're all pretty similar - they all do that just fine.
Yes, you can run the toneport and play back MP3s at the same time. 

  I never used the LE version, so I can't say how limiting it is.  I can say that personally I like ableton more than any of the others I have tried.  It is excellent for working from loops/riffs/etc and building up an arrangement. 
This is my little hideaway. Works great for play/along, silent practice or recording. Pod-interface-headphones easy!
Have a look at the digitech gsp 1101.
It has a usb interface that works like ansound card ( mac and pc), great effects, decent cab simulations and good amp simulations ( far superior to any POD, v-amp etc... )
The main interest of the unit though is that you can integrate it with your own preamp via a send/return loop and it is very transparent, so you easily keep your existing sound, add a few effects and record directly to your computer
You can get it for around 400$.
Toneport does that too and I got it for $100 on ebay. If I wanted, I could mic my amp and its effects, run that through the toneport's pod effects, and add more effects post-recording using cakewalk. It would sound like dirt of course but I could do it. I'm not a major fan of the line6 emulations, I should add, but they are definitely good enough for practice if you tweak them a bit. For recording things that you care about, I agree with Jack; mic your amp and don't mess with it too much in post-recording.
willyk said:
This is my little hideaway. Works great for play/along, silent practice or recording. Pod-interface-headphones easy!

That is just disgustingly orderly.  :)
i HAVE seen it  :doh: very tidy

also, i own a toneport UX1 (cheaper version, can do guitar/vocals at the same time still, just less inputs). its great, comes with Ableton live (which pissed me off so i ditched it), and i bought the Line6 edition of Riffworks (off the line6 website). cost $99 from memory for the software, but way worth it: super super super SUPER easy recording system, based around looping riffs. record 8/16/32 however many bars, and then loop it however many times you want. internal drum machine. a monkey could use this program.
like has been said, toneport contains all the models/fx etc of POD 2.0 and bass pod. also comes with vocal preamps and stuff too. sure, it's not boutique tube tones, but you can crank out some pretty decent stuff on it. i whipped together a 8 track demo (before doin it properly a la studio), and my mates at the local music store could not believe that i got all the sounds straight from the toneport.

i just gotta reiterate: HEAPS EASY TO USE!!!!

When i want a silent practice i bring up the Gearbox program (that contains the toneports amp models etc) to get a tone, whack a song on itunes/windows media, adjust the volumes of both programs, and then wail. its that simple. and all that for around $260 australian, brand new, including software.

did i mention that its way easy?  :icon_thumright: