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Sound Advice

USB Or Firewire?!? by Alec Watson

I have received some e-mails lately asking whether to go with Firewire or USB interfaces, here are some thoughts: I find that Firewire has more stability on older systems. This may, in part, be due to the fact that you have your printer, cordless mouse, keyboard, hub, external hard drive, camera, USB coffee maker … all plugged into the USB ports while the Firewire port sits empty. If I were to choose one system over another, that would be why. A Firewire port will likely be dedicated to your music interface allowing for uninterrupted bandwidth to and from your processor.

USB microphones will be a big hit this year – I don’t think I would run out and buy 12 of these and then plug them into a couple of USB hubs and then record my band – though conceivably you should be able to do this. But if you just want a simple rig for getting sound into the computer, these little techie gifts from the Computers Gods are awesome. I first reviewed the Samson USB mic last year, and although it isn’t likely to replace any of my studio mics anytime soon, value for money, it was excellent. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who thought this, as there are all sorts of manufacturers who will be peddling USB mics this year. If you just need to get an acoustic instrument or vocal into the computer, you will be hard pressed to beat the ease of use and price of these.

The greatest innovation, possibly of all time, I have saved for last (insert echo-y deep announcer voice) Roland’s V-series MIDI accordion! You think I am joking don’t you? I am, a bit. Seriously however, this thing rules! (www.roland.com/products/en/FR-7/). For all the keyboard players and programmers out there who have to twiddle, for hours, with all sorts of knobs to get their keyboards to play horns or strings, this unassuming little machine could change programming as we know it. The biggest reason a keyboard can’t recreate a realistic horn or sax sound is the fact that the keyboard is a percussion instrument. Much like a drum, the envelope of the sound attacks hard and then decays; an accordion however IS a wind instrument, one with keys. You can play horn arrangements that sound fantastic on this little machine – accordion geeks of the world rejoice! For all those years that you have been picked on and laughed at, the lead guitarist and keyboard player are now going to be secretly envious! You’re still not likely to get any action after the show, but oh yes, the lead guitarist will secretly be plotting against you, while he is getting some action!

Alec Watson is a producer/engineer that works from his destination studio on Vancouver Island. His parents couldn’t afford to get him a piano when he was a child; they got him an accordion; the rest, including his career, is history.

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