Some thoughts on your situation...
1) As you are digitising for the first time, it's worth thinking about
preserving your files for future use, especially if you expand this
resource in the future. Therefore it's probably worth digitising your
material in the highest quality available in a format best suitable for
sustainability in the best possible way.
Which leads to...
2) Record your audio in the best available quality and convert down to
CD/web quality afterwards. i.e. 88.2Khz/24bit. You can back up the 'master'
files onto a hard drive or DVD's/CD's. Even though you may not need
these high quality files now, it'd save any future re-digitising issues and
provide you with a backup if anything goes wrong. You may wish to consider
using open source file formats for future proofing such as Vorbis ogg or
FLAC, whereas WAV or AIFF are fine for CD distribution.
which leads to...
> One of the USB interfaces I was looking
> at (the Tascam US-144) comes with a free version of Cubase, but I don't
> know that it would be any better for our purposes than Audacity
A dedicated A>D converter over USB 2.0 or Firewire is going to give you
much better conversion quality than plugging into your internal soundcard.
These vary in quality and price and will generally be defined by your
budget. Quality of the pre-amps you use is also worth noting.
4. Pro Tools is a highly advanced multitracking and editing suite which
although capable is probably far too advanced for your needs. If you were
planning on digitising multiple media at once (multitracking) then
something of this ilk may be worth thinking about. (note that Pro Tools is
only compatible with it's own hardware except for Pro Tools M-Powered, a
lighter version). Audacity on the other is a freeware simple interface for
recording, simple editing, basic processing techniques and file conversion.
One consideration is that the simpler (and cheaper) the program then the
less 'restoration' processing features it is likely to offer (should you
need them), such as de-noisers etc.
> Anyway, your thoughts on a good USB interface, a good and inexpensive
> pair of monitors, headphones
a good pair of monitors may be worthless if your listening environment is
not designed for audio analysis(e.g. your desk is in a big open plan office
with lots of background noise), however there are some decent reference
monitors on the market under the £400 mark. (KRK, Genelec being at the top
end of the scale).
Again look for professional headphones with a 'flat' response (i.e. not
marketed to D.J's, live broadcast etc) but this can often be tricky judging
between brands. Try AKG, Sennheiser.
USB interfaces. at the top end of the price scale (for your project
anyhow)MOTU make decent converters with quality preamps, alternatively
M-Audio, Edirol and Mackie do cheaper products. Look for ones which offer
higher sample rates/larger bit depth for any future needs.
hope this is of some help!
Joel Eaton TSO - Sound Resources
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