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Will a sound card help the quality of audio recordings?

My brother is an excellent singer/song writer/guitar player and he's looking to get Pro Tools to record on the computer.

I asked him why he needs Pro Tools and he can't just use a 1/4" to 1/8" converter and plug his guitar into the computer. He said that the hardware does something with the signal that would otherwise be lost.

Is there anything to this, or is it $40 of scrap metal?

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marked as duplicate by slhck, 8088, Mokubai, Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007, alex Sep 22 '11 at 5:37

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… the real issue is the outboard equipment, like @Journeyman said. You could record with any software. –  slhck Sep 21 '11 at 7:43

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Pro Tools (and any other decent hardware/software DAW combination) does more than just record . The real magic is in the breakout box/audio interface you probably would get protools with – it has a fairly decent analog-to-digital converter, at least one XLR input (try finding that on your regular sound card) and a 1/4 inch direct input jack, that does level matching and other things to avoid feedback and clipping.

It also tends to support shiny things like ASIO (letting you use other non Pro Tools software that supports it with the audio interface).

Even with vocals, there's a big difference between a mic attached to your computer input, and a mic (granted, a better one) connected to a Digital Audio Workstation (Pro Tools is one, there's also Cubase or Apple Logic among the most famous ones). It's a lot clearer, and with less noise.

In addition, you can use software to mix the recorded music.

It's a little like comparing a station wagon to a proper truck – sure you can load a lot into the back of the station wagon, but when you need to move a piano, you want the truck.

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Cool, thanks. While you're here, do you know if there's anything better? I've been looking at some of the reviews of the cheaper model and it seems like all the hype is about the brand name. There usually tends to be some unknown off-brand with the same or better specs –  mowwwalker Sep 21 '11 at 6:09
    
eh, both my DAWs are digidesign - and i've had no major problems with them - have a mbox2 (for the past 3-4 years) and a fastrack. They are not cheap but they tend to be good, solid pieces of kit, and i have nothing bad to say about their hardware. Protools itself can be a bit picky - you want as much ram, and a good fast drive (or one dedicated to recording) if possible. –  Journeyman Geek Sep 21 '11 at 6:30
    
In these cases you can trust the brand name. M-Audio and Focusrite are among the most famous ones (also in the lower price range). Maybe also count Presonus in. And MOTU. Their hardware is excellent. I've personally been running Focusrite for the last five years. –  slhck Sep 21 '11 at 7:48

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