HARDWARE LINK PAGE
Last Updated on: June 10, 2012
This page is to pass on some hopefully useful info. to help you buy only the items which are of use to you. So far I have spent a lot of time and money trying to do things sighted people take for granted and if you have found the same problem then let us know what works for you and we will try to pass it on. At the heart of my recording gear is a Studiomaster 16-8x2 mixing deskwhich I bought through ebay. It is invaluable to me as everything else is connected to it. There is no silly multi function buttons or lcd displays to contend with just loads of rotary knobs, sliders and single push buttons that stay down when pressed so I can soon find out the state of play. I don't pretend to fully understand it all but am gradually working it out, and that is what matters, it does work totally by touch and sound for people with no sight at all. I used to use a studiomaster diamond 8 channel mixer which again is great, but wanted the extra channels. The 16 channel is fairly large at about 2ft 6ins square but it makes for easy access as you dont need to keep disconnecting things to allow you to connect something else. I have 2 sound cards in one computer so jaws can talk away through one and all my music is done through the other. This gives you independant volume and tone controls on the mixer and any recording done on the computer doesn't record jaws babbling away as well. Also connected is my 20 year old pioneer hi-fi stack system. Between the speakers and the stack I have a maplins speaker switch which is switchable to either the speakers or 2 channels on the mixer. This means I can play vynils straight through the mixer to record to wave files or cd etc. It also enables a tape to be played through the mixer too so old cassettes recorded at live gigs 30 years ago can be cleaned up on the mixer before recorded to cd/mp3's etc. There is also a Sony W100 stand alone cd recorder with its inputs attached to one pair of the outputs through the 2 32 channel graphic equalisers. The eqs are connected to a different output of the mixer while the two main outputs of the mixer are connected to a Maplins amp. (more on this in a minute.) The reason for this is, the main outputs of the mixer have additional controls to each input channels controls and rather than alter these for each recording I do, I take the recordings through the equalisers and I can adjust them for each case without altering the mixer output settings that are fine for usual listening to music. So that it makes sense, I have 2 channels which the sound card use for playing music from the computer set for good listening, I have another 2 channels connected to the other sound card to give me clear talking for jaws and some ebook progs., then 2 channels connected to the hi-fi speaker switch which I adjust to suit my needs and the remaining inputs are available for tape inputs etc. as needed. The cd recorder output is connected to the cd input on the hi-fi which enables me to play cd's either through the hi-fi speakers or through the mixer via the speaker switch. Both the eq's and the main outputs of the mixer are connected to a Fideck Fav615 stereo amp. from Maplins which takes 5 inputs and are selectable.
The amp. is connected to another set of speakers. Using this set-up I have overcome several problems I used to get frustrated with. One is the usual hums etc. you get connecting 2 tapes together and another is the problem of monitoring what you are recording. Any mismatch problems have so far not emerged like they used to. I so far, still don't normally record directly to the pc because most recording programs like Cubase are such a pain for screen readers and lack easy keyboard navigation as far as I have found. Maybe you know better. Other things I find useful are the Olympus ds50 which has partial screen reader installed enabling you to record direct to wma file, play mp3's and audible books. They aren't cheap, but mp3 players and recorders suitable for blind people are a bit thin on the ground and always expensive. I'm told the only other one suitable as a player is the Digital Rivers with Juke Box software installed but they are even dearer. The dc50 has 1gb memory installed which is plenty to record a cd full of tracks to burn from tapes. Another useful bit of kit is the Ikey Plus which you can connect directly to a turntable and record vynils into wave files directly to a usb pen or hard disk. Although you can't see the record level lights you soon get used to setting the volume level about right using the mixer inbetween the deck and recorder and that applies to all these items.
For recording my own attempts at music I use a 4 track cassette recorder by tascam because it gives good results and is easy to use. I also have a Fosetex 4 track as well but havent got round to trying it out yet. It seems pretty well the same as the tascam but with perhaps a bit more choices. I'll let you know. I tried a Fostex 8 track reel to reel but unfortunately it has multple select press buttons and its so complicated you have to be able to read the display so that's for sale now. I also bought a Akai stereo reel to reel so that when I play something that just comes out of my head I can replay it another day to remind me how it went. So many times in the past I have come out with what sounds a good riff only to find a couple of days later I havent a clue what I did. Cassettes are too short for this but the reel to reel is ideal. The Akai is a 1720L which is one of the few with amplifier and speakers built in and has 2 speeds although if I had the spindle bush it would have 4 speeds, not that it matters for what I use it for. I also bought a Akai 4000D to see if there is any advantage but not really because there are no amp. or speakers on board so has to be connected to the mixer to replay so I keep this one as a spare. Both Akai's are easy to use as the switches are big and easy. Sony do a mic. that is about as big round as a 50p piece with a small dome on top. It's designed to pick up ambient room noise and works off a thin watch type battery. Its great, I can put that on the side and it picks upp acoustic guitar in the room with no problem. I also have a Maplins dynamic mike the other side of the room that I have connected to the other channel which I turn on sometimes, it all works admirably. The Tascam, the Fostex and the Akai can output to the mixer if I want to record to mp3 or cd. Another thing I bought is worth a mention, but so far have not found a way to use it successfully is a Presonus Firebox. It connects to the computer via firewire and acts as an interface with 6inputs for guitar or mic. I bought it before the mixer desk thinking if I learned the hot keys with the Cubase that comes with it I could manage ok. Not so. The Presonus software that you need installed is a complete no-no for screen readers. Total waste of £250 so far. I love the old analogue stuff, it not only works just as well but is usable and friendly.
Below is a list of the items mentioned together with places they are available. Hope this helps.
Soundmaster mixers. quite often for sale on ebay. Sony W100 cdr and mic. I bought from the Sony centre. The cdr was just over £200 and the mic was £15 plus £2 for the battery.