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home recording

Discussion in 'Recording In Progress' started by gadgetfreak, Nov 25, 2011.

  1. Gnobuddy

    Gnobuddy Friend of Leo's

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    I know absolutely nothing about video, so I'll keep quiet and try to learn something from the other replies.
    That's pretty much it. Most consumer grade speakers hide so much of the sound that you cannot hear how good or bad your mix is. Imagine trying to choose a paint color while you're looking through wavy, tinted glass from an old bottle - that's what trying to critically listen to your mix through the average consumer grade speaker is like!

    I'll put it bluntly: most of the time, regular consumer-grade speakers are as close to rubbish as the manufacturer can get away with! Most of the time they consist of the cheapest possible drivers stuffed in the cheapest possible cabinet, with a crude and hastily designed crossover network thrown in. Appearance and small size come before audio quality, so what little money the manufacturer invests goes into paint and polish, not where it matters for better sound. Deep bass is impossible, so a nice loud boomy bass at one fixed frequency is designed in. High treble is lacking, and what there is is very directional, like a lighthouse beam, so the "sweet spot" for listening is tiny. Often the midrange frequencies are scooped a little, to give the illusion of a smoother sound - but at the expense of hiding much of the detail and subtlety in the music.

    A good pair of monitors is designed with only one goal in mind: as much accuracy as possible. (There are other schools of thought, which I don't subscribe to). To go back to our bottle-glass analogy, a good monitor should be like a perfect piece of plate glass, clear and neutral, so you can hear exactly what is in the mix without any thing being either over or under emphasised.

    Unfortunately, there are a lot of bad-quality "monitor" speakers out there these days. For example, there is a trend towards tiny 3" and 4" woofers in tiny little boxes called "monitors". IMO, none of these is worth the cardboard box they come in - a tiny little box will not only completely fail to give you any kind of real bass, it will also always sound "boxy".

    As one example, Adam monitors are among the better brands out there. A friend (he's a professional composer) has a pair of Adam A8X monitors, and they are really good. He also has a pair of Adam A5x monitors which he uses to see how his mixes sound on smaller speakers. I was able to A/B compare both monitors while visiting my friend's studio, and even though Adam is a very good brand, the little A5x speakers have a "small box" colouration to their sound that is quite audible. Many other small monitors will sound much worse (less accurate).

    Even a cheap pair of sealed (circumaural) earphones will usually be much more revealing than most speakers, so it's good to have a pair handy to do some checks with. But mixes made only on headphones never sound good on speakers, so you'll still need some sort of speakers to monitor your work.
    I got my stuff piecemeal, which let me pick and choose exactly what I wanted. I have a little ART tube preamp and a couple of MXL condenser mics. They get plugged into the Zoom R16 when I'm recording vocals. My electric guitar amp gets recorded direct - the speaker output goes through a Behringer DI box and then into the Zoom. Bass guitar usually goes through either the ART preamp or a Zoom B1, then into the Zoom R16.
    I don't know that much about the H4n, but I can see that there are no faders or gain knobs on it. It may be able to record multiple tracks (four?), but it's either going to be a royal pain to work with individual tracks (lots of button pushing), or it's not going to be possible at all. If you intend to be able to mix on the hardware, you're gonna need individual faders, one per track...otherwise things will get very confusing and frustrating very soon.

    One other thing to keep in mind: how many tracks do you think you will need? Here's how a simple little song I recorded went: one track for the initial drum machine click track. Two tracks for rhythm guitar (doubled). A third mostly rhythm guitar track. A fourth lead guitar track. One track each for kick, high-hat, snare, and crash cymbals (recorded one at a time using a cheap Yamaha digital drum toy!). I'm up to nine tracks, and that's without backup vocals, a keyboard part, and other niceties I want to add...

    My point is that even for a simple little song, 4 tracks may not be enough. I bought a Tascam DP 008 which quickly became a disappointment - not enough tracks, not enough capabilities, and unfriendly file formats. On the other hand, the Zoom R16 I use has up to 16 tracks, and that as been sufficient for all my projects so far. That means I don't have to touch a computer at all, from first track to finished mix, unless I choose to - I can do it all on the Zoom.

    I'm not trying to sell you on the R16, just telling you why it works for me (and why the H4n and Tascam DP008 would not work for me).
    Luckily for you, lots of people want to do this very thing, so I'm sure someone who knows more about video than I do will chime in soon.

    Good luck in your quest!

    -Gnobuddy
     
  2. gadgetfreak

    gadgetfreak Tele-Afflicted

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    Wow Gnobuddy that was a wealth of information and I'm very grateful.
     
  3. telleutelleme

    telleutelleme Telefied Silver Supporter

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    Not saying this is the way to go, but I started with an M-audio USB Pro and a cheap MF $29.95 Mic and stand into Audacity.

    Here is what I have evolved to over a couple years:

    Amp, direct and mic'd into an Alesis Mixer (currently USB 2.0). Vocal and room mic into the same Mixer.

    I usually run backing tracks through another channel into the mixer and play it through my headphones while playing.

    I have a pair of KRK Rokit 5 monitors hooked to the mixer and the computer has a set of Altec Lansing surround sound speakers for playback, though I agree with Woodman that you need to run your output through everything you can think of to get a feel for what your environment will produce.

    Mic's are SM58 room, Carvin CM87S for vocals and two matched MXL condensors for the amp. The mic's were all under a $100 each. I sometimes add another SM58 off to the side of the amp. I also record the mixer's output with some effects.

    I use Audacity to edit and apply any additional effects. There are other choices for editing that have more features, but Audacity is free and I'm used to it now.

    I'd say the best investment was in the mixer allowing me to record the amp, backing track and vocals as individual channels. Except for the mix output all the channels are recorded clean with no EQ, filters or panning into Audacity. This was the big ticket item.

    For video, I have a Sony handcam setup on a Tripod and record what I'm playing. I take the MPEG video and use video free-ware programs to edit the video to just what I want and convert to WMF. I bring that video file into Windows Movie Maker (comes with XP) along with a WAV file out of Audacity, synch the two, muting the poorer quality video sound, add titles and other effects and then generate my final video and sound file.

    I mostly punish my relatives and friends with the results. The benefit has been a substantial improvement in my playing and a whole bunch of entertainment value for me.
     
  4. jwc5

    jwc5 Tele-Meister

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    I just picked up a pair of new M-Audio BX5a deluxe monitors speakers, an M-Audio Fast Track Pro, SM-57 mic and all the cables and spent about $400. The Fast Track Pro came with Pro Tools demo and Abelton Lite. Got it all set up and off and running. Works and sounds really great with the MacBook Pro. Will use the sm-57 to mic my Rivera 55-12. GC was/is having a great sales on Fast Track Pro this past weekend, $99. Speakers were $149 pair.
     
  5. spayne99

    spayne99 Tele-Holic

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    Last November I picked up a Tascam DP-004 on Craigslist for $100. As far as home recording setups goes, this is pretty simple and effective for demos.

    Very simple to use. It's small and portable. So I can use it on the couch in my music room, at the kitchen table, in the basement, or wherever. It has built in mics that sound great. Also has external mic inputs but they're not XLR. And 4 tracks... but you can bounce tracks if you need more.

    Downsides: no built in reverb, no XLR mic inputs, 4 tracks only. But the DP-008 (big brother) has these features for more money.

    I typically record my acoustic guitar via the built in mics, and my Tele through a Mustang I amp connected to the Tascam via 1/8" cable with a 1/4" adapter. I want to get a Shure mic so I can try mic'ing my Pro Junior. Also need monitors, as I've been mixing via headphones.

    Check out my super amateurish recordings in the link in my sig.
     
  6. Gnobuddy

    Gnobuddy Friend of Leo's

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    I have a DP-008. I agree that it is quick and convenient and the onboard mics are quite good.

    I wasn't too happy about the short battery life, though. But the big downside for me was that the Tascam uses some sort of proprietary file format. You can export tracks to a computer via USB cable, but it is a long and fiddly process.

    I thought the DP-008 worked well as a digital replacement for an old cassette-based Tascam Portastudio, but missed out on greatness because of some of Tascam's design decisions.

    I eventually saved up and bought a Zoom R16, and have pretty much never used the Tascam since then. The Zoom is bulkier and heavier than the Tascam, but I like everything else about it so much more, including the ability to very easily transfer files and entire recording projects to a computer - they're standard wave files, all neatly stored in a new folder for each project. Easy as pie.

    Time to put the DP-008 on Craigslist, I suppose!

    -Gnobuddy
     
  7. J Lacey

    J Lacey Tele-Holic

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    Im no expert but my thoughts on the DP004 is there's no back lighting on the screen and it's hard as heck to read unless you have it tilted at exactly the right angle..........I hate that..........


    Jeffro
     
  8. Old Cane

    Old Cane Poster Extraordinaire

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    I'm still choking on "I have recorded nine albums this year with Audacity and a forty-buck computer mic". Really? Nine albums of what? And I'd never say you can't. Just wondering why you would.
     
  9. rsi106

    rsi106 TDPRI Member

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    Here's some of the stuff i have that would be used to do guitar tracks:

    Reaper DAW (non-commercial license $60)
    Edirol FA-66 (2 XLR/TSR inputs on front $250) not sure if these are available anymore but there's tons of similar interfaces
    Audix i5 ($99) or an SM57
    KRK VXT-4 ($600 for both) but there's tons of ok monitors for less

    That's all you need to do guitar tracks. Maybe a direct box or a POD would be useful but not necessary.
     
  10. Gnobuddy

    Gnobuddy Friend of Leo's

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    I think it's so easy, in the middle of the blitz of advertising we all live in, to forget that huge amounts of money are not a pre-requisite for making music, nor is it a guarantee of making better music. I imagine Old Cane is getting the results he wants with the equipment he's using, so why change?

    Speaking of inexpensive but good gear, Guitar Center had a deal on dynamic mics recently - a three-for-the-price-of-one sale on Digital Reference DRV100 mics. That's three mics for $50 - and these have durable metal housings, metal grilles, and a real XLR jack output.

    I took a look at the frequency response printed on the box, and if it matches the actual performance of the product, it showed that these would be very nice mic's for everything except the very highest frequency sounds in music (like the shimmer in a cymbal crash). So I bought three for $50, and gave two of them as gifts to friends of mine (a married couple) who have recently started singing live and/or doing Karaoke at home with a small PA.

    I got to hear one of my friends (the man) sing with the mic, and IMHO it does very well as a vocal mic for male vocals - much better than I was anticipating, in fact, as I was suspicious as to the honesty of that very nice printed frequency response. Not only did the DRV100 have a nice strong bass response that did a nice job of showcasing the singers baritone, but it also had a nice amount of "air".

    Based on this relatively short exposure to the DRV100, I actually like these $17 mics (three for $50) much better than the industry-standard Shure SM58, though I was relying on memory as I don't own an SM58 to compare with side by side. I've always thought the SM58 tended to make voices (especially male voices) sound thin and lacking in body, and often it also makes female vocals sound a bit screechy, thanks to the prominent midrange boost (centered at around 5 kHz) and correspondingly subdued bass response of the SM58. At the same time I feel the SM58 also reduces vocal "shimmer" and "air", because once above that 5 kHz peak, the SM58 starts to roll off the highs significantly starting at around 6 kHz. (You can see the SM58's peaky and uneven frequency response for yourself in the datasheet, on the Shure website, here. Would any of you intentionally dial in such a peaky and uneven and unbalanced EQ curve when making a vocal recording? And yet that's what the SM58 gives you!)

    Back on the subject of cheap mics, some of you may know that the design of the original Sony Walkman headphones (which was revolutionary at the time, since they were the first lightweight over-the-ear 'phones with really good sound quality) was based on experiments with a Sony dynamic microphone capsule. Pump music into a dynamic mic, and it becomes a headphone. The reverse is equally true - a $10 Walkman-style headphone makes a decent microphone, lacking only the big heavy metal housing and electrically balanced (XLR) output signal!

    And for the cheapest (good) microphone of all, a $2 electret microphone capsule from any of the mail-order electronics parts stores can make a really good mic for many purposes, with a far flatter and smoother frequency response than the SM58 or just about any dynamic mic, for that matter. The Panasonic WM-61A capsule is one good example, good not only for neutral and clean sounding recordings, but also good enough for many audio measurements. Just don't expect good gain-before-feedback for live use, as it's an ommnidirectional mic.

    -Gnobuddy
     
  11. telleutelleme

    telleutelleme Telefied Silver Supporter

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    Gnobuddy - Thanks for that information. I have always been happy with the results of my inexpensive mics and I am certainly going to gives the DRV100's a shot at that price. Now I have a reason to go to GC with my Christmas gift card.
     
  12. Gnobuddy

    Gnobuddy Friend of Leo's

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    Telleutelleme, you're welcome! My local GC had literally stacks of DRV100's sitting on the counter in the recording section, right by a big poster advertising the 3-for-1 sale.

    I found these two links for you just now:

    1) Sale at GC: http://www.guitarcenter.com/Gear-One-DRV100-Buy-One-Get-Two-Free-H79030-i2256366.gc

    2) Apparently Musicians Friend (same ownership as GC) has the same sale going on: http://www.musiciansfriend.com/pro-...0000?src=3WFRWXX&ZYXSEM=0&CAWELAID=1130979929

    Yesterday I had a chance to try two DRV 100 mics (the same two I gave away as gifts - we were having a musical get-together at my friends home) with three different singers. The singers comprised two women (one alto, one soprano) and one man (baritone).

    The mics were plugged into an Acoustic AG 30, a wedge-shaped monitor/amp which is designed for use as either an acoustic guitar amp or as a small P.A. system. The AG 30 is another very nice piece of budget gear, by the way, with a very clean and neutral sound, lovely onboard reverbs (and other FX) and none of that nasty midrange coloration that afflicts almost every PA speaker with a horn tweeter in it.

    Back to the DRV100 mics. With the baritone male voice the DRV100 mic sounded best with a little bass boost (around 1 o'clock on the bass knob), and the mid and treble controls flat.

    With the soprano female voice, singing mostly in her lower registers, the DRV100 sounded best with the bass flat (knob at 12 noon), mids turned up a little to about 1 on the clock face, and treble turned up to about 2 on the clock to get the right amount of vocal "air".

    In both cases I felt the singers sounded good through these inexpensive $17 microphones. They did not sound like cheap mics.

    The singer with the alto voice preferred to sing backup vocals, and she was sharing a mic with the soprano singer, so I never had a chance to try dialling in the DRV100 specifically to suit her voice.

    The AG 30 amp I was using as a PA has one set of common tone controls that work on both input jacks, so when all three singers were singing at the same time I had to find a compromise EQ setting for the three different voices. Time for me to get a small mixer, I guess. With that I can EQ and mix three mics individually and then run the combined signal into the AG 30.

    Other observations: the DRV100 isn't a very sensitive mic. It won't pick up very faint sounds well, and works best when positioned within a foot or less of the singers mouth.

    The only negative I found with these mics is that handling noise is substantial. Mount them in a mic stand and the problem disappears. If the singer prefers to hold the mic, he/she needs to keep a steady hold on the mic, other wise you hear lots of handling noises through the P.A.

    -Gnobuddy
     
  13. telleutelleme

    telleutelleme Telefied Silver Supporter

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    Gnobuddy - Picked up a trio today, two instrument mics DRV100 and the DRV100V vocal for the $50 price. Their store AD had expired but they honored the online GC price and would have honored the MF price had it become an issue. I'll rig them up over the holiday and give them a try. The only obvious issue was no on/off switches, but I can mute them at the mixer so no real problem there. Past that I'll report back on the instrument mics. I want to try them alongside my MXL condensors and see how they work. I'll setup the vocal next to my Carvin as well and compare those. Should be fun playing around with all of them this weekend.

    TUTM
     
  14. Gnobuddy

    Gnobuddy Friend of Leo's

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    I must have forgotten one letter in the model number - the three mics I got were the vocal version, DRV100V.

    And I apologize for forgetting to mention the lack of an on-off switch. That combined with the handling noise make it a very good idea to mute the thing at the mixer before moving the microphone!

    I'm looking forward to your report on the instrument version. I was put off buying one by the jagged frequency response plot on the box, but perhaps it will work well in some applications that don't need a smooth extended high frequency response.

    -Gnobuddy
     
  15. woodman

    woodman Grand Wazoo @ The Woodshed Gold Supporter

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    Hope it all works out OK! I wouldn't sweat the lack of a switch for a mike that's not being used live. It's just a superflous element bogging down the circuit between source and track. If your clients insist they can only sing well with a handheld mike, that's a pretty sure sign this is their first rodeo.
     
  16. Gnobuddy

    Gnobuddy Friend of Leo's

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    Guitar Center now sells a version of their Live Wire house brand XLR cables that have a switch built into the XLR connector itself.

    There is a substantial price premium over a similar length XLR cable without the switch, and I kinda see the switch as one more thing to go wrong in the signal chain - and one more source of confusion when things go wrong and no signal is getting to the speakers. But the option is there if anyone should want it.

    -Gnobuddy
     
  17. woodman

    woodman Grand Wazoo @ The Woodshed Gold Supporter

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    Yeah, that's my way of thinking too. Less is more in a circuit like that.
     
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