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Old 01-04-2021, 06:53 PM
warfrat73 warfrat73 is offline
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Default Best way to improve my recording chain <$150

I'm still fairly new to recording, but have been dabbling a bit more. I was about to buy a new audio interface, thinking that that would make a difference. But I thought I'd ask first before just clicking the buy button.

Would also welcome recommendations in maximizing my use of what I already have. And fully recognize that learning what I'm doing will likely make a bigger difference than throwing $150 at it.

Will be using this for instrumental guitar and vocals primarily. Bluegrassy, flatpicky, strummy folksy stuff, mostly.

What I have on hand:
Computers:
-2020 MacBook Pro - This is a work computer, so I can't install unapproved software, limited to Garageband and Audacity. (I could maybe convince my admin to allow me to install commercial software, but would rather not.)

-Windows Desktop - Homebuilt.
CPU- AMD A10-7860k 12cores at 3.6 GHz (a bit long in the tooth)
RAM- 16GB
GPU- NVIDIA Ge Force GTX 1650 Super (not that it probably matters)
OS- Windows 10 Home 64-bit
-Audacity installed, and what I've been using. One good thing about this system is that the fans are all on controllers, so I can turn them off when I'm actively recording.

Interfaces
-M-Audio Mobile Pre
-Schiit Audio Fulla DAC (not really recording gear, but does have a mic/stereo mini plug in and usb out with an AKM analog-to-digital converter... don't really think this is helpful, but what do I know, might work well in conjunction with a mixer)
-cheap Behringer mixer

Mics
-Oktava MK 219 (large diaphragm condenser)
-MXL V250 (large diaphragm condenser)... hey, it was a Stupid Deal of the Day
-SM58

Playback
-no studio monitors
-Grado SR80 headphones
-Audio Technica ATH-m30x headphones

Sound Treatment
-none

The recordings I've done have mostly been: Oktava or MXL --> M-Audio --> Audacity

That's about it. I was thinking that the M-Audio was the weakest link here from a hardware standpoint, and so was looking at replacing that. I find the recordings I've done to be pretty flat sounding.

Again, just dabbling, so don't want to go too deep into this at the moment.

I see that people seem to like the Focusrite and Audient interfaces. Should I pick up one of those? Spend some money on sound treatment? Download Reaper? Buy a shockmount?

Thanks for the input.
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Old 01-04-2021, 07:30 PM
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People have been telling me to do room treatment like acoustic portable panels. If you listen to my soundcloud page you'll hear that my recordings don't have that "in the room" presence to them. (Sometimes though I over eq'd as well.)

I'm finding that recording without any kind of room treatment is an exercise in futility. What's that saying about insanity? When someone does the same thing over and over again and expects a different result?

Read this thread. Probably the best way to spend that $150.
https://www.acousticguitarforum.com/...d.php?t=602952
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Old 01-04-2021, 07:43 PM
Brent Hahn Brent Hahn is online now
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All may not be lost, however. I have two spaces I record in. One is a treated "studio" room, the other is my wife's storage area for her business -- lots of tall industrial shelving, lots of stuff, lots of clutter. Frankly, I think the "clutter" room sounds at least as good as the "studio" room.

Here's a Chuck Berry cover that was done is those two rooms. The percussion stuff, single-string guitar, uke, harmony vocal and bass were done in the studio room with an SM58 ($90). The lead vocal and rhythm acoustic guitar were done live along with the video in the clutter room using my basically-worthless iPhone 5.

Maybe you have a clutter room, too!

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Old 01-04-2021, 07:53 PM
jklotz jklotz is offline
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A new audio interface is not where I'd recommend putting that money. You don't have studio monitors. How will you know if what you are recoding sounds decent or not? Headphones don't work for me for that application.
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Old 01-04-2021, 08:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by warfrat73 View Post
I'm still fairly new to recording, but have been dabbling a bit more. I was about to buy a new audio interface, thinking that that would make a difference.
Hi w-rat

You will need an interface, and the best bang-for-the buck just may be the Behringer 202MC-HD - CliCk. This is a great little unit with a manageable noise floor. Your mobile-pre is outdated and not really adequate.


The Behringer U-PHORIA UMC202HD has Midas preamps in it (some of the best pro-summer preamps around), and will interface with Mac, or PC. You already have decent mics, and headphones. Sweetwater has them for $118…the link is just an Amazon link to show you the unit.

Perhaps your mics and mixers are not pro-studio quality, but more expensive/complex pro gear is often no easier to learn with than simple gear. Both require the same process…and better mics only help when you have a properly treated space and the know-how to position them properly. I used to own a studio and many people who came to me to record owned as good or better gear than I did, but they didn't know how to get it to record them properly. Many of them learned from watching us record them how to better utilize their own gear, and many learned that if you don't have the musical skills assembled properly it doesn't matter how good the gear, recordist and editors are.

As for recording spaces, you list a couple options, which both sound workable as learning spaces. We all need to 'learn'.

Learning to record is not a press the button-record-share experience (though YouTube is filled with many examples of this). There are gaps between recording, editing, sharing…re-recording, re-editing and sharing. Before any recording of music begins, it requires learning the software, acquiring mics and stands, and monitoring gear, and figuring out how to juggle-the-technical while performing-the-musical.

If someone gifted you with a $10,000 studio, you'd still go through the same process as with a couple hundred dollar setup.

I hope above all that you enjoy the learning process and get your feet wet for low end dollars, and then if you decide to pursue a more 'expert' level then spend the dollars you saved up on better spaces and gear.




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Last edited by ljguitar; 01-04-2021 at 08:31 PM. Reason: general help
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Old 01-04-2021, 10:07 PM
phcorrigan phcorrigan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jklotz View Post
You don't have studio monitors. How will you know if what you are recoding sounds decent or not?
Agreed.

If you're on a tight budget, Craigslist is your friend. I just picked up a pair of Event 20/20bas v3 monitors (from about 2011, the newest version built by Rode) in excellent condition for $200. These originally had a street price of about $700. Do your research in advance and be patient.
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Old 01-04-2021, 10:11 PM
phcorrigan phcorrigan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ljguitar View Post
You will need an interface, and the best bang-for-the buck just may be the Behringer 202MC-HD - CliCk.
I have the 4-port version, UMC404HD, and I'm quite happy with it.

Julian Krause has excellent reviews of home studio/small studio interfaces on YouTube. Check out his YouTube channel.
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Old 01-04-2021, 10:29 PM
alohachris alohachris is offline
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Default It ALL Begins With Room Treatment

Aloha Warfrat73,

You're already on your way with a growing list of gear aimed at achieving the best home recordings you can make, right? But you cannot maximize ANY of your gear without properly treating your space FIRST.

You also cannot control early reflections in your room, nor separate the frequencies for clarity. AND, you cannot achieve any consistency in tracking, editing, mixing & mastering your home recordings.

What's the point of recording if you cannot achieve or maximize results you're looking for? Treatment will get you there faster.

Why throw any more money at gear or recording to solve your problems when it cannot work very well & the results are always incomplete or inconsistent?

At AGF, posters always want to discuss gear. It's sexy & it's fun. But the first thing we home recordists need to consider is how we are going to control our recording spaces. Treatment is actually more important than the gear, especially at the beginning. It's the only place from which to begin your personal recording journey.

DIY Room Treatment needn't be expensive nor permanent. You don't need a lot of tools to make a few 4"thick (min.) x 2' wide x 4' long OC 703 (preferred) or Roxul broadband absorbers. Portable Treatment is also a big plus in terms of being able to use different rooms or parts of rooms for recording, or not.

NOTE: Acoustic foam is NOT treatment, Nor are pillows or even rugs. Movers blankets can help some but not like the rigid insulation of OC 703 (used in most pro studio's).

Here are some links demonstrating how to make your own room treatment (from Fran Guidry) & also provide the scientific "why's" for learning why you REALLY need it (from Ethan Winer):

http://www.homebrewedmusic.com/2009/...-on-the-cheap/ -

NOTE: These are free-standing broad-band absorbers. You don't even need frames. Start by making two, then more as needed (9 will treat your tracking space - 2 in front, 2 behind, two on each side & one hung above you. Gives you a portable treated tracking space - a kinda room within a room. You can easily store the panels too. Also can easily vary the space between the panels for different sonic effects.

http://www.homebrewedmusic.com/2011/...adband-panels/

http://ethanwiner.com/acoustics.html

Here's a very good reference from Doug Young for getting started in home recording & how the parts fit together. This demonstrates how to achieve a consistently good single recording with ease. NOTE: If you follow Doug's comprehensive advice CLOSELY here, you will always be a winner in solo home recording.

https://acousticguitar.com/home-reco...oustic-guitar/

Finally, breathe dog. There are many ways to achieve great home recordings. ---- Don't obsess over the gear. Or even your DAW's workflow - Ha!
- Expect to spend much more money on recording than you'd ever anticipated. It's natural. In fact, buying a single good quality vocal or instrument recording condenser mic will cost more than you'd ever anticipated. Ha!
- MIC PLACEMENT & experimentation will help you reduce your learning curve immensely. Try every placement you can imagine in every room. REALLY! Nothing is set in stone.
- If you do some recording of solo acoustic guitar, do it in stereo. A-B spaced pairs work best for many.
- As a bluegrass picker (probably playing a large, dreadnaught guitar), make sure to NOT be too close to the mic. Bass-heavy guitars are more challenging to record at first. So back off the mic & never point it directly at the soundhole (@ the body joint is a good rule for dread's). Learn how to use subtractive EQ & bass roll-off's & attentuation.
- Record Vocals & Guitar Separately. Always. Hundreds of great reasons why it's better.
- Listen to early Norman Blake albums for great inspiration (got me going in the 70's). Church Street Blues, Billy Joe, Mississippi Delta Home, Fields of November, Slow Train Through Georgia, Ginseng Sullivan, Rubagfre, Billy Gray, etc., etc. - Norman's the real deal, with the real country feel (no hokum - only soul). Just my opinions of course.
- The music & playing are the most important parts of the recording equation.
- SO, be prepared & well-rehearsed before you hit the 'play' button in your treated space.

- HAVE FUN! The learning curve is worth pursuing if your passion is guitars & music.

But Remember - Quality, Consistent recordings all begin with applying adequate Room Trreatment to your space.

All the best, Warfrat73!

alohachris

A Few Parting General Suggestions: Audacity is just OK for beginners. But if you're going to move up in recording, you should get a more complete DAW, like Pro Tools eventually. Try free online DAW downloads to feel which one works best for you. Why spend time learning any DAW if you're going to move up from it - only to have to learn it all over?

In terms of interfaces? The onboard mic preamps on the cheaper interfaces are inferior (compressed, mid-rangey sounding) to quality interfaces. The Scarlett is NOT a step up. Noris ANYTHING Behringer. Check out Apogee (many like the Duet2 & Quartet work w/ Windows), RME & UA interfaces. High Quality mic preamps are VERY important to your sound. More Later. -alohachris-

Finally - Crossing #9

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WakBgo8595o

Last edited by alohachris; 01-07-2021 at 03:34 PM.
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Old 01-04-2021, 10:55 PM
warfrat73 warfrat73 is offline
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Thanks for the responses, folks.

Quick question about monitors. I get that headphones and monitors do different things.

But, I can just walk into the next room and play a track through an Onkyo-->PSB stereo system, or downstairs and play it through an NAD-->Warfedale system.

Aside from being mildly inconvenient, as an occasional hobbyist that doesn't know how far I'll really take this, is there really a need for near field monitors?
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Old 01-04-2021, 11:53 PM
alohachris alohachris is offline
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Default RE: Near-Field Monitors

Aloha Warfrat 73,

RE: Near-field Monitors. Ya gotta be able to hear your track's details. Near-field monitors allow you to do that better than other sources, right?

It's been driven home to me that you spend the real money on your sound sources first: the mic's & mic preamps & then the monitors for listening closely to, editing & mastering your recordings. SO yeah, very good quality, flat-response near-field monitors are something I consider to be essential if you're into recording. You can use headphones too if it's not that critical to you.

Unfortuntely, & I'll get a few dissenters here on this, my opinion is that available near-field monitors under around $1500/pr. aren't worth much. Worse, they usually give you ear-fatigue quickly while listening for hours (my main reason). That's my ears talking from decades of auditioning high end monitors & gear. There are several choices available.

I used Adams A7X's for many years. Excellent & un-hyped tweeters with great balance, depth & sound-staging. Neumann KH120's are also great for the money & you'll stick with them for many years. Dynaudio BMK5's, Adams A5X's, & Focal Alpha 65's are good & a bit smaller/cheaper. There's always the standby Yamaha HSS 5's or 8's. Event 20/20's are decent too. I prefer 7" near-fields for acoustic music. I add a bass sub-woofer for more bass & keyboard-driven pop styles.

Hobby or not, ya gotta be able to hear the details of your recordings, warfrat73, or what's the point?

alohachris

Last edited by alohachris; 01-05-2021 at 02:20 AM.
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Old 01-05-2021, 07:28 AM
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My signal chain in a recent S&T posting was Neumann KM-184 mics to a Zoom H5 portable recorder. The WAV file downloaded later to Reaper on a Dell laptop for post processing. I use Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones for monitoring. I’ve got two other songs I hope to share in the next 1-2 weeks and my setup ditches the H5 and the mics go into a Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 interface than to Reaper on the laptop. This is a bit better than the Zoom H5.

Room treatment wise, I work from a 10x10 room with 8’ ceilings and hardwood floors. One outside window, guitars hanging on wall hangers, TV on one wall, keyboard against one wall, not optimal. I do have a rug on the floor. All I did sound treatment wise was to order two acoustic panels (3’x6’) that are hinged together. I set them up as a shallow V and place my mic stand with my mics setup in a spaced pair within the V and then sit about 12” from the mics (one mic pointing at the bridge and one at the 12th fret of the guitar). I’m very pleased with the results so far. There seems to no room effect (like you are in a cave) and I only have to deal with extraneous noises like birds singing just outside the window or planes flying overhead. I do usually wait on my wife to be out when I do a recording session or do it later at night when she has gone to bed. I’ll be experimenting with other mic setups down the road.

My goal is to get a good quality recording of songs I learn for myself that I can keep for listening to down the road and to share with AGF friends here are well as friends and family.

As pointed out by Chris above and many others, you want to get the best raw recording you can that minimizes post processing.
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Last edited by SprintBob; 01-05-2021 at 07:41 AM.
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Old 01-05-2021, 08:34 AM
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Room treatment :
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Old 01-05-2021, 10:04 AM
warfrat73 warfrat73 is offline
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My thoughts at the moment would be to pick up a new interface (likely the Behringer that ljguitar recommended) and one of those portable isolation shields that mounts to a mic stand. With the intention that making some acoustic panels would be next on the list.

I think that studio monitors are kind of off the table at the moment, since I just won't be happy with the quality I can get for what I'm willing to spend. I'll have to make do with headphones and plugging into my (pretty decent) stereo setups.
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Old 01-05-2021, 10:26 AM
Brent Hahn Brent Hahn is online now
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Quote:
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Room treatment :
Hey, nobody wants to repipe the house, either. But at least room treatment is something you can see.
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Old 01-05-2021, 10:39 AM
warfrat73 warfrat73 is offline
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I may or may not have changed my mind, and may or may not be on my way out the door to Home Depot.

And JoAnne Fabrics.
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