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  #16  
Old 12-08-2011, 09:59 AM
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Just to sound like a broken record :-), this was the point of the exercise I suggested. Go thru that process of trying to replicate a reference recording you like, and identify what is missing, then you'll have a good idea of what (if anything) you need to upgrade.

I have certain reference recordings (for example some by Gerhard, Huttlinger, Emerson) I really like the sound of. I have done some tweaking pre and post recording to try and approach those sounds. Of course it never quite does. I don't know that it should even given that I am recording on a different guitar. For example, just to give an extreme case, trying to match up to the sound of a classical guitar recording when I am playing a steel string. But of course I know what you mean in general. Lately I am happy to get a recording that sounds to me like the guitar I am recording, that I can go back later and listen to and not have to just guess what guitar I was recording since much of the character of that particular guitar was lost in the recording process. I like to listen back and think, wow that captured that guitar's character. Now post recording I may want to tweak things for a bigger than life sound, but at least at the start there was some accuracy to real life in the recording.
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  #17  
Old 12-08-2011, 10:46 AM
redavide redavide is offline
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. . .

You might post a short section in wav (or 320 mp3 format) of something that you feel is one of your best recorded sounds (preferably not at a lowered resolution you get on youtube) and tell us what you feel is still missing in the sound.
Rick, here's a wav file from something I posted on Youtube recently. I think it's about the best sound I've been able to get out of my gear.

http://soundcloud.com/redavide1/outwestwav

I started recording and posting on Youtube a few years ago with an old Sony Digital tape camcorder using a really cheap Radio Shack mic -- sounded pretty bad, but at least you could identify the tune . . .

Then I got an attenuator that allowed me to plug my AT4050 directly into the camcorder. Sounded a LOT better.

Then I sprung for $119 and got the Lexicon Lambda and recorded the audio separately -- sounded even better . . .

I bought the cheap Lambda just to experiment with an interface and see how they worked, etc. It's easy to use, works great, sounds good, so at this point I'm convinced interfaces like this one are what I want to use going forward . . .

In your opinion, if I were to buy a much higher quality interface (ie, more expensive), would there be any significant increase in sound quality? I've made a couple very small investments, as outlined above, that have resulted in very satisfactory and noticeable improvements in sound quality. What I'm trying to figure out is what my next upgrade should be, and I suspect, as Rick suggested that the Lambda interface is the weak link.

I can work on reference tracks as suggested and I think that's a great idea. But I'm interested in knowing what you think are the weak points of the clip I attached and whether you think a better quality interface would make any significant difference or any difference at all? Forget the song and the playing -- for purposes here, I'm really solely interested in sound quality opinions.
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  #18  
Old 12-08-2011, 10:56 AM
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Forget the song and the playing -- for purposes here, I'm really solely interested in sound quality opinions.
One of my issues is that I have a really hard time separating those things. However, your playing and the tune sound fine to me here. I don't hear anything that suggests your preamp is a problem. There's a bit of resonance and peaks on the low end here that could be improved by mic placement and/or room acoustics. For my taste, there's too much obvious reverb on the track as well. And there's a fair bit of noise, especially evident at the end. Could be your gear, but it sounds like room noise to me. How are you mixing this? Tools for final production are another good area for investment. If you provided a raw dry track, exactly how it was recorded with no EQ, reverb, etc (preferably not mp3 - soundclick seriously messes up any sound file), I'd be happy to take a crack at a demo mix if that would be interesting to you.
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  #19  
Old 12-08-2011, 12:16 PM
redavide redavide is offline
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One of my issues is that I have a really hard time separating those things. However, your playing and the tune sound fine to me here. I don't hear anything that suggests your preamp is a problem. There's a bit of resonance and peaks on the low end here that could be improved by mic placement and/or room acoustics. For my taste, there's too much obvious reverb on the track as well. And there's a fair bit of noise, especially evident at the end. Could be your gear, but it sounds like room noise to me. How are you mixing this? Tools for final production are another good area for investment. If you provided a raw dry track, exactly how it was recorded with no EQ, reverb, etc (preferably not mp3 - soundclick seriously messes up any sound file), I'd be happy to take a crack at a demo mix if that would be interesting to you.
Generally, I like reverb -- and sometimes I tend to go overboard I think. But also, I record to post on Youtube and for some reason when they get done processing a file, I can hardly hear the reverb anymore, so sometimes I overdo the reverb on purpose on the audio track to compensate for what Youtube will do to it. So when you hear the pre-Youtube audio, yes, I agree, there is too much reverb.

My room is VERY noisy. I live directly on a very, very busy square in the middle of Milan -- there are trams, buses, tons of traffic, hundreds of people and a lot of loud scooters. And my apartment has very old windows that aren't soundproof at all. Couldn't be a worse place for noise.

"Tools for final production"? Could you be more specific? I mix with Cubase and don't do anything after that . . .


I'd love for you to take a crack at a demo mix . . .
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Last edited by redavide; 12-08-2011 at 01:11 PM. Reason: technical
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  #20  
Old 12-08-2011, 12:20 PM
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I suspect, as Rick suggested that the Lambda interface is the weak link.
I don't want to pre-empt any discussion about how to improve your recording chain, and there's plenty people here with more experience than I have, but to my ears that is a very obviously poor quality sound. It's thin, slurred, undefined, and uneven across the spectrum rather than rich, deep, balanced and with the fine detail you'd get from a better transient response. A lot of information is getting lost.

The playing is good though, and you've got some great guitars. You're in for a real treat when you get this sorted out

I'm absolutely certain you'd notice a big difference if you swap out the Lambda for a decent interface. Possibly you'll need to change mics too but I'm less sure about that. I've never really warmed to AT. Lots of people stock them and they're easy to find and I'm always suspicious that they get recommended so much simply "because it's there". I might be being completely unfair, but I can't think of an amount of money for an AT mic I wouldn't rather spend with ADK.

Incidentally, as another reference recording, here's a pair of ADK A6 showing off a guitar from dreamguitars.com. This demo of the Usbpre2 also has a nice sound. Would be even better in the raw wav without the youtube resampling. And finally, here's some nice playing from Sdelsolray.
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  #21  
Old 12-08-2011, 12:28 PM
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But also, I record to post on Youtube and for some reason when they get done processing a file, I can hardly hear the reverb anymore, so sometimes I overdo the reverb on purpose on the audio track to compensate for what Youtube will do to it.
That's one problem with using these various places that mess with your sound. I've also had the opposite happen, I've had tracks with seemingly little reverb on them suddenly sound like they're swimming in it after uploading to you tube.

Quote:
My room is VERY noisy.
That's a huge issue. One of the biggest differences in a really good recording is the low noise. But that suggests lots of ways to improve, from mics that will work well with close micing, to experimenting with pickups to record with, to noise reduction software, to changing your recording hours to 4 am.

Quote:

"Tools for final production"? Could you be more specific? I mix with Cubase and don't do anything after that . . .
I meant your recording software, EQs, effects, noise reduction, etc. I haven't spent any time with Cubase, tho it's supposed to be a decent system. But there are better reverbs, for example.

Quote:
Here's the raw track -- no eq, no reverb, no nothing:

http://soundcloud.com/redavide1/outwestraw
I don't see anyway to download a file from soundclick, and once they get done with converting it to mp3 it's already in pretty bad shape. I'll PM you with where you could upload a wav file if you can do that.
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  #22  
Old 12-08-2011, 12:35 PM
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to my ears that is a very obviously poor quality sound. It's thin, slurred, undefined, and uneven across the spectrum rather than rich, deep, balanced and with the fine detail you'd get from a better transient response. A lot of information is getting lost.
You may be correct, but I don't know how you can tell from a soundclick mp3. It makes everything sound that way. I don't know how they make an mp3 sound as bad as they do...
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  #23  
Old 12-08-2011, 01:50 PM
Fran Guidry Fran Guidry is offline
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...
But here's a more specific question: Regarding interfaces -- I paid 119 bucks for a Lexicon Lambda interface with 2 pre-amps. On the other hand, you've got people with 10 thousand dollar plus chains of mics, pre-amps, converters, etc. What I'm wondering is -- where in the spectrum between these extremes do you find the biggest benefit in terms of significant improvement in sound quality?

For example, I've never tried a 2-pre-amp interface, let's say in the $500 range. I'm just using $500 as a random point, could be $1000 or $2000 . . . I have very little idea of what kind of change I might notice other than higher credit card payments.

In your opinion, at which price point do you find objective, noticeable, significant differences? Fran touched on this above, mentioning that the differences in pre-amps become "vanishingly small," presumably as your budget gets bigger. Where's the vanishing point?
When I've compared (using level matched same performance material in a double blind comparison) a reasonably high end preamp (John Hardy) to a very low cost preamp (M-Audio DMP-3) I hear no difference. My audio interface device comparisons have been more mid-range (Lynx vs Presonus) but in my evaluations I've never found an audible difference.

** Edit ** Let me add that if anyone would like to demonstrate the sonic improvement (or difference) due to a high end preamp, I'd be happy to ship them an M-Audio DMP3 to use for the comparison, on my nickel. Any Forssells or Gordons or GMLs out there?

My failure to hear a difference doesn't mean there's no difference, but it's at least an indicator that you might find the differences imperceptible as well. After all, these devices certainly fall into a range of engineering where audible transparency is not very expensive with modern LSI parts and assembly techniques.

Much of the discussion of superior audio tech on Gearslutz and the like is about the search for euphonics rather than transparency. Euphonic reproduction is by definition distortion. If your goal is to capture the true sound of your playing then your goal is transparency.

I'll repeat three suggestions from earlier posters:

Monitors: things are popping in near field monitors these days. The most talked about boxes have been the Neuman KH120s, and these fit right into your budget. It's hard to appreciate how much excellent monitors will improve your recordings until you experience it.

Reflection control: I've found that as few as two conventional broadband absorber panels (4 feet by 2 feet by 4" OC703) placed in a V behind the mics gives a noticeable reduction in reflected sound.

Background noise: Does your square quiet down at midnight? Any chance of recording at another location with less noise? Or, with better monitoring you can use closer miking, as odd as that sounds. You'll need to reduce the proximity effect bass build-up with EQ in post production, and for that you need confidence in your monitoring, it has to tell you the truth.

Fran

Last edited by Fran Guidry; 12-08-2011 at 01:58 PM.
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  #24  
Old 12-08-2011, 05:56 PM
sdelsolray sdelsolray is offline
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Originally Posted by redavide View Post
Generally, I like reverb -- and sometimes I tend to go overboard I think. But also, I record to post on Youtube and for some reason when they get done processing a file, I can hardly hear the reverb anymore, so sometimes I overdo the reverb on purpose on the audio track to compensate for what Youtube will do to it. So when you hear the pre-Youtube audio, yes, I agree, there is too much reverb.

My room is VERY noisy. I live directly on a very, very busy square in the middle of Milan -- there are trams, buses, tons of traffic, hundreds of people and a lot of loud scooters. And my apartment has very old windows that aren't soundproof at all. Couldn't be a worse place for noise.

"Tools for final production"? Could you be more specific? I mix with Cubase and don't do anything after that . . .


I'd love for you to take a crack at a demo mix . . .
There have been numerous posts with good information and advice. Your original question was how to spend $2,000 to upgrade your recording studio. Given the information you have provided, I would suggest the following:

1) Room. Your room sucks (you said this ). The room is very important. So, mitigating your room is the first thing to do. Here's how you can do it. First, record at night when the outside ambient noise is less. Second, learn how to record with a pair of mics that are close to the guitar. That will lower the relative ambient noise, but you will have to add a bass rolloff at some point to tame the proximity effect (no big deal). Third, build some 4' x 2' x 4" bass traps/broad band absorbers. Six or eight will help quite a bit. If your DIY, you'll spend about $300 or so.

2) Mics. Add a second AT 4041. Cost $300 new, about half that for used. This will help with stereo imaging and realism.

3) Interface. Lose the Lambada and get a better interface. Apogee, RME and others make very decent 2 channel units for about $500 - $600.

4) Monitors. Lose the Roland monitors. Near field monitors are so important. Spend as much as you can here, maybe as much as $1,000.

5) Reverb. Lose the Lexicon. You can add reverb via software plugins (that are often free with the software you have). Learn about eq, limiters and other software-based plug-in tools. Use them sparingly, but use them.

With the additional funds you would get from selling your current interface, the Roland monitors and the Lexi, you should have funds remaining.

Finally, spend the time it takes to learn how to use the gear. Consider spending hundreds of hours with reading, experimenting and testing things.
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  #25  
Old 12-08-2011, 10:27 PM
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Rick, here's a wav file from something I posted on Youtube recently. I think it's about the best sound I've been able to get out of my gear.

http://soundcloud.com/redavide1/outwestwav
Ok, that sound pretty good to me, even with the 128Kbps mp3 - no doubt better at a higher bit rate.

I had that same guitar model (Collings CJ) for a while. It is a great guitar but I think another, perhaps warmer sounding, guitar might record more to your liking.
Maybe you can borrow some guitars and test things out.

There is some noise on the recording though not much. I don't know how far out you miked it but perhaps a bit closer mic'ing might give a bit more immediacy and warmth. The right reverb could help a bit here too.
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  #26  
Old 12-08-2011, 11:47 PM
alohachris alohachris is offline
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Default Loved that Song You Shared ReDavide

Aloha ReDavide,

You're probably having breakfast now, & I just finished dinner yesterday for you out here in the Islands. Ha!

Very, very nice song & playing you shared. Lots of empathy & emotion there. Very accessible & musical. I liked that a lot.

I can't really criticize the recording too much either, given your current signal chain, room location & lack of treatment. Treatment will clean up the frequencies & occasional muddiness plus any noise. Yes, there's a bit of bass proximity effect that could be tightened up. But the quality of the recording did not detract at all from your fine music, which is the whole point right?

Living in Milano (love that city, used to play pro hoops there 40 years ago), it may be difficult to procure the treatment materials I shared with you earlier. Mineral wool is what's often used in Europe. Check out the "Studio Treatment" forum at gearslutz.com. Many Europeans chime in there about what they use for treating their recording spaces. It's very useful info that could help you tighten things up for more clarity.

If you take something from each of the great posters who have contributed here into consideration, & combine that help with your intuition & fine music, ReDavide, you'll have no problems at all in reaching your goals. Trust your ears!

In terms of youtube quality, the compressed nature of the current technology itself is what prevents so few from sounding very good, no matter how good the playing & music. If you look at it honestly, the main reason why so many home-made youtubes suck sonically is because there is zero room treatment in most. So start there.

But play yo' song, bruddah. You're on the way!

Check out some of Doug Young's wonderful youtube offerings for inspiration & as an example of the best you can achieve in that medium at home. He has a lot of insight into the process by now. A great resource for what you're looking to do.

Sure, Doug certainly does have the best signal chains & a wonderful home studio he built (check out his site). But you'd be surprised what he can do with just a coupla great mics (like the Schoeps CMC641 hypers that Moon mentioned & several here own & love, me too), a video camera or 2-3, & a Zoom H4N handheld recorder for the audio on some youtubes. Check those out. Here's one of my favorites from Doug's most recent CD, called Cairo:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3eLUSFGwp8

Thank you again for sharing your fine music with us, ReDavide.

A Hui Hou!

alohachris
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  #27  
Old 12-09-2011, 02:21 AM
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I've really taken a lot of good information from this, so thank you all very much for all of it . . . I'm definitely going to experiment with the suggestions here and try to see what I can come up with.
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  #28  
Old 12-09-2011, 03:29 AM
rockabilly69 rockabilly69 is offline
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No one has said this, but in a hopelessley noisy atmosphere like you describe I'd dump the AT mics which are generally very bright, and record with some smooth dynamics like Sennheiser MD421s. The 4050s always seem like they pick up every sound within a mile and I'm sure they make life hell with trying to tone down the noise! If that doesn't sound like your cup of tea, definately try the room treatments, and I would learn as much as possible about microphone positioning. Have you tried mid/side recording? I find that it brings a very nice spatial quality to acoustic guitar recordings, and you can do it with the equipment you have right now. You can use the 4041 (cardiod) as the mid mic, and the 4050 (in figure eight) as the side mic. Cubase can handle the process very easily which just require that you clone the side mic track and flip it out of phase! Doug Youngs suggestion of trying to emulate a track that you like is what alot of great engineers have done to learn the business. Just ask how many rock producers have tried to emulate the recordings on Tom Petty's "**** The Torpedos". This is very sensible way to learn the art.
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  #29  
Old 12-09-2011, 06:01 AM
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I gotta say that this thread illustrates the unbelievable value of the members and the content/info/advice/support of the Acoustic Guitar Forum. J.R., take a "snapshot" for your memory book!

No surprise that a couple of my favorite players (D and D...you know who you are!) are thick into the "help" mode.

I just wish it all wasn't 30,000 feet over my head!

Geek on, boys and girls.
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  #30  
Old 12-09-2011, 01:08 PM
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redavide, that file you sent me is actually mono - a stereo track, but identical on each side. I thought you were recording with 2 mics? Was this just done with 1? Or did you mix them both together into mono?
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