Thursday, May 30, 2013

Why I Hate USB Mic's- A round up of The Best Pre Amps, Lots Of Info In This Post

Why I Hate USB Mic’s- A round up of The Best Pre Amps, Lots of Info in This Post
I have a USB mic, I have had a few, I have tried most of them, the only one I found that would give a pro sound for cheap, is the Audio  Technica  AT 2020 USB, around 130.00

I hate USB mics for doing a pro sounding vocal, they are great for pod casting, a usb mic, a laptop and your good to go, anywhere, that is a great thing.

A pro sound can be had with a few 100.00 mics the AT 2020 and a few others. Presonus has a great mic for just over 100.00, the thing is, to get that studio sound you need the mic preamp. I have talked a lot a concerning mic pre amps, and how it is the most over looked hardware in the recording chain, it should be the first thing, above a mic even. You must have a quality pre amp and a condenser mic to get that sweet vocal sound, also USB mics for acoustic instruments are awful, and most do not have a great frequency response to start with. I just found the at 2020 on Amazon for 80.00 great price, I have seen them used for around that price , the average used price is around 70.00 to as low as 50.00

AKG has the C1000, the mic of choice for an acoustic instrument, like guitar. You need a 24 bit sound card with a way to input your pre amp, your mic is plugged into the preamp, this is step one. I love tube pre amps, you can get a dual pre amp that gives a pro sound for around 150.00 add a 100.00 condenser mic and you can achieve a pro vox, acoustic sound. The poor mans recording studio, the blog and book gives the set ups on the cheap.

If you have money, buy a real good pre amp and a 200-400 mic and you will be in the big league.
A pro pre amp for a home studio will range from 400.00 to 3,000. But what a sound you get from a quality pre amp. There are single channel-strip, one in put pre amps that are from the same pro mixer boards found in most pro studios. 

 My top pre amps , if you have the money.

 First a mid priced one that gives great sound is, the
Presonus studio channel tube, yes tube, MKll it can be had for 250.00 an excellent choice, it has what I consider a must , it has a built in compressor, you want the vox compressor as the first part -input in the recording vox chain, this is very important, and the compressor is outstanding, also this tube baby has a three- band Parametric EQ, and more, a three band EQ is a must, never a two band, forget it, you can not hit that sweet spot with a two band EQ, it can not be done, a sweeping,  or Q filter in a three band is needed, some do not have the Q filter, many have a three band and a 4th the Q filter, you can fine tune any sound.

As said Presonus has some of the best mics on the planet for the home studio I am a big fan of all their mics and the prices.

A step up , my next choice would be hands down the Focusrite ISA One Analogue pre amp. 500.00 it is sweet, if you have 500.00 this is the one, if you only need one input, and it is pure Analogue. I love to use as much analogue in the recording chain, even though I use a PC, digital recorder, keep as much analogue in the chain that you can, even in the mastering, most recording software comes with the plug ins, most are pure digital, pure digital gives a very stale sound. Nomad factory has some excellent analogue plug-ins, vst's, by favorite go to mastering plug in is T-Racks the new version is a big step up from the older ones, it has many pre amps, great for guitars and such, it has so much and the cost is great.

The next level in price I would get the Universal Audio LA-610 MKll Classic Tube Preamp 1,600 bucks, this is a bog boys preamp, it may sound like a lot of money, but compared to studio time, you will save money in one pro studio session for a full CD project., and it is super rugged and pays for itself. I must say, I have seen many, many great home studios that record others, at 25.00 a song or 25.00 an hour, you can find them everywhere, I used to charge that price myself, there are many pro home studios, the competition is fierce, and so many of them, home recording engineers, Producers want to get clients to just pay for their studio, and their projects. Some like me, I am all about Indy Recordist advocating and promotion, I did many free recordings, I also had what was called the barter shop, I would barter for recordings, that is how I equipped almost my whole studio when I was in the Seattle area.

Lastly I would recommend, if you have the cash, and are trying to build a real super pro studio the Avalon VT-737SP Class A mic Processor, this is more than just a preamp and hence the price, 2,500-2,300.00.
It is a true all in one vox and acoustic, 100% pro unit, used in pro studios,  a go to processor.
2 rack space, combo analogue, solid state, but even though it is a combo, it is great, It has an OPTO Compressor, that alone is worth the money OPTO compressors are the best. A great EQ section with the sweep filter I mentioned, love the lights and the VU meters way cool.

Now you can get a vocal all in one vocal processor that can get pro results for around 225.00 By Behringer, this company has really step up in maybe the best bang for your buck, for the home studio, they have an excellent range of mixers with a pro pre amp built in, their mics, vocal processors, you can not go wrong with this company, excellent studio monitors, just the best, for a little money, but a pro sound.

has a couple, one is a tube and it shows the tubes, it has EQ, compressor, even effects that are needed, a gate, a limiter, so I would, get one of those if you want a all in one cheap priced preamp, vocal processor.

Different Mic and pre amps, give different sounds, so look into that, some combos are better for a female vox than a male vox. The best pro mic for the price is the AKG 414 have that esp. for a male and one of the quality pre amps mentioned and you have a 100% radio ready recording.

Once you master mastering, and it can be done with many presets like T-Racks or nomad factory settings, not digital. I do use some digital plug ins with my waves mastering plug ins, waves is the standard as is the Oxford ones , a mac , an Oxford bundle and the pre amps and mic you have a true portable, if its a lap top, recording studio, I used this set up when I did location, live recordings. You will need extreme isolation headphones when recording live, you can ask the live sound engineer if you can plug into their board and do it that way. Or the harder way, it will take some work, but going through the main mixer board is ideal.

So, I hate USB mics OK, I said it, I mean it, but use what you have, some do the job, but you will need to know how to tweak it, if you learn that, you can get a pro sound.

 I hope this post sheds some light, and gives you some items to consider in your pro home studio, next time I will cover acoustics, it is a must, I will simplify it, Acoustic home studio set up, location baffles and such.
Till next time happy recording.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What Makes A Good Mix A Great Mix PT 2

Pt one is below this, read that first to follow what is on this lesson.

I can not over stress you must learn to master the stereo spectrum, the stereo filed, and what Hertz , each instrument lays in, this should be known, esp. instrument Frequency before you do anything, these are free all over the net, have it where you can see it, next have a track sheet, like the big boys, you need to label your channels, if using an out board mixed and can do the same with most software mixers, know whats what and where you are going.

Use near field monitors, on this site you will see my recommendations of near filed monitors on this site, I always keep a low budget in mind that will produce a pro sound.

To make a great mix, you need three types of speakers, near field monitors, small PC monitors, yes in the old days we used small car speakers, now days PC monitors, decent ones with a sub bass, only around 40.00 , than the reference monitor, a little bigger , but these come in the most at the mastering portion of your mix, have a good pair of headphones, esp if your next to a person trying to sleep, and your making a hit song at 2 am, thats how I work. I need and have one pair of cans that are called extreme isolation, around 100.00, these are used by Engineers in a live performance, to drown out all the crowd noise and monitor the in put of the board, I have them , because I must, I create 1-3 am  as many musicians do, and I live in tight quarters with others sleeping.

Never try doing a master with headphones, I do not care how much they cost, why? It will not give you the space to hear what is real, in the proper stereo field, and after 30 min, you lose a lot of your hearing in certain frequency's, even with speakers, take a break , esp. in the master session every 30 min and 5 min to 15 min break is a must, to have fresh ears. Before you call your mix a done deal wait one or two days and listen to it again, so do not dither at this point, as 90% of the time, what a day, or two difference makes with fresh ears, and sober minded , fresh. You will be amazed and say, how on earth , or why on earth did I do that, and changes will be made, but beware of over tweaking, this will kill a song, over tweaker's will mix, and mix and re-mix and this goes on forever, you lose the creative edge, and at the end of a log tweaking week, you will compare mixes, to find the first one, or second, may have been the best, funny, but true.

Remember break all the rules, once you know them try new sounds, ideas, music now days has become stall, a fresh new sound is needed, it could be you, yes, you reader that will be the next B.T. the father of Trance?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

What Makes A Good Mix From A Great Mix -Some Tips

So, what makes a great mix, there are many good mixes, but what makes a great mix? It starts with the recording chain. The mixer, hardware or software mixer should be set where the white or grey lines are, this is a start. As a Jr Recording Engineer, so many years ago, my job was to see who was on the list to be recorded, what instruments, style of music, any notes the artist gave, the SR. Engineers instructions and notes, than off to the room to set up. I would than do what’s called a basic mix, meaning setting up the channel strip, say Guitar I would set to the normal frequency and the same on the rest of the instruments, this is a basic working mix, many new musicians do the same, and go no further.

This is step one, but you will need to tweak as you go, this takes years of practice, learning what’s called the stereo spectrum. Placing sounds properly in the stereo field. Many sounds may be all in the 1.5 to 2.5 Khz range this is normal, what you end up doing is masking sounds, you recorded that sound you can not hear, due to other sounds fighting for the same range, this is where EQ comes in and stereo placement. Put some sounds panned to the left, others the right, add some EQ and on some, some effects to make them sit back in the mix, but are now where you can hear them, sounds easy, OK, .

When mixing down you ride the faders, this is simple enough and you know when a solo is coming up so you ride the fader up and slowly not fast lower it.

A solid intro and ending fade is a must, many need to work on fading out, takes practice, many songs I hear have are awful  on the fad, to slow, or to fast, to fast of a fad is the norm, slowly, lower the master stereo faders it takes practice, but you can do it.

Many make the mistake of using too much EQ, this will make a muddy sound, or a sound that over time kills the ears. Bass is important, it must be heard, waves has a great plug in just for this, a simple plug in, it does not change the volume of the bass, but it makes it stand out, complex  to explain, but wow what a great little plug in, just for the bass. You may not have a waves bundle, they are not cheap some 2-3K or more. There are many free plug ins that can do the job, on this blog I have given links to great free VSTi’s and VST effects, amazing.

If you have not read the page on where to get these unreal free VSTI’s and VST’s do so, the sampler alone is as good as my samplers I use, I now use the free one more I kid you not, esp. for strings.

Over use of effects, compression, EQ, can be an over kill, always record dry and add the effects after. Aside from maybe some compression on bass drums and bass so you do not peak out.

You can listen to your great solo vox as your singing with some reverb, but it is recorded dry, it is hard to sing as you would when hearing your self dry in the cans.
A great mix will make great use of the stereo field this and sparse use of EQ and effects will make your song shine, a lot of effects will not make a album filler , sub par song sound great, a great song is great with a  vox and one instrument, all else is more sounds. what is already great, is great with little, little is better. I have songs with a lot of effects, certain songs require wild effects just think PINK Floyd, and others, I use tons of effects, but in proper sequence and laid out in the proper way. To get a fat lead axe or pad sound, try and double the track, pan to left and right - not completely to left and right 30-40% left and right and it will stand out , sound great  in both eras and add depth.

I will write more on a great mix in my next post, till next time, keep on making music and have a creative week.