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Bluegrasstjej
May-16-2004, 6:30am
How does everyone do to get the recordings so clean? Mine always get some weird background noise and a bit blurry. Do I just have a bad microphone?

Dan Adams
May-16-2004, 6:42am
Good question tjej! #I always get what sounds like static on the recordings. #I've chaulked it up to fan noise from the computer, but I'm really not sure. #The same sound at a lower level is present throught the headphones, even when there is nothing playing. #I've used both a Shure mic and an Audio-Technica mic, and the static remains. #I don't think its the mics. #Hopefully someone has solved this riddle and can pass on the solution. #

Is that static or sparks flying off my strings? #Uhmmm.. #Static. #Dan

levin4now
May-16-2004, 6:55am
I was having similar trouble. I may still be getting some of that trouble - I should listen to my last recording of Cherokee and see. I was also having trouble with low volume. I was picking within inches of the mic and the recording seemed like it was done from far away and with a loud hiss. I finally found an option in teh sound controls for my pc, under "advanced" that 'boosted' my mic. NOw I get loud (enough) recordings and my hissing is way down for some reason.

alan

PS The PC I am using at this moment does NOT have that "boost" option under volume controls. I can't remember where I found it....maybe under "Control Panel" etc...

cam
May-16-2004, 7:39am
I'm still using good ol windows 98. You have to make sure you have windows audio properties set up right. On my comp I just double-click the loudspeaker symbol in the task bar to bring up the audio controls, dont know what its like on later windows though. You have to make sure that the recording level is high enough, otherwise you just get hiss.

dasspunk
May-16-2004, 9:29am
First off, let me say that it's not imperative that the recordings be of pristine quality. Any way folks can get it done is good enough.

That said, this is a fine question. I'm not sure what y'all are using but here's a few suggestions...

- Watch your recording levels! Play into the mic and set the levels as high as you can without clipping into the red. The problem here is that too low of a level, will lead to thin and noisy recordings. Too loud (clipping) will be worse... digital distortion is an ugly sound.

- Clean signal path. Mando => Mic => Mic pre => Interface => Computer. The old adage of "straight to tape" has a few wrinkles in this day of the computer but it's still an important premise. Leave effects and other toys for later (or never). Pure signal path is a beautiful thing. Get the best component that you can afford for each stage.

- Good condenser mic. I never met a mic I didn't like. Thanks to our friends in China, you can get killer sounding condenser mics for next to nothing. Dynamic mics (Shure SM58) are probably not going to give you the results you want. But be warned, buying mic is far more addictive than mandolins... you have been warned!

Now, for example, for the Mando Project, I'm usually using the following:
Rose Mando => Oktava MC012 or Ribbon mic => Tascam us-122 (built in mic pres) => My beloved iBook.

Does that help?

Martin Jonas
May-16-2004, 11:44am
I think the most important thing about noise-free recording is having a microphone pre-amp. Yes, it is possible to plug the mic straight into the computer and, depending on your soundcard, you may have a +20 dB boost option in the recording volume control (mine does), but it's still going to be too low level to get you a decent signal-to-noise ratio. If you use computer microphones, the levels may be higher and you may not need a pre-amp, but these are not designed for recording music, so there's a built-in limit in intrinsic recording quality.

What I use is a dynamic microphone (Philips SBC MD680) => B-Tech BT26 pre-amp => Creative Audigy 2 soundcard. The soundcard came with my computer, but although it's quite a nice one I don't think it would sound all that much different with on-board sound only. Everything else was very cheap: the mic was 1.50 ($2.50) on eBay and the pre-amp 20 ($35) at a local electronics shop.

I know that dynamic mics are frowned upon, but mine gives me a nice enough sound at much less money than even the most basic entry-level condenser mic. What's more, a condenser mic needs phantom power and unless you have one with battery phantom power, that will have to come from you pre-amp. The cheap pre-amps such as mine don't have it, so that means a more expensive pre-amp as well. It adds up.

For what it's worth, I record with the mic more than a metre from the mandolin and I don't have my recording levels all the way up, so I could even go further away if I wanted. That measn that although I haven't tried it, I could get somebody else to back me up and record it into a single microphone with my setup (although the pre-amp takes two inputs, so I could mic up separately as well). I don't use any effects whatsoever -- what you hear on my MP3s is what I played.

dasspunk
May-16-2004, 12:42pm
I agree with martinjonas and don't mean to frown upon dynamic mics. Built-in (or cheap) soundcards and USB mics usually don't sound very good. If you have a good dynamic mic perhaps you should upgrade sound card.

I think the point is, if you're not happy with the fidelity of your recordings, look for the weak link in your signal path. Replace or add components as necessary.

joshro78
May-17-2004, 9:24am
Dasspunk,
What ibook do you have? Is it one of the newer white plastic ones or the older colored ones? Where do you plug your mic?

dasspunk
May-17-2004, 10:06am
My iBook is one of the newer white ones (G4/800MHz).

I've been using a Tascam US-122 (http://www.zzounds.com/item--TASUS122) (USB) for an interface. It has built in mic pres, phantom power and is powered from the USB bus (no wall wart!). I wanted something easy to set up that could do some simple recordings. It works just fine and I found it slightly better than the M-Audio gear but your mileage may vary...

Michael H Geimer
May-17-2004, 10:14am
IMHO - It's the soundcard first and foremost, the microphone second, pre-amp/mixer last.

The basic issue is that an analog audio signal just shouldn't have to travel along one of those skinny little anodized lines on the PCI card ... *that* is the likeliest place in the PC user's signal chain where the hiss and hum will enter.

Re: Dymanic mics? Everything I've posted was recorded with a good ol' SM-57. But, I've lately been messing around with a good condeser and there really is a world of difference! Sadly for me, grounding issues are hampering my use of powered mics. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/sad.gif

Reading back through, there's a lot of advice above about setting a good input signal level.

- Benig

Bluegrasstjej
May-17-2004, 2:22pm
Thank y'all for your suggestions. I've checked my sound settings and it all looks fine so I'll try to play around a little bit with Audacity. I can't afford another mic now, so I'll wait until later if I'm still not satisfied with the sound quality of my recordings.

Harrmob
May-17-2004, 3:23pm
Benig- What soundcard are using and is there such a sound card that I can plug a 1/4 inch into w/o using adapter? I am just plugging my EV Cobalt CO4 mic into my standard Dell sound card via and adapter and using N-Studios. If you have ever listened to Summertime on the Misc Musings, the buzz or hum is driving me crazy! What do I need to do to get rid of it? New sound card card? Pre Amp?

Michael H Geimer
May-17-2004, 7:05pm
Harrmob,
"Yes" to the question about getting soundcards that take a 1/4" sized plug, they are out there and that is a good sign the card is higher end.

Mine, specifically, is an older Midiman DMan 4x4. I love it, as it has a separate 'break out box' that accepts the 1/4" phono plugs. But, it's a drag that I can no longer get drivers for it, so should I ever move upwards beyond Win98, I'll need to get a new soundcard ... but I'm staying put, as my setup works the way it stands, so why go and break it.

I even think one of the Sounblaster Pro cards has a 1/4" plug that will mount to one of the front bays, and even has a pre-amp input control. I alos think some of the USB soundcards will take full sized inputs.

- Benig

uncle ken
May-17-2004, 7:35pm
I never had much luck with the microphone input on my sound cards. It might be because it has 5 volt power included in the connection. Here is an article (http://www.epanorama.net/circuits/microphone_powering.html) I found regarding this. I got the best results using a microphone preamp and going into the line input. I just used one of the mic preamps in a small mixer I had handy. The line in is stereo so use the correct adaptor.

Martin Jonas
May-18-2004, 3:04am
I am just plugging my EV Cobalt CO4 mic into my standard Dell sound card via and adapter and using N-Studios. #If you have ever listened to Summertime on the Misc Musings, the buzz or hum is driving me crazy! What do I need to do to get rid of it? New sound card card? Pre Amp?
Pre-amp, definitely, and going to the "line-in" port of your sound card. As I said above, pre-amps don't need to be expensive (20 for mine) and even a simple one should eliminate all recording level problems at a stroke. As an extra bonus, many pre-amps (mine included) also act as phono pre-amps, meaning you can connect a turntable to the soundcard (or to a HiFi amp without phono stage) to convert your old vinyl to CD with minimum signal degradation.

Martin

Kelly_guy
May-19-2004, 11:49am
OK, another recording question--How do I get rid of the click?

I recorded a click track, then recorded myself on mando playing along with the click track. I listened to the click track through headphones, so the mic shouldn't have been able to pick up any of the click track.

I then deleted the click track and listened to the track of me playing mandolin. There's still a click there! Is this due to my crappy sound card?

The sound is actually rather decent, no hum or static. I'm using a Dell laptop, so it's whatever soundcard comes with that computer.

Any ideas?

cam
May-19-2004, 12:28pm
remember that if you are listening loud to open type headphones the click track will be picked up by the mike.

Spruce
May-19-2004, 1:09pm
"remember that if you are listening loud to open type headphones the click track will be picked up by the mike. "

Try rolling off all the highs on your click track. #This will help with eliminating the click from bleeding #onto your mandolin track, which is especially a problem if you're using a sensitive condenser mic.
I actually record a metronome (tube powered!) with a mic, and use that for my click. #It has very few highs, and doesn't seem to bleed as easily as a lot of clicks which seem to be pretty piercing through the cans...

"I think the most important thing about noise-free recording is having a microphone pre-amp. "

To take it one-step further, I think the most important thing about making good noise-free recordings is having a great microphone pre-amp.
The difference between any-old mic pre and a great mic pre is stunning.

Like fine wine, quality seems to follow price in selecting a pre. #Good pres can run you 500.00 to 1K per channel, but are worth it. #They can really make all the difference in the world...

Bluegrasstjej
May-19-2004, 2:18pm
I always listen to the clicktrack in headphones when I do recordings. This is also the case with any other tracks that I follow (usually I follow a click track to record a first track, then listen to that track and follow that when I add back-up and other tracks)

Kelly_guy
May-19-2004, 2:30pm
Yep, I was listening through headphones. But as others have pointed out, the high harmonics of the click are LOUD, and probably got picked up by the condenser microphone. Rolling off the highs on the click is a great idea, I think that'll work.

Spruce
May-19-2004, 4:06pm
You don't really need it all that loud, either...
It's just a good reference point...

And make sure you pre-erase the click track where the mando track is going to be left naked, or at the end of the song. #That's when you usually notice the click in a recording...
Especially the end of tunes when you hit a nice chord and want everything to fade out, and there's this click track...ugggh!
Just erase the click before you record the ending, and this problem will be eliminated...

Michael H Geimer
May-19-2004, 4:30pm
LOL! There are two staple ingredients in any Benignus recording. A squeak from my piano bench at the beginning of the track. And the 'click click click' of headphone bleed at the end.

Martin Jonas
May-20-2004, 3:35am
The difference between any-old mic pre and a great mic pre is stunning.

Like fine wine, quality seems to follow price in selecting a pre. #Good pres can run you 500.00 to 1K per channel, but are worth it. #They can really make all the difference in the world...
Oh, absolutely, especially if you're recording something you want to publish commercially. #However, for the purpose of this thread (or indeed the MP group) this is a bit of an overkill -- any well-made pre-amp will eliminate the noise and recording level problems that you get with plugging a microphone directly into the soundcard and relying on the internal boost in the soundcard control panel for the recording level. #From there on, it's a question of upgrading rather than basic setup: a condenser mic will get you a more faithful tone than a dynamic one and a good professional pre-amp wil get you a much better tone than a cheap one. #Both of these components are open-ended in terms of price and neither is worth upgrading unless you have a decent soundcard. #It's essentially horses-for-courses: if you just want to hear yourself play with a decent clear tone and without distracting hissing or fan noise, get a cheap pre-amp. #If your playing is good enough to warrant semi-pro or pro recording, get pro recording equipment. #For me personally, I would just get my dodgy playing exposed in more faithful fashion if I got better recording gear...

I've been trying some recording with a click track and some overdubbing, and haven't had any bleeding. #I use closed headphones, though, which seem to isolate pretty well but are still letting me hear my own playing. #That doesn't solve the problem of being distracted by the click track, though -- in the end, I found it easier to have an even tempo without it than with it and therefore all the MP3s I have uploaded are recorded without click track, just played straight into the microphone.

Martin