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Home recording: Short distance between mouth and a dynamic mic?

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jonpall
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Hi, I was wondering, for home recording, if you only have a dynamice mic (which is my case - I have a Sennheiser 835), is it a good idea to record with your mouth almost eating the mic (and obviously the gain reduced a bit), so that you get the proximity effect and a more "body" into the sound, which I guess a condenser mic would give you?

(I often feel the need to "thicken" up my sound, especially on the high notes. It just crossed my mind that I might be losing some bass end since I'm recording a few inches away from the mic and I don't have a condenser.)

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jonpall - I googled this and still come up with 6" to 10" being the ideal placement (even with dynamic mics), but they all say that rules can be broken. The proximity effect can be used as an advantage sometimes.

I didn't come up with any specific recommendations on the Sennheiser - even on their website. I did notice the frequency response of your mic does have a significant bump in the high frequencies which could make you think you need more lows to balance it out. The only thing about the proximity effect is that when you get to a certain close distance, the lows get real sensitive, so to get a consistent recording you really have to be consistent with your distance. When you are beyond the proximity distance, your frequencies will be the same no matter if your 4" or 8" away. The volume will obviously change, but the balance between lows and highs will be the same. (caution - I am not a certified recording engineer!)

Here is an interesting article on the subject:

http://www.audiocourses.com/article1666.html

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Like ronron said, I've been told by sound engineers that 10mm is the starting point. From there you probably should experiment a bit with the sound and your recordings and decide what effects you like the most. I record with a dynamic mic and am very happy with the results - especially as my recording is mostly for practise and self critique with view to performance, so I want to get my performance mic technique right too. I also learnt at a workshop on the weekend, a new rule: You can use this rule with a dynamic mic which has a band around the centre of the dome part on top. Like the SM58, and my Rode M1. Hold the mic in your hand, place the crease of your thumb knuckle on the band and have your thumb pointing up towards the top of the mic. Holding the mic like this, place your thumb on your chin. The rule is that you should never get closer than this. I've noticed that some of the sennheisers have this band a little lower than half way, so it might not work with yours, or you might have to place the crease of your thumb just about half way, pretending that that is where the band is.

In the end, if you record something and it sounds good, then there is nothing wrong with the way you are doing it. Experimentation is such a good learning experience.

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What Geno and NCdan said holds true - but none of that is limiting or written in stone ; you can use anything to your advantage

eg : map out the vocals of the song and use the 6" to 10" distance for vocals that have volume and power

and the proximity effect (close to the mic) to record intimate/breathy or just bass heavy vocals.

It is important that you keep the exact same distance and volume though or else mixing the vocals in the song

might be a nightmare.

The main thing here is not let your setup distort yet get as much signal as possible ; so first test-record in whatever

singing volume you will and watch out for that level meter - it mustn't be in the red area but mostly

in the yellowish-orange one. An occasional peak might be ok but given the fact that we're talking about home recording gear I wouldn't advise it.

If you're using any plugins during tracking, make sure none of them is distorting or adding too much of anything - the reason being

you can always add sth later but taking it away can be impossible.

Finally, it s worth tracking in 24bit/44.1Khz or higher, using the rule in the 2nd paragraph, in order to capture as much detail as possible.

Hope this helps,

Thanos

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Lots of good tips in this thread. Just play with it, listen, and find what works for you. I have the same mic and I've always been happy with it for live vocals and sketch recording. I've occasionally used it for demo quality recordings where I want to get guitar and vocals at the same time. If you are only recording for practice, it doesn't really matter, but there is one inexpensive piece of gear I love above all else for both recording and some live applications.

The ART V3 tube preamp is magic. It will set you back about $100, but you can use it just about anytime you want to up an analog tube in your signal chain - vocals, guitars, bass. Live, I sometimes use it as a direct box for my bass. If I'm trying to get a good recording at home, I ALWAYS my vocals into the ART, then my cheap compressor, then my audio interface. The results are surprisingly good. I also use it as a direct box for may bass recording. There is also an ART that is even cheaper, and I've heard good things about that one, too.

To my ears, a good tube in the signal chain, unless you have some super sexy, very expensive, digital gear, is the easiest way to get a better sounding recording.

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The main thing here is not let your setup distort yet get as much signal as possible ; so first test-record in whatever

singing volume you will and watch out for that level meter - it mustn't be in the red area but mostly

in the yellowish-orange one. An occasional peak might be ok but given the fact that we're talking about home recording gear I wouldn't advise it.

Why do you have to stay up high? That doesn't make sense. It's not like we're trying to saturate tape or anything like that. Stay well below the danger zone; even -10 is just fine. You can always turn it up after it's recorded.

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The ART V3 tube preamp is magic. It will set you back about $100, but you can use it just about anytime you want to up an analog tube in your signal chain - vocals, guitars, bass. Live, I sometimes use it as a direct box for my bass. If I'm trying to get a good recording at home, I ALWAYS my vocals into the ART, then my cheap compressor, then my audio interface. The results are surprisingly good. I also use it as a direct box for may bass recording. There is also an ART that is even cheaper, and I've heard good things about that one, too.

To my ears, a good tube in the signal chain, unless you have some super sexy, very expensive, digital gear, is the easiest way to get a better sounding recording.

I tried this today and need to play around with it some more but think I really like what I'm hearing.

I have a cheap ART tube preamp (30-40 bucks I think) that I put between my condenser mic and Firebox audio interface. Supposedly, if you are recording at 24 bit depth, you don't need to compress the signal before recording. You can compress it after it's been recorded, which gives you a lot more flexibility and options.

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What Geno said.

It's a fact of life. The further away you are from the mic, the more the low or even bass frequencies are muted. Which is fine for a blistering high note. But, when you want a gut-rumbling low you need to be close in, approximately 6 inches. It depends on your relative volume, too. I have been two feet away from the mic and still overloaded it. The mic clips and whines a bit. But for most singing, I would 6 to inches is fine. But it still depends on your relative singing volume. For falsetto, which has no resonance and is usually sang soft, I am close in.

Mic placement or proximity is everything. When I did "Immigrant Song" I would be two feet away for the high notes and about 6 inches away for the regular verses.

But I should mention that I have a condenser mic that uses phantom power ( + 48 volts, dc.)

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I tried this today and need to play around with it some more but think I really like what I'm hearing.

I have a cheap ART tube preamp (30-40 bucks I think) that I put between my condenser mic and Firebox audio interface. Supposedly, if you are recording at 24 bit depth, you don't need to compress the signal before recording. You can compress it after it's been recorded, which gives you a lot more flexibility and options.

That's exactly what you should do with it. Normally, I compress on the front end of the signal chain with external gear, and if I'm not having it professionally mastered, I use a software on the final mix. Any reverb, delay, etc I add in the digital domain (more flexibility and options).

Yes, 24-bit doesn't clip as horribly, but the goal is proper gain staging, especially in the home studio. I suppose if you are in a pro studio, there might be benefits of not compressing on the front, but in a home studio, I can't imagine it. I also don't know of too many situatons where you don't want some kind of decent preamp on the front end.

Adding other effects after it's been recorded is fine. For sure that will leave you with more options. Compression and preamps aren't really effects, though. They influence the sound, sure, their purpose is to get the right level into the interface. With 24-bit, you might be able to get away without a decent pre or external compressor, but it's not ideal. If you clip a digital interface, it will sound like shit. Period. It's harder to clip a 24-bit, but it can still happen pretty easily. If you clip a tube, it will sound like warm tube distortion. Much better. You may still need to compress the signal after you record, but the point of the front end processing is to get the best signal possible into the audio interface/mixer.

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Cheap tube preamps sound like @#$%. There isn't even enough voltage to drive the tube. Some manufacturers actually put LED lights under the tubes to make it look like the tube is actually doing something besides adding hissy nastiness. Go solid state. However, I suppose a cheap "tube" preamp is better than no preamp.

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Cheap tube preamps sound like @#$%. There isn't even enough voltage to drive the tube. Some manufacturers actually put LED lights under the tubes to make it look like the tube is actually doing something besides adding hissy nastiness. Go solid state. However, I suppose a cheap "tube" preamp is better than no preamp.

Yes, most cheap tube gear sucks, but ART products are very good for the money. If you know how to use them, the aren't that noisy, and as far as I'm concerned, it's worth a tiny bit of noise for the sweet tone. There also a few other reasonably priced, smooth tube pre's (I can only speak for the Presonus, but I've heard others exist). I've never found a solid state pre that beats this for $100 - http://pro-audio.musiciansfriend.com/product/ART-Tube-PAC?sku=180069.

I love the solid state pre's on those sweet Onyx mixer/interfaces, but I haven't found a solid state pre that's as good or as versatile as the ART if you are on a budget.

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Why do you have to stay up high? That doesn't make sense. It's not like we're trying to saturate tape or anything like that. Stay well below the danger zone; even -10 is just fine. You can always turn it up after it's recorded.

Because especially with home recording equipment taking advantage of the given headroom with no distortion while tracking will result in more "sound" and less floor-noise.

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That's exactly what you should do with it. Normally, I compress on the front end of the signal chain with external gear, and if I'm not having it professionally mastered, I use a software on the final mix. Any reverb, delay, etc I add in the digital domain (more flexibility and options).

With 24-bit, you might be able to get away without a decent pre or external compressor, but it's not ideal. If you clip a digital interface, it will sound like shit. Period. It's harder to clip a 24-bit, but it can still happen pretty easily. If you clip a tube, it will sound like warm tube distortion. Much better. You may still need to compress the signal after you record, but the point of the front end processing is to get the best signal possible into the audio interface/mixer.

The ART tube preamp I have goes into my PreSonus Firebox audio interface. Both of them have preamps. Supposedly the Presonus box has pretty decent digital preamps. Right now I'm boosting the gain on the ART somewhat, but the needle doesn't move a lot. And I keep the Firebox gain turned up about 3/4 full on.

Doesn't your Audio Interface have preamps and how do you typically balance the gains between your ART and AI?

I guess I need to play around with different combinations but was curious what you did.

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The ART tube preamp I have goes into my PreSonus Firebox audio interface. Both of them have preamps. Supposedly the Presonus box has pretty decent digital preamps. Right now I'm boosting the gain on the ART somewhat, but the needle doesn't move a lot. And I keep the Firebox gain turned up about 3/4 full on.

Doesn't your Audio Interface have preamps and how do you typically balance the gains between your ART and AI?

I guess I need to play around with different combinations but was curious what you did.

My normal signal chain is a Behinger B-1 LDC, Seinheiser 835, or Shure 57 into ART pre, then a Behinger compressor/gate, then my Tascam interface, then the Mac. From there, I use the effects in Logic Express for reverb, delay, effects, etc. I use the ART to warm the signal, the compressor gets it under control, and the AI gets it into my Mac. Since my AI is only 2-channel, sometimes things need to get run it a mixer before hand, especially acoustic guitars, but here is the basic idea.

Here's home recording 101, according to Rozzy. From the mic, I adjust the ART input so that's it's just below the clipping point of the tube. If I decide to use a dynamic mic, the signal is going to need much more boost. If I want totally clean, I'll leave a little more headroom, but if I want/don't mind a little tube overdrive, I push it pretty close. This is often the case if I'm using a dynamic. Then I adjust the output on the ART so the signal is as hot as it can get without being too noisy. The signal then goes to the compressor, where it gets compressed/tamed. I'll save you the lecture on using compression. From the compressor, it goes into the AI, where I leave just enough headroom on the input to make sure it won't clip the AI. From the AI, it goes into Logic, adjusting the output on the AI pre so that the loudest note is a liittle below 0d, maybe -5 db. You have to play with it at each stage and adjust depending on the dynamic range of the song.

I could give explanations as to why this is the case, but this is forum for vocal nerds, not recording nerds. The bottom line is I think you would be amazed with the results if you got even a cheap compressor/gate and put it your chain after the ART. It takes some time to learn how to use compression properly, but the results are totally worth it, especially for vocals and acoustic guitars. Desert island, I'll take a hardware compressor over a separate pre any of the week. All AI's have some kind of pre, but nothing replaces putting a controlled signed into your AI. Software is good enough today that you can add warmth later, but you can't get rid of nasty digital clipping or a cold/weak signal.

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Thanks a lot man! That gives me some ideas to play around with. I know what you mean about taking some time to learn to use a compressor properly. Lately I've been doing a lot experimenting with my software compressor and low threshold gate and can hear some improved results. It just takes time to develop a systematic approach to each song.

Look forward to hearing some of your song clips. I might just have to find me an inexpensive hardware compressor.

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All microphones distort, so think in terms of color rather than proximity effect.

The proximity effect is that the high frequencies are bounced back from the mic's steel head, and cancel the incoming high frequencies; which is why bass sounds louder (and also you're closer to the mic). Being close though creates more distortion and a muddier sound. Listen to the resulting sound, rather than the price of the equipment or whether it is a condensor or dynamic or whether it has a compressor.

Think of changing distance to mic and changing mics to achieve desired color.

My experience--a TubePre small compressor ($100) was troublesome and didn't do much for me. I always felt those with a mixer board had an easier time and sounded better. A high end ($400+) compressor did sound better.

A condensor mic is troublesome and time consuming and sometimes too brittle of a sound. If seriously recording, let a sound engineer handle this.

EV 737 fit my voice much better than most of the low end condensor mics and far better than other dynamic mics. I tried out about 15 mics at Guitar Center once, and figured out the selection of the dynamic mic made vastly significant changes in vocal coloring. But, it all depends on the individual singer as to the right mic.

In short, trust your own ears on your own equipment more than others experience with their equipment.

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The main thing here is not let your setup distort yet get as much signal as possible ; so first test-record in whatever

singing volume you will and watch out for that level meter - it mustn't be in the red area but mostly

in the yellowish-orange one. An occasional peak might be ok but given the fact that we're talking about home recording gear I wouldn't advise it.

IMO you don't need to record it so high and flirt with danger. An "occasional peak" will almost definitely destroy a take. Digital clipping just sounds terrible man!

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IMO you don't need to record it so high and flirt with danger. An "occasional peak" will almost definitely destroy a take. Digital clipping just sounds terrible man!

It does sound terrible that's why I said "might" which means I do not recommend it but you "might" be able to get away with it - not all equipment are the same and some of it has enough headroom to allow that.

As I stated quite clearly, avoid distortion at any cost.

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It does sound terrible that's why I said "might" which means I do not recommend it but you "might" be able to get away with it - not all equipment are the same and some of it has enough headroom to allow that.

As I stated quite clearly, avoid distortion at any cost.

Agreed

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Thanks a lot man! That gives me some ideas to play around with. I know what you mean about taking some time to learn to use a compressor properly. Lately I've been doing a lot experimenting with my software compressor and low threshold gate and can hear some improved results. It just takes time to develop a systematic approach to each song.

Look forward to hearing some of your song clips. I might just have to find me an inexpensive hardware compressor.

This is one of the first recording I made with the signal chain I outlined. I barely knew how to use my gear at this point. It's far from perfect, but for some reason, I really love this recording.

http://www.box.net/files#/files/0/f/0/1/f_704470778

I honestly can't remember all the details, but I know it's basically a live take - the guitar and vocals were recorded at the same time into a two channel AI. Both got compression, but only the vocals got the pre. I can't remember how I used the mics. My ear tells me that I used the condenser for the vocals and ran the guitar direct from it's pickup.

Here are some problems you will hear upfront - you can hear the compressor "sucking back" the signal in a few places, and in general, it's over compressed, both on the vocals and guitar. I pretty much killed the dynamics. You can really hear the tube distortion on the vocal. I ran that too hot. I would like to tell you that was an artistic choice, but it's more that I wanted a warm sound and didn't know how to use the tube in a more subtle way. There's also a clicking sound in the background. I've never figured out the source.

That being said, I really like the end result. I lost some of the other recording from this session in a drive crash, but luckily this one survived. Next week, I'll record two versions of a song. Both will uses my pre and compressor, but I'll use the Seinheiser for one and the condsenser on the other.

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