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Posted: 5/21/2009 3:01:31 AM EST
I've got a basic DAW setup at my house. I can get good guitar tones both electric and acoustic, but my vocal tracks just don't have the warmth and presence that I'm looking for.

I'm on a somewhat strict budget, so I wanted to see if i should invest the money into a better mic or a better preamp.

As it stands, the only preamp I have are the preamps of my M-audio Mobil-pre interface. The mics I have for vocals are an MXL condenser and an Audix i5.

Can someone recommend a somewhat inexpensive solution to get a better vocal sound? This isn't for pro purposes, just for making good quality demos and recordings at home.
Link Posted: 5/22/2009 9:49:37 PM EST
Go to a place online called gearsluts or something like that. All kinds of professionals are there. They know what they are talking about. One of the guys over there was the guy who recorded We Will Rock You for Queen back in the day.

lunyou
Link Posted: 5/30/2009 10:46:56 PM EST
Are you using any vocal processors or effects for your vocals? If not, you'll want to.
Link Posted: 5/31/2009 5:19:08 PM EST
Link Posted: 5/31/2009 7:33:25 PM EST
PODX3 by Line 6
Link Posted: 6/1/2009 1:52:46 PM EST
Link Posted: 6/1/2009 8:09:40 PM EST
Shure SM57 and SM58. $100 each. Get both.
Link Posted: 6/1/2009 8:12:03 PM EST
What kind of budget?
Link Posted: 6/1/2009 8:23:13 PM EST
I should have been more clear in my first reply. You need vocal processing more than you need a new preamp or microphone. You have to have the right compression, reverb, delay and all that jazz to have proper vocals. You can make a shit microphone sound amazing.
Link Posted: 6/1/2009 8:26:49 PM EST

Originally Posted By MikeS369:
Shure SM57 and SM58. $100 each. Get both.

Shure 545's and 565's kick the shit out of the 57 and 58.
Link Posted: 6/1/2009 8:51:03 PM EST
Originally Posted By Tekka:

Originally Posted By MikeS369:
Shure SM57 and SM58. $100 each. Get both.

Shure 545's and 565's kick the shit out of the 57 and 58.


Sure buddy. If you say so.
Link Posted: 6/1/2009 10:30:35 PM EST
[Last Edit: 6/1/2009 10:42:44 PM EST by Tekka]

Originally Posted By MikeS369:
Originally Posted By Tekka:

Originally Posted By MikeS369:
Shure SM57 and SM58. $100 each. Get both.

Shure 545's and 565's kick the shit out of the 57 and 58.


Sure buddy. If you say so.

The 57 and 58 were designed to be a cheap lower quality versions of the 545 and 565s. If you look at the frequency response of the 545 and 565 it's MUCH better than the 57 and 58. They have more mid range and high end and cut through a mix better. What's more they are made with thicker heavier materials and are surprisingly more durable than a 57 or 58. You pick up a 565 and then a 58 and you're like DAMNNNN because the 565 is like solid steel or brass.
Link Posted: 6/2/2009 12:26:47 AM EST
I guess I should've said, I have a 57 and a 58 in my stash. I just named my workhorse mics

And, I always understood it that you need a good sound coming in, and not to try and fix things with effects.
Link Posted: 6/2/2009 9:10:31 AM EST

Originally Posted By AR15thur:
I guess I should've said, I have a 57 and a 58 in my stash. I just named my workhorse mics

And, I always understood it that you need a good sound coming in, and not to try and fix things with effects.

It's not about fixing it, it's about controlling and creating a rich vocal track. Processing affects attack, decay, compression, reverb and other stuff. If you listen to any professional recording done for the last 40ish years. Just about all of the vocals use some kind of vocal processing or effects to improve or give the vocal tracks particular qualities. Vocal processors are even used live by professional singers. If you want a big vocal sound, you need a processor.
Link Posted: 6/6/2009 8:05:11 AM EST
[Last Edit: 6/6/2009 8:07:16 AM EST by rickrock305]
Originally Posted By AR15thur:
I guess I should've said, I have a 57 and a 58 in my stash. I just named my workhorse mics

And, I always understood it that you need a good sound coming in, and not to try and fix things with effects.




you are absolutely correct in this thinking. start at the source. yes, you can fix up or mask a bad recording with effects and other crap, but it will still sound like a bad recording. you need to start with a good recording before you worry about vocal processing.

you'll need a large diaphragm condenser mic. it really depends on your voice, but some nice lower priced condensers are the AT 4050 and 4060, great bang for your buck. ideally what you want to do is go to a music store in your area and try out a few mics to see what sounds good with your voice.

then as for a preamp, the M Audio pres suck. again, it depends on your voice, but i don't think there's a preamp out there for less than $1000 that i would recommend.

then AFTER you've got a great sounding recording, you can go about making it better. compression and EQ are the two most important things, followed by effects like reverb, delay, flange, etc to give your vocal some depth and help it blend with the mix.
Link Posted: 6/6/2009 9:47:54 AM EST

Originally Posted By rickrock305:
Originally Posted By AR15thur:
I guess I should've said, I have a 57 and a 58 in my stash. I just named my workhorse mics

And, I always understood it that you need a good sound coming in, and not to try and fix things with effects.




you are absolutely correct in this thinking. start at the source. yes, you can fix up or mask a bad recording with effects and other crap, but it will still sound like a bad recording. you need to start with a good recording before you worry about vocal processing.

you'll need a large diaphragm condenser mic. it really depends on your voice, but some nice lower priced condensers are the AT 4050 and 4060, great bang for your buck. ideally what you want to do is go to a music store in your area and try out a few mics to see what sounds good with your voice.

then as for a preamp, the M Audio pres suck. again, it depends on your voice, but i don't think there's a preamp out there for less than $1000 that i would recommend.

then AFTER you've got a great sounding recording, you can go about making it better. compression and EQ are the two most important things, followed by effects like reverb, delay, flange, etc to give your vocal some depth and help it blend with the mix.

He'd be better off getting a vocal processor right now. Rather than worrying about if he wants a condenser or not.
Link Posted: 6/6/2009 4:04:21 PM EST
[Last Edit: 6/6/2009 4:07:58 PM EST by rickrock305]
you can't make chicken soup out of chicken sh*t

you don't want to be stuck polishing a turd.

you'll always have much better results when you fix the problem at the source, instead of trying to cover it up with processing. after you have a good mic/pre combo, the next important things in the chain are compression and EQ. only after that do you need to worry about vocal effects.

if you go straight to the vocal processor instead of mic/pre and comp/eq, its going to sound very amateur-ish.

all that vocal processing can be done within the DAW with plugins anyway, and probably sound better than most cheap vocal processors.

speaking of that, AR15thur, what DAW are you running?
Link Posted: 6/6/2009 4:46:41 PM EST

Originally Posted By rickrock305:
you can't make chicken soup out of chicken sh*t

you don't want to be stuck polishing a turd.
A Dynamic microphone is fine for a recording. You DON'T need a condenser to sound good depending on what kind of sound you are going for.
you'll always have much better results when you fix the problem at the source, instead of trying to cover it up with processing. after you have a good mic/pre combo, the next important things in the chain are compression and EQ. only after that do you need to worry about vocal effects.
What he has now is fine for most rock music. He needs a vocal processor. If he was rich, I'd tell him to get an Avalon preamp though.
if you go straight to the vocal processor instead of mic/pre and comp/eq, its going to sound very amateur-ish.
I've been in a number of multimillion dollar recording studios. Most professional engineers and "producers" who use them suck at making quality recordings. MOST of the time some guy who cares about sound and has built a studio in his house can make a sonically superior recording than a bunch of ego inflated guys with a 4 million dollar recording studio.
all that vocal processing can be done within the DAW with plugins anyway, and probably sound better than most cheap vocal processors.
Pretty much every engineer and producer I've met that advocates doing everything in the DAW and using plug ins for everything SUCK. They make the worst sounding crap I've ever heard. People who advocate using a "clear source" and then plug ins for effects have like the worst imagination when it comes to crafting a song or layering tracks to produce a certain emotional response with music.
speaking of that, AR15thur, what DAW are you running?
Let's hope he's using Logic.


Link Posted: 6/6/2009 5:08:59 PM EST
[Last Edit: 6/6/2009 5:15:12 PM EST by rickrock305]
Originally Posted By Tekka:

Originally Posted By rickrock305:
you can't make chicken soup out of chicken sh*t

you don't want to be stuck polishing a turd.
A Dynamic microphone is fine for a recording. You DON'T need a condenser to sound good depending on what kind of sound you are going for.
you'll always have much better results when you fix the problem at the source, instead of trying to cover it up with processing. after you have a good mic/pre combo, the next important things in the chain are compression and EQ. only after that do you need to worry about vocal effects.
What he has now is fine for most rock music. He needs a vocal processor. If he was rich, I'd tell him to get an Avalon preamp though.
if you go straight to the vocal processor instead of mic/pre and comp/eq, its going to sound very amateur-ish.
I've been in a number of multimillion dollar recording studios. Most professional engineers and "producers" who use them suck at making quality recordings. MOST of the time some guy who cares about sound and has built a studio in his house can make a sonically superior recording than a bunch of ego inflated guys with a 4 million dollar recording studio.
all that vocal processing can be done within the DAW with plugins anyway, and probably sound better than most cheap vocal processors.
Pretty much every engineer and producer I've met that advocates doing everything in the DAW and using plug ins for everything SUCK. They make the worst sounding crap I've ever heard. People who advocate using a "clear source" and then plug ins for effects have like the worst imagination when it comes to crafting a song or layering tracks to produce a certain emotional response with music.
speaking of that, AR15thur, what DAW are you running?
Let's hope he's using Logic.




alright, enough with the backhanded insults.

i am a professional recording engineer. its how i make my living. i work in these multimillion dollar studios almost every day. i've worked with a whole bunch of major label, grammy award winning artists. and if i told them i was going to cut their vocals with a 57 they would be on the phone hiring another engineer.

name one GREAT recording that wasn't done in a nice studio. every classic record that you love was done in one of these studios. the records that all other records are judged by have been recorded and mixed in these studios, not in someone's house or bedroom.

i'm sorry you apparently got stuck with sh*tty engineers when you went to these facilities. it happens. its up to you to make sure you get an engineer that you vibe with and feel confident in.


a dynamic microphone is generally not used for vocal recordings. 90% of the time its a large diaphragm condenser mic. can you get usable results with a SM57? sure, on certain voices it works. but not most. the guy specifically asked for warmth and presence out of his vocal recordings. and a dynamic mic isn't going to provide that.

and you would really recommend an Avalon preamp if money was no object? LOL, thats just ridiculous. that tells me you really don't know what you're talking about. What about a vintage Neve 1073, or an API 525, or a Chandler TG1, or countless other pres that absolutely blow the Avalon away. the Avalon is a "bling" piece. it looks good in a rack, and honestly has a great EQ, but the preamp is boring and the compressor sucks. does make a great bass DI though.


now, what kind of vocal processor are you recommending? because anything these all-in-one vocal processors do can be done much easier and higher quality in today's modern DAWs. if he has a DAW, a vocal processor is simply a waste of money. the compression, eq, and reverbs in these processors are awful.

sure, ideally you would have some nice outboard gear to run your vocal through instead of doing everything with plugins. but this guy is obviously on a budget so I'm not going to recommend Lexicon reverbs and Pultec EQs. what he's trying to accomplish can be done easily with a great recording, followed by some wise use of compression and EQ. all that other crap like reverb and delay is just the icing on the cake. the real meat is in the recording, compression, and EQ. thats what makes the difference in a professional vs an amateur sounding recording.


if you'd like, lets make some comparisons. post your vocal recording, acapella, with dynamic mic and your vocal processing intact. then i'll post an acapella from something i've done with an large diaphragm condenser and my processing. and we can see the differences. put up or shut up


Link Posted: 6/6/2009 5:17:31 PM EST
AR15thur, which MXL condenser do you have?

you might want to invest in a higher quality preamp first, as generally a nice pre can make a less than good mic sound a lot better.

also, whats your budget?
Link Posted: 6/8/2009 5:29:49 PM EST
Link Posted: 6/8/2009 6:18:40 PM EST
[Last Edit: 6/8/2009 6:19:31 PM EST by MikeS369]
As you can see everyone has their preferences. I still think you are better off with a 57 and 58. But as you can see the "pros" seem to think differently.

Eta, I just saw you have the 57 & 58. You have all you need to make a good recording.
Link Posted: 6/9/2009 12:42:29 AM EST
Originally Posted By FrankSquid:
Originally Posted By rickrock305:
AR15thur, which MXL condenser do you have?

you might want to invest in a higher quality preamp first, as generally a nice pre can make a less than good mic sound a lot better.

also, whats your budget?


Don't make him waste his money on an out board pre amp. Maybe he can spend $4-500 on a pre that will start to give him noticeable results but that money would be MUCH better spent on mics are even a new DAW like a FP10.



What's FP10. Currently I'm using Reaper, because it's relatively cheap and it's easy to edit the MIDI patterns for my drum plug-in.

And the condenser I have is (well, actuall are, they came as a set) an MXL 990 and 991. They sound good, just not very "warm".
Link Posted: 6/9/2009 1:36:17 PM EST
Link Posted: 6/9/2009 4:19:38 PM EST
Originally Posted By FrankSquid:
Originally Posted By rickrock305:
AR15thur, which MXL condenser do you have?

you might want to invest in a higher quality preamp first, as generally a nice pre can make a less than good mic sound a lot better.

also, whats your budget?


Don't make him waste his money on an out board pre amp. Maybe he can spend $4-500 on a pre that will start to give him noticeable results but that money would be MUCH better spent on mics are even a new DAW like a FP10.





no, you won't notice much of a difference spending $400-$500 on a preamp. i don't think there's any pre out there less than $1000 i would recommend. but a high quality preamp can make a big difference even with less than great mics.

a new DAW? how is that going to help him gain warmth and presence in his vocal recordings? it won't, plain and simple.
Link Posted: 6/9/2009 4:28:26 PM EST
[Last Edit: 6/9/2009 4:34:29 PM EST by rickrock305]
Originally Posted By AR15thur:
Originally Posted By FrankSquid:
Originally Posted By rickrock305:
AR15thur, which MXL condenser do you have?

you might want to invest in a higher quality preamp first, as generally a nice pre can make a less than good mic sound a lot better.

also, whats your budget?


Don't make him waste his money on an out board pre amp. Maybe he can spend $4-500 on a pre that will start to give him noticeable results but that money would be MUCH better spent on mics are even a new DAW like a FP10.



What's FP10. Currently I'm using Reaper, because it's relatively cheap and it's easy to edit the MIDI patterns for my drum plug-in.

And the condenser I have is (well, actuall are, they came as a set) an MXL 990 and 991. They sound good, just not very "warm".




FP10 is just another DAW. Reaper is just fine, you won't gain any sound quality by using a different DAW. The sound has to do with the mic, the preamp, and the A/D converter.

Those mics you have are definitely not known for their warmth. MXL are cheap chinese mics and are known for being a little brittle and definitely not warm. and by the way, neither MXL mic you have is a true large diaphragm condenser...the 990 is a small diaphram condenser in a large case made to look like a large diaphragm. neither are great for vocals. but if they sound good to you and just not warm enough, it could be as easy as EQing properly, which you already have the tools to do within your DAW. have you tried boosting the lows or low mids a bit with an EQ?

Your front end is your weakest link. By front end, I mean Mic, preamp, and A/D converter. They are all adding up to produce a less than good sound. To get that warmth and presence, you're going to have to spend some money. you can accomplish what you want with what you have, but its going to take a lot of work with EQ and compression. basically, you get what you pay for.

if you'd like, you can send me some samples of your vocals and/or music, and i can take a listen and throw some EQ/compression on there and let you know exactly what i did. without hearing it for myself, its really hard to make accurate judgements on what your problem is.

also, what is your budget? what are you looking to spend? remember, you get what you pay for!


Link Posted: 6/10/2009 4:23:22 PM EST
[Last Edit: 6/11/2009 12:22:54 AM EST by FrankSquid]
Link Posted: 6/11/2009 9:24:21 AM EST
[Last Edit: 6/11/2009 9:29:15 AM EST by rickrock305]
I first recommended he upgrade his mic first. But then he said he already had a condenser so I recomended a higher quality preamp AND a/d converter. After checking out which model mxl he has, I'd still suggest a mic upgrade.

On the lower end of things, the firepod is not bad at all from
what I hear.
Link Posted: 6/12/2009 3:29:53 AM EST
Thanks for the help guys, I'm looking into a good mic now for my rig.
Link Posted: 6/12/2009 9:14:30 AM EST
[Last Edit: 6/12/2009 9:28:03 AM EST by Spook410]
Originally Posted By rickrock305:
I first recommended he upgrade his mic first. But then he said he already had a condenser so I recomended a higher quality preamp AND a/d converter. After checking out which model mxl he has, I'd still suggest a mic upgrade.

On the lower end of things, the firepod is not bad at all from
what I hear.


I'm an amateur in sound recording. But I try to be an informed amateur. I agree with this post. There are several components to a good vocal recording:

- Room treatment
- Quality of the microphone and the physical microphone set up
- Quality of the pre-amp
- Quality of the A/D (assuming you're not going to stay analog. Few do anymore)
- Quality of the audio interface

You're not going to spend $20K? Then you need the best bang for the buck.
1. If your room sounds bad, so will your recording. Stay out of hard places like the bathroom. Hang some blankets to cut down on reflections. Try to get things quiet.
2. The microphone is more important than the preamp, A/D, or interface.
–– Almost everyone prefers a large diaphragm condenser for vocals. Start there and don't fight it until you're a true expert working with special situations.
–– I like the Neumann TLM103 but it's $1000. The price of a decent 1911. There are decent mic's that cost less but you will hear every dollar you back off.
–– I haven't tried the new USB microphones yet.
3. Work on placement of the microphone relative to you and where you are relative to the room. It's important. Try a pop filter.
4. Use the microphone preamps on your mixing board until you can hear the difference unless your mixer sucks. The Mackie VLZ mic preamps may not be pro, but they aren't bad.
5. Leaving out A/D's and audio interfaces for now. Just don't expect your sound card to perform as well as Pro Tools with $2K worth of offboard gear. You can probably get by for $600 for S/W and H/W in this area.
6. Spend some time getting some ground loops (hum) out of your system. You may have to plug things into different outlets and general screw around with stuff. Use balanced connections for audio. Look it up online if you aren't familiar with this. It's important.
7. Don't worry about effects. You will add things like a little EQ and reverb later when you can play with it. If you do this as part of the primary recording, you are totally screwed. Those that know more than I can speak to the use of EQ in the audio string to correct special problems.
8. I prefer decent studio monitors to tell what's going on but good headphones work for many. Good headphones cost over $100 so don't scrimp here.

A 24 bit digital recording may sound harsh because it's the real deal. It's hard and clean. What you hear on the radio has been mixed for a car stereo. What you hear on your iPod has been mixed for a car stereo *and* has been converted to an MP3. What you hear as 'warmth' might be just the lack of extra information to your ear leaving a bunch of mid-range, highly compressed sound. That's why you start with something pure and go from there. You can take things information out of the basic track, but you can't put it back in.

Link Posted: 6/15/2009 4:47:04 AM EST
Originally Posted By MikeS369:
Originally Posted By Tekka:

Originally Posted By MikeS369:
Shure SM57 and SM58. $100 each. Get both.

Shure 545's and 565's kick the shit out of the 57 and 58.


Sure buddy. If you say so.


He speaks the truth. 545 and 565 were the OG stage mics.
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