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Topic: Best method to record a vocalist (affordably)

  1. #1

    Best method to record a vocalist (affordably)

    Yep, it's a followup question on hiring a vocalist.. you knew it was coming..

    I'd like to know what equipment to grab to record a vocalist. This doesn't need to be fancy, or cost thousands. Thanks to all the great software out there these days, all I REALLY need is a crisp recording. Ambience doesn't matter too much, I'm going to slap reverb/EQ on it anyway. I'll probably just record the vocalist in a dry room.

    I have two options as I see it: buy a portable digital recording rig and take it to the vocalist and pick a good location to record. OR.. (probably cheaper) bring the vocalist to my apartment, run a mic and whatever else into my Audiophile 2496, and record that way. Either way, I'm shooting to record at 48KHz/24bit, and want the least noise possible of course. I'm willing to sacrifice some quality here for the sake of cost. Realistically, even 41KHz/16bit is just fine.

    What do you guys recommend for a solution that would be in the hundreds, not thousands of dollars?
    Sam Hulick

  2. #2

    Re: Best method to record a vocalist (affordably)

    The nicest large-diaphragm studio condenser mic you care to afford and a $29 pop-screen going into your Audiophile would work great. You might need a pre-amp if the Audiophile's doesnt supply Phantom Power.

    Mic: http://www.musiciansfriend.com/srs7/...se_pid/270405/



    You can do it for even cheaper than I thought.
    Alan Lastufka | www.BelaDMedia.com
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  3. #3

    Re: Best method to record a vocalist (affordably)

    To prioritize, the most important aspect is the space. If it's noisy, you'll never get the noise out of the recording. The next consideration is the right mic, and a good, clean pre-amp. Don't forget to use a pop filter between singer and mic.

    If you go with the 2496, us a high-quality cable that's as short as possible - it's unbalanced.

    Monitoring is as important as the input. You will want visual monitors, so you can set the right levels, and aural monitors, so you can try various mics and placements and use the best solution. Recently, I've done some spoken voice recordings here at work, and about went nuts given the lack of monitors and such. I got the boss to buy a pair of Sennheiser HD280-Pros, and things improved immediately. You may also need headphones for the talent, if there is a click track or backup music to work with.

    Definitely record at 24-bits. You won't need to worry about getting the levels perfect, or using compression/limiting before the A/D. If your target is CD, record at 44.1 kHz, or 96 kHz and downsample. If the target is film/broadcast, record at 48 kHz or 96 kHz. It's not super critical, but it's nice to avoid the 44.1/48 conversion if you can.

    When you add up all of the costs to do it right, you might consider a trip to the local studio. They will have the space, multiple mics and pre-amps, higher quality A/Ds and the expertise to steer you in the right direction. Also, with a good control room setup, you'll quickly be able to try things out and hear problems like too much low-end or not enough breath in real-time.

    The downside of using a studio is that the money you spend won't end up in your equipment closet. The upside is that your product will likely be better, and you will gain useful experience and information. The cost is likely a push.

    Recently I tested some mics at one of the local Portland music stores. If I purchased one, they offered for me to bring a couple home, and return the one I liked the least. (I was drawn towards two mics.) They also offered to rent out a mic for the weekend. (I was getting top treatment, as I directed a good chunk of business towards them from my employer.) Anyway, it doesn't hurt to ask about try-before-buy and rental options from good local music stores.

    Best of luck with your project!


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Martinez, California

    Re: Best method to record a vocalist (affordably)

    Quote Originally Posted by JonFairhurst
    If your target is CD, record at 44.1 kHz, or 96 kHz and downsample.
    And by 96kHz, you presumably mean 88.2kHz...

    - Stefan

  5. #5

    Re: Best method to record a vocalist (affordably)

    Quote Originally Posted by sbkp
    And by 96kHz, you presumably mean 88.2kHz...
    Good point. But 96kHz ain't bad either. Both have much more high frequency information than you're going to need, and they will be super flat throughout the passband. I doubt that you would be able to hear a difference between the two, given good downsampler algorithms.

    That said, I'd rather design a filter for the 88.2 -> 44.1 conversion than for the 96 -> 44.1 conversion. The first only needs a single set of filter coefficients. The second needs 147 sets of filter coefficients! (If I'm not mistaken 96.0/44.1 can be factored down to 320/147, and no further. 88.2 to 44.1 is just 2/1.)

    The main point is don't sample at 48kHz if your target is 44.1kHz and vice versa.


  6. #6

    Re: Best method to record a vocalist (affordably)

    I'd just do it in your apartment, definitely. Use a closet, keep it real dead. You can add the ambience. If you don't have a decent mic, you can rent a really good mic and preamp for probably less than $100 for a day. Run the pre straight into your 2496. I wouldn't freak out if you aren't using the 'best' mic or pre - if you're going for that ambient wordless vocal thing, you can really process it alot and make almost anything sound pretty good - as long as the singer's good to begin with.....

  7. #7

    Re: Best method to record a vocalist (affordably)


    You need a mic, a mic cable, a preamp and a cable to connect the preamp to your 2496 card. You have two choices on the preamp. Get a small mixer (which may be useful to you for other purposes), or a dedicated preamp. You can get a 4 channel mixer for around $100, and a decent preamp for just a bit more. Check out Behringer's preamps. They have pretty good preamps and they are cheap. For a really good vocal mic that is not very expensive, look at the Studio Projects C1 microphone. It sells for about $200. If that is too much, then get the B1 for about $80. They are both nice vocal mics, but the C1 is better.

    For the preamp, you could get the Studio Projects VTB-1 preamp. I think there is a combo price somewhere on the net for the VTB-1 and the C1 mic. That would give you a really nice and inexpensive vocal chain which would also be very good for recording other sources (I've used it on violin, oboe, bassoon, didgeridoo, trumpet, sax and lots of others as well).

    -- Martin

  8. #8

    Re: Best method to record a vocalist (affordably)

    depends on the vocals you want to record IMO

    As for blankets, I've had way better soudning recordings from hanging thick blankets around the mic and vocalist to make a fake vocal booth. Closets can get boomy and boxy and that can really ruin the vocal sound overall.

    A good mic is important, but you can get cheap goo dmics nowadays, evena Rode would be fine (I actualyl like my rode mic), a good pre amp is important, but again it depends on the vocal style and how prominent the vocal will be.

    If its not a solo voice that will be not high in the mix (something you will use as ambient solo or underlying other music), then I'm thinking any ok preamp will work, jsut use some noise reduction. If its a prominent solo voice in orchestral sense, then I'd consider getting a nice quiet and warm sounding pre amp. This is where I start to agree witht he idea of doing it at a studio, they will most likely have the knowledge to get a good sounding sound for you to start with that would be better than someone doing it for the first time with new gear. It takes time to learn gear and your room, most of the time you'll be happy with what you start with, but the more you learn the more you realise how bad the sound actually is when you first start.

    Then again....

    Most people wont hear the differences because....lets face it, most people arent listening to recording quality anymore (thats gone the way of the dodo with project studios making top records that honestly sometimes sound like poo). And alot of people trying to mix things themselves without really learning what constitutes a good mix (nor having gar that will allow them to focus on getting a good mix) Alot of people will probably be looking more at performance more than anything.... so hey a closet and a cheap mic pre might be fine for alot of people

    (read dont let some moron like me who's going to overanalyze hear it)

    Good luck Sam, I'm glad to hear you're stretching out to use some live stuff in your music. I'm sure it'll be awesome.
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  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Martinez, California

    Re: Best method to record a vocalist (affordably)

    Quote Originally Posted by Ernstinen
    Has anybody mentioned a compressor/limiter? An absolute must have.

    Also, you can buy a Rode NT1-A microphone for about $199. They say it's the quietest large diaphragm mic on the market.

    If recording 24-bits, you could get by without a compressor or limiter. With the extra bits, recording level is somewhat less critical than at 16-bits. Now, if you have a kick-~~~ sounding limiter, then by all means use it! But if you're recording at 24-bits and have good software compression, then I think you're safe.

    - Stefan

  10. #10
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    New York, NY

    Re: Best method to record a vocalist (affordably)

    Recording a good vocal is more than just putting up a mic and putting the vocalist in front. You may just want to consider going to somebody who already has a space set up to record vocals and does it pretty regularly, then have them give you the wav file which you can pop back into your daw and then you can mix at home. I'ts probably the cheapest too. Cause the investment to do some nice vocals is something like this:

    Studio Projects C3: $350.00

    FMR Preamp: $500.00

    FMR Compressor : $179

    Stand: $39.00

    Cable: $20.00

    The preamp is VERY important, just as important as the mic...

    Studio Projects has a preamp for like $179, some speak well of, some don't. Anyway, just to give you an idea of prices.

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