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Topic: Mic and Pre-amp (limiter) questions and sugestions

  1. #1

    Mic and Pre-amp (limiter) questions and sugestions

    Hi Folks-

    I occasionally post on the samples forums, but this is definitely a hardware question. I did a search on mic preamps and found some good information. I'm just learning how to mix music and many of the pros say it's mainly the quality of the mix versus the equipment that makes the difference.

    My current set up for home, hobby recording is an Audio Technica AT4033a in a closet (converted to a cheap isolation booth - really cheap, I need some acoustic foam) going straight into my Echo Mona's XLR pre-amp. Interesting that the microphone sounds much "louder" and distorts easier through input #1 than 2-4.

    I've found the AT4033a to sound very clear, but "thin" and bright. I'm really after a warm, intimate sound and am wondering how I can go about this. Do I need a new mic? Would a decent pre-amp make a big difference with my current mic? Would better mixing make the vocals sound warmer?

    My biggest struggle right now with the warmth is the distance I have to be from the mic. I don't have great vocal control and often go from soft to loud. What I'd really like is a nice limiter in the pre-amp (or in the input chain) to tame those highs before the sound gets to the computer. No matter how I compress after the fact, if it clipped going in, it's clipped.

    If I stand too far back from the mic (to avoid clipping) the thin sound of my vocals gets much worse. And, room noise becomes an issue since I have to bring the floor up in the compressor to keep a strong level. Ideally, it'd be great to have someone else monitor the levels, but I'm solo.

    Some say the easiest solution would be to buy a more expensive mic, perhaps even a tube mic. I don't mind spending money if it will make a big difference (as long as the sum is within reason, which for me is around $500) in the recording quality, but I'm wondering where best to spend those funds?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated. Also, if anyone is using an AT4033a and is getting great results, I'd love to hear how! Thanks again!

    -- Chris Jarzynka

  2. #2

    Re: Mic and Pre-amp (limiter) questions and sugestions

    Before buying another mic, I'd turn down the pre-amp, get up close to the mic and apply any compression after the fact. Apply EQ to get a deeper sound.

    As noted, getting up close gives stronger LFs due to the proximity effect. Get a good pop filter to keep the Ps from overloading. Play with the mic position, so your LF air doesn't go straight into the diphram.

    Make sure that you're recording at 24-bits. Recording low enough so you don't clip, and you should still have more than enough bits to capture the signal. If you still get noise, you can use a noise reduction plug in to remove it. They're amazing, frankly.

    On voiceovers I've found that copying my vocal track and leaving one uncompressed, and compressing the heck out of the sister track works wonders. Mix to taste. You can also play with the envelope sound by sound on the uncompressed track to even things out.

    After all that, if your biggest problem is noise, consider a different pre-amp & A/D. If you want a bigger sound, consider a different mic. At least you'll know that you've squeezed everything out of the existing one.

    Finally, buy any new mics and preamps from a small, local store. They may have rentals, and let you take one or two home for the weekend. Only when you've gone through the whole chain will you know if it's really the mic for you.


  3. #3

    Re: Mic and Pre-amp (limiter) questions and sugestions

    Jon, Ern-

    Thanks very much for the feedback! Unfortunately the Echo Mona does not have any limiting or compression capabilities in the pre-amp, it's just plug in the XLR, set the level, run over to the "isolation booth" and start recording. My current set up makes it very difficult to monitor levels while recording. Probably should change the set up!

    I'll try Jon's suggestion of setting a max level as best as possible then use compression and make-up gain to bring the sound level up. To reduce room nnoise, as best as I can, I'll use a floor gate or some other form of ambient NR.

    I also have an old Mackie 1202-VLZ mixer. I could try using those pre-amps and then feed the signal into the Mona. I hear Mackie pre-amps are good. Before my current set up, all my mic work went through the Mackie. Of course, this was years before I got serious about improving my recording and mixing skills!

    Thanks again for the quick responses!

    Quote Originally Posted by Ernstinen
    I agree with Jon. A mic like yours can handle SP levels of 128 dB, so I doubt you're overloading your microphone!

    Do you have a pre-amp meter? If so, turn it up at your loudest vocal level so that it tips into the red. Then, compress it so that the input & output of the compressor/limiter barely tips into the red. But set the threshold/ratio so that it's fairly subtle. Don't be too concerned with distortion unless you can HEAR it. In the digital medium, it's very obvious.

    Ray Charles was great at helping the engineer mix his recordings, and he was blind.


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