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Old 12-23-2010, 05:26 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Recording Singing Vocals on a PC - Looking for some straight answers

Okay so in my introduction thread I mentioned I was looking at possibility of recording my own music, its literally a first for me Ive always been in theatre but the ide of putting something of my own together intruiges me.

Id be looking at doing it through my PC mainly because I want to keep the costs down, when asking on the PC forum Im a member of I quickly realised I was going to keep looking. Im intend to experiment a little but I imagine that its going to remain balads to a large extent, I'm a tenor if that makes any difference, at this point I do not know how to play an instrument but would play around with instrumentals perhaps? I am looking at learning some guitar basics after a while and maybe incorporating it in later down the line.

Someone had suggested a Rode Podcaster, which although looks like a quality USB mic presents problems, as far as I can tell its not designed for singing only for voice, the youtube clips ive seen display it struggling to cope with vocals, I also tend to have a powerful voice especially when going for higher notes so I suspect this would becomes a problem.

The second solution was actually someone offering to sell me some equipment.

Rode NT2 condenser
Focusrite Tone Factory preamp

I have no idea how effective it would actually be, the mic APPEARS to be good but I couldnt find any info on the preamp, or if it would even be compaible with a PC.

But I spoke with a friend who has been doing all the audio for church and he suggested grabbing a Shure SM58 for the mic, apparently they're good all round. Does a mic have to be3 specifically designed for recording or would a "live" mic be okay too?

And what about the Pre? I understand one is required right? There is the one above, which is second hand from someone I dont know. I saw a Yamaha Audiogram 6 (another suggestion) that is designed specifically for PC use.

I guess my question is what would actual audio people be suggesting? Is the yamaha a serious option? I saw threads here suggesting to just hook a preamp up to the firewire/usb of the PC, so are all preamps PC compatable? Is there advantages one way or the other?

Is Audiocity a good option or very limited/hard for new use? Whats CUBASE AI like as far as software of concerned?

Sorry for the wall of text, I think it'll be obvious that Ive been left a little more confused what I started when my research began
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Old 12-23-2010, 05:41 PM   #2 (permalink)
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It doesn't have to be a USB mic. Your computer has a microphone input .
Talking about budget, get some nice behringer for 20 euro's and you'll be fine to start with.
I've never liked audacity as I've grown used to Adobe Audition. But that's not free
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Old 12-23-2010, 06:42 PM   #3 (permalink)
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If you're going for a good vocal recording microphone, your best bet is going to be a large-diaphragm condenser mic. Do a little research regarding condenser microphones to get the full picture. Although an SM58 is a vocal mic, it's a dynamic and since you'll likely be tracking vocals by themselves, there isn't a need to sacrifice the response of a condenser. If you're primarily going to be recording vocals while simultaneously recording [mic'd] instruments into separate tracks, you're probably better off with a dynamic... but unless you're trying to achieve some kind of "performance realism" or something, you're better served recording individual elements separately, in which case you can use one microphone for most of your elements, a condenser being the recording choice for vocals and most acoustic instruments anyway.

Condensers need phantom power, and usually you get this from mixers or audio interfaces with preamps+phantom power. It's your choice about whether you get a mixer or an audio interface with the necessary input options, but if you want my opinion on the matter, you're better off getting a good audio interface with multiple channels (foregoing the need for an external mixer) featuring XLR+TRS (combo) inputs with good preamps (foregoing the need for a separate preamp box) and phantom power. However many elements you plan to record simultaneously into separate tracks (or also how many mics you plan to use on a source) in your recording software will dictate how many inputs you'll need on the audio interface. At least 2 XLR inputs/preamps should cover any immediate needs you may have.

The additional benefit you'll have from using an audio interface is that your audio won't sound like garbage. Onboard sound cards in consumer PCs (and Macs) are not meant for audio recording and feature crap AD/DA converters, don't support high sample rates and don't feature essential input/output options. A lot of people [surprisingly] don't realize it but the most important purchase anyone who's interested in computer recording can make is not the software but the audio interface. It doesn't matter how bad ass your software is, if the audio coming into it sounds like crap, there's no covering it up.

As far as suggestions of which specific brands of this stuff you'd need, just do some research on the stuff I talked about and when you decide what kind of gear you need, then you can move on to the next step of deciding what gear you need.
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Old 12-24-2010, 04:22 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Well it would seem that, for a beginner the Audio Interfaces would be a much better starting point it also looks quite a bit cheaper which is a factor. The Yamaha one I mentioned before comes with its own software but I have no idea if its any good. I guess I wouldnt really find that out till I start playing right?

Microphone wise I am prepared to pay a bit more because essentially its going to be the most important part of the equipment to a large extent, my voice is my instrument so I should be treating it the same way a drummer or guitarist should right??

Okay Microphone wise I see one issue, because I am doing this at home and not in a studio Im going to have to take background noise in to account right? Would that be a big issue for a concenser mic? Not that I live in an overly noisy area but it needs to be considered right?
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Old 12-24-2010, 08:19 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Beginner or not, if a recording engineer is using a computer to record (very common), he's going to be using an audio interface. Although I wouldn't suggest investing in pro-level audio interfaces that cost thousands of dollars, you can still get a very good quality interface for bargain prices.

Regarding condensers:
Yea, background noise is a consideration. I have a condenser and it picks up quite a lot. If you're in a quiet environment, the main consideration would be if you're recording in the same room as your computer and your computer fans are loud, it's going to get picked up.
Ideally, you'll want to record in some sort of makeshift isolation booth. For this purpose, you can use a closet. Provided you have one in your recording space, closets (with clothes and stuff in them) are perfect for providing dead or neutral isolation with little to no setup required. All you need is a long enough mic cable and a mic stand.
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Old 12-24-2010, 10:13 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Thankfully my PC is quiet.

Longterm Ill be wanting one eventually but what price to condensors start?
Rode's NT1a is $350 (AUD) but that includes the pop shield, cable and shock mount all of wwhich id need anyway. There was a 2nd hand NT2 available if I wanted it but it comes with a preamp that Im pretty sure i dont want because like uve suggested I just feel the audio interface is a better option for me.

Hows that Yamaha Audiogram6 stack up? Looks pretty good on paper. But the few reviews I am finding are mentioning pops crackles etc during recording, apparently the software is the cause? Which kind of defeats the purpose right?

Last edited by the_13th; 12-25-2010 at 05:52 AM.
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Old 12-27-2010, 04:55 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Okay I'm going to be specific now that I know what i want, I think the fact that I didnt know what I wanted, or what i was asking for is why peoples answers elsewhere have been so confusing. So far you guys have been brilliant but I suspect my lack of knowing what I wanted was getting a little annoying. So here goes my attempt to be more precise (and sorry for the double post)...

What do I want to record?
Me singing, possible some voice work.

What else will it be used for?
Possible acoustic or acoustic electric guitar. (much later down the line)

How do you want it to sound?
As professional as you could expect, I'm not expecting CD quality material but I also dont want it to sound like a guy singing into a webcam mic.

What do I want?
An appropriate microphone, a device that allows it to be recorded to the PC at respectable quality and software that could be used to edit it, enhance it or whatever. If that comes with something great but otherwise I'll play around with Audiocity for now. Id like my voice to be picked up essentially, I am a tenor and I do have quite a powerful voice at times.

What do you want to spend?
I havent set a budget at this time but as little as possible.

Microphone Considerations:
- Shure SM58
- Rode NT1-A
- Rode NT2-A
- Audio Technica AT2020
still open to idea's

To PC:
- Yamaha Audiogram
------------------------

Does that make my confusion any easier to understand?
Is there any advantage to devices other than Audio Interfaces?
Would a dynamic mic be a huge disadvantage? They've always performed well for me live but Ive never been in a recording situation before
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Old 12-28-2010, 03:42 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by the_13th View Post
Thankfully my PC is quiet.

Longterm Ill be wanting one eventually but what price to condensors start?
Rode's NT1a is $350 (AUD) but that includes the pop shield, cable and shock mount all of wwhich id need anyway. There was a 2nd hand NT2 available if I wanted it but it comes with a preamp that Im pretty sure i dont want because like uve suggested I just feel the audio interface is a better option for me.

Hows that Yamaha Audiogram6 stack up? Looks pretty good on paper. But the few reviews I am finding are mentioning pops crackles etc during recording, apparently the software is the cause? Which kind of defeats the purpose right?
They usually start at around 60-70 (US Dollars) and go up to like 5 or 6,000 dollars in some cases.
Starting out, the price range you'll want to focus on is going to be in the 100-200 dollar area. That range isn't going to be the industry's absolute best, but it's not going to be shabby at all, either. I bought an MXL condenser for right around 99 USD and it sounds great, and I've been having it for right around 4 years now and it has taken some knocks and a lot of dust and still gives it up like a Catholic schoolgirl.
A lot of condensers come packaged with a shock-mount (usually a necessity due to the amount and range of vibrations they pick up) so you may not have to worry about that. And pop filters are cheap... I picked up a generic brand pop filter for about 10 dollars and it does the job well enough. You don't really need to go fancy with pop filters... just as long as it's not so crappy that the gooseneck doesn't stay where you put it then it will do the job.

If you're dead set on a Rode, I think their lowest price is around the one you're talking about, but if I were you, I'd consider other brands as well, because you may be more than satisfied with something else and not have to pay so much. Especially if you get the opportunity to go to an actual music shop and test some brands & models out. (Ideal!!!)

Here's an example of an absolute lowest priced, what some would call "entry level", MXL model:
MXL 990
Read the reviews on that page and get a general idea of what people are saying and compare that to your expectations. But just so you know, even that mic right there would be a better overall choice for vocal recording than an SM58 or any other dynamic, obviously.

Here's another MXL model (includes shock mount & pop filter) priced a bit higher than the 990:
MXL 3000
If I'm not mistaken, this one is pretty much the same as my MXL which is a 2006 Mogami edition, except this one looks prettier and has slightly different sensitivity and ohm ratings. I can tell you from using the 2006 that it has a very detailed (and present) high end, which most MXLs do, and I personally like that (you may too, since you're a tenor if I remember correctly), but some folks may not. But since this has a cardoid pickup pattern, you can easily angle the front of the mic off from your mouth and that will tame the high end without losing any noticeable gain, while you'll still be able to pull back and out for level control without worrying about not getting the db drop you need.

Finally, I'll put up one I'm personally looking into buying and it's affordable and has a lot of good reviews:
Sterling Audio ST55
From the looks of it, it has a flat response and doesn't add much color to your voice, which is something I value from a mixing standpoint. If you just want clarity and accurate response, this one looks like the ticket.

Ultimately, what you have to ask yourself is what is the character of your voice and which microphone is going to benefit it. If you're able to go into a music shop and compare mics and hear them for yourself, then that's fantastic. If not, just read through the reviews and get a sense for a microphone's character and consider that first. A microphone can be generally "good" or "bad" but that won't mean anything if you can't stand the way a microphone makes your voice sound, and because so much subjectivity goes into it, you're in a better position to decide the "right" one. But hopefully my suggestions at least provided you with a bit more of a scope of options for you to check out.




K. Regarding that Audiogram6:
Reading the specs on it, immediately a few things popped out... First, it's 16 bit. Your audio interface should be 24 bit. Why? Because 24 bits offer a much larger dynamic range and a lot more headroom. When recording, you'll have a lot more freedom with your gains than you would at 16 bit, and as a result, you're less likely to clip and distort. 24 bit depth is a no-brainer. Even onboard sound cards on cheapo consumer laptops are 24-bit almost as a de facto standard now days. So requirement: 24 bits. Check.
Along with that, the Audiogram6 only operates at 44.1khz sample rate. Although you may not plan on recording at any higher sample rates than 44.1khz, just know that 44.1khz is the bare minimum samples (or slices of audio, like frames) needed to represent the human voice acceptably. If your audio interface supports it, you can operate at higher sample rates to achieve a higher resolution, with most interfaces topping out at least at 96khz. It's nice not so much for playback, but for recording purposes. If your audio interface's converters are sampling an incoming analog signal (say your voice through the mic) at more "frames" than the bare minimum 44.1, you're allowing it to grab up a larger portion of that signal, resulting in a "higher definition" recording. Would you ever want to do this? Maybe, maybe not... but you could if you wanted to. And as you'll be recording a minimal amount of elements, I'd say it could be beneficial, although there is debate about whether it even makes a discernible difference to our ears with the higher rates.
Also, it uses USB 1.1? That seems strange to me, considering how slow 1.1 is compared to 2.0, which is usually what USB audio interfaces use... but hey, I guess it's not an issue if it's being sold.
Other than those items, you could assume that the preamps on the unit aren't going to be stellar by any means, judging by the rest of the unit. The Preamps are one thing you should probably focus on, seeing as you'll be using a mic primarily and for voice. Finding out what preamps are used in the unit should be of interest, though generally you can choose a "good" audio interface and the preamps (and AD/DA converters, by the way) will most likely be of good quality, as these are some of the things that dictate the status in the first place.
That unit's input/output options are fine. If you stay around 5 or less individual inputs, you'll find that a lot of those units will feature USB connectivity. Firewire is usually used for interfaces featuring a lot more ins and outs, and since you won't be needing many inputs, you won't have to worry about needing to add a Firewire card if you didn't have one already.

K, so we know you need an audio interface with:
- At least 2 inputs sporting XLR (xlr/trs combo connectors are nice too) connectors w/ decent preamps
- 24 bits (24 bit units usually also feature higher samplerate options by default as well)
- Phantom Power
- USB connectivity to PC
- Recording software bundled (which is frequently the case)

Going by that basic list, here are just a couple possible candidates to get a feel for:

M-audio MobilePre mk II
M-Audio unit (good brand) with your needed features, plus the software it comes bundled with is Pro Tools SE. I'm sure you're aware that Pro Tools is the industry standard for recording/mixing/producing software. Not sure how limited the SE version is, but I guarantee you'll get a crap ton more functionality out of it than you will from Audacity. Oh, plus it's dirt cheap as far as audio interfaces are concerned.

Focusrite Saffire 6
Another low cost unit, this one only offers 2 individual inputs (and if you don't ever plan on recording more than 2 inputs at once, you don't need more than that) but from the looks of the reviews, has an emphasis on the preamps being nice. Everything else matches up, except you get Ableton bundled. From what I understand, Ableton isn't exactly geared to being recording friendly, but that's neither here nor there.

By all means, search around, but having a good look at the specs of those units and the general reaction to the quality of the units will tell you a lot about what you should be looking for.


Regarding pops & crackles due to that interface (or any for that matter), that's usually due to the buffers in the audio card or music program being set too low for your computer to handle. Usually you have the option to set your audio buffer size to adjust for latency and stability, a low buffer resulting in low latency but decreased performance and stability (manifesting most often with pops and clicks and jumpy audio) and a higher buffer resulting in higher latency but better performance and stability. If you've got a beefy computer, you can usually set your buffers very low without any consequence, but on lesser computers it becomes apparent when the buffers are too low. This is true for any audio interface, so keep that in mind when you're operating whichever interface you choose, as this isn't an issue limited to a particular brand or model.


Well, my hands are about to fall off.
I hope this helps a little. If you have any further questions, let us know.
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Old 12-29-2010, 04:59 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Freebase Dali View Post
K, so we know you need an audio interface with:
- At least 2 inputs sporting XLR (xlr/trs combo connectors are nice too) connectors w/ decent preamps
- 24 bits (24 bit units usually also feature higher samplerate options by default as well)
- Phantom Power
- USB connectivity to PC
- Recording software bundled (which is frequently the case)

Going by that basic list, here are just a couple possible candidates to get a feel for:

M-audio MobilePre mk II
I like what I'm reading on this, I feel a lot more comfortable with what Im reading on this than I did on the Yamaha, and thanks to you guys I now know why.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Freebase Dali View Post
If you're dead set on a Rode, I think their lowest price is around the one you're talking about.
Well the only reason I kept looking at Rode is because they have a good reputation, and seeing as I didnt know what I was looking at I felt it was a good starting point to start asking with, so yeah Im completely open brand wise.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Freebase Dali View Post
MXL 990

MXL 3000

Sterling Audio ST55
Okay so I dont have to spent $300 - $500 to get a microphone, thats a HUGE relief. I must say for $149 the MXL 3000 is very tempting, doesnt look like its available in Aus though but Ill actually ask some local stores, though the site u posted does offer international delivery.

I'm not looking for an industry best, I think that would be a rather silly idea, and from what Im hearing on youtube (poor audio quality aside) the quality of these mics are perfect for what I want. I do some local searching after the new year and maybe ask you opinions on what I come up with...?
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Old 01-02-2011, 05:27 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Okay so it would seem to ship a $150 mic to Aus from musicians friend is going to cost me $90+ so what I've done is look at a couple of Mics within the prices I'd accept spending.

So lets start with one I've already mentioned The Audio Technica AT2020
(Just realised Im not allowed to link to external sites yet due to forum rules appologies.) If you go the Audio Technica Website its quite easy to find, just under products/microphones

I'm still a little rusty but comparing those stats to the MXL ones they look very similar, unless I'm missing something. There is also a USB one but Im not looking at that one.

I really do like the look of the MXL 3000 kit, coming with literally everything I need and all. But $90+ for postage pushes the price to $260 USD (or so). And I hardly see how its justified if I can pick up something of equal value here in Australia right..? Unless mics such as the one above just dont compare for some reason.
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