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Audio choke points?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by harrumphicus, Feb 15, 2011.

  1. harrumphicus

    harrumphicus Active Member

    First off, I'm glad I found this place - my last recording forum was extremely slow. Before I posted yesterday, it had been dead for a month.

    I have a relatively simple request: help me find out where my audio might get bottlenecked so I can start planning out an upgrade process?

    What I have so far:
    Microphones - MXL990 & 991
    Cables - 5-foot Monster brand
    USB interface/Pre's - Alesis iO2 Express Audio Interface 2x2
    Space - I live on a big metal boat at the moment, so not much I can do about sound control to get a good dry recording.
    Monitoring/mixing equipment - Sennheiser HD201 'phones (no room for actual monitors at the moment)

    I think I've got around 500 dollars to play with. Any suggestions? Where should I start first?

    EDIT: I forgot to mention - this is only for recording my acoustic and vocals, the most lines in I'll need will be two. I generally double-mic my guitar while recording the backing along to a metronome, then record the vocals, then add any extra guitar/vocal parts that I come up with during mixing.
  2. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    I'd keep saving money. You don't really have any particular "choke points." Everything is bargain level. And there is no way to turn a metal boat into Ocean Way Studio. (Actual ocean not withstanding.)

    Your stuff is good enough that you can work on your music and your recording technique. Save your money until you can get into a better recording space.

    Also worth saying - the standard advice is that almost no one actually saves money by buying recording equipment. It's cheaper to buy studio time from someone who has made the capital investment - after you have worked your ideas out on your bargain equipment.
  3. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Bob's nailed this pretty well. The only extra comment I would make is that you would do well to invest a fraction of your available budget in an SM57 dynamic microphone for the guitar, and possibly also an SM58 for vocals. Dynamic mics of this type help to reduce the effects of a poor acoustic recording environment, whereas condenser mics tend to exaggerate them. My guess is that you took advantage of the value package from MXL of a 990 and 991. This pair can certainly work perfectly well considering the package price, but to do so, they need good pre-amps and also a favourable acoustic environment.

    Although both your guitar and vocals would sound different through the dynamic mics compared with the MXLs, the overall recorded sound may be better and more focussed as the detrimental effect of the room acoustics is reduced. If and when you do get round to upgrading all your gear to higher-quality items, the SM range of microphones are the only things that you would take with you from your present list all the way to the top level.
  4. harrumphicus

    harrumphicus Active Member

    Bob - I'm a little glad to hear that. No, I don't need equipment to move the earth with, but I'd like to learn enough to be more competent if I ever make it into a professional studio again. Plus recording helps me write the song better and it's hard to build off a song recorded on a microphone that cost you maybe 8 dollars in the back of a department store.

    Boswell - Thanks for the tip. I started seeing a lot of recommendations for the sm58's and 57's almost right after I bought my 990/1 pack, so I was a little disappointed I didn't buy them right off. I might order them in a couple days if I feel the urge. Does it mix well using both a condenser and a dynamic on an acoustic at the same time? I like having two different-sounding guitar tracks to work with, so I'll probably experiment with it either way.

    Another quickie - with this level of equipment, does it pay any to shell out the extra money on a higher-quality XLR cables?
  5. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    I was going to suggest the same thing, but the coolest thing about the recordings you make in this situation might be the extraneous noises - waves lapping against the side of the boat, etc. The condensers will pick more of that up. In a normal crappy apartment I'd go for the 57 and 58.
  6. harrumphicus

    harrumphicus Active Member

    Now THAT would be good.. Unfortunately the only noise you can really hear from the inside is from the ventilation system. But, heck, the system's portable, I could always bring out the 991 and point it towards the water for a while and add it to the mix somewhere ;)

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