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Compressors and Filters (Plus a low hiss)

Discussion in 'Recording' started by TreeHugger, Jun 7, 2011.

  1. TreeHugger

    TreeHugger Active Member

    I have a low-end home studio that I am building (in my garage), and am looking for a decent compressor to add to my collection of equipment. Unfortunately, I am painfully ignorant when it comes to audio compression, gates, and filters. I record mostly vocals, and unfortunately my recordings are ugly uncompressed audio and has a slight hiss to it. Word on the street is that a hiss can be filtered out by a gate or filter, and a decent compressor can also help.

    Basically, I'm looking for a compressor that is compatible with a mixing board and 4 microphones, as well as something that can help make the audio sound clean and remove a slight hiss. Below are just a few pieces of equipment that I already own:

    4 Shure SM58 Microphones
    Behringer XENYX X1622USB Audio Interface
    Furman Merit Series Power Conditioner (M-8x)
    M-Audio Studiophile BX8a Deluxe Studio Monitors
    Sony SoundForge Recording Software
    Mogami Microphone Cables
    HP Laptop

    I'm not sure the price of a decent compressor - I've seen everything from $150 to $4000. I'm looking for a decent compressor that won't give me a heart attack when I see the bill. Thanks!

    FYI: It's a podcast recording studio. If it makes a difference.
  2. TreeHugger

    TreeHugger Active Member

    And just a note (Sorry for the double-post), I did read the "Yet Another Thread About Compression" sticky thread, and it was very helpful. But I still need three things that were unanswered:

    1) Recommendations on good compressors. The thread discussed a lot about the science behind compression, but I'm still unknowledgable about good brands and prices
    2) How to remove the hiss in the background (are gates and filters effective?)
    3) How to find a compressor that is able to be hooked up to my audio interface (and how to hook it up)

    Thank you!
  3. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    1) There aren't many compresasors worth investing in under $2000. Very few exceptions. The [URL="(dead link removed) RNC[/URL] is one. Either get that particular one or stick with the compressors in Sound Forge. There are some great plugin compressors that have very low cpu usage. Some great free ones even.

    2) The hiss is likely due to the poor signal to noise ratio in that Bearstinker mixer. The fact that you have to crank the gain so high to get any amount of signal doesn't help. The "invisible mic preamps" are anything but inaudible. It's not the best choice in interfaces.

    In regards to filters some of them work but, they may impart some very noticeable artifacting. Good noise removal systems run from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars.

    Gates are basically....well...they are gates. They open and close. You have to be careful that you don't cut off sustained notes. The higher your threshold, the faster the gate will close.

    Try to keep the gain on the mixer fairly low and boost the signal in Sound Forge. This may or may not work. If the noise is there in the preamp, it's just going to get boosted along with the rest of the signal.

    3) Essentially, you need to use the inserts. Which means you'll need to buy or make insert cables. These aren't exactly cheap. The cheapest insert cable you'll find will be around $30 for a 3 foot cable. Out to in, out to in. That's the way to hook it up.

    This is all just my opinion. An investment in a good plugin will be better than buying a mediocre or poor outboard compressor.
  4. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    Incidentally, could we get this moved to the home studio/budget recording forum?
  5. TreeHugger

    TreeHugger Active Member

    Hueseph, I really appreciate the response, but it did cause me to have a few more questions.

    I've had the Behringer interface for a while now, and it's worked out nicely for what I was using it for. And you are correct - the gain does have to be pretty high, which may be the source of my problems. I have been looking to upgrade the board for a while now - any recommendations as to decent mixing boards or pre-amps? I'll see if reducing the gain + increasing volume in SoundForge helps, but if it doesn't than I'll look into some new equipment. I'd say my budget is probably around $500 for an audio interface (4-8 mic inputs).

    #3 you mentioned inserts. I hate to sound like a dummy, but what exactly are you referring to?

    I think that I'll search for some plugins for SoundForge and see if I can't find a solution, rather than spending big $$$ on a compressor.

    Thanks again
  6. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    For $500 there isn't much. There's the Presonus Firestudio Project which' drivers are a bit finicky but works well when it does. There's also the Mackie Onyx Blackbird.

    As far as plugins are concerned, check out Antress Modern Plugins. Not the best but free and a great deal for the price.

    The Kjaerhaus "Classic Compressor" is also good for the price (free).

    A purchased plugin will most likely be well worth the cost. UAD makes a great LA-2A but of course you need the pci DSP card to run it. Waves also have some good plugins and they are getting cheaper since the economy took a down turn.

    Also look into IKMultimedia's T Racks singles. They have a Fairchild 670 emulator that apparently is very good.

    The great thing about plugin compressors is that you don't have to commit. If you don't like what it's doing and you can't get it to sound right, you can change it or remove it altogether. You can't do that with hardware compression once it's gone to disc. If you're thinking after it's gone to disc and you want to run your individual tracks to the comp and back into Sound Forge, then you're going to have to deal with the copious latency that will occur from conversion to conversion.

    Re. Inserts: On the back panel of your mixer there should be inserts. These function as a send/return in one jack using a single T/R/S phono plug on one end and two T/S or XLR connectors on the other end (One send. One return.). These are usually pre-fader lines.

    Still there are so many downsides to using that or most any other mixer that is not designed for recording. Particularly to your computer. With your particular mixer you can only record the stereo bus. With a proper interface(ie: the ones mentioned above), you get all channels going to a separate track. That way you have full control over individual eq. In other words, you can change the synth eq without effecting drums, guitar, voice or whatever it may be.
  7. Link555

    Link555 Well-Known Member

    Make your own, and buy a kit. ;)
    SCA Main Product Page
    X-12 Mic Preamp Kit
    PAiA - 9407K Tube Mic Preamp Kit (mono), Vacuum Tube Preamplifiers, 9407K


    http://www.altomusic.com | Golden Age Project Pre73 MKII Vintage Microphone Pre Amplifier
  8. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    I am a big fan of tracking down problems at the source, and I will even go so far as altering a piece of gear to improve its usefulness to me. I would just get rid of the Behringer piece of gear altogether... unfortunately because I have owned a piece or two of Behringer gear and I know what they sound like. I am sure that in the right hands, a little more tone could be squeezed from it, but it's milking a dead calf to be honest. Better preamps are your fix, not erratic downstream compression or unnecessary filtering. You would be surprised at how much better your recordings/podcasts are going to sound from the get go even just from using better preamps.

    Food for thought, when I used to work for a studio years ago, the engineer let me take home two preamps that he wasn't using and said I could have a ball with them as long as I returned them in working order. I compared using the preamps built into my mixer, vs. the preamps of a Behringer Tube preamp, vs. the preamps of a fairly middle of the way (forgot what name) preamp. I was accustomed to the way my built in mixer preamps sounded at the time, actually I was used to being dissatisfied with my recordings, but until then I hadn't known why. Plugging in the Behringer Tube preamp, I heard a difference, it was a different sound to be sure, but it didn't sell me. It might have been a little more open sounding than the mixer's preamps, but it was very flat sounding. Then I plugged in the actual studio mic preamp and something I will never forget happened. Everything came ALIVE!!! I was recording simple clean electric guitar content mic'd from an amplifier, and this time it sounded dynamic and bouncy and it had depth and presence! I didn't even know that depth was a word applicable to recorded audio until just then. I then recorded some talking vocals and again it was the same story, the actual mic preamp sounded rounder, fuller, and more professional with no other changes made. So I guess I am telling you this so that you don't think that we are all product fanboys, or more to the point, anti-product fanboys, but there are actual reasons behind the previous statements in this thread as well as my own, for trying to get you to drop the piece of Behringer gear.
  9. TreeHugger

    TreeHugger Active Member

    Again, thanks so much for the help, and I'm sorry to ask so many questions that I'm sure you guys have answered 10,000 before (I tried searching previous threads with little luck). My ignorance to all of this equipment is moderately embarrassing, but I now have so many more questions.

    I've always used USB devices, and FireWire is new to me. I've done some reading about Firewire vs. USB, and it seems that FireWire is superior when it comes to digital audio recording. But now I need to check if my Laptop has FireWire capabilities (I can only assume that most computers do? Or am I wrong in assuming that...), and also how mics hook up to a Firewire interface. I've been using XLR mic cables (Amazon.com: Mogami Gold Studio 15 Microphone Cable Quad Conductor 15 feet: Electronics), and it doesn't appear that those will work with FireWire interfaces such as the ones suggested by hueseph. I am not partial to any sort of brand or USB/ Firewire, but this is all equipment for Podcasting and I would like it to sound as clean as possible. Are the ones suggested above the best for anything below $1000?

    As far as pre-amps are concerned, I've come to realize there importance, but I'm not 100% sure of their functions and how to best utilize them. Can anybody reccomend good a good microphone pre-amp (remember: I'm recording with 4 SM58's)? Also, if I didn't replace my current interface (The "Bearstinker) and instead used decent pre-amps, if that is even possible to use external preamps, would it make a difference?

    Maybe I'm even going at this the wrong way. I'm recording a podcast with three hosts and the occasional guest, or 4 microphones total. I have monitors, microphones, and all of the fun stands and pop filters, Sound Forge, a sound-proofed room, and my current audio interface (which I plan on replacing)...how can I get it to sound as good as possible, and what essential equipment will I need to make it sound clear, warm, and well...good?

    Thanks again!
  10. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    All of the interfaces I linked to use Neutrik combination XLR/TRS inputs. That means you can use a balanced phono plug or a cannon(XLR) cable.

    As far as podcasts are concerned, there's no reason you can't continue using what you're using. If you're not doing any critical editing, or mixing a better interface would help but it's not entirely necessary. Not to say that podcasts don't deserve the attention that music does but since most will be listening on their mp3 player anyway, they probably won't be so critical.

    You could invest some money in better mics. A couple of used EV RE20s or Shure SM7B. Those will eat up a grand pretty quick.

    If you really are on a budget you might consider some cheaper condensers. Studio Projects B1 is reasonable but can be a bit nasal on some voices. Still, a condenser will lower that hiss a bit because they are more sensitive. The down side is that the flaws in your room will become very apparent.
  11. TreeHugger

    TreeHugger Active Member

    I've looked at the EV RE20s and have considering them for a while now.

    I'm not on a strict budget - I don't have a few grand just lying around to purchase multiple high-end microphones and an expensive audio interface all at once, but everything can be purchased with a bit of time. I have a low-end MXL Condenser microphone that works alright, and I'll look into three more Condenser microphones.

    My main issue is a low hiss - it's not even that noticeable, but its still audible and I don't like it being there.

    I'll try some of the tricks listed in this thread and play around with different microphones and gain levels. Thanks for all of the help!
  12. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    Don't use quad conductor mic cable. There's really not much difference between USB and FireWire as a protocol, the audio amplification circuit is still the most tone creating/changing part of the equation. If you need inputs only, then you are fine with USB. If you need simultaneous Throughput, then you should look into FireWire. If the level of the hiss raises with the level of the preamp gain then it is due to poor design in the amplification circuitry. If the level of hiss always stays constant when the preamp gain is adjusted then it could be due to the converters. A new mic could make a difference for sure, but something to think about is that due to a property of electric signals (audio follows these principles) called Reactance, what you plug the microphone into is going to change the way the microphone sounds, or how closely it operates to spec. So a new mic may not be the ultimate solution from my point of view. Although it's a lot more fun to get a new mic than it is to get a few channels of preamp :D

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