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home performance vs studio sound?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Wyatt W, Feb 28, 2013.

  1. Wyatt W

    Wyatt W Active Member

    Hey guys. I'm relatively new to home recording. I'm recording all my instruments either through midi or direct line-in. The only thing I'm tracking live at home is vocals. I bought an SM7b and I am using the Roland UA-55 Quad-Capture and the Cloudlifter to give the sm7 the gain it needs. Here's my question:

    The room I'm recording in is not treated (11 x 9 x 9h) and I don't have any money left to treat it. I'm mixing through a pair of nice headphones, which I know is not ideal, but I don't have the cash for a decent set of monitors right now. My concern is not so much mixing as tracking. I chose the sm7b because my understanding is that it will work well in an untreated room vs a condenser, but how well? How much noise will I pick up that I can't hear until the final master and it's too late?

    My only other option is to pay to go to a large studio, track the vocals and bring the tracks home to stitch and mix them myself. However, those hours can add up financially, and I'm not sure I'd get as good of a performance. If I sound like sh** the day I go in to the studio, oh well. Where as recording vocals at home, I can take my time, wait for the right day, etc.

    So how much impact will an untreated room have on an SM7b in a final mix? I'll be sending it off to have it mastered. Will the average listener be able to tell? Is the performance, at this stage, much more important, or will the sound be vastly different? I feel like I should always go for the better performance, but not if my recordings won't be decent.

    By the way, I will be hanging a duvet behind me while I sing, so there's a little control, but not much.

    Sorry for the long post, any thoughts?
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    It's all relative to who is listening and critiquing.

    The SM7 is a fine mic for vocals, and in an untreated room it's probably your best bet sonically. I'm not familiar with your mic pre, but I can tell you that the quality of your pre will indeed make a difference.
    Yes, a good pre will offer more gain, but it's not just gain that you are after, you are after a certain quality, and the quality of the converters in your audio I/O will also play a big part in the sound of your audio track.

    If your room problems are in the top end - flutter echo, ringing, etc, you can tame these back by adding 1" sonex tiles. You don't need to cover the walls with them, just a few placed here and there will help reign in those high frequency reflections. Carpet doesn't hurt either... or a couch, a chair, anything that can absorb those frequencies and fill the room with mass, which also adds some diffusion as well.

    Can you post a sample of your solo'd voice for us to hear? Dry, no effect, no EQ, just a flat recording in the environment you are currently in...

    It might help us to help you further.

  3. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    LOL... I can't believe I'm about to say this because as a former owner of a pro studio I know how tough it is to get clients, and over the years I've aimed people at pro studios because I know what it's like... LOL

    Unless you are on a deadline for delivery, save up your money to treat your own recording environment as opposed to dropping cash at a pro studio...

    Yes... the pro studio will have it's advantages, you'll get a higher quality finished product, which you can then take home and mix...

    The downside to that is that if you don't start investing some money into your own room, then you'll likely have to keep going back to the studio time after time, which is fine if you have the money for that...

    But the money you are spending at the pro place could be spent into improving your own room.

    And I say that as hoards of my colleagues, peers, pro studio owners and engineers everywhere are now planning to take me out with a car bomb... LOL

  4. CoyoteTrax

    CoyoteTrax Well-Known Member

    Man, don't even worry about tracking your vocals in a studio. They'll put you in a vocal booth and track you through console pre's (most likely) and the only difference you'll really notice is that it's dead quiet in the booth. An advantage to tracking in the studio is the engineer will push you to perform at your very best and will demand retakes until you get it right. Do this for yourself. Push yourself, and track takes over and over again until you get it right; until you've made your absolute best performance for that song. Then double the vocals as perfectly as you can. Force yourself to give the most professional performance you can. Don't worry about acoustics so much, and hanging up that duvet is a great idea. You have a great mic, the Cloudlifter is very popular, and your interface is competent enough to track captures that some artists take (or send) to a pro studio for pro mixing.
  5. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    I have a lot of customers who decided to record at home after seeing the softwares I use and how it SEEMS easy. Some came back to me and said they were tired of turning buttons and just wanted to make music. So they find it was easier with me.

    But, if your goal is to learn how to record and produce your stuff and other's. You got to start somewhere. Sound will bounce on untheated surface and will return to the mic and you will surely hear it if you solo the track but with the full music maybe a lot less. One thing you could do if it's a bedroom. Open the closet and place the mic in the opening so you sing facing your shirts and pants. They will act as absorbtion.
  6. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    you gotta use your imagination.

    there used to be a white paper TEAC put out years ago to go along with the 3340 M2A set ups they were hawking in the 70's that had a lot of really good cheap solutions for creating better acoustics to not only record in but for mixing as well ... i've searched all over the net but i can't find it. if anyone knows where to get a d-load of it i would really appreciate it.

    one of the ideas was to run 2 pieces clothesline parallel to each other a few feet apart on the cieling and then to drape a heavy blanket or a light carpet over that to create a tent. a moveing blanket would be perfect and you could use boom stands instead of the clothesline.

    another idea was to hang strips of carpet in varying lengths across the ceiling. not attractive but effective.

    moving blankets spaced off the wall an inch or two will work wonders. i think you can buy packs of 10 them for 50 or 60 bucks at Home Depot ...

    it's not going to be bass trapping and it's not going to create a suitable mix environment but it should be good enough to track a vocal or even an acoustic instrument or guitar amp.
  7. Wyatt W

    Wyatt W Active Member

    Thanks everybody for your input. I think I'm going to take your suggestions and try to treat the room the best I can with what I have. I think I'll get a better performance, in the end, from doing the vocals at home. It'll all be a learning experience!
  8. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    As Kurt mentioned, you don't have to spend big money to improve your sound for tracking.

    Any soft mass you can add to the room to absorb frequencies is gonna help to attenuate upper end issues - and depending what you add item-wise, maybe some low frequencies too... chairs and couches of the cloth upholstered variety have been known to attenuate low-end standing waves. I wouldn't put them into the same class of effectiveness as a dedicated bass trap, but they ain't gonna hurt, certainly not in your case, and besides, that's more of a mixing parameter than it is a vocal tracking one.

    Anything with absorption properties... As Kurt suggested, those packing blankets from Loews or Home Depot are great. I've got probably a dozen or so of them folded up and ready to use accordingly, I think I paid $40 bucks for all of them, which is equal to about 1 hour "average" hourly rate in an average mid-level studio. These will absolutely help to deaden those pesky upper end frequencies that can cause flutter echo or ringing.

    Try to record as close to the mic as you can without clipping or getting too much of a low end proximity effect, average distance is around 5" - 7" on a decent condenser, you can get away with a bit closer on a dynamic but I wouldn't go any closer than a "fist" distance away, either way. Also, use a pop filter to rein in P's, B's and W's.

    This will also help the overall sound of your voice... it's not that the mic will be picking up any less of the room sound, it will always do that, but if you are closer, the mic will pick up a greater ratio of your dry voice vs. room than it would if you were standing some distance back where the mic would be picking up a greater mix of your voice and the room.

    Also, as a final thought, don't discount the use of downward expansion (gates). Noise gates can be helpful in the mixing stage to increase the dynamic range without increasing the noise or unwanted room sounds in between phrases.

    Good Luck...

  9. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    When you're fairly close to the mic, that Cloud Lifter is a bit superfluous. There is no way your microphone preamp is not going to have enough gain for that SM-7 without the need of the Cloud Lifter. Not even sure why you purchased that? The preamp already offers at least 50 db of gain. More than enough for a SM-7. All that Cloud Lifter is going to do for you is to amplify very nicely, all of the nasty room sound you don't need. There is no need for 70 db worth of gain on a closely placed to the sound source, SM-7. That's madness. That's insane. Who talked you into that one? You would have been better off throwing your money at a low cost small diaphragm condenser microphone. Or a hardware limiter?

    Unfinished basements are actually great to record in. Provided you have plenty of extraneous gobbledygook in front of the walls? You need diffusion more than you need absorption. Let the room ring live. Put some heavy plush furniture between instruments for some isolation of that/those instruments. Just clap your hands once and make sure you hear no flutter echoes. All of those wooden joists do their part for the ceiling and the walls. Put up hard walls and you get slapping flutter echoes that also need to be dealt with, with further building out. So leave the damned basement unfinished. Throw the money at some powered monitors. Get the equipment that you need first and then tweak the room.

    Look, I could care less about how my control room looks. I could care less how the studio might be. But I simply must have the proper tools first and foremost. In fact I think it's a fairly big waste of time to spend money on an acoustic environment for which there are no acoustics. So it need only sound like a living room. You know shells, pictures and other tchotchke on the walls for diffusion.

    You see I treat everything like a live on location recording and you just have to deal with the acoustics that you encounter. You're not going to change around someone else's living room or basement or bar, nightclub, etc. for a better sounding acoustic environment. So it is what it is and so really all based upon your engineering expertise. And I never let acoustics, get the better of me. You just make it work, whatever it is. Ya get creative. You use your imagination. That's the audio engineers do because there ain't an apt for that.

    Don't get me wrong... I'm not saying that the Cloud Lifter isn't a nice little device I just find it a completely unnecessary device. It might be good when your microphone is 30 feet away from a flute solo in a Symphony Orchestra. Otherwise I find it a completely superfluous expenditure. Use it if you must but just know ya don't need it.

    That SM-7 will give you a very smooth and wonderful professional sound in virtually any environment. You don't want to be too far away from that microphone. A few inches to a foot on vocalists is usually just fine. Don't forget to engage the low-frequency cut switch. Turn the presence switched on instead of flat. And it's a big bold beautiful sound rivaling the German 87 and saving you $3000 in the process.

    If you're recording in the basement and you are adjacent to your furnace or a sub freezer, you might want to switch those off during a recording session so as to minimize ambient background noise? You really don't want those voltage drops and surges from refrigerant compressors kicking on and off. It's not only audibly noticeable, lights will flash and it can even induce electrical pops and clicks, into your recordings. Not fun to deal with after-the-fact.

    When you go to turn these devices off, you take a 3 x 5 card and you post a note to the device to reengage it. Because if you don't, food and go bad, you'll get food poisoning. Your house might get unbearably cold or hot? And for former Lovin' Spoonful, bass guitar player, Steve Boone, found that out the hard way. Or should I say, the wet way?

    Back in 1978, Steve Boone, purchased George Massenburg's, old control room, his original control room, up in Hunt Valley, Maryland, the former location of the famed ITI perimetric equalizer. But when the building was foreclosed upon, Steve moved the control room out. He leased a barge from this lawyer. The lawyer had converted this former garbage carrying barge to a most luxurious home. Steve moved Georges custom ITI console into that barge. And because George hadn't used any documentation nor did he select any particular colored wires other than all-white. So Steve had to pay beaucoup Dinero's to bring George in two completely wire up his former console in the new floating Blue Seas Recording Studio. It was really quite lovely and it was docked there in the downtown Baltimore Harbor before the harbor was eventually all built up with shops and hotels and museums.

    So I come home from my recording studio after a long evenings session. I finally got to bed around 4 AM. At 7 AM a friend of mine calls me and tells me to turn on Channel 13. It turns out, Blue Seas sank. What? It sank?

    So it's the dead of winter and freezing outside. I throw on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, run out the door, hopped in the car, and I'm down there in 10 minutes. There I find these salvage divers. The studio was still docked. And with the connecting ropes, it only sank about 3 1/2 feet. You could see the water through the windows lapping up over the console faders. Guitars floating by. The divers pulled out the 3M, M-79-24 and placed it on some of the nearby very uneven asphalt. All the while Steve Boone and his wife Tracy are pacing around like Jews waiting for a shower. And I asked him, did he not have insurance? He replied telling me that a barge modified for anything other than what it originally was designed to carry made everything on board, uninsurable. And then a big gust of air hit us pretty hard as I watched the M-79-24 falling over and smashing into the asphalt. And all because those Coke addicts, we're doing vocal overdubs and forgot to turn the bilge pump back on before they left. And Steve and Tracy moved on. End of story.

    I thought it was both funny, stupid and tragic. Strangely enough, when equipment like that even gets submerged in brackish water, if you quickly rinse it off with lukewarm or cold water and let it dry, it's recoverable, restorable. And all of that equipment was completely restored, refurbished and purchased and used by others. I never knew who got the console? Or whether it was ever put back into service again or just parted out? I've never asked George either but I'm sure he probably knows of its whereabouts? I don't know? Maybe he purchased it back?

    Lots of folks are cutting their next hits in their living rooms. And those are not surgically modified. Years ago, even James Taylor made a recording in a small, old, woodframe, house from the 19th century in Massachusetts. And they brought in a 16 input API and 3M, M-56. And there was no acoustic treatment in this woodframe living room. And it sounded spectacular back in 1972. There was no acoustical treatment done. It was unfinished wood flooring and plaster walls. So most of this acoustic treatment blah blah, for home fried audio, is a bunch of nonsense. And today the control room is frequently the studio and studio is frequently the control room. So you are always tracking with headphones. And when you have one big open room, it's going to sound a lot better for monitoring and recording in than two small rooms.

    It's all in how you make it. The recording that is LOL.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  10. Paul999

    Paul999 Active Member

    For a long time I thought room treatment was unnecessary or not THAT important. I quite simply was wrong. It doesn't need to be expensive or difficult to make. The easiest and cheapest way I know of is to buy as many bags or roxul fiber board as you can afford. At $50 per bag if you can afford one bag that is fine. You don't even need to take the roxul out of the bag. You can stand it up around the mic even raising it up on a table so it is at mic height. 4 bags would make a massive impact. You don't need to treat the walls you can treat the area around the mic and then move the bags aside. If you asked me what was more important, treatment or a hardware compressor on lead vox. Room treatment.

    Lastly if you are looking at hiring a major studio for anything hie them for mixing. On the balance of what would get a better end result paying to track or paying to mix. Mixing hands down.
  11. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    For a while there ASC Tube Traps were very popular and I think still are. And you would place them around the microphone or around your console. And they did a very nice job. They were basically on music stands without the liar. So ya can also adjust the height quite easily. Polly cylindrical diffusers that have some absorption is the way to go. Foam ain't. In fact foam can do more harm than good. It certainly can be considered necessary to some extent. But it certainly isn't the end-all be-all solution to acoustic problems.

    I built some Polly cylindrical diffusers out of plastic water pipes of large diameters, carpet, heavy cardboard rolls. Drilled some different sized holes all over them and stuffed them with stuff. And then a couple of metal U, brackets to affix it to microphone stands. And poof! Diffusers with absorption. The cost? Under $100. And that was for the plastic pipe and rigid fiberglass ceiling panels that I cut. The carpet roll diffusers, cost me nothing except gas, to go checking out the dumpsters at the carpet stores. And that's a very nice green way to recycle things in the most imaginative way, creative way. Why spend any money if you don't have to or don't have the money to spend?

    You can even make a simple woodframe out of 2 x 4's and drape a moving blanket over it to provide some isolation between guitar amplifiers, drums, keyboards and vocals. Or just the quilt off of your bed? So you wouldn't even have to purchase moving blankets. Of course you wouldn't necessarily appreciate someone dropping their coffee, Coca-Cola and/or burning a cigarette hole through your bedroom quilt LOL. So ya get some old used nasty moving blankets and ya make a stop at your local laundromat that has high capacity washing machines and dryers so they are not terribly nasty looking and smelling. And you can pick those up from your local U-Haul rental place. This is creative engineering on the cheap and it's fun to do. You let your imagination fly and you get creative. Because that's the way it had to be done before God invented Guitar Center or even Mars which I think was hit by an asteroid and blew up? And they were a lot cooler than Guitar Center. Originally out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. And they truly had stores and facilities to behold.

    But folks today don't seem to have the drive, passion or creative skills to come up with anything that is not offered on a retail basis. And I find that sad. It also really separates the men and women from the boys & girls. Everybody wants a quick answer and a quick fix from folks on the Internet. Few people seem to be searching out what they need in the libraries or even the music stores? No one wants to pick up a god damned book anymore! I have read, everything regarding electronics, recording equipment, broadcast equipment and all of the techniques behind the use of all of these pieces. And this was all before the Internet ever existed. So when one really had a passion for this, you needed to find and learn everything you could find and learn from. And no one is doing that today because of the Internet and YouTube. Very handy. Quite comprehensive. But it also demonstrates peoples sheer laziness and those of which who have no actual real passion. They just want a quick drive-through hamburger and they're happy not knowing or understanding anything. Because they got their happy meal with a Chinese studio condenser microphone prize. And those are the toys. They're not the real deal. It's like a tricycle in comparison to a car. When you're a kid on that tricycle, it's a car. Your very own car. It's it just doesn't go vroom vroom without attaching some baseball cards and laundry clips. And you can have a tricycle that sounds like a V-8 if you mount enough baseball cards LOL. But does that make it a car? It does to the kid. But not to adults. We use the real deal the one with the motor that requires benzene. Which in no way is related to a fanzine. Yet the two sound very much alike but no corresponding relationship to each other. One is an emulation and one is the real thing. And audio ain't much different today than that.

    So when recording acoustic music at home with microphones, it's nice to eliminate standing waves and flutter echoes. But ya can still record with that nonsense also. No doubt I love recording in really fine studios. But those cost big bucks. And because they are designed for other millionaires to book into. Not Billy down at the end of the street. He's only got $100 to spend and not $1 million to spend. And if you're creative enough to play an instrument or write a song? You're creative enough to come up with your own acoustic corrections. You didn't buy your song at the store did you? Hey, some people don't even purchase guitars from stores. No. They have their own guitars custom-made out of whatever materials they want the made from. From clear Lucite to all parts obtained from an auto junkyard to fine expensive hardwoods. And everything in between. I mean who wouldn't want to emulate da Vinci, Michelangelo, Mozart, Wagner? We're working in a purely creative industry here. And if you can't create? Why are you trying to work in this industry? I mean you can purchase a music degree from University. That does not make you a good or talented musician/performer. It's the folks that didn't go to the University or even learn how to read music whose creative imaginations made them rich. It wasn't something they purchased at a store. But everybody needs to make a buck and that's why this stuff has come into existence catering towards the consumer producer.

    Rich folks can afford to have their places built to appeal to other rich folks. And that costs gobs of money to do it right. From the foundation up. You don't want your walls connected to your foundation. So how does that relate to a home studio anyhow? Your walls are sitting on the foundation. So you're going to need to knock your house down and start all over again to get it right. But if you're not rich, then maybe a piece of foam? And that ain't going to do it either but it might help. And it's that small incremental improvement that can make all the difference as Paul has pointed out.

    When we build control rooms, even when they're done, they're not done. It might take you a couple of months or a couple of years to tweak it just right? Which means you will continually be throwing money at forever improvements. And there's nothing wrong with that. It's got to be right for you. And others if you want others coming into engineer and record in your studio. So sometimes you have to do more than just for your own self depending upon who you are catering towards? And that's why studios look so cool today. You want to baffle them with BS just to make them feel right at home. So some of this nonsense is just for show. I've been to plenty of crappy looking control rooms and studios that shouldn't sound good but do. Just as Dave Grohl and others described of Sounded City in the new movie. A big square box with lots of hard walls that shouldn't sound good but did. And beige carpet on the walls in the control room, like mine LOL.

    Half the time if you're monitoring in your control room isn't right? Move things around to different locations and you might find otherwise? Inconvenient? Well that's too bad. Get that bed out of their. You can always sleep on the couch or the floor. Just like we've always done in our commercial studios that didn't have bedrooms. I remember one night sleeping underneath the studio grand piano. And I wasn't plastered I was exhausted. And also because someone was already asleep on the couch in the control room.

    Yellow Pages make great pillows. It's hard to turn over though because you smash your nose in the process and wake up. And it's hard to fluff up Yellow Pages. And then some fool picks up your Yellow Pages and tears it in half! Just to prove they could. And they ruined your pillow! Then you have to use the white pages. And I'd rather be sleeping on top of the studios instead of Harry Hamburger. (Which was a guy that lived in our neighborhood and kids always made prank phone calls to because of his name. I didn't do that to Harry. No. I was the expert making the phony phone calls as a disc jockey at a radio station that didn't exist for the COUNTRYWIDE CASH CALL CALL call call...". The trick was to see how long you can keep these people on the phone. And no one could keep people on the phone for a phony phone call longer than I could! 10 minutes! And no one ever did guess the figure I had in my head. So they only qualified to win the consolation prize of a West Clock, traveling along clock.... Thanks for playing our game, next hour the jackpot will be $625... click.)

    It's great when you can sound like an adult at 13 LMAO. And you have a full radio station control room in your basement. I mean I actually figured out how to feed the console through a capacitor directly into the telephone lines. They would have to sit through the end of one song and a couple of commercials. I would have all of my friends in the living room with a patch from the basement when mom went out shopping LOL. And with which it made it much easier to get that overnight position at the number one rock station in Baltimore when I was only 19. I already had five years experience by the time I got my first job. And it took five years of practice to get that kind of good.

    We all did goofy things in our teenage years didn't we?
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  12. ondray

    ondray Active Member

    in short, record vocals at home should be fine. Mixing in the untreated room, is not fine. If anything, go mix at a treated studio.

    Midi instrument wise you don't need a 'real' studio to track synth instruments as long as you have a good recording chain at home, studios will have DI's and Mic Pres to plug your synths up to, which will sound much better than just a straight line in. However, having no room treatment will impact mixing. And I would go to a treated studio to mix in.

    As for the vocals, you can record good vocals on a SM7b at your place, a couple of duvets and such to isolate the early reflections and you should be fine. lot's of great records have been recorded with s SM58 straight to tape. The mic pre again will also play a part.

    That said, you will probably have a better performance at a studio where you don't have to think about levels, tracking, etc... you can focus on your vocals and have someone else worry about if it's clipping or not. Or do what I do, record at home with a buddy who can engineer that takes and metering.

    This is two sided, feel is a big part on performance. Not being confident that you are getting the best recording of your vocals at home can play a part on your performance. Flip side is, I've seen indie talent go to a studio environment and not feel comfortable, therefor underperforming. This is a hard call.

    Recording a SM7a 'Properlay' won't effect the final master if recorded at home. The key is to keep in mind 1) Popper stopper 2) Proximity Effect and 3) comb filtering from early reflections. Which can all be avoided at home. With the duvets.
  13. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    for vocs w/ an sm-7 just make a 'fake booth' w/ moving blankets/clothing and mic stands. just don't make too small or you'll 'technically' have high freqs reflected back, which would likely be not picked up on the mic much. when you mix, put those same blankets on the front,above,to the sides. it'll help the highs from being strange. bass your on your own, it's just how it is, a guessing game, until you get used to your space. and its a very expensive thing to make accurate. just play your fav recordings and get used to how they differ, and keep that in mind when your tracking. vocs guitars and bass are easy anywhere, drums/piano/strings is where flattering rooms really make a big difference acoustically. that can now be replaced, if thats your bag.

    it's gonna be tough to self produce something like vocals. maybe you should get a friend to help you. ditto for the mix. vocalists tend to either bury, or over-boost vocs.

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