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Keyboards input

Discussion in 'Keyboards' started by tmcconnell, Jun 6, 2008.

  1. tmcconnell

    tmcconnell Guest

    I've recorded a lot of keys, but I'm curious about my choices since they all have different outputs etc. I don't know much about how electronic keys structure their own gian. What is the most likely way to get a good sound.
    Direct to converters? Hi Z? Pre line level? If there are balance outs I suppose I would use them first ... but.... who knows?

    I have gobs of beautiful pre's (I won't name them all) so I can get any coloration I want - but these electronic beasts don't have a sound of their own they just have some composite of the electronics within. I suppose a pre would give me more options - but its a gain structure issue and impedance issue. What is likely to give me the best sound? (And please, I know I can use my ears, but I'd like to try the best options first). Thanks in advance.
  2. pr0gr4m

    pr0gr4m Distinguished Member

    Feb 9, 2005
    South Florida
    Home Page:
    I take exception to the statement "these electronic beasts don't have a sound of their own".

    I'm assuming you are talking about synthesizers or electronic keyboards/pianos/organs of some type. They all have a sound of their own. Program a sine wave on each of them, a sawtooth wave, square wave. They may all sound similar but they won't sound the same. Each will have it's own character. They sound the way they sound. What you need to decide is how you want them to sound in the tracks you are recording...how you want them to sound in your mix.

    What keyboards are you recording that "all have different outputs"? The ones I've got have unbalanced, balanced and digital...that's about it and that's relatively easy to handle.

    As far as gain is concerned, you don't really need much. Any DI to pre-amp combo will do the job. It's really as simple as that. Sure there are different qualities of those but even basic ones will give you the gain you need. You could go direct to the converters if the keyboard has enough output. I've plugged keyboards right into my 828mkII bypassing any pre-amp and had enough signal to record with. I don't normally do it and don't recommend it just from a control standpoint but if you are out of pre-amps, it'll work.

    I generally don't peg the output of the keyboards but I'll usually set them somwhere around 75% of their volume and adjust the pre-amp accordingly. That really depends on the keyboard. It also depends on the sound.

    Some keyboards have digital out where you don't even need the converter. If you've got a free digital input go ahead an use that. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't.

    Not too many synth's have balanced outputs. But if you've got them you would have to try them out and compare them to the other outputs.

    "Who knows?"...Hopefully, the keyboardist. If the keyboard player has a keyboard with multiple outputs one would hope that said keyboardist had sampled the various outputs and would be able to tell you the difference (if any) and what he/she/it prefers.

    Let's discuss the question about best options. I would like to start by asking a question. What's the best way to record a bass guitar? Here's another. What's the best way to record drums? I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this. There is no "best way". There may be a best way for a particular artist or for a particular track or in some cases for a particular keyboard but there is no "best way".

    The best way for you I guess could be to run the keyboards unbalanced outputs through the best DI you have, then into the best pre-amp you have and then into the best converters you have. Voila! I mean, that's what you would do with your microphone right? If you didn't know who the vocalist is or what type of voice they have and if someone asked you to set up your best vocal chain for this person you'd get out your best mic, best cable, best mic pre, best converter, best headphones, best pop filter and BAM...you would have your best vocal channel.
    That is the best sound you will ever get. BUT, that may be exactly 180 degrees from what is best for the song/track.

    Keyboards are very much like any other instrument. Sometimes you may want to run one through a "beautiful pre" to add whatever character that might add. You may want to run it through a trashy pre to add a bit of grit. You may want to run it through an amp and cabinet and then mic it with a crown PZM.

    ME? If it's a rompler, generally any pre-amp will do. If I need to add shimmer or shine to a sound or maybe to muddy it up a bit I usually do it in the sound itself or with EQ. I don't normally go switchin out pre-amps for those. If it's an analog synth that's going to be used for bass or leads/solos, then I might do a little extra pre-amp work to find one that's right. For lead synths, lately I've been experimenting running them through an amp and then micing the cab.
  3. tmcconnell

    tmcconnell Guest


    No offense intended by "no sound of their own" - the intent there was to say they don't make a sound - so all you have to work with is electronic (rather then, say, mic placement or selection).
  4. Greener

    Greener Guest

    If a keyboard is played in the woods, and it's not plugged into an amp. Does it make a sound?
  5. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Distinguished Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Scotland, UK
    It will - the noise of the keys being pressed cuts through everything. Even isolation headphones.
    Or is that just my crap PC keyboard?

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