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Recording acoustic guitar -- track included, feedback wanted

Discussion in 'Guitars' started by esper2142, Oct 6, 2012.

  1. esper2142

    esper2142 Active Member

    Hi all,

    Recorded my brother-in-law for practice on an AT2020 condenser mic, and mixed the track using Adobe Audition CS6. He is playing a Taylor 214CE.

    Any feedback on the mix would be appreciated.

    Kurt Acoustic by esper2142 on SoundCloud - Create, record and share your sounds for free
  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    While it's a nice acoustic guitar, the recording really doesn't do much for me. It has that nice brand-new fresh, cheap, Chinese condenser microphone sound to it. Thin, tinny, lacks gusto. High-frequency of those strings are a constant source of irritation. You might call thin and crispy, transparent and neutral? I just call it metallic, brittle. There is no warmth. There is no body. It's twanging strings.

    While you mixed the track using one of my favorite programs, I'm really curious when you indicated you utilize the AT 2020 microphone do you mean you recorded his guitar with a single, solitary, microphone? Was it a pair? And what other associated equipment did you utilize to achieve this recording? Adobe Audition is merely the program. Most all programs utilize the same audio recording properties. It's only in the type of mix that you generate where it makes the difference. And that can be had with virtually any program. So perhaps it's a better sounding recording than what you have presented for us? Maybe you just had too much fun with Adobe Audition?

    Another problem with trying to evaluate this is, it really doesn't go anywhere. The music makes me feel like I'm waiting for an elevator.

    So now that I've really upset you, what kind of advice would you like? Like telling you that actually a pair of SM-57's may actually be a much more worthy microphone to record this acoustic guitar with than that AT 2020? Not that this microphone is horrible. It's not. It's perfectly usable and certainly has its place. Is it on acoustic guitars? Not from what I've heard. Reasonable for local use. Decent as a drum overhead. This lacks balls on the acoustic guitar. Not sure why? Maybe a little too much high frequency boost equalization? Too much rolling off of the low frequencies? So how exactly did you screw this recording up? And what exactly were you hoping for?

    I didn't actually check the phase scope to look at your stereo image.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  3. esper2142

    esper2142 Active Member

    Yikes, that WAS incredibly harsh! I suppose it's exactly what I asked for though :) I'm completely new to the world of recording, and need this kind of feedback. Yes, I did record this using a single AT2020. I was told that condenser mics are the way to go when recording acoustic guitars. I do own a single SM57, but I have found it doesn't sound near as good when recording acoustics. I don't have a lot of cash for a home studio right now (I will in May when I get my bonus!), so I have to utilize what I have available to me. Going forward, is best practice to use a set of twin condensers? If so, which would you recommend?

    Yes, I did use Adobe Audition CS6, which I absolutely love. I used a preset on the track that cleans up audio levels and centers the recording. I then increased guitar attack, and used another preset that is supposed to make it sound like it is performed in a small concert hall.

    This recording is completely practice for me, and nothing professional. I really do appreciate the feedback, even if it was incredibly negative. Sounds like I deserved it!

    Any specific tips/tricks you can give me for the future are appreciated.
  4. esper2142

    esper2142 Active Member

    Oh, also this was recorded using a Tascam US-1800
  5. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I wasn't going to be rude and presume that you had utilized a TA-SCAM, US-1800. LOL. Yup, that's the kind of sound you get from those types of devices i.e. overly brittle microphone with overly brittle microphone preamps and underwhelming analog to digital conversion. Nevertheless, it's usable. The workaround is to find out how to mellow the capture quality.

    Now while you don't think the 57 sounds as " good " the 2020, that's because there is a definite difference in the high-frequency signature, most predominantly. There is also better transient response to the 2020. And that's precisely why the 57 can be a better choice. The 57 has some bandwidth restrictions. Not much below 50. Not much above 17,000. And when ya think about acoustic guitar, there isn't much that you want above or below that figure for acoustic guitar. Nothing that certainly needs overemphasizing.

    This leaves microphone placement as the next major factor of how warm or how bright you could make that acoustic guitar sound. Of course, not withstanding, you're talking about a simple monaural recording with a single microphone. OMG! We can't have that in the 21st century since stereo was born nearly 80 years ago. So I guess we'll just have to use both microphones? So since that 2020 likes to overemphasize the fingerpicking, it'll be positioned closer to the neck. That 57 will look right down the throat of that acoustic body. Great. Now we have acoustic guitar without much acoustics. You'll be getting a bit from the 2020 on the neck. And you'll be able to add some extra from your software from the 57. Stick one on each channel, heat on low, simmer with some reverb and strain through a compressor and you've got it.
    You can even provide for a meal for two, just by reversing the process and going for a second round. You could even re-amp to create more stereo from a room sized environment.

    So it's not so much about the gear but by the way that you utilize it. Harsh? Sorry about that. No denigrating intended. I calls it like I sees it. The whole intention here is to produce a recording that within its musical genre is pleasing to listen to. That's our job. It's not to make something that somebody says is supposed to be a certain way. When everybody tells you you need a condenser microphone on the guitar, they're only half right. The other half is the half they don't know. I just know both halves and have-nots. So you're only getting half the picture. So you can get the warmth, lush, robust quality out of that 57 that the 2020 while you think sounds better, will provide additional slop that does have nothing to do with quality of sound. So, is a V-8 engine better than a four-cylinder engine? And why?

    I'm originally from Detroit.

    No camcorder's were harmed in the production.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  6. esper2142

    esper2142 Active Member

    What are some reasonable upgrades you think I should pursue? Also, I really prefer a USB Audio Interface. Is there a step up from the TASCAM US-1800 you'd recommend? What about microphones? What are some micing techniques or guides you could point me to? Anything like that would be tremendously helpful.

    Thank you for the info thus far.
  7. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    What's your budget?

    Not a lot of the available units in the next level up from the Tascam have a USB host connection. The RME Fireface UFX does, and is a high-quality interface at the top end of the mid-price bracket with 4 mic pre-amps, a further 8 line inputs and digital I/O.
  8. esper2142

    esper2142 Active Member

    Say I wanted to spend a couple grand total on the audio interface and microphones.
  9. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    OK please understand, what you have is currently, perfectly usable. Ideal? No way. Usable? Of course. So when you're dealing with these kinds of microphone preamps, their basic signature is not particularly flattering. This is where microphones that don't sound better are frequently better to use. The simple workaround is to use more dynamic microphones and condenser microphones and perhaps even an occasional ribbon microphone. Your microphone selection is your most important function, first and foremost. Followed by the microphone preamp. Followed by the analog to digital conversion. So crispy brittle preamps deserve warmer sounding not as good microphones. To offset the microphone preamp sound. Everything we do is give and take. So it's only your auditory thought process that has to change. You cannot pile up all of the transformer less bright and crispy stuff without ending up with shattered glass. But the fact remains this is still usable equipment. Are we to assume that the only thing you will ever be recording are two simultaneous inputs? Eight inputs? Like Boswell indicated, RME. I don't have one but they seem to be very nice, highly respected, pristine. Then there is Lavery, Apogee, some USB, some FireWire and upcoming Thunderbolt.

    Bottom line is, are you doing this for personal enjoyment, as a business? Because just using the right microphones and perhaps a couple of outboard microphone Transformers of a decent variety, could make your system perfectly lovely sounding. And being a good engineer if it was an easy thing to do, everybody would want to do it. 60% of the job that we do is just choosing the right microphone with the right input type. And if we didn't find 57's good microphones to use, why would you see them 80% of the time? This microphone sounds great on everything depending on how you place it, where you put it, how you put it. I mean if you sing in your church choir, you know you don't exactly sound like Maria Callas or Luciano Pavarotti, right? Nor Paul McCartney nor Madonna... so. Even they sound great on a 57.

    So what you really need is a bag full of 57/58's and a PreSonus multitrack audio interface for some good old-fashioned rock 'n roll recording. The PreSonus preamps while not being as stellar as the high-priced spread, are of a class A transistor design. They are quite smooth sounding in comparison to my API 3124's which definitely has an extra edge to it. And your 2020 would also probably play nice with it. The RME is cleaner still. Without perhaps the same necessity for rock 'n roll? Classical music, orchestral, operatic, sure. Superclean rock 'n roll is an oxymoron. What makes rock 'n roll just right is the just right amount of distortion. It's just that the preamps in your device are not what we would call exciting sounding. They play well with 57 & 58's. And that's probably the primary microphone they were designed to work with? Most people don't plug-in $3000 microphones to their $250 audio interface and vice versa. And good dynamic microphones have transformers. So there is the transformer that your preamp already lacks. The 2020 is transformer less just like the preamps are. See? Direct output dynamic microphones without output Transformers will present the same problem as the condenser microphone. It'll sound better but not plugged into your interface. What I'm trying to do is to just Slow down some of those little hyper electrons running through your microphone cable. Right now your high-frequency response sounds like a riot at a soccer game. We just want them to be civilized enough to leave drunk. And that's how you get good sound out of your current system. Want that transformer input? Purchase a microphone transformer (around $100) and run that into the 1/4 inch direct input on your interface and, voilà! Of course ya will have no phantom power then, so you'll have to use dynamic microphones. Unless ya get an outboard phantom power supply. Or stick batteries in your microphone. Stick it somewhere. Now this won't necessarily then make it a great microphone preamp but it might perhaps make it a better microphone preamp? You may also notice less noise when using that transformer. And that's because Transformers work like passive preamps, as you get free gain, passive gain. Which is why they were so important to old-school preamp designs. Earlier electronics were noisy and direct coupling wasn't big back then. The two best preamps made in the world have Transformers and no Transformers. It's for this flavor of that flavor. Name your flavor. I've already named mine.

    My sound is more obese than I am, thankfully.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  10. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    why would you do that?

    i have seen many posts advising the sm57 as a guitar mic. facepalm

    ewwwww .... (imo) maybe better (different) than a cheapo chinese or austrailian mic but no way better than a japanese or german / austrian counterpoint. even a 421 would be a better choice than a 57.

    i guess if all you want is a load of mid range "chunk" and all the 6k you could ask for, no low or high end articulation, a 57 would be a good choice but in my world, i would be building the whole track around the sound of the well recorded acoustic guitar track rather than dumbing down the acoustic to fit the track. i kinda like that stuff above 15k. probably why i prefer high end analog for recording acoustic instruments.

    apples / oranges .... no ones right or wrong, these are all artistic choices. everyone has their preferences. mine lean towards a great full bandwidth acoustic sound.

    mfff ... grphh....suicide ahhhh!
  11. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    why would you do that?

    i have seen many posts advising the sm57 as a guitar mic. facepalm

    ewwwww .... (imo) maybe better (different) than a cheapo chinese or austrailian mic but no way better than a japanese or german / austrian counterpoint. even a 421 would be a better choice than a 57.

    i guess if all you want is a load of mid range "chunk" and all the 6k you could ask for, no low or high end articulation, a 57 would be a good choice but in my world, i would be building the whole track around the sound of the well recorded acoustic guitar rather than dumbing down the acoustic. i kinda like that stuff above 15k. probably why i prefer high end analog for recording acoustic instruments.

    apples / oranges .... everyone has their preferences. mine lean towards a great full bandwidth acoustic sound.

    mfff ... grphh....suicide ahhhh!
  12. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Kurt is actually correct. Even though I think he double posted?

    Being that the 57/58 is a $100 cheapo, music store, microphone and highly imitated and emulated, it is a universal adjustable wrench microphone here in the USA. Across the pond in places like Deutschland, we have the Sennheiser dynamic microphones. Most notably the MD 421 and the 441, dynamic microphones. They actually are " better " sounding. When I want that bigger drum set sound, Fatter snare drum, fatter bass drum, fatter tom-toms or bigger guitar cabinet or acoustic guitar sound, bigger DJ announcer sound, MD 421, 441's are my first choice. But 57 & 58's are my daily choices. Far more prevalent throughout the world. There is plenty of Chinese imitation 58's floating around. So it's easier to manufacture than those oddly shaped Sennheiser's. And that probably kept them from being so easily copied.

    Now Kurt thinks he wants a full bandwidth sound. He only thinks he needs a full bandwidth acoustic sound. Fact is, it really doesn't make a damn bit of difference whether you are talking 20-20,000 or 50-17,000. It goes beyond 50-17,000. That's just its ± deviation within 2 dB. So 20 is there. 20,000 is there also. It's just a few DB down from its specifications. And you think anyone over 40 can really hear the difference? Half the folks in their 20s and 30s can't. What? You can't enjoy recording that sounds good because it doesn't go to 20 or 20,000 in a flat manner? I mean weren't we all using Aura-Tone's on top of our consoles since the 1970s and today? That's just a 57 imitating a speaker. And as one of the most important ingredients in your control room, we couldn't live without them. Sure it's subjective.

    OK, how many people remember the old fashioned desktop Bell telephones? How many times did you try to destroy that telephone with the handset receiver? Yeah, beat the mother scratching ever loving crap out of that telephone and receiver and it would still work. Try that with any modern telephone. And that's how the 57 and 58 were designed.

    Some of my old phones still have bells!
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  13. DrGonz

    DrGonz Active Member

    Well it's not exactly apples and oranges it's also lemons and oranges. I really think you need to ditch the "preset" anything functions that built into to any program. You need to learn what it is those presets are doing and do them better per your application. I think the 2020 has the warmth and body sound for the acoustic but lacks in getting both the mid to highs to sit in the mix. My thought is to take that SM57 and use it in conjunction w/ the 2020.

    Put the 2020 as a room sounding mic. Position it 3-4 feet away from guitar and closer to the body of the guitar. Then use a close mic of the sm57 around the twelfth fret 1 foot away or somewhere along the neck of the guitar. Think of capturing the neck and the body of guitar and try to pick angles/distances that remain in phase to each mic. Then blending those two mics will start to open up a whole new sound. Don't worry about plugins except EQ and get it tight sounding. Not too much low end and not too much mid/high. Use EQ that will unmask the two mics together and then you will start to hear the acoustic guitar recording with way more definition.
  14. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    You've got to listen to your doctor. He's right you know. All of those presets in most software multi-track packages are all over the top. Way too much stuff. What they can really do for you however is put you into a modus operandi, in the right direction. They can be smoothed out and lessened to put you in the right direction. And then you really learn what they do to get what you want. Not all equalization works or sounds the same. You have IIR & FIR. They both do the same thing but they sure as heck don't sound the same way. One is phase consistent the other is phase variable. And that phase has nothing to do with left versus right but rather input versus output. And the speed at which all the frequencies are being changed or not.

    Then there is your dynamics processing. Fast can be good but usually not. When your dynamics processing attack and release times are all set to fast, then they're too fast. And when you set them all slower, you get that dynamic packing you want without losing all of your transients. And then with the release time controls, you can control the " apparent loudness ", level. Slower is smoother and more natural sounding while faster becomes more aggressive and wear fastest settings become just plain awful.

    Then there's the timing between the instrument and the microphone and the microphone to other microphones. All of which have to properly coincide unless you like soupy mud. Personally I liked Soupy Sales better since the pies had a lot of dynamic punch. But then again I could never understand what Black Fang or, Snaggle Tooth ever said? Talk about distortion... they sounded like a couple of dogs.??? Maybe they were? I could never find them when I looked out the same door. Thankfully I never got the pie either. But that's only when my father took me down to WXYZ TV, in Detroit. I never got a chance to meet Soupy. Though I did learn how to do this Soupy Shuffle even without his direct guidance. LOL whoops! Glad I missed that pie.

    Bottom line though, I'm really not wild about many of these new condenser microphones on acoustic guitar. Talk about bright and brittle... I'd rather just use a pair of 57's. Leave the 2020 for the vocal. Stick a nice big foam pop filter on it to get rid of some of that bite. It's one thing to wear the emperors clothes. It's a whole other thing to have forgotten to put on the emperors clothes. And that's what most of those microphone sound like to me. To me the emperors clothes would be a transformer less TLM Neumann. The 2020 is just a bit thinner than the emperors clothes. So the best way to get a darker sound out of that microphone is to leave it in your closet.

    Let the sun shine on the 57's.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  15. Eraserfish

    Eraserfish Active Member

    Hey esper, there are many ways to go here but the straight forward answer is that it's worth taking time to record if you are starting with decent equipment. The better the equipment, the easier it is for us to be stupid (uninformed and inexperienced) and get good results. Here's the simple math. Good mic, good preamp, good ada conversion unit = good results. There are a hundred interfaces on the internet so pick one that suits you (do you need 2 inputs or 8 inputs for example) and doesn't break the bank. Presonus, m-audio, tc electronics, apogee they all do the same thing and either come with software or not. Those two mics you have are okay, and now you know what a hundred dollar mic can do. You have a dynamic and a cheap condensor, how about a cheap ribbon? The cheapest ribbon you will find that sounds good is probably the cascade fathead i or ii. I got one on ebay for $125 and they're not much more than that new (without the upgraded transformer). The problem with some ribbons is that they lack gain so you will need a preamp or a cheap way out is a device like the CL-1 called a cloudlifter that ups the gain without any noise($150). Add a standalone preamp and you will start to get some compelling results. What I didn't understand untill recently is how important a preamp is for recording with microphones or even line level inputs from guitars, basses, even keyboards. Please stay away from cheap tube preamps, you will only get noise and not the nice kind of distortion. Take the names Neve, API, and quad-eight and let them swim around in your brain as you research preamps. Those are the classic sounds found in old consoles that people associate with transformer warmth.
    Want a cheap way to sound pro? Get an AT4047 (one of the warmest condensor mics out there) on ebay $350-450/$600 new, then add a Gap 73 or Warm WA12 for a pre-amp, and feed this into whatever decent interface you want (apogee duet is overpriced but great). Phoenix audio recently had a deal on a channel strip for under 1K, which I believe is a Neve copy.
    Good preamps and channel strips can cost well over a thousand and might be something for later but you will not understand warmth in your DAW until you use one and unfortunately cheap one's add either disgusting amounts of noise, or don't color your sound in a noticeable or good way. Some guys don't like UA stuff, but there are combos out there that offer preamp, eq, and compressor in one box for around a 1000 bucks that will give you a great warm sound. Some guys don't like focusrite, but same thing applies and the results are very good, just not the "classic" sound of the old mixing consoles. The main thing is getting a warm clean sound into your DAW where you can work with what you know is a good track. Even cheaper mics come alive when sent through a really nice preamp. I would definitely reccommend you strike up some email traffic with one of the better stores that want your business but aren't motivated by commission. I will plug sweetwater and zenpro because I think they are more professional and more interested in helping you make the right purchase rather than any purchase. Good luck and keep researching to make good choices and not waste time and money on junk like I did when I was younger.

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