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Recording an archtop with Avalon U5?

Discussion in 'Preamps / Channel Strips' started by guitarjazzman, Apr 12, 2007.

  1. guitarjazzman

    guitarjazzman Active Member

    After a very helpful previous post I now have more questions regarding recording Jazz guitar. I play fingerstyle and pick style jazz guitar on a custom built 7 string archtop through a Polytone Minibrute IV. I have been experimenting with recording some solo jazz pieces for quite some time.

    I have tried mics in front of the Polytone's speaker with mics on the guitar. My room is not an amazing sounding due to the size (a converted single garage) although I have Auralex'd it so it's not too terrible! The problem with jazz guitar is that there is an acoustic sound and an amp sound to consider.

    I had settled on a Rode NTK with a reflection filter on the guitar (with the amp on in the background) and an SM57 and Rode NT1000 on the amp. I also took a DI from the amp which didn't sound that great. The mics are going into my Firepod into Logic.

    After a previous topic I posted on splitting the signal to also record the guitar's pickup direct, I have been experimenting further. I plugged my guitar into an Art V3 tube preamp to act as a DI box into my Firepod (line in) and put the Rode NTK on the guitar. This completely bypassed the amp and when I mixed the two levels with mainly DI'd sound and a little acoustic sound, the result was better than all my previous efforts!

    I am wondering if this is a standard way of recording an archtop and if so would a product such as the Avalon U5 give me even better results? It seems strange not using the amp but an archtop needs a very pure amplifier any way so is the preamp in the U5 going to give me the true sound of the guitar? It is quite a lot of cash to spend just as an experiment and I don't think I can borrow one from anywhere to try. Also, are there any other products to think about if this is the way to go? Would a normal good quality preamp with an 'instrument in' input do the asame job as a DI box?

    I have spent hours surfing the net on recording an archtop but cannot seem to find much help. There is a ton of stuff on acoustics and solid body electrics but hardly anything on archtops.

    Sorry for the long post but I wanted to give as much detail as possible.

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Let me take the second (really the fourth) question first. I'm reading it as "what's the difference between a DI and a preamp?" In over simplified terms a DI takes a high impedance signal and puts out a low impedance signal. A pre takes a low (instrument or mic level) voltage signal and puts out a high (line level) voltage signal. If a box does both, a manufacturer can market it either way.

    As far as what to choose to process your direct signal, the sky is the limit. A good quality preamp or channel strip would be great. If a preamp didn't do the impedance matching, you would need a DI as well. If you decided to do this, get a good passive DI from Countryman or Radial. Stay away from the cheap boxes. In fact, you should see if you can borrow a countryman DI. Use that into the pres on you firepod and see if that doesn't float your boat for $150.

    I have not used the Avalon other than trying it in a store. It has a strange distribution of popularity - wildly popular with some groups and ignored by others. I'd consider it, but I wouldn't be surprised if something else beat it.
     
  3. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    There isn't really a "standard" way of doing this. Every jazz guitarist I have had to record has had his own preferences about what he wants to hear live while recording (i.e. the combination of acoustic sound from the instrument and the sound from the loudspeaker of the amplifier) and how he would like himself represented in the final mix. In many cases, the two are not directly reconcilable.

    The best thing I have found is to take as many sources as possible:

    1) The pickup, either via a DI box or via an instrument input on a pre-amp. These are equivalent as long as the pickup lead lengths are kept short.

    2) A mic or mics to capture the direct sound. You need to juggle with the mic positioning to get the amp in the null of the mic's polar response while achieving the direct sound you want.

    3) Miking the amp. No further comment on that as it has been covered exhaustively in these forums.

    Use a tape measure and jot down the distances from guitar to direct mic, and maybe also from amp loudspeaker to amp mic if it is more than an inch or so.

    So you end up with 3 or 4 channels at mixdown that you have to somehow turn into the sound that the player wants in the final mix. You need to delay the pickup and amp mic channels relative to the direct mic by about 1 millisec per foot of distance of direct mic from guitar.

    When mixing down, it's up to you to apply EQ, compression, reverb and relative balance to the sources to get an acceptable final result. If you are both the player and mix engineer, at least you have only yourself to argue with.
     
  4. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Here is another thing to think about when considering Boswell's comments. A big advantage of a direct signal is that you really have a huge amount of control over it in the recording studio and sending it to the PA at a live venue. Once you craft a direct signal that you like, it's going to sound basically the same through any flat amp or recording medium. The miced body will sound different based on the room, the mic, and the placement. A miced amp is less tricky but still variable. Having a good direct sound is a great baseline to have even if you eventually decide that the miced guitar or a miced amp is the best sound you can get.
     
  5. guitarjazzman

    guitarjazzman Active Member

    Thanks for all the info - very helpful!

    I have decided that I definately need to get some form of DI box whether it be an Avalon U5, Countryman, or Radial is another company that seems to keep cropping up. It seems to be a big bonus to be able to do things to the DI'd pickup sound after it has been recorded. I suppose I could even reamp the signal through a nice sounding amp in a better sounding room at a later date if the need arises.

    I keep coming back to the Avalon U5 as I keep reading such great things about it. I like the idea of using a Countryman or something similar into the Firepod pres but am thinking that the preamp in the Avalon might give me better results.
     
  6. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    This isn't exactly what you are looking for, but it may have some helpful info. Basstasters has some sound samples that compares various preamps and DIs for bass. At least you can hear various basses through a U5 and compare to other pres.
     
  7. guitarjazzman

    guitarjazzman Active Member

    Thanks for all the help in this and the last topic I posted. I have been a bit crazy and ordered the Avalon U5 which arrived yesterday.

    I have been experimenting and the best sound that I seem to be getting is with the guitar pickup DI'd and my Rode NTK in front of the bridge of the guitar (about 15cm away) with no amp. This gives me a very acoustic sound for a jazz guitar which I like. I tried all the options today by putting the NTK in front of the guitar, my NT1000 over my shoulder, An SM57 in front of the speaker and DI through the U5. I spent some time with headphones getting the best sound I could from each source. I still think the best sound was from my first setup bypassing the amp completely.

    It is also easier to play without the mics and leads getting in the way which should give a better performance. Now that I have the pickup DI'd, I think I might try an amp simulator to see if this improves the sound further. Any advise on which product (amplitude, guitar rig, revalver, etc.) is best to suit my needs or this idea not even worth considering?
     

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