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Recording to a hard disk

Discussion in 'Recording' started by earpain, Apr 4, 2010.

  1. earpain

    earpain Active Member

    I don't know whether this is the right forum to find the sort of answer I'm looking for, but here's the question anyway.

    My livelihood involves recording the spoken word. I do that using a specialized program on a Windows laptop. Problem is, sometimes I record events where some speakers speak very, very softly and others speak very, very loudly. I need to keep the recording level high enough to capture the soft speakers, but when I do that the loud speakers oversaturate the hard drive's capacity to record the sound and I get a bunch of noise. Sometimes their volume is so loud that you simply can't understand what they're saying because the recording is so badly distorted it starts to sound kind of like static.

    Is there some piece of hardware, a device of some sort, that I could put between the mic and the hard drive that would modulate the loud speakers but not diminish the quieter speakers before the sound gets written tot he hard drive?

    If anyone here knows of such a device, please tell me what it is and from where I might be able to obtain it.
  2. jg49

    jg49 Well-Known Member

    The piece of hardware you need is a compressor/limiter but to give you better advice as to exactly which one you would have to tell us exactly what you are recording with # of mics, do you use an interface, what software, how are you hooked up to your computer.)
  3. earpain

    earpain Active Member

    My setup

    I have a feeling my setup is much simpler than the folks here are accustomed to. It's just a single hi-gain condenser mic with a 1/8" phone plug that runs either to a USB converter or directly to the sound card mic port. The software I use to record with is called Digitran. It's highly unlikely that anyone on this forum would know it, as it's a niche product for a niche market.

    If there is such a device suitable for my application, it needs to be very compact and very simple, preferably something with one inport and one outport, and preferably something that works with a 1/8" phone jack.

    But thanks for at least telling me that there is such a device and what it's called. :smile:

  4. jg49

    jg49 Well-Known Member

    There are many to choose from this happened to the first one priced low to high I thought might fit your needs. It would require 1/8 to 1/4 input output conversion but this a rather simple matter. You say you are using a condenser mic, does it have its own power supply? Battery, wall wart (transformer)? As long as the mic is not recieving its power through the audio cabling you simply insert the compressor between the mic and the computer. The real trick is going to be learning how to set it, which is an art in and of itself. The unit I listed has some presets which generally I wouldn't recommend but might be helpful in your situation. You should research whether this product is truly appropriate for your application because this recommendation comes with no experience in your particular needs and usage.

    PreSonus COMP 16 | Sweetwater.com
  5. earpain

    earpain Active Member

    I think I'm going to give it a try. Something has to work.

    Do you know of any smaller, less conspicuous ones, maybe even something that's battery powered? And what are XLR and TRS inputs and outputs? Oh, wait. that must be the conversion you were talking about. Radio Shack has those, maybe?

    The hi-gain mic I use is battery-powered. Uses a watch battery kind of thing.

    Thanks for your help. I realize this forum must be professional musicians or sound engineers. My initial post here was just a shot in the dark.
  6. jg49

    jg49 Well-Known Member

    It would probably be best to go into a Guitar Center or a major music store to ensure compatibility, get the right cords and maybe a little help with the process of adjusting whatever it is you decide to buy. Radio Shaft will have the cable conversions you would need but not the equipment nor expertise to help you.
  7. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Don't use a compressor for this task - it will pump up the background noise during natural pauses in the delivery. Instead use the manual gain control on your "USB converter". Look at the waveform on the computer screen while the speaker reads a test piece in which (s)he would use a loud voice. Adjust the gain control until the peaks of the waveform occupy only about half the available height of the waveform display. Once you have the recording captured without overload, you can apply compression and other effects in your software.
  8. earpain

    earpain Active Member

    "Don't use a compressor for this task - it will pump up the background noise during natural pauses in the delivery."

    You know, I've heard that effect before in a videographer's work but didn't know what to make of it or why I was hearing it. So what I need, then, is a limiter only. Getting some education here. Hmmm . . .

    But does anyone make a small, compact, tiny-as-possible, fit-in-line limiter? Or can it be done with software by intercepting the sound before relaying it on to the software that writes it to the hard disk? I have a feeling I'm on Mission Impossible here. Or am I looking for a holy grail? It is said that the holy grail never really existed, you know.
  9. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Most of the Edirol recorders (R4, R4 Pro, R44) and the Tascam HD-P2 and the Marantz PMD671 have built in limiters. Possibly the Sound Devices field recorders do as well. All of these are able to link to a computer via USB transfer for editing the audio waveforms at a later date. If it were me I'd be looking at that route instead of trying to record directly to a computer sound card. Throw in a proper mic and you have it made.

    You are essentially trying to do the job of a screwdriver with a hammer.
  10. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    earpain - A limiter in your recording chain is a good safety net - it's better to hear the limiter in action that to hear overload - but you can't delegate the responsibility of getting your levels correct to a machine and expect to get good results. If you were upgrading to a pro VO setup with a vocal channel strip from UA, API or one of the other top makes, you would automatically use some light compression and maybe limiting in your input chain, but you don't have to spend the sort of money involved with those in order to make your existing rig work better for you.

    Put some engineering art into your projects by getting the recording levels right for each and every VO talent, and you will be surprised at how much better and more consistent the results are.
  11. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Your setup is super simple. In a different situation because of the extreme differences you are experiencing, the background noise becomes a huge factor. There are some devices available that can help reduce the background noise buildup. These are essentially inverted compressors that lower volume below a set threshold. Then there are also the old-fashioned Berwyn & DBX style floating filter noise reducers. These essentially adjusts high frequency response with regard to the signal. They can follow the compressor/limiter to help reduce the background build up. Both this and probably too complex for your application? It's not easy to mike up a crowd. You have your work cut out, cut down, cut up for yourself.

    Noisy broad, turn me down.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  12. luces777

    luces777 Guest

    hello everyone i'm getting a soundcraft ghost 32 channel and i wanted to record into a alesis 24 channel hard disk recorder how would this work? do i just need 1/4 and XLR cables and that it?
    what if instead of a alesis i get a tascam 48 track hard disk recorder what would i have have in order to record from the soundcraft to the harddiskrecorder? what cables or patch? or crads?
  13. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Check out the manuals. They are available for download for all of the equipment you've asked about. The Alesis input/output is either 1/4" TRS jackfield or ADAT optical (3 sets of eight). If I remember correctly, the Ghost will have 1/4" TRS Direct Outs on each channel and subgroup. You'll have to check the manual to be sure. No idea on the Tascam.

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