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Shure SM-57 Recording Volume Issues

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Shisho, Apr 8, 2012.

  1. Shisho

    Shisho Active Member

    Hello hello. I'm a home recording newb, and just getting started. I was hoping to learn many things over the years as things went along, but I've run into a brick wall already. A problem I just haven't been able to resolve, or find a satisfactory answer too. So I just want to pitch this out there for whoever may be able to help, or at least get me pointed at the right resources. I've read through a lot of threads and did many searches. Maybe it's my lacking terminology keeping me from finding what I'm trying to find.

    Basically, I just recently got a Shure SM-57 Dynamic microphone with the hopes of being able to record some acoustic guitar, and have a versatile mic I could use for other things like recording electric through my amp, etc. I knew it wasn't going to be a plug in and wallah, magic happens, kind of thing, but I'm having real problems with volume/gain/level. (Not sure which term really applies.)

    I'm using a M-Audio FireWire Solo interface with the XLR jack on the front, and have a monitor headset as well. It sounds good in the monitor but in any of my recording software the guitar recording itself sounds too soft and quiet. And that's with the gain knob at max for the XLR jack on the interface panel. I've tried dozens of different microphone positions around the neck and soundhole, at varying distances of an inch, a few inches, a foot, a few feet, etc. The loudest sound I can get out of it is still quiet, and it can't really be amplified by the software amp effects without the waveform clipping at the peaks.

    The audio sounds good, the waveform looks ok, but sounds really really quiet. I also tried putting it through my amp, and turning that up loud. I even made the recording clip, but again it sounds quiet, but obviously scratchy from the clipping.

    Things that I wonder are:

    1) Is there something wrong with this microphone? (Also should the tip of it spin? Or should that be secure and nonmoving? Maybe broken?)
    2) Is my audio interface malfunctioning? It doesn't have many settings in it's mixing panel on my PC, so I can't think of any settings that could be changed. The volume spikes hardly move at all, so it's never near clipping.
    3) Is there a problem with the XLR cable?
    4) How do I confirm any of this? I really have no budget atm. =(
    5) Is there something about recording settings that I have to set up in whatever DAW. I used Audacity for quick testing, and use Edison in FL Studio. The results are the same.
    6) Is this how it's supposed to sound, and I have to use some kind of more intermediate/advanced mixing and mastering techniques to get it to the desired levels without creating clipping?
    7) I read some things about Dynamics being more quiet than Condensers, but I've heard recordings of acoustic guitars with this same mic, and they have many times the volume. Plus it's about the same result with anything I try to record.

    I've tried lots of things, and I'm at the limit of my experience level. Very stumped, because there isn't really any notion of what to do next, or what kind of troubleshooting I can do from here.

    Any advice, help, or resources would be great. Thanks. ^_^
     
  2. sachit

    sachit Active Member

    As a general rule, there is nothing very wrong with a quiet recording if the noise floor is proportionately low too. As long as you're recording the right input, there is no clipping, you don't hear any noise with the signal and you like the way it sounds the recordings are okay. In fact increasing the amplitude of a signal is one of the easiest things to do in the digital domain. Most probably your software will have a simple utility plugin that does just that: increase the volume/gain/amplitude of the signal. Use that to push up the level. There are no advanced techniques required as long as the peak level is low as well.

    However, make sure that you are monitoring at an adequate level before you jump to a conclusion. Simple test: play a well-known studio mastered song through your monitoring system and see if it sounds loud enough. If it isn't loud enough then raise the monitoring volume until it is. Then go back to your recording. If you still find it too soft, then you know that the recording was indeed quiet. And another thing to consider is that the loudness of a recording generally increases as the project advances to the mixing and mastering stages, so you can easily get away with a slightly soft recording.

    It would also help if you check what the recording level actually is. The numbers. Use an analyzer plugin and note down the peak and RMS levels of the recording. If the levels are anywhere between 0 dBFS and -25 dBFS or whereabouts, you should generally be in the clear(not a rule though, just a generalization).

    Also, while I'm no pro and I don't own a 57 (YET :cool:), I'd like to point out that many people find that the SM57 requires a lot of gain. I've read that people push the mic preamp as much as 55 to 60 dB to reach a subjectively suitable recording level. And if your audio interface preamp cannot provide that much gain(many entry level interfaces are gain-crippled when it comes to their preamps...) then you will have to use this level.
     
  3. Shisho

    Shisho Active Member

    Thanks sachit. I will definitely do some research into the dBFS suggestion. The software amplification of the signal causes clipping with very easily. The peaks seem to be close to clipping as is, but the sound still faint.

    I think though the suggestion for 55-60 dB preamp might be the problem. I just looked into the M-Audio manual, and it says the XLR gain knob boosts from 0dB to +40dB (or greater* Which I assume is like a slight + or -). Are there any good solutions for this?
     
  4. sachit

    sachit Active Member

    If software amplification causes clipping, then you've got a very dynamic signal(a lot of difference between the quietest and loudest parts of the signal). Try checking the levels, like I said. Numbers always help.

    I think you need a compressor plugin here, if the peaks clip easily and it's still too quiet. Though if the peaks are somewhere near clipping then it shouldn't be all that loud. Still, a compressor always helps.

    [If you don't know how to use a compressor plugin, there are many articles on the web about them and quite a few excellent threads here too. A good example is this thread. http://recording.org/threads/yet-another-question-about-compression.23724/
     
  5. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    The software will not cause clipping if it is adjusted properly. This is true of any software. When you tell the program to "normalize" the audio you also tell it the target max for the peaks. In most cases as a beginner you should start with -6dB. After you have a song completed and mixed down to a stereo track, at that time you can normalize again the final stereo version to -1dB.

    The primary mistake most beginners make is to push volume up. The primary means of balancing multiple tracks is as much pulling down. You only make it ugly.....er louder....when you are done.
     
  6. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    ALSO:
    There is nothing wrong with the 57- that plastic cap on it spins. In the Western Hemisphere it turns clockwise, in the Eastern hemisphere, it spins counter-clockwise...
     
  7. Jenson

    Jenson Active Member

    Hmmm. 'Interesting. Wouldn't that be Northern and Southern hemispheres? 'Gonna' have to buy a '57 and check that out.thumb
     
  8. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    Yeah, gonna have to do that! East vs West, North vs, South, it's all relative to where you're standing. I remember hearing a salesman in a music store tell someone that the rotation of that cap would adjust the sensitivity of the mic. That dumbass looked all over for the calibration marks.... :)
     
  9. sachit

    sachit Active Member

    Ahh, is that how they get the phasey effect? :confused: :wink:
     

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