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Simple recording setup (suggestions wanted)

Discussion in 'Recording' started by anitract, Jan 24, 2005.

  1. anitract

    anitract Guest

    I have been lurking the forums trying to figure out (to no avail) what hardware would be suitable for a very simple recording project.

    I only need to record vocals, piano (from a high-end KORG), and possibly mic'd accoustic guitar. All tracks will be recorded one-at-a-time. Also, I will be using a PC (edit: w/ Audacity) to do this.

    I have a very low budget. The max I would be willing to spend is $500. I would prefer $400 though.

    1. An all around good mic. This will be used primarily for vocals. I'd like it to have a nice warm/rich sound with solid mid and upper ranges. I will be recording a female voice the most.

    2. Preamp? (Here is where my lack of knowledge shines. I am assuming I need a preamp to put the Mic and keyboard through?) I would like something simple, but quality.

    3. Sound card. Again, simplicity is key here since a mic and direct keyboard input will be all that is needed. I just want to have good sound capturing / reproduction.

    That's it. If you can help me, great! Otherwise, back to researching I go...
  2. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Hi anitract, welcome to RO! Thank you for writing a perfectly well planned and presented question; this is a rarity from people who are starting out.

    For this response, I assumed that you already have an audio recording program. If you don;t, you can always use the free and totally decent program Audacity. I also assumed that you don;t want to become a full blown recording engineer; rather, you just want to record some songs.

    My opinion is that you should spend as little as possible on the audio interface and preamp and as much as possible on the microphone. The microphone is next in line, after source and room acoustics, in the heirarchy of sound quality. Since you need to keep the cost down in the interface/preamp department, I believe you should combine these two things into one device. There's ony one good choice here that keeps things simple, cheap, and respectably high quality - the . $150 and your interface and pres are taken care of. I don't think you can get away any cheaper.

    OK, so we have $350 to spen on mics. What? No cables, stands, etc? Fine. $300. Now this is the hard part. There's no inexpensive mic I know of that will record both vocal and acoustic guitar as well as teh Audio Technica 4033, but these (the new 4033/CL) are $400 new. Perhaps yopu could find a used original 4033 for $300 or less. The Studio Projects B1 might be able to do something remotely similar in a pinch, and they are only $100. Teh problem is that acoustic guitars like small diaphragm mics and vocals like large. Also, acoustic guitars like to be recorded in stereo ( i.e., two mics). There are a couple good cheap small diaphragm condensers out there like the Studio Projects C4, but a pair of those would put you over the budget. Also, one small diaphragm mic and one large would probably put you over the budget. You could always go REALLY cheap and buy some Behringer-like crap, but I would'nt if I were you. You will hate them and you will want to buy more mics. You know what they say, buy cheap, buy twice. If I were you, I would porobably spend the $300 on a good large diaphragm vocal condenser, use it on guitar, and save up until I can afford a pair of small diaphragm condensers.

    Perhaps someone else who knows budget mics better than I do will be able to come up with another idea. Best of luck.
  3. anitract

    anitract Guest


    Thanks for the quick response. I really appreciate it, as I was getting discouraged with the hundreds of choices out there. :)

    For software, yea, I was actually planning on using Audacity since I have followed its development in the Open Source world for quite a while now. I have some other programs if I need to get more advanced.

    A lot of the hardware you've suggested sounds good and I know I've run into it browsing the boards here. Let's see....the mic & guitar thing...well, I know I will not be using a guitar for a while, so I like your idea of a high quality vocal condenser. I think you've led me to the correct path there.

    Thanks again. Anyone else please feel free to chime in.


    edit: blasted type-o's!
  4. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    A pair of B1's would do it ... I have one here and it sounds good on both vocals and acoustic guitar ...

    Another mic I have found recently is the Kel Audio HM-1 ... it's a mini side address condenser, 5" tall and 2" wide, that sells for $100 list. The digaphram is 1/2"/ 3 micron, vapor deposited diaphragm. It's a true pressure gradient condenser with a freq. response of 30Hz-20kHz and very close to flat.

    I did some vocal tracks with it next to my U87ai through 9098 pres and LA4 comps and in the mix it was hard to tell the difference. I haven't tried it on acoustic guitar yet but it is great on guitar amps, to smooth out the crackels, and it's waaayy cute .... a little five inch tall mini mic!
  5. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    So those KELs are alright, huh Kurt? I'd love to hear some demos sometime.
  6. anitract

    anitract Guest

    Any reason in particular you guys are recommending pairs of mics instead of just one?

    Is it because of what David mentioned about recording guitar in stereo?

    Just trying not to confuse myself here... :D
  7. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Yes. Acoustic guitars and many other instruments love to be recorded in stereo. The sound is much more exciting than the typical one mic-12th fret approach. Also there's several different techniques you can do with two mics to get a large array of tones and stereo widths.
  8. anitract

    anitract Guest

    Studio Projects C1?

    That make's sense...sounds like there are a lot of possibilities for 2 mics w/ instrumentation.

    On an unrelated note, I've got 2 questions:

    1. In terms of recording mics for vocals only (let's forget about guitar for now), how does the Studio Projects C1 Condenser mic (LINK) compare to the mentioned mics? The price is right, and I've heard good things about it...

    2. While reading reviews on the M-Audio Mobile Pre USB on google last night I came accross one fellow who said that the unit doesn't work so well with condenser mics (more specifically it made his HQ mic sound like a kazoo)...I can't find the link now (of course), but is there any weight to this? I haven't read anything else on problems w/ the unit and condenser mics...
  9. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    1. There are quite a few decent budget mics out there for vocals, and the C1 is definitely among them. It is a pleasantly colored mic with a nice top end. The R0DE NT1000 is also a nice mic, more on the accurate side IMO, still adds a bit of top. AT4033, 4040 are also good choices. I could go on, and others i'm sure will have some input for you, but the main issue is that there isn't one mic that will sound right on everything. What kind of vocalist will you be recording? Male? Female? Rich? Nasal? Low? High? Breathy? Strong? Let us know and perhaps we can try to predict the right mic for you. The best option is of course to audition every mic that you might buy, but that isn't always possible.

    2. I have used an Omni I/O, and the pres were acceptable and gave me no problem with condenser mics. I've never used a mobile pre, but I expect it to be highly similar to the Omni I/O. I've never heard of this problem.
  10. anitract

    anitract Guest

    The vocalist is female with a pretty full range (though I would say mid- to upper-mid range is primarily used). Her vocal quality is what I would call "pure"...there is little vibrato used and no nasal or airiness to it. Tone is a pleasant light/rich sound overall.
  11. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    OK, for female vocals as you describe, i'd go with Shure KSM27, R0DE NT1000, or Audio Technica AT4040. Wait for other opinions.
  12. maintiger

    maintiger Well-Known Member

    I recorded a female vocalist with a mid range with a rode k2 the other day with great results.
    I usually record her with my RCA D77 ribbon for that rich sound but my D77 is under the wheather and the results were just as good

    You can get the K2's for about $550+ on ebay
    and your local GC will match a valid bid. I bough a second K2 last week from them for $550 + tx after bringing in a bid...
  13. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Max price here is about $300, though.
  14. James_Pierce

    James_Pierce Guest

    Rode NT1-A would be a good choice.
  15. anitract

    anitract Guest

    Narrowing it down

    Thanks for all of the help guys. I feel like I have this all narrowed down to a much more managable level and am about to make my decission. If you'll humor the never-ending flow of questions for a moment, I do have a couple more to throw out there (and David, if you are following this still I would very much love to hear your input specifically):

    1. Mics. Right now 3 mics appeal to me the most in the following order: the Studio Projects C1, the Shure KSM27, and the R0DE NT1000. Now, I know this is very subjective, but in terms of the female voice I mentioned I am wondering how much better the KSM27 or NT1000 would be than the C1? I ask mainly because they are ~$100 more than the C1...if the increase in quality were enough though I would def. consider a little extra.

    2. Preamp/Soundcard combo. Are there any other combo units out there comparible to the M-Audio Mobile Pre USB that I should consider? I would be willing to spend a little more here as well if needed.

    3. Standalone preamps. I'm curious...how much would a good standalone preamp cost?
  16. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    1. IMO, none are better, just different. If you want to try and save money, perhaps you should go with the C1. Make sure you buy from a store with a good return policy so that if it's not right for your singer you can return it.

    2. There are several others that are pretty nice, including the Echo Gina 3G and the M-Audio Omni Studio, but they are a bit more expensive. I don't know of anotehr product that will be as inexpensive and still give you everything you need other than the MobilePre. It seems there's a small void in the market.

    3. Honestly, this is the best way to go, but it requires a good deal more cash since you will now need things like a headphone amp and possibly some kind of mixer. This route opens up a lot of options for soundcards now including some nice offerings from E-Mu and others. I am not an expert on cheap but good pres. I know some models, but I can't tell you exatcly the least ammount of money you;d need to spend to get a pre that is clearly better than the onboard res of something like the Echo 3G or whatever. Groove Tubes makes a pre called The Brick which is supposed to be quite good for $400, but it's only one channel. Perhaps a Studio Projects pre would do it, but I can't say for lack of experience. A Sytek MPX-4a will certainly do it, but that's four channels and at least $700 used. I think you shoudl get otehr opinions on this matter.
  17. anitract

    anitract Guest


    Sounds like on Mics I will be okay then.

    The preamp/breakoutbox stuff is the hardest part for me to determine right now. M-Audio's Mobile Pre USB still sounds like a great deal for the features it has, but I'm worried that I won't appreciate the results it gives me since the preamp is so important in the setup.

    Then again, I'm not going for super mega quality....then again, I am a perfectionist by nature...

    The Echo Gina 3G is something that I have my eye on (depending how much I ultimately spend on other equipment)...it's kinda hard determining whether the extra $150 it costs would be worth it in terms of sound quality though.


  18. David French

    David French Well-Known Member

    Remember the heirarchy of quality... source, acoustics, mic, pre, other stuff. How are your acoustics anyway?
  19. anitract

    anitract Guest

    Acoustics...I was hoping you wouldn't bring that up. haha....well, I'm looking into cheap methods of making a room "recording friendly", but haven't found any solutions I really like that look cheap enough and don't require a lot of drilling, etc.

    The room I want to use for the recording is a smallish (maybe 11x12 ft.) corner room in the basement of my house. The problem though is that it has exposed white brick walls and utility carpet. So...yeah....

    I guess a plus is that it is very quite in the basement...

    I'd sure take any suggestions if anyone has any, of course.
  20. bassplayer60

    bassplayer60 Guest

    Kurt....I'm enjoying this thread! Thanks to all.

    In regards to your post...what's a "B1"?

    And where can I find out more about this Kel Audio H1 ??

    Thanks to all


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