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Microphone/preamp upgrade questions.

Hi guys,
Here's a gear question: Is a RODE NT2A a big step up from an AUDIO TECHNICA AT2020 as far as sound quality? If I want to track in stereo, does a pair of mics aimed toward that end such as the AKG perception 107s work better than if I simply buy a second AT2020 (that is mostly for stereo acoustic guitar and drum ohs) ? How can I figure out if the mic preamps that I'm using are too cheap for my mics or vice-versa? What pays off more in the long run: upgrading the mic preamps/interface, upgrading to a better sounding mic, or upgrading to a more versatile mic?
I can track on 6 simultaneous channels and I probably won't be recording an entire live band anytime soon.
Thanks,
João

Comments

audiokid Sat, 06/17/2017 - 22:12

Everything sucks if your ADC sucks because that is what passes the truth to your HD. But if your preamps suck, then your converters will not matter as much. An average mic will sound excellent through a great preamp and crappier through a poor preamp. If your converters suck, nothing high end matters. All three are equally important. Its a process of knowing you need all three and which one to do first.

Edit: A good preamp to me starts around $700USD and upwards into many thousand.A good preamp is a wise step.

imho

pcrecord Sun, 06/18/2017 - 05:05

JoaoSpin, post: 451013, member: 41554 wrote: Is a RODE NT2A a big step up from an AUDIO TECHNICA AT2020 as far as sound quality?

Yes it is a step up. The 2020 is harsh on the high frequencies. But it doesn't make the NT2A the best choice.

I agree with Chris, the preamps and converters are a big part of a good sound and I my add the room, the instrument and the player too.
If you have an untreated room, a large diaphragm condenser will grab it far more than a small condenser (pen style) and a dynamic far less too.
So going with good preamps and converter is a wise choice, because it will tell the thruth about the rest of you setup and help you grow toward the right tools.
Well that's my humble idea anyway ;)

JoaoSpin Sun, 06/18/2017 - 16:50

pcrecord, post: 451017, member: 46460 wrote: Yes it is a step up. The 2020 is harsh on the high frequencies. But it doesn't make the NT2A the best choice.

Hi pcrecord. I totally agree... I feel that high-end harshness. What makes you say the RODE is not the best choice? What would you recommend in that price range?
Thanks!
João

pcrecord Sun, 06/18/2017 - 17:16

JoaoSpin, post: 451020, member: 41554 wrote: What makes you say the RODE is not the best choice?

Like I tried to say, it all depends on what else is part of the sound. If you have a poor sounding room, a large condenser will grab every bit of what's make it sound bad.
A small conderser (pen like) may be a better choice. But thing is, to give a good advice we need to know the whole picture.
How's your room, what instrument(s) are you using (a small or big body makes a lot of difference in the sound), the preamp the converter (if seperate) what kind of music and how busy will be the instrumentation.
A thin sound may work better in a busy mix but it won't on an intimate guitar vocal mix.

In studio we need to assess all that is giving to us, guess or test how it's gonna work in the recording environement as well as in the song and choose accordingly.
Having many choices at our disposal is critical when you don't know what's coming to you next.

You see that 2020 maybe ok if you put it pointing below the bridge where there is less high frequencies.
If you want to post a sample and say what you don't like.. that could be very revealing.

JoaoSpin Sun, 06/18/2017 - 19:34

For the moment I want to record an acoustic album. That is, producing for myself. I've been toying with the idea of the pencil pair to get a stereo guitar sound, just guitar+vocals. I'm even thinking of doing the whole thing live, and now I'm looking into using phase cancellation to track guitar and vocals simultaneously. I don't have any fancy converters or external preamps. I just recently got a TASCAM DR-680 and am happy with the sound quality... to me it makes the 2020 the weak link in the chain now. I agree that the 2020 is totally manageable on acoustic guitar, but I feel it makes the vocals sound a bit cheap... I'm looking for a little extra warmth without breaking the bank, and maybe being able to change polar patterns if need be, that's why I thought of the RODE. I'm currently pretty satisfied with my instrument. It's an old Del Vecchio (Brazilian make) with a very firm attack and a lot of tone. I really don't have any formal type of acoustic treatment just yet, I just try to find a spot where it sounds good and start recording from there... I also hang up blankets on walls and windows and track in the living room as opposed to bedroom which is acoustically very crammy. Anyway, I still don't know how the stereo pencil recording differs from large diaphram twelfth fret (which I'm used to), just started looking into this. I hope to do a good bit of research before I spend any money and then a bit more before hitting the red button. Thanks a lot for helping out.
Have a great week!
João

DonnyThompson Mon, 06/19/2017 - 03:30

Ultimately, your quality will only ever be as good as the weakest link in your signal chain.
A nice mic thru a low quality pre or converters will only ever sound as good as what the pre's or ADC are capable of delivering.
There are some lower priced mics that can sound really good if they are used with a good pre and conversion system - Shure's SM57/58 can sound very nice through a quality pre and converter ... but by and large, the "weakest link" rule stands.
The AT2020 is a mediocre mic. As Marco mentioned, it's brittle and peaky in the highs, harsh in the mids, and undefined and muddy in the lows. It's become popular with home studios only because it's very cheap for a condenser.
You'd probably be better off using an SM58 thru a nice pre and quality converter, and, again as PC has mentioned, a good dynamic like the SM series would be a better mic for you if you are in a room that is highly reflective, or that may have other acoustic anomalies.
Other dynamics that are very good (but a bit more expensive) would include the Shure SM7B, the EVRE20 ( or PL20) and the Sennheiser 409.
Marco (@pcrecord) has mentioned on other similar threads that when considering the purchase of a mic, your best course of action is to try different mics on your voice; as microphones sound different with different performers.
You might want to consider renting an hour or two of time at a pro studio... a place that has a nice collection of different mics that you can try out before you buy a Microphone simply on reputation.

FWIW

Davedog Tue, 06/20/2017 - 10:23

Doing it. Using what you have and learning the good and bad of each piece is the only way to learn. It sounds like you have reached a point with your mic choice that leads to a change there. There literally thousands of selections for this. I do want to spend a moment and steer your thinking about what you are looking to accomplish.

First and foremost lets discuss your thinking about "stereo micing". True "stereo" micing requires some rather stringent qualities in order to truly be "stereo". Two mics placed on a source without regard to these requirements becomes simply something called non-coincidental or spaced pair. This can be produced as a "stereo" pair when combined and your panning will be important to the captured sound to create the image of stereo that our ears naturally process, but it's not really a true stereo image in the pure sense. The spacing of these mics and the distance each one is from the source will also determine what part of the signal reaches which ear first....in a stereo perception....

A stereo signal in any configuration means the mics must be matched within an acceptable range of the mic's abilities to reproduce a signal, the mic pres need to be as close to the same as possible for the same purpose and the distances must be matched within a few MM's in achieve a stereo balance. And then there's the recording environment which will also come into play.

In short...with your set-up and with what you describe as your purpose, thinking in terms of "stereo" by adding a similar mic should be altered a bit. And you should spend time researching the techniques needed to achieve your goals of making your acoustic album. There is so much information to try out and learn from and in doing so, your questions about what gear to add and subtract will become a very clear path for you to follow. I like some of the tutorials from The Pro Audio Files site. They give decent info without overwhelming a person with the technical side of the engineering but still give enough of that that a person really interested would be able to pursue it from that point.

I read you synopsis on your path to your recordings and you are pointed in the right direction. Mic phasing between two or more placed on a source is the death for capturing quality sound recordings. Many people get to this point and continue to think there is something wrong with their equipment that they can't get past the sound they are getting and start chasing this with money and purchasing things instead of trying to understand it from a physics point of view. Hanging the blankets is a good start to knocking down your first order reflections in a live room. I suggest finding quilted blankets or packing blankets for furniture as there is a bit more in their construction that will help sonically. Used office partitions are another inexpensive and portable way to control a room. All office partitions have a sones rating. Some are reflective, some are absorptive. A couple of each will do a lot towards creating an environment where your mic placement efforts will be rewarded.

As for recording guitar and voice together, this is where understanding about a mic's pattern and what the "null" is all about in each piece. There WILL be bleed ...you cannot get rid of it...PERIOD. The thing to do is use it as an advantage . Create the sound that is pleasing and enhances to material you are playing. You can minimize it by choosing mics that have a very tight null. My best acoustic guitar/vocal performance recording have come from a SDC (small diaphram condenser) in tight on the guitar angled away from the vocalist and a dynamic mic like a Shure SM7/SM57 also angled to capture less of the instrument.

Good luck and let us know how you're doing.

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