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I have a small digital audio workstation (a Zoom MRS 1044) that I use for recording my acoustic pop songs for demos. I presently use stage mikes (Shure 57/58) and a cheap Sony electret condenser. I actually get a decent sound, but I'm thinking I could improve by getting an inexpensive condenser mike (under $150--after all, the rest of my system's pretty modest). My recording room is not immune from the sound of the occasional car honk or flushing toilet. The mikes I presently use don't pick up these sounds at all, which is a plus, but I'm looking for some of the sensitivity of a condenser, but not to the point of having a problem with peripheral noise. Any suggestions?


knightfly Tue, 09/03/2002 - 09:20

Wally, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but before you waste your money on a more sensitive mic you need to improve your space. If YOU can hear things you don't want on your recordings, so will a more sensitive mic.

If you're game, post back information on your space (size, construction, location, neighbors, etc) and we'll try to provide some useful ways of fixing first things first... Steve

anonymous Tue, 09/03/2002 - 16:43

This room is officially the second bedroom in our small house (which is actually one half of a side by side duplex). It has plaster walls and they do a decent job of blocking out sounds in the house. But the bathroom is very close, on the other side of the wall, and I cannot always prevent that from being used! We live on a street that has a fair amount of traffic and my ear hears the occasional car horn or peeling out teen. While this room is pretty much dedicated to my music, it does also need to become the guest room for the occasional overnight visitor, so I can't see doing any too serious permanent alterations. I did put homasote on the door and insulated the wall to the bathroom. Size is 12 x 9 with one door and one window. Thanks.

knightfly Wed, 09/04/2002 - 09:20

Hey Wally - plumbing can be the s***s, probably not much to be done there except timing - The window is probably your worst problem, followed fairly closely by the door - most people with similar situations tend to build inserts for windows that bring the window's sound-proofing level up to that of the rest of the walls. This can be done with a 2x4 frame, filled with R-11 insulation and enclosed on both sides with at least one layer (two, preferably, at least on one side) of 1/2" or 5/8" sheet rock. For best sealing, you can use foam weatherstripping tape, preferably in two places. If you build an insert, the most effective way is to make it thick enough so that the innermost layer of wallboard can overlap the window molding with the outside layer still touching the window. Then you can put a continuous strip of weatherstripping where the outside layer contacts the perimeter of the window, and another continuous strip where it will contact the inside window molding. This gives two sealing surfaces and still allows the insert to be removed for guest room use, etc.

Remember, soundproofing only works if the construction is airtight.

Odds are that the door to your room is a hollow core door - if so, you can improve on sound transmission thru the door by replacing it with a solid core exterior door. These are normally 1-3/4" thick instead of 1-3/8", so will require new hinges. If you're renting, you could still do this - just save the other door and hardware for when you move, and swap them back. You could use more of the weatherstripping, applied to the door so that when the door is shut the stripping is compressed slightly. The bottom is the tricky part - if renting, you'll probably have to settle for a weatherstripped 2x4 laid up against the door crack when actually recording. Otherwise, an exterior doorsill, filled with silicone caulk before installation, with a neoprene seal on the bottom of the door works pretty well.

Depending on the degree of quiet you need, you may only want to do the window. That should be first in any case, since it is usually the worst offender. The inside of the house should attenuate some of the outside noise before it gets to the door, but the window is a direct shot and offers almost no resistance to sound travel at all.

The downside of all this is that once you make the room quieter, you'll have no excuse (poor boy) for not wanting that more sensitive mic... Steve

anonymous Wed, 09/11/2002 - 03:38

Wally - I agree that the room improvements are a great idea, but you can get a better sound with what you have if you get a better mic preamp. I also have the Zoom, and the preamps in it are passable, at best. Even with the Shure mics, an Audio Buddy (

Even when you do decide to purchase a condenser you're going to want a new preamp, so might as well start with that first and use it for what you presently have. .

anonymous Thu, 09/12/2002 - 02:46

Thanks for the info so far. So far no one's telling me to rush into getting a condenser mike! Room improvements are very good suggestions and are quite doable. Thank you. MikeyC--about the Audio Buddy. Is this the "Midiman Audio Buddy" (I couldn't find just "audio buddy" but found the "midiman audio buddy" at Musician's Friend)? Even though I've heard about the benefits of separate mike preamps I never would have thought of it--I appreciate your input on that since you have experience with the Zoom. Speaking of other preamps, do you know anything of the Art Tube preamp (intrigues me because I've heard it can be very good for acoustic guitar and would give me that function as well)? Thank you.

anonymous Thu, 09/12/2002 - 03:38

Wally - The Audio Buddy I believe is marketed as both Midiman and M-Audio (same company). I've seen tons of reviews on it, and never seen a negative comment. I use the M-Audio DMP-3 which is the next step up from the Audio Buddy. It runs about $175-200. It gives you a few more functions and the specs are a little better, but it's also more than double the price. I had the money to spend, so did. But if I was on a tight budget, I certainly wouldn't have had a problem going with the Audio Buddy.

Reviews on all the ART pre-amps are mixed. I haven't owned one, but some people love them, and some hate them. Best if you make up your own mind on this one. The Audio Buddy is much cleaner, where the ARTs have more of a colored sound. It's up to you to decide what you need. With the Zoom, I want everything to go in as clean as possible, then add the effects and any coloration I need. That's just my preference though.

There are a ton of other preamps to consider, but if your'e going to spend more than $100, I'd do a lot more research first. Check all the boards out there and see what others are using. Some pre's have built in EQ, compressors, etc. You need to decide what it is you need. Don't listen to salesmen or most magazine reviews. Find out what actual users say about the equipment.

My DMP-3 (like the Audio Buddy) is very nice on acoustic guitar, both direct and through a mic. I have a Seagull S6 with the micro EQ and it sounds great going direct. If you can't go direct, and need to use a mic, the preamp will improve the sound of the SM-57, but I would then start to consider getting the condenser, but now you're back to the room issues.

One last observation. A few weeks ago, just messing around, we plugged an inexpensive electric (Yamaha Pacifica 112) directly into my preamp and into the Zoom. No effects, inserts, or anything, just guitar-preamp-Zoom. This was by far the best clean tone I ever recorded! The cool thing is, with the Zoom, you can then go back and add the guitar inserts and go from clean, to overdriven, to distorted, to...whatever!


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