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The Downside To Great Preamps And Converters

Since my recent acquisition of some very good Preamps and a definitive and noticeable step up in conversion quality, I've run into the "downside" of using these...
It really brings to the forefront the weak links in the recording chain - in my case, it's been painfully obvious to me that the overall tone of my acoustic guitar sucks.
I only have one acoustic, a Wasburn cutaway acoustic/electric. I bought it in 2006 to use primarily for my live solo act; my thinking at that time was that I didn't want to spend big money on a guitar that was gonna be used for playing taverns, patios and clubs, I just didn't see the point in risking a nice guitar by placing it in typical gig environments. I think I paid $250 for it, brand new. As a live use guitar, it has served me well. It now bears the battle scars of 12 years worth of gigging, in all kinds of conditions, weather, falls off stands, dings from, well, from whatever dinged it. Lol.
But for recording? It's not cutting it. Neither James Taylor or Paul Simon need to lose any sleep about me rivaling their tone.
Of course the guitar has sounded this poor all along on tracks I've been using it for for over a decade, but this recent improvement in preamp and conversion quality has made it very noticeable. On one hand, having greater truth sonically is wonderful. On the other, sometimes the truth hurts LOL. ;)

@audiokid - Chris... Did you ever make a move on getting a new acoustic? If so, what did you end up getting, and how does it sound for recording? I'm just curious. There's no way I'm gonna be able to buy a nicer guitar anytime soon. There are other things that take priority first, the most important thing being a computer upgrade. But I like hearing from my friends regarding what instruments they are using, and committing that info to memory for future reference. :)
-d.

Comments

Tony Carpenter Wed, 02/07/2018 - 06:50

Eww a washburn LOL. Sorry Donny, yes, source material gets real very fast when you can really hear it!!. I'm lucky that even my cheapy martin, travel guitar, probably beats that washburn. Really, for a decent acoustic sound, you don't need to spend a whole lot of money, anything north of 1k with a good pedigree, second hand, and your golden. Depends on personal playing style tastes for size / type and strings of course, as you know.

Oh, and, love the sound of my 2002 414ce ltd Taylor on recordings.

Tony

kmetal Wed, 02/07/2018 - 08:06

Makzimia, post: 455681, member: 48344 wrote: Eww a washburn LOL. Sorry Donny, yes, source material gets real very fast when you can really hear it!!. I'm lucky that even my cheapy martin, travel guitar, probably beats that washburn. Really, for a decent acoustic sound, you don't need to spend a whole lot of money, anything north of 1k with a good pedigree, second hand, and your golden. Depends on personal playing style tastes for size / type and strings of course, as you know.

Oh, and, love the sound of my 2002 414ce ltd Taylor on recordings.

Tony

You surely jest about that back-packer Tony, right? Those sound nothing better than a kids toy, at best, and frankly, dont play a whole lot better. in fairness their suppposed to be 'better than nothing', and martin took that literally. Nuno Benttencourt, Dimebag Darrel, and Paul Stanley, all play Wasburn. They're by and large decent guitars for the price.

In general, the sound of modern pop acoustic is a Taylor. Bright, thin, defined string sound, part of a dense mix. if thats what you do, then a taylor is probably the way to go. The fuller, Martin sound lends itself well to a larger variety of roles. Yamaha is a great, great choice, for an all around acoustic guitar. They play excellent, record well, and have good electronics for live use, as well as being reasonably priced. @5-700 brand new, these guitars smoke the competition, and stand on they're own against guitars of any price, especially on the playability side of things. they have a sound more on the Taylor side of things, but in general a nice well rounded sound. i highly recommend you try a couple yammys D. ive had good experience tracking and mixing a former clients Yamaha, dozens of times. The top of the line Martin from 2014, was the best sounding acoustic ive ever played, i forget the model.

Takamine is another good, high value guitar, with a decent price tag.

Based on the title, I thought this thread was going to be an acoustics related issue, ie your stuff picking up undesirable room tones you hear more clearly now. Is that coming into play at all?

DonnyThompson Wed, 02/07/2018 - 10:03

kmetal, post: 455683, member: 37533 wrote: your stuff picking up undesirable room tones you hear more clearly now. Is that coming into play at all?

No, I'm all good there. My room sounds really good, I'm as happy as a pig in poop with vocal recordings, and even recording other instruments. A buddy of mine was here yesterday and he had a mid level Yamaha acoustic that I thought recorded great.
I think it's all coming down to the recent improvement in conversion quality, and that I'm hearing things more honestly, without any "smear".
It's definitely my guitar...and I have no right to bitch about it, either. I bought it 12 years ago primarily for live use, and it has served me very well in that capacity. No complaints there at all.
I have to keep my expectations reigned in in terms of its sound for tracking. I'm just expecting too much out of it. I always knew it was never a "great" guitar for recording....I just didn't know to what extent it was failing until my conversion became more accurate. ;)

pcrecord Wed, 02/07/2018 - 11:32

DonnyThompson, post: 455680, member: 46114 wrote: @audiokid - Chris... Did you ever make a move on getting a new acoustic?

I think it was a taylor : https://recording.org/threads/acoustic-guitars-for-recording.59302/page-7

Donny I feel for you, being in the same position. When you get a better picture of your instruments you clearly hear their sounds and not the cloud of the gear used.
It feels like looking at the girl you brought home after you drank too much !! ;)
One thing tho. Maybe you could do better recordings with clever mic placement. Changing the string gage to a bigger one, helped my Taggerwood guitar alot. Elixir strings too..

I have a to buy list with a guitar on it for a while... Da..m ears, we would be better if not so well trained...

dvdhawk Fri, 02/09/2018 - 18:19

After listening to the sample you sent me, I'm not hearing anything horrendous. It's a little bit thin sounding and I'm sure it could be recorded a little better, but it's not terrible by any means. Mic position and angle is a game where 1/2" and a couple degrees makes a big difference, and like we talked about earlier, strings and low humidity could account for a little loss of tone. After your description I was expecting something truly awful. I've heard that guitar up close and personal and it sounds perfectly fine.

DonnyThompson Sat, 02/10/2018 - 03:18

@dvdhawk

Hahaha...I just had a funny vision pop into my head:
Donny: "how does the acoustic sound, Dave?"
Dave: "well, it's not horrendous."
Donny: "awesome! We'll keep that one then!"

Hahaha...sorry bro, for whatever reason, the thought of that dialogue happening in a session scenario just hit my funny spot. ;)

dvdhawk Sat, 02/10/2018 - 16:00

@DonnyThompson

Dave: "Let's take another one, Donny."
Donny: "Was that one better?"
Dave: "Yep, It's getting a little less atrocious every time. That one barely sucked at all... Take #97"

In all seriousness though, you had me expecting a lot worse than what it really was. As I'm sure you know it's not always the results that will kill you, sometimes it's the expectations that will do you in.

Davedog Sun, 02/11/2018 - 13:04

Makzimia, post: 455681, member: 48344 wrote: Oh, and, love the sound of my 2002 414ce ltd Taylor on recordings.

My primary recording acoustic. The most 'level' of all I've had through here. I have a 71 Gibson J50 that sounds really good too. The "best" I've heard is a Collings that a friend has. It makes your mouth dry to hear that thing!

DonnyThompson Sun, 02/11/2018 - 23:25

Update :
I changed strings yesterday to a heavier gauge, went from 12's to 13/56.
It sounds MUCH better. The previous lighter gauge I had on the guitar were still good strings, they'd only been on a few weeks... And for live work I still prefer a lighter gauge because I find them a lot easier to play, but for recording, they weren't cutting it for me; the guitar tone was thin, and lacking a rich tone. The guitar still is what it is....a Washburn cutaway acoustic/electric, so I'm not expecting the tone that an expensive guitar would offer, but the difference after the string change was huge.
I'm having to do very little EQ sculpting to get a tone I'm happy with.
Signal chain is the same: AKG 414EB @ 12-14th frets, from about 9" away/ISA One Pre with 110 Impedence, 75hz HPF/Apogee, (converter only input) ...Other than backing off the input level by about 3db, I made no changes from the first recording with the lighter strings to the most recent test with the heavier strings.
I'm gonna shoot for a keeper take later today. I'll post a sample after. ;)

x

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