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new equipment has me up a creek, please advise

I play piano and sing. My family recently gave me the Audio-Technica AT2041 Studio Mic Pack so I could record our acoustic upright in stereo sound (two mics are provided in this pack). They also gave me an M-Audio Fast Track Pro so I could record onto my computer. However, the Audio-Technica mics are dynamic, and I've read that dynamic mics aren't very effective for recording with the Fast Track. I also already have a Shure SM58 for vocals, which is also a dynamic mic.

Is it true that dynamic mics can't be used to their full potential with the Fast Track? I recorded some stuff yesterday, and in general the Shure did not seem loud enough ... which is, I think, a common complaint with the Shure-and-FastTrack combo. Also I had trouble getting the two Audio-Technica mics to work well with the piano, but in general, recording the piano was more successful. One of the Audio-Technica mics can be used for vocals, but I have not tried it in this manner yet. Would this be a better bet than the Shure, in terms of clarity/loudness, and compatibility with the Fast Track?

I am also wondering how the controls can be manipulated on the Fast Track to help my mix. Turning up the gain generally just increased noise, and my mic placement led to a muddy sound. Is this because the mics are dynamic mics, or is it related entirely to my inexperienced mic placement? I am basically wondering if it's me or the mics (or the sound card?).

My family knows nothing about recording, but they tell me that the guy in the store claimed these items would work together for micing the piano.

I'll keep searching for the "sweet spot," but I want to know if this is a lost cause. If need be, I will return some of the equipment and buy compatible stuff. Any ideas about what would work would help me a lot. Keep in mind that my budget is minimal and I can't afford an expensive new sound card or anything.

Any additional advice about using the Fast Track etc. would be very helpful, too. I'm not familiar with what the different levels and settings do yet. I've basically just being doing trial and error to see what sounds right. I think it is a popular item, so maybe some of you who use this can help me?


Pro Audio Guest Mon, 07/10/2006 - 20:15
The AT2020 and the AT2021 provided in the AT2041 pack are both condensers. You may consider picking up a Digital Reference DRCX1($100) which is the AT2020 with a different logo(I don't think you can buy an AT2020 by itself), then using those on boom stands over the open piano, to try and capture that stereo sound. Of course pan one track hard right and one hard left. Use either the AT2020 or the DRCX1 for your vocals with a pop filter. I'm a novice as well but I hope that helps.

JoeH Thu, 07/06/2006 - 10:02
Congratulations, Littlefox; you've got essentially a very good starter kit, provided by your family to see if you've got the bug and will take this to the next level. (You may want to post this again on the Home, Project Studios forum, or DAWs, etc.)

The mics you mention are indeed dynamic mics, and while they can certainly sound great for what you're doing, there are other types of mics (specficifally condenser and ribbons) that will give you different results. One could fill a book on all of this stuff, so you've got your work cut out for you. If you're at the stage of just finding out the differences between them all, then too much additional info will only confuse you right now. Plus, with a limited budget like you describe, I don't think you're at the point of making world-class recordings just yet, so it's a good time to learn everything you can about what you've got right now, and learn as you grow.

From what I read, you can only record two inputs (mics) at a time with that box, so there are a few limits to what you can do with it. You can't record stereo piano and vocal all at once, for example. Again, I still think it's a great way to get your feet wet with this stuff.

I don't see much else in that Fast Track package that's terribly exciting; it looks like there's a lot of guitar software "Stomp box" plug-in emulators, and a light version of Ableton 5.0? (I read this quickly and don't recall exactly what they've bundled it with...) It seems more like a loop-based sequencer/recorder, although I'm sure you can do some multitracking with it. Still, this is a good starter kit, and if you're truly bitten by the recording bug, I would suggest the next thing you buy is better recording software for your computer. (Don't know if you're Mac or PC, but there are good things for either platform.)

After that, perhaps a good entry level condenser mic for your vocals and other instruments. It's a buyers market out there, and even a few hundred bucks will get you some great sounding mics. (Studio Projects, MXL, ADK, etc.)

Hope you have a good time with the new goodies, and check back here for more info as you grow. You're at a great time in life: it's all ahead of you, and yours to learn, if you want it. 8-)