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Hello all. I am still very new to all this, but I'm using an MXL 990 mic wit NADY phantom power, XLR to 1/8 on a realtek ALC892 sound.
Sonar 8 producer

I have recorded several songs and mixed them to mp3 using LAME successfully. However, this particular song, no matter what I do when mixing down, the vocals are weird. Let me clarify; I can play the song back just fine on my computer through speakers or earphones. When I send it out, the people i send it to claim there are no vocals. I have sent it to my phone and the audio all sounds fine, except no vocals. I can plug my earphones in and hear the vocals just perfectly. No earphones - no vocals. I have tried changin the bit depth, sample rate, and channel format when mixing down to no avail. It's like all of a sudden after 10 songs, this is an issue. I'm absolutely at my wits end here. I thank you in advance for any assistance.

PS - right where the vocals should come in during playback i can hear a change in the sound, like where the mic came on, but no vocs.

- S


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Boswell Tue, 03/20/2012 - 10:27

Did you use a mono track for recording and mixing the vocals or was it a stereo track with the vocals centred? If stereo, you may have the phase of either the L or R vocal track inverted so the two cancel out central sounds when added together. The "change in the sound" you hear could be you inadvertently flipping the phase of one side in the mix at the vocal entry point in the song.

PS Purists would want me to say "polarity" rather than "phase" in this context, but most mixing desks and DAWs have this function labelled "phase".

ncstr8ryda Tue, 03/20/2012 - 10:49

Thank you for responding. I recorded in stereo. The thing is, my vocals are on 3 separate tracks in the file. I'm not sure how I would have flipped the phase/polarity, I haven't had this issue before, and I'm not doing anything different than I usually do. If this is the case, I def don't know how to prevent. Any suggestions on a remedy?

bigtree Tue, 03/20/2012 - 10:59

I tried phase and polarity the other day Bos, and was corrected with "inverted" lol.

To the OP, maybe you have the vocal sent out to a bus other than your Master?

ncstr8ryda Tue, 03/20/2012 - 11:23

Ok so I started with blank project. I inserted an audio track, dragged my pre-recorded instrumental audio file(mp3) to that track. I inserted a 2nd audio track, set the input to stereo microphone, recorded a verse. Inserted a 3rd audio track,set input to stereo mic and recorded a chorus. Inserted a 4th audio track set input to stero mic and recorded another verse. I then copied the audio clip on track 3 (chorus), then pasted it, and slid it around until the timing all sounded good. The output for all of the tracks in the project is just my headphones. No mixing or anything to speak of. Then I exported as mp3 using LAME. I'm not using any buses or anything like that, I'm keeping it simple since I'm not a pro with this stuff and have been teaching myself. This has worked fine for several songs, over the course of a few months. Until a few days ago, all of a sudden, none of the stuff I export has vocals anymore.

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Boswell Tue, 03/20/2012 - 11:38

I still think this is something in the track setup in Sonar 8. What steps did you take to assign the mono MXL 990 microphone to a stereo track?

You could try going back to the mix and setting the output to mono to see if the vocals get affected then.

We're getting quite detailed here, but it could all be relevant.

ncstr8ryda Tue, 03/20/2012 - 11:40

OK, going back and checking my files, this actually hasn't been workin as well as I thought. The same issue occurs for most of the things I've recorded. It sounds fine with headphones. I obviously don't know what I'm doing. The songs I've done, that work properly without headphones, were recorded on a mono input. I originally was using a mono input, because I didn't know how to designate the mic as stereo or mono. Once I figured out how, I just figured having a stereo input would be better , and indeed, it sounded better to me while I was doing the recording this way. Thanks boswell for helping me identify this. So the actual microphone itself should always be used as mono???

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Boswell Wed, 03/21/2012 - 03:04

ncstr8ryda, post: 386755 wrote: .... I originally was using a mono input, because I didn't know how to designate the mic as stereo or mono. Once I figured out how, I just figured having a stereo input would be better , and indeed, it sounded better to me while I was doing the recording this way. Thanks boswell for helping me identify this. So the actual microphone itself should always be used as mono???

OK, what exactly did you figure out? A microphone like that is mono, and should be recorded into a mono track. You can pan the position of a mono track across the stereo sound field, but you need to keep vocals in the centre.

ncstr8ryda Wed, 03/21/2012 - 10:51

I didn't realize the microphone was designed for use strictly on a mono track. (Newb error, not knowing the specs of my equipment). Since recording with the track input as a mono, either L or R, the final mixed down file sounds better. I am currently using an XLR to stereo cable, from my phantom output to PC. I guess it would make sense for me to get rid of that and go back to an XLR to mono cable. I imagine it will sound better also when I do that. I've been going at this on my own, trying to learn as I go, with little input from anyone else. I'm pretty tech savvy but not in the sound/music field so most of this is new to me.

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Boswell Wed, 03/21/2012 - 11:05

Right! Depending on how your "XLR to stereo cable" was actually wired, it is likely that you got a half-amplitude mic signal with the correct polarity in the left channel and the inverse polarity of it in the right channel. This is equivalent to pushing a "phase invert" button on the right channel, and would indeed result in the effect you got in the mix. I would stick with mono tracks for instruments and vocals unless you are specifically using a pair of mics or a stereo mic.

RemyRAD Wed, 03/21/2012 - 18:37

This is a double edged problem. The wrong thing is happening twice over. That's correct, the adapter cable from the microphone to the 1/8 inch stereo microphone plug is sending half in phase signal to left channel and a half out of phase signal to right channel. Your mix probably sounds beautifully wide and spacious. When you play back in stereo, it's fabulous. Somewhere along the conversion process to MP3 it went to dual channel mono and therefore canceled your vocals out electrically and virtually completely. Never to be heard from again. So this problem is not just occurring on the input side but also on the compressed output side. It's cool that you get 2, that's 2 free problems for one low, LOW price, eh? And being new at this makes it all the more fun.

Are you allowed to have this much fun at your age?
Mx. Remy Ann David

ncstr8ryda Mon, 03/26/2012 - 15:58

Thanks guys. I got busy for a few days, and just got back to it. The lost vocals issue has been resolved!! Now, the vocals have a slightly muffled sound ... Hooray for learning. Tonight or tomorrow I'll replace the xlr to stereo wif an xlr to mono, hopefully this will remedy the "muffling" effect.I'm not entirely sure what happens when you attempt to send a mono signal through a stereo cable, but I feel pretty strongly that it would not be conducive to high quality.

RemyRAD Mon, 03/26/2012 - 17:55

Au contraire. Feeding balanced or unbalanced audio through bad cable is bad. Feeding balanced or unbalanced audio through good cable is 100% great. There is nothing to be lost utilizing a stereo microphone cable in a monaural, unbalanced fashion.

The muffled sound you are chocking about in all likelihood is because you have not utilized a high pass filter on the microphone or any kind of low-frequency rolloff? It likely has nothing to do with the cable or the connectors. Its proper vocal microphone procedure with a cardioid directional microphone to roll off the low-frequency response below 80 Hz, completely. That's why switchable high pass filters is so convenient to use to begin with. But not all microphone preamps offer a high pass filter. Many condenser microphones and certain dynamic microphones feature low cut filters and that's why. It sounds great in the headphones but sounds muddy on the speakers when you don't do that. Besides, a lot of that muddiness was canceled out acoustically because the signal was out of phase in each channel. The low frequencies collide in space out of phase and disappear into thin air. So when you want to utilize a mono signal out of phase in stereo, you need to rolloff the low frequencies. And then the signal seems to be coming from behind you which is a film mixing trick. That stuff is all key framed and automated that makes that car come right at you and then through you to behind you. They go from a center mono source (in both channels evenly) to fading into and out of phase dual channel mono source. And then it sounds like it's behind you. Go to mono and it will disappear entirely so they add extra sound effects to the left and right channels to prevent that. So it works right only when you intend to use it that way. You made a fascinating mistake and now you know what's going on.

OK so now here is your wiring problems to contend with. It's not as cut and dry as you think. First, this will work just fine with any dynamic microphone. It will work fine with any ribbon microphone. It won't work with a phantom powered condenser microphone. Part of your problem, you're not using an actual XLR microphone input. You're using a toy input. And here's your problem that will happen. This is a stereo microphone input requiring tip, ring & sleeve. Tip is equivalent to XLR pin 2. Ring is equivalent to XLR pin 3. And the Shield/ground is equivalent to XLR pin 1. You still need that stereo 1/8 inch plug you are using. If you get a mono plug it is only going to be recording in the left channel, only. So that's not the right thing to do. What you want to do is to make sure that pin one of the XLR is tied to pin three at the 1/8 inch connector end. Then you take that ground/pin three connection point and tie it to the sleeve (solder it). Pin two wire will now go to both tip and ring of the 1/8 inch connector. This is the proper way to wire a balanced XLR microphone cable to an unbalanced 1/8 inch, 1/4 inch connector. And in your case, it has to be a stereo connector since it's a stereo microphone input connector. Then when you are recording, it will record a stereo track of that single microphone which is known as dual mono. But you could just as easily also tell your software to record just a single mono track. Since the microphone is now feeding both inputs equally, it doesn't matter which one you pick left or right, it will all work perfectly and correctly. Now I said you could use this with dynamic microphones and ribbon microphones but you can't with condenser microphones that require phantom power. Phantom power has to ride on both pins 2 & 3 and you can't short any of those to ground. So for a condenser microphone, you'll also need an XLR on the preamp end going into a balanced transformer input. The output of the balanced transformer can be unbalanced to feed the microphone input. And you will need a separate phantom power supply that will plug-in between the microphone and the microphone input. You cannot directly unbalance a phantom powered microphone. Not workable. Not doable without any input transformer. And that's what happens when you use cheap toy like multimedia microphone inputs on cheap soundcards. So part of that muffled sound may in fact be the horrendously awful microphone input on your computer sound card? Sorry about that chief. Missed it by that much. So you really want something like a $150 USB soundcard with XLR microphone inputs. Anything else and you are going to be extremely unhappy with what you're going to hear because it's really just that bad sounding. Cheap computer soundcard microphone inputs were designed for $10 multimedia headsets with a microphone so you can talk to your friends on Skype. It wasn't designed as a high quality music recording microphone input whatsoever. So get smart. All it takes is money. Conversely, my only other suggestion if you are going to use that simply awful computer soundcard microphone input is to purchase an equally awful Radio Shaft low impedance to high impedance transformer-based converter for under $20. Now what this will get you is actually something very special. This transformer has what they call a windings ratio. To convert from low to high impedance the transformer has a 1:10 winding ratio. What this will do is actually amplify the microphone by 10 DB without any electricity! It's like magic! The use of this adapter will also allow you to turn down the gain of the simply awful microphone preamp in the simply awful computer soundcard or whatever simply awful device you are using. You'll have to turn it down by 10 DB. And with that, you'll get 10 DB better signal to noise ratio. Making that simply awful microphone preamp 10 DB quieter while giving it 10 DB more gain. Transformers are known to be able to provide free gain based upon its winding ratios. So in a sense, even a high-quality microphone preamp is improved by the use of an input transformer. Basic microphone transformer winding ratios are 1:6 for Dean Jensen 990 servo op amp. 1:10 for many others. Some even feature 1:15 where they used to feature 1:10 such as the API 312/512. So that's boosting the microphone level by 15 DB for free. Well not exactly free when you think that the transformer costs nearly $100 or more. But the Radio Shaft will only set you back around 20 and with a similar quality of sound based upon the price. So it won't sound like a $100 microphone transformer it will sound like a Radio Shaft transformer. But hey, it's doable, I've used it in a pinch. And it's actually 100% adequate even though it lacks in quality compared to the $100 variety. But you get what you pay for which is what you're learning very quickly.

I'm the queen of unbalanced
Mx. Remy Ann David

ncstr8ryda Tue, 03/27/2012 - 06:20

Thanks for all the helpful info. I'm guessing since you spent half your post referring to the awfulness of my setup, that it's not up to par. Although I could have figured that, since I didn't even own a microphone or have any interest in creating songs when I purchased that computer, it's pretty much exactly what I needed to hear in a way I needed to hear it. I didn't intentionally buy shitty gear because it's cheaper. On the other hand, I haven't ran out and bought all the most expensive stuff I can find either because I've been doing this less than 6 months and still don't have much of a clue, obviously. I have been shopping around for equipment but just haven't made any decisions since I wasn't sure what type of setup was best. I was told by the owner of the local music shop, that using USB inputs for microphones and such gives undesired effects as well, but I think he could have just been referring to the XLR to usb adapter cables, and not an actual card. Thanks again for all the useful feedback ;D Looks like my next purchase will be another sound card.