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DAW Recording Fader Vs Preamp gain

Discussion in 'Digital Recorders' started by Alex H, May 17, 2017.

  1. Alex H

    Alex H Active Member

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    I am attempting to record my drum set using 3 dynamic mics. I have them plugged into a Behringer mono analog minimix box which has no markers on it besides 0 and 10 on the gain knobs. I then have the box's output going to the line in jack on my pc. I'm trying to figure out the relationship between this preamp gain and the recording slider in Audacity. Should I leave the DAW fader up 100% and adjust the preamp or the other way around? I understand (at least I think I do) that the recording meters in Audacity should max out around say -6 to avoid clipping while still getting a strong sound. I assumed since they are dynamic mics that will be a couple feet away from the drums to capture the sound they would need a lot of gain so I turned the gain knobs on the preamp box nearly all the way up while having Audacity recording slider set to .25 (25%). This caused a very low if not completely absent noise floor but the drums sound wishy-washy. I'm on a budget and am using a samson r11 along with some 15 buck Tyler mic and a memorex mic that i stuck on the kick drum. I'm just starting out and know I probably need to upgrade for better sound but am looking for advice on what I can do with what I have. (I made a microphone stand out of pvc pipe heheh)
     
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

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    Dynamic mics usually need more gain that condensers. You didn't mention the models of dynamic mics , or the gain rating on the preamp you are using; (and I'm not familiar with it) it's possible you need a pre with more beef. If you find yourself having to turn up the gain on your pre to a max position and the signal is still weak, this would be a good indicator that you need a better preamp (and better mics).
    You mentioned running the outputs of the preamp to the line in of your PC, I'm assuming then that you are using a built in soundcard?
    If so, What soundcard are you using? Have you checked to make sure that the software settings for the input gain of this built in soundcard are set high enough?
    As a side note - there are many great dynamic mics for drum recording - Shure SM57/58, Sennheiser 421, etc, but they do require a preamp with sufficient gain to operate at their optimum.
    I have no idea about the other mics you mentioned; if they are dynamic - or condensers, which would mean they require 48v of phantom power to operate.
    The other problem you may be facing is the "line in" on your PC... is this an XLR or 1/4" TRS input, or are you using adapters to get the connection down to an 1/8" jack?

    "I'm just starting out and know I probably need to upgrade but am looking for advice on what I can do with what I have..."

    This is probably one of the most common statements we get here on RO, and I also hear it all the time in my travels as a home studio consultant. There are some things you can "get by" with. But your end quality will only ever be as good as the weakest link on your chain.
    Using cheap gear - mics, preamps, audio interfaces and cables (among other things) will guarantee you a cheap sounding result. You may also have to face the fact that what you are getting now is the best they can be gotten using what you now have... and to get better results, you're just gonna have to accept that you'll need to invest some money into better gear.

    Finally - you need to provide more information than what you did in your post.
    Type of soundcard, computer OS, makes and models of mics, types of cables and connections you are using to get the preamp output to your computer, whether or not you have other audio drivers resident on your system, the last time you checked for updated drivers for your computer audio devices...
    The more info you provide, the better the chance we can help you without having to guess about what your problem (s) may be.

    -d.
     
  3. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

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    As Donny said, we need further information.

    From your description, it looks as though the mixer you have is the Behringer Micromix MX400 (the Minimix is a karaoke machine). The MX400 is a line-level mixer designed for mixing keyboards and similar line-level instruments, and not designed for mixing microphones. That's not to say that it won't provide an audio path through the mixer for a microphone signal, but you would be relying entirely on the computer sound card for gain, and those cards are never of the highest quality.

    The other thing you ought to check is the type of microphone cables you are using. Being an unbalanced, mono mixer, the MX400 has TS (tip and sleeve contacts) jacks for its inputs and not TRS (tip, ring and sleeve). The microphones will have the normal 3-pin XLR connector, so it's necessary to select the correct cable to go from the microphones t0 the mixer. An XLR-TS plug cable is likely to have only pins 1 and 2 of the XLR connector wired, whereas with a XLR -TRS cable, all 3 XLR pins will be wired, but there is no easy way to tell whether the ring (R) makes contact with anything inside the mixer. In either case, it could mean that one of your signal wires from the microphones is not connected correctly. The best (least worst) wiring for your situation is an XLR-TRS cable with the ring connected to the sleeve inside the plug body. These are rare beasts to find for purchase, but it's easy to modify a standard XLR-TRS lead.
     
  4. Alex H

    Alex H Active Member

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    May 17, 2017
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    Thank you for your reply. I can't figure out where the input gain for my soundcard is listed. Under my line in settings it says Realtek High Definition Audio with the highest format quality of 2 channel 16-bit 48000 Hz. The drivers are fully updated. It is a 3.5mm jack.The slider is set all the way up but when I've tried recording drums I normally lower it to about 25% percent to avoid clipping. The output of the minimix is 1/4 ts mono which I am adapting to 3.5 stereo for the line in. I'm running about 40 feet of cord because my pc(Windows 10) is in the living room. With the line-in input at 100 there is signal noise up to about -45 on the audacity meter. The Behringer mini mix has line inputs with an impedance of 4.7k ohms max input +16dBu 1/4 ts connections. The output is 1 1/4" ts, impedance apporx 80 ohms and max output +16dBu. I have a 1/4 ts to 1/4 s with a mono to stereo adapter coming to the line in on the pc.
    Microphones: Samson r11, dynamic cardioid polar pattern; frequency response=60Hz-16kHz; output impedance=500 ohm; sensitivity -51dBv/Pa (2.8 mV/Pa)
    Tyler TMS304-BK; Freq Response 50-16kHz, sensitivity -54+-3dB(0dB=1V/par at 1kHz); Impedance=600 ohms+-30% at 1kHz.
    These 2 mics have xlr to 1/4" ts connection cables: 1.) Hosa 24 AWG OFC and 2.) Tyler "High Grade Low Noise Microphone Cable"
    My third mic is a memorex that came with a kareoke stand which I have no details on, this mic has non-detachable cable with 1/4 ts output and I only use it to for the kick drum. I accept that I will need to upgrade my set up. I'm on a budget and would like to gradually upgrade with the most impact-full portions first. I know it's not going to sound professional for now but I would like to just get something equivalent to 60's live concert recording, I'm playing classic rock style now anyway.
     
  5. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

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    I'm pretty forgiving with gear quality, but below a certain threshold it's pretty much hopeless. You need a proper audio interface and better software. Audacity is not a DAW, it is an audio editor. That little karaoke mixer and sound card will make your life miserable if you keep trying to use them, and probably cost you more time and stress than earning the money needed to upgrade.

    On an extreme budget I would suggest the Native Instruments Komplete 6 together with an M-Audio Audio Buddy. That would give you 4 channels of simultaneous and separate input to your software. Download Reaper, a very good DAW that is free to try (indefinitely with a nag screen at startup) and cheap to buy.

    Here's a used Komplete 6 super cheap: http://www.guitarcenter.com/Used/Native-Instruments/KOMPLETE-AUDIO-6-Audio-Interface-113197761.gc

    Audio Buddy mic preamps go for about $25.
     
    audiokid likes this.
  6. Alex H

    Alex H Active Member

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    My apologies. It is in fact a Behringer Micro mix MX400. You have all been helpful with your ideas and given much to think about. I also have a digitech rp250 guitar processor and a 10 watt marshall amp MG10CD that has an emulated line out. Could these be used with my current setup to any benefit?
     
  7. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

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    a 5 star response. (y)
     
  8. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

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    That's even less useful than the karaoke mixer I thought you had. It's a passive line mixer, unsuited for use with mics. Microphones need active circuitry to boost their weak signals.
     
  9. Alex H

    Alex H Active Member

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    Oh alright then. I was able to get a nice clean acoustic guitar recording with it though.
     
  10. Alex H

    Alex H Active Member

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    So if my understanding is correct. The mx400 is for mixing signals that have already been preamped. For example i could run the output of my digitech rp250 processor and a keyboard to the mx400.
     
  11. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

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    See post #3 in this thread.
     
  12. Alex H

    Alex H Active Member

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    Alright so the audio interface takes the place of my soundcard and is the middleman between my preamp and pc. If I wanted to record drums with 3 mics I could use the M-Audio Buddy with another single mic preamp because the 2 instrument inputs on the M-Audio buddy are made for line level signals not mics correct? I'm seeeing some audio interfaces that seem to have dual mic preamps built in such as this one: http://www.guitarcenter.com/Behringer/U-PHORIA-UMC204HD.gc#productDetail
    I found another audio interface that seems affordable and has 4 mic preamps. So this looks like a good option along with a proper DAW and I should be all set for much improved drum recordings.
    https://www.adorama.com/beumc404hd....ZfflbTsC8GGLbUUwSMkAfnBB3lpnt3KULOhoC_tbw_wcB
     
  13. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

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    That NI interface has two combo XLR/TRS inputs on the front for mic/instrument use and two line inputs on the back. The Audio Buddy gives you two more mic preamps and connects to the line inputs, giving you a total of 4 mic preamp inputs. The instrument inputs may be adequate for your mic with the built-in cable, or you may need to adapt it to XLR to get adequate gain. You could get another two mic inputs with the addition of a 2-channel mic pre with digital SPDIF output for a total of 6 mic inputs.

    That U-Phoria looks like a bargain. I've heard that it's okay for what it is. It would be cheaper and more integrated than the setup I suggested (but not able to get up to 6 channels), and worlds better than what you're doing now.

    Get proper XLR cables for the two mics that can use them, and consider this simple/cheap adapter for the other mic.

    https://www.radioshack.com/products/radioshack-1-4-jack-to-a3m-xlr-plug-adapter-transformer
     
  14. Alex H

    Alex H Active Member

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    Ok great this sounds promising. Integration is good (wife is anxious about me cluttering up the place with equipment). I could get the U-phoria along with some xlr-xlr cables perhaps upgrade the crappy memorex mic with another samson r11 or get the adapter. Then I'm going to need a 45 ft usb cable for the interface since the pc is so far away from my drums.
     
  15. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

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    USB can only go about 16 feet. You'll be better off with long XLR cables. They can go hundreds of feet with little loss.
     
  16. Alex H

    Alex H Active Member

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    Alright I ordered 3 xlr 50 ft cables along with the Behringer U-Phoria UMC404HD. I went ahead and got a Samson C01 condenser mic. The U-Phoria listing mentions the DAW "Traktion" but doesn't say whether it's actually included with purchase. I read Bouldersound recommended "Reaper".
     
  17. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

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    Most interfaces come with some sort of DAW, but you can use whatever software you feel most comfortable with.

    You might want a long headphone extension cable.
     
  18. Alex H

    Alex H Active Member

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    Alright, I guess I'll try both. I've got a pair of Vic Firth isolation headphones along with the extension, I think I have everything in order to start decent recording besides improving room acoustics.
     
    pcrecord likes this.

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