Starting to Record acoustic and vocals (what to buy)

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by patricktsmith, Feb 18, 2011.

  1. patricktsmith

    patricktsmith Active Member

    Feb 18, 2011
    Hi, i hope this is posted in the right section, sorry if its not.

    Well i'm wanting to start recording my music mainly just acoustic and vocals
    and to be honest i have no idea at all what i need to buy to get decent recordings done

    i have a budget of 500$
    i was wondering i someone get let me know what i will need to buy
    and even better if you get let me know what models to buy and about how much everything will cost.

    Thankyou so much.
  2. patricktsmith

    patricktsmith Active Member

    Feb 18, 2011
    Atm i have no equipment

    just my guitar and my voice
  3. bjboyd

    bjboyd Active Member

    Feb 20, 2011
    I've been using a micro br, which is a 4-track recorder that records onto a sd card (up to 2gig). It also has 80 effects for guitar and you can set the input for guitar, mic, input etc. You can also then master your track and transfer it to your computer as a wav or mp3 file. Where you can then add additional effects and remaster. I recorded my last 2 cd releases using the micro br, wavepad (a free download) and garageband.
    I did buy a usb interface, but had nothing but problems trying to load the "free software" and drivers onto my computer (never had a problem with any other software). Have been liaising with the company, but still no luck.
    I also recently went and bought a zoom r16 which I can use it as a standalone (8 track) recorder and/or a usb interface. Which means I can now spend my time recording instead of trying to get software and drivers to work. It also means if I want to go away I can just take the 8 track and don't need to lug around a macbook.
    A 4-track recorder that doubles as USB interface could be ideal for you. This way you just plug your guitar lead straight in (I listen to my output via headphones) and start recording. If there's multiple inputs you can add your mic, if not you can record your vocals separately. Great for portable recording.
    Check out the zoom products as a starting point. I know other musicians who strongly recommend their gear.
    Re microphones, have a chat to your local shop or check out other forums.
    Good luck with it all.
  4. TimOBrien

    TimOBrien Active Member

    Jan 19, 2003
    ADMIN EDIT member content!

    Warning: Member is a link dropper.
    TIM: Try saying something of value next time in stead of endless links to other sites! Your endless link dropping to various sites is starting to look bad.
  5. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    Sep 19, 2003
    OK Patrick, my post got baleeted but lets get you sorted out.

    So you have no recording equipment, just a guitar and your voice. Do you have a computer? If you do, this will make your life much easier.

    I'll keep it brief for now until we find out. A cheap Mac laptop will be $200 secondhand and open up your options considerably.

    No computer: You are going to need an all-in-one recorder, and a microphone. For $500 you don't have an amazing amount of choice. Zoom, Roland, Tascam, Korg, and many other manufacturers offer something. With regards to a microphone, KEL are probably the people to go to at this price range. Many of us here use their mics if not as our main go-tos, as something in the cabinet that will give decent results when pushed for extra channels.

    A computer: PC, get reaper, Mac, use Garageband (probably worth checking but I think it works OK). You can then look at the Apogee Solo which does all of the things you need.

    The things you need are a microphone which will service both guitar and vox, an XLR cable to connect it to your interface, and an interface which contains a preamp to get the mic amplified to line level, and some form of converter, whether internal to a flash drive, or to USB/firewire/PCI to get the sound to your computer DAW and on to your hard disk.
  6. iandyha

    iandyha Active Member

    Feb 21, 2011
    jeemy definately said much of the points i was going to. I'm assuming you do have a computer because you wrote on this forum. lol but i think that the apogee duet would prob be a better choice. the converters on it a slightly better. they are said to "sound the same" but are noticeably better imo. however with that said. you also need a microphone. a Shure Sm 58 and a DI for your guitar might be ok. It is technically not recommended that you record guitar through 1/4". but $500 is a good place to start. i'd recommend first you get yourself a good audio interface with decent preamps. like the Duet.

    also buy yourself mic's and things to get yourself by for a while. (remembering that you wont get high end studio quality music unless you dish out the money for it.) save up and then buy yourself a good preamp.
    Monitors are also vital to a mix. you may think that this is not important but it is crucial to the overall quality of your final product.

    try and save up for something like the HS 50m's which would run you like 350 used. which is what i have on top of my ns 10 m's. however for the time being. something like the sony MDR 7506 headphones might be good for you to get by on.

    obviously this is all my own opinion and there are thousands of ways to spend $500 towards recording.

    i tend to lean towards buying things that would be used later down the line rather then be replaced completely.

    to break it down in priority:

    1: audio interface. Apogee duet
    2: Headphones. Sony MDR 7506
    If you get these two things right now i can promise you you'll get full use out of them for a very very long time.

    but to get yourself recording now... you might also want to purchase a decent DI with a 1/4" for guitar or if you don't have a 1/4" jack to your guitar a SM57 would be great too.
    3. SM57 for guitar XLR or DI & 1/4"
    4. SM58 for VOX one of my favorite albums at the moment recorded completely on a SM58 and 57 so it is possible to get an amazing sound out of just that.

    5. last but not least. and what i think you should make a priority for yourself is when you get money saved up again for another purchase spend it on a Preamp. or Monitors.
    my monitoring system cost me roughly $1200 and my preamp cost me about $800. I have a Neve Pre and NS 10ms w/ a bryston amp. which is the set up i use to record with now.

    I know that 1-4 may end up being more than $500 but i'd like to warn you on not spending money on things that you wont ever use again once you upgrade. I have a ART preamp that i never use now that i have my neve. to me thats a waste of $250 as well as $50 mixers that have no functionality in recording at all. etc etc. there are a million things you can spend your money on in regards to music but i hope that you will learn from my mistakes. :]

    most people tend to spend their money first on a Microphone like a Neumann or something like that. which is what i did... and i actually regret it. because imo a Neumannn mic sounds like crap through a mackie pre amp; however a Shure SM58 sounds pretty darn nice through a neve pre.

    Best of luck to you.

    p.s. craigslist!! all day all night. i'm on CL every day which is where i bought my stuff.
  7. skyy38

    skyy38 Active Member

    Aug 31, 2006
    A much better alternative to the Boss Micro BR:

    TASCAM DP-004 |

    Built in stereo mics too!
  8. SharkFM

    SharkFM Active Member

    Dec 28, 2010
    Tascam 144 at muscian's friend recording package with mics. A mini PC with Reaper and you are good to go. This is my mobile/protable setup works great.

    TASCAM US144 Interface and 990/991 Mic Pack Bundle
    (9 Reviews)

    I think MXL condensers will out perform the SM dynamic's for versatility in recording. More realistic sound greater detail for acoustic guitar. Unless you are doing double duty for live work and want just two mics.
  9. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    We'll have to 'assume' that you're going to get lucky with the mxl mics. They are not the same from one to another and the handling and self noise was off the charts the last couple I experienced. Perhaps more over-hyped high-end is what you need. I'm not sure I would want a bunch of tracks of that in a mix, but for a single guitar and voice it'll probably do.

    BTW....there is NO under $100 condenser that comes even close to the quality and durability of an SMseries Shure mic. Darker sound yes....its a dynamic and has a different set of tonal spectrum....

    For your budget and skill set, the suggested bundles will be great inexpensive training tools for the future. Should you become caught up in the web of recording frenzy as all of us here have, you wont have outlayed too much scratch for your itch and you'll certainly know after a couple of months where this will be taking you in years to come.

    Detail? This is all about the front end. The cheap chinese condenser may SEEM like theres more detail with an appropriately cheap mic pre but something of substance and quality in front of both will instantly illuminate the differences.
  10. SharkFM

    SharkFM Active Member

    Dec 28, 2010
    there was a guy who tracked like a doz condensers over grand piano Neumann, AKG etc. and the MXLs. The MXL you could hear the seat creaking it was unbelievable. He rated them 1,2, MXL in 3rd. I put the MXL in first. You can't use an SM as an ambient, drum overhead for example. Or for any distance mic'ing. We mic'd the guitar cab did side by side SM57 and an MXL condenser. Don't even bother with the 57 anymore, sounded a bit gross. The MXL is so close to the speaker emulated balanced DI signal it's insane. Traynor YCS50.. Take one or the other!!

    So all the ones I bought for chump change are wired up ready to use. The Shures are great mics I love their build quality and sound. But I have not used them to record a single track in the last 2 months. Tried for the Oasis wonderwall cover (vocals) ended using the EV PL84 - a condenser also.

    I guess a higher end preamp will help the cause but the SM's are just not as versatile. why not get a more representative signal using an active mic??

    Certainly not beans about the MXL and noise floor doesn't matter too much we are recording mostly 90db SPL++ stick breaking drum sessions, wicked guitar etc. ROCK ON
  11. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    There are thousands of reported "tests" between this mic and that mic and as far as I can tell, none of these reputed "tests" are ever going to be confused with scientific. I'm certainly glad to hear that this setup is working for you.

    That does not make it perfect for someone else.

    Nor does any suggestion by any other poster on this forum or ANY other forum. Certainly not mine........

    You make my point very succinctly whether you know it or not. Micing a grand piano has nothing to do with whether you can hear the seat creaking. Thats a flaw in the value of a mics ability to have a tight focused pattern where you can really concentrate the primary aspects of this piece of toolage to capture something other than a squeaking perch the operator is sitting on. What makes that valuable? Do you think noise floor could be a problem in recording an acoustic instrument like a Grand Piano?

    Again. Understand that in this posters situation where he has ZERO equipment, probably zero experience, and a very limited budget, that a kit like the one you suggested makes the most sense. It will get him going and not cost an arm and a leg should he decide that this isnt for him somewhere down the line.

    It is not the be-all end-all in quality.

    It may work for you, but it may not for someone else. Getting good sound out of an SM57 is simply point and shoot.

    This site is about reality. Saying you CANT use something on a source is pure hogwash. Do you have ANY idea at all of the LARGE amount of recordings there are where the ONLY mic used was SM57/58? Who told you you cant use a 57 as a room mic? Sometimes, its the ONLY mic thats perfect.

    Do I use one as a room mic? I have. I have about 50 to choose from. Its only a tool and sometimes its the best tool....sometimes not.

    This is not an advocacy for SM57's though I would much more recommend one to someone with absolutely zero experience and gear than any other mic out there.

    But I wont say that its the gospel. And you shouldnt either.
  12. SharkFM

    SharkFM Active Member

    Dec 28, 2010
    They are more versatile and happen to come in a recording bundle from M-F. $199 chump change off and running. I was bein' a joker about the creaking but you could hear more detail vs the filtered or focused sound of the Neumann
  13. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    Theres no Neumann in that link. Just a poorly uploaded version of a semi-decent song. So I dont see your point in posting it.

    You want to 'prove' to me that an MXL mic is the equal of a brand of mic that is the standard for sound capture and has been for 50 years? Do you own a Neumann? I do. I also own cheap chinese capsuled mics, I've owned a couple mxl's....briefly.I've heard several others in use. Each one is as different as night and day to the exact same model sitting next to it. They're harsh and unappealing. The sensitivity is fake. It has nothing to do with the real sonics of capturing a sound. It is artifically enhanced to sell mics cheaply. I think that the profit margin on a Neumann is around 25% considering engineering, development, material costs, shipping and assembly. I would bet the MXL is almost 75% considering the same parameters.

    I dont think you really understand the difference between 'real' sonic translation of a source and a hyped one.

    But thats okay. If 'hyped' is what you like, so be it.

    Let me explain 'hype' in this context.

    When you are attempting to capture a source and keep it fairly honest or close to that source in its environment, the LAST thing you want for a tool, is one that has artificially boosted segments of the frequency range. While one might argue that this is 'sensitivity' in these boosted ranges, what makes you think that these arent only boosted but skewed due to the time variances and phase anomolies inherent in a shift like this? If simply boosting the uppermids and highs were a true representation of actual sound, then there would be no need for real engineering at a high level to achieve quality response while capturing a source. But, there is a phase shift when boosting frequencies that travel faster than other frequencies, and then attempting to combine them into a clear mix. The denser the mix and the more of these skewed rates of time are combined, the more innerharmonic distortion or 'smearing', occurs. It makes it much harder to achieve a 'big' cohesive sound in a mix.
    So is this 'detail' real or not? Does it sound like it does in the room? Or is it just present and loud in the monitors or the phones?

    I dont want to say all bad things about any products. I actually like a couple of the Mogami versions of an MXL model I've heard. I wouldnt use it on everything....certainly not on something meant to be out front in a mix, but good for tracks needing that little snappy hyped thing.

    But its not a good choice for someone just starting out and wanting to learn the basics of sound capture. Its a better tool for the experienced ear to place where it will do the work its supposed to do or can do well.

    Versatile is in the individuals abilities. Its NOT the gear that makes this true.
  14. SharkFM

    SharkFM Active Member

    Dec 28, 2010
    There are some SM57's vs xxx shootouts on Youtube. In all of them the 57 sounds great. I'll do a back to back here to see how they sound. I don't get much out of them as a ambient room mic. does anyone??
  15. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    The quality from Youtube isnt sufficient enough to really put a stamp of approval on anything. It only tells me whether I should check something out further in MY room with MY gear.
  16. FlyBass

    FlyBass Active Member

    Oct 31, 2007
    Central Indiana, USA
    The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and...
    Oh, I see. And most amps go up to ten?
    Does that mean it's louder? Is it any louder?
    Well, it's one louder, isn't it? It's not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You're on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you're on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?
    I don't know.
    Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
    Put it up to eleven.
    Eleven. Exactly. One louder.
    Why don't you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?
    [pause] These go to eleven.
  17. iandyha

    iandyha Active Member

    Feb 21, 2011
    It's about mic placement too. People study microphoning techniques for years. Hearing more doesn't = quality. Also that's where compression can help.
  18. SharkFM

    SharkFM Active Member

    Dec 28, 2010
    Did my test last night and I've got an answer for ya - and this can be applied across the board as with all stages of transducers and amplification. Nothing new here....

    Using that insanely clean FF800 preamp I sang through the MXL990, Shure SM57 - that was cool didn't stop there went to my Vintage Unidyne, EVPL84 and PVM22. The representation of the phrase I sang on MXL990, SM57 and EVPL84 were pretty much 100% and if I played this back to anyone they would say sound identical. But the SM57 felt like butter, sooo smooooth sounding. And I say felt - audibly a carbon copy of the verse using the MXL990 and yet my ears were starting to heat up or tingle listening to anything but the Shure SM57 i.e. physically affected.

    This is because of the distortion -> the % THD in the signal recorded. The Shure/RME combo was the best in that department.

    The MXL and EV condenser mic electronics, which produced the hotter signal level were imparting their signature distortion (in the form of harmonics, not even really audible) onto the signal. Where as the RME preamp does not (0.0005%) and the SM57 dynamic transducer, which we know is the best there is, also did not impart any noticeable level of undesirables.

    Furthermore, at a meeting today with one of our electronics engineers - who is a guitarist, tube/audio engineer, he explained to me the solid state components laydown 2nd and 4th harmonics as they distort vs real tubes which put down 3rds. I don't need to tell you what the human ear likes! Same for guitars that is why we run a 100% tube amp here.

    $$ vs % THD vs Harmonics. Does the MXL mic deliver representation? Absolutely. Is it a quality signal - I say NO, at the expense of distortion.

    The thing (I think) about undesirable distortion is it sums (sum of all components and tracks in the mix) and gets worse the further down the line you go in terms of rendering. So a youtube clip is totally valid if you know what to look (hear) for.

    SM57, good preamps or tube preamps, or certified condenser performance = expensive. So you are going to need a pretty good preamp to go with the 57, but it's def. no mistake to buy at 58 or 57.

    PS Also saw a Shure 55 for sale yesterday at a good price... never tried it.
  19. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    What have I been saying?

    Anything that adds or subtracts due to its electronic or physical signature is NOT representative of a source. Period.

    Sometimes thats a good thing. My 28 year old Neumann U87 imparts a certain sheen and a very profound proximity effect when used up close and in cardioid pattern. But at the same time its not adding tiring and unusable things to the signal. Is it coloring things? Yes, without a doubt. Does it sound great? Yes, most definately.

    Its the quality of the build, the components used, the design of the mic amp and the capsule, the physical construction of the whole mic that makes it what it is.

    MOST of the cheap condensers claim to be clones or representative of mics of this caliber of mic for "a fraction of the cost". Understand that I'm not saying that anything that passes signal CANT be used as a specific style of paintbrush or tool for specific useage...Quite the contrary...Its why I have 50 mics to choose from. Just dont try to tell me that its "as good" or "sounds just like" because I've already "been there, done that" and I'm not buying it. A great example of this is a mic I also own along with several others. I have a 'real' Russian built Octava MK319. Ya know, another 'old' mic. Sonically, it comes as close to the base tonal sweep of the old Neumann as anything I've ever heard....BUT....theres something missing that you dont hear unless you use it on multiple tracks and multiple sources. A quick listen wont get you much of the difference, but there is some. That doesnt make it a bad mic. Quite the contrary....I LOVE this mic. It does things the Neumann doesnt do and does them everytime its put up. I have $90 tied up in it. Bargain? hmmmmm....The Neumann goes for a lot more than that. A 'new' one is over 3K. Bargain? Everytime I put it up. Its always going to be relative.

    Not all of them cost the same as a good used pickup truck. Some are as inexpensive as the MXL offerings you speak about so highly. I chose my gear according to how its voiced, how its built, and whether I'm going to dislike it once its in a dense mix of other instruments and sounds. Unusable is unusable no matter what, and this is the crux of what we strive for in recommending things to newbies here at R.O. Theres no corporate perks, no added attractiveness from one to another. If it works and it fits the purpose then its something to consider.

    Recommending something that will require some time in the saddle attaining experience to KNOW WHAT to listen for, isnt my idea of a straight answer for someone with zero experience and skills. Most of the longtime patrons of this site agree with this and represent this every time this question pops up.

    A person just beginning is in for a whole world of choices when beginning to record and mix music and most want to achieve great results right away.

    It cant be done except in rare cases and even then theres a time line of choices that eventually directs a person on the straight and narrow and improves their abilities to the end they hear in their imagination.

    This isnt a function of gear as much as understanding what the gear brings to the table and what the goal or desire for the source is going to be. Having great gear doesnt mean you can use it. Having so-so gear doesnt mean you cant achieve greatness with it. Gear and gear choices have always been and will always be secondary to the inspiration and craft of making a quality song or sound ready to capture. The gear is there to accurately represent what the creator of the sound is trying to convey and should be used to do so, not in spite of.

    So when you see SM57/58's being recommended as a basic mic to use, understand that theres a lot of forethought and experience being called upon to make that answer. For newbie, manipulating tracks that have all sorts of added hyped anomolies and spike where there shouldnt be spikes is a poor way to learn. Its too much to consider when you dont know anything at all. A 57/58 gives a nice basic sound that may not be the BEST but its not bad enough to hurt what you're trying to achieve and its a piece of gear that you'll use for the rest of your career in one capacity or another. @ less than $100 its always been the best buy in any mic locker. I own several and always will.
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