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What goes wrong when recording vox with preamp too low?

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What goes wrong when recording vox with preamp too low?

Postby alexis » Thu Jul 14, 2011 12:15 pm

Hi -

Until my outboard compressor arrives, I've been experimenting with singing with the preamp on my mic turned quite low, so that I can fit the very loud parts in along the soft ones without clipping.

Then, when it's recorded in my DAW, I just gain up the audio waveform (the softer portions of the singing being very soft, indeed!).

It doesn't sound "good", after I do that. Can someone explain please ... is that the sound of the poorly treated room being amplified? Or does what I do bring out the noise of the preamp itself?

In THEORY, should recording at a very low level, then gaining up in the DAW bring out more, or less, of the room sound ... preamp sound?

Thanks!
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Re: What goes wrong when recording vox with preamp too low?

Postby Martin Walker » Thu Jul 14, 2011 2:16 pm

Hi alexis,

The balance of room sound to your vocal is set by how loud you are singing and how close you are to the microphone - if you sing softly then the ‘room tone’ will be louder once you’ve raised the overall level of your recording, and using a hardware compressor won’t help this.

To get ‘less room’ you either need to put in some acoustic treatment (even hanging a duvet nearby can help damp down the reflections) or sing louder or closer to the mic.

What a hardware compressor may help with is avoiding clipping when you sing unexpectedly loudly


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Re: What goes wrong when recording vox with preamp too low?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Jul 14, 2011 2:33 pm

alexis wrote:I've been experimenting with singing with the preamp on my mic turned quite low, so that I can fit the very loud parts in along the soft ones without clipping.

Okay -- that's a pretty sensible approach.

Can someone explain please ... is that the sound of the poorly treated room being amplified? Or does what I do bring out the noise of the preamp itself?

Increasing the level of the recording by increasing the gain will, inevitably, make everything louder... and that includes the preamp's noise contribution and the room's acoustic character (tonal colourations and reverb).

This is inevitable, and the relative balance between your voice and the preamp noise and room tone is set the moment you press record. I doubt the preamp noise is much of an issue, but the room tone often is, and if you want less of that you'll have to address the room's acoustics and/or work at less distance from the mic (if that is practical).

In THEORY, should recording at a very low level, then gaining up in the DAW bring out more, or less, of the room sound ... preamp sound?

It makes no difference -- 'gaining up' just makes everything louder in the same proportions. What it will do is make the room sound more obvious.

The quick and easy way of reducing the amount of room sound significantly is to hang a thick double duvet behind you. This soaks up any room reflections that would otherwise bounce off the wall behind you straight back into the mic. If you can extend this duvet around the sides of you and the mic, so much the better. A Reflexion filter (or similar) can also be helpful once the duvet trick is in place.

Finally, a word of warning: a compressor will make this room sound problem worse. In reducing the level of the loud parts of your singing, it will also effectively bring up the quieter parts by the same amount. So it's well worth sorting out your room acoustics first.

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Re: What goes wrong when recording vox with preamp too low?

Postby ElecTrika-MixTek » Thu Jul 14, 2011 3:35 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:

The quick and easy way of reducing the amount of room sound significantly is to hang a thick double duvet behind you. This soaks up any room reflections that would otherwise bounce off the wall behind you straight back into the mic. If you can extend this duvet around the sides of you and the mic, so much the better. A Reflexion filter (or similar) can also be helpful once the duvet trick is in place.
Just one for Hugh there... When I put the old duvets behind and to the side I always throw the mattress in front of the vocalist. I never analysed this acoustically, I just felt it dampened the vocals and where there are duvets there are sometimes mattresses. Hugh, do you have any feelings on mattresses?
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Re: What goes wrong when recording vox with preamp too low?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Jul 14, 2011 3:44 pm

Sure, matressess have some useful acoustic properties, and anything that helps to damp down room reflections is usually a good thing.

I tend not to use matresses much myself partly because they're big and bulky and too much like hard work to move about, and partly because of the rather more significant disruption caused in completely stripping the beds!

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Re: What goes wrong when recording vox with preamp too low?

Postby alexis » Thu Jul 14, 2011 4:14 pm

Thank you everybody! I have a reflexion filter in front, and a double duvet behind me, would love to do more for the room, but that is how life is at the present!

I appreciate everyone's help and comments -
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Re: What goes wrong when recording vox with preamp too low?

Postby ef37a » Thu Jul 14, 2011 11:15 pm

I am slightly suprised that no one has mentioned that so long as you are running 24bits and averaging around -18dBFS you should have no need of compression.

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Re: What goes wrong when recording vox with preamp too low?

Postby The Elf » Fri Jul 15, 2011 7:31 am

Yup, if the levels are set properly them you shouldn't be even *close* to clipping, no matter how loud the source. A hardware compressor is not the answer - it's a distraction.
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Re: What goes wrong when recording vox with preamp too low?

Postby Dave B » Fri Jul 15, 2011 10:15 pm

Agreed - one of the best changes to recent recording practices was the loss of the compressor on the way in IMHO.
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Re: What goes wrong when recording vox with preamp too low?

Postby solaris » Fri Jul 15, 2011 11:32 pm

Martin Walker wrote:

To get ‘less room’ you either need to put in some acoustic treatment (even hanging a duvet nearby can help damp down the reflections) or sing louder or closer to the mic.


Martin

Hi, if less "less room" means less reflections then what we are interested in, is the direct signal to room reflections ratio. Is that going to change if the someone sings louder or softer? I would assume that a louder voice will just have louder room reflections.

Have I misunderstood something?
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Re: What goes wrong when recording vox with preamp too low?

Postby Urthlupe » Sat Jul 16, 2011 6:24 am

Hi Alexis

Just for completeness sake, thought I should mention that of course the sensitivity and directional characteristics of your mic will also profoundly influence the balance of direct and reflected sound captured in any particular situation.

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Re: What goes wrong when recording vox with preamp too low?

Postby ef37a » Sat Jul 16, 2011 6:35 am

Urthlupe wrote:Hi Alexis

Just for completeness sake, thought I should mention that of course the sensitivity and directional characteristics of your mic will also profoundly influence the balance of direct and reflected sound captured in any particular situation.

Loopy

Good point and peeps are wont to say " Oh! Capacitors mics pickup too much room" They don't pickup anymore than an SM58 it is just that you have to suck the latter unless you have extraordinarily good pre amps.

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