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Make recordings clean

All about the tools and techniques involved in capturing sound, in the studio or on location.

Re: Make recordings clean

Postby sleekitwan » Mon Jan 06, 2020 3:00 am

My tuppence worth, applies to amateurs like me recording a certain type of song, requiring certain vocals say...ie quiet, not voluble or projected especially.

Recording at night, works in my small detached property, but there are intrusions eg dogs barking, etc. These are reduced past a certain time of night.

However, more than that, is the ‘ambient’ background noise level - literally virtually inaudible ‘noise’ of everyday living, vehicles, etc, unidentifiable but a quiet melee in the back ground.

I assume that’s why, when you listen to a tv or music or even through earbuds, as the hour gets later eg 2am versus 10pm, I have to turn down the volume of the sound, not for the sleeping occupants of our home, but because it’s that bit less ‘noisy’ technically speaking, as the hour moves into early morning - until I guess 5am when distant motorways get moving, heating starts, fridge comes out in response, etc.

The only other tip has been mentioned, the closeness of the microphone to the sound source. But, this is more applicable to my circumstance of close-up vocals. A less ‘intimate’ sound eg a four-piece rock band and belting out a rock standard with vocals in the middle, is surely much less susceptible either to ambient and vague background acoustic noise, time of day, and also the mic distance is only optimum, it would always be ‘interfered with’ (the vocals) by the band members’ contributions.

Obvs, Mike Senior and other experts, have written and coached oodles about sound reflections in rooms, and the build-up of particular frequencies making some ‘boomy’ and so on? I guess, you run down all the different aspects, like the need for some absorbing of sound (amateurs rely on furniture, heavy curtains, even hanging rugs or carpets around the place), until the reflections are minimised, the absorption is about right, and so on.

Strictly as one of the less-expert but reasonably knowledgeable makers of music, my personal experience is, the microphone is almost the last thing I’d concern myself with. I have a half-decent one, sat still in the foam-lined box, purely because in all frankness, it picks up the distant barking dog - and I presume ambient hum etc - just as well as the intended vocals.

Thus, for me who has not a soundproof studio, time of day, and that unidentifiable ‘woteva’ that disappears by late night, is the more important of the issues. Absorption and reflections is small due to the relatively low volume of the recorded vocals due to the intended style, and that’s really different to a Whitney Houston sound, which has power that needs tamed and absorbed, no?

Good luck anyway.
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Re: Make recordings clean

Postby Arpangel » Mon Jan 06, 2020 11:24 am

I often see people using lots of gear, a complicated recording chain. Compressors, EQ's, effects, and they say "it’s not clean"
What is clean? To me it’s when you want a very transparent uncounted and undistorted sound, and to achieve that in my experience you have to adopt that old saying "a straight wire with gain" with as little interference from unnecessary electronics as possible.
And it doesn’t matter that you are using massively expensive preamps etc, often that money has gone into producing a type of desired distortion, so that won’t help you with your clean sound.
Keep your signal path simple, use the best possible microphone in the best possible room, if you’re recording electronic sources like synths drum machines etc, it still applies, keep it simple, if you want a good clear uncoloured sound.
Someone once commented on a thunderstorm recording I made they said it was "really clean" all it was was a couple of good mics plugged into a handy recorder, that was it, no EQ no compression, you just have to work out what’s the simplest set up I get get away with to suite the job in hand.
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Re: Make recordings clean

Postby CS70 » Mon Jan 06, 2020 11:27 am

Arpangel wrote:I often see people using lots of gear, a complicated recording chain. Compressors, EQ's, effects, and they say "it’s not clean"
What is clean?

My impression was that the OP was referring simply to the clarity of the vocals in the reference track as opposite to his own mix.

But I could be wrong :)
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Re: Make recordings clean

Postby Arpangel » Mon Jan 06, 2020 11:28 am

CS70 wrote:
Arpangel wrote:I often see people using lots of gear, a complicated recording chain. Compressors, EQ's, effects, and they say "it’s not clean"
What is clean?

My impression was that the OP was referring simply to the clarity of the vocals in the reference track as opposite to his own mix.

But I could be wrong :)

Yes, but the same applies, keep it simple, if clarity is what he’s after in his vocals.
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Re: Make recordings clean

Postby Dr Huge Longjohns » Mon Jan 06, 2020 11:40 am

Keep your recording levels down around -18db too. Can transform the clarity and 'cleanliness' of your recordings in a jaw dropping manner.

But in reference to the tracks you linked to, the vocal on your own mix is a lot quieter in relation to the track than the other one, so it will naturally for this in comparison. But it also, on my monitors, has a slightly unpleasant scratchy quality, seems to lack body as if you've over EQ'd it? Try it with NO eq or effects of any sort and see if you prefer it when you turn it up a bit. Yes? Then ride the vocal level so it's always well above the track and/or add a tiny bit of very gentle compression with a transparent compressor.

Bottom line, it's very rarely about the gear.
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Re: Make recordings clean

Postby Arpangel » Mon Jan 06, 2020 11:58 am

Dr Huge Longjohns wrote:Keep your recording levels down around -18db too. Can transform the clarity and 'cleanliness' of your recordings in a jaw dropping manner.

Yes, I’ve falling foul of overloaded preamps, but noise problems can be an issue with cheaper mics, that combined with a mixer preamp that hasn't got enough gain.
Mic placement is also important to try and get the best s/n ratio.
My advice for clean vocals is always try and use the best possible mic for your voice, don’t waste money elsewhere, put it towards a decent mic, and try and get your room as clean and flat as possible.
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Re: Make recordings clean

Postby Dr Huge Longjohns » Mon Jan 06, 2020 12:15 pm

but you can’t say that the high end mic is equal to simple mic in 200$ the 3000$ have a fuller sound compare to the cheaper and analog EQ is voltage change and not only db louder like plugins.

I'm afraid this simply isn't true. I'm guessing you're quite new to all this and we've all fallen into the trap of "If only I had xyz bit of expensive gear my tracks would sound like the pros". The hardest thing to come to terms with is that it's all about experience and listening carefully, tedious as that may sound.
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Re: Make recordings clean

Postby Dr Huge Longjohns » Mon Jan 06, 2020 12:19 pm

noise problems can be an issue with cheaper mics, that combined with a mixer preamp that hasn't got enough gain.

Hmmm, I honestly don't think this is a very common issue with today's gear. If you're using an SM7 or something, yes you might suffer with level, but any half-decent mic will work with any half-decent interface in my experience. Could you give us some examples of mic/interface combos that gave you this issue?
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Re: Make recordings clean

Postby blinddrew » Mon Jan 06, 2020 1:28 pm

It's funny, an SM7 does provide the perfect example of a cheap(ish) mic being used for top class releases as well as being a perfect example of something that might show up the weaknesses of budget gear.
There's a kind of irony in that which appeals. :)
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Re: Make recordings clean

Postby Bob Bickerton » Mon Jan 06, 2020 7:18 pm

blinddrew wrote:It's funny, an SM7 does provide the perfect example of a cheap(ish) mic being used for top class releases as well as being a perfect example of something that might show up the weaknesses of budget gear.
There's a kind of irony in that which appeals. :)

True. I’ll sometimes use it instead of a U87 for certain voices.

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Re: Make recordings clean

Postby Tim Gillett » Tue Jan 07, 2020 1:38 am

Bob Bickerton wrote:
aviorrok wrote:
Sam Spoons wrote:Quite a few hit song vocals have been recorded with an SM58.......
SM58 connected to NEVE 1073 and LA-2A :)
Can you share a hit song that recorded with SM58?

I think Bono of U2 regularly recorded with an SM58 - which perhaps indicates he was recording in a very good acoustic space.... ;) ...


The SM58 is designed for close work and used that way is actually a good mic in a poor room or noisy space.
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Re: Make recordings clean - Gate is all I use...?

Postby sleekitwan » Tue Jan 07, 2020 2:02 pm

Hi, one more thing I didn’t mention...

In GarageBand, my DAW of choice don’t laugh, I noticed on the song I released on iTunes recently, the vocals bit I did recall hearing hiss in between the spoken words, and used the built-in noise gate to block that out.

Never previously used a noise gate - no really. I heard and saw lots of guitarists who wouldn’t be without one, but had no need until I did this vocal, and during the time in production I refer to as ‘Quietude’ where I listen to individual tracks of the project, for exactly this sort of non-obvious noise, realised in-between spoken phrases gating was needed.

Never used a hardware one, but in GB iOS, you just play the track involved, and can adjust the dB at which the Gate permits audio to pass, as you listen. I think there was one occasion in the four minutes, I had to use judicious ‘Volume Automation’ to drop one troublesome peak down to zero dB, but the gate handled the breathing etc for the rest.

That’s my last advice, try a Gate, for the reasons many have used it, and you will know, the noise in background, sure sounds noticeable when nothing else is happening! The need for this has not gone away, I swear I put my iphone next to a power source, when an effects simulation was running (Tonestack) and the hum increased. Must be my imagination surely. That would really be quality simulation - no, can’t believe it, more likely psychosomatic. :thumbup:

Best.
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Re: Make recordings clean

Postby Arpangel » Tue Jan 07, 2020 3:36 pm

Dr Huge Longjohns wrote:
noise problems can be an issue with cheaper mics, that combined with a mixer preamp that hasn't got enough gain.

Hmmm, I honestly don't think this is a very common issue with today's gear. If you're using an SM7 or something, yes you might suffer with level, but any half-decent mic will work with any half-decent interface in my experience. Could you give us some examples of mic/interface combos that gave you this issue?

Yes! Basically an SM57/58 into any budget mixer preamp, always not enough gain, and always the knob is up around 5 o’clock, along with the noise.
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Re: Make recordings clean

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Jan 07, 2020 4:02 pm

Budget preamps typically only provide 60dB of gain, and some only 40dB, so the combination of an insensitive microphone, a quiet sound source, distant mic placement, and a budget preamp are never going to work well.

However, stick a SM57 in front of a guitar cab, or sing directly into an SM58, and 40dB of gain is probably enough and 60dB is quite generous... and electronic noise really won't be a problem!

Horses for courses and all that... You can't blame the equipment when its being used inappropriately.

And about that electronic noise. Any active amplifier will introduce some noise. The very best will only add a decibel or so, while most will add 3 or 4dB of noise. It's a pretty grim design these days that adds 10dB of noise, but they do exist!

But most of the noise you hear from a low-sensitivity mic is actually from the mic's own internal source impedance, and the reason it appears to come only at high gain is usually because of the way the preamp's gain control introduces gain more rapidly at the higher settings.

The theoretical self-noise of a plain 200 Ohm resistor at normal room temperature (and measured within the normal audio bandwidth) is about -130dBu. A good quality preamp will have an EIN (equivalent input noise) value of -127dBu or better -- so it's adding 3dB or less of electronic noise. If the EIN figure is worse than -124dBu I'd want to look elsewhere!

If a manufacturer claims an EIN of -130dBu they have either found a new form of physics, or they are cheating in some way (usually by measuring with a dead short or unfeasibly low source impedance).... or just plain lying!

H
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Re: Make recordings clean - Gate is all I use...?

Postby The Elf » Tue Jan 07, 2020 5:39 pm

sleekitwan wrote:That’s my last advice, try a Gate...
...as a last resort.

A gate is a very blunt tool. It's good to understand how they work, and they can be used creatively, but they should be avoided as a cure-all for problematic audio. Better to sort out the source of the trouble than hide it with a gate.
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