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Make recordings clean

Postby aviorrok » Sun Jan 05, 2020 10:06 pm

Hi,
Recently I feel my records not clean enough in relation to other studios, I visited 2-3 music studios with high end gear (NEVE PREAMPS, Apollo/RME interfaces, U87 &47 mics, analog compressor and more) and the vocals and guitars sources was super clean that in the mix you only need to change the balance.

How can I make my sources better and clean without “spending a lot of money”

My gear is:
Mics: SM7B, MXL 770X, SM57,SM81
Interface: UR242
Preamp: WA273
AC guitar: Takamine GN-20
Electric guitar- Epiphone SG400
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Re: Make recordings clean

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun Jan 05, 2020 10:09 pm

It's not really about the gear. It's about the quality of the performance and the acoustics of the recording environment.

H
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Re: Make recordings clean

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun Jan 05, 2020 10:31 pm

To me 'clean' means absence of distortion and of background noise. Any half decent audio interface and mic can do 'clean' if set up correctly in a quiet, acoustically well treated, recording space*. The 'boutique' preamps and expensive vintage mics top studios have are often used because they can introduce a colouration to the sound, whether it be a little pleasing distortion (preamps) or a certain eq curve (mics). That's not to say your kit can replicate what the top studio kit does but it's probably capable of producing very clean recordings.

* As Hugh says above
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Re: Make recordings clean

Postby James Perrett » Sun Jan 05, 2020 10:54 pm

I'd agree that it isn't about the gear but there are a couple of other differences not mentioned. In a professional studio the performer just has to worry about their performance and not worry about the recording while the engineer can sort out the sound without worrying about playing. If there are separate recording and control rooms the engineer can immediately hear any issues and make any necessary corrections. A studio is also likely to have more space and better room treatment.
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Re: Make recordings clean

Postby aviorrok » Sun Jan 05, 2020 11:03 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:It's not really about the gear. It's about the quality of the performance and the acoustics of the recording environment.

H
Also for me, 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 want to hear a hit song that record with high end and more version with home gear and compare the song it’s very interesting me.
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Re: Make recordings clean

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun Jan 05, 2020 11:05 pm

Quite a few hit song vocals have been recorded with an SM58.......
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Re: Make recordings clean

Postby aviorrok » Sun Jan 05, 2020 11:09 pm

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?
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Re: Make recordings clean

Postby Tim Gillett » Sun Jan 05, 2020 11:11 pm

aviorrok wrote:Hi,
Recently I feel my records not clean enough in relation to other studios, I visited 2-3 music studios with high end gear (NEVE PREAMPS, Apollo/RME interfaces, U87 &47 mics, analog compressor and more) and the vocals and guitars sources was super clean that in the mix you only need to change the balance...

It may depend on what you mean by "super clean"? Can you link to a commercial track with the super clean sound you are seeking? Can you give an example of your own recordings which you consider not super clean?

Often it's not just the gear but also how it's used. For example, often in amateur recordings, the basic tools of EQ and compression are poorly used, or not used at all.

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Re: Make recordings clean

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun Jan 05, 2020 11:13 pm

The point is that it's not about the gear, after the performance, the room is the most important element (the closer you mic the less impact the room has but it's always there). Give this a read https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/pick-preamp
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Re: Make recordings clean

Postby Bob Bickerton » Sun Jan 05, 2020 11:20 pm

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.... ;)

What has been said is true - a good engineer working in an acoustically treated room with excellent monitoring - so they can really hear what's happening - doesn't necessarily need esoteric gear to make an excellent (and clean) recording. They may choose a particular piece of gear for subtle colouration, but off-the-shelf interfaces generally have good-enough preamps to deliver a clean recording.

So is the space you record in acoustically treated to a professional standard?

If not, and this would apply to anyone, I would highly recommend that as a priority.

If I was setting up a studio from scratch, I'd expect to spend as much on acoustic treatment as I would on my interface/computer set-up - or my collection of microphones - which is not to say I may then expand my mic collection or start to invest in esoteric gear - though in truth, I find top-tier plug-ins mean I don't need to spend funds on external preamps/EQ etc.....

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Re: Make recordings clean

Postby aviorrok » Mon Jan 06, 2020 12:09 am

Tim Gillett wrote:
aviorrok wrote:Hi,
Recently I feel my records not clean enough in relation to other studios, I visited 2-3 music studios with high end gear (NEVE PREAMPS, Apollo/RME interfaces, U87 &47 mics, analog compressor and more) and the vocals and guitars sources was super clean that in the mix you only need to change the balance...

It may depend on what you mean by "super clean"? Can you link to a commercial track with the super clean sound you are seeking? Can you give an example of your own recordings which you consider not super clean?

Often it's not just the gear but also how it's used. For example, often in amateur recordings, the basic tools of EQ and compression are poorly used, or not used at all.

Tim

Yeah here’s a clean:

https://youtu.be/Y30pfWIQfoo

And here is my:
I know the mix is not good enough

https://youtu.be/J5o-izwzFrw

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.... ;)

What has been said is true - a good engineer working in an acoustically treated room with excellent monitoring - so they can really hear what's happening - doesn't necessarily need esoteric gear to make an excellent (and clean) recording. They may choose a particular piece of gear for subtle colouration, but off-the-shelf interfaces generally have good-enough preamps to deliver a clean recording.

So is the space you record in acoustically treated to a professional standard?

If not, and this would apply to anyone, I would highly recommend that as a priority.

If I was setting up a studio from scratch, I'd expect to spend as much on acoustic treatment as I would on my interface/computer set-up - or my collection of microphones - which is not to say I may then expand my mic collection or start to invest in esoteric gear - though in truth, I find top-tier plug-ins mean I don't need to spend funds on external preamps/EQ etc.....

Bob


Yeah my room is acoustically treated by one of the best Omer Karni
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Re: Make recordings clean

Postby CS70 » Mon Jan 06, 2020 12:43 am

aviorrok wrote:
Hugh Robjohns wrote:It's not really about the gear. It's about the quality of the performance and the acoustics of the recording environment.

H
Also for me, 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 want to hear a hit song that record with high end and more version with home gear and compare the song it’s very interesting me.

Hm, it's not so simple. More expensive kit is not necessarily about performance, but for example consistency of manufacturing, hand-made vs. machine production, location of manufacturing and local wages. A $200 mic can sound damn good capturing a single vocalist giving a great performance in the right space (and as other said, it's happened a gazillion times for multi-platinum records). The $3000 mic will likely have more features and sure, sometimes better performance characteristics (off-axis response, for example) but none of these may be needed at all that kind of relatively simple recording that an isolated vocal take is.

As for what you say about EQs, let's not go there at all ;-)

For the two tracks, don't think is nothing to do with noise or "clean" (hard to say with the vox balance so completely different), but simply that the song arrangements are very different, with the first one geared much more towards making the vox stand out, in modern fashion, and the mixing is obviously quite different as well.

My suggestion for your mix would be simple: cut stuff. Sounds, frequencies, instruments - cut away as much as you can. The first song is a little drums and a guitar, all mixed so that you can bring the vox loud and clear in front (way too much for me, but hey, it ain't my mix). Even in the busy part, there's space around the vox (even if when it gets busy, it's not like crazy "clean"). The vox is a little distorted which is a standard trick to get it even more in your face. Finally, raised the vox and use a hi shelf to bring the highs higher up - so that they are perceived as nearer.

Only then, if you get too much harshness and it becomes unpleasant. you may think about changes: mic position in the room, position of the vocalist, and of course - if necessary - match the mic with the vocalist. But the best mic is not necessary gonna be a uber-expensive one.
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Re: Make recordings clean

Postby DC-Choppah » Mon Jan 06, 2020 2:00 am

aviorrok wrote:
Yeah here’s a clean:

https://youtu.be/Y30pfWIQfoo

And here is my:
I know the mix is not good enough

https://youtu.be/J5o-izwzFrw

I just hear a different arrangement and mix. There are spots in the 'clean' one with complete silence. I also hear how everything lines up on beat and crisply decays on beat too.

Your mix has reverb tails, less upfront vocals, and more going on arrangement-wise behind the vocal, sloppier entries and exits of sounds. Not in a bad way, just that you are comparing to something that has been aligned and edited to have everything locked onto boundaries.

You should tighten up your arrangement and make all the sounds come and go on the beat if that is what you are after. Sounds artificial to me, but that may be what you are after.
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Re: Make recordings clean

Postby Tim Gillett » Mon Jan 06, 2020 2:09 am

aviorrok wrote:Yeah here’s a clean:

https://youtu.be/Y30pfWIQfoo

And here is my:
I know the mix is not good enough

https://youtu.be/J5o-izwzFrw


Thanks for the tracks. Just listening to the two vocals, the first has very little reverb/echo. The second has more reverb/echo and sounds more far away to me. Of course you may have wanted it to sound like that but I would probably reduce that vocal reverb/echo or change its character to give a more intimate voice. Perhaps the key to a cleaner sound here is less effects? Let the performance speak. Just my opinion.
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Re: Make recordings clean

Postby Bob Bickerton » Mon Jan 06, 2020 2:26 am

Listening to the two samples - I see what you mean.

There are elements of your mix that are clean but the vocals, apart from being down in the mix, certainly have a problem.

A few thoughts:

I have found that it is important to match the microphone to the vocals. That's not saying it has to be an expensive microphone by the way. Yes, you can throw up a U87 and you're likely to have a workable solution, but it may not be the best mic for that particular vocalist.

When I mix I'm working in 3 dimensions (high/low - left right - forward/back) all with an aim of creating balance and space around the individual elements, but with particular emphasis on lead vocals and any solos. The busier the mix the more challenging it is to isolate the elements.

Also, it's important to be able to 'refresh' our perspective of what we're listening to as it's so easy to very quickly get used to a sound/mix. It's very hard sometimes to be objective when mixing. Maybe there's an element of this in your mix. I know you said it was a quick mix, but I suspect there are elements of it which you are enjoying more than others.

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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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