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Guitar Amp Sounds Great But Records Poorly

Postby cyberdaniel82 » Thu Jan 31, 2019 7:47 am

Greetings! I have a question about recording a guitar amp, though it extends to other sound sources as well. At first listen, it may sound philosophical in nature, but I feel confident that there’s an objectively correct answer…

I have three really great-sounding electric guitar amps. I record using either a 1966 Blackface Bassman or a Special Edition Vox AC15. My best-sounding amp, however, is actually an updated Bandmaster. In the room, using my ears, it sounds phenomenal. Crunchy, mid-rangey, articulate. Recorded, though, it completely loses the magic and instead sounds flat and sterile. I’ve tried a couple of different mics and techniques with it, but I haven’t yet cracked the code to capture its wonderful live tone.

The Bandmaster uses 3 10” speakers, which is a rather uncommon configuration. My other amps both record well and feature 12” speakers. My best guess is that maybe 10” speakers, when tracked, don’t translate to my liking the way that 12” speakers do. Again, that’s entirely a guess.

This got me wondering: one of the following statements has to be true of my situation. Which one is it?

1. If a sound source (Bandmaster) sounds great to your ears, it should sound just as great recorded; you just haven’t figured out how to capture it properly.

2. Some sound sources (Bandmaster) simply don’t translate as well as others when miked up. There’s likely no magic bullet that’s going to suddenly make your Bandmaster record as well as your other two amps.

I’m sure a lot of you veteran recording engineers have encountered analogous situations. Given my anecdotal experience, I’m leaning towards answer #2. This is the first time I’ve ever had difficulty getting a sound to translate well/accurately when miked, so I’m fascinated as to whether the shortcoming is with me, or with the Bandmaster. Thanks in advance for weighing in!

- Daniel
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Re: Guitar Amp Sounds Great But Records Poorly

Postby Sam Spoons » Thu Jan 31, 2019 2:56 pm

What you record will only sound like what you hear in the room if the mic and your ears are in more or less the same position. Most of us with small home studios close mic the guitar amp, often with the mic touching the speaker cloth live style. If you are close miking the cab then, effectively, you are recording the sound of a small part of one 10" speaker rather than the whole sound of three 10" speakers and the way they interact (which may be why you find the 12" speakers translate better).

But, sticking a mic 6 feet from the amp in a small room throws up a whole raft of other issues (I refer you back to your other thread). My compromise (and forgive me if this is what you are already doing) is to mic the cab from 6-12" away, minimising the room sound but capturing a more integrated sound from the amp. My goto guitar amp is a 1 x 12" 18 Watt combo though so I'm not trying to capture the sound of 3 x 10" speakers.

Given that, I suspect answer 1 is right but may not be achievable in your room, so answer 2 is the pragmatic solution.

Not sure how much that helps..........
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Re: Guitar Amp Sounds Great But Records Poorly

Postby CS70 » Thu Jan 31, 2019 3:09 pm

Definitely 1.

Right mic and right position of the mic (in the room and with respect to the speaker cone) do the magic. It's simple, but not necessarily easy.

Ideally you want a mic that responds a bit like your ears, in a position where the reflections + the mic properties result in a similar filtering to the sound that gets to your ears.
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Re: Guitar Amp Sounds Great But Records Poorly

Postby Sam Spoons » Thu Jan 31, 2019 3:12 pm

But you need the right room too CS wouldn't you say?
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Re: Guitar Amp Sounds Great But Records Poorly

Postby Wonks » Thu Jan 31, 2019 3:14 pm

I'd say no.1. You'll probably need a multi-mic approach, with a close mic for definition, maybe one a bit further back (often a LDC), and maybe one even further back for a bit of room sound. But a dynamic like a 57 and a ribbon mic, both close miked, can also create a nice sound.

You need to remember that almost all guitar sounds on songs will be mainly close miked and will sound a lot different to the amp sound in the room. It's how it sits in the track that's important, though if it's a solo or very exposed instrument, then a more natural sound can be used.

As Sam said, the room needs to be a nice sounding one for the more distant mics to work well. Your ears /brain cancel out a lot of the reverberant sound in a room, but an omni will tell you everything that's going on. Even a cardioid will still pick up a lot of sound from the sides. If this room mic has too much room 'flutter' when played back , then you can try putting up absorbent items like duvets or heavy blankets to cut down on some of the reverb. But you are probably going to have to heavily EQ this, and aonly add a small amount into the mix.

It's also important to make sure that the two/three different recordings are time aligned in your DAW so they are in phase, otherwise you'll get comb filtering and a thin sounding recording.

It's important to find the speaker with the nicest sound for close recording, and you really need to move the mic around when playing something repetitive. if you haven't got someone who can help you with this, if you've got any re-amping facility, or even a looper pedal, then record a short phrase, loop it, then you can move the mic around whilst listening on closed-back headphones to find the spot that sounds nicest (not forgetting to try the mic at different angles from 0° to 45°).
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Re: Guitar Amp Sounds Great But Records Poorly

Postby ManFromGlass » Thu Jan 31, 2019 3:16 pm

This may not be much help but it’s a tip I picked up from the forums here. Also if you are the performer and engineer it might be a bit tricky to implement.
The tip was to put a finger in one ear while listening for the best place to put the mic.
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Re: Guitar Amp Sounds Great But Records Poorly

Postby CS70 » Thu Jan 31, 2019 3:29 pm

(replying to Sam)

Well yes and no. I reason that if he likes the sound he ears in that room, it means that that sound exists in that room - comb filtering included. The tricky part is to find a mic which preserve the timbre elements in a way similar to ears - especially the filtering from side reflections - and in a position where the filtering - whatever it is - a similar nature. Which mic depends also on the nature of the sound as ears dont have a flat frequency response.

I can be definitely tricky in small rooms because there can be far fewer areas where even the right mic reacts to the filtering the same way, and are sufficiently near to the speaker.. we psychologically filter out a lot of the ambience when listening directly, but if that ambience is recorded (like the wash in a distant micking situation) we're gonna listen to it in the context of another ambience so we don't remove it automatically the same way..
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Re: Guitar Amp Sounds Great But Records Poorly

Postby Wonks » Thu Jan 31, 2019 3:31 pm

ManFromGlass wrote:This may not be much help but it’s a tip I picked up from the forums here. Also if you are the performer and engineer it might be a bit tricky to implement.
The tip was to put a finger in one ear while listening for the best place to put the mic.
When MFG plays guitar, it's best to put a finger in each ear. ;)
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Re: Guitar Amp Sounds Great But Records Poorly

Postby Sam Spoons » Thu Jan 31, 2019 4:01 pm

CS70,

Yes, that's why I feel the room is as important as the other factors. As you and Wonks say we do filter out ambience when we are hearing something in real time so if we want to record that something we have to remove the ambience by some other means, be it duvets or super expensive room treatment. By 'the right room' I was meaning one that either has little ambience or has an ambience that complements the sound.

:thumbup:
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Re: Guitar Amp Sounds Great But Records Poorly

Postby ef37a » Thu Jan 31, 2019 5:43 pm

What does the Bandmaster sound like in the room if you run it into one of the other combo's 12" speakers?

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Re: Guitar Amp Sounds Great But Records Poorly

Postby Wonks » Thu Jan 31, 2019 5:57 pm

Where do you normally mic your speakers? If it's always say 1" from the centre or 3" from the edge, then don't forget that a 10" driver is 5/6th the size of a 12" speaker, so you'd need to adjust the mic position slightly for the same relative position.

Of course, it's always best to find the sweet spot than rely on a standard position for all speakers.

I'd also move the mic so that it's on the part of the speaker furthest away from the other two speakers to minimise the local comb-filtering effects from slightly out-of phase delayed sound from those other two speakers. In the room, you are hearing the result of all three speakers interacting, with the sound being fairly homogenous once you are a few feet away from the amp.
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Re: Guitar Amp Sounds Great But Records Poorly

Postby ManFromGlass » Thu Jan 31, 2019 10:54 pm

Wonks wrote:
ManFromGlass wrote:This may not be much help but it’s a tip I picked up from the forums here. Also if you are the performer and engineer it might be a bit tricky to implement.
The tip was to put a finger in one ear while listening for the best place to put the mic.
When MFG plays guitar, it's best to put a finger in each ear. ;)

sad but true :D
But still, there is something about a plank of wood with strings onnit!
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Re: Guitar Amp Sounds Great But Records Poorly

Postby zenguitar » Fri Feb 01, 2019 1:38 am

ManFromGlass wrote:But still, there is something about a plank of wood with strings onnit!

Tennis?

Andy :beamup:
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Re: Guitar Amp Sounds Great But Records Poorly

Postby ManFromGlass » Fri Feb 01, 2019 2:18 am

I’m usually asleep by then. . . .
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Re: Guitar Amp Sounds Great But Records Poorly

Postby Tim Gillett » Fri Feb 01, 2019 5:02 am

Also with most mics at close range, when we move it closer to the source, the bass increases. A common SM57 instrument mic is basically neutral at about 2", has more bass closer, and has less bass further away. So when we move the mic away from the amp for more room sound, or a broader pickup of the amp, we also lose bass. We have to allow for this.
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Re: Guitar Amp Sounds Great But Records Poorly

Postby Argiletonne » Sun Feb 03, 2019 8:58 pm

I guess the main factor here depends on what you are recording and what equipment. If I were you I would run the longest cable you have and use the nicest preamp. I'm not top of the hill guru or anything like all these other folks, just a flat road city dweller, but if I were you, I would try to find a mic with full range capacity. In my experience of recording guitar the ears are never the microphones/DI mixer inputs. I've recorded guitar in the past and usually the best way to get a good live recording is to record it like you were on the stage, so loud pretty much. Are you playing loud enough. Ears are more sensitive than microphonics.
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Re: Guitar Amp Sounds Great But Records Poorly

Postby cyberdaniel82 » Sun Feb 10, 2019 7:57 am

Thanks for the suggestions! I never considered that with multiple speakers, one has to be careful to avoid phase issues between the different speakers. I've predominantly been close-micing this amp with an SM57. Maybe I'll capture a little more of the amp's bite by backing the mic off a little to reduce the bass coming in. I've also never tried running the amp through another cab, so I can't speak to how that would affect the tone. I like the ol' finger in the ear trick, haha! I do have re-amping ability, so I'll conduct some of these experiments in the near future.
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Re: Guitar Amp Sounds Great But Records Poorly

Postby Mixedup » Sun Feb 10, 2019 10:56 am

How loud is the amp in the room when you like it? Once recorded are you playing it back at the same loudness and in a controlled listening space? Because the loudness will afgect your perception. And if you're playing it back in the same space you're multiplying the contribution of the room...
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Re: Guitar Amp Sounds Great But Records Poorly

Postby cyberdaniel82 » Sun Feb 17, 2019 8:55 am

I'm atypical in that I usually prefer the tone of amps recorded at lower to medium volumes, especially if they break up without being too loud. I suppose I play the recording back a bit quieter than I record the amp, but I wouldn't consider the difference extreme.
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Re: Guitar Amp Sounds Great But Records Poorly

Postby ef37a » Sun Feb 17, 2019 9:03 am

cyberdaniel82 wrote:I'm atypical in that I usually prefer the tone of amps recorded at lower to medium volumes, especially if they break up without being too loud. I suppose I play the recording back a bit quieter than I record the amp, but I wouldn't consider the difference extreme.

In any case there are few monitors that can duplicate the full volume of even a 15 watt valve guitar amp with a decent, ~100dB/W/mtr speaker and no budget ones!

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