Mic/Recorder for Vocals

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nicolesy
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Posted Mon May 26, 2008 8:50PM

(I'm a newb at all the hardware with recording, so bear with me here. )


I would like to record some vocals, and do have a mic (Samson C03U).  When I have it connected to my computer (USB) and have the gain at a decent level then my voice is waaaay too soft when I record stuff.  Even if I yell into the mic it's still really soft.


I have read some stuff about mic pre-amps, but wouldn't that just boost the noise up too?  Are there any external recording devices that I could plug my mic into and record it that way?
wdstock
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Posted Mon May 26, 2008 9:05PM

Nic,


Most mics have a very low output level and most likely your computer's input is designed for a higher level signal (called "line level"). A mic preamp is needed in that case as you thought. Mic preamps have high gain with low noise so they will not "boost up the noise too". You could also go the route of buying a USB mic such as the Blue "Snowflake" or "Snowball".  As far as external devices, there are a slew of them. Check out this guide.


There's also another thread somewhere here where some of this is discussed I believe.


Winston
nicolesy
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Posted Mon May 26, 2008 9:09PM

Thanks Winston.  I did some searching around but it seemed like a lot of them dealt with music (they would say just boost up the sound output of the instrument ... can't really do that with my voice!)


track5
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Posted Tue May 27, 2008 3:38PM

you might want to consider a simple audio interface... I had a similar problem with low levels when plugging my digital drumkit directly into my sound card. Something like the Phonic Firefly won't break the bank but will provide the boost you need and take some of the grunt off your soundcard and CPU.

(Edited on 2008-05-27 15:55:12 by track5)
nicolesy
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Posted Tue May 27, 2008 3:51PM
Thanks!  I'll look into that.
onfilm
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Posted Tue May 27, 2008 4:50PM

When you say you want to record some vocals, are you thinking of spoken or singing? In a soundproof studio, slightly noisy bedroom or outdoors? All these have a bearing on the mic you need.


However I agree you need a mic preamp of some sort, and there are many to choose from. Amongst my rack of gear (I've been a pro musician most of my life) I have the classics - Drawmer compressor, Aphex exciter, Lexicon reverb, all of which find a use for vocals. I recently acquired a dbx ProVocal mic preamp, which as well as being a conventional preamp strip, also models various mics, so great versatility. (In fact I bought 3 of these direct from the manufacturer as they were the last stock in the UK, and got them at an excellent price, so if anyone in the UK wants a bargain mic preamp then send me a sitemail........)


If you give us more idea as to your intended use then I'm sure you will get more recommendations.
nicolesy
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Posted Tue May 27, 2008 5:04PM

Mostly spoken, so that's what I would buy for.  I would probably be using it inside my quietest room, but still not sound-proof.


If a portable one would work well under those circumstances then I will probably end up getting one of those, since then I would also be able to record outdoor on-location noises and sound-effects as well.
dlewis33
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Posted Wed May 28, 2008 12:09PM
Speaking of pre-amp, is that an entirely different thing from the 48-volt phantom power available in my audio interface and my portable recording device?
dlewis33
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Posted Wed May 28, 2008 12:09PM
Speaking of pre-amp, is that an entirely different thing from the 48-volt phantom power available in my audio interface and my portable recording device?
dsharpie
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Posted Wed May 28, 2008 3:10PM
Posted By dlewis33:
Speaking of pre-amp, is that an entirely different thing from the 48-volt phantom power available in my audio interface and my portable recording device?

If you have an audio interface with phantom power and also a portable recorder with phantom, then you surely also have a pre-amp built-in -- but the pre-amp is a different thing from the phantom power.  The pre-amp is a boost to the signal coming in, while phantom power is, well, power flowing out to the mic.  But wherever you find phantom power on a jack, you usually have a pre-amp processing the mic's incoming signal because you use phantom power only with mics that need it -- therefore the input is designed to boost mic signals properly.  The problem nicolesy was describing was plugging a mic-level signal into a line-level input.

Dave in St. Pete, FL (dsharpie)
onfilm
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Posted Wed May 28, 2008 4:45PM
Posted By dsharpie: 
The problem nicolesy was describing was plugging a mic-level signal into a line-level input.

Actually I'm a bit confused now, because looking at the original post it looks like the mic was plugged in via USB. I've never used a USB mic, but it would seem something must be set up wrong if the signal is too low, or what would be the point of a USB mic? I don't know of any product which would function as a mic preamp via USB.
thepugnatious
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Posted Wed May 28, 2008 6:58PM
Posted By onfilm:

Posted By dsharpie:
The problem nicolesy was describing was plugging a mic-level signal into a line-level input.


Actually I'm a bit confused now, because looking at the original post it looks like the mic was plugged in via USB. I've never used a USB mic, but it would seem something must be set up wrong if the signal is too low, or what would be the point of a USB mic? I don't know of any product which would function as a mic preamp via USB.


I agree, I would look into contacting the Samson support as this mic should not have a problem creating a decent vocal recording at a sufficient volume.


There are many excellent usb/firewire/digital mics and many of them will do an amazing recording, albeit out of the price range for many this is arguably the best digital mic out there - http://www.neumann.com/?lang=en&id=current_microphones&cid=d01_description
nicolesy
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Posted Wed May 28, 2008 10:05PM
Posted By onfilm:

Posted By dsharpie:
The problem nicolesy was describing was plugging a mic-level signal into a line-level input.


Actually I'm a bit confused now, because looking at the original post it looks like the mic was plugged in via USB. I've never used a USB mic, but it would seem something must be set up wrong if the signal is too low, or what would be the point of a USB mic? I don't know of any product which would function as a mic preamp via USB.


Yes, it's USB.  I'm seriously thinking about getting a portable recorder (as long as I can connect my USB mic into it, too!).


I'll give the mic another shot and contact Samson if it's still not working right.  It did come with Cakewalk software, but they are .inf and .exe files, so they won't install on my Mac (and the mic is supposed to be Win/Mac compatible).
nicolesy
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Posted Wed May 28, 2008 10:32PM
All that talk about software got me thinking ... so I went to the Samson page and they have something called "SoftPre" and I think it is helping with the volume.  Thanks for all of your input, everyone!  (Now I just need to go find a nice, quiet room )
wdstock
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Posted Thu May 29, 2008 7:41AM

Nic,


Did I completely miss the fact that you were using a USB mic (or did you edit your post, just a sanity check on my part)? In any case, yea if you are using a USB mic I don't think you should be having level or noise problems unless, maybe the mic requires some sort of software setup or control. Maybe that is part of what SoftPre does? Not sure cause I haven't used it.
nicolesy
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Posted Thu May 29, 2008 9:06AM
I didn't edit my OP, but I'm glad that it was brought up about the USB thing not needing a pre.  I think the software is helping, so it's good to know that I don't need any new equipment (I might look into a plug-in for noise reduction though).  It's probably not the greatest equipment out there, but for a newb like me I think that it's a good start.
nicolesy
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Posted Thu May 29, 2008 4:29PM

Ok, another (final) update.  Apparently the problem was not my mic, but my new software!  I have had the mic set up on my computer perfectly, but for some reason the Logic Express software I have wasn't finding my mic.  Sooo ... I tried it in GarageBand and voila!  It works beautifully! 
brianaadams
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Posted Thu May 29, 2008 5:01PM

Nicolesy - Your C03U is the follow on from the C01U - there's an article here - http://www.macintouch.com/samsonc01u.html which gives some insight into the problems of getting levels right! USB mics are a handy way of getting into recording, but can be a bit limited. I have my doubts about how good the analogue to digital conversion can be, given that there's such a small difference in price between the standard C03 and the USB model. Yes - it's sixteen bit conversion, but given the headroom that the mic needs to have for high level sounds (max 136dB - that's pretty loud!) it might be a bit noisy for quiet sounds. This makes it all the more important for you to use the metering in the SoftPre, so that you can get the level into the computer as high as possible without overloading it. That way, you don't need to amplify what you've recorded - which is always a bad idea since you amplify the noise along with the wanted signal. You ought to be able to get the mic working with Logic Express - have you seen this article? (It's about C01U with Logic, but the same principles apply). http://samsontech.com/products/productFAQs.cfm?prodID=1810&brandID=2


Recording speech well can be quite challenging, as you've got a low level audio signal to begin with (compared to most instruments, or someone singing), and you might eventually want to look at a specialist microphone with an external preamp/interface for your Mac. If you've got a few hundred dollars to spare, and you're really keen, you could consider one of these - http://www.coleselectroacoustics.com/microphones.shtml - there's nothing like a lip microphone to give you great signal to noise ratio!


Anyhow - good to hear you've got started and things are working for you now - Samson mics are really good value for money, so your C03U was a good choice to get you started. Good luck with your recordings.
nicolesy
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Posted Thu May 29, 2008 7:46PM
Thanks for that, Brian!  That is some really good info ... I bought this mic through Amazon and it had some great reviews, and it was only $100.  I started doing some test vocals this afternoon, and there is surprisingly very little noise, even with it being near my laptop and two external HD's (I thought that these would get picked up in the mic).  I'm just happy I don't need to spend any more money!
wdstock
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Posted Thu May 29, 2008 8:15PM
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