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Mixing mics when recording guitars 500 Series Preamps
Old 8th September 2011
  #1
Gear Head
 

Mixing mics when recording guitars

This may be a silly question to some of you, but I can't seem to find a clear answer so I'm going to ask anyways. When I record electric guitars, like many people, I split my guitar signal to two amps, each feeding it's own speaker cabinet. I usually use two mics per cab (sm57 and 421) and at the moment what I do is use my API 3124mb+ to mix the 4 mics into a mono signal sound that I am happy with, which then goes through comp, eq and to my DAW.

I love my API pres, but I'd like to try using a similar method with my other pres for a different sound. Thing is, I only have stereo pairs of my other pres (BAE, Pendulum). So, this is what I've been considering: sell my 3124mb+, buy one or two API pres w/some of the money, and then buy another summing mixer (which I want to do anyways) to mix the 4 mic signals into one before hitting the pre of my choice. In other words, I'd like to mix the mic signals using a mixer (been thinking of speck xsum, tonelux otb16, or API 8200) and then feeding this mixed signal to a mono pre (or maybe stereo) and then going to comp-eq-DAW).

Is anyone doing this? Is this a pretty standard technique? Are there downsides to this in comparison to mixing 4 post-pre mic signals? I'd like to hear some experienced people's views on this. If this isn't possible, does that mean I have to have 4 of every type pre I want to use if I use the micing/mixing technique described above?
Old 8th September 2011
  #2
Yes I think I'm on your page with guitar sounds...

I set up a u87 & sm57 close, a different whatever mic little further back and a room mic all going into my 3124 into my Toft ATB mixer and sum them using a buss/submaster and EQ/phase reverse each mic if necessary using the desk EQ and then have a valve compressor inserted over the buss.

I go so far as to try and have different guitars and/or amps on each different guitar track so that I have a nice phat wall of guitars with no masking problems.

Sometimes the guitarist insists in using his guitar and only his guitar. Then doffing mic blends are essential for separation between guitar tracks.

I basically rearrange the faders of the mics for different sounds so that no two guitar tracks ever sound the same taking notes in protools incase I need to match a sound.


I love guitars.
Old 8th September 2011
  #3
If you run mic signals through a mixer, and then gain them, you're going to raise the noise floor significantly, though... They're guitars, so they probably are loud and your signal probably isn't going to need 40dB+ of gain. Also technically you should be going into the line ins of the pre from the mixer because of impedance, though you can try it both ways and see how it sounds.

That being said, I feel like you're asking to downgrade your rig, I'd find it hard to get rid of 2 channels of API (unless you're really just doing overdubs, and no drums) I haven't tried the other 2 but we had the speck at the studio I used to work at in case a MPC walked in, and I can say that I was not impressed in the least with it's performance, and would often run long cables accross the floor to avoid it even though it was far more convenient for writing sessions with synths.

I also strongly prefer to EQ my mics before summing them, especially if your mics are similar like a 57 and a 421. (No I'm not saying their identical, but it's a lot closer than a 121 and an 87)

But... Yes it probably would work with ok results, but my guess is you might be getting better results now then what you'll achieve. Why not run 2 mics through the BAE, and 2 through the API, then sum?
Old 8th September 2011
  #4
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dandeurloo's Avatar
A few things.

I summing down multiple mics all the time and print 1 track into the DAW. I use a modded soundcraft delta from Jim Williams for this. After the mod they are a very powerful and clean desk. I can run each mic through whatever chain I like and then line level into the desk. The desk then has a very powerful extra eq that can be "in or out" of the signal path depending on if you need it. I find this method to translate to cleaner more powerful productions and tracks then I use to.

The old way of doing this and, a way you can still do it. Is to set up AUX tracks for each of the mics and have them feed into 1 audio track. Then you can blend the level of each AUX/Mic for the desired tone of the Audio track. I have done that for years and it works. I just prefer having summing done outside of the DAW. Either way is much better then taking all the mic lines into the DAW and mixing off of that. That leaves to many decisions for later.

As far as the 3124. Sell it. Buy a delta or another clean summing mixer and get some VP26's or VP312's. You will be set up nicely.

The delta I have is a smaller one specifically for this. But you could also sum out to it later during mixing. It's not a mojo desk at all. But I get my mojo from everything else and I have another neve desk for that. Overall, it is a very nice studio tool that is reasonable size and offers a number of analog tools to my DAW!

Good luck.
Old 9th September 2011
  #5
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by crippledsound View Post
.. and then buy another summing mixer (which I want to do anyways) to mix the 4 mic signals into one before hitting the pre of my choice.
I think if you mix unpreamplified mic signals before the preamp, you will add noise.

If you use the mixer to preamplify the signals, there's little point of having the "pre of your choice" in there after they are mixed. The color of the mixer pres will be all over everything.
Old 10th September 2011
  #6
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I would record all 4 audio tracks indecently rather than pre-mix them before committing to audio track...

Having 4 separate audio tracks in your DAW will give you the ability to tweak each mic (mix) in reference to the other instruments but yes, you would need many pre's to do it this way (the only way IMHO).

Jim
Old 10th September 2011
  #7
This is my issue as well! On a desk, it's easy - you've got groups. In a bigger studio, I'll return pres to insert returns (or even line ins if that particular pre doesn't have a polarity flip button - any slight noise increase is worth if for the flexibility!), and balance them that way.

In the production room - no luck. I'd love a simple clean 3 into 1 mixer - no pots, nothing except unity gain throughout.

I thought about building a simple passive summer, use a clean mic pre as makeup gain....? lot of hassle for a simple solution!

The other thing I want is a way to ride gain to DAW - ie a fader to sit between input chain and DAW input. I read that you can't just use a passive fader for this...any truth in that? worth boxing up a P+G fader and testing I suppose...
Old 10th September 2011
  #8
Gear Addict
 
la grange's Avatar
 

not sure I get the point of mixing to mono before the actual mixing stage.
Unless you have to bounce all those on tape because you lack number of tracks. But on a DAW system, why bother.
You can also leave the second amp as reamping during mixing process. There for you have to deal with 3 signals only when tracking, 2 mics on one track and a DI on a dummy track.
Yeah, no, I am sure I don't get it....

Oli
Old 10th September 2011
  #9
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by la grange View Post
not sure I get the point of mixing to mono before the actual mixing stage.
Unless you have to bounce all those on tape because you lack number of tracks. But on a DAW system, why bother.
The discipline of committing to a mono guitar sound from multi-mics in the Old School way can be quite useful and valuable, but often people need to burn their bridges in order to achieve that discipline.

The engineer could set the four faders in his DAW to get his blend, and make an Oath to never touch that submix again. It could be part of his workflow, to adapt all future tracks to that blend, come hell or high water. He could bus them to an aux and hide the tracks.

How many here could keep their hands off that submix? heh
Old 10th September 2011
  #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
The discipline of committing to a mono guitar sound from multi-mics in the Old School way can be quite useful and valuable, but often people need to burn their bridges in order to achieve that discipline.

The engineer could set the four faders in his DAW to get his blend, and make an Oath to never touch that submix again. It could be part of his workflow, to adapt all future tracks to that blend, come hell or high water. He could bus them to an aux and hide the tracks.

How many here could keep their hands off that submix? heh
Ha! Probably not I....
j
Old 10th September 2011
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimK View Post
I would record all 4 audio tracks indecently rather than pre-mix them before committing to audio track...

Having 4 separate audio tracks in your DAW will give you the ability to tweak each mic (mix) in reference to the other instruments .... (the only way IMHO).
That can be a useful way to do it in certain circumstances. But to see it as the only way is to ignore that getting the sound you want up front and committing to it can be very creatively empowering both at the time of recording and at the mix.

Getting a proper mix of microphones and developing a good sound that inspires the player will likely contribute to the quality of the performance. When the player is happy, and you are confident the sound will sit well in the mix -- claiming its own space and leaving space for others -- why not commit?

Then come mix time, you won't have to spend all that extra time tweaking any un-decently recorded tracks to get them to relate to all the other stuff you've added since. You can push up the fader and get started at weaving the performance into the mix, rather than first fashioning a sound that will fit. Just as some enjoy the "luxury" of having all those choices available up to the end, it's also a luxury to be able to start with a stack of good sounds from the get go. Not having the ability to tweak something isn't a problem if it doesn't really need to be tweaked.

This approach does take some balls, as others have said. And it demands a level of craft that's not easily attained. But when it's done well it's a very satisfying way to work.

Here's one where all the microphones were mixed down direct to two track during the performance. The entire album was done that way.



Sorry, this was a bit off topic. I actually think the OP is already hooked up pretty well with his current inventory. I'd invest in a new microphone flavor at this point. There's nothing wrong with printing two or more guitar tracks that comprise your sound if that's the way you're set up technically. One track or 4, if the sound you want is there you're good to go.
Old 11th September 2011
  #12
Gear Head
 

Thanks for all the replies and suggestions everyone! Yes, I agree that it is better to go to pres from mics first, then mix the signal. I'm just looking for a cheaper solution since I only do overdubs and don't need more than 2 of any type of pre. I was thinking rather than have 4 API pres, 2 BAE, and 2 Pendulum, sell my 3124 mb+, and buy two new types of pres or other gear.

Using 2 APIs and 2 BAEs is fine, it's just that I'd like to have the option of using the same pre for all signals, and I'd prefer not to have to change my method of having 4 mics (2 per speaker cab). If I can't do the "mix mic signal before pre" method, then the only way I could have all the choices I'd like to have is to have 4 of every type of pre.

I appreciate all your suggestions, keep em coming!

Oh, and committing to one sound (mono signal) is something I have come to prefer and love. I used to always try to leave as many options for the mix stage, but a well-known producer and mixer I had the pleasure of working with sold me on the "commit at the time of tracking" method.
Old 11th September 2011
  #13
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by psycho_monkey View Post
This is my issue as well! On a desk, it's easy - you've got groups. In a bigger studio, I'll return pres to insert returns (or even line ins if that particular pre doesn't have a polarity flip button - any slight noise increase is worth if for the flexibility!), and balance them that way.

In the production room - no luck. I'd love a simple clean 3 into 1 mixer - no pots, nothing except unity gain throughout.

I thought about building a simple passive summer, use a clean mic pre as makeup gain....? lot of hassle for a simple solution!

The other thing I want is a way to ride gain to DAW - ie a fader to sit between input chain and DAW input. I read that you can't just use a passive fader for this...any truth in that? worth boxing up a P+G fader and testing I suppose...
I've been chewing over these questions lately. Would a Red Cloud be capable of a solution?
Old 11th September 2011
  #14
Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
The discipline of committing to a mono guitar sound from multi-mics in the Old School way can be quite useful and valuable, but often people need to burn their bridges in order to achieve that discipline.

The engineer could set the four faders in his DAW to get his blend, and make an Oath to never touch that submix again. It could be part of his workflow, to adapt all future tracks to that blend, come hell or high water. He could bus them to an aux and hide the tracks.

How many here could keep their hands off that submix? heh
I don't give myself the choice. I print the submix once I have it. Maybe a minute or two of exploring and then I'm done with that.
Old 11th September 2011
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by la grange View Post
not sure I get the point of mixing to mono before the actual mixing stage.
Unless you have to bounce all those on tape because you lack number of tracks. But on a DAW system, why bother.
You can also leave the second amp as reamping during mixing process. There for you have to deal with 3 signals only when tracking, 2 mics on one track and a DI on a dummy track.
Yeah, no, I am sure I don't get it....

Oli
As has already been pointed out, you get the sound, you commit, you move on. I'd still record a separate DI. when I record multiple mics, all that happens is I end up bussing them through an aux track. I rarely change the balance once I've recorded the sound. I then end up with 20 tracks for 10 guitar parts, when automation/processing is done, it's not above the audio which makes things a bit cluttered.....yes I could bounce the 2 parts to one, but that's another time consuming process, 300% of the audio files I need...I'd rather just commit in the first place! Having done it "the other way" on a console, I much prefer it.
Old 11th September 2011
  #16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lardroom View Post
I've been chewing over these questions lately. Would a Red Cloud be capable of a solution?
red cloud doesn't sum...yes it would do the attenuation thing, but not on faders!
Old 11th September 2011
  #17
Gear Addict
 

Radial workhorse with summing mixer? I haven't looked into this so I could be wrong, but you can get the unbuilt mixer so I imagine you can mix all the pres.(?)

You can't mix the mics before preamplification due to impedances.
Old 12th September 2011
  #18
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druhms's Avatar
I think to truly mix the mic signals before the mic amp is going to be tricky due to impedance issues. Even the methods mentioned above impart some tonality to the signal and / or create a noisefloor issue. Unless someone makes a tool for this specific application, you may need to make compromises.
Maybe a simple option would be to buy 4 or so mic pre's admired for their colorLESS qualities and just barely touch the gain, buss them to your mono send and run that signal through a super color pre of your choice before hitting your record track. Maybe throw a selectable Shure pad in there somewhere as needed.
You can also fool around with what you are combining / bussing your signals with, such as old tube mixers or germanium mixers i.e. Gates, Altec, Collins, RCA, etc... Many are relatively inexpensive and can impart some interesting sounds.
An obvious less expensive way to get color options is to try some different mics. Your 421 + 57 into API Pre's combo has made a ton of hit records, but you can never have too many mics.

Hope something in that rubbish helps.

JJ Crews
Old 12th September 2011
  #19
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by druhms View Post
An obvious less expensive way to get color options is to try some different mics. Your 421 + 57 into API Pre's combo has made a ton of hit records, but you can never have too many mics.
yeah like a ribbon mic for example

I think this post by our own Michael Wagener is extremely relevant to this discussion:

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/100900-post4.html

he calls this one before:


and this one 'after':
Old 12th September 2011
  #20
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druhms's Avatar
Amen Joeq! MW has this down to a voodoo like science! His gtr sounds are ridiculous!
JJ Crews
Old 12th September 2011
  #21
Gear Guru
 

I just noticed the object on the left side of the first photo is a binaural dummy head mic!
Old 12th September 2011
  #22
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what you are thinking of will end up in a phase mess. its completely pointless (unless you are using 4 IBP units extremely wisely or put every mic at the exact same distance...which doesnt make any sense either) and actually contradictive.
you will be able to adjust the phase ITB in post-production. but mixing multiple mics on a mono source in realtime is about the most stupid thing you coud do. read up on phase.....
also, if you have to build such a simple mono source from four mics you either used the wrong mic, preamp, amp, guitar or you simply pointed the mic wrong. an inch can make a HUGE difference (especially with amps). i cant stress this enough. one great guitar, amp, mic and preamp are all you need.
again, do not use four mics at different distances and mix them analog. thats blasphemie and the worst thing one could do to recording.
Old 12th September 2011
  #23
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druhms's Avatar
With all due respect Salomonander, this technique has been around for ages. Even before DAW's! In the old days, you had to really be up on your tracking skills and actually dial in the phase by adjusting mic position or get lucky with the ol' flip button. So skills were important because, as you point out, phase can completely ruin what you are trying to achieve.
So, yes, you obviously need to pay close attention to phase or a rack of IBP's may be in order.
JJ Crews
Old 12th September 2011
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by druhms View Post
With all due respect Salomonander, this technique has been around for ages. Even before DAW's! In the old days, you had to really be up on your tracking skills and actually dial in the phase by adjusting mic position or get lucky with the ol' flip button. So skills were important because, as you point out, phase can completely ruin what you are trying to achieve.
So, yes, you obviously need to pay close attention to phase or a rack of IBP's may be in order.
JJ Crews
i might have used the wrong words again. if one is aware if phase one should be fine. but most people arent.
i still think its absurd to use four mics on a single guitar. and getting perfect phase on the spot is almost impossible. one might think its right. but in most cases it isnt. we are talking samples here. a few sample of delay will destroy your phase. no, i stand to my point. its a bad idea all together. there is no point if using the right settings and instrumments in the first place.
Old 12th September 2011
  #25
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druhms's Avatar
Cool man. I dig what you're saying. That's the thing with this business, there aren't any solid rules, and I think that's what keeps things fresh. What may be a saving grace to one person may be completely useless to another. Also, keeping your source material and personal taste in the equation adds even more reason to know what works for you in each individual scenario.
So please don't think I was saying you were wrong, I was just mentioning many people have been using this technique for a while.
JJ
Old 12th September 2011
  #26
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CompEq's Avatar
 

I'm not too familiar with the 3124, but doesn't it have insert returns? It would unbalance your signal, but you could make some cables (use a TRS with the ring connected to XLR Pin2 and the tip and sleeve wired together - grounded, or not connected - not grounded *you'd want to check with API to see which they prefer) to use these as line inputs. Run your sm57's into the Pendulum pres and the 421's into the BAE pres (or vise versa) and run the preamp outputs into the insert returns of the 3124 and just use it as a mixer. You'd still have the 3124 pres and could use them instead of one of the above as well. That gives you three preamp options for the cost of a few short cables.
Old 13th September 2011
  #27
Gear Maniac
 
taherbert's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by salomonander View Post
what you are thinking of will end up in a phase mess. its completely pointless (unless you are using 4 IBP units extremely wisely or put every mic at the exact same distance...which doesnt make any sense either) and actually contradictive.
you will be able to adjust the phase ITB in post-production. but mixing multiple mics on a mono source in realtime is about the most stupid thing you coud do. read up on phase.....
also, if you have to build such a simple mono source from four mics you either used the wrong mic, preamp, amp, guitar or you simply pointed the mic wrong. an inch can make a HUGE difference (especially with amps). i cant stress this enough. one great guitar, amp, mic and preamp are all you need.
again, do not use four mics at different distances and mix them analog. thats blasphemie and the worst thing one could do to recording.

I'm going to have to agree that trying to get phase right on 4 mics simultaneously and then committing to that forever is not the best idea I've ever heard. Even if you think things are in phase during the tracking, ears play tricks, especially when repositioning mics and dialing in sounds in front of loud amps. I have commonly found that double tracked guitars in this way often sounded great when we were tracking, but later when it came time to mix we discovered problems.

Anyway, you'll get a thicker and more 3D sound from playing doubles than you will from splitting the same performance to different amps. Also, the mics, guitars, amps, and speakers will have so much more of an impact on your final tone than what preamps are in your chain, that I'd just keep the rig you have rather than spending extra money buying more preamps, and I'd use the time you would have spent on a session juggling preamps to play those doubles and get them F**king rockin

That being said, do what works, just leave yourself an out, especially if this is work for clients.
Old 13th September 2011
  #28
Gear Head
 

Thanks for the great suggestions. I'm going to try the "mic signals into colorless pres at low gain into color pres" technique I think. See how that works. My whole point of asking the question is that I am trying to decide whether or not I can sell my 3124mb+ and buy 2 API pres, then have money left over for other stuff (I'd like to buy an Audient Zen-which may be my source of colorless pres/busses).

As far as all the phase concerns, I've never had a real problem with it. I admit I am not the most experienced engineer around, and maybe I don't know what I'm talking about when it comes to technical issues, but my results have made me happy. Also, the technique I use is one that I learned from a few producers and mixers that I've recorded with over the last few years. These Canadian boys come from the same school of thought (grew up together) and they have plenty of credibility so I have no reason to doubt their technique. They have been responsible for many great guitar sounds on plenty of multiplatinum selling albums/bands that include the likes of Pink Floyd, Metallica, Rage Against The Machine , Chilli Peppers, etc. The technique I use and described in my original post was copied directly from one of these guys who uses the same mics and pres, has all the mics placed about a quarter inch from the two best sounding speakers on each cab, and seems to have no worries about phase issues.

But, like I said, I personally don't have anywhere near the amount of experience that these guys have, or many people on GS. I'm curious about phasing and if any of you wouldn't mind explaining the causes of it due to mic placement and how to identify it and correct it I would appreciate the advice.
Old 13th September 2011
  #29
Gear Head
 

Oh, and I agree that doubles help to make a thicker sound too. The technique I described is just used for one mono track. I double each sound I use. Sometimes triple. Then use that for the panned right rhythm track. Repeat the same technique with a different guitar and amp combo for the left side. And edit each track, punch in each chord for tuning, use the original rough take to keep string noise/chord changes in the little spaces between chords for "naturalness", etc, etc.
Old 13th September 2011
  #30
Quote:
Originally Posted by salomonander View Post
i might have used the wrong words again. if one is aware if phase one should be fine. but most people arent.
i still think its absurd to use four mics on a single guitar. and getting perfect phase on the spot is almost impossible. one might think its right. but in most cases it isnt. we are talking samples here. a few sample of delay will destroy your phase. no, i stand to my point. its a bad idea all together. there is no point if using the right settings and instrumments in the first place.
You need to work on your mic technique! it's dead easy to get perfect phase (well, it'll never be perfect because presumably you're using different mics in different places, not multiple identical mics all in the same spot).

Simply buss white noise to the amp, and using headphones position the mics. Position one, flip polarity on the next and listen to where the null is greatest - that's your most "in phase" position.

Personally I wouldn't use 4 mics on a cab, but 2, maybe even 3, can be lined up perfectly using this method.

Yes, of course you want the right instrument/amp in the first place. Sometimes one mic is perfect. Sometimes 2 or 3 is the right sound.

Saying it's a "bad idea altogether" is almost in direct contradiction to the spirit of engineering. If this genuinely is your viewpoint, I'd seriously ask yourself how interested you are in learning to engineer properly.

FWIW, unless you DO take the time to line mics up properly, there is no point recording more than one mic. Whether you sum them or not, you'll never match the phase correctly - certainly not by nudging back and forth, and IBP may help, may not. If you do it correctly, you can commit to a sound and it'll be fine. to say it's impossible is just indicating a lack of engineering experience - whether you choose to do it or not is up to you, but it's definitely not impossible - lots of us do it all the time!
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