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How do you know it's time for a mic pre? Studio Monitors
Old 1st September 2011
  #1
Here for the gear
 

How do you know it's time for a mic pre?

Hey there Gearslutz. I've been starting to get into recording music, but been confused a lot with mic preamps. I'm currently recording rap vocals with...

-MacBook Pro 2011 13 inch
-Apple Logic 9
-Focusrite Saffire Pro 24 Interface
-BlueBird Microphone
-Shure Headphones
-Mic Cables, etc.

I know that mic preamps are supposed to raise the level of the mic signal (please correct me if I'm wrong though or further elaborate). I have a VERY deep voice and always wanted my rap vocals to sound brighter and more defined. I realized that when I record, it's sometimes hard to notice the passion/feelings I try to display in my voice in some songs (when it comes to more emotional songs). To sum up all of my confusion...will a mic preamp help me with what I want? If so, what would you suggest for a low budget? Also, any elaboration on how to use a typical mic preamp and the main functions of one would be greatly appreciated. Sorry about the complete novice question...I couldn't find any threads that answered my questions and I am still a beginner. Thanks in advance!
Old 1st September 2011
  #2
Registered User
Your Saffire already has mic preamps in it and they are respectable quality - so you don't need to buy an external preamp.

You can certainly get different colors from different preamps - and if you wanted to experiment you would then have to connect the output of the mic preamp into the Line level inputs of the Saffire, to bypass the internal Mic preamp.

A mic preamp is mainly about boosting the weak mic output up to line level. So mainly its about clean, transparent gain. The color differences talked about are pretty small - probably missed by most people. To an engineer, listening critically, the differences are huge. But not as huge as what you are going to do with compression, eq, effects, plugins, etc.

If you learn to get good results with the gear you've got, you'll appreciate the more expensive gear when you can afford it. At the moment, it would probably just increase your frustration levels.

No mic preamp is going to compensate for lack of emotion. It might add a bit of color, and distortion can make you sound 'angrier' if that's what you want. But I would suggest exploring saturation or amp sim plugins to see if that is the direction you want to go in.

Work on all the basics first - room sound, mic placement, gain structure, dynamics, editing, tuning, automation etc

A change of microphone would make a bigger change than a change of preamp.

Sound clips would get you better advice.
Old 1st September 2011
  #3
Lives for gear
 
Joe Porto's Avatar
 

I'm wondering if you're getting up on the mic to get an intimate sound, and the proximity effect is magnifying the bass in your already deep voice. I agree, look into different mics. A condenser with an omni mode will have little proximity effect. I'd look for a condenser with a nice presence peak, cardioid/fig-8/omni pattern and low freq. filter, and yes, that does describe the industry standard U87, but there are certainly more affordable alternatives.
Old 1st September 2011
  #4
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kiwi View Post
Your Saffire already has mic preamps in it and they are respectable quality - so you don't need to buy an external preamp.

You can certainly get different colors from different preamps - and if you wanted to experiment you would then have to connect the output of the mic preamp into the Line level inputs of the Saffire, to bypass the internal Mic preamp.

A mic preamp is mainly about boosting the weak mic output up to line level. So mainly its about clean, transparent gain. The color differences talked about are pretty small - probably missed by most people. To an engineer, listening critically, the differences are huge. But not as huge as what you are going to do with compression, eq, effects, plugins, etc.

If you learn to get good results with the gear you've got, you'll appreciate the more expensive gear when you can afford it. At the moment, it would probably just increase your frustration levels.

No mic preamp is going to compensate for lack of emotion. It might add a bit of color, and distortion can make you sound 'angrier' if that's what you want. But I would suggest exploring saturation or amp sim plugins to see if that is the direction you want to go in.

Work on all the basics first - room sound, mic placement, gain structure, dynamics, editing, tuning, automation etc

A change of microphone would make a bigger change than a change of preamp.

Sound clips would get you better advice.
+1 to that, couldn't have said it better.. As he said work on getting your room treated it helps a ton, cause it may be missing your vocals up a bit.. and as he said mic placement is critical.. If you have the mic below your mouth a little or even at mouth level you'll get a deeper sound. Try higher like between ur nose and upper lip and angle it toward your
Mouth, it will help with making it sound brighter. Good luck!
Old 1st September 2011
  #5
Here for the gear
 

Okay. Thanks so much for the advice guys! And I'll definitely take your advice on the mic placement. Before, I had my mic a little below my mouth (around my chin) and tilted up towards my mouth. I then had it straight on with my mouth. I'll definitely try below my nose and tilted downward. I felt as if everything I said was deep and monotone, no matter how I said it. I feel like the deep voice had a big part in it so I thought a mic preamp would help in some way. Thanks a lot for the advice and tips guys! Do you know exactly what could give me a brighter vocal sound as far as room treatment goes? I have a VoxGuard (pretty much a studio foam cover behind the mic) and I record in a closet with blankets all around the walls. I never tried experimenting with the room treatment or doing it in a living room with the VoxGuard. Maybe I should give it a try? Or if you guys know a better way? I've always been extremely confused as far as room treatment goes. The room I would be recording in is a small bedroom (I estimate around 13 ft x 10 ft maybe?)
Old 1st September 2011
  #6
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FireMoon's Avatar
The obvious answer is , it's time for a pre when stuffing the lead into the drummer's ear and making him gawp by sticking a picture of a nekkid lady on the opposite wall, simply isn't giving you enough level.
Old 1st September 2011
  #7
Registered User
Rap vocals generally benefit from being very dry - try to eliminate room sound, which would mess with the clarity of your diction. Being dry places your vocal right up front, which suits rap. Compression will nail it right there in front, so it doesn't appear to be coming and going.

Small rooms and low frequencies don't get on very well. This is because the physical distance between walls corresponds with the wavelengths of low frequencies, and creates room resonance or "room boom". This messes with both your tracking, and your monitoring.

Bass traps will help. Not necessarily expensive commercial ones, although they are good.

You are probably killing all your high frequencies with absorption, and the lows are probably booming - because it takes a LOT to stop lows.

Think of a sine wave ... the air moves fastest at the peaks, and at the zero crossover points obviously air velocity is zero. The walls or "boundaries" are the zero velocity, maximum pressure areas. (Hence Boundary mics being called Pressure Zone mics - but that's another topic).

Absorption works by slowing down air velocity. If you have 8" of foam on your wall it will kill frequencies with a 1/4 wavelength less than 8" but the lower frequencies will be unaffected.

But if you had that foam placed out into the room, where those peaks are, the same foam will work to kill the lows. There are other principles too - such as Helmhotz resonators etc, but most commercial bass traps are just broadband absorption, untuned, and just work because they sit out away from the walls.

The corners of rooms are worst - they get all resonances or "nodes" from two walls, ceiling and floor. So bass traping works best in corners. Simply leaning a mattress over a corner will help a lot.

Read some acoustics books - well worth a bit of knowledge.

(I expect a roasting from the resident commercial bass trap vendor shortly for saying this ...).
Old 1st September 2011
  #8
Gear Nut
 

What you can try is a high pass filter on the mic if it has the option or if not on the eq.. Meaning roll off the low ends. . Personally I like the way vocals sound in an open room.. I went from a closet treated like hell to my bedroom in the open with basstraps in all four corners and I think it sounds much better but reframe from putting the mic right against the wall if u can.. Anything from 4x4 ft to 11x13 I think is pretty good but if u have more space use it..
Old 1st September 2011
  #9
Gear Addict
 
vierge99's Avatar
 

Sounds like you've already got a great setup!
Old 1st September 2011
  #10
Here for the gear
 

Thanks for the advice everyone! I'll definitely play around a bit and experiment with recording differently to see which one sounds closest to what I want.
Old 3rd September 2011
  #11
Gear Maniac
 
Rusted Vacuum's Avatar
 

With the equipment that you have you can achive a good sound, every detail is important, you are close to win, and in the way you will lern some other things that are also important, like patience.
Old 4th September 2011
  #12
Lives for gear
 
Aisle 6's Avatar
Mic placement is important and as said, you may wish to EQ the source a little to tame the lows. That said, have you considered the octave in which you present your rap. Like with a singer, the key of the song suited to the voice is very important to asset in delivering the emotion. Give it a try.
Old 4th September 2011
  #13
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Heartfelt's Avatar
Answering the question for myself would like something like:

"When I realize I am lacking something sonically that I truly want and know which one will deliver that quality."
Old 4th September 2011
  #14
Lives for gear
 

Post number 2 from Kiwi is spot on..... +1!!!

Just remember, no piece of gear from the humble sm57 to the mighty SSL consoles can generate emotion in a song. They are tools to capture it...nothing more.

Personally I think an environment change would be your best bet. Your rig seems very portable so why not try a change of venue? Go somewhere no one else is around or something...
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