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3rdDay's picture
The Hawkeye State, USA
Dec 2003
3 months ago

I have been doing some home recording, mostly electric guitar, and am never satisfied the recorded sound quality. To give you an idea of how I record, it is basically this:

guitar amp-->Shure SM57--->mixer--->M-Audio Audiophile 192 sound card (I think that's right)--->Ableton Live 7

It just seems the sound I hear from the amp isn't the same sound I hear when I play it back. I am also not naïve to the fact there are a lot of variables to recording. However, I was wondering if I should change microphones. I know that a lot of people stand by the Shure SM57 for recording, but is there a better option? I can’t spend a lot of money, but would a condenser mic be better? This leads me to my thread question. Which is better, a low-cost condenser microphone or an industry-standard dynamic mic?

My gear.

Want to sell: Dr. Z Route 66

wren_2's picture
Central VA
Feb 2004
1 year ago

High-end dynamic is much better than low-end condenser. A Beyerdynamic M88/Shure SM7b will kick the **** out of any $300 condenser I can think of. Shure SM7b is the industry standard to look at, with the Beyerdynamic M88 and ElectroVoice RE20 being other similar options; those three mics are commonly used on guitar, kick drum, bass, snare, and vocals, even in studios with mics worth many times that (the SM7 most famously was the vocal mic on Thriller).

However: what kind of mixer are you using? You didn't mention that. There's a good chance that it's your mic preamp that's the problem, not the mic. I'm not a massive fan of 57's at all, but they typically sound OK. If you're using a cheap mixing board, that's probably your problem.

Very old stage rig

Mourn not the dead
that in the cool earth lie...
But rather mourn the apathetic throng
the cowed and the meek
Who see the world's great anguish
and its wrong and dare not speak.
- Ralph Chaplin

"All good people are asleep and dreaming..."

3rdDay's picture
The Hawkeye State, USA
Dec 2003
3 months ago
Originally Posted by wren

However: what kind of mixer are you using? You didn't mention that. There's a good chance that it's your mic preamp that's the problem, not the mic. I'm not a massive fan of 57's at all, but they typically sound OK. If you're using a cheap mixing board, that's probably your problem.

It is a Tapco by Mackie Blend 6. Strangely, I never gave consideration to my mixer being the problem. Would I necessarily NEED a mixer? Could I use some kind of pre-amp? I'm open to suggestions of any kind.

My gear.

Want to sell: Dr. Z Route 66

MassacredHatred's picture
Texas
Jan 2004
3 years ago

It depends on what kind of sound you're going for, but an SM57 should sound pretty good for most guitar recordings. The mistake you seem to be making is that you're expecting the sound you've recorded to sound like the amp does in the room.

Surely you've noticed that your amp sounds different depending on where you're standing in relation to the cab. A step or two off to one direction can alter the tone you hear, often quite dramatically. The sound you hear standing several feet from the front of the cab is a lot different from what you'd hear if you got on your knees and put your ear up to the grille cloth. Moving the mic, even just slightly, to point at a different part of the speaker can also drastically change the sound.

Mics generally color the sound a bit, too. The SM57, for instance, has a bit more presence in the high mids, which is what makes it work so well for a variety of guitar applications, as well as snares, and sometimes cymbals or vocals. Cardoid mics (like the SM57) also add color with their proximity effect, which is where the lower frequencies get louder the closer the mic is to the source. There's yet more slight coloration that can come from the cables and preamp you're using.

In short, when you're recording, you need to set up your amp's sound for what's going into your recording software and not for what you hear in the room.

Rig:
KxK Sii-7 -> Fractal Axe-FX Ultra-> Carvin DCM 1540L -> Vader 4x12

3rdDay's picture
The Hawkeye State, USA
Dec 2003
3 months ago
Originally Posted by MassacredHatred

It depends on what kind of sound you're going for, but an SM57 should sound pretty good for most guitar recordings. The mistake you seem to be making is that you're expecting the sound you've recorded to sound like the amp does in the room.

Surely you've noticed that your amp sounds different depending on where you're standing in relation to the cab. A step or two off to one direction can alter the tone you hear, often quite dramatically. The sound you hear standing several feet from the front of the cab is a lot different from what you'd hear if you got on your knees and put your ear up to the grille cloth. Moving the mic, even just slightly, to point at a different part of the speaker can also drastically change the sound.

Mics generally color the sound a bit, too. The SM57, for instance, has a bit more presence in the high mids, which is what makes it work so well for a variety of guitar applications, as well as snares, and sometimes cymbals or vocals. Cardoid mics (like the SM57) also add color with their proximity effect, which is where the lower frequencies get louder the closer the mic is to the source. There's yet more slight coloration that can come from the cables and preamp you're using.

In short, when you're recording, you need to set up your amp's sound for what's going into your recording software and not for what you hear in the room.

Good stuff.

I guess I just haven't taken the time to experiment with different mic locations and that kind of thing. What I have tried, that yielded good results, is using an SM57 together with a SM58 (which I originally bought for vocals). I use them together, each with different locations on the speaker. This does a good job at making the sound seem more dimensional, if that makes sense. I've even gone as far as panning the SM57 hard left and the SM58 hard right on my mixer. I don't know if this breaks any recording rules, but I liked the results of that too.

My gear.

Want to sell: Dr. Z Route 66

wren_2's picture
Central VA
Feb 2004
1 year ago
Originally Posted by 3rdDay

It is a Tapco by Mackie Blend 6. Strangely, I never gave consideration to my mixer being the problem. Would I necessarily NEED a mixer? Could I use some kind of pre-amp? I'm open to suggestions of any kind.

You could very easily just buy a single-channel preamp rather than a whole separate mixer.
The problem is that recording gear is even more of a money pit than guitar gear, believe it or not, and you do need to spend a good deal of money to get a good preamp. That said, there are a few that are on the cheaper side that would probably still be a significant improvement over your Tapco: M-Audio DMP3, Studio Projects VTB1, etc.

MassacredHatred wrote

...The mistake you seem to be making is that you're expecting the sound you've recorded to sound like the amp does in the room.
...
Mics generally color the sound a bit, too. The SM57, for instance, has a bit more presence in the high mids, which is what makes it work so well for a variety of guitar applications, as well as snares, and sometimes cymbals or vocals. Cardoid mics (like the SM57) also add color with their proximity effect, which is where the lower frequencies get louder the closer the mic is to the source. There's yet more slight coloration that can come from the cables and preamp you're using.

In short, when you're recording, you need to set up your amp's sound for what's going into your recording software and not for what you hear in the room.

This is worth repeating. Mic placement is important too, but the fact that no mic (especially not a 57) sounds like what you're actually hearing in the room is a very important point to consider.

And I have a question: when you record your guitar, are you just recording your guitar or are you recording it alongside other things too? I ask because what can sound like a thin, crappy, overly midrange-y guitar tone (which is exactly what a 57 gives you) on its own can sound fantastic in a full-band recorded situation. Just food for thought.

And yes, mic placement does make a massive difference in sound.
Read this, if you haven't already: http://www.badmuckingfastard.com/sound/slipperman.html. It's incredibly long, and although it's pretty much specifically about recording heavy-sounding guitars, I feel that it applies pretty well to recording guitars in general.

3rdDay wrote

What I have tried, that yielded good results, is using an SM57 together with a SM58 (which I originally bought for vocals). I use them together, each with different locations on the speaker. This does a good job at making the sound seem more dimensional, if that makes sense. I've even gone as far as panning the SM57 hard left and the SM58 hard right on my mixer. I don't know if this breaks any recording rules, but I liked the results of that too.

You'll want to be careful with this technique; while there really aren't any "rules" as far as recording goes other than "if it sounds good it is good," this is as close to breaking a rule as you're likely to get. If it sounded good, then awesome, but you were lucky: when mic'ing one speaker with 2 mics (or one anything with 2 mics) there is a spectacular potential for phasing issues. Phasing problems occur when a single sound is recorded from 2 different sources at 2 different distances; it manifests by the 2 recorded sound waves, which are nearly identical but are in slightly different places in the time domain, being added together, which causes cancellations at certain frequencies.

Google the "3 to 1 rule" and "phasing" if that made absolutely no sense to you.

Very old stage rig

Mourn not the dead
that in the cool earth lie...
But rather mourn the apathetic throng
the cowed and the meek
Who see the world's great anguish
and its wrong and dare not speak.
- Ralph Chaplin

"All good people are asleep and dreaming..."

NoFroBro's picture
Australia
Jan 2004
1 month ago
Originally Posted by MassacredHatred

There's yet more slight coloration that can come from the cables and preamp you're using.

Lol. Seriously lol.

If it is an actual XLR cable then they are specifically designed to subtract the effects of both the environment and the cable from the output. Unless it is totally broken or made out of substandard Mexican recycled tin foil (see totally broken) the cable will have no discernable effect (colouration) this is in no way true of the preamp. The difference in preamps can be night and day.

Cables however? lol.

My Gear , please wack with the side of your hand for normal service.
Bringing you EVIL VOODOO WAX MAGIC since 2009

MassacredHatred's picture
Texas
Jan 2004
3 years ago
Originally Posted by NoFroBro

Lol. Seriously lol.

If it is an actual XLR cable then they are specifically designed to subtract the effects of both the environment and the cable from the output. Unless it is totally broken or made out of substandard Mexican recycled tin foil (see totally broken) the cable will have no discernable effect (colouration) this is in no way true of the preamp. The difference in preamps can be night and day.

Cables however? lol.

Ugh. Not this again. I like you most of the time, but the attitude with which you talk about cables whenever it comes up really irritates me. You sound like a "LOL, n00b" spouting fourteen-year-old.

I guess I haven't worked with enough different XLR cables to be able to tell if there's much difference between different quality cable, so I suppose I can't comment too much on that.

Rig:
KxK Sii-7 -> Fractal Axe-FX Ultra-> Carvin DCM 1540L -> Vader 4x12

wren_2's picture
Central VA
Feb 2004
1 year ago
Originally Posted by MassacredHatred

Ugh. Not this again. I like you most of the time, but the attitude with which you talk about cables whenever it comes up really irritates me. You sound like a "LOL, n00b" spouting fourteen-year-old

+1.

I'm one of those people who swears they can hear the difference between cables. I know that "scientifically" it's bogus, but I trust my ears. And I know of people who have done some fairly unscientific but very practical tests that showed quite conclusively that, in fact, a lot of people can tell the difference between cables. Not everyone, but a lot of people. The interesting thing that they found was that, despite the fact that people could fairly consistently tell one cable from another, they weren't consistent at all as to which cable they preferred the sound of.

As to the science of it: I believe that the sonic difference between a 15-foot CBI XLR cable with Neutrik connectors and a 10-foot Canare XLR cable with Neutrik connectors is totally negligible. The more real-world variables you add, though (long runs, number of different connections between points A and B, running cables alongside AC lines, rf interference, and so forth), the more better cable makes a sonic difference. This is based on my real-world experience, and the real-world experience of many other engineers that I know, most of whom are more qualified than myself. When you're getting a massive rf/AC/WTF? hum from a Hosa snake, and you swap it out for a different, "better" snake that is identical in every other way and the hum goes away, you realize that cable makes a difference. And what if that hum was really quiet? Like, quiet enough to not feel like a problem you had to track down but just a little noisy, enough to wonder "do I really have the mic pre gain cranked that much? No, guess not. Huh..." that changes the sound too. Poorly shielded cables make a difference to the sound in a real-world situation based on that alone.

In a controlled environment, I believe that there's no sonic difference between a coathanger and a Monster speaker cable. In the real world, though, everyone knows that a coathanger wouldn't actually work as speaker cable.

Yes, cables do in fact make a difference to the sound.

EDIT: and I apologize in advance to 3rdDay if this turns into an absurd, off-topic pissing match (which it definitely has a massive potential for doing).

Very old stage rig

Mourn not the dead
that in the cool earth lie...
But rather mourn the apathetic throng
the cowed and the meek
Who see the world's great anguish
and its wrong and dare not speak.
- Ralph Chaplin

"All good people are asleep and dreaming..."

MassacredHatred's picture
Texas
Jan 2004
3 years ago

Cables are probably the least relevant thing that has been mentioned in respect to the actual thread topic, so hopefully there won't be many more posts about it. The OP has much better things to focus his energy on at this point than which cables he's using. I'm actually kind of sorry I even said anything about them.

Rig:
KxK Sii-7 -> Fractal Axe-FX Ultra-> Carvin DCM 1540L -> Vader 4x12

wren_2's picture
Central VA
Feb 2004
1 year ago
Originally Posted by MassacredHatred

Cables are probably the least relevant thing that has been mentioned in respect to the actual thread topic, so hopefully there won't be many more posts about it. The OP has much better things to focus his energy on at this point than which cables he's using. I'm actually kind of sorry I even said anything about them.

Totally. This is very true. I think we can all agree that if you can't get a good recording, 999 times out of 1000 it ain't the fault of your cables.

Very old stage rig

Mourn not the dead
that in the cool earth lie...
But rather mourn the apathetic throng
the cowed and the meek
Who see the world's great anguish
and its wrong and dare not speak.
- Ralph Chaplin

"All good people are asleep and dreaming..."