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Going into the studio - help me decide what to do

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by carl-anton, Oct 25, 2005.

  1. Hi,

    My band is going to record our second album this december, and I want to make sure I have the right gear for the recording. We have a competent producer so it's basically not my call, but I would like a little advice on the gear available to me. Is any of these preamps good for recording bass or should I try to get hold of a hi-end DI like a Radial JDI, an Avalon U5 or maybe a Groove Tubes The Brick?

    This is the preamps and stuff available to us:

    Focusrite Red 7 Mic/line preamp/compressor/de-esser.
    Neumann PV 76 Mic Pre
    Telefunken V 672 Mic Pre x 2
    Telefunken V 676a Mic Pre
    Joemeek VC 1 Mic
    Pre/Compressor SPL Mic Pre x 2
    Calrec PQ1549 Equalizer x 2
    Aphex Tube EQ Simens WSW Compressor x 2
    Prosonus ADC 88 Compressor/Gate x 8

    I'm guessing that the Focusrite and the Telefunken/Neumann pres are the most interesting here.

    Also, any good ideas for mics and alternative mic placements? We will both go direct and through mic'ed cab. I think I read somewhere that adding a vocal mic a bit away from the cab at earheight gives a good sound to blend with a close mic and a direct signal. Sounds interesting, especially for distorted sounds I should think. The thing is that we have a very short time in the studio and can't experiment too much, so any hints that could point us in a direction would be great. I believe we have a very good vocal mic available and some decent mics for close mic'ing.

    I'll be using my Stingray5 with a Nordstrand replacement pu, wanting a fat, warm yet clear and dynamic sound. I don't like my sound compressed too much.

    Any input is welcome

    Thanks :)
  2. Dugz Ink

    Dugz Ink

    Oct 23, 2005
    Are you going to Zig Sound? (Their equipment list looks a lot like what you posted.) It looks like it could have decent acoustics... enough to get a good sound.

    If you're going into a nice studio with a good engineer, you won't have to worry about that stuff; they know the room and the mics, and can make them work for you.

    However, here are some tricks that I've picked up from a few engineers who I really respect:

    1) Get the cabinet off of the floor (about 12" will work), keep it away from the walls, and don't point it directly at a wall.

    3) Turn the guitar all the way down, and then turn the amp up until you can hear the hiss. Place a dynamic mic in front of the cone, and then move it around until the hiss is crisp. That should be the "sweet" spot on the cab. (Then turn the amp down, before you forget.) The SM-58 still works great in these situations, but don't rule out using a nice drum-mic.

    4) For secondary mics, most engineers recommend starting with a 1:3 ratio, but a few have recommended a 1:6 ratio for cabs. That means the second mic is either 3 or 6 times as far from the source as the first mic. After the second mic is set up, crank up the guitar and have somebody move the mic a little, until you get the "right" sound. The big thing to watch for will be phase cancellation between the mics. (Monitoring in mono through headphones is almost essential.)

    A large-diaphram condenser will pick up more ambient sound than a small-diaphram mic, but either one could pick up too much, so don't be afraid to say "no" to the second mic.

    Given the list of mic-pres, I would say that the mic placement will be more important than which pre you choose. And a killer pre won't make up for mediocre placement.

    A SansAmp will give some nice results, too... although it won't sound like what you're used to hearing from your amp/cab, but that might be a good thing.

    If you go direct and mic the cab, try using a delay on the direct line, either hardware, software, or just bumping that track in the sequencer. (I'm not talking chorus delay; you're just delaying the original signal.) It won't take much, but a slight shift (we're talking thousandths of a second) can have a positive affect on the sound, by using the phasing differences (between the direct signal and the mic's signal) to increase/decrease the amount of "ping" that you get from striking the strings.

    Just some tricks I've learned. I hope they help.
  3. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    OK, you've got a limited amount of time in which to do tracks, so if I were you, I'd forget about experimenting and just settle for a good solid sound. It may not be your idea of the most perfect sound ever, but between DI and micing a cab, it should be great. If all you're doing is clean bass sounds, you might even be able to get away with just DI. If this guy has those quality of preamps and compressors, I'm sure he's got a good enough DI for you. It's not rocket science, really. Bass is a very easy instrument to capture on a recording. I think it's by far the easiest instrument to get a sound. Generally just DI and micing one speaker at close range works like a charm. Yes, you can get into room acoustics and ambient micing if you have all the time in the world, but seeing as how this is one of those quick and dirty jobs, just trust your producer and let him hook you up.

    A couple of things:

    80% of a good recording is a good performance. I've heard recordings with the worst bass sounds ever that are saved by the performance being good.

    As for the other 20%, you hired a producer...listen to him. You already said he's competent. Tell him what you're trying to accomplish, then let him do his job and work with him and don't spend a lot of time debating. Contrary to popular belief, producers who are competent have the band's best interest at heart. You may think you won't like the things he may want to do with your sound. But then again, you just might. So try them out and if it's hideous to your ears, say something, but if it's in the ballpark, then go with it. More important to get more songs recorded than it is to agonize over small aspects of your sound.
  4. Thanks alot!

    Dugz - Yes, we are indeed going into zigsound. How did you know about that studio? Actually Ziggy has rented a new place with some very nice rooms (www.combisound.dk), so if time allows it we'll try some of your alternative mic placement suggestions. It could be good. Ziggy is worried about fase (?) problems with having an ambient mic.

    Jimmy - We've worked with the producer (Ziggy) alot of times before and he knows what we want and we trust he can do it. So there's never going to be any distrust or debate between us. Actually these questions arises from a preliminairy discussion about how to do it. But your 80/20 on performance/producer is right on. That's why I worry now, instead of when I'm actually in the sutdio.

    Well - I had an idea that the focusrite red 7 could be used for recording the bass direct, could that be done? Ziggy regular DI's is BSS, how are they compared to the holy grails of DI's. I'm simply asking because so many talks about how much a hi-end DI can do for your sound, so I just wanted to hear I the pres available are up there with the best, or I should think about renting something. Or is the differnce simply not great enough to bother.

  5. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Sorry if I talked below your capabilities. By the sound of your first post, I had thought maybe you hadn't done much recording.

    Anyway, a BSS DI should be great. I think equipment is going to be the least of your worries. I wouldn't spend a penny on another DI box.

    Bear in mind, though, that I am very much anti-buying equipment that doesn't make you money. If I lived in an area like Nashville where you come in with the preamp, compressor and DI du jour or you don't work, I'd buy an Avalon. But I don't, so when I go to the studio, I plug into what's there. And in your case, having a BSS DI to plug into when you get there is pretty darn good. Will an Avalon or Radial sound better? Maybe and maybe not. Will the sound of the band suffer without it? I seriously doubt it. Will you sell less albums because you're using a BSS and not an Avalon or Radial? Not a chance.
  6. Thanks Jimmy - no offense taken :)

    I pretty much share your views. Just wanting to opt the odds of doing as good as I can sounding as good as I can. I never saw the BSS DI's mentioned here so I didn't know what to think of them. Good to know that they're good, and it's not that my sound sucked before ;)
  7. Dugz Ink

    Dugz Ink

    Oct 23, 2005
    Google is a wonderful thing; I searched using some of the gear list, and *DING* up popped that guy's web site.

    By the way... those aren't "alternative" methods. Tom Petty and Mike Campbell have talked about using the "hiss" technique for setting up amps/mics, and other engineers have told me that it's a quick way to get started if you're not used to putting a mic your gear. (I think Petty used the SM-57, not the SM-58, but the windscreen is the only difference.)

    Ziggy is right about potential phase problems; the second mic can create havoc when you mix. Like I said...
    "This is not a test; this is Rock & Roll!"
  8. Cool Dugz, we'll look into it if there's time for it (I shure hope so). Thanks again :)

    Edit: "alternative" to me, that was. A lot is ;)
  9. Dugz Ink

    Dugz Ink

    Oct 23, 2005
    Oh, come on...we're not THAT bad in Nashville.

    I recommended the SansAmp because Ziggy has one in his gear list, and I've heard a few guys mention that they've had decent results with them.

    Personally, I use my ART "Tube" mic-pre on my bass. It was the first mic-pre that I bought, and it's pretty weak as a mic-pre, so I almost gave it away... then somebody told me that they work pretty good for recording a bass direct, and they're right.

    So I do agree that you shouldn't break the piggy bank open, yet.
  10. Dugz Ink

    Dugz Ink

    Oct 23, 2005

    That's cool... no offense taken.

    I just didn't want you to think that I was pulling those ideas out of my @$$.
  11. nysbob


    Sep 14, 2003
    Cincinnati OH
    I've had good luck going through the Joe Meek pre on the DI.
  12. BulkHead


    Oct 14, 2005
    Manassas VA
    (I think Petty used the SM-57, not the SM-58, but the windscreen is the only difference.)

    Dugz, the frequency response is different, the 58 has more hi-mids and rolls the low off faster than the 57.
  13. Dugz Ink

    Dugz Ink

    Oct 23, 2005
    The 58 has more punch around 2,500 and 10,000, and a little more at 100.

    Overall, I think that the differences make the 58 better for bass cabs.
  14. I usally use the SM-57 for live combined with the DI from my SWR amp. In studio I want to try something else, but I can allways return to what I know works.

    So the experiment/brainstorming consists of trying/discussing different mic placements, trying different mics and finding a suitable DI/pre from whats available. So, does anyone have experience with any of the pres listed, particularly the Focusrite Red 7 which I find most interesting?
    Has anyone experience with the Focusrite Red 7?