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Help me plan out my low-end room?
Old 16th July 2014
  #1
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 5 years
Help me plan out my low-end room?

Alright so I'm an absolute newbie to recording
Skip all the year-long learning process, I'm looking to come up with a low-end room that can produce good quality vocals. All I need is vocals.
That being said, I've had a bit of time to do a lot more research than before now that I'm out of school and I've been making some money so I've decided to finally get this started.
It's safe to say with this setup I'm not satisfied in the slightest.

Right now my vocal chain is looking like:
ADK TC - 7-pin cable - Tube - Generic XLR Cable - Mbox 2 - Macbook

This is all equipment I've had for a year and right there I can tell you I need a preamp and a better quality XLR.
My room isn't bare and it doesn't echo but it's not treated acoustically. I have a reflective shield but I'm not sure if that'd be considered enough.

Right now my priority is to buy a preamp, I was thinking of the Auteur or the RNP, had another eye on the MPAC-01 or I was thinking maybe I'd save up a bit more for the Grace m101.

So I think my real question is whether I should invest in a preamp first, a new cable, or if I should be worried about treating my room acoustically. I don't even have monitors am I wrong for that??
Old 16th July 2014
  #2
Gear Nut
 
🎧 10 years
I would say priority one would be to treat the room. Second would be to buy some decent near-field monitors. You can track with headphones but I wouldn't recommend mixing down with them.

I would put the preamp as last on the list of priorities.......just my .02 worth.


Best of luck to you!
Old 16th July 2014
  #3
Gear Maniac
 
heyokay's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 5 years
Firstly, do you have any recordings you could show us? We could tell you more precisely what route to go down for improving your recordings.

Either way though, from my experience, (as I was in the exact same boat as you), here's some general advice...

How good your room sounds (and therefore how your vocals sound in it), and the quality of microphone you use, are the deciding factors to whether or not it will sound 'good'.

I think that a worse microphone in a great room would sound better than a great microphone in a terrible room. But getting both on point should harvest the best results.

From my experience, preamps are literally the last 5-10% in the sound. An untrained ear wouldn't hear a difference, a trained ear would hear different characteristics (clearer, darker, thicker etc) but at this point, these would be fairly subtle and wouldn't determine whether the sound would be terrible or great necessarily. This is assuming that you have one of the better entry/semi-pro interfaces around... Focusrite, RME, Apogee, M-Audio, etc.

I've not used your interface before, but I very much doubt that it's not perfectly useable. One cool technique to find out if its up to snuff is to get a favourite track of a band or artist you like, and record it through your preamp into your daw. A/B the recorded take that was routed through your preamp with the original track. This way you'll know if your preamp is imprinting some horrible sound to your tracks or not. If it doesn't alter or degrade the sound, you'll also know that in theory you should be able to record something sonically as good as they did using your preamp.

Definitely get some higher quality cables (or make your own). Cables are often overlooked, and are more often than not one of the culprits. You're only as strong as your weakest link.

But yeah, you don't have to do it in one big go. Upgrade in pieces and you'll narrow down your problems more easily.

Personally, I'd treat your room first, and check your preamp. If its imprinting a horrible sound, making it muddy or taking something away, buy a preamp. If it's not, maybe look into a higher quality microphone, or one that suits your voice better. In both cases, buy some new cables.

I'd hazard a guess that if you treated your room and bought some decent cables, there shouldn't be any excuses as to why your vocals wouldn't sound good/better though.
Old 16th July 2014
  #4
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 5 years
The reason for me to suspect it's the room is that I actually once had the Duet! But it was paired with the baby bottle and I just didn't like how that mic sounded.

Would creating a vocal booth satisfy the acoustic treatment and also eliminate having to treat the WHOLE room? As much as I'd love coming home to a studio environment every day I don't want to over-do it.
Old 17th July 2014
  #5
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 5 years
if your good with your hands you can do a whole 12'sq-14'sq bedroom with like 4-500. and that would be like DEAD.
Old 17th July 2014 | Show parent
  #6
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by trevjonez ➑️
if your good with your hands you can do a whole 12'sq-14'sq bedroom with like 4-500. and that would be like DEAD.
I guess I got a lot of posters to rip off the wall
Room's a little smaller than that and all I have rn is about 300 which is why I decided with a mid-range preamp over really anything else but if acoustic treatment really would benefit me a lot more I'm down I guess.
Old 17th July 2014
  #7
Gear Addict
 
🎧 5 years
If your room isn't bare, but not treated, you can start there. The key is to cultivate a balance of diffusion and absorption. Things like bookshelfs loaded with books and things, small things to break up sound waves, and lots of odd angled features will help with sound diffusion. Sound absorption is harder, blankets and carpeting is a very cheap costing (and sounding) solution. You could try DIY GOBOs out of wood frames and Roxul, like I did. I would focus on diffusion and not worry too much about the sound of the room getting picked up by the mic.

One way you could engineer the recording is get a dynamic or ribbon mic instead of a condenser. Place the mic in the most open part of the room, farthest away from all the walls. Use a pop shield or make your own. Sing in to the mic 8-12 inches or a tad closer so the mic gets fewer reflections than your own voice. The room counts for most of the sound picked up by the mic.

Worry about the preamp absolutely last. Most A/D interfaces have relatively clean preamps built in. Focus entirely on good engineering and room/mic setup, then get a better mic perhaps. If your room acoustics are terrible, then maybe you should get a less-sensitive mic, like an SM58 any other kind of good live performance vocal mic.
Old 17th July 2014 | Show parent
  #8
Gear Addict
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by robn ➑️
I would say priority one would be to treat the room. Second would be to buy some decent near-field monitors. You can track with headphones but I wouldn't recommend mixing down with them.

I would put the preamp as last on the list of priorities.......just my .02 worth.


Best of luck to you!
Its not recommended to mix/master on headphones, unless that's the only way you'll be listening to your music. KRKs are good budget monitors.
Old 17th July 2014 | Show parent
  #9
Gear Addict
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by bitterasacid ➑️
The reason for me to suspect it's the room is that I actually once had the Duet! But it was paired with the baby bottle and I just didn't like how that mic sounded.

Would creating a vocal booth satisfy the acoustic treatment and also eliminate having to treat the WHOLE room? As much as I'd love coming home to a studio environment every day I don't want to over-do it.
Quote:
Originally Posted by bitterasacid ➑️
I guess I got a lot of posters to rip off the wall
Room's a little smaller than that and all I have rn is about 300 which is why I decided with a mid-range preamp over really anything else but if acoustic treatment really would benefit me a lot more I'm down I guess.
A DIY vocal booth could make things worse if you do it wrong. You could end up ruining upper mid and highs response and just having a dead sound with accentuated resonances in the worst freq ranges.

Unless your preamp is crap as is, I'd focus on room setup, nearfield monitors, then a good mic.
Old 17th July 2014
  #10
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 5 years
The preamp as it is is just the built-in Mbox2 pre's

I can understand why mixing on headphones isn't recommended, because minor details on the headphones could throw the sound of the mix off completely on actual speakers. Treating the whole room seemed a little extra since I didn't have anything more than my macbook and my mic setup and a standing midi keyboard.

Definitely been a big help, going to have to invest a lot more money and do a lot more planning but it'll all be worth it in the end, thanks!
Old 18th July 2014
  #11
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 5 years
Are we sure there's not any type of quality vocal booth on the market because I'm trying to imagine paneling on the wall and it really seems so unnecessary. Will having acoustic foams and bass traps on the walls prevent sound from entering outside of the room too? A major problem with my recording is not the outside noise but the noise I create throughout the house.

EDIT: Not for $300 there's not lmao nvm
Old 19th July 2014 | Show parent
  #12
Gear Addict
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by bitterasacid ➑️
Are we sure there's not any type of quality vocal booth on the market because I'm trying to imagine paneling on the wall and it really seems so unnecessary. Will having acoustic foams and bass traps on the walls prevent sound from entering outside of the room too? A major problem with my recording is not the outside noise but the noise I create throughout the house.

EDIT: Not for $300 there's not lmao nvm
Even if you covered all the walls in acoustic foam frequencies below 400hz will still leave the room and house, bass penetrate walls easily. High frequencies can be killed more easily, that's why a fully foamed up room would sound muffled and wonky. Its better to DIY bass-trap the corners (I made my own GOBOs for under $100). Then have a lot of things on the walls that diffuse the high frequencies. I still would have the mic position in the center of the room, for less unwanted room sound and proximity effect.
Old 19th July 2014 | Show parent
  #13
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nosajjao ➑️
Even if you covered all the walls in acoustic foam frequencies below 400hz will still leave the room and house, bass penetrate walls easily. High frequencies can be killed more easily, that's why a fully foamed up room would sound muffled and wonky. Its better to DIY bass-trap the corners (I made my own GOBOs for under $100). Then have a lot of things on the walls that diffuse the high frequencies. I still would have the mic position in the center of the room, for less unwanted room sound and proximity effect.
There was a noticeable improvement when I placed the mic in the middle of the room, that was one of the first things I learned after switching to this mic. I just realized I actually need to buy a pre anyways since I bought this mbox2 and the headphone jack was DOA. I'm still, however, fascinated by the whole room acoustic vs. untreated results, and I'm not sure which to spend my money on. I'm obviously going to need more money, but if anything I think it needs to be a pre first because if I treated my room first, until I get enough money to buy both acoustic treatment and a pre, I won't be able to track vocals.

Do acoustic blankets hanging from the ceiling actually yield good results? There's not much room noise OR echo in this room. It's actually been a minute since I actually tried to record anything at all anyways.

Bass traps might be a must because my voice is very bass-y.
Old 19th July 2014
  #14
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 5 years
Any type of cabling suggestions? My ADK comes with a 7-pin chord and it's long as hell so I really only have to worry about the power supply to any type of future pre and then the pre to the mbox. They're all within a foot of each other on my desk right now.
Old 19th July 2014 | Show parent
  #15
Gear Addict
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by bitterasacid ➑️
Do acoustic blankets hanging from the ceiling actually yield good results? There's not much room noise OR echo in this room. It's actually been a minute since I actually tried to record anything at all anyways.

Bass traps might be a must because my voice is very bass-y.
If there's not much echo to the room, then don't worry about the treatment for now, bass traps would be the best first choice, with diffusing things to break things up on the walls.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bitterasacid ➑️
Any type of cabling suggestions? My ADK comes with a 7-pin chord and it's long as hell so I really only have to worry about the power supply to any type of future pre and then the pre to the mbox. They're all within a foot of each other on my desk right now.
Cabling under 50ft that is soundly wired will always work fine.
Old 19th July 2014 | Show parent
  #16
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nosajjao ➑️
If there's not much echo to the room, then don't worry about the treatment for now, bass traps would be the best first choice, with diffusing things to break things up on the walls.



Cabling under 50ft that is soundly wired will always work fine.
But what about cheap cables vs. expensive ones. I'm not saying I'll blow $100 on the slightest difference, obviously I have different things to worry about, but these 6' cables were actually $5, and it was 2 for 1 because the first one was noisey and created a buzz but then I found out it was my blue baby bottle capsule.

& I'm just fascinated by the idea that it could be dead silent but if it doesn't really need to be I'm fine with that. I don't really understand sound diffusion all that well so I guess I'll have to do more research. A block of foam here & there wouldn't bother me I just don't wanna nail/glue anything/too much if not necessary to the wall.

I feel like plenty of vocalists have started out in their bedrooms and their rooms were probably noisy as heck.

Would bass traps absorb the bass tones in my voice and prevent some of them from going through the house?
Old 20th July 2014 | Show parent
  #17
Gear Addict
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by bitterasacid ➑️
But what about cheap cables vs. expensive ones. I'm not saying I'll blow $100 on the slightest difference, obviously I have different things to worry about, but these 6' cables were actually $5, and it was 2 for 1 because the first one was noisey and created a buzz but then I found out it was my blue baby bottle capsule.

& I'm just fascinated by the idea that it could be dead silent but if it doesn't really need to be I'm fine with that. I don't really understand sound diffusion all that well so I guess I'll have to do more research. A block of foam here & there wouldn't bother me I just don't wanna nail/glue anything/too much if not necessary to the wall.

I feel like plenty of vocalists have started out in their bedrooms and their rooms were probably noisy as heck.

Would bass traps absorb the bass tones in my voice and prevent some of them from going through the house?
A cable is a cable is a cable, brands don't matter. The only way you'll 'hear' a difference is if its solid core single molecule copper, and those kinds of cables are expensive (or you can make your own). All that matters is that the cables you have aren't falling apart, have working connectors with no bent parts, and are all wired the same (phase issues usually stem from the wiring of the cable).

With sound control there is only diffusion and absorption. You get diffusion when you have a bunch of small odd angles to 'chop up' the sound waves as they travel through the air. Remember all sound is is vibrations of the air. The waves travel from the sound source and reflect off of everything in the room, the fewer large spanning flat surfaces to reflect off of, the fewer resonances and echoes. The best way to check is by walking around the room clapping your hands listening for echoes, and just don't record in the spots where the echoes are loudest (and stay out of the corners of the rooms for bass loading issues).

So if diffusion is chopping up the sound waves (maintains high freqs in the process), then absorption sucks up the sound waves and prevents them from reflecting at all. The lower in frequency you want to go (all the way down to bass freqs) the thicker the material has to be. Otherwise all you are doing is rolling off the top end but keeping all the mids and lows. That's why a room covered in blankets and carpeting sounds muffled as hell, you kill the high end but keep everything else. Its important to keep the highs alive, while trying to absorb some of it, and prevent bass loading from occurring in the corners. The best way to do this usually is fill the corners with bass traps, put DIY diffusers on the wall, and put acoustic absorbing GOBOs up around the room (DIY). In a little while, I'll post my DIY diffusers and GOBOs that I made this year.

Bass traps are going to absorb a measurable amount of bass resonances occurring from the sound source. Will you be able to notice the difference? Maybe, maybe not. Bass traps would be crucial for guitar amps and drums, but not necessarily essential for vocal work. You might not that loud that you require such delicate and expensive acoustic treatment, but having some would help not hurt. A little plywood and some roxul and you could have a few DIY bass traps, if you've got the time, a little money, and some carpentry skills.
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