Archive for Recording

Acoustic Treatment In A Box??

ARC2 Promo Pic

Hello,

I recently took the plunge and bought IK Multimedia’s ARC 2 System for my project studio. What exactly is this, you ask? Well, allow me to explain.

ARC stands for Advanced Room Correction and a while back I wrote a post where I touched a bit on it while discussing room treatment for my home studio. At the time of writing that post I even reached out to mixing guru, Bobby Owsinksi, regarding his thoughts on the product. He wasn’t too much a fan, but for good reason. I agree with his comment in that one should use acoustic treatment first and foremost and attempt to correct any room issues that way before splurging on some digital gizmo to do it for you. So, I did just that. I added some acoustic treatment first and foremost and it knocked out a large portion of my frequency issues. Hooray! However, my budget and expertise in room treatment is limited and lo and behold, there was still some nagging frequencies roaming my room. Like most home studios, my room is not perfect and it would take some major time, money and know-how to knock out the remaining frequency issues via acoustic treatment.  Enter ARC 2, to polish it all off. The theory is this gizmo will tell me where my room acoustics are now that the treatment is in place and correct the remaining issues for me.

So, how does it work? Essentially, you set up the accompanying omni-directional microphone and it picks up the sequential “chirps” that the ARC software spits out of your speakers and uses this to measure your room acoustics. After each set of “chirps” you move the microphone around the listening spot you are attempting to measure. Once all of those measurements are done, ARC then analyzes the data and gives you a measurement reading of your room acoustics. You’ll see this measurement reading once you open your DAW and instantiate the ARC plugin at the end of your mixing chain.

You want to instantiate the correction at the end of the mix on your Master Channel and be sure to remove it once you are ready to render your mix to mp3 or the like.

You want to instantiate the correction at the end of the mix on your Master Channel, as I’ve done here, and be sure to remove it once you are ready to render your mix to mp3 or the like.

 

The process of using ARC 2 can seem a bit convoluted, but its actually very, very simple and quick to do. Here are a series of videos that do a better job of explaining the process and the product than I could ever do.

The idea is that ARC EQ’s your mix to eliminate the troubling frequencies that essentially hinder your listening space when mixing. So, if you have a huge bass buildup around 300Hz, it will EQ that out in an attempt to make a flat EQ response coming out of your monitors (ideal for mixing). That buildup at 300Hz is the bass bouncing around your room and back to your ears, not the actual mix. If you take that mix and listen through headphones you’ll not hear that bass buildup. So theoretically, by using ARC 2 you won’t be upping the levels of your higher frequencies in order to compete with the lower frequencies that aren’t really present in your mix in the first place. Thus, helping you achieve a better mix more efficiently.

At any rate, I did the measurements the other night and I must say that once I put this plugin on my mix there was a definite audible difference. In fact, I liked it because upon bypassing it I could hear all the bass buildup that it was removing. This can be seen in the photo below.

My room frequency is the orange line. The white line is the correction by ARC. Notice the buildup of bass between 50Hz - 300Hz. Also, notice how unstable my room acoustics are. Ideally you don't want ARC working that hard to give you a flat response. I really need to eliminate as much of that as possible to bring it closer to a flat EQ response and then add ARC.

My room frequency is the orange line. The white line is the correction by ARC. Notice the buildup of bass between 50Hz – 300Hz. Also, notice how unstable my room acoustics are. Ideally you don’t want ARC working that hard to give you a flat response. I really need to eliminate as much of that instability as possible to bring it closer to a flat EQ response before adding ARC.

 

I don’t think my home studio is too far off from your average home studio in regards to the EQ measurement I received: plenty of low end. Ideally, one would want to just add the treatment needed to fix the issues and not mess with any fancy plugins in your DAW. In this ideal scenario, you would just use ARC 2 as a measurement tool only, not a correction tool. But, as I’ve stated earlier, this ideal scenario is beyond most home studio budgets and know-how, which makes the combo of room treatment and ARC 2 a great alternative. I’m pleased with the results so far. ARC 2 does what it says and its actually well-priced. You can pick one up here.

Till next time…

David (Cali Dingo)

 

 

DIY Vocal Booth

I’ve always heard and read about making a vocal booth out of moving blankets as an inexpensive and nonintrusive alternative to the real thing. I was skeptical, but there was one word that persuaded me to pursue it: inexpensive. Hmmm. Intriguing.

Granted, I would prefer to have a permanent, professionally-made vocal booth…. heck, I’d prefer a permanent, professionally-made studio. But, alas, I don’t have room to permanently construct a vocal booth in my home studio, so a portable one was going to have to do.  I needed something that I could assemble/disassemble on a whim and store in the garage out of the way. I also needed it to be quite sturdy.

First of all, why moving blankets? Apparently, moving blankets are quite thick and when doubled or tripled up they can really clamp down on any noise floating around them. I’ve seen many people use clips and hang them from their ceiling tiles or something and that just didn’t appeal to me in that form. I wanted it to actually be a booth, just collapsable. So, I set my brain ta’ thinkin’ and I came up with something that, when tested this last weekend, proved to be a winner. I then thought to myself: “I bet there is someone else out there wondering how to get a vocal booth in their small home studio and receive close-to professional results.” So, here is what I did. Maybe it can help you if you’re in need.

I bought 2X4s and constructed 3 frames that are 7 ft X 3 ft like this:

I screwed them together and used brackets to give them extra stability. Then, to make them stand AND to make them collapsable, I hinged 2 of them together using door hinges. I wasn’t able to hinge the 3rd frame and keep the booth collapsable, so I had to make it free standing and hook it to the other frames to form my 3 sided booth using eye-hooks.

I then bought some moving blankets on ye old amazon and put one blanket on each side of each frame using safety pins to bind them together. So, there are 2 blankets for each frame to ensure good dampening. I then topped the booth with 1 blanket so no room reflection comes bouncing off the ceiling.

That’s it. It took me a couple of hours to cut the wood properly and put them together and 30min. to put the blankets on. I put it through a test run and everyone was quite impressed. No room reflection at all. I am going to add my reflection filter to the mic for extra dampening, but even without it we had a great vocal take as you can see from the audio sample below.

At any rate, here is a video of my booth and the singer using it.

NOTE: I kept calling it a gobo because I’ve heard many people call them that, but I am unsure if that is accurate. So, please forgive if I’m misusing that slang… I just want to be cool like all the other Rick Rubins. ;)

 

 

And here is an audio clip from that session using the booth.

 

 

I hope this helps someone in a vocal booth pickle. Feel free to leave any comments or suggestions for improvement. I’m always looking for the perfect sound.

Till next time…

David (Cali Dingo)

 

 

 

Have A Closet? Make An Amp Room!

This past weekend I was hard at work recording guitars on an upcoming EP for a local band. It’s been fun, challenging and long in the hours department. But, when it all comes together in the end it is always worth it. This post is in response to an issue we ran into when we recorded guitars earlier for demo purposes.

The issue is simple: I have my “studio” in a spare bedroom in my house. Room is limited. So the standard procedure is to have the guitar player sit next to his mic’d amp in my 11′ X 11′ “studio” and start to find the perfect tone. The problem? Your ears begin to go numb from sitting so close to the amp, so you can no longer discern the differences in tones. The only way around this is to put the amp in another room… preferably a closet or something similar without a ton of echo flutter… and use the studio monitors to listen for the perfect tone.

My problem with this scenario was that the only available closet that would work was approximately 50 feet away in my bedroom. Most will tell you that you don’t want to record with any cable over 25 ft, because you’ll tend to run into all sorts of sonic issues. But, I’m an experimenter in these types of things and was willing to give it a shot.

We tracked down a 50′ mic cable which gave me hope.  I would suspect a company wouldn’t spend the money on creating a 50′ mic cable unless it actually worked without the sonic issues. The main problem ended up being the instrument cable. They seem to only go up to 25′ because of the sonic issues. So… troubleshooting begins.

I quickly resolved that because the guitarist uses a pedal board, an option may very well be to split two 25′ cables with the pedal board. This way we get a total of 50′ and never exceed the 25′ rule in a single connection. The downside is: the pedal board will reside in the hallway and all settings will require the guitarist to get up and down to find the tone… same with the amp. To me, this was worth the trade off.

We initially used walkie-talkies and had another band member or myself sit by the amp or pedal board and make the necessary adjustments as the guitarist played, but it soon became apparent that the guitarist knew what he was wanting, so up and down he went to find the perfect tone.

All in all it worked like a charm, despite the warnings from all the pro studio staff at Guitar Center. So, I felt it worthy enough and informative enough to share here with this write up and a little video showing the nonsense of cables running through my house. We were able to use my studio monitors at moderate levels and find tones all day long without our ears going numb. That’s how the pros do it and we somehow emulated that experience. Yay for us. :)

Here’s the video. Enjoy!

Till next time!

David (Cali Dingo)

 

 

 

Organ Recording

As you may remember (and if you don’t I have a little post about it right here) I purchased a Conn organ and Leslie cabinet for cheap. I’ve been working on a song of mine recently and my brother pushed me to record an organ part for the song using this newly acquired piece of furniture or organ as some may refer to it. So, I did and while doing so I began to realize that this might be interesting to some out there as to how I went about recording the silly thing.

I did a little research online and came across many theories as to the best way to record a Leslie cab. Originally I put one SM57 on the top cone and one Beta 52a on the bottom woofer.  It turned out pretty good. Then I was informed by my brother that to really capture that rotating cone on the Leslie, one has to use two SM57s on either side of the cab, recorded to a stereo track and that will capture that ear to ear tremolo on a recording.

Well, I thought to myself, I must try this again. I did and must say that it turned out way better than the original recording. It was very easy to setup and get levels as well. The sad thing is that my speaker after this recording began to spew out some distorted hiss sounds that, upon reading my vintage manual I bought on eBay, appears to be related to some bad tubes. Now, this organ has 80 12AU7 tubes. Yes, you read that correctly, 80.  These little tubes only run $7 or so, but take that times 80 and we have a bit of a financial problem. Thanks to the manual I ran a test and found that I have only 20 that need to be changed. Whew! But, I’ll change these bad boys out and we’ll see if that corrects the distortion.

As for now, let me show you my method via pictures and let you hear the result via mp3.

The organ chamber. Our little kitchen nook turned out to be quite the organ recording room. Who would’a guessed?

This was my original recording method. 1 SM57 on top and 1 Beta 52A on bottom.

This is the method I ended up liking best. 2 SM57 mics on top and 1 Beta 52A on bottom. This really captured the rotating horn tremolo effect that Leslie’s are known for.

 

And now for the audio:

 

That’s all for now.

Till next time….

David (Cali Dingo)

 

 

 

 

My New Bass Setup

I’ve been having a blast setting up my ideal bass setup as of late. One thing I’ve noticed about my setup is how many more pedals and effects I rely on nowadays as opposed to the old setup I used for many years in bands. If only I knew then what I know now.

You see, I used to play on an Ampeg svt-350 w/ 8X10 cab and that was pretty much it. I think at one point I may have stuck a BBE sonic maximizer on there, but I was very much a meat and potatoes kinda setup bass player. I was never fully satisfied with my tone.. in fact, I never really felt I had a tone. I just plugged in and played as was. I’ve since learned a thing or two about acquiring a particular “sound” or tone that can be not only pleasing but help the bass cut through the loud guitars and drums so it can be heard. There were many a time I felt I was doing all sorts of cool things on the bass, yet no one could hear it. I was right. I needed a few things to help alleviate that problem.

I’ve since sold the 8X10 cab and have just held onto the SVT-350 waiting to see what I might do with it. Within the last few weeks I finally decided what I was going to do with it. I started to record a metal band lately and I had the pleasure of recording the  bass player mic’d to his cab, as well as sending the direct to the DAW. It sounded great. I was impressed. He had a nice tone, but I felt I had control over that tone by throwing a mic on the cab.

When recording my bass, I usually just went from my head, through some virtual FX and came away w/ a pretty good bass. Actually, pretty great. It cut through the mix and very little mixing was needed on the bass part, because I nailed it at the source recording. But…. I alway felt I was missing a little low-end that can only come from a mic’ed cab. My virtual “cabs” were great at emulating that sound, but I just felt it would be great to actually have the cab and mic it up to get that sound much like I did for that metal bass player I just recorded. So, went on a quest to find it and have since bought all the outboard FX needed to finally nail down my bass tone.

Again, if I only knew then… because these FX would have been a great icing on the cake to the gear I had at the time. I was so naive. ;)

At any rate, here is the new setup.

The head. Before picking up pedals, I started here. I dialed in a nice overall sound w/ the EQ knobs & Gain, then fine-tuned it w/ the Graphic EQ. They don’t make this model anymore, but its great! I absolutely love it and always have.

This is the new cab. A 15″ speaker. I probably should have picked up a 4X10 for $100 more, but I really thought putting a mic on that “woofy” speaker would be great . We’ll see. If nothing else, I’ll sell this and pickup the 4X10.

This is the magic pill right here. This thing is truly awesome. I was able to fine-tune the tone from the head even more with this AND dial in a tone that’s very tube-like. Not to mention, the distortion, when instantiated, is great. Most consider this a Sans amp ripoff, but it couldn’t be further from the truth as far as I’m concerned. Of course, it depends on what you’re trying to achieve. This little thing packed a whole lotta good when I got it dialed in.

This is my standard tube compressor I use whenever I’m recording. I know it and like it. I would have bought a pedal compressor if I was to be gigging, but I’m not. Just use this to keep my dynamic bass from giving me headaches when mixing and helps to add some sustain so it doesn’t get lost when holding the note.

This limiter also gets a bit of a bad rap, but I found it to be perfect at furthering the “cut through” idea. The enhancer is some sort of EQ setting apparently, but it works well. I do get a bit of hiss from this, but that’s what makes it rock n roll. No hiss is for the Barry Manilows of the world.

This is the last in the chain and this thing cleans everything up. It is a unique device, I had the rack mount back in the day but didn’t know how to use it. Now I do. It’s awesome. It apparently aligns the frequencies of the bass or guitar and in doing so adds a little more clarity and punch.

The most beautiful part of all these little gadgets is that I got most of them at discount prices. That’s always a good thing. The cab and limiter I bought at full price. The BBE I got for $40 – sells new for $100. The MXR I got for $75 – sells knew for $140.  The head and compressor I bought long ago and I paid full for those.

But, in the end I have the tone I’ve always been searching for. Again, if I was to do anything different, I would have picked up a 4X10 cab, but with that said, I’m actually getting a great sound. You can’t go wrong with Ampeg no matter what you get. You really can’t. They are THE bass makers and have been for decades.

That’s all for now.

Till next time…

David (Cali Dingo)