DI Box vs. Good mic for Acoustic Guitar

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by Bix, Oct 11, 2004.

  1. Bix

    Bix Member

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    Everyone

    I have been writing and recording music with a local singer / songwriter and have done some ok stuff with my current set-up of Taylor 310>Rode NT1>M Audio Pre>RNC Compressor>Roland VS880. The style of music is simple song presentation for the country market, and to me is similar to early Jackson Browne (I do all the recording and mixing therefore I tend to emulate the recordings I love, e.g. Jackson Browne Late For the Sky period). I like the tone I can acheive with this set-up but I know it would be greatly improved with a good quality mic, but alas cash is a problem. Anyway, I was thinking about using a good DI box and mic'ing the guitar with the RODE and belnding these two tracks together, thinking this might be a cheaper solution. Does anybody have good suggestions for DI boxes and can you comment on the sound quality. Or does the collective mind of the forum think I should just wait till I can afford buying a Blue Dragonfly, which is my leading acoustic mic candidate.

    All opinions welcome.

    Mike
     
  2. enharmonic

    enharmonic Old Growth Gold Supporting Member

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    Hi Mike,

    Before I would make any suggestions, might I ask you whay kind of acoustic you're playing...string's..etc?

    Generally speaking...for studio recording, I will always prefer a mic to a D.I. for an acoustic...BUT...that's not to say that you couldn't get very nice results from a high quality acoustic pickup and a di-box...both of which could be used in and out ofthe studio.

    Live, D.I. is the only way to go IMO. :)

    The Dragonfly is a pretty solid choice for a bunch of applications, but I might have an alternative suggestion or two once I know a bit about the instrument ;).
     
  3. jokerjkny

    jokerjkny Member

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    countryman DI. built like a tank and doesnt get in the way of the sound.

    wanna step up? Demeter Tube DI, or an Avalon U5.

    if your pickup system does not have an onboard EQ, then i recommend an LR Baggs Para DI, or the Sansamp Acoustic DI.

    but if you're pickup system does have an active onboard EQ, then all you need is a good DI box. no sense in stacking two preamps, which'll muddy the tone even more.
     
  4. Bryan T

    Bryan T Guitar Owner Silver Supporting Member

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    I've yet to meet an acoustic pickup that I like, so I'd avoid the DI route. I suggest doing a lot of experimenting with the equipment that you have to see if you can get better recorded sounds. Don't forget to record the guitar in a room that sounds good! Fresh strings always help and don't get carried away with the compressor while tracking. Beyond that, there are a lot of high quality mics in the $250 to $1000 range that should sound marvelous.

    Bryan
     
  5. jzb

    jzb Member

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    I'm not a huge fan of the Dragonfly mic. The upper end mics from Blue are nice though. (Cactus and Bottle especially)

    As for DI... low end: Countryman like our NY friend says.

    In the upper end: Manley or Avalon. If you can get your hands on one - a DW Fearn dual valve DI. I got one and LOVE it.

    But reading your post it doesn't seem like high end is in the budget. Not to worry. If your recording for yourself - try the DI/MIC blend. They should compliment each other if EQ'd right.

    If your gonna record for release you might RENT a couple of mics and pre's. Hig end stuff usually can rented for resonable money. The RNC really is a *nice compressor*. No need to change that unless there's something your going after (tube distortion, variable pumping, ducking, or known sound effect).

    After all is said and done - it's 99% player, 1% gear.

    -j ymmv.
     
  6. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    If the NT1 is primarily a vocal mic, I'd say save your money for a mic upgrade. If not, your rig sounds like it ought to be fine the way it is. Where are you placing the mic?

    I don't recommend recording with a DI.
     
  7. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    Here are some more ideas:

    1. I believe that Roland or Boss make a modeling processor designed for DI-ing piezo equipped guitars, to make them sound like acoustic guitars.

    I have not heard these, but for some reason I recall seeing that one was reviewed in a recent Guitarist (English magazine).

    If it sounds good, this blend with your acoustically recorded track might sound nice.

    2. Another choice that's cheap: Oktava KM012, $99, quite nice with an acoustic guitar. I bought a matched pair for a mere $250, and you might try something like that, miking the guitar in stereo.

    3. The Avalon DI box has a really nice feature, an EQ setting or two designed also for DI-ing acoustic guitar. I've used one of these exactly the way you're thinking of setting up, and it did sound pretty good.

    However, it didn't sound as good as the acoustic guitar alone with a good mic (in this case, a Blue Kiwi).
     
  8. Bix

    Bix Member

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    Man I love this place, but my wallet and wife don't. Really, thanks for all the suggestions.

    As far as some of the questions.

    I'm playing a Taylor 314CE with a Fishman prefix piezo. When I mic using the Rode NT1, I usually run the mic parallel with the neck angled towards the bridge but mostly facing the soundhole. I monitor my sound through a set of AKG K240 headphones and adjust the guitar to the mic to get what I hear to be the best tone before laying tracks. The tones I get are pleasing on the upper mids and treble but the lower mids and bas is too boomy and some time downright honky. I've got a track I recently did for my mother in laws funeral:( of in the garden that's pretty good, but I know it could be substantially better. However, if anyone would like to hear it I could email it or one better someone could post it for me. I'd really appreciate the feedback as to mix, sound of acoustic,etc... I'm really intrigued by Les' suggestion of a matched set of Oktava mics as I know he has a discerning ear. But maybe a countryman with Fishman would help me to round out the tone. I usually record straight in from the Fishman to the signal chain listed above as a seperate track, but I usually only use these tracks for ambience or scrap them completely.

    Getting back to the Oktava's, Les how would you compare the tone of these mics to some of the top end mics you use? Would they get me 85% of the way there?

    Thanks again guys.
    Mike
     
  9. jokerjkny

    jokerjkny Member

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    if we're talking mics,

    while the Oktava's are a great deal, i got my NT5 pair for $299 from www.interstatemusic.com, and IMHO, they're simply supreme for the money.

    you owe it to yourself to hunt down a pair.
     
  10. enharmonic

    enharmonic Old Growth Gold Supporting Member

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    Bro, if you've got the budget for that Dragonfly, you could use it to score a Neumann KM-84 on e-bay RIGHT NOW, and save about 150 bucks to boot!

    You're gonna be hard pressed to beat a KM-84 on acoustic IMHO...and it's more affordable than that dragonfly.

    Hell...I might buy it myself. They lay a 184 to waste...again...IMHO.
     
  11. Bassomatic

    Bassomatic Silver Supporting Member

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    Ditto on the 84.

    I've also had great resuts with the KSM 32, but that may have just been a good match for this old Martin we used it on. On the lower end, i've had good results with small diaphragm AT mics.
     
  12. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    <<Getting back to the Oktava's, Les how would you compare the tone of these mics to some of the top end mics you use? Would they get me 85% of the way there?<<

    This is the truth: I bought the Oktavas because I figured for that little money, it would be fun to play around with them. But I kept them, and use them, because I think they are actually top end mics. Mics, to me, are the most important part of the recording chain, and I will only use mics I consider truly as good as anything else.

    I like small diaphragm condensers on acoustic guitar. I've had Neumann KM 140s, 184s, AKG 451s, regularly use an expensive pair of B&Ks on overheads, and I like these as well - depending on the sound I am trying to achieve. And that is the key, what you are going for.

    I love or hate any one of these mics for a particular instrument, and that's the bottom line. It's all about the right thing for your instrument, and you may have to try a few things out.

    About the Oktavas: This is a true story, and it only happened last week. I visited the studio of a very fine producer, that is equipped with a vintage Neve console, vintage and modern tube gear, and a mic collection to die for. During the meeting, we listened to some of each others' work, and when a recent recording I'd tracked with the Oktavas on overheads came on, he turned to me and said, "What did you use for overheads on this?" When I told him I'd picked the Oktavas for this session, he said, "I have to get a pair."

    And this guy has U47s and other vintage mics that have been lovingly restored.

    One other thing: is it possible that your acoustic isn't giving you what you want? A mic can only pick up what's in front of it. I'm guessing that Jackson Brown recorded his classic stuff with some very fine instruments.
     
  13. Chiba

    Chiba Gold Supporting Member

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    I got some great results with the BLUE Dragonfly on acoustics. It's all about placement, patience, and ... did I say placement already?

    I highly recommend the D'fly.

    --chiba
     
  14. Unburst

    Unburst Member

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    That's *exactly* what I was gonna say.
    The KM84 is a great acoustic mic, regardless of price.

    I especially like it when I'm engineering and playing 'cos i don't have to futz with the mic placement as much as other mics ot get a good sound.
     
  15. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    This is why I'm suggesting that improving his mic position might be the best "upgrade" he could do. There's nothing wrong with the mic he has, nor any of his other gear.

    I don't doubt it. :)

    Try positioning the mic about 12-14" from the 12th fret (or the 10th fret, if it's a 12-fret guitar) facing the neck and angled just slightly so it points at the bout. From there make small adjustments to distance and angle. Record yourself and speak out loud what you're doing as you move the mic. Make your decision based on how it plays back, because when you listen through cans as you track you still hear a little bit of guitar "live" in the room.

    Don't overcompress to tape. I just use a little bit of fast attack, medium-fast release, ratio maybe 3:1 and attenuation no more than about 3dB when I hit hard with the pick. If I'm still going into the red I reduce the preamp gain or compressor's output rather than overcompress. For fingerstyle I rarely compress at all (I also add a second mic, but that's a story for another time...).

    There are other ways, but I really don't think a new mic in your old position would be much help at all.
     
  16. Bix

    Bix Member

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    Thanks Michael. I will try the suggestion. One of my recent tracks I used the Rode as an overhead with a SM57 at the 12th fret and actually liked the sm57 better on that take. Probably the result of placement again, eh? I will try again and thanks for the tip.

    On another note, I looked on Ebay at the Neumann and noticed there is a KM 84 and a KM 84i, I'm assuming they are different and that the recommendations are specifically for an 84 not 84i, is this correct?

    If I can just use better technique top accomplish this then that will definitely be the route I take as I don't have much of a budget to begin with.

    Mike
     
  17. enharmonic

    enharmonic Old Growth Gold Supporting Member

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    Hi Mike,

    You are correct. We're talking 84, not 84i :)

    As for mic technique...I couldn't be more emphatic on how critical good mic placement is to capturing sounds. Hell...give Bruce Sweiden a mic locker full of "budget" mic's, and he'd get better sounds than just about anybody, because he knows what he's doing when it comes to placement.

    Great mics can sometimes compensate for less than great technique, but as the quality of the mic goes down, the importance of placement goes up...and even then...you're only gonna get so much out of your signal chain.

    Another SDC you might wish to consider that costs considerably less than a dragonfly, is the Josephson C 42
     
  18. flashbax

    flashbax Guest

    I just got on this. I have had really exceptional experience with miking the guitar at the sound hole, neck, and adding a room mic, then mixing to get the balance that I want. Try it, you can get a really nice mix of the sound from the guitar, the neckwork and room ambience.
     

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