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Is it my pre's, my converters, or poor setup?

jmfreeland

Member
Messages
285
I have an isolation cab with an SM57 running into a Phonic Helix 12 mixer, which is connected to my computer via Firewire. When monitoring the channels using headphones and the channel unmuted, everything sounds fantastic and pretty much as good as I could expect to sound in an apartment studio. When I mute the direct monitoring and monitor through the Firewire return in Reaper, the sound quality is a lot more lifeless and unappealing (flat and with a bit of distortion even). I'm not new to recording, but I'd finally like to actually learn what I am doing here. My guess here is either that the D/A converters (24-bit/96Khz so this would surprise me, but I guess there is probably a wide range of quality) are subpar and it just can't capture the signal properly or I am setting Reaper or my drivers up incorrectly somehow. Should i expect my direct monitoring to sound the same as recorded audio? Everything sounds pretty peachy when I am listening to things as I record, but the playback is pretty disappointing. All I want to do is capture the signal I am hearing in the headphones during recording. Any help appreciated. It is definitely time to figure out what I'm doing.
 

loudboy

Member
Messages
27,312
The mixer/interface probably has a lot to do with it.

In general terms, pres and converters are low on the list of things that effect the recorded sound, but you may have to step up your game a notch or two.

Look at it this way - $30/channel for both a pre and conversion isn't going to buy you a lot of sound quality.

I wouldn't bother with 96/24, maybe try it a 44.1/24 and keeping your levels so they peak at around -6dB will help things out a little.
 

Nelson89

Member
Messages
3,615
Remember you're entering the digital world, so the first thing i'd recommend is make sure the signal you're sending to your computer isn't too loud. 24bit/96khz is good enough....hell i get a good sound and i only record at 24bit/48khz (can go upto 192, but don't...). Another thing i would mention, your direct monitoring will always sound different to the recorded stuff...i've never used an isolation box? Is there still a little bit of bleed coming from it while you're recording? If so this bleed will also contribute to what you hear while you're recording. But also the whole idea that you're actually doing something while you listen...you tend to hear things a little differently than if you were just purely listening.

But yeh, i guess my suggestion at this point in time is not to record the level too hot to avoid digital clipping on the way in and not to turn it up too loud in reaper, to avoid digital clipping on its way back to your headphones.
 

jmfreeland

Member
Messages
285
Sounds good. Will read through that, lower the levels a bit and do some testing. There is definitely some bleed, but with the headphones on there is still a marked difference between muting the playback that is returned from the computer and the direct signal.
 

jmfreeland

Member
Messages
285
It definitely came down to levels. I spent a long time muting/unmuting the direct monitoring and adjusting monitoring levels and output mix level and I finally got to a point where it sounded pretty much spot on when switching back and forth. It's definitely nice to be able to get a decent recorded sound in such a small space. Now to figure out how to mix in the MX400...
 

madhattertcm

Senior Member
Messages
181
For future information, AD/DA (analog to digital, digital to analog) converters rarely have anything to do with it. A cheap ad/da will work.

The pre's on the other hand are definitely worth looking at, at all times. Someone said that pre's are low on the list though, and i couldn't disagree more. But he also said 30/pre isn't good. So maybe I'm confused about what he said.

But yeah, it makes since that your problem ended up being levels, since you mentioned it was a bit distorted. Adjusting your pre's gain can definitely save you. Make sure to give your self a bit of headroom so you don't clip it.
 

jmfreeland

Member
Messages
285
Good to know on the AD/DA angle, as I have inserts where I could use my own pre. I'm pretty sure this board leaves a whole lot to be desired, so perhaps a decent single-channel pre isn't a bad idea.
 

Scott Whigham

Member
Messages
3,528
For future information, AD/DA (analog to digital, digital to analog) converters rarely have anything to do with it. A cheap ad/da will work.
I disagree with this. Converters may be the final 5% - and a cheap ad/da will "work" - but why bother use all this fancy recording gear if you are going to dumb it down before it gets to the DAW and then again when it comes out? Your converters should be on par with the rest of your gear or better. You are putting every single thing you record or playback through them - they are critical pieces of gear IMO.

So yes: a cheap ad/da will technically satisfy the "I need to record myself" itch and there have been many nice recordings done with basic interfaces. However, to get a great recording with a basic/cheap AD/DA, you need to be at 100% skill on the recording techniques and 100% quality on the room treatment/quality. I'm not either of those so I opt for quality AD/DA.
 

Nelson89

Member
Messages
3,615
I kinda agree with Scott here, i think whatever you have your converters should be on about the same level as your pre's. Obviously the change from a cheap pre to a more high end pre would make a bigger difference than if you were to change from a cheap converter to a high end converter, but i think the two kinda need to go hand in hand. If you run say a neve preamp through a cheap converter it will sound good, but not great, there's so much that the converter won't be able to pick up due to jitter and what not. Alternatively if you run a cheap ART pre through an apogee rosetta or a lynx aurora, it'll sound alright and you'll be getting absolutely every nuance the preamp can offer, but it'll still sound like a$$ compared to higher end preamp.

Knowing this, my plan to upgrade essentially went as follows. The converter's in say the m-audio profire 2626 are good enough to serve some purpose and employ jetPLL technology which helps eliminate jitter and pops. Once you have converters in the mid range area like this, thats when you should start to buy say 1 good preamp or whatever. This will help the recordings a bit...after this, THEN buy a good converter...and so on. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, the problem with cheap converter's is that 1. they don't capture all the sound and 2. you could be in the middle of the perfect take and murphy's law dictates that they will either pop, crackle or to some extremity sh*t themselves.

Oh and i think it was loudboy who said in general pre's and converters are low on the list...i think what he meant in considering the OPs problem was that you can still get some good results with cheap equipment so long as your levels are right and your mic technique is right. Pre's and converters are a bit more subtle compared to moving a mic or something.

My two cents of course...
 

kludge

The droid you're looking for
Messages
7,104
What do your levels look like in Reaper? Are you "hot"? You shouldn't let ANY peaks go over -6db... -12db might be a better target.
 

Nelson89

Member
Messages
3,615
The -12db is probably a better idea...seeing as in digital the absolute peak is 0db...as opposed to +6db or whatever it is in analog...can be quite deceiving sometimes and used to be a problem back in the days of 16bit recording, but so long as you're recording 24bit, you have loads of room to go quieter, so probably a good idea to use it. I find if i track a little hot (not peaking at all, probably peaking around -4db on the odd occasion and sticking around -10db) once i get to a certain track count, i'm starting to turn things down anyway so as not to overload the master bus...so it only makes sense to even track a little colder than that...
 

Stevie_j

Member
Messages
76
Sounds to me like themonitoring is turned on on you channel in reaper.

You need to turn off monitoring while recording or the delay wil cause phasing issues that will 'weaken the sound
 

loudboy

Member
Messages
27,312
As a general rule, the earlier in the chain a factor is, the bigger an effect it will have on your net result. In order of importance...

Song
Performer
Sound source (guitar/amp or whatever)
Microphone (the mic itself as well as placement)
Room
Preamp
A/D Converter

Of course, if something is broken or you're just not doing something right (like improper gain staging), the negative effect of that can overwhelm all else. Where you have a "problem" - hum, bad signal level, noise, etc. - 99% of the time it's going to be because you're not doing something right or because something is broken.

As for converters, while quality is important, just about any modern A/D converter will get you commercial-release quality sound. Using the crappy onboard ADAT converters didn't stop Alannis Morissette from selling 33 million copies of "Jagged Little Pill". Hell, a modern Behringer A/D will sound better than those. It's a very subtle difference, though. If you can get your hands on the 3D Audio AD/DA comparison CD, check it out. It's a head-to-head comparison of a ton of AD's. It's a bit old, but the startling thing is how subtle the difference is between lowly Digi001 converters and ultra-high end Prism or Lavry's. Definitely subtle enough not to fret about it.
+1, on every point.
 

madhattertcm

Senior Member
Messages
181
That's generally what I was saying about converters. The technology is not crazy or expensive, and therefore a cheap converter (whether built in, or standalone) will NOT be the thing that hinders a recording. you'd had to spend thousands on a converters before seeing an ounce of a difference.

As a general rule, the earlier in the chain a factor is, the bigger an effect it will have on your net result. In order of importance...

Song
Performer
Sound source (guitar/amp or whatever)
Microphone (the mic itself as well as placement)
Room
Preamp
A/D Converter

Of course, if something is broken or you're just not doing something right (like improper gain staging), the negative effect of that can overwhelm all else. Where you have a "problem" - hum, bad signal level, noise, etc. - 99% of the time it's going to be because you're not doing something right or because something is broken.

As for converters, while quality is important, just about any modern A/D converter will get you commercial-release quality sound. Using the crappy onboard ADAT converters didn't stop Alannis Morissette from selling 33 million copies of "Jagged Little Pill". Hell, a modern Behringer A/D will sound better than those. It's a very subtle difference, though. If you can get your hands on the 3D Audio AD/DA comparison CD, check it out. It's a head-to-head comparison of a ton of AD's. It's a bit old, but the startling thing is how subtle the difference is between lowly Digi001 converters and ultra-high end Prism or Lavry's. Definitely subtle enough not to fret about it.
 

909one

Member
Messages
2,197
I agree with the last two posts as well.
if the song and the performance is in order... check the source of the sound and the room.

I have gotten great recordings using behringer pre's in a very nicely treated room and ****** recordings in a bad sounding room with a rack full of high-end pre's.

IMO, if you are recording something that enters an acoustic space, that space you are recording in usually affects the sound way more than any microphone, pre or AD convertor, so start by adjusting things there.
 

909one

Member
Messages
2,197
i just re-read your post... i think specifically related to your problem, you are probably hearing some bleed from the live source while you are monitoring that's tricking your ears into thinking the source sounds more live or 3d... because you are actually hearing it from a few different directions.
that happens to me alot too...
 




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