PLEASE help save my sanity...I am a newbie recorder but have a longtime issue

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by ripley156, Feb 15, 2009.


  1. ripley156

    ripley156 Supporting Member

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    Ok, I am going to type a long post...I promise to use periods, commas and paragraphs in hopes of people actually wading through it because I am starting to think I am crazy...I really want to record some music, but I can't get a sound to save my life...I prefer 80's and 90's hard rock and like a "Scorpions meets Van Halen"-type tone...(Please don't hold this against me, lol)

    I have had several "real" amplified situations I thought sounded OK...A Digitech GSP 2101 into a Marshall power amp and a Marshall 2/12...I sold that and bought a Vetta 2. (I am reasonably pleased with the sounds I get running through an amp and speakers in a real-life situation. I just want to throw that in the so you know I have found tones I actually like)

    Here is my problem... I can't make a recorded guitar sound that even sounds a tiny bit like a "real" guitar. No matter what I have done/tried, it sounds like a lo-fi version of what it should be... (Everything is fizzy, thin, weird, crunchy...Nothing like I would hear on a demo or album...)

    I will start awhile back so you know where I have been:

    I bought a POD 2.0 and a $20.00 pair of headphones. It sounded HORRIBLE. I don't mean it sounded less than the amp it was trying to model, it seriously sounded crappy, fizzy, shrill and a million other adjectives. The POD died a slow death on a desk in my office because I just couldn't even find a sound that sounded good enough to sit in the living room and doodle with... I read a lot of hype about the POD and figured it really must be great and that maybe I was just too dumb to use it...I finally sold it.

    Last year, I bought a Line 6 Toneport. I hooked it up to my PC. Same experience. (note: I still have the same crappy headphones)

    When I switched-through the amps and listened to the preset tones, I heard a lot of different sounds, but nothing that if I was listening to it that would make me think "Geez, that is a cool guitar sound". (Again, I couldn't even find something that sounded 25% as good as my rig...It wasn't "smooth" or even close to what I hear other people posting online saying they put-together with the exact same piece of equipment.

    I need to stop here and stress this again. I am not being a sound snob. I just couldn't make a sound come out of the POD or the Toneport and record it into Reaper (at that time) that sounded even reasonably cool. (Mind you this is just grabbing a preset and recording the track. Iam not eq'ing afterwards or anything, just playing-back what I recorded.)

    I still have the same headphones (I keep including this because I am wondering if this is the issue, I will ask at the end)

    Last year, I bought a Macbook. I did this mostly for the computer, but couldn't help thinking I was just a knucklehead and Garageband would be the answer that would give me a half-way decent sound for recording. I hooked-up the Toneport and out came the same crappy noises. <sigh> By this point, I just decided I wasn't interested in recording anything, so I haven't tried for the past year. (With that said, I didn't think anymore about home recording until earlier this year at tax time when I got a pretty nice return)

    I kept reading everyone say "Macbook and Apogee Duet is EVERYTHING you need to start making great recordings". I have heard the recordings everyone makes and they are right, it does sound freaking incredible! So, I bought the Apogee Duet last week. I hooked-up it up to Garageband, used the amps inside, tweaked a bit and (I am seriously, going nuts here...) I heard the SAME rotten tones as before coming out of the headphones!

    Ok, I am getting desperate here...I downloaded the Guitar Rig 3 demo version last night and tried using it. (I have no doubt there is a lot of great stuff in there!) I have heard the sound clips and demos of what everyone else has done with it.

    However, when I went through the presets, it was the same thing, a crappy fizzy mess of a sound! (Mind you, I still have the same crappy headphones.) When I play a preset, the clean ones sound pretty good through the headphones, but I don't think they sound like anything better than what I would expect a headphone amplifier (like the old-school Rockman) to sound like... The high gain sounds are sounding fizzy, crunchy (not good crunchy) and flubby through the headphones.

    I tried to record them into Garageband thinking it is for sure just the headphones, but when I play it back, it is the same yucko sound. At this point, I know it is me. I for sure have all the tools at my disposal. I hear guys make great recording using boom boxes... This is why I need your help. I am sorry about the huge post, but I know that if I don't spell out what is making me insane, I will just sound like I am chasing a tone I can't find. This is not the case...I am just chasing a tone that sounds like a real guitar, like the demo clips or anything you guys post here on TGp!

    Here we go:

    1. Is it the headphones? If I buy a $100/$200 pair of headphone, will that be the answer? When I say "the answer", I am asking when I run my guitar into the Apogee and open Garageband and pull-up Guitar Rig 3, will the higher-gain preset-type sounds coming out of my headphones sound like the demo clips I hear online? Will it have depth, punch, clarity, not the garbled mess I hear now? Would I be playing along, saying "holy cow, this is a great tone, I can't wait to record it?"

    2. If it really is the headphones, would buying a decent set of monitors (Maybe Adam A5 or A7) do the same thing? When I was jamming in my office, would guitar>apogee>Guitar Rig 3 coming out of my monitors sound like the demo clips? (I know it won't push the same air as my Vetta and Cabinet, but would it create the same sound as the demo clips"?)

    3. I know I have most of the tools at this point and I know I have a lot to learn about recording. I just think I must be doing SOMETHING wrong. I hear people saying "I ran a mike into my PC's stock sound card and threw a mike in font of my amp"...the sound usually sounds great and I can't even get close.

    4. Is it just a question of EQ after you record the sound? Am I so dumb I don't realize the "raw" sound sounds like this for everyone and they have to fix the tone AFTER it has been recorded? If so, where the hell do you get the tools to fix THAT, lol?

    PLEASE tell me I am not crazy and it is just the headphones, lol...I already bought the Apogee and really want to get started on making some music, but it just sounds so bad...

    I had it in my head that I also need new headphones or great monitors to fix the problem... Fortunately, my pocketbook AND the right-side of my brain forced me to stop and think "It wasn't fixed with the Toneport, OR the Mac, OR the Duet, OR Guitar Rig 3...I HAS to be me! I better get some help!"

    So, here I am...I figured I would ask for help before jumping deeper down the rabbit hole!

    If you made it this far, Thanks so much for reading this...I don't know anyone in real-life to ask about this, so any help you guys can give me would be great...

    Dan
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2009
  2. fuzzyguitars

    fuzzyguitars Supporting Member

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    phew long read.

    did you listen to your clips over any speakers?

    Do you even like the sounds that you are getting, BEFORE, you record.

    Because If you dont like the sounds before you hit record, nothing will make you like it when you are listening back.

    as for headphones, i prefer closed back type, to block out room sounds, also will help when you start trying to mic up real amps instead of just using sims.

    if you are hell bent on using sims then fractal is the way to go.
     
  3. GuitarsFromMars

    GuitarsFromMars Member

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    I am curious as to what mics you're using,and what kind of mic placement technique is involved.I spend a fair amount of time recording,and it sounds like you may not be using the equipment correctly.Are you using a separate mic pre,in addition to the Apogee?
     
  4. fuzzyguitars

    fuzzyguitars Supporting Member

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    i dont think that he mics anything

    he is using sims
     
  5. Sunbreak Music

    Sunbreak Music Member

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    What's consistent is your use of headphones.

    If anyone is at all serious about getting sounds, you really can't get away from studio monitors.

    Posting a clip would be helpful.
     
  6. Boxnix

    Boxnix Member

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    I'm the same way. I can't find a sim that makes me happy at all. I love the subtle things that only my amp can do. If you want my 2 cents I would quit investing all that money in sims and learn how to mic your amp. Treat the room, try different angles and distances. Mic in stereo using different mics, again different angles and distances. And yes for the love of pete spend some money on some headphones so you can hear what is changing as you move the mic around. I'm getting halfway decent sounds out of my amp with just a single SM57 that I paid $60 for, And I don't have to put up with that buzz saw hum I get out of the GR3 high gain settings.

    Some one said in a post last week that you don't need as much overdrive when you are recording. That helped me a lot also. I was getting fuzzy sounds so I kept turning the gain up. When I finally turned it down I got what I was looking for.
     
  7. WyrmCracker

    WyrmCracker Member

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    ripley156,
    I feel for you. If the recorded guitar tone is not representative of what you "hear in your head" or even in the room, then it can impact your creative process. After all the idea in music is to produce something you are proud of, either performances, recordings or both.

    I have made some of the same mistakes as you, but am a bit farther along in the tone search. A few things to consider which may give you hope:

    *Don't despair, everyone struggles with this to some degree. Spending money and not getting a return is painful, as is wasting your precisou time. However, it really doesnt sound like you have tried very much in the grand scheme of things. You are just getting started!

    *The quality of converters is not going to impact your overall tone. You can get a good 4-channel soundcard (Echo Mia, Audiofire) that will have more than enough quality for $100-200. The guys sending big buxs on Apogee converters also have everything else. I would return that if possible and focus the money elsewhere.

    *The mic preamp makes a huge difference in the recorded tone, whether you are using a mic or going direct. The behringer MIC2200 ($100) is actually a surprisingly useful cheap preamp that is better than most cheap mixer and soundcard preamps, and will add some warmth. That should get you started. Many of the cheap solid state pres (sub-$1000) have exaggerated highs that will exaggerate problems recording guitar.

    *What sounds good in the room, may record terribly and vice versa. The best recording guitar I own has a PAF Pro pickup in it. The other dimarzios are too thick and sound muddy in comparison, even though I like playing them more for the most part. Sometimes a complex toneful sound is harder to record. Also, some speakers record much better than others. It would be worthwhile to spend $100 and replace at least one of your guitar speakers with a Celestion V30. They sound simple and ice-picky, but they record very well.

    *Modellers do not respond to guitars like an amp would. Modellers will sound "wrong" if used with some guitar pickups. You probably cant go wrong getting either a Super Distortion or PAF Pro pickup to start. Thye are classic sounds and fairly focused.

    *Some of my best direct tones were where I used a tube pre-amp (or amp head line out) into a speaker simulator. Ive used H&K redbox, ADA microcab, and the COSM amp sims in a GP100 to very good effect. Turn off the "amp" and just use the cab sim.

    *IMO, you will need a good compressor whether recording direct or with a mic. The ear can trick the mind into hearing everything at the same level. When you record you find that is not the case. A compressor plug in applied to the recorded track may do the trick. Run though the presets and see what they do for you.

    *Make prodigous use of EQ. You just gotta learn how to use EQ, both subtle and sometimes extreme.

    *My favorite "all in one" modeller is the Johnson J-station. Its not very versatile, but it has some tones that are somewhat warm and useful. Other amp sims sound like crap to my ears. Buy them used and resell or return until you find the one you like. The Vox stuff is supposed to be good.

    *Try recroding with an SM57 coupled with a decent outboard preamp. I have found that it tames the highs. My problem when recording with a mic is muddiness.

    *Recrodings do not lie. Make sure what you dislike is not your playing!

    *Recoded album tones, are often stereo signals or overdubbed many times. They also have sonic enhancement and mastering to make them stand out and sit well in mix. work on the basic tone and experiement with these other things when you get time.

    *Get some Sennheiser HD 280 Pro closed headphones. they are good value for recording and isolate sond very well and have a pleasnat, somehat balanced tone. $20 Headphones make everything sound bad.

    * Turn down the gain and rely on compression to make everything sound level.

    Good luck my friend. Dont stress, you will get it eventually.
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2009
  8. Cyclophenia

    Cyclophenia Member

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    +1 to that. Better listening environment helps a ton. I used crappy computer speakers for the longest time and a cheapo pair of headphones and couldn't figure out why it sounded so bad. I splurged and got some sennheisers and real monitors, and noticed a world of difference. Makes translating mixes soooooo much easier.

    I don't know what level the line in signal is coming in at, but you might be clipping it if it always sounds like butt. being digital it doesn't need to be as close to 0 as possible like tape used to be.
     
  9. Tone_Terrific

    Tone_Terrific Member

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    You have heard good recordings using, basically, the same gear as yours, right?
    Did you find those recordings acceptable on your 'phones?

    If so, it must be your input chain/adjustments or some defect in your recording gear as even the cheap stuff should sound OK.

    If you are monitoring with the phones and it already is bad, you might as well stop there and fix it as recording a bad tone and 'fixing' it in the mix can be frustrating. Tweaking in the mix is fine but garbage in...ya know.

    Spend the $80 or so bux on phones, just to be assured that you have decent ones as they are useful, anyway. Then go back to the beginning and dial in what you want, using them.

    IF you can't get it, you may have to settle for OK sound instead of perfection. Life is full of those nasty compromises.:messedup
     
  10. elkym

    elkym Member

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    1. From my small experience in a class in college-- recording is just as artful a process as playing-- So expect to learn some things, and expend some real effort at understanding why recording is the way it is.

    2. I agree with the other guys... Monitors will be a truer representation than headphones. JBL is well-known and very good. Behringer makes a decent one too (I never would've guessed that, but it's true-- not as good as the JBL's though)

    3. I have no experience with this, but I would distrust Sims (I really have no experience that's reliable)-- my guess is that Sims will be just as finicky as if you had a mic and the other setup in front of your amp.
     
  11. Digitalman

    Digitalman Member

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    OK, I've got the same rig you've got - Macbook and Duet.

    For one, I've never even been curious as to what the amp sims in Garageband even sound like, much less Guitar Rig. If I'm recording guitar - I'm micing my amp - Simple as that. I guess I'm old fasioned that way. I can see going direct in if I'm just doodling or sketching out an idea. But if it's a decent sound I'm going after, I mic the amp with a sm57 or a Sennheiser 906. I may sometimes run a direct line in (with no sims on it) just to have a clean track for layering.

    Your studio (DAW) is only as good as your weakest link. Mics, Headphones and Monitors are a big part of the setup.

    I'm using AKG 240 MK2 headphones. Kind of the studio standard.

    And I'm using M Audio BX5 Powered Monitors. Nothing fancy, but they sound pretty good.

    With a Shure sm57 on my combo amp, I get sounds that are damn close to standing in front of my amp. The Duet has really good analog to digital converters and great sounding mic pres.

    For what you spent on the Duet ($500) you could get a good quality monitoring system. I mean, you didn't skimp on the interface, there are cheaper interfaces than the Duet...but the Duet sounds DAMN good. So why would you skimp on the rest of it? The Duet has 2 1/4" outs that you run straight into the monitors. They even supply you with that 1/8" to 1/4" adapter in case the monitors you have aren't 1/4".

    My advice, ditch the amp sims and mic your amp - and get something decent to listen back to it with. Those 80s and 90s hard rock sounds weren't done with modeling, mostly just a 57...

    Good Luck dude.
     
  12. ripley156

    ripley156 Supporting Member

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    I can't even thank you guys enough...Based on what I have read here, I am already about 100% further along than I was yesterday!

    All of the posts made me feel like getting a sound is something that is going to happen, but not without a little bit of work and some forethought. I am going to make time for both!

    (Oh yeah, after reading the replys, I did grab a pair of Sony Studio Headphones...I think they were middle-of-the entry-level road and ran about about $90.00...That made a pretty big difference right off the bat...That is the end of spending money till I get on the right track!!! However, when it is time again (my pocketbook is still screaming, lol) I am grabbing some entry-level monitors!

    You guys are awesome!

    Dan
     
  13. meterman

    meterman Member

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    Dan you might want to check out the guide and forum over at www.tweakheadz.com, truly a wealth of info about getting started in digital recording
     
  14. russ6100

    russ6100 Member

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    I'm no huge fan of modelers for any serious rock recording but your use of the word "fizzy" leads me to wonder if you had the speaker simulator engaged....
     

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