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Readers' Letters: Well, could *you* hear the difference?, and more...

A post by David Mellor
Thursday November 30, 2006
"A recent RP feature demonstrated three microphone preamplifiers costing from $5 up to $1500. Could RP visitors hear the difference?"
Readers' Letters: Well, could *you* hear the difference?, and more...

In response to Well, could *you* hear the difference? Could you??, Carl Williams writes...

Just found you rmic preamp challenge thing. FWIW (noting that the challenge is now closed) I rated preamp #1 clearly the worst, and #3 the best by a margin. It sounded slightly more balanced and natural with both mics - more information out of mic A and more control with mic B (which I assume is some kind of condenser mic at a distance). Amp #1 sounded pretty poor. Which led me to assume it was the $5 amp, and amp 3 sounded good, so I figured it was the $1500 amp. However, assuming in the follow-up article that "amp A" mean "amp 1" and "amp B" means "amp 2" then it seems the worst sounding one is the $200 job. This isn't a huge suprise when you go on to mention it has LEDs included to resemble glowing tubes - "fashion" audio kit usually sells for inflated prices and is easily outperformed by homebrew stuff. Bose springs to mind.

I know this looks like hindsight, but, as I say, my genuine assessment on listening before checking the results page was preamp 1 = poor, preamp 3 good, preamp 2 in between, leaning closer to the good side. Which reinforces your conclusions, I think, 'cept I rate the expensive one over the homebrew, by a margin.

I don't find the result that surprising. Analogously, with the kind of price range I can afford, I've been aware for some time that I build mics using cheap instrumentation electret capsules and carefully selected hardware and passives which are far better than expensive "trendy" mics from fashion-oriented suppliers, but which at the same time can't compete with proper no-holds-barred real pro items from Sennheiser etc. Proper quality doesn't come cheap, but poor quality is very often dressed up in glitzy "professional" clothing for sale to un-discerning amateurs who can't hear the difference and who sneer at homebuilt or budget kit which actually outperforms their gold-plated "professional" wonders. I've noticed the same kind of trend with photo and video kit. I guess the monied poseur is too good a market to leave un-tapped :-)

In response to Yes, apparently it is OK to cheat in your vocal recordings!, Elias Weber writes...

I agree with you. Auto Tune is devinately cheating. I am not saying that it is wrong to use auto tune but if you do use auto tune you are cheating If I felt the urge to use Auto tune I would use it and I would know that i am cheating and i am ok with that no excuses.

Auto tune allows you to artifially achive something that you are not capeable of, much like a bodybuilder taking steroids. One might argue I used auto tune only because I did not want to retake the song until I got it right but I could get it right eventualy. A Bodybuilder on steroids could argue I only feal like working out once a week because I am lazy but I could get the same results withaot steroids if I made more of an effort and trained harder. mabie but it is still cheating wether you can or can't do it is erlevent It is cheating unless you actualy do it withaot a artifial aid.

I dont have a problem with body-builders on steroids as long as they are honest about it and I don't have a problem with Auto Tune users, use it be hapy and acept that you are cheating what's the problem with that? Or even better don't use it and be proud of a fabilous achifement or very smal flaws which will only make you sound more human.

In response to Why you should have a drum set, even if you can't play, David Of Daze writes...

It is not always necessary to use a complete "kit" sound anyway. If you keep the kick to work to then add percussion you CAN play-bongoes/tambourine/finger cymbals/tupperware box etc, then very often the results can sound not just original but also indicate where (if at all) your killer snare sound can play fills or whatever else as well as the beat. It also gives a better idea of which snare sound to use even if it is whacking a keyboard through a pod (I won't give any more away!)

In response to How to use roving mics at a conference without getting feedback. (Psst... there's MONEY involved!) , JBSONGBUILDER writes...

In my experience, Roving mics need to be rung out much the same way as a monitor system would be. Aside from diferences in room size and shape, 10Khz and 6.3Khz would be trimmed until the sound stabilizes. Bass cabinets are your enemies when working with roving mics. Roll off enough low end (from the mic channel not the mains) to prevent rumble problems as well.

An audience comment will generally be less frequency and Db dynamic ;therefore, less frequency and Db range is required for the application. Trim the fat, so you can tast more of the meat. Also, dedicated compression for roving audience mics is a good idea. You can run your comp a little tighter than you would normally for a singer. If you have to raise or lower a fader at all, do it gradually in small increments to maintain stealth. Sudden, drastic changes in level scream amature engineer. Every one notices.

Finally, your roving mic handlers should never (NEVER) be simply a volunteer. Take responsibility for showing your handlers proper mic technique. Put tape over on /off and standby controls. These controls are best left active (assuming fresh batteries are in place). Hope these tips have been helpful. Good luck...JBSONGBUILDER-engineer

In response to Would you sign a defective contract?, Claude Richardson writes...

I liked your article about music contracts. One note for the beginner, and even seasoned semi-pros, if it isn't writing, one or more of the parties will eventually get the shaft.

Even though verbal contracts are valid in many areas, unless you have enough proof to back up what you are claiming, you might as well be prepared to give up - credit and revenue.

If you do ANYTHING with someone else, put down the specifics in writing... credit, revenue split, rights to ownership and performance, etc.

Do this especially if you're "friends" or explicitly "trust" the other person.

(does this sound like experience talking?)

It may sound like a lack of "trust" between friends, but in the long run it will save the friendship, and give proper credit (and revenue) to the people doing the work. Simple answer, keep business separate from friendship.

In response to What is the ONE thing you MOST need to know to make great recordings?, Kevin writes...

I would say along with eq frequency settings to allow each instrument to have its own space is not over doing the effects. So many times in a less experienced engineer/producer thathas their own recording studio. And I say that because if you are doing your own recordings in your home studio then you are the engineer/producer of your songs as well as he writer and musician.

So with that said a less experience home studio owner will feel they have to add compression, eq, and reverb if not more to every track to make it sound professional. I guess they think that the effects are there for a reason so why not use them.

It's not a bad thing to use them if you know how but when you don't know how it makes the mix sound pretty bad. They have to hear each effect taking place within the mix instead of using the effects to enhance a track and make it sit nicely into the main mix.

This not only sounds bad but it wastes alot of time because it seems that you continually have to go back and fix one track right after you just worked on another track because now theyr'e clashing with each other. This can become frustrating as well and cause a loss of interest in the whole recording spectrum for that individual.

Many a good songwriter are not good producers and do not know how to use the technical recording gear properly. And sometimes they just give up and quit writing altogether, which is ashame.

So overall if you're going to do it on your own, be sure to know what you are doing before you mess up a really good song with a bad mix by simply over using the effects that you have. Use the effects to enhance your recordings. Sometimes you may not even be able to hear the actual effect itself and that is fine. If it helped to enhance your track then it is doing its job.

One of the things you can do is find information about mixing and using compression, eq and other effects. Audio Masterclass has some good resources right here, but on the other hand if this is something you have gotten totally frustrated with and you just want to write songs and have great recordings done without wasting time and spending a lot of money there are alternatives out there. I could also help you out as well through my songwriting demo service.

Recording, Mixing, Engineering and Producing can all be fun and rewarding when you have the hang of it and know what you are doing. It can also be frustrating and agrivating if you don't know what you are doing. So take these things I said into consideration

and decide how you want to continue doing things. I hope this helps you in some way.

Have a good day...

In response to Why are most record producers men?, Sabby writes...

In my opinion, I find that the audio field is still in its evolutionary phase to adapt to the emerging expertise and skills that women are providing. Historically, women have had difficult challenges in proving their knowledge to penetrate the stereotypical barriers that have been subconsciously placed on them by society.

As women gain footing in proving their knowledge and application in areas that have been traditionally male dominated fields, those barriers slowly come down as men begin to accept the technical intelligence that women are capable of.

The audio industry is lagging behing the Information Technology industry in this regard and unless the mentality and thinking habits change at a much faster rate, women will have to struggle a little more to gain the recognition as their male counterparts.

In response to Why did you change your DAW?, David Gotteri writes...

Re changing DAWs. I started on the old Cubase VST5, because a couple of friends used it and said they would help me learn...

I got no where with it, other than a pile of songs that never got recorded or finished. it just seemed too complicated at the time.

I now use Magix Samplitude Music Studio 14 which I just find really intuitive to the way I think.

Pro-Tools it ain't, but with decent performances, love and time spent on a mix, and a good soundcard, it does me. Plus I can still afford food for my wife and child!


In response to The ultimate guide to PC backup and disaster prevention, F.seanb writes...

I've always thought 'backup illiteracy' was responsible for not finding this question being posed, but---now that you ask: how do we recover from dead-drive-itis.

Certainly everyone has applications that simply can't be reinstalled on a replacement drive. Even an internal hard drive upgrade can create some unanticipated results, even for the best prepared.

A guide would be greatly appreciated by this ill-prepared storer of bytes and stuff.

Anxiously, I await.

RP response: If anyone other than a computer expert has successfully backed up their Windows PC, had their main drive (the one with Windows on it) fail, then restored to a new disk, we would like to hear. An easy, foolproof backup system that is actually proven to work would be a nice thing to have. P.S. Don't tell us about 'System Restore. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

In response to George Martin *was* the Beatles, Chris Milmerstadt - Composer writes...

Speaking to the "George Martin *was* the Beatles" story, while we all love a good conspiracy theory every now and then and while I'll admit that George Martin added an element (or six) of class and sophistication to the Beatles oeuvre, it is quite plain to the attentive pop music enthusiast that Paul McCartney (and John Lennon too) produced numerous, sophisticated and quite moving pieces of popular music soon after (and long after) their respective association with George Martin ceased.

It was not until 1986/87 and a one-off brief association for the title song of the James Bond movie, "Live And Let Die", that Paul McCartney collaborated again with George Martin.

In those intervening years Paul, the solo artist (and with his new project "Wings"), wrote such notable, sophisticated songs as "My Love", "Maybe I'm Amazed", "Junk", "Heart Of The Country", "Let 'em In", "Vanilla Sky", "Jenny Wren", "Great Day", "Dear Boy", "Warm and Beautiful", "Another Day", "Too Many People", "A Certain Softness", "Too Much Rain", "English Tea".

A post by David Mellor
Thursday November 30, 2006 ARCHIVE
David Mellor has been creating music and recording in professional and home studios for more than 30 years. This website is all about learning how to improve and have more fun with music and recording. If you enjoy creating music and recording it, then you're definitely in the right place :-)