Category Archives for Gear

Where to buy recording equipment

Where is a good place to buy recording equipment? There are so many places offering stuff for sale, where should you choose? And why? 

First, I recommend Amazon. They are one of the largest online retailers, with a network of suppliers. And you can trust them. They'll probably have what you're looking for, at the best available price.

zZounds Logo

Also check out zZounds.com. zZounds offers the widest selection of name-brand insruments at guaranteed lowest prices. You can purchase over 125,000 different products from their website 24 hours a day (and they offer free shipping on most of it). Check it out!

Another good place to look is Sam Ash. It is a family run business, priding theirselves with an impressive inventory, good support, and a passion for music. 

Sweetwater.com is a great place too. I've found their sales support staff very helpful, but the prices not the most competitive. Fullcompass.com is another good place to go. They can sometimes email you quotes that are better than advertised prices. 

About the links you see on Bedroom-Recording.com - most of them are affiliate links where you can support the site by clicking through and purchasing. Thank you for your support of Bedroom-Recording.com!

Do you have a "best place" to buy audio equipment? I'd love to hear about it!

Top 10 Vocal Microphone List

Choosing a vocal microphone is difficult. There is a lot of money involved, and you don't want to make a wrong decision. On the other hand, for most small home studios, the vocal mic has to play double duty as an all around microphone, recording vocals, guitar, drums, and more.

I've taken the liberty to write up a top ten list of vocal microphones to provide a jumping off point when looking for a quality vocal mic for a new home recording studio. What you'll find below are my thoughts on 10 mics that are well suited for vocal recording.

Please know this - the price ranges drastically, but sometimes price is not the final arbiter of the sound quality. Sometimes a medium or even lower end mic will give you what you want, when a top dollar one is something a little different.

Here's what I recommend. If you are looking to buy a single vocal microphone to get your studio rolling, do not buy super expensive and do not buy cheap. Get middle of the road. Why? This way you are paying for a good quality microphone that will be versatile. Get the cheaper ones as a second one. For my first mic, I bought an Audio Technica AT4050 (see below). It is an amazing all purpose mic that I still use all the time.

What you don't want is a cheap vocal mic that makes you sad each time you use it. It's worth paying a bit more up front to get quality, because there is a quality different between a $100 mic and a $600 mic. That's my recommendation.

The list below is tailored for people who want vocal microphones that work well for other uses as well. I tried to keep this realistic - the prices range from $100 to $1000, with the Neumann U87 thrown in because it is just world class and needs to be on any top 10 list.

At the bottom of the list is a special feature of this page - a place for you to share raves about your favorite vocal mic. Click here to go straight there.

How to use this list

I've divided this list up into categories by price, and sorted them descending (highest price first). Please smile and read the info about the U87, even though it's out of the budget for pretty much any small studio. But it's a sweet mic. Each vocal microphone has some info about it to help you think about them.

Enjoy!

The Vocal Microphones

High End

Neumann U87

This is a classic studio mic. It is the "go to" mic for many different purposes. The quality is second to none. Sound is amazing. In short, if you can, get this microphone - you won't regret it.

Price: $3200

Middle Range

Remember, these are the ones to get if you at all can.

Audio Technica AT4050

This was my first microphone, and has served me well for over 10 years. It just works - I've never had any problems. I love the sound - present and full. It doesn't do any fancy things with trying to make the output sound flattering. It just pumps the sound through. I use it as a vocal microphone, but it is a studio workhorse - it's also known as an acoustic guitar mic. It has a switchable pattern, meaning it can be set to cardioid, omni, or figure-8 mode. I can't say enough good things about this, so I'll let you decide for yourself.

Price: $699

Price: $749

Rode NTK

The Rode NTK allows one to step down on the price axis a little bit but still maintain quality. It comes in at around half of the AKG C414, but still packs a solid punch in recording quality.

Price: $530

SM 27

The SM 27 is one of the vocal microphones by Shure (we'll meet more below). This one is falls in the bottom end of the middle range. It sports a condenser capsule, with a fixed cardioid pattern. The capsule is designed from the Shure KSM series, a higher end line, and placed on the SM 27. It is a multi-purpose mic, at home with the vocal microphones or many other categories. It nicely complements an SM 57 or 58.

Price: $299

The Low Range

Beta 58a

The Shure Beta 58a is an upgraded version of their wildly popular SM58 (below). It features a dynamic capsule with a hypercardioid pattern. That simply means that it is a directional mic, and a bit more directional than a standard cardioid. It is good for stage use, but quite at home in the studio as well. The frequency response of the Beta 58a is engineered for vocals. It brightens the midrange and rolls off the bass, to eliminate the proximity effect.

Price: $160

AT 2035

The Audio Technica AT 2035 is a large diaphragm condenser mic designed and budgeted for small studios. First, it is a condenser mic, not a dynamic mic as most of the vocal microphones down here are. However, here is the caveat: cheaper means more affordable, but not as good quality. This is one mic that I would save for a second or third mic, after you have a better one. The AT 2035 is a cardioid mic, and can accept high levels of sound.

SM 58

​Possibly the world's most popular microphone ever, the SM 58 is here to stay. It features a dynamic capsule, lacking the condenser part that allows upper end condensers to provide the clear sound that they do. The SM 58 is used in live sound applications a lot, but has found a place in the recording studio. It is a vocal mic, but much more - another workhorse.

Price: $89

AT 2020

​​Last but not least, the AT 2020 microphone. It brings up the rear of this list, meaning it's at the bottom. However, that doesn't mean that it is no good - it has its place. As one reviewer put it, this is a good mic for a starting home recording engineer. At $100, the price is right. You can buy cheaper, but the quality isn't there. Don't expect the AT 2020 to perform like the AT 4050 above, but it will work for you. It is a large diaphragm condenser that can handle loud sounds and a wide dynamic range. 

Price: $99

Conclusion 

Again, when looking at a vocal microphone, get the highest quality one you can afford. You will not regret it, and your sound will be better. Remember, the microphones are the ears of the studio. Your vocals will never sound better than your vocal microphones will allow. And you can't polish mud.

But also remember, a good microphone is the first step towards a good sound. Using it properly the whole way through the recording process is a necessity.

The nature of this list must exclude some microphones that are very good and deserve to be here. It is a top 10, not a top 50 list. But there are others that have just as good a chance be mentioned here.

YOUR Best Vocal Microphone 

If you have used microphones before, you know what it's like to have one that just works. Why don't you share your best vocal microphone choice.

The rest of this page has two parts. First is an easy form to build a new web page automatically. Below that you'll see the raves that other people already posted about their favorite vocal microphone. Join in the fun!

A picture is worth a thousand words, so why not add a picture of your mic, or maybe of you (or someone else!) singing in it?

If you see someone else has already posted a rave for your favorite mic, you can post a comment to that page, or create a separate page if you have some new thoughts.

Quick guidelines: keep it real - make it personal. Say what you can about the microphone - don't just say "The AT 4050 works great for voice." Think about how it may help other people viewing this page.

The Vocal Microphone – What to Look For

A vocal microphone is usually a versatile mic, and works for a number of different things. But most importantly, it works amazingly on vocals. Microphones are probably the most important part of an audio recording studio (besides you, the engineer!). They are like the ears of your recording system. The same way your ears let sound into your brain, vocal mics take the sound into the system.

The term "vocal microphone" just means that it is especially suited to recording a voice or singing. There are any number of these available, and we'll look at a few here.

Why are they so important? Anything you do after the microphone is simply working with and polishing what's already there. You can do a lot with eq and compression, but you can't change what you actually recorded. You can make it sound better, but you can't polish mud!

It is very important to get a good sound when you record. That is where you should do most of your experimentation to get better sounds.

So, what is a good vocal microphone to get? How can you know which are good ones?

Here are a list of a few that are known to work well.

First, the Shure SM58 is everywhere. It uses a dynamic type of pickup, and is used on stage a lot. (More info on dynamic vs condenser.) The SM57 is a close cousin to the SM58, and eliminates the proximity effect (see below).

One that I like a lot is the Audio Technica AT4050. It is a large diaphragm condenser mic, and works wonderfully as a vocal microphone as well as a myriad of other things.

The Neumann KM184 is another one that works amazing for me. I do a lot of stereo recording, and this mic, in a set, delivers for that. However, it also works wonderful as a vocal mic. I used it on a recording with my a cappella quartet last year, and love the results. Finally, it is known as "the" guitar mic. Do you sense a pattern? The Neumann KM184 is good!

Look for recommendations. Ask some recording buddies, or call up a studio and ask them. Look online, especially at a site that gives reviews. Learn about the microphone. Check out Top 10 Vocal Microphones on this site.

When shopping for microphones, you need to consider several things in deciding what type of mic you need. These things are:

  • pickup pattern
  • diaphragm size
  • body style

I would say that pickup pattern differences aren't crucial in the studio. (More info on these things on the microphones page.) On the stage you want directional mics to avoid feedback, but in the studio you probably won't have any speakers turned on while recording. You can experiment with different mics, or get one with a switchable pattern.

An interesting characteristic about cardioid microphones is that the closer the singer gets to the mic, the more the bass frequencies come out. This makes the sound fuller and bassier. The effect is called the proximity effect.

I think that large diaphragm mics work good on lead vocals, because they produce a warmer sound that makes a voice sound good. Of course small & medium diaphragms work good too, but results between the three may vary slightly.

When you look at body style, I think that the side address body style is used in studio microphones more. Front address mics are more commonly found in live sound applications. But don't base your microphone decision on this. Look at pickup pattern, brand, reviews, and price.

At any rate, be sure to see the article on microphones to help you further in choosing a mic. 

When you're buying a vocal microphone, remember that you'll probably keep it for a long time. It'll get used on a lot of projects, and serve you faithfully. With this in mind, you should get the best one you can afford.

That will get you better results sooner, and it'll be much cheaper than buying a cheap mic now only to upgrade to a better one later. Don't be penny-wise but pound-foolish!

Take your time while shopping. Learn all you can about the microphone your getting, and about other ones close to the performance of it. Try to test it out before buying, if you can. Be a smart shopper. Check some reviews on different microphones to see what some pros are saying. Are they recommending it for vocals?

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Top 10 Vocal Microphones

SE Electronics SE2200a II vocal mic

The SE Electronics SE2200a II – A New Classic Vocal Mic

Guest article by Steven Williams​​​​​​​

The SE Electronics SE2200a II is the latest rendition of the UK’s best selling studio condenser microphone the SE2200a, which is a firm favorite for home and even professional studios worldwide including recording the lead vocals throughout of Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black album. Its vast appeal is due to its compact size, amazing quality and most obviously its price. Now the new SE2200a II aims to take this reputation further and add some new features of its own. 

When you use the it you immediately notice its warm detailed sound, especially in the upper frequencies. The single cardioid response pattern is very impressive, and its award winning design (taken from its predecessor) is justly acclaimed. 

Another great feature is the mic's versatility - the dual-diaphragm means it can be changed between cardioid, figure 8 and omni directional polar patterns. This is ideal in a studio environment where you can really experiment and express yourself in the way you intend.

It's not bad to look at - not exactly crucial; but it sure helps. Although the SE2200aII has been designed for practicality rather than looks, it emanates an aura of quality.

The SE2200a II is finished in black rather than silver, which is obviously much less visible on stage or in a dark setting. The black rubber finish is also done for practical reasons and reduces the chassis resonance (handling noise) and the amount of reflections on its surface. 

So here’s a recap of the key features:

  • 1” Gold Sputtered capsule 
  • Black Rubber Finish 
  • Frequency Response- 20Hz-20kHz 
  • Max SPL for THD 0.5%- 135dB 
  • Multiple polar patterns- Cardoid, omni, and figure 8 
  • Free shock mount and metal pop filter- for a limited time 

On a personal level when I was looking for a new vocal microphone for my home studio it only took me a few clicks to reach a decision. I had a very limited budget but couldn’t afford to sacrifice quality. I read a few reviews and this mic ticked all the boxes. 

You’ve got to remember, using Amy Winehouse’s microphone isn’t going to make you sounds like her, but it will drastically improve the quality of recording. So if you feel you have a good voice and you’re gear just isn’t doing it justice, then you its time to upgrade. 

I think anyone that owns or has used the SE Electronics SE2200a II would agree that it really is a great value for money. There is good reason for its vast popularity ranging from you’re local band to Hollywood producers. It would be a compact and quality addition to anyone’s studio.

Where to buy: The SE2200a II is available to UK readers here. US people will have to do more legwork, or watch Amazon (links to the older SE2200a). If you know of a good source, please let us know.

Studio Monitors – What they do, and why you need them

Studio monitors are high quality speakers designed for a recording studio. The main difference between a monitor and another speaker is the attention to precision. 

When you listen to a mix, you (as recording engineer) need to know exactly what is there or the mix will not work well.

A bad mix might play nice on one system, but on the next, it might sound horrible. It is absolutely critical that you hear it correctly while you are mixing.

Studio monitors are available in many sizes, shapes, colors, and of course, price points. For most people doing home recording, you won't need the most expensive monitors. Some can even get by with just using headphones.

You really should use studio monitors for serious audio work.

Headphones vs. Monitors

Headphones are an excellent way to keep tabs the mix. In addition, they are a great way to start out a studio. In fact, that's how I started. But I couldn't believe the difference it made when I got a set of studio monitors - I could actually hear!

Headphones will give you a closer perspective on things, and you can learn with them, but I think monitors are essential for producing quality recordings.

A studio monitor is built from the ground up for accuracy. It won't give you a nice and pretty sounding mix; it will give you the dirt that is actually there. 

Of course, the more you pay, the more accurate they will be. If you want pretty music, get some home theater speakers. If you want to learn to record, get some studio monitors.

A nearfield monitor is designed to be placed within a few feet of you, the listener. This does several things - first, it eliminates most of the reflections from walls in the room. You need to hear what is going on, not the room reverb of the mixing room. (Headphones are the best isolation in this respect.) Then, it gets you close to the sound, not far away.

Nearfield studio monitors

Nearfield monitors are by far the most popular and smart choice for a small studio, not to mention economical. The other option is to get some big speakers, and mount them in a wall in a big room.

The main drawback to smaller studio monitors is the limited bass response provided by the smaller speakers. The simple way around this is to get a set with a subwoofer. The sub takes care of low frequency sound, and the monitors get the rest. You don't need a sub, as in absolute necessity. 

I use a set of 6.5" monitors now (Event TR6), without a sub. But I can see drawbacks, and have a CD out that I'm kind of embarrassed by, because it has too much bass in it.

Why does it have too much bass? Because I put too much bass in the mix. The monitors didn't give me what I thought should be there, so I put more bass in. It ended up being too much.

A sub would have solved the problem. It would have given a more accurate sound for the bass.

You don't need anything bigger than nearfield monitors. 

The Event 20/20BAS is a monitor I would look at seriously. It's priced right for a small studio, but it has some killer features - rock solid bass, smooth response. All the things you need in a set of good monitors.

Active vs. Passive

There are two types of nearfield monitors when it comes to amplification: active and passive. An active monitor has the amplifier built in to its system. A passive one has no amplifier - you need to have a separate amplifier. 

It's really simple to tell the two apart. Active has an amplifier (remember two As), and passive does no work (kind of). 

What does this mean to you? If you use passive monitors, you must have a separate speaker amplifier. For me, it's not worth the extra bother of having yet another piece of gear around in my studio. I use active monitors. They may cost a little bit more up front, but you really don't need the quality of passive monitors unless you are a pro studio.

Monitor Hookups

You will want some sort of balanced cable, such as a TRS (1/4") or XLR (microphone) cable to hook these critters up. My current set of monitors accepts XLR cables. So I got a patch cord with a XLR on the one end and a TRS on the other to go from my MOTU 828 to the monitor.

They use a standard computer power cord, so if something happens, I can quickly swap it out with another one.

What monitors should I get?

It depends a lot on what your budget is. A good rule of thumb is you get what you pay for. Get as much as you can afford, because monitor sound is something that will directly influence your mixes.

I use a pair of Event TR6 active monitors, and really like them. However, they have been discontinued. Bummer. Check out the Event 20/20BAS for a better substitute. It's a newer version.

Here are a few models that I think are noteworthy.

The Yamaha HS80MActive(Amazon) - Yamaha makes this industry classic - I read some reviews of this one, and it looks like something I want to upgrade to (if not the Event 20/20, above). 

You can get it in a stereo kit WITH a subwoofer. That's the one I'm looking at. 🙂 You might want to check that one out (zZounds).

From what people are saying, it is a very, very good quality studio monitor, especially for its price point. Don't ignore that. 

Another model worth noting is the Yamaha HS50M(Amazon, or zZounds) Active Studio Monitor. It comes in at 70 watts of power, as opposed to the HS80M's 120 watts. 

The HS50M runs cheaper in price - you can get a pair for about the same price as a single one of the HS80M. It won't sound quite as good or balanced either. That's just the trade-off in quality and cost.

Studio monitors are essential in the recording process. Use them well, and don't skimp on quality. 

When you get your set, don't forget to think about how to control them. Where is the volume knob going to be?

Sennheiser headphones make a great asset to any recording studio

Sennheiser headphones make a great asset to any recording studio. As you already know, headphones are an almost necessary part of a bedroom or home recording studio. Of all the kinds available, Sennheiser has a good reputation for quality 'phones.

They have a small selection of studio quality headphones. Sennheiser headphones used to include the HD600, a very nice pair of open-backed headphones. I wish they were still available - you can maybe find them used on eBay. Now, their best studio headphones are the HD280-Pro model. 

I've always wanted to try some Sennheisers, so now that my old Audio Technica M40s are seeing some age, I got the HD280 to "augment" their use. Don't get me wrong, I love them both and will use both. But it's good to diversify in sound. You don't want to use the same system for ALL the monitoring, or you will probably miss things.

And the result of my experiment? I LOVE the new headphones. Now I really wish I had some of the old Sennheiser 600s. I will do a review of the AT M40 headphones versus the Sennheiser HD280 headphones soon. But without much critical listening, I think the Sennheiser headphones work better with the low and high end. It has a tendency to over-emphasize the highs, but the rest is fairly smooth. The Audio Technicas lack some on the bass, but emphasize the mids, just a little too much, in my opinion. But they take the Sennheisers in comfort - the HD280 feels very firm, compared to the more relaxed M40.

Sennheiser is a German company, and when it comes to products, whether they are cars, watches, or headphones, German is a good addition to the name! The USA division that distributes Sennheiser products ALSO distributes Neumann - and if you don't know, Neumann is one of the top names in microphones.

All in all, I like my Sennheiser HD280 headphones. They work well for what I need: separation, smooth response, and the coiled cord is a nice touch to keep things from getting messy.

Sennheiser studio headphones = good headphones. 🙂

The above links all go to zZounds.com, a very good place to order audio gear from. However, be a good shopper and check out the price at Amazon too.

Return from Sennheiser headphones to Headphones.

Pop Filter – What it is and why you need one

And what does it do?

A pop filter is a simple filter that is placed between a singer and the microphone. It's that easy.

But why do you need one? The short answer is that it takes strong plosive sounds from the singer and eliminates or reduces them so the microphone will not hear a giant explosion of sound. The long answer is below.

But first, a look at the filter itself.

Normally a pop filter comes in a round disc-like thing that can be mounted on a mic stand and has a flexible boom to place it exactly where needed. Here's a picture:

Plosives are those nasty buggers that come out of the singers mouth and make the mic signal go BOOM. Particularly nasty offenders are 't', 'd', 'p', and 'b'. Practice being a microphone, and put your finger about 3 inches away from your lips. Now start talking, and see if you can feel anything on your finger. Finally, practice just speaking the consonants above.

The material in the middle is one of two materials: mesh/cloth, or metal. In my experience, the cloth or mesh material filters work quite well. To top that off, they are more price economical than a metal one. The metal ones then may be better, but I find that the mesh ones work for what I need them to.

Here is one that I recommend: the On Stage 6" pop filter. It is priced well, and just does the job. The 6" size ensures that the coverage will be appropriate, and it looks nice.

Plosives 

Plosives may be defined as sounds that increase the stream of air coming from your mouth suddenly. When the mic hears it, it feels like an explosion (because of the very small distances). It explodes - hey, that sounds like the word plosive itself, right? Plosive, explode.

The solution is to get the microphone away from the air flow. But that causes problems because the mic needs to be at a specific location relative to the singer to get the desired sound

Thus, the solution becomes to put something in the path of the air that will direct those plosive blasts elsewhere (or diffuse them), but allow the sound through. This is where the pop filter comes in.

Make your own pop filter 

There are many tutorials around on the web about how to make your own equipment, and pop filters are no exception. By all means, check them out. I may even put a how to guide up here someday.

But here's the thing. Whenever I make something like this, the quality is not up to par, and it just doesn't function right. The wire might be bent wrong. The wire might break. It may not stay attached to the mic stand right. It may smell bad. There are a million and one reasons why something I build might come apart. (Unless I put in flooring, because I know how to do that...)

For me, just spending the $20-30 is worth it to make sure I have a functioning unit that looks good. Let's face it, looks are important. Having a professional looking tool makes you feel more professional. It also means you can focus your time and energy on what is important - doing the recording. Prioritize your time and use it wisely.

MOTU 4pre Review

When I first saw the MOTU 4pre audio interface, I knew that MOTU came up with something good. The 4pre is something I want.

First, some background. I have used two different MOTU interfaces in my home recording career. The 2408 and the 828 have served me well. I love and recommend the 828mk3, which I have and use. The 2408 is nice, but it requires an extra PCI card for a computer, making it less flexible for a smaller recording studio.

I love the options available on the 828, and the quality of everything. It just works. But it only has 2 built in microphone preamps. I wish it had more.

The MOTU 4pre has inputs. Four microphone inputs that have preamps built in. This is good. Two of those inputs can double as , and two can double as guitar inputs. If you find down the road that you want more, just get a second 4pre and they will work together.
Motu 4-Pre Audio Interface

Motu 4-Pre

This is why I like the MOTU 4pre so much. With my current setup, I have to make sure I have a separate mic preamp unit (I have one that has 8 channels, the DigiMax. It works nice, but it is still two separate pieces of equipment. More complexity means more can go wrong. It doesn't mean it will, but it can.

With the 4pre, you plug it in to the computer, and the microphone inputs are ready to go. Aside from things going wrong, this is simple, and that makes it easier to use.

Overview 

The MOTU 4pre has inputs. Four microphone inputs that have preamps built in. This is good. Two of those inputs can double as regular line level inputs, and two can double as guitar inputs. If you find down the road that you want more, just get a second 4pre and they will work together.

There are two headphone outputs, with separately controlled volumes.

There are four audio outputs. Two are designed for a set of monitors , with volume controlled on the front panel. The other two are for whatever you might need them for. Stage monitors, or a second set of speakers, or whatever.

Digital in and out - it has S/PDIF digital in and out. If you don't know what this means, don't worry. It means that instead of carrying the audio signal in analog form, it goes digital with S/PDIF. Don't worry about it if you don't have any other gear that works with S/PDIF.

The 4pre offers digital mixing. In fact, you can even use it for a live event as the mixer. In other words, an amazing piece of studio recording equipment can also be used for live sound!

Also included with the 4pre is a sweet software package. It includes a number of advanced audio tools, such as clocking, instrument tuning, and an extensive suite of tools for phase analysis. But the real prize is the included AudioDesk software program. I've alread written how I like MOTU's Digital Performer. Well, I really love it. But the great part is that AudioDesk is the little brother to Digital Performer. Most of the functionality and power, and NONE of the price tag! It comes free with the 4pre.

The other great news about AudioDesk is that there is an upgrade path to Digital Performer. Rather than pay full price, you can pay the upgrade fee.

So, from experience, I can say that the MOTU 4pre is going to be a great piece of home audio equipment. 4 channels of high quality audio input and a great software package. It's going to be good.

In short, the MOTU 4pre is well able to be the centerpiece of a small recording studio. Don't wait to revolutionize your recording career!

Mic preamp guide

OK, so you got the ultimate $700 microphone! Now you plug it into your $30 mic preamp to record and we're set to go, right? Uhmm, no. Not so fast!

Your mic is producing $700 worth of sound, but the preamp is only letting $30 worth of it through! Why spend all that money on the mic, and then cancel it with trashy processing? 

What is a preamp? Basically it is an amplifier that takes the microphone level signal and amplifies it to line level, the standard used in recording systems. Also, it is often used to provide power to the microphones that require it. 

A good preamp is important in maintaining and enhancing the sound of your mics. When the preamp amplifies the sound, it can add or subtract subtle shades in the character of the sound. That's why it's important to use high quality preamps. You don't want them affecting the sound in a negative way!

Another thing to look for is the self-noise. I have two preamps in my studio, and I basically use the one all the time. The other one has so much self-noise that I hate it! This is important for each track, because when you mix all your tracks together, you get all the noise added together. The result may be much louder than you expect! 

So don't get a cheap mic preamp. I think it is more important to spend money on a microphone, but don't skimp on a preamp. The processing they add is very subtle, but that is they key. You don't want to hear the preamp. You can tell a difference from a $100 to a $1000 - it's a matter of you get what you pay for. 

A lot of the audio interfaces available will actually have a preamp or several built into it. They can often be just what you need. I like the ones that come on my MOTU 828. But I also have a Presonus DigiMax which provides 8 channels of high quality preamps. This is then a bargain. It's easy to keep adding more and more channels, and with the DigiMax, you can go a long way before you run out.

BTW, if you want to know the lingo, a preamp is also called a mic pre, or just a pre. Now, go impress your friends!

What should you look for when shopping for a mic pre for recording? If you're getting a high end one, look for things much the same as you would regular pres. 

Keep things like self-noise and trim level in mind too. You will most likely want phantom power too, so look for that. What cables do your microphones use? Make sure the mic preamp will accept them. 

Read some reviews on different preamps, and see what people are recommending. 

Yes! Now comes the fun part — doing the actual recording. 

Got your mic preamp? Go to Microphone Techniques

Mackie Big Knob Review

The Mackie Big Knob takes all the fuss out of studio volume control, letting you get back to important things - working on your music.

How many times have you wanted a quick and easy way to make subtle adjustments to the volume of your song, but it took over 10 seconds? Or something loud started playing, jolting you upright, but you can't turn it down quick?

As the name suggests, it has a Big Knob that works really well. The knob is easy to find, and you can do it without even looking at it. It has smaller knobs too, but the big one makes it easy to use.

I was looking for something to control my home recording studio. I had a computer and an interface, software and hardware. It all worked together, and I was getting decent sounds from it. 

But something was missing.

Whenever I wanted to change the volume, I had to mess with some arcane volume control knob in my software'; with a mouse! It was so hard (and imprecise).

Enter the Mackie Big Knob.

The Big Knob kept coming up in my search for studio volume control, so I gave it more attention.

Make no mistake, this is not some flimsy piece of gear that will break or malfunction in a few months - it is built like a rock and will last as long as you want it to.

Sound quality is always important in selecting a piece of recording equipment. Everything you hear goes through the studio monitor system, so it must be transparent. It can't color the sound, leaving you with a shadow of what's there.

That's why the Mackie Big Knob is an excellent choice. For the availability on the market, nothing will beat it. Of course, you could look at a super high end system, like the Grace M906. But the reality is, for a home recording studio, the Big Knob does the job as good as anything will.

Those two benefits alone are enough to make the investment worthwhile, but there's more!

  • Switch between headphones and monitors/speakers with a push of a button. The Mackie Big Knob has a plethora of connection points, allowing you can plug in several sets of studio monitors and switch between them at the press of a button.
  • Talk to musicians with ease. With the press of a button you can talk to anyone connected to the headphones mix, a separate channel that can be set up with a customized mix.
  • Replacement? Not necessary - it is rock solid and just won't break.
  • It looks great. That big knob? There's just something alluring in it.
  • Eyes free volume adjustment - with a knob that big, there's no missing it.
  • Manage cable clutter. When everything is hooked up, tie all the cables together, and run them behind the desk. Never worry about unsightly cables on the desk again!

You know, this makes the Mackie Big Knob well worth the investment. But all these great benefits are just sidelines to the real, bottom-line result.

Instead of focusing on silly frustrations like volume control, you will free yourself up to work on music. After all, isn't that why you started learning about recording in the first place?

Before I bought my Big Knob, I worried that the money could be better spent on something that made my sound better. Something like new mics, a better software plugin, or a mic preamp. But now I'm just so glad that I have my Mackie Big Knob.

It was worth it.

That said, it may not be worth it for you. Why? If you don't have studio monitors, for one. Or if you could better spend the money on some good quality mics or software plugins.

But if you have these things, what are you waiting for? Will the Big Knobhelp you?