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Thread: Question about recording vocals

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    Question about recording vocals

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    Alright. Once again sorry if this is the wrong section.

    I've been recording for years and I've always had the same "problems" when recording vocals. To this day I still haven't found any help from the internet so I finally decided to ask someone.

    First of all, I know the problem is not in my singing since I've sung on albums recorded in professional studios and there were no complaints. But everytime I record vocals at home the signal is really weak. I can't hear myself at all in my headphones without pulling the vocal track fader up all the way (or pulling the volume of the other tracks down obviously). It's just super dull and gets lost under other instruments so easily.

    Adjusting the gain has never really helped (I'm using a Line6 Pod UX2 btw and sometimes a M-Audio FastTrack Ultra 8R) since it will either start generating a ton of white noise or the voice will get distorted. I've always fixed the problem by using a limiter plugin and overall the vocals will sound fine when processed, especially after compression.

    But the thing is, I'm pretty sure my vocals used to sound fine without processing at the pro studios which has always made me wonder which piece of my gear is letting me down.

    Are the pre-amps in these soundcards I've used just so lousy or what is causing the problem? Mics I've used include a Samson C01 (Condenser), Sennheiser MD 421 (Dynamic) and a basic Shure SM58 (Dynamic, duh). And yes, the phantom power was on with the condenser lol.

    And yes, I do realize that the pro studios have better and more expensive gear but I've heard so many people saying they use cheap gear and get decent recordings so I've always wondered why my raw takes suck so much.

    I guess it would help to buy separate mic pre-amp to run into the soundcard, right?

    Also all tips on how to get good headphone monitoring for recording vocals would be appreciated (you know how you go into a pro studio and you can hear your voice in a way that it makes the cool stereo effect, then you record at home and hear nothing at all).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Freeman View Post
    ....or pulling the volume of the other tracks down obviously...
    So why don't you just do that...and then when you're done tracking your vocals, put them back to where they were. Group them...and just remember the setting of one.

    Other than that...what you really need is a dedicated headphone amp/cue box that will allow you to raise the headphone level to where it's comfortable during tracking.

    Your Ultra has multiple channels....send the vocal to one, and from there you can feed that to the heaphone amp if you need more individual level.

    headphone amps - Google Search

    That said...your Ultra should have the ability to set up a monitor mix for the individual channles...you have 8 I/Os on there.

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    This is normally a mismatch between the microphone and the interface. IOW the gain and impedance of the interface and mic are not playing nice together.
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    The usual working solution is what @miroslav describes: pull everything else down, then boost the overall output to the headphones, and if the interface [headphone output] itself isn't doing it, an external headphone amp will surely get you where you need to be. And, that may be all you need to get past this point. Pro studios almost certainly are managing this when you say "I need to hear myself a bit more..."

    You shouldn't need to be pushing the fader on the track while you're recording.

    I've always been suspicious of the L6 stuff for anything but electric guitar, but I used an M-Audio for a few years before it cooked itself, and it should be able to do what you need. I have to believe you've got a relatively soft voice, because those can test the upper limits of gain for many dynamic mics when the source is not overly loud. However, you should be able to still get a clean track with low enough noise floor to keep it usable. What is the dB level of the track you record when you play just that track back and the faders all at 0? Somewhere between say -18dB and -12dB?
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    I'm thinking like Keith - your headphones may need more power than you're getting from the interfaces (a headphone amp would help), and you've got all the track levels up too high because of that. You should be tracking vocals in the -18 to -12 DBFS range.
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    I found a review of the Ultra 8r that I trust and is said the mic pre amps were of adequate gain and low noise.

    The test is if you can get a signal in the software running, as mentioned, at around -18dBFS, if you can and the quality is good that is that part done and dusted. The snag then comes in the very common lack of gain in AI headphone amplifiers. Note I said gain, NOT power output. They are generally loud enough but need a signal close to 0dBFS to really get cooking.

    The solution is I fear, again as previously stated, an external headphone amplifier.

    Dave.

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    you talk about recording vocals, but you don't mention problems with recording any other instrument. This makes me think you are recording your vocal to a pre-recorded track. And that makes me think the pre-recorded track was already "mastered" or ran through a mastering type limiter to get the volume up to commercial levels. Would that be correct?

    If so, then you will not get your vocal track up to the pre-recorded track volume. Don't even try. Pull the fader down on the pre-recorded track and record your vocals. Then set the balance between the two to where you want it and call it good. If you want, you can then run your mix through a limiter to get the volume back up, but I'm willing t bet it won't sound good if the pre-recorded track was already pushed through a limiter.

    If that is not the case, then how does your vocal track sound solo'd?

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    Great advice so far from all.

    We need you to reply and 'fill in the blanks' so to speak. It is usually an easy or at least inexpensive tweak. Can't really solve the issue without all of the info.

    Tag - yer it Freeman!
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    Basically already been said, but before I record my vocals, all my instruments have already been recorded and bussed to my 'submix'. I just turn the submix down about 5db if needed, then I can hear my vocals loud and clear while tracking. When finished and ready to mix, I turn the submix back up to unity and go. This also helps to not clip as you're tracking the vocals, because you don't have to blast the input.

    Your issue could be different though, so as jimmy said we need you to fill in the blanks a little
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnnyAmato View Post
    Basically already been said, but before I record my vocals, all my instruments have already been recorded and bussed to my 'submix'. I just turn the submix down about 5db if needed, then I can hear my vocals loud and clear while tracking. When finished and ready to mix, I turn the submix back up to unity and go. This also helps to not clip as you're tracking the vocals, because you don't have to blast the input.

    Your issue could be different though, so as jimmy said we need you to fill in the blanks a little
    And the last thing you want to do is 'clip' the vocals.

    Finding the correct gain staging is key to getting things right when recording. If there is an output/level issue as to not hearing yourself, then the output stage is what needs to be addressed. Do not ever increase input gain just because you can't hear it. That is not the way to approach the issue. Period.
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