Clipping/peaking out

Emma B

New member
Hi guys,

I wondered if anyone has any tips on setting the gain appropriately for vocals? I find that when I belt out louder notes or choruses, I get a lot of clipping but when I turn the gain down (even slightly), the vocal is too quiet to work with. I've experimented with compressing, different mics, mic technique, preamp settings etc but I just can't seem to find the sweet spot.

My setup is a condenser mic into a Voicetone T1 into an Art Studio preamp into a Tascam DP008EX. To make matters more confusing, there are separate gain settings on the Voicetone, preamp and portastudio, and the preamp will often indicate no clipping but the meter on the portastudio itself will be peaking out so I don't know which should take precedence.

Please help!
 

Ed Fones

Well-known member
If you have tried different combinations of equipment and it is still the same, then it must be the item/technique that you havent changed which is the problem.
 
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Farview

Well-known member
Your main problem is you are essentially going through too many preamps.

Take the ART preamp out of the chain, it's unnecessary or go in the 1/4 " line input and not the xlr mic input.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
The first pre-amp with a gain control needs adjustment first, and frankly nowadays, you need to set the maximum volume the mic is capturing so it does not distort, then turn it down a bit more. Then do the same with the next unit, and if there is a third before it's in the interface/D/A you have too much - Like Fairview says, I'd consider 2 a bit excessive really. Every time you amplify and then throw 50% away to get into the next unit, you are adding noise.

If you have a magical device to make crap sounds nicer, then add it by an out and an in so you can control what it does, after you've recorded the clean version, in case you make it worse, not better.

There will be a huge dynamic range between loudest and quietest - that's normal, and you have tools to adjust that afterwards. Your system is capable of recording a huge dynamic range - without really understanding gain stages, cascading before the D/A process introduces noise and distortion, that you then try to fix with expensive tweaking.

I'm wondering why you have two budget tube units? Seems a very strange thing to invest in - their purpose is a bit disguised as in "C Helicon VoiceTone T1 - Reacts to your voice and applies studio dynamics and EQ to bring out your best tone." Really? You don't have any compressors and EQ in your DAW? These are destructive devices with beginner use? And once it's gone, it's gone. There is a case for expensive, super performing pre-interface units, but ONLY when they are driven by somebody with an advanced driving licence!
 

ecc83

Well-known member
Yes K.I.S.Sir Try the mic directly into the DP008, it is said to handle +8dBu max and that is ~2V rms so a sensible gain setting should work ok.
Try as I might I cannot see whether the recorder is a 16 or 24 bit device but the suggested S/N figure of ~81dB tell me it is probably only 16 bit. 24 is better but with care you can still record at a low level (no clue how the meters are calibrated so suck it and see) to give lots of headroom. Recording at -16 even -18 dBFS should be possible with acceptable noise. After all, most USB mics are 16 bit and the better one are very good.

Dave.
 

Emma B

New member
Thank you for your suggestions, folks. I'll try all the practical tips offered.

In answer to some of the questions:

I don't use DAWs at all as I like to use only hardware. I guess that may create limits, though, as I can't tweak my work digitally after the event. The DP008EX has quite basic compression, EQ etc so doesn't quite give the sound I'm looking for.

It would indeed be strange to use two preamps in a chain(!) but I never viewed the Voicetone T1 as a preamp, just as a tool to enrich the tone in a way that the DP008EX could not achieve (perhaps I fell for the disguise!). I have to say, for the more delicate, intimate vocals, I've had great results with it. I realise now, though, that maybe I should be using it more sparingly.

I have been turning the gain on the DP008EX all the way down and using the Art preamp as an alternative gain source. Before I invested in the Art, I did quite extensive research on the benefits of a preamp for vocals by allowing for better control and the Art came highly recommended (it also has other features). Again, I felt that the DP008EX itself wasn't giving me what I needed. It's a great little machine but has its limitations.
 

Farview

Well-known member
The gain control on the dp008ex is a mic preamp, as is the art and the t-1. Using the t1 with the dp should give you more than enough gain.

At the level you are working at, the preamp won't make any useful difference. Even with thousand dollar preamps, the difference is still pretty subtle and will not make or break a recording.
 

Emma B

New member
Thank you, Farview. I'll take the Art out the equation and experiment with that.

Also, you mentioned the idea of using the 1/4 " line input (not the XLR mic input) - may I ask the effect that might have?
 

Farview

Well-known member
A preamp is used to bring the mic level signal up to line level, which is higher. You were taking the mic level signal, raising it to line level, then plugging it into a mic input that was expecting the lower mic level signal. That's why you were clipping easily.

The art, the t1 and the mic input on the recorder are all set up to plug a mic directly into them. Putting a preamp in front of any of them is going to easily create problems.
 

ecc83

Well-known member
I have read of many a folk using a 'pre amp with attitude' before an AI or, as in your case, a recorder. The solution is always the same...
Get the level and effect you want in the 'pre-pre' then ATTENUATE the signal back to a level the next device can handle.

You can read up on Balanced H attenuators or just put a 10 k log pot in a tin.

Emma, have you tried a DAW? Audacity is very basic and simple but even so I bet you would love the convenience. Reaper is almost free and great. Studio One and Bandlab's Cakewalk are totally free and PDGood.

Dave.
 

Emma B

New member
Thanks Dave. Interesting, I hadn't thought of that. I actually have an attenuator that may do the job.

I've not tried a DAW...I think I became so locked into my workflow with my physical gear that I didn't fully consider it. I also always saw it as 'either or', but my understanding is that they can work in conjunction with one another (i.e. recording on 8 track and editing on DAW). I think now is the time to venture into territories unchartered...I have downloaded Audacity - thank you for that little push!
 

Ujn Hunter

Active member
Thanks Dave. Interesting, I hadn't thought of that. I actually have an attenuator that may do the job.

I've not tried a DAW...I think I became so locked into my workflow with my physical gear that I didn't fully consider it. I also always saw it as 'either or', but my understanding is that they can work in conjunction with one another (i.e. recording on 8 track and editing on DAW). I think now is the time to venture into territories unchartered...I have downloaded Audacity - thank you for that little push!

Since you're just starting out with a DAW, I highly recommend Reaper instead of Audacity (which is a decent FREE editor, but not really a DAW). They're both "FREE", one just has a nag screen that asks you to click on "OK" after X days or so which you can pay $60 to get rid of once you feel like it's worthwhile to continue using it daily.
 

ecc83

Well-known member
Since you're just starting out with a DAW, I highly recommend Reaper instead of Audacity (which is a decent FREE editor, but not really a DAW). They're both "FREE", one just has a nag screen that asks you to click on "OK" after X days or so which you can pay $60 to get rid of once you feel like it's worthwhile to continue using it daily.
I agree except, DO try Audacity, it has the great advantage of simplicity and can be setup to record any audio stream, radio, YT etc going through a computer, a function removed from Windows in W10.

I have Samplitude pro X 3 and 6 and Reaper (paid for!) but nothing beats Audacity if I want to just grab a sound.

Dave.
 

Farview

Well-known member
I went from having a hardware based studio to a DAW based studio in baby steps, like you are suggesting. I would record to digital tape, then transfer to the DAW for editing, then mix on an analog console through my racks of outboard gear. I did this because I mistakenly thought there was something magical about that workflow.

The truth is, there were only a couple of pieces of outboard gear that had anything 'special' about them (because they cost a ton of money, may have imagined the specialness).

While it is fun mixing on a console, I noticed that more and more I would be pre-mixing instruments and adding automation, EQ and compression in the DAW before sending it to the mixer. Eventually I did a comparison between the console mix and a daw mix of the same song, and the difference was negligible.

Also, being able to jump from one song/project to the next without having to rest the mixer and all the outboard gear saved a ton of time, as did mixing down faster than real time.

If you get a DAW, you can have all of the tools of a professional studio at your fingertips.
 

Emma B

New member
Thanks for your advice, guys. I've spent the last few hours finding my way around Audacity. What a fantastic tool! I'm definitely seeing the advantages already. I've even added the RX Elements plug-in which is pretty impressive. Will check out Reaper too - sounds like there's nothing to lose. Going forward, I'll use a combination of the hardware and DAW for now but who knows where it'll take me a few months down the line.
 

TalismanRich

Well-known member
I'll second the option of using the DP008 to record and then doing final editing/processing/mixing in a DAW. I have both a Zoom R24 and H4n. I take the wave files directly from the SD card and drag them to a computer folder and then to the DAW.

I use Reaper for most things, as it gives you lots of control over the tracks after the fact. It's pretty cheap for what it does, and is fast. You can try it out for a couple of months and if you like it, register. If not, just delete from your system and go on. It doesn't leave lots of junk everywhere.

Audacity is great for quick and dirty manipulation, chopping up a file, changing formats, adding fade outs, etc. I keep both on my machines.
 

ecc83

Well-known member
Last (? ) words on Audacity. Good to have because EVERYBODY and their uncle has it so anything you need to know, thousands are out there to tell you (Reaper is almost as good in that respect) Also, Audacity will play just about any type of audio file you might come across. N.B. export Audacity recordings (I stick 'em on the desktop pro-tem) as .wav files.

Not strictly audio but another very useful free app' is VLC player. That too will open almost any video file and many audio ones.

Dave.
 

Emma B

New member
That's very true, Dave. I've been able to find lots of invaluable Audacity tutorials on You Tube (much less so for the RX 8 plug ins!). I guess that's one of the benefits of being long established and popular.
 
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