Dynamic or not dynamic? that's the question.


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Hi guys! First off, some introductions are in order. My name is Robbert Meijer. 30 years of age, and writing to you from The Netherlands. i've been into home-recording for 10 years or so, with varying degrees of being kinda terrible at it.
That said, i love to do it, and would like to get at least semi-decent results from my homestudio. that's where my question comes in.
The acoustics in my room are pretty bad. Echo-y, and not in a good way. but i don't really have the budget to treat the entire room. it colors the sound, and especially when i combine my vocals with more electronic oriented sounds 'things that haven't been recorded in the same room' it kinda shows. the vocals pretty much lay on top of everything, like singing over a pre-recorded track. it's not great. I've used a condenser mic on most of these recordings, and started to wonder.. should i just swap it in for a decent dynamic mic? i'm having a hard time figuring out if this would be the wise thing to do. any of you ever used a dynamic mic in a studio setting?

Thanks in advance
Of course? Dynamics and condensers are in so many cases, totally interchangeable. They each have 'normal' homes, but often you can get nice and even unexpected results by swapping. In general, the only real differences are that dynamics, because of their internal fairly heavy and substantial diaphragm, perform better on louder sounds. Condensers with their much lighter diaphragms can produce decent audio on very quiet sounds. Dynamics seem to sound better on some thing - like brass, strong voices, and most individual drums. Condensers excel at capturing the top end sparkles - if these are important. If they're unwanted, then a dynamic works better.

Many people think condensers pick up the room better, but they don't - they capture more fine detail from whatever is in their capture area. If your recording space is reverb-y (it won't be echo-y, that would require a massive space) then treat those reflections with cheap things like duvets if you are really poor and carry on with the condensers. Vocals not sitting properly usually mean the mix doesn't have a 'hole' for them. As most times, you actually add a little reverb type treatment to soften vocals, the problem of blending of vocals is not really a fault of the room, but maybe how you are miking the voice up? Usually, going in closer, makes the room recede.
Rooms do NOT echo. Even Catehdrals don't. Reverberation is very different. I know I'm a pedant, but we constantly talk about technical stuff and often talk mS when we are talking latency - so we should call reverb, reverb - and echo only enters our field normally in guitar effects where there is a separate, identifiable second return. Small rooms simply do not have echo!
I think this is probably a matter of semantics, or perhaps the "two countries divided by a common language" problem. The term "flutter echo" is very common in discussions, texts, whatever, when talking about room acoustics. "Delay" *is* something different, but, really, here, we are talking about the reflection of sound, and reverb and echo are kind of the same, in that case. Let's not pick nits here.

The problem with small rooms is covered here all the time. You absolutely have to treat the parallel surfaces in some way to damp down the reflections. Otherwise they will come back to the microphone at an audible (to the mic) level that will mess up the track. As Rob states, the mic will "hear" the same thing, regardless of the type of mic. And, as he states, it may respond differently, but what most people hear in the track when they change [from condenser to dynamic] is the consequence of the lower sensitivity of the dynamic mic causing a change in their position in relation to the mic, i.e., they get closer, so the s/n ratio is improved. It may help, but it's not going to change the physics.

Beside duvets, here we might pick up some "moving blankets" (or "pads") at cheap price, in case you don't have a pile of duvets handy. You can put them around you in different ways, draped across mic stands with boom arms, if you have any of those, or tack them to the wall. Setting them in a "V" behind you may be effective, because it will lower the energy of waves coming in from the direction where it is most sensitive, i.e., the area around and behind you. (Treatment overhead is also helpful, but a mat underneath your feet can also help.

The first rule of effective treatment is "don't buy foam," because it lacks the density/mass to really stop anything other than the higher frequencies. You may hear a difference with your ears, but the mic will still "hear" the reflections that are not stopped, and those are going to be in your vocal range.

Good luck.
Easy English. Echo is where there is a clearly definable repeat. Reverberation is where there is not. Describing reverb as echo is a very common error, which in general life doesn’t matter, but just adds to the audio enthusiasts confusion. Warm, hard, thin, honky, smooth, tinny, boomy etc. we don’t need to add to the confusion. Flutter echo is to me, at least, that particular sound where we have modest room sizes with parallel walls around 4-5m apart. At that sort of size, the time between reflections seems to make a snare hit start to split into two. Not a distinct bang-bang but a weird sound that smaller rooms, though boxy sounding (another descriptive word) don’t have.

too old to change my internal echo or reverb descriptor. One is a double tap, one isn‘t! In music technology exams here in the uk it has been a question multiple times. We have to learn the flowery descriptive stuff, so we should make sure the ones that can be measured and identified accurately, are.

I think those of us who have bought foam and used it, secretly liked the look. A venue local to me with a serious reflection problem due to the room shape and hard walls bought loads, and discovered it was absolutely useless, and couldn’t understand why? They pulled them off, with lots of the paint and it looked horrible and to hide it, temporarily hung a huge curtain/embroidery thing across the wall to pretty it up. The big honk and slap back vanished!
While I tend to agree with Rob, it is generally called slap echo and not slap reverb. My empty control room had a pretty distinct "echo" or ping, pong before treatment. It might be on the border of what you'd define as a separate echo, but none the less, I perceived it as separate, although a single slap would repeat multiples.

I've done live sound in some of the worse old public buildings here in New England. I've always defined them as reverberant spaces vs "echoey". Just spelling it sounds dumb. The issue though with perception is that a constant sounds energy will bloom destroying intelligibility. A quick slap will yield a much better defined "echo" or repeat. Sound is doing the same for both, only that perception is masked due to the energy build up. You don't have the same issue yelling into a canyon.
I tend to consider echo as more of a distinct repeat of a sound and reverberation as a mass of different repeats of varying times that blends into a whole and tails off. However, I also don't worry if someone says echo when describing a reverb.
Doesn't it depend on the size of the room? The smaller the room it sounds more like vibration as the sounds bounce around even many more times due to the small space. Similar to being in a toilet or bath/washroom when talking on your phone.
My test is simple. Clap hands one clap sound is reverb, two or more is an echo. Very simple. Never been wrong. My favourite cathedral means that clap hangs around for nearly six seconds, but there is no echo. Equally, you can stand on a few stages where there are windows to control rooms at the back, and do the clap test, and get clap,clap back from the bounce. That’s an echo.
My test is simple. Clap hands one clap sound is reverb, two or more is an echo. Very simple. Never been wrong. My favourite cathedral means that clap hangs around for nearly six seconds, but there is no echo. Equally, you can stand on a few stages where there are windows to control rooms at the back, and do the clap test, and get clap,clap back from the bounce. That’s an echo.
What you are describing with reverb is your brain's limited ability to perceive reflected energy when it gets too complicated. The reflected "echo" sound has to be appreciably stronger than the rest of the reflected "reverberant" sound or else it all blends. My point is, that it is all reflected energy. Echo and Reverb are just two ways we describe our perception of the various reflections, ratios and time. At best, it can be said that echo is an intelligibility phenomenon of reflected sound.
I don't want to prolong this but that isn't what I'm saying - the standard definition I have used is a simple one - echo is multiple, separate events, reverb is where they are not separate. No doubt there are other definitions - but the common one is quite unchanged. this definition here
echo is perceived multiple, separate events, reverb is where they are not perceived as separate

There, I fixed it for you. Anyone that has done impulse analysis of a space understands that what your ear hears and perceives is limited from what the measurement microphone picks up and waveform will reveal. There have been instances of fist fights at AES meetings back when the early discussions of psychoacoustics were taking place. So I understand such topics and discussions illicit a great deal of passion. No offense is intended when I say it is just more complicated than that.
There´s some great info on here guys, thanks!
i think i'm gonna look into some blanket/duvel solutions. and yeah, based on your comments the correct term would probably be ´Room Reverb´ not ´Room Echo´ my home studio is not a cathedral by any stretch of the imagination. in conclusion. using a dynamic mic might help a bit, but the room acoustics are probably the real culprit here. do any of you guys use a dynamic mic in your Home Studio?
Absolutely. SM57, SM7B, SM58, Beta 58, M201, E604, D112, RE320. Just remember that a dynamic won't do anything for changing the capture compared to a condenser - a cardioid response, is still a cardioid. The differences are to do with sensitivity, frequency response, toughness and size. You just listen to the thing you are about to capture and pick the most appropriate tool - that's it! Part of the fun is the selection of the mics, from what you have - often making compromises. A great plan might leave you with a total mismatch for one thing - maybe your cunning plan leaves the only mic left as a kick drum mic, but you need it on a flute? So that means jiggling things around - inevitably you end up with a dynamic where a condenser would be better, but often the other way around. Condensers are not better, they're just different.
I am 100% with Rob on this thread, both in the specific definition of "echo" and the general malaise of sloppy terminology.

To take the latter first. It is 'king endemic! "rms" bloody watts, speaker "efficiency" when what is meant is "sensitivity" (it is CALLED "S" in the fekkin equation FCS!) "Static" for a catchall term for noise (of which there are many types with distinct engineering definitions)

Not strictly a technical error but "condenser" for a capacitor microphone. The term 'condenser' for the electronic component had been dropped well before I was in day release tech' over 60 years ago!

Does it all matter? Well I think it does. HR is an international forum and it behoves us to use the correct terms just as a botanist would when discussing plant species so that EVERYONE knows which sheet he is singing from. In any case, it took the world centuries to grow science out of myth and 'alchemy' let us all do our best to preserve that advance?

Acoustics: Not my field but I CAN read! Clearly an echo is defined as a later repeat of a sound (look up "Precedence Effect/Haas effect in Wiki, lot of it!) What the OP is troubled by is reverberation LEADING to colouration of the sound due to standing waves in the room. Small rooms will always suffer this because the multiple reflections cause frequencies to build up in the ear's sensitive range. It is if you like a wavelength problem (e.g. 4mtrs has a wavelength of 85 Hz..Boom!)

No one wants these pages to be a dry, scientific discourse but it is AS easy to learn and use the correct terms as the wrong ones. Especially now with the web.

Let me muddy the water.
It is all the same stuff, reverb and echo. Just a matter of scale.
I'm with Rob on the simple classification, that an echo is a separate sound, while reverb is a blurring effect.
But, take your average canyon, whose walls are not perfectly flat, but undulate.
This means you'll get an echo, or more, but each of those echoes will come with its own reverb.
I've built quite a few small home studios and larger educational ones using all the tips and tricks I could find over the years and I discovered back in the 1990's that the biggest improvement to get rid of, or at least tame that horrible boxy sound is non-parallel walls. I had the space and time to experiment. I built a studio using walls that I could move! 10ft tall, 8 ft wide panels, with the layers on the inside, that were able to be stood up in a larger space. I built modular ceiling panels and laid them on top. Then I played music inside and not having the audio maths, I simply used a crowbar (pry-bar??) to toe them in or out, and the sound changed amazingly when the panels were pulled out just a couple of inches, so the surfaces were no longer parallel. Once I found the place where the sound stayed consistent, in all the places people were likely to be, we just bolted them all together. I've discovered on each one I have done since that just pulling the parallels apart by 2 inches is always better. Doing the same with the ceilings oddly was less obvious - adding timber to the ceiling joists to lower them progressively wasn't as clear cut, but maybe the carpet, racks, desks and chairs interfered with the reflections?

My video studio has everything parallel, and it was a happy accident that I discovered the hanging drapes used as background really tamed the liveness of the space. Duvets on mic stands can do a fine job when you experiment.
Robbert, for a paltry $20 US you could try a Behringer XM 8500 dynamic mic, they are really quite good and even if not even close to SM7b sound quality one should give you a very good idea whether a close up dynamic ,mic will solve your acoustic problems.

In anycase, having a spare, gash mic about the place is always useful.