Harsh Vocal Recordings

x3rmlygood

Member
Hello all,

Hope you are all well. Hopefully I am posting this in the right section. So I have a home studio constructed in a basement with 4inch acoustic panels covering a good amount of the space. There are about 41 panels in total. I was trying to create as much trapping as possible. I have a Lanten Audio FC-387, Warm Audio WA73 Mic preamp, and a Universal Audio Twin X. I have this issue where vocals come out with ringing frequencies that can be harsh (between 2 - 4 KHz). I always say okay, maybe I can just EQ them amount after the recording. But this harsh frequencies become kind of impossible to get rid of without completely killing the vocal performance. I always make sure the singer is at least 6 inches from the microphone or even more. I always properly gain stage so I am not distorting. I am actually not sure what to do. I read condenser mics should be able to handle high SPLs before distorting. Do I need a dynamic microphone instead?

I attached a vocal recording example. Thanks for your time.
 

Attachments

  • Vocal.mp3
    1.9 MB

rob aylestone

Well-known member
Well - first thing is I don't think it's an acoustics problem at all - the recording is very dry, and your panels seem to have sucked it dry of any nasty room stuff.

I suspect there are two things going on. Your mic is technically fine, and a good example of a, er, niche product. I'm assuming you tried with and without the pad and the result is the same? The first thing is you haven't yet found that sweet spot where it captures your voice without the harshness on the louder bits. Higher up looking down, lower down looking up - to the sides, and with your dead room, a bit further away. If you've done this and it didn't work, then you just have a great mic on a decent voice that don't like each other. I assume you have a decent collection of other mics and bought this particular one for a specific purpose, because it's not exactly the go to first vocal mic in the box. If your other mics can't quite do the job for you on certain sources, that's when you push the boat out with these expensive, but minority mics. They 'borrow' a classic design (the U87) in this case and tweak it, but when they do this to an already great and well know design, there is a change, and this can work for or against you and I expect in this case, it works against you with this particular voice. It might be great on an acoustic guitar? All the mainstream, popular vocal mics have their own character that works for or against you. I bought last year my first U87 after recording since the 70s. I've never had the money before, and my goto mic was the AKG 414. I bought the Neumann expecting never to reach for the 414s again. Not so. I like the 414 sound better. The 87 does a great job on some sources. Some voices, but not by any means all. It flatters some, and spoils others. The 414 was neutral (at least in my head). Loads of people (me included) have to buy mics blind, using other people's advice, but it's dangerous because the damn things are personal. I guess it's like buying a new aftershave/perfume online never having smelled the stuff, using other people's comments on the subtle scents and hints of the east wind in the morning.

If the mic is very recent, send it back for a refund. There's nothing wrong with it, but it's just the wrong one for you. If your budget stands that kind of amount you have loads to choose from that are known far, far better. Most people have heard Shure 58s - so comments make sense. Less have heard an SM7B, but again, it's known as a warm mic. My 414 favourite is often described as bright, or even 'bland'. EV RE20's are warm nice dynamics, then you have the cheaper Neumanns - the 103s and similar. You need the one that takes that bump in the response where the voice probably really does have harshness, and doesn't emphasise it - which this mic clearly does.

That's probably my opinion - nice mic, nice voice, but they are fighting. There is a small chance that with all your soaking up of the mid/HF you've also produced a room very difficult to sing in and you are subconsciously pushing the voice. It happens in very dead spaces sometimes.

Is sending the mic back a possibility? I doubt it's going to work for you I'm afraid.
 

TalismanRich

Well-known member
The Atlantis has 3 distinct voicings which affect the higher frequencies (above 5K), as well as the 3 polar patterns. The polar patterns will change the overall tone much more. Have you tried using it in omni and figure 8 modes? Since you have the room treated, you might do better with a different pattern. Looking at Lauten's response curves for the Atlantis, the cardioid and omni patterns seem to have a boost around 2K, but the figure 8 mode doesn't.

You could give that a try before giving up on the mic
 

x3rmlygood

Member
Thank you all for your detailed responses. I will try playing with the different patterns. Unfortunately I cannot return the mic since I damaged the packaging it came with. This means I have to purchase a new one or possibly send this one back but get a lower amount that I purchased it for. Would you guys recommend a dynamic mic or a condenser mic?

I just really want to get down to mixing, not "fixing" the vocals.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
If you have a modest budget - why not look for some second hand condensers. If you want a studio style mic, then second hand RE20's, 320's, SM7B's are a bit rare but some condensers pop up. I don't like the SM7B very much, but I have to admit it is a pleasant sounding mic and quite 'mellow' in timbre - you do need a cloudlifter. I was sceptical but the preamp does allow you to work at different distances from the mic - something I was finding tricky without the preamp. A shame you now have an expensive mic that doesn't quite work for you. If you get a new one you like, then perhaps sell it?
 

keith.rogers

Well-known member
What are your settings on the WA73? Do you have that set for "clean" output or are you trying to inject some color with the gain high and output low?

p.s. if your room is well-treated, have the singer back off the mic a foot.
 

x3rmlygood

Member
If you have a modest budget - why not look for some second hand condensers. If you want a studio style mic, then second hand RE20's, 320's, SM7B's are a bit rare but some condensers pop up. I don't like the SM7B very much, but I have to admit it is a pleasant sounding mic and quite 'mellow' in timbre - you do need a cloudlifter. I was sceptical but the preamp does allow you to work at different distances from the mic - something I was finding tricky without the preamp. A shame you now have an expensive mic that doesn't quite work for you. If you get a new one you like, then perhaps sell it?
I am trying some more things tomorrow when I have time to see if it's really all said and done with my current mic. I just thought that with all the thousands I spent in acoustic treatment + studio gear, I could finally just record vocals and not have to deal with distorted/resonant mess.

What are your settings on the WA73? Do you have that set for "clean" output or are you trying to inject some color with the gain high and output low?

p.s. if your room is well-treated, have the singer back off the mic a foot.
I have it set to 45 on the red knob, then I compensate for output to no peak past -12dB on the loudest parts. Will also try having the singer back off at different distances to see what's best.
 

TalismanRich

Well-known member
Don't you have ANY other mics available that you could try? It could be a case that the sound it there in the source, kind of a silk purse/sows ear problem. I know there are certain tones in my voice that show up, regardless of which mic I use. If I change the way I sing (more chest, less nasal), it's different.

I think I hear was you're concerned about, somewhere around 2.4KHz, there's a peakiness (I heard it in the Spicy Spicy part of the second track) but I don't know if it's in the voice live, since I've never heard the actual voice. If you haven't already done so, I would first, take the WA73 out of the loop, just using the UA Twin's preamps with the Atlantis. That will tell you immediately if the 73 is contributing anything to the sound. Next swap out a mic, if you have one. Doesn't have to be a $1000 mic. I don't think the UA is adding a lot of color unless you are loading preamp emulations. Take things down the bare minimum to find the problem.

It's one thing if the equipment is distorting and resonating, it's another if the voice is doing it and the mic is just reporting things accurately.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
My motto over the years was always build the studios, and then treat what you hear. I'm not clever enough to predict anything other than the problems that might happen. Sometimes the books tell you there will be a problem in the build so you tweak and then discover something odd, which you sort. The one thing I learned is that buying equipment somebody else says is excellent often doesn't work, because your room, your treatment and your sound sources are different. Riches cunning plan is how to proceed - try something as simple as you can. You put all that trapping in for some reason, what was it?
 

x3rmlygood

Member
Don't you have ANY other mics available that you could try? It could be a case that the sound it there in the source, kind of a silk purse/sows ear problem. I know there are certain tones in my voice that show up, regardless of which mic I use. If I change the way I sing (more chest, less nasal), it's different.

I think I hear was you're concerned about, somewhere around 2.4KHz, there's a peakiness (I heard it in the Spicy Spicy part of the second track) but I don't know if it's in the voice live, since I've never heard the actual voice. If you haven't already done so, I would first, take the WA73 out of the loop, just using the UA Twin's preamps with the Atlantis. That will tell you immediately if the 73 is contributing anything to the sound. Next swap out a mic, if you have one. Doesn't have to be a $1000 mic. I don't think the UA is adding a lot of color unless you are loading preamp emulations. Take things down the bare minimum to find the problem.

It's one thing if the equipment is distorting and resonating, it's another if the voice is doing it and the mic is just reporting things accurately.
Thank you for this. I will start running a bunch of tests starting from the bare minimum.

My motto over the years was always build the studios, and then treat what you hear. I'm not clever enough to predict anything other than the problems that might happen. Sometimes the books tell you there will be a problem in the build so you tweak and then discover something odd, which you sort. The one thing I learned is that buying equipment somebody else says is excellent often doesn't work, because your room, your treatment and your sound sources are different. Riches cunning plan is how to proceed - try something as simple as you can. You put all that trapping in for some reason, what was it?
This is a long story but since you asked haha, I'll try to keep it short. Over the years I always sort out "professional" sounding vocals. I would have artist come to my studio, they'd pay me to record them, but then when it came to mixing their vocals, my goodness was it a nightmare. It's like I was CONSTANTLY finding myself "fixing" vocals rather than mixing them. After years of research, money wasted, and running into tons of misinformation, I somehow finally got a grip and starting "PROPERLY" doing the research. It came down to room acoustics (Which I am not obsessed with). I need to have room treatment with acoustic panels, not "foam" (which i previously purchased). Overtime, as my budget would permit me, I ordered from ATS, GIK, and finally Music City Acoustics. In total, I ended up with 41 panels from the 3 different companies.

I purchased from Music City in order to treat a small storage space I had to make it a vocal booth, but turns out it was too small that no amount of treating would make it work. Vocals I recorded in there sounded worse than the ones I recording in my bedroom which had GIK panels. Soon after, my family purchased a house with a basement. I was given the basement to turn into my music studio. Had to hire a contractor to put up a wall to create a rectangular room in the basement because it was open and didn't have any symmetry. Room ended up being ~ 8ft W x 20 ft L x 7 ft H. My 41 panels would finally have some use I thought, and If I put them all up on the walls AFTER treating early reflections then surely, room should sound pretty darn good. Boy was I wrong. In fact, looking at my room measurements using REW, I don't think I accomplished much other than killing the reverb time in the room. I think I actually made the room sound worse in the low end. A massive dip at 66Hz and another around 129Hz. I kind of just left it there and chucked it up to not having a professional acoustician. Panels 37 of these panels are 4" thick btw. 2 are 6" thick and 2 are 2" thick.

Basically, I wanted to kill each and every reflection while recording vocals in the studio. I didn't have the luxury of space to create a separate vocal booth as the consensus was that it would leave me with two worse sounding rooms. I just want clients and myself included to come into the studio, go up to the mic, and record clean vocals that don't have horrendous ringing resonances and harsh tones. That's it. I use Sonarworks Room correction for mixing so I'm managing the room that way... but for vocals, right now I'm behind.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
That's quite interesting - is it a bit odd to sing in? One of my early ones was really dead and I didn't really like the total lack of reflections. Have you tried recording anyone else with this mic - a lower voice maybe? Do you get the same harshness?
 

x3rmlygood

Member
That's quite interesting - is it a bit odd to sing in? One of my early ones was really dead and I didn't really like the total lack of reflections. Have you tried recording anyone else with this mic - a lower voice maybe? Do you get the same harshness?
Well I don't think it's that "dead" but the reverb times according to REW are well below 200 ms from 20 KHz to like 185 Hz. I don't think it sounds odd. I will be running some experiments with my vocals today to see. I recorded a male client yesterday and it was horrendous at the settings I had the mic at (Forward mode at Cardioid with 0 pad). So at the end of the session, I just had him do the vocals again with different settings because as I was mixing them on the spot, it was a resonant nightmare. Nothing EQ or compression could save. I found that the Gentle mode created less of those nasty frequencies in his vocals. I will try mixing that one today and report back as well.
 

x3rmlygood

Member
After rigorous testing and busting my lungs belting notes I can't hit, I came to certain conclusions. Issue is not with WA73. In fact, the mic distorted VERY QUICKLY with plenty of headroom when using the Twin X's preamps. WA73 at 35 gain knob setting had 0 distortion. However, at the 45 gain knob setting, the WA73 starts to distort at that phrasing. So now I'm thinking perhaps never go past 35 when tracking loud vocals? I attached the audio files of my horrendous singing so please bear with me :'). You'll hear the distortion on the Twin X especially when I say "My head's underwater" and "you're crazy". Mic sounds really good on my vocals, at least I think so. I am having the male artist and female artists I recorded come in again and then I will run similar tests on them as well. You guys can have a listen and let me know your thoughts.
 

Attachments

  • Twin X.mp3
    2.4 MB
  • WA73 35.mp3
    2.4 MB
  • WA73 45.mp3
    2.4 MB

x3rmlygood

Member
Here is the male artist just for your ears... I apologize in advance for the horrendous frequencies you're about to hear poking out.
 

Attachments

  • Lead Vox Male - Lead Vox Male.mp3
    2.1 MB

x3rmlygood

Member
Oh shoot....I should have added. All vocals I sent in post #14 were boosted by 8dB or so after recording to level match and make them louder.

Male Vox was boosted by 10 dB or so after recording.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
Hard - I guess that's a good description. Not really even distortion just a very edgy sound. With you and the two different male voices, the mic would appear to be the common denominator? Can you borrow anything = even an SM58 would be good for a comparison?
 

x3rmlygood

Member
Hard - I guess that's a good description. Not really even distortion just a very edgy sound. With you and the two different male voices, the mic would appear to be the common denominator? Can you borrow anything = even an SM58 would be good for a comparison?
Unfortunately that is something I would have to purchase to test out myself. Don't really know anyone who makes music or owns such gear.
 

keith.rogers

Well-known member
Where is the output switch on that mic set? Have you tried it at -10dB? (And I hope it's not set at +!0dB.)

This bothers me a little, because if you can boost 8db or 10dB, that means the peaks are pretty low. If I look at the one you raised 10dB, it has a few peaks over 0dB. It might be easier (for tests like this) to just record and Normalize (say to -1.0 dB) in Audacity before converting to MP3.
Oh shoot....I should have added. All vocals I sent in post #14 were boosted by 8dB or so after recording to level match and make them louder.

Male Vox was boosted by 10 dB or so after recording.
 
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