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Thread: Should I keep this microphone or get a new one?

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    Should I keep this microphone or get a new one?

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    I have a treated vocal booth and I record with the AKG C214 into a m audio mk2 interface/preamp. I've been getting nothing but harsh vocals that I somehow can't fix with eq or compression. I get people recording in here and I get the same harsh vocal effect and they always tell me that it doesn't sound right. I try moving far from the mic, but the vocals are way too thin, and then up close but they are ear piercing and impossible to make smooth and flow with the music. I'm thinking maybe I should upgrade to a newer pre amp, but people are saying that it won't make a big difference, so should I just get a brand new mic like a shure sm8 that most people recommend? Or should I struggle with this c214 until I can afford a new pre amp or even a Neumann u87 mic? Here's an example. It's like if I turn this up 1 more db it sounds way too harsh, but at this level it sounds like it's getting drowned in the beat.
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    That 214 was a fair chunk of change I'm sure. Yes, preamps can make a big difference. Also are you compressing at all or EQing on the way in (not just after the fact)?

    Involved in something else right now, but will listen to your sample. First impulse? Unless something is drastically wrong, it's not the mike. How is your room treated, exactly?

    GJ
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  3. #3
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    Oh, I just read your last sentence. I'd wager you haven't done much with compression?

    GJ

    Edit-- OK, I listened to your sample on headphones. It doesn't sound overly harsh to me; just a bit quiet. I think your issue is in the preamp and/or EQ/compression or lack thereof. In other words, operator error rather than any of your equipment. MAudio is not the greatest, but what are you comparing your tracks to as a reference? Could you post a sample where the vocal mix is "overly harsh" in your opinion? Are you using any "boost and cut" parametric EQ?
    Last edited by rhythmgj; 01-06-2018 at 11:35 AM. Reason: More...
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    I actually have that same microphone. Right now, I'm running it through the preamp on my Focusrite Scarlett 18i20. I've only had the chance to personally compare it to one other microphone, the SE 2200. It had a brighter sound, for sure, but nothing I would consider to be harsh or thin.


    The low cut on the side of the microphone.......do you have it switched "on" or "off"?

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    Good point. I remember people saying that the Sennheiser 441 "sucked," when they hadn't discovered the treble boost switch ("M" was for music/full frequency, "S" was for speech with a mid/treble-boost but really rather harsh and folks sometimes called it the "suck" switch). In any event, it is a good mike, as the AKG 214 is a good mike (technically "half" of a 414, which is a great mike!). Something is wrong, and I don't think it's the gear...

    GJ
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    Quote Originally Posted by rhythmgj View Post
    Oh, I just read your last sentence. I'd wager you haven't done much with compression?

    GJ

    Edit-- OK, I listened to your sample on headphones. It doesn't sound overly harsh to me; just a bit quiet. I think your issue is in the preamp and/or EQ/compression or lack thereof. In other words, operator error rather than any of your equipment. MAudio is not the greatest, but what are you comparing your tracks to as a reference? Could you post a sample where the vocal mix is "overly harsh" in your opinion? Are you using any "boost and cut" parametric EQ?
    So this M-Audio M Track 2 preamp/interface doesn't allow eq and compression on the way in. I have the 20 db attenuation pad set on the microphone along with the low end cut switch off because I want to personally adjust the low end in post. My room is set up with a mid frequency acoustic panel in front of me to the left and right of my ear and mic, behind me along with a few high end panels. I mean all I do is bring up the vocals so it's over the beat, and then I notice it's too harsh and needs to be smoothed out so I cut all of the harsh frequencies out with narrow eq cuts, then I compress with only 5db gain reduction, de-ess, and then add reverb, but at the end of all that I struggle to find the balance with the volume faders.. Sometimes I feel like the volume faders are not the best way of fitting the vocals in. I always compare my tracks to like K-Pop or whoever I'm remixing (in this case J Balvin - Mi Gente). I always cut first and only boost a little at around 8k or higher.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rhythmgj View Post
    Good point. I remember people saying that the Sennheiser 441 "sucked," when they hadn't discovered the treble boost switch ("M" was for music/full frequency, "S" was for speech with a mid/treble-boost but really rather harsh and folks sometimes called it the "suck" switch). In any event, it is a good mike, as the AKG 214 is a good mike (technically "half" of a 414, which is a great mike!). Something is wrong, and I don't think it's the gear...

    GJ
    I had the same harshness problems with the Audio-Technica At2035, and I thought the Akg C214 could fix it that. So now I'm debating on if it's the interface or my room because several vocalist with totally different voices all sound harsh be4 and after i mix. Heres an unmixed vocal take I did, could you tell me if you personally hear any room reflection or room reverb in this take that can't be fixed easily?
    Attached Files Attached Files

  9. #8
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    Disclaimer caveat-- I'm listening through not-too-expensive headphones from an iPhone 6S. So not the top-of-the-world monitoring chain, still:

    I don't hear the vocals as overly harsh. They sound like vocals. Now, is it possible to make some tweaks? Yes. Are there possible problems with your process? Yes. I will tell you what I hear, and hopefully others (maybe some of my experienced-ear compatriots here) will chime in as well...

    I do hear some "spitty" sibilance/distortion. Are you using a pop-screen? You definitely need some kind of windscreen or pop-shield with any decent condenser microphone. The moisture from your breath can overwhelm the element and cause issues for your recording as well as your mike long term. If you're not using one, get one (and I would guess not, from what I'm hearing). Also, how are you setting your levels on the way in to your DAW/recorder? Make sure that you are not clipping on input. I don't hear a lot of room in your track, but you can always go for an even dryer vocal when recording by creating some kind of vocal booth in a closet, or even throwing a blanket over your head and the mike or making some kind of "recording tent" when you track vox. As to microphones, you are picking some decent stuff and I think the problem is in your application and/or input chain somewhere; you just need to keep trouble-shooting until you figure it out rather than buying more and more expensive microphones. Otherwise I see you possibly maxing-out a credit card on a U87 and still not being happy.

    If you don't want to get a new interface with a more all-in-one feature set, you might want to consider a microphone preamp or some kind of channel strip with more EQ controls and other helpful features (variable input gain and/or ohm settings for various mikes).

    On compression ratios for vocals-- modern sounds tend to be very compressed. You may want to experiment with anywhere from the 6-to-1 to 10-to-1 range. Over-compression sounds terrible, but if there is not enough, too much dynamic variation makes the voice hard to mix and "sit right" in the music.

    Regarding room treatment (again, I don't hear any major issues on these tracks, but just for the sake of thoroughness), it sounds like you've put up some appropriate measures, but did you actually go through a room calibration process, or did you just buy some random treatments and sort of "eyeball it?" Spending time on the calibration can make a big difference.

    I can hear what sound like your edit points. This may not be a big deal, as those things tend to get buried in a mix, but best practice is to make those as smooth/natural and breath/click free as possible. Think of your entire recording and mix as layers of varnish on a woodworking project (a great analogy I read once). In the finished product, you can't necessarily identify so many individual issues as you can that the whole thing "isn't right," conversely if it sounds great it is the sum total of all of the individual "layers" and "brush strokes" of sonic varnish over the entire project. So each little step either helps or hurts, depending on the amount of time and care taken.

    Finally, you said that you are adding vocals to "remixes." What are the source tracks for these remixes? Are you actually mixing multi-tracks or stems, or are you just making loops from instrumental sections of pre-mixed stereo tracks? It is _very_ hard (but not impossible, I suppose, maybe for Dave Pensado) to get new vocals to sit right on top of a previously mixed and mastered stereo track. Everybody who has tried this has come to the same conclusion. If that is what you are doing, it may be part of, or the entire source of your problem.

    I hope you figure out the sources of your displeasure without spending too much $$$$!

    GJ
    Last edited by rhythmgj; 01-07-2018 at 07:00 AM. Reason: Perfectionism can be debilitating...
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  10. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by julesbmusic View Post
    I have the 20 db attenuation pad set on the microphone
    The 20 db pad is meant to reduce the level coming from loud sources, like drums. If i'm reading this right, and you have it on, then you're seriously reducing the gain on your vocals.

    Which means you would have to really turn up the gain on the interface to make up for it, which is probably leading to that harshness you're talking about.

    If you're not doing it already, cut the pad off and give it a go.
    Last edited by cR8!; 01-08-2018 at 06:46 AM. Reason: better grammar....?

  11. #10
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    ^^^^Another good point! On my recording format of choice, which is not a computer-based DAW but a Korg D3200 all-in-one, I have the pads on the mic pres engaged pretty much as a default, because the channel strip pres are so hot by nature. If you have clean input signal coming into the pre, it shouldn't be a problem. *However,* choking the microphone at the source, before sending signal to a possibly questionable pre input on an MBox (sorry MBox fans, but the rep isn't that great), could very well cause you to have too low of an input that you are trying to make up with gain at the interface (that may not be available). Which gets back to what I was saying regarding setting good healthy levels without clipping.

    One or more of the factors mentioned above is more than likely what is causing your problem.

    Get back to us when you've done some more trouble-shooting...

    GJ
    Last edited by rhythmgj; 01-08-2018 at 08:16 AM. Reason: More...
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