Thoughts on a Home Studio

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k5hsj
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Post by k5hsj » December 16th, 2020, 5:09 pm

During my working life, I was a broadcast engineer. Although I got into the business working in radio, most of my career was in video, since I discovered early on that the better paying jobs were in television, not radio. My audio recording has been done mostly as a hobby, but it's grounded in the basics of acoustics and audio technology.

In my way of thinking, the most important parts of good audio recording are finding a quiet place to record and choosing an appropriate microphone and placing it properly. If you find a good "studio," half the battle is won, because microphone placement then becomes less critical and minimal processing (equalization and noise reduction) is necessary.

First, close all doors and windows into your space and listen. You should hear minimal noise from the outside and from the inside (machine sounds, fans, air handling, etc). The room should be large enough not to sound "boxy" but not so large as to have an echo. It should have a variety of surfaces--wood, stone, carpet, curtain. I like bookcases, particularly messy ones, which provide irregular surfaces. The objective is to avoid the "slap-back" echo one gets from parallel hard surfaces. If you clap your hands, the sound should die away abruptly, without ringing or echo. That said, most spaces outside of a professional studio are going to be less than ideal. This is where microphone choice and placement come into play.

The brand of microphone is not so important as the type. If you already have a good quality analog mic, you can use it with an analog to digital (XLR to USB) converter, but I think that's an unnecessary complication if you're starting from scratch. A cardioid pattern dynamic or condenser USB microphone is the best choice for most home recording setups, because this gives good control of less than perfect acoustics. A cardioid mic picks up sound from the front and rejects it from the rear. There are websites and YouTube videos available which can help with mic choice.

In my own far from ideal setup, I record in my home office. I place the mic to the side of my mouth and about four inches away. It’s a Shure PG27 USB cardioid condenser with a shock mount and wind screen mounted on a boom stand bolted to the table top behind my computer monitor. This allows me to position it where I need it, without worrying about bumping into it while I’m performing. It’s similar to the setup you typically see in a radio studio. I perform sitting down, but it’s flexible enough to allow for working standing up. If your recording room is closer to a professional studio, you may find that working farther back from the mic gives you a more natural sound with less pickup of mouth noises, sibilance and p-popping. I try to maintain a constant distance from the mic, because in my particular space, the sound changes noticeably if I move too far from the “sweet spot.” I like my sound a little on the live rather than dead side, but that’s a personal preference, and since my hearing is not what it once was, I’m probably not the best judge anymore. :)

Details may vary, but if you can find a quiet place with a good mix of absorptive and reflective surfaces and use a cardioid pattern microphone you should get a good sound.

Hope this helps!

Winston
Be kind. Be interesting. Be useful. Morality ain't hard.--Jack Butler, Living in Little Rock with Miss Little Rock

Availle
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Post by Availle » December 16th, 2020, 5:59 pm

That surely is interesting, thank you! :D

For us beginners, could you please explain what you mean with
I like my sound a little on the live rather than dead side...
"Dead" meaning no echo, right?
Cheers, Ava.
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k5hsj
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Post by k5hsj » December 16th, 2020, 10:49 pm

Availle wrote:
December 16th, 2020, 5:59 pm
For us beginners, could you please explain what you mean with
I like my sound a little on the live rather than dead side...
"Dead" meaning no echo, right?
Good question, Ava. I guess what I mean is that I like to get a hint of an acoustic space around the voice. It's part of what gives it life. We're unaccustomed to hearing speech in a completely echo free "dead" environment, and just a touch of echo seems more natural to the ear, I think.
Be kind. Be interesting. Be useful. Morality ain't hard.--Jack Butler, Living in Little Rock with Miss Little Rock

realisticspeakers
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Post by realisticspeakers » December 17th, 2020, 12:45 am

I built a vocal booth in my bedroom. It's nothing fancy or anything more than 48 trips to Home Depot without a plan.
It turns out that it is perfectly in tune and resonates with the old lady's TV next door that she keeps running 24/7.
I don't know how that happened, the mathematics lined up just right?
It's lined with sound-proofing blankets and a few dense sound panels.
I have to EQ out the "mud" a 4x4x6 box makes, and also the high-pitched ringing on slap-back. (That's coming from the spring in the mic boom)
Truth exists for the wise, Beauty for a feeling heart: They belong to each other. - Beethoven
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KevinS
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Post by KevinS » December 17th, 2020, 5:48 am

realisticspeakers wrote:
December 17th, 2020, 12:45 am
It turns out that it is perfectly in tune and resonates with the old lady's TV next door that she keeps running 24/7.
Don't call me an 'old lady.' And it's the Weather Station, all right?! I'm afraid of tornadoes.
Not feeling well. I'll get back to work as soon as possible. My LibriVox: https://librivox.org/sections/readers/13278

realisticspeakers
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Post by realisticspeakers » December 17th, 2020, 7:45 am

KevinS wrote:
December 17th, 2020, 5:48 am
realisticspeakers wrote:
December 17th, 2020, 12:45 am
It turns out that it is perfectly in tune and resonates with the old lady's TV next door that she keeps running 24/7.
Don't call me an 'old lady.' And it's the Weather Station, all right?! I'm afraid of tornadoes.
Last time there was a tornado around these parts was the dawn of the Holocene Epoch. I know you hear me banging on the wall!
Truth exists for the wise, Beauty for a feeling heart: They belong to each other. - Beethoven
Disclaimer:
"Kind reader, if this our performance doth in aught fall short of promise, blame not our good intent, but our unperfect wit."

k5hsj
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Location: Point Richmond, CA

Post by k5hsj » December 17th, 2020, 2:23 pm

realisticspeakers wrote:
December 17th, 2020, 12:45 am
I built a vocal booth in my bedroom. It's nothing fancy or anything more than 48 trips to Home Depot without a plan.
It turns out that it is perfectly in tune and resonates with the old lady's TV next door that she keeps running 24/7.
I don't know how that happened, the mathematics lined up just right?
It's lined with sound-proofing blankets and a few dense sound panels.
I have to EQ out the "mud" a 4x4x6 box makes, and also the high-pitched ringing on slap-back. (That's coming from the spring in the mic boom)
Great example of the difficulty of acoustical treatment! :) I'm impressed by your industry--building a booth is beyond my constructional ability, I'm afraid. Keeping sound from intruding from outside is a major problem, but about 25 years ago I ran across an article in Stereo Review magazine that has some useful tips. Through the magic of the internet, that article is available at https://worldradiohistory.com/Archive-All-Audio/Archive-HiFI-Stereo/90s/Stereo-Review-1994-07.pdf. The article is "Quiet!!!" by Michael Klasco, beginning on page 64.

As the poet John Ciardi used to say on his NPR series, "Good words to you."
Be kind. Be interesting. Be useful. Morality ain't hard.--Jack Butler, Living in Little Rock with Miss Little Rock

realisticspeakers
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Post by realisticspeakers » December 17th, 2020, 2:27 pm

k5hsj wrote:
December 17th, 2020, 2:23 pm
The article is "Quiet!!!" by Michael Klasco, beginning on page 64.

As the poet John Ciardi used to say on his NPR series, "Good words to you."
COOL LINK!

edit: BMG Music Service Indianapolis, IN

edit: page 36 REALISTICSPEAKERS!
Truth exists for the wise, Beauty for a feeling heart: They belong to each other. - Beethoven
Disclaimer:
"Kind reader, if this our performance doth in aught fall short of promise, blame not our good intent, but our unperfect wit."

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