Ep 30 | How To Get The Cleanest Audio Possible

In this episode of the show I'm going to address a question from Mark Fordham, a Dynamic Range Compression course member.  We will be addressing the issue of proper recording levels and how they affect the overall quality of our projects. This is one critical area you will need to understand in order to produce a professional mix. http://freerecordingtools.com

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  1. Ephraim says

    Regarding hissing sounds. I recently bought my equipment (MXL 990s mic, Focusrite Scarlett 2i4) and began regarding. I, like many beginners, turned the gain way up and backed down. I guess I just wanted to see pretty, color changing lights first and then feel I was doing the right thing by backing out a bit. Not enough. There was a distinct constant static/hiss. I checked everything and then finally figured it out by trying a different XLR cable. It was a cheap cable. So, while I will follow Dave Maxey’s very helpful advice on input gain, I will make sure the cables used aren’t crap to begin with. Thanks, Dave. Love the video podcasts.

  2. Luc says

    Hey Dave! Thanks for the info. I would love to get your views about using effects at the source level when recording. I like to use delay while recording vocals. Should I always record a dry signal and add plug-ins afterward? What about recording guitar tracks while using pedals etc?

    Luc Gilbert

    • says

      Hey Luc, I personally don’t add FX or EQ to my recording chain. Reason being, you don’t want to lock your tracks into something that may not work later one. The only processing I’ve every done at the source is with electric guitar as you’ve mentioned (I do slightly compression and gate the my voice for the podcast too). The reason I do this for electric is because I’m confident enough in my guitar tone to know what I need and can still make eq adjustments later in the post production phase.

      On vocals, yes I’d always record a dry signal with little or no EQ and I would not record any vocal track personally with delay or any other FX’s for that matter. My general rule here is if I can do it in post than I do. This just gives the greatest flexibility.

  3. Frank says

    Thank for the tips. The Reafir tip is great. I’ve spent a ton of time automating volume trying to do some of the same principles.

  4. Kimble Arbuthnot says

    Hi Dave

    Curious. I have a Mackie Onyx Blackjack and a Rode NT1A microphone, which I have done the same testing. I found that when there was no mic plugged in I got the same noise characteristics a on your 2i2, possibly a touch worse. I found this strange as I have always known this interface to be very quiet.

    So I connected up the mic and did the same testing in a quiet room, and most the spurious hiss was gone, only a small amount being present with the full 60db gain. It appears that (with the Blackjack) most of that noise was due to the circuitry being turned on high with no load connected, obviously not high on the list of design constraints.

    Is it not possible that this could be the case on the 2i2? I was quite surprised at the amount of noise that you got and really thought that the Scarlett interfaces were quieter?

    As a matter of comparison I performed the testing primarily with the hardware monitoring on the interface with Sennheiser HD580 headphones, but also confirmed the ‘findings’ on Harrison Consoles’ Mixbus and the iPad app Auria.

    • says

      Like I stated in my video, this is the reason I don’t every push my input signal so hot to get into the final stage of gain on the pre-amp. The reason its typically never an issue is because proper setting of levels with most decent mics give more than enough input source signal. Keep in mind I also adjust the gain of the test so you could hear the noise floor. The noise floor would typically never be that loud even at full gain. With a mic plugged in, you shouldn’t even need that much gain as this was my point to keep a clean signal. Thanks for the question.

  5. Mayo Pardo says

    Excellent video/podcast David. I too record in a less than perfect environment (don’t we all?) and removing background noise is crucial.

    I use a Dynamic Mic (Heil PR 40) and the Scarlet 2i4, but I find that I have to put the gain on the Scarlet almost at max before the LED Halo meter even lights up. The main reason I got the Dynamic Mic was to help eliminate picking up background noise. But maybe it’s counter productive if I have to put the gain up that high? I’m not using any other pre-amp because reviews on the Scarlet frequently say how good they are in the 2i4 and 2i2.

    I was previously using a Mackie 402 VLZ-3 but my results were not as good.
    Being a newbie at this, a lot of my problems may be “user error”.

    So assuming you were creating a voice over, (like Mark was doing) if you get relatively clean sounding audio at the levels you indicated in this podcast, would you send them to a client at that level or would you boost the levels further?

    • says

      If the client were going to edit the wav files, then I would send them adjusted to -3db peaks. Otherwise, I would “master” the audio before sending the tracks for a final project. The track for my voice I recorded in the show was recorded at the same levels as I demoed the SM58 at. The difference between the 2 mics was the mastering process. I left the SM58 untouched for the demo but mastered my main audio as I always do for the show.

      In that, my mastering chain for a voice-over is this, 1st –>Set peaks to -3db–>Noise Reduction with ReaFir–>EQ to cut unneeded freq–>Multband Compression to level freq–>EQ to boost anything needed–>Full band Compression–>De-essing–>Mastering Limiter to get max db at -.01 db.

    • says

      I hear ya Adam, too me a while back in the day to retrain myself as well. You just want to keep that noise floor down as long as you got a good source signal. Thanks for the comment.

  6. les malcolm says

    Very interesting David!, i will certainly work on this noise reduction situation.I did some recording and heard back ground noise, when music and track came along the noise was cut out to a degree but was still there,with the tips you gave me on the noise issue, i will be making comparison Thanks again Les

  7. says

    Good tip Dave, thanks! I am amazed that my M-Audio Profire 610 reacts pretty much the same as your interface. I don’t think I ever recorded anything with the preamp knob near 100%, but I will be sure to stay well below it now.

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