Archive for the ‘Accessories’ Category
Way back in July 2012 I was told about a pricing mistake at Musicians Friend for the Auralex MudGuard. It was actually a 4-pack of them for $110, just $11 more than a single unit. I don’t know if it was an error or just clearance but it seemed like a pretty good deal. I told some friends and got a little group buy going with 3 guys in California – Eric @rhythminmind; Cory @createmusicpro; and Andrew @cremasterandroo
Cory made the order and got them a few days later. After he shipped mine to me in Vancouver from Orange County I owed him $68. Still less than buying one in store or any other competing product.
Off-axis microphone isolation
If you’re not familiar with this sort of product, it’s a barrier that mounts behind a microphone intended to reduce the pickup of off-axis sounds – noise, other instruments, or reflections from the room. A compact portable vocal booth is the concept.
There are several of these on the market in a wide range of prices. The SE Reflexion Filter was the first of these products to my knowledge. That one is certainly a more sophisticated design then the MudGuard, however in my previous experience with the SE, it wasn’t worth the effort or high cost.
Opinions vary greatly about their effectiveness and value in the studio. In every discussion I’ve read on these there’s always some guy that claims he can build one himself for $10. I’ve never seen a DIY option that didn’t look like a steaming pile. My own attempts at a DIY stand-mounted absorber have been garbage, definitely not something I’d want to be seen in a paid session. (more…)
In the direct box basics article I explained the use of a direct box in the studio, a re-amp box is used to take that clean direct guitar or bass signal and run it into a guitar amp if needed later on in the production process.
What does a re-amp box do?
It is often said that a re-amp box is just passive DI box in reverse, which is untrue. A DI box converts a high impedance, unbalanced instrument level signal to a low impedance, balanced mic level signal. A re-amp box converts a low impedance, balanced line level signal to high impedance, unbalanced instrument level signal.
The goal of the re-amp box is to make the amplifier react in exactly the same way a live guitar would, but with a pre-recorded audio source. Without the re-amp box there will be an impedance mismatch and loss of tone.Hearing your guitar rig play itself can take some getting used to!
Once you have the clean DI recorded, set the track’s output to analog out 3 of your interface (you will need an interface with more than just monitor outputs). No other tracks should be set to this output. Connect output 3 of the interface to the Re-Amp box with a TRS to XLR-M cable. Connect the Re-Amp to your pedals or amplifier with a standard instrument cable. Check that you are getting a good signal to the amplifier, adjust the output level to match a live guitar input.
If the signal is noisy, try the ground lift switch.
Record the amplifier as normal with one or more microphones.
Double check your routing to prevent feedback.
The decision to re-amp could be for a number of reasons:
- Convenience – You may like to write and record guitar parts at 3 AM but your neighbours don’t just don’t understand. Record with an amp simulator silently and re-amp through your big rig later.
- Budget - There are many professionals with big amp collections offering a Re-amping services for much less than the cost of even renting the amp of your dreams.
- Experimentation – After you’ve got the perfect take captured you can experiment with different amp, cab, mic and positions as much as you like.
- Plan B – All too often we are rushed in the studio, it’s easy to make a mistake with mic position or perhaps just a bit too much overdrive than we’d like. If the performance is fine we just have to tweak the amp.
For best results
While there are many fancy direct boxes, if you are planning on re-amping you will likely find the best results are achieved through the simplest direct capture. A Tube DI or Tube preamp may be too colored and change the sound of your amp. Warming up the sound of the mic on the amp, rather than the DI is the better option. Feel free to experiment of course.
Usually the signal you send to the amplifier will be completely unprocessed, however you may wish to experiment with gating, light compression, and EQ.
Much like the way your guitar volume affects the character of the amp, sending the right level out of your DAW can be critical.
What is a DI box?
A DI box aka Direct Inject or Direct box is a tool we use in the studio to bring a signal from an instrument (guitar, bass, keyboards) directly into our recording system.
An audio engineer (or home recording enthusiast) will use the DI box for silent recording, as a backup or to process along with a microphone on an amplifier.
The DI box typically has 3 input and output connections.
- 1/4″ TS instrument input – electric guitar or bass connects here
- XLR-M balanced output – connects to mic preamp
- 1/4″ TS Thru – Continues the input path to connect to an amplifier.
For example, the DI box would be connected between an electric bass and audio interface mic input. The clean bass signal can be recorded without the need for an amp.
The DI box has a few functions.
- Impedance change – The instrument circuit will react correctly as if it was connected to an amp, and the mic preamp on the other side of the box will react as if a mic was connected.
Without this the tone would be wimpy.
- Level change – An electric guitar outputs a signal that is relatively low level but significantly higher than the average microphone. The DI box steps the signal down from instrument to mic level.
- Unbalanced to balanced connection – Changing the unbalanced guitar signal to balanced mic level allows much longer cable lengths without signal loss or noise.
- Pass through – The instrument signal is split and can be continued to an amplifier.
The Hi-Z/instrument input on your audio interface preamps do most of these functions well but a high quality DI box tends to work a bit better and allows you to split the signal to continue to pedals and amplifier.
DI Box options
There are a wide variety of DI boxes on the market today in passive, active, multi-channel, and vacuum tube designs.
A passive DI is just a transformer with a few jacks connected, it doesn’t require any power. The Radial JDI is a very popular professional Passive DI Box.
An active DI is a more complex design that requires phantom power (supplied by the mic preamp).
The Radial J48 and Countryman Type-85 are very popular professional Active DI Boxes.
Active or passive? Generally speaking, they both do the same job well. In specific uses or if you are looking for less transparency, one may type may be better than other.
There are also many designed specifically for bass recording with tone controls and overdrive or amp simulation circuitry.
The Radial Bassbone, Sansamp BDI, and MXR M-80 are excellent examples of Bass DI/Preamps.
The SE Electronics Reflexion Filter is a good product. It’s designed to block room noise and reflections from getting into your microphone and it does a decent job, not as good as a proper vocal booth, but it does make an audible improvement.
My only real complaint about the product is the way it mounts to a stand. It’s trying to defy the basic physics concepts, namely leverage and gravity. Look at the picture above and try to disagree. One of my favorite sections of Sound On Sound Magazine is the Studio S.O.S. articles. Quite often they bring in the Reflexion Filters to home studios and they mention that they usually modify the mounting bracket. I’ve yet to see just what they do, but just knowing that it can be improved got me experimenting.