The absolute best way to record guitar...

Well when I say guitar, I mean a Baglama, which is a Turkish lute similar to the bouzouki family of instruments. This particular one has no volume knobs or any other controls, it only has an input on the bottom which can be plugged directly into an amp. Now obviously as far as recording goes, it may not be very versatile, however I have already tried direct line in, so from the instrument into the microphone input in my laptop (don’t laugh). I know this would not yield the best results, mainly because of the annoying white noise/hiss whatever you call it. So I am wondering if there is a way to have a clean recording? I have already looked at other alternatives such as what is called the Rocksmith USB cable. Does anyone have experience with these? Also I have looked at condenser mics, and the one that seems to pop up the most is the Blue Yeti. But I am worried about external sound, such as my laptop’s vacuum-style fan noise :confused:

Surely Line-in isn’t the best way, as almost every piece of software and driver modes, be it MME, Asio, etc all have the same issue, in software such as Guiar Rig, Sonar, and hence Audacity. So what’s the best way to go guys?

I’m not familiar with that instrument, but there’s no easy-answer.

[u]RecordingMagazine.com[/u] has some articles on recording acoustic guitar.

If an acoustic guitar has a pickup, it’s usually designed for live use and probably doesn’t sound as good as the actual-acoustic sound from the instrument. It will sound different and you might like it. With the right equipment, you can record direct from the pickup and acoustically with a mic and mix to taste. (It’s common to do that with electric guitar with a direct signal and a mic in front of the amp.)

You do need a guitar input. if you want to record directly from the guitar’s pickup. I don’t know about the Rocksmith cable, but that’s the kind of thing you need. The [u]Behringer UCG102[/u] is a popular low-cost solution or there are more expensive audio interfaces with multiple switchable instrument/mic/line inputs.

The mic input on a soundcard or laptop is useless for quality recording. It only works with “cheap computer mics”. It’s the wrong impedance for a guitar and it’s the wrong interface for a stage/studio mic which requires a balanced (3-wire) connection. And, it’s usually low quality (noisy).

The line input on a soundcard is often acceptable if you have a line-level signal (from a CD/DVD player, etc.). Again, the impedance is too low for a guitar. The low impedance reduces the signal level and affects it the tone of the guitar pickup.

Also I have looked at condenser mics, and the one that seems to pop up the most is the Blue Yeti.

These “studio style USB mics” (aka “podcast mics”) can be a good solution. They have a built-in preamp and essentially a built-in soundcard so the quality doesn’t depend on your existing soundcard. The Yeti has some nice features like a gain control and zero-latency monitoring in case you want to plug-in headphones monitor yourself along with a backing track while recording.

The disadvantages to a USB mic are that you can only use one mic at a time, and you you can’t plug it into a mixer of PA system. (I’ve read that the Yeti’s electronics can be noisy, but I assume they are better than a regular soundcard.) The Yeti Pro dversion
oes have an optional analog connection.

A regular (analog) condenser mic requires 48V phantom which is supplied by the audio interface (or preamp/mixer).

Large diaphragm condenser (LDC) microphones are the most common type of mic used in pro studios.

But I am worried about external sound, such as my laptop’s vacuum-style fan noise

Yes… That’s the biggest issue for home recording and since acoustic instruments are sometimes quiet so they can be the most difficult. You can usually isolate the computer (in another room, etc.) but there is usually lots of other background noise that you might not be aware of until you listen to the recording. Position the mic close to the instrument for a strong signal-to-noise ratio, and do what you can to “deaden” the room.

Ideally, you’d like a soundproof studio with “good acoustics” for some nice natural reverb. Or, a dead-sounding studio and you can add some artificial reverb in post production.

If you have low-level background noise you can try Audacity’s noise reduction after recording, but with with a “delicate” acoustic instrument you may notice artifacts (side effects).

…be it MME, Asio, etc all have the same issue, in software such as Guiar Rig, Sonar, and hence Audacity.

Your choice of recording software does not affect sound quality… The software simply captures the digital audio stream and sends it to your hard drive. (Higher-end DAW software has features that can be helpful if you are multi-track recording.)

If you are adding effects after recording (reverb, EQ, compression, etc.) software can make a difference.

my laptop’s vacuum-style fan noise

More serious than you think. Remember you can’t get a USB microphone any further away from the computer than one USB cable.

This is for a movie voice track I shot.

Forget the padding and microphone for a second. That Mac computer is in the sound booth because it doesn’t make any noise…

Koz

We talked about this before. A Yeti Pro isn’t a Yeti. It’s a completely different microphone. They did it that way because of name recognition. $250 usd is not a casual purchase; it has performance tricks other than the published specifications.

My joke is I’d probably like the Yeti Pro.

This is my opinion. One of the failings of the plain Yeti is the Yeti Curse. Some computers do not get along with a Yeti and the conflict appears as a background frying mosquitoes whine which is very difficult to remove.

http://kozco.com/tech/audacity/clips/FryingMosquitoes3.wav

Listen carefully when I stop talking.

Koz

there’s no easy-answer.

What he said.

This is how I did it.

You may need to zoom your browser to see the whole thing.

That’s a classic analog microphone, small but nice sound mixer plugged into a quiet computer for recording. What you don’t see is the carpeted, drop-ceiling, fully soundproofed conference room. Many sound shoots went through that room.

This is a posed version of that shoot.

We do keep running into the same Full Stop every time somebody asks what to do, for either music or voice readings.

In my opinion, USB microphones take too many shortcuts. If they work for you, then you win, but the chances of not working are actually pretty high. We get the failures posting for help on the forum.

The volume is too low
The hiss is too high
Why is it making whiny noises?

It’s worth repeating USB microphones are non-expandable. You can force two USB microphones to work under some conditions, but badly, and you can’t do three or more.

Koz

Thank you very much for your input guys. So I had a look at what you have posted and for sure, there is a lot to take in. I realise that no one method is perfect and that every recording scenario is different. All I am concerned about is recording one instrument at a time. I don’t even need multiple inputs, one would do. I had a look at the Lexicon Alpha audio interface and it looks like it would do the job that I need. But in terms of recording an acoustic instrument, which so happens to have a 1/4 input jack, I think its safe to say that a mic is able to capture the full range of tone that the wood of the instrument can deliver, because as bad as my laptop mic input is, it shows just how tinny it ends up sounding.

In fact, here is the perfect opportunity to show you samples of what I mean.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SiLN4M9eqdw - Gonen Molla - Gurbet (Copculer Krali Film Muzigi Saz)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqbE1RSU4c8 - The Ecstacy of Gold - Ennio Morricone - Acoustic Guitar Solo - Alvarez Guitars

Notice how both acoustic instruments are captured brilliantly (when I say brilliantly, I obviously mean in my opinion, so going back to what DVDdoug said, that is the kind of quality I am going for here.)

Can kozikowski please post some mp3s (or link me to them) of songs that have been recorded using the same setup as the one it the photo? I would like to know how it sounded. Becase if it sounds great, then it sounds like I might not need a very sophisticated setup, but we’ll see of course.

The irony is, there’s one guy who has made a tutorial series to fix the noise issue, yet if you listen to this video https://youtu.be/uGIsSUZhOAY
And if you turn up the volume, you can hear the kind of whining sound that I’m getting during my recordings! This is the exact problem I have with the Yeti.
What I DON’T understand, is how in other people’s videos, there is no such sound to be heard, and their sound is quite natural with natural sounding sustain, as can be seen in this video https://youtu.be/1_tKhXUsrjI

The Yeti doesn’t do this with every computer. And it’s not only the Yeti. That just happens to be a popular microphone with this problem.

It’s an interaction problem. Flynwill (an actual Engineer) cured it…by redesigning the device. This doesn’t help people not handy with a soldering iron and screwdriver. There is no single “Do this and the problem goes away.”

The computer takes shortcuts and sends ratty connections to the microphone. The microphone takes shortcuts and fails to filter the problems out. ssszzzszzzszszszzszzszzs. If any of those conditions is absent, the problem goes away. Many of the USB mic-preamplifiers with 48 volt phantom power have the filtering and don’t have this problem. Quite a number of computers which take care with their system send clean USB don’t have this problem. If you have the bad combination…

There are convoluted ways to solve this in post production, but they involve filtering out certain critical musical tones. Yes, this can create problems with music.

I do have a sample of what happens when I record using the illustrated guitar.

http://www.kozco.com/tech/MicTests/timc.wav

This wasn’t my first choice. Tim played a terrific rock-a-billy backing track and I mucked-up the recording !!!@#$)*%.

Even “Koz the Great and Powerful” has problems.

Koz

This is the correction suite for suppressing the Yeti Curse in post production. It’s raw code and you have to use the Audacity Nyquist tools to run it.

https://forum.audacityteam.org/t/removing-echo-and-enhancing-audio/42338/17

It could still not work. The Yeti Curse is only the most common noise.

To bring this home. If your Yeti is making noise, then your computer is very probably not appropriate for simple, inexpensive USB microphones. Some other method must be found.

Koz

Hmm well I have a pretty standard i3 Toshiba Windows 7 laptop, I don’t really have anything better than that at my disposal to try. You mentioned redesigning it and soldering, I work on electronics as a hobby and for a living and I would be willing to undertake such a job provided I have some guides in front of me on how this was done. But I think you have understood the gist of what I was trying to say about the noise. I see people with practically half the gain, and it ends up sounding loud as hell! Mine sounds pretty quiet unless I turn the gain beyond half way. Note that I have just plugged and played, I haven’t downloaded any drivers for it although I doubt that would make a difference.

Did the custom Nyquist filter work? If it does, then it’s 100% ratty USB.

I’ll warn fynwill.

The USB cable has wires inside that contain the data slamming back and forth. It also has wires that provide 5 volts DC. This voltage is what runs your mouse or keyboard or whatever else you plug in. It’s the reason you don’t have to constantly look for a wall socket for your USB devices.

Cheap, inexpensive microphones which don’t cost very much use that 5 volts directly to run everything, because it’s cheap and inexpensive to do that.

If the world is well-behaved and proper, you play the guitar and nobody knows. If there is leakage between the insanely noisy data and the 5 volts, or the 5 volts wasn’t made particularly well in the first place, it becomes “dirty,” and some of that dirt leaks into the show ssszzssssszszszs.

If the five volts is dirty on your mouse, would you ever know that the mouse tracking is a tiny fraction off? Keyboard occasionally mis-types?

Microphones are special. When you speak, the “voice voltage” is molecular-level tiny and has to be amplified for use. If there’s anything wrong with the amplifier—such as its power supply is noisy—you get the Yeti Curse. There are other pathways for leakage, but that’s the common one.

So one way out is to break into the USB cable, abandon the 5 volts coming from the computer and substitute your own modest, wall-powered laboratory power supply.

I bet you’re wondering why this fix didn’t go viral…or even bacterial. Because the fix doubles the cost of the microphone.

Koz

I left a note for Flynwill.

“Curse” is not too strong a word for this problem. There are a number of non-soldering iron solutions, but they all change the problem or gently reduce it (or both) without making it go away.

Koz

There is no “one size fits all” fix for this problem.

I’ve also never actually seen a Blue Yeti in person, only theorized the source if it’s whine noise based on a similar problem I had with a Behringer UCA-202 interface tied into my home stereo. In my case the noise resulted from a ground loop. (The computer ground was connected to the interface both directly through the USB cable and indirectly through the shields on TV antenna and audio cables.) This caused the low-level noise from the USB data to find its way into the Phono preamp on my receiver. The cure was the addition of an USB isolator like this one: http://www.amazon.com/HifimeDIY-Isolator-ADUM4160-signal-isolation/dp/B00F4SCCR2

The source of the problem is the USB signaling is not entirely differential, if it were then then ups and downs of the two wires that carry the digital signals would cancel each other out and there would be a lot fewer problems. But the engineers designing the protocol needed an “out of band” signal (ie they needed a state for the wires other than 0 or 1) so they decided that for the end of message signal to have the two wires go to the same voltage. Data is transmitted on a USB buss once every millisecond, 44.1kHz stereo audio takes about 1/5 of a millisecond to send a millisecond’s worth of sound, so the net result on the data wires is 1000 times a second there is a short burst of data that includes a number of these end of message states. The result is harmonic rich 1 kHz tone is the whine you hear.

However, the exact mechanism by which this noise makes it way into the microphone’s preamp can be illusive, and I won’t pretend to have any idea as to how this happens on some Yetis and not others, or what can be done to fix it. A ground loop, such as caused my problem with the UCA-202 seems unlikely. Breaking out he USB power and feeding it from a separate clean source might help. I made a small PCB to allow me to do this do this neatly in a test environment (Koz has one), but for a one off, it probably is just as easy to sacrifice a short USB extender cable.

If someone ever wanted to donate a cursed Yeti for the cause I’d be willing to take a look at it, but it’s probably far more sensible to just spend a bit more money and get gear that won’t have the problem in the first place.

“Hello, B&H Photo-Video?
I’d like to buy a Cursed Yeti.”

Did that sound test work OK?

Koz

If the whine is low enough, you might be able to just use that published filter and we’re done. Do try it. Yell if you need more detailed hand-holding.

Koz

I wish I could tell you, “Buy this microphone and everything will be OK.” All the microphones in this group have significant problems. They have to be designed to keep most people out of serious trouble and that usually means record low volume (high volume overload is pretty much instant death to a performance). Nobody wants to spend any money, so all the engineering shortcuts are used. The makers are counting on nobody being very particular about the sound. For the most part they’re right.

This is a clip from “Reel Life” Podcast. Chase may or may not be still doing it. This is normal.

http://kozco.com/tech/audacity/clips/PPopping.mp3

A top quality studio microphone is a complete waste of time. As you said, the YouTube classes where they “fix” the sound are not a gift from the angels.

You are trying to replace a recording studio. See the title: “The absolute best way…” That’s a problem.

Do you want to keep plugging at it?

Koz

Nope. Chase’s last podcast is dated July 2013.

Koz

Don’t buy a USB mic. Problem solved.

Get something like the Steinberg/Yamaha UR22 (130$) or the Behringer U-Phoria UMC202HD (currently 70€) that has both a nice mic input with phantom power and a guitar input with high impedance.

I have no idea what kind of pickup is in your instrument, as I’ve never seen the “lectrified” version of a Baglama, but I would be really surprised if it isn’t very close to a guitar pickup. And even in the rare case somebody put in a piezo film mic, it would work nicely with the hi-Z input of the Yamaha. I did record a Baglama a couple of years ago, but that one didn’t have a jack output.

Usually, I would advise the Focusrite 2i2, but the hi-Z input on that interface overloads with some high output pickups.

And if the recording with the jack output doesn’t work for you, you can still get a mic and you have hundreds of professional mics to choose from in stead of dozens of problem USB mics that aren’t really cheaper anyway.

For this type of instrument, a Superlux HI 10 mic would be nice. At around 30€, it’s one of the undiscovered pearls, if you can find it. It sometimes seems Superlux doesn’t want to sell, as their products often are on backorder, or they just vanish from their catalog without warning, to reappear a year later, again, without warning.

I have the UM2. The mono version.

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/UM2usb

I haven’t done a lot with it. It got pushed into “Play with this when I get a second” pile. It does claim it has the same Xenyx microphone preamp as the larger mixers. It will supply 48V for condenser microphones and it does have an instrument input. I was a little leery about recommending it until I’ve had more experience with it.

In my opinion the chances of it having data noise and whining in the sound is zero because of the power processing needed for 48 volts, and I’d be surprised if the Xenyx preamp will run on 5 volts.

As almost a side note. It has a “direct monitor” button which means it’s probably OK with sound-on-sound overdubbing. I can’t certify that… yet.

Koz

The Xenyx preamps are nice, especially when you take the price into account.

But the HD interfaces have the Midas preamps. And the Berhinger bangers are very afraid of that name. They don’t want to bang Midas, so the preamps are usually referred to as “decent”. That means you’ll have to look very hard and spend an awful lot of money to do better.

All USB powered gear shares one disadvantage: the need to boost the available 5V 500mA to 48V 20 mA and whatever power the preamp is running at. If you have old, power hungry mics, that can fail. And that’s another advantage of the HD series: you can use them on external power if needed.

It’s not the hardware you need to worry about, though. It’s the drivers. Most simple interfaces use the USB audio class drivers built-in in the OS. Simple and effective. Once you move up, with more than 2 channels, you usually need a driver. And the question is if the manufacturer will be supplying drivers in the future. That’s why I prefer Steinberg, Focusrite and Behringer. They all have just a couple of versions for their entire range. Others have one driver per model. And that usually means models get obsoleted fast.