Upcoming Audio Improvements

May 29, 2016  

My Music Setup

Hey internet, I’ve decided to write a post looking at some upcoming equipment I’ve purchased to finally get a decent sound for some of my acoustic guitar recordings (Currently horrible quality through my phone, so really anything else is an improvement). I’m writing this with a budget of 6-7 hundred CAD for everything from pickups to audio interface and software so here’s what I’ve put together so far!

A Typical Setup

Rig Overview

Nothing too fancy here, just an overview from guitar to PC for recording. I’ll go through each of these segments individually in this post to give you an idea as to what each does.

Source

Well, pretty self explanitory if you’re going to be recording something, you probably should make some noise, so I’ve got one of these:

Source

Now, there are several types of pickups at your disposal; you may have one already installed with a preamp, or you may need to install one yourself. Based on the kind of things I’d like to play and listen to (Andy cKee, Antoine Dufour, Mike Dawes, Pierre Bensusan, Michael Hedges), namely percussive fingerstyle. In general you want to be able to balance various aspects of your sound: You want to control how much volume a hit to the body of the guitar (so you don’t sound like you’re just smacking the crap out of it with a few quiet notes thrown in between). So with this in mind, you will want to have multiple pickups and therefore multiple channels running simultaneously. This is a lot like recording a voice mic, and an instrument together, or in extreme cases 8 mics for drum kits.

** Pickups and Mics **

In order to pickup percussive hits like palm or finger slaps on the body of the guitar, you’ll want an internal condenser microphone installed near the guitar’s soundhole. - Alternatively, you can get a transducer pickup which picks up vibration usually installed under the bridge.

In order to pickup harmonics and reduced finger noise (focused on string vibration only) you’ll probably want to get a magnetic pickup.

In order to keep the sound natural and acoustic sounding while still leveling off finger noise and pickup internal resonance you may want to get a transducer pickup.

Putting all of this together, you’re looking at 2 or 3 inputs out of one guitar… Looking at what some of my favourite artists use:

  • ** Transducer / Condenser Mic Combo: ** K & K Trinity Pro system, used by Andy McKee, Callum Graham…

K & K Trinity Pro 
System

  • ** Passive Magnetic Soundhole Pickup: ** DiMarzio Black Angel DP234, used by Mike Dawes, Antoine Dufour, Jimmy Wahlsteen …

Dimarzio Black Angel DP234

Note: This pickup requires a minimum diameter soundhole of 86mm (3.5”) to be of any use.

Right, so now that you’ve got an idea of the pickups, we probably want to run these through a preamp in order to balance each channels gain, volume, and colour. This is not an absolute requirement, but it gives us more control before we chuck it into the audio interface.

Preamps

There are soooo many options to go through here, and as I have not yet had the chance to experiment too much with these, I’ll just leave it to common sense by following what requirements: Unless you want to spend a boatload of money, you probably want to get either two cheap mono channel preamps, or a single multichannel if you can find them at a reasonable cost. Here are some possibilities:

  1. This thing is absolutely beautiful, however budget does not allow for this sort of fancy, but hey The Headway EDB-2 has got to be one of the best options on the market.

Headway EDB-2

  1. Another option, also quite pricey, dual channel mixer and equalizer, the K & K Quantum Blender: K & K Quantum Blender

Effects / EQ Pedals

Alright, now that you’ve got everything balanced, you may want to flavour it up a bit with some effects, if you’ve got some old pedals floating around, or a combination pedal, or a wah/volume control pedal, nothing very fancy here, just an option.

Audio Interface

This is fundamentally the key component here, its taking all of your fancy signals and throwing them at your PC to be recorded and then processed and tweaked to your liking… So, we’re looking at like 8 grand for this thing right? Nah, actually these are readily available at decent costs, however it seems every channel that you add cranks the price up significantly. Thankfully, if you were able to mix your sound into 1 or 2 channels it is not too bad:

  1. PreSonus AudioBox USB - Dual channel, Phantom power, headphones, MIDI…

PreSonus AudioBox 
USB

  1. USB Dual Pre Project Series - Dual channel preamp