Readers' Letters: Q:

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of

Thursday November 30, 2006

In response to Q: "How can I record drums with just a two-channel audio interface?", Mark Muir writes...

I do regular low budget recordings.....It always becomes a time against money situation...The longer you wish to spend on recordings the more you would have to charge...I have to find quick and simple setups to record....I simply use overhead mics set up in the xy stereo position...set up directly over the drummers head pointing down towards the beater.....Mics paned hard left and hard right. Spend a bit of time on drums...sit them on carpet..elimate drum noises....I always shove a sand bag about 5kgs or more inside bass drum up against kick skin...drums waited down seems to make a tighter sound and elimates a lot of possable drum noise(rattles) ofcause you are really getting a beater sound and not a full kick sound....if you really particular....add a mic at the front of the bass drum and bring it up in the mixer to taste...

Train your drummer to be smooth.

In response to How much does a TV music composer get paid?, PAUL WILLIAMS writes...

I think this article has some very good advice

Lots of small payments to keep you going, and an occasional special where the payment i s in the 1000’s.

Selling music to media can be difficult and working out the price

I think this is a good place to start.

In response to Vocal EQ – Is there more to it than just EQ?, Dan Lewis writes...

Fine article. It helped consolidate my thoughts on the process.

In response to Is it time for the $5 preamp to make a comeback?, RighteousVibe writes...

I agree with the concept. In the audio world, all mic pre's have their place. I don't know if I would intentionally go after a "cheapie" if I had a high-end mic pre around. But, after reading your article, I've probably used a "cheapie" or two unaware, buried in some product and have gotten great results. Therefore, may I suggest that you guys identify what popular mic pre's contain the less expensive chips and compare them to the more costly stuff and let us hear the comparisons on line. It's almost like going into the record store and getting to hear the CD before you purchase it. Wouldn't it be great if we could do that at the gear store as well? Think about it---we read about a mic pre...want to try it out...but the stores only have them boxed up and it is an act of congress to get to demo a product in the stores. Partly, because the salesperson is too embarrased to admit they don't know how to use it, or the manufctures don't really want in-store shoot-outs with the competition because it exposes "cheap chips" in "glam-paks" vs. the real deal. It would make the manufacture's call a spade a spade because we could hear the differences on the spot. In the meantime, we will continue to rely on your excellent reporting to keep us informed.

In response to Is it time for the $5 preamp to make a comeback?, Jim Zuehsow writes...

Sure, you can design and build a low cost preamp that sounds good. The question is, how long will it last in daily professional use? Part of what you pay for with higher priced units is the "fit and finish" and use of better quality passive parts, such as gold contact switches, instead of cheap Chineese pots.

There is also the matter of what "flavor" you want, and that refers to whether it's all tube, discrete, or integrated circuit. Thransformers also count heavily in the flavor department, and there are no cheap transformers that sound good. They will easily run well over a hundred dollars.

There are some great sounding inexpensive mic pre's, such as the PreSonus and Aphex units, but things like the 8 channel Nady are a cruel joke on the unsuspecting neophyte. It mostly comes down to reading reviews by people you learn to trust before shelling out your hard earned money, and then checking out the unit yourself to make sure it will fit your needs. I've got over twenty channels of stand alone preamps from API, Neve, Grace, United Audio, PreSonus, Aprhex, Demeter, etc. I use them all for certain qualities they each have, since there is not one of them that "does it all". The other factor when you run a pro studio, is the fact that you have clients who need to be impressed that they are in a "real" facility. A rack of musician grade equipment probably won't entice them to work there.

In response to This monstrosity should be illegal in audio!, Drag writes...

It's an urban legend, that balanced signal is good for sound...if you use short cables and feed your system to the same source (...the juice) ant not some units to the wall and some others to a diesel generator, so keep unbalanced your sound is much better, mastering engineer like Bob Ludwig don't go for balanced signal in his room...sorry David

RP response: Sorry? If we go back to unbalanced microphones and preamps then we really will be.

In response to Well, could *you* hear the difference? Could you??, Stephen Balliet writes...

Maybe the chip was $5 with shipping now add the cost of the connectors, batteries, circuit board, wire and other passive parts and you are closer to $50 than to $5. Pop this into a shielded box and add a gain control and power switch and Add the value of the labor for the time to construct the circuit and your up to $100 for this $5 preamp.

As to the comparison of sound quality the power supply has a huge effect and batteries will likely sound better than even very expensive AC based designs. Of course the ongoing cost of operation could be several hundred dollars a year just in batteries, so now which preamp is the bargain?

RP response: We're looking into rechargeable batteries, charged up by the Audio Masterclass static rowing machine ;-)

In response to Why do old people listen to old music? - Take 2, TOMMYgUNN writes...

"But you must excuse me, and a huge part of society, young and old, if we find little or no redeeming musical qualities in hip hop tunes consisting of samples, looped and lifted (ripped-off) from people with talent who originated those grooves and riffs. Remixing ripped-off grooves with bad kick drum sounds and monotone vocals in nursery rhyme (can you say iambic pentameter?) phrasing and lots of obscene words does not constitute, and cannot compete with, what WE old music lovers and musicians treasure most."

I dont know when this rant was originally published, but I can only assume that it was before the superb copyright infringement laws of the good ol' USA had more ooomph. The way things are now a days old timer it is not cost effective to sample heavily in your compositions. The early 80's Hip Hop of which you speak no longer exists, so be thankful not sour old dude

RP response: We would hesitate to call the article a rant. It's an Audio Masterclass visitor's genuine opinion. It's an interesting thought though, as you mention, that the heavy cost of sampling harms hip hop as a genre. That would be a shame indeed.

In response to Is it time for the $5 preamp to make a comeback?, Bob G. And Students. writes...

This is still a highly un-scientific test and should have been dropped when it was first published year(s) ago.

It is quite obvious that the U87 recordings were done at a further distance from mic to voice due to hearing the room ambience when compared to the 57 recordings. This would indicate that the recordings were not done simultaneously as they should have been.

Proper A/B'ing requires simultaneous recordings of various preamps using same type of mic (eg: three 57's going into 3 different preamps/seperate tracks). And exact mic distances and angles must be maintained. Also, use good quality headphones to monitor.

Beware: there is a difference. Open up the UA610 and you will find many expensive components. I have compared a 610 properly to cheaper 8 channel preamps as well as high-end Neve copies by Wunder etc. THERE IS A BIG DIFFERENCE IN SOUND QUALITY!

Drop this article or do a new, accurate testing.


RP response: Hello Bob G. and students. You're very welcome to your opinions. However, using three different SM57s in inevitably slightly different positions would be equally unscientific. It would be possible to use a three-way transformer splitter to drive three preamps from one mic. But then of course the effect of the splitter would blur the results.Indeed it is difficult to think of a truly scientific test that would rule out all variable factors. If anyone can suggest one, we would love to hear.Regarding the two mics used, the article clearly states that there are two sets of three tests, and that they are not comparable. They use different mics, and to try and compare across the sets of tests would be meaningless.And should we drop the article because someone has a different opinion? No, that would be very uncool indeed.

In response to Is it time for the $5 preamp to make a comeback?, Shawn Rafferty writes...

I'm not surprised about the low component count--as an instrument repairman, I see this all the time. Just imagine the profit margin companies have on boxes they've been selling for 20 years!

As for the $5.00 preamp, there's no reason a simple circuit can't sound good, most old style pres were fairly simple, but built to a high standard--just look in the Audio Cyclopedia.

In response to The cleanest drum tracks you ever heard, T.Channon writes...

Thanks for the great advice. I have been trying to record my drumming with a clearer sound for ages and as I am only 18 did not know about the Dolby A units. however I borrowed then off of a freind and he helped me record and clean up my drum recordings. They now sound much better thank you.

RP response: A result! Now all we need is a Dolby A plug-in...

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