Audio

make some noise

The importance of audio quality is easily overlooked. Most people who watch content on their phones don’t take audio fidelity into consideration, but when producing quality content it becomes crucial. Capturing good audio can be tricky, but there are a few simple methods that can make big improvements.

Most phones, tablets, and laptops have cameras and microphones that can perform surprisingly well, especially for recording a single voice and acoustic instrument.  These devices have been designed to capture and reproduce the human voice intelligibly and with ease. Where they have difficulty is when expanding to louder sound sources or increased distance between the performer and the device, or when trying to achieve detailed sound or pleasant soundscapes.

Audio Interfaces

An audio interface is external hardware that allows for connecting and converting sound from a microphone or a device to digital audio for editing and manipulating. Choosing the right interface depends on a few variables.

USB Microphones

The simplest kind of audio interface is one that is integrated within a microphone. This allows for direct connection of the microphone via USB to a computer.

Digital Mixing Consules

Digital mixers might have a higher price point, but they can provide a lot of functionality and streamlined work flow, especially for more complex projects.

  • How many inputs are needed?
  • How will the performer listen to themselves as they record?
  • What computer system or platform is being used?
  • Will the performance be recorded and edited before posting?
  • What is the budget?

 

Here are a couple plug and play USB microphone options that will offer excellent sound quality and give more flexibly.

Blue Snowball

Rode NT-USB

M-Audio Uber Mic

 

Small to mid-size mixers give the user more control at their fingertips. By allowing for more inputs and outputs, they provide more options for monitoring what is being performed and recorded. Such equipment can be expensive, but should ultimately be seen as an investment in future projects.

QSC TouchMix

Zoom LiveTrak L-8

Behringer X32 Producer

Keeping it simple can really go a long way. The engineers for Tiny Desk Concerts do a lot of complicated things with a set of very simple tools.

Mics & Audio Software

 

A couple of microphones placed thoughtfully will capture the sound evenly and give more control of recording.  If the performer is singing and playing the guitar, a mic placed between their face and the instrument can go a long way. This video is a demonstration of what can be accomplished by paying extra attention to where mics are placed. This technique can be used with a simple USB microphone.

 

Using a combination of mics can give much more control and detail when recording multiple sound sources, but this may also incur the need for an audio interface. Mic placement is an art form. The best way to get a feel for how to place microphones and how it affects the sound is by putting on a pair of headphones and experimenting.

Check out the blog for a list of affordable audio interfaces.

When trying to record a group using a limited selection of mics or hardware, utilizing a stereo pair of mics can make for a natural sound.  The key to this is make sure that whatever is being captured is balanced and sounds good in the room first.  If the performers can hear themselves comfortably and sing without straining their voices, things are on the right track. The inclusion of percussion can make this method more difficult, but not impossible.

Here are some stereo micing concepts to look at:

Audio Software (DAWs):

There are numerous options for software to control, mix, and edit audio content.  All will take time to learn, but some are more streamlined than others.  Logic Pro is pretty intuitive, especially to anyone who has used Garage Band, and is utilized in many professional studios.  Reaper is a shareware DAW, making it a great learning platform.  And no matter what software is in use, YouTube is an incredible resource for tutorials and how-to answers.

Hi-res Audio collaboration

 

For anyone either looking for or offering assistance in producing content remotely, the Audiomovers app is an awesome solution.  It allows users to work with audio in real time at full quality over the web. There is a significant latency, making recording difficult, but it is great for remote editing and mixing.

Using this in conjunction with applications such as Skype or Zoom will allow the engineer to interact with the client separately of the DAW, and remote session management is also possible through the “remote desktop access” feature in these programs.