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For the Cheap Son of a Bitch/just don't have the cash (like me)

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  • For the Cheap Son of a Bitch/just don't have the cash (like me)

    I’ve always believed that people who come to these sites have very little money to accomplish their film making goals. That other popular site has a handful of “professionals” who believe the only way to get a goal accomplished is by doing things the proper way, the Hollywood way. The way which warrants a lot of cash. So, I was constantly at odds with these assholes.

    Someone asked about getting a good acoustic guitar sound (why music on a film making site, I don’t remember). So, of course the resident soundman brought up the most expensive equipment known to man. The Sennheiser mic is $1500 by itself. Which lets face it, if the person had $1500 to spend on a mic, he wouldn’t be at any site asking any question. He’d know exactly what he wanted and would get it.

    At the time I was seeking advice on mics and pre-amps myself. I had always recorded at Don Casale Studio located in Westbury LI. Don recorded many famous names back in the 60s and 70s. The biggest record he engineered was Iron Butterfly's In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. So, I asked Don if he knew of any good inexpensive items I could buy. He told me about the -

    TUBE MP by ART for $50 (even less now) and a KARMA Icon Mic for $65. He told me for what I wanted to do I could get a great professional sound without spending thousands.

    So, I not only posted these items, I copied the detailed instructions Don gave me on micing the guitar and using the settings on the pre-amp. $120 and you can have a great sounding acoustic guitar (also really good on warm vocals).

    Of course I was ripped by all the professionals at that other site" If you want any kind of professionalism you have to use this, you can’t use that crap". Yeah, you can. If you know what you’re doing, and you’re halfway decent, no one will know you didn’t spend thousands on mics and pre-amps, because they’ll be enjoying your music.

    You don’t need to spend thousands (especially if you don’t have it to spend)

    Tube MP
    Karma Mic (Icon dynamic)

    Great sound for pennies.

  • #2
    I’ve always believed in getting the most out of the tools you can own. As you said, if you know what you are doing and are willing to work hard at it, older or inexpensive tools can achieve great results. And nobody asks a carpenter what hammer he used to build a house, right? The client doesn’t care about software, mics or pre-amps.

    Oh – I own two TUBE MP’s. I am lucky enough to use a $1000 Neumann microphone these days, but before that I got decent results with a $100 Rode.

    BTW- an inexpensive compressor to compliment your TUBE MP and KAEMA Mic is the RNC 1773 made by FMR audio.


    • #3
      Thanks for the info. I'll check it out.

      Don was a wizard on analog. His 24 track board came from Nashville, Elvis recorded on it. We'd mix and keep separate parts from takes, he'd move the 1/4" master tape back and forth and slice on the beat. He never failed once, and we spliced a lot. A fantastic engineer he was (is).

      I have a friend who went into Sam Ash and using just the Korg M1 came out with a cassette of an Enigma hit. He sequenced and recorded it in less than an hour. If you played them side by side you couldn't tell the difference.

      Yeah, I can't do any of that. But, I can write decent music and lyrics. My trouble has always been, I never found the perfect singer.


      • #4
        When you have access to a guy like that you are golden. If he says you can get great sound "this way" you can take that to the bank.

        I have a Sennheiser MK4. New they are typically $300 but you can get them on ebay cheaper, and even get used ones for less than $200. I got mine for $135. It is used by a lot of pro voice over people with huge national accounts, and that is good enough for me. I haven't been able to do anything with it yet but I tried it out by plugging it into my Zoom H4n and it sounded incredible. New the H4n was $250-$300 but you can pick them up cheaper now since they are "old" as far as electronics go.

        I've bought a lot of used equipment that saved me hundreds. My first shotgun mic was an Azden SGM-1X. New $180. I got one at a flea market for $50. I bought another online for $60 and an SGM-2X for $55. Buy used, save lots of cash.

        I have a slightly bigger budget than you so I am able to pay more, but I still look to maximize my dollars. That leaves me more money for video equipment.



        • #5
          I'm going through an old HD and I found these detailed instructions on how to use the pre-amp and record. It might help some.

          Don's Instructions -

          The principle is the same, so the settings are the same ('cept for the phantom power, of course).

          In recording any sound source, you want to input the mic pre with as much signal (volume) as possible before overload. This is because you then have to output the pre less, yielding less noise. It's a "signal-to-noise" issue. The more in, the less out necessary. Remember this principle always.

          All electronic audio devices generate noise (no matter how little). [at]So the less output you need to use, the less noise you'll have.

          More input = less output needed = less noise = cleaner signal.

          Turn a guitar amp's output volume up and you get hiss and maybe some hum. The more you turn it up, the more hiss and hum you get. You already know this. But if the guitar is feeding into the amp at a high volume (volume knob on guitar up high), the amp (both its input and output) can be set lower, and therefor less hiss and hum. This gives you a high "signal-to-noise" ratio; a clean sound. If you want some guitar distortion and noise, lessen the "signal-to-noise" ratio by overloading the amp's input and setting the output where you want it.

          Source distortion overload comes from too much INPUT, not output. (you can also overload your mixing board or recording device, of course, but I'm talking about SOURCE DISTORTION before the mixing board or recording device stage).

          With mic pres, you can do the same thing, 'tho it's rarely desirable. That is, if you raise the input you'll get an edgy (distorted) sound at the output, no matter where the pre's output volume is set. In this scenario, the distortion and noise is happening at the input (because you're feeding it a lot of signal; more than the pre's input likes to see), so the distortion and noise appears at the output stage. The pre's output knob simply lets you select how much of the distortion and noise you want to use. Do you see that?

          Now, to the TUBE MP's settings procedure:

          1.There is no on/off button, so insert the 9volt connector into the pre, but do not plug the wall wart into the wall yet.

          2.Turn the INPUT knob fully counter-clockwise.

          3.Keep the +20 db GAIN switch up.

          4.Keep the P-POWER 48V switch up.

          5.Keep the PHASE REVERSE switch up.

          6.Turn the OUTPUT knob fully counter-clockwise.

          7.Insert your output wire (XLR or 1/4") from the pre to your mixing board or recording device.

          8.Insert the mic or instrument into the input jack (only one input; don't use mic and instrument together).

          9.Plug the wall wart in. The pre is now on. (I like to warm the tube for a half hour before use, but it's not necessary).

          10.For a condenser mic, press down on the P-PWR 48V switch; phantom power is now on. Dynamic/non-condeser mics don't need phantom power, so keep the P-POWER 48V switch up for those mics.

          11.With your sound source sounding at the volume you want (for example, the singer singing at the volume s/he will be singing at for the recording), slowly rotate the INPUT knob clockwise until the POWER/CLIP light indicator starts to register in green (not red). The peak volumes should keep[at]the light blinking a lot, but never go into the red, even 'tho an occasional red light will be ok. A rehearsal of the song will usually show you where your level peaks are, so set the INPUT knob for the loudest peak.

          12.At this point, your mic pre is operating at maximum efficiency. That is, the signal-to-noise ratio is optimal and the mic pre is getting just the right amount of signal (it's not distorting the pre's input stage).

          Now, what to do with that optimal signal.

          13.Turn the OUTPUT knob clockwise until your input device (mixing board, recorder, or whatever) is getting the correct amount of signal, using its level indicators as you normally do.

          14.For an instrument input (1/4" input, not XLR input), keep the P-PWR 48V switch up. [at]You don't need phantom power for this. Use the same procedure as above.

          15.You should need the +20 db GAIN switch only for ribbon mics, which have low output. If you find yourself needing the +20 db GAIN switch because you can't seem to get enough output from your sound source, something is probably wrong. Sing louder or closer or raise the output volume of the source instrument. Using the +20 db GAIN switch on anything but a ribbon mic will probably hurt your signal-to-noise ratio. I've never had to use it.

          16.Generally, you won't have to use the PHASE REVERSE switch. This flips the polarity of the signal, a subject for another time, I think.

          17.Always use the mic pre in an open space, where there is air to keep the tube relatively cool.


          • #6
            I agree with you whole-heartedly here. In any sort of technical discussion - film making, recording, composing, editing, heck, even gaming - you always have those guys who are too willing to tell you to "pick up" a *insert-high-end-product-here* to complete whatever task you've set as your goal.

            While it's true, a $1,500 mic is going to be an incredible tool to use, I would venture to say that frequently, maybe even most of the time, the person saying to use have 1) never used one 2) never will use one 3) somehow thinks that people will be impressed if they can act like they have that kind of money and 4) these people are essentially just bullies, lying to their peers to make them feel that their equipment is inadequate, and to make them feel they should just give up now.

            I am a composer and when I was young, I would score a piece, and then all I had was a 61 key Yamaha keyboard to produce the music on. I could record 5 tracks to a song on it, so I would layer in these small arrangements of the orchestral scores that I had written, never more than five instruments deep. Of course I wasn't producing a John Howell or James Horner symphonic suite on this thing, but it got the job done until sometime in highschool when I stumbled across a MIDI DAW for like $120, which got me through the next couple years until I could upgrade again.

            My point is this, the difference between a $50 and $1500 microphone is not as big as the difference between no microphone and a $50 microphone. People who are snobby about materials they use are just compensating. The fact remains you could use a $50,000 microphone, and in the wrong hands it's still useless.

            Thanks for the post, it's refreshing to see someone vocalizing a facet of online discussion that really ticks me off, even though I don't think I realized it until just now.
            Sincerely, Mark -


            • #7
              Mark, that just reminded me....

              A friend of mine shot a feature film that is in global distribution, and he was also given a budget to shoot 2 sequels for distribution.

              For recording dialogue and room tone on set he used a Zoom H4n, just like the one I have, but only used the built in mics. No shotgun mic. This thing cost $250 - $299 new. It provided his mics and digital recording. Also, his film was edited in Final Cut Pro X.

              That just goes to show how successful one can be with the "good" lower level equipment that we use.



              • #8
                Breath of fresh air to read this thread! Think it hits the spot with most people, if only to remind them how things were when they started. Don't you think Steven Spielberg could produce a winner even with cheap gear? Some of the youtube clips with huge hits are actually poorly shot or done with low quality gear but that doesn't stop it being viewed by huge numbers so isn't it as much as anything the content that counts?
                Also we would all do well to remember there is huge pressure to ignore any skill requirements and spend a fortune on gear. I was shocked to find that a lot of film festivals are now only accepting film shot at (was it 2 or 4k?). No doubt that will move up again when the latest new big deal comes in.