As my band prepares to record final overdubs for our second album, we’ve basically spent all the money. We wanted to do this record right, so we’ve used professional studios and a pro mix engineer – all of which is great but not sustainable for a band made up of two working parents who have neither the time, inclination or record contract to give it all up and hit the road!
So once the album is done, we’re going back to DIY. (Our first album was entirely DIY – recorded in whatever space we could scrounge, with budget mics and a laptop. I mixed and mastered it myself long before I’d actually learned anything about how those things are done, and while the record definitely sounds good for a DIY beginner, I’ve learned tons since.)
So, if you record at all, what kit and techniques do you like?
Job 1 is obviously getting decent mics. Now, as much as I’d like a vintage Neumann, you’re talking £10k – and even a modern reissue U87 is going to run you £2k. I do have a Neumann LDC, but it’s a TLM102 (I’ve experimented with more expensive Neumann’s but the 102 has a pleasing weight in the midrange and much less of the harsh top that the 103 seems to have). So that’s what I use on vocals, although I’m perfectly happy to use my trusty SM58 too – sometimes a dynamic mic gives you a woody warmth and directness that a condenser can’t match.
On acoustic guitars, I’ve been astonished at the quality of the Oktava MK-012s. I have a matched pair – unmodded – with the cardioid and omni caps. They’re detailed and intimate and capture the top end while maintaining a pleasingly flat response right across the range. (They also work incredibly well as room mics when fitted with the omnis, and if we used live drums I’d use them as overheads in a heartbeat). For acoustic guitar, I use an XY positioning about 6-7 inches off the 12th fret, both mics using the cardioid caps. It takes a bit of fiddling around to get the right position, but it’s super reliable as a method and you don’t get phase cancellation issues the way you sometimes do by combining a large condenser and a small one at different places.
Then there’s mic preamps and interfaces. I have a Universal Audio Apollo Twin, which is absolutely incredible – a real step up from the firewire Apogee Duet I had previously. Its pres and converters are incredibly detailed and transparent, and it has a great high-impedance DI for guitar and bass. The other major plus to UAD gear is the access to their incredible plugins, which run on the box itself. So I use their Neve channel strips and a fab compressor at the tracking stage. The vast, vast majority of what I record is DI, so this works brilliantly for me.
My own studio is basically crap in terms of how it performs as a space, because it’s tiny. However, I have deadened it quite well – high density bass traps in the corners, heavy homemade rockwool absorbers on the back wall, foam panels at the main reflection points – and it works fine for recording vocals. I need a bit more space for acoustic guitar etc, though, so will still use the tracking room of our rehearsal studio for that stuff.
Because it’s so tiny, there’s no point in having big monitors. I have KRK Rokit RP5s, which are a perfect compromise of accuracy, price and bass (the latter being enough to give me a good image but not so much that the bass traps can’t cope with it).
So what’s yer space like? What tips and tricks and workarounds do you use? Let’s have yer!