Category Archives: How To

MXL's Guide To Remote Work

A Guide to Working Remote and Building a Mobile Workspace

It seems like a lifetime ago when we could simply pop by our colleague’s cubicle to ask a question or brainstorm an idea (or you were just looking to chat). With many employees working from home for the foreseeable future, it is crucial to take advantage of the many tools and products available to help improve your remote workflow.

When we first went into lockdown, you likely found yourself transforming a corner of your home into an office space and acquainting yourself with a host of new digital communication platforms. It may have felt like a shock to the system at first, trust me – we get it, and we hope that you have overcome some of the initial hurdles of transitioning to remote work. However, if you’re looking at your makeshift (or nonexistent) workstation and thinking there might be some room for improvement, then you’re in the right place. Let’s take a closer look at how to build the ultimate mobile office to help you thrive while we ride out the rest of this pandemic.

The Remote Worker’s Digital Toolkit

  1. Communication – Let’s start with the basics—how are we going to effectively communicate now that we are no longer in the same room? Don’t worry, speaking with colleagues is still an easily achievable task, it might just take an extra keyboard stroke or mouse click, or two. Conversations that used to take place in person, whether an office meeting or water cooler talk  are now taking place virtually using a range of platforms that include Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, and the list goes on. What used to be once-in-a-while tools are now a part of our everyday lives, and we’re okay with that.
  2. Collaboration – Now that your coworker is stationed 40 miles away from you, rather than 40 inches, you won’t be able to simply slide documents across their desk. However, digital services like Dropbox and Google Suite, allow you to seamlessly share your work with colleagues, but instead of moving from desk to desk, your work will move from screen to screen. Added bonus: you’ll save a tree or two.
  3. Task Management – From calendars to to-do lists, there are a ton of digital platforms available that will help you to stay organized while away from the workplace. Some of our favorites include Google Calendar, Trello and ToDoist. Also, to help you connect with clients or customers without double booking, it might be a good idea to download a scheduling platform. We prefer mobile apps including Square and Acuity Scheduling.

 

The Essential Gear


Now that you’re comfortable with all of your digital communication and collaboration platforms, let’s talk gear. Are you frustrated with blurry and echoey video chats? If so, we’re here to help. In addition to a desktop or laptop, there are just a few pieces of gear you’ll need to enhance your virtual communication while working remotely.  
 

  1. Cameras – We did not have much time to plan before going into lockdown, so we won’t blame you for having to resort to your laptop from 2010, which doesn’t have the best camera. But rest assured, there’s a way for you to be seen clearly without breaking the bank for a new computer—all you need is a new camera. Some of our favorite cameras that can be plugged into any computer by USB connection are the Marshall Electronics CV-610 and the Hudlly IQ.
  2. Lighting – In addition to a high-quality camera, lighting plays an important role in capturing clear video. While working remotely, no longer confined to an office with florescent lighting, you might be in too dark of a space to be seen clearly during a video conference. Lighting is an easy fix, especially with the Lume Cube Video Conference Lighting Kit. Compatible with both laptops and desktops, Lume Cube’s Panel Mini LED light provides soft and professional illumination with fully adjustable controls.
  3. Microphones – Now we can see you, but the audio isn’t great. At MXL, we understand how important it is to use something other than your computer’s built-in microphone if you want to be heard clearly. Our new AC-44 Conferencing Mic is the perfect solution for your mobile workstation kit. With a compact footprint, crystal clear speech intelligibility, and powered by a USB-C connection, the AC-44 offers a simple plug-and-play solution to enhancing your audio quality on a budget.

To learn more about the MXL AC-44 or for additional tips on how to improve your remote workstation, visit uc.mxlmics.com or feel free to contact us via our contact page or social media.

 

How to setup a home studio

How to setup a home recording studio with MXL – even during a quarantine

Once limited to individuals with excess funds and loads of space, recording and mixing music at home is more accessible today than ever. With a few essential pieces of gear and a couple of inches of desk space, you can create your home studio without breaking the bank.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, many individuals found themselves in a position where they had to record/mix tracks at home for the first time. If you didn’t already have a home studio set up, you might have attempted to record music with your phone or laptop microphone, and you may have been disappointed with the audio quality of your tracks. However, we’re fortunate to be living in a time where it’s possible to create a high-quality home recording studio on a budget.  

The Gear You’ll Need

Keep it simple – you only need a few essential pieces of equipment to create a fully functioning, project recording studio in the comfort of your own home:

It All Starts With the Microphone…  

If you want your vocals/instrumentals to sound like they were recorded in a professional studio, microphone selection is everything. This goes back to the phone/laptop recordings you might have attempted when we first went into lockdown – not great, right? If the vocals or instrumentals being captured don’t sound clear and natural at the source, you’re starting off on the wrong foot. The good news: MXL is here to help. With a range of high-quality, affordable, plug-and-play microphone solutions, MXL’s offerings will help you take your music, sound and creativity to the next level.

If You Need a Microphone

You’ve come to the right place. It’s hard to choose favorites, so we won’t, but some of our top-selling microphones for a wide range of recording applications include the MXL 770 and 990 Condenser Microphones. These are a great starting point when building your microphone collection. When choosing a microphone for your project studio or home workspace, it’s also important to keep versatility in mind. Choose a microphone that works well for a range of sounds, including vocals, instrumentals and more, to maximize your investment. Additionally, no matter which microphone you choose for your project studio, it’s also a good idea to invest in a pop filter and quality shockmount.

To get the essential gear you need in an all-in-one package, check out our microphone bundles, which offer recording flexibility and increased performance. With various options to choose from, including the MXL 770 and 990 complete bundles and the 770X multi-pattern condenser microphone package, these special offers provide the perfect combination of quality, flexibility, and value for any project recording studio. To provide our customers with all the essentials, each of these bundles comes with a shockmount, pop filter and 20 ft. balanced XLR cable.  

home studio with mxl 990

If You Already Have a Microphone

Already in love with your current mic, but can’t plug it into your computer? We have a solution – the MXL USB Mic Mate® Pro is a versatile and convenient microphone adapter that effectively converts your existing mic into a USB microphone, so you don’t have to buy a new mic to use at home. Simply plug it in and instantly start recording without having to install any special drivers.

Beyond the Microphone

After you have selected a microphone, you want to think about how you will get your sound into the computer. An audio interface takes your microphone or instrument analog signal and converts that audio to a digital signal. Some of our favorites include the Focusrite Scarlett, EVO Audio and Universal Audio (UA) Arrow.
Audient Evo Audio Interface
Once you have an interface selected, you’ll need a DAW to record into. There are many types of DAWs on the market – some are free (i.e. Garage Band and Audacity) and some are quite expensive. We suggest doing some research to find the one that best fits your recording needs. Some popular options include Pro Tools, Logic and Ableton.

Headphones or Speakers, or Both

Depending on your audio interface, you will have control of headphones and/or studio monitors. If you’re in a large space where noise is not an issue, a larger pair of studio monitors may be your best bet. If you’re in a small, shared apartment, you may have to stick to headphones only. Either way, there are a range of options on the market.

Some headphone we like:
Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro
AIAIAI
Sony MDR-7506

In terms of studio monitors, our favorites include:
KRK ROKIT G4
IK Multimedia iLoud
Barefoot Footprint02s


And don’t forget about cables! We are a bit biased, but we prefer Mogami. Learn more about them here.

Need help choosing the best MXL microphone solution for your specific home studio recording needs? Please visit www.mxlmics.com for additional information, or give us a shout at sales@mxlmics.com and one of our team members can help you with your audio needs.

MXL Microphones at Empire Sound Studio

Renowned Texas Recording Studio Utilizes MXL Microphones for World Class Recordings

Empire Sound Studio, located near Dallas, Texas, has recorded some of the biggest acts in music in nearly every musical genre — and one of their favorite mic brands to use in the studio is MXL. MXL Microphones got a chance to talk to Alex Gerst, engineer and founder of Empire Sound Studio, about how the studio got its start and why MXL Mics have remained mainstays in the mic locker throughout the years.

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Best Microphones for Instruments

Guitar Cabinet, Brass Instruments –

As you may know already, MXL manufactures lots of microphones. Why? Because each one has its own character, a little something that sounds just right to your ears. “Best” is a subjective term after all. Your favorite guitar microphone might be rich and vintage-sounding whereas someone else wants complete transparency. We’ve compiled our recommendations of the best mics for certain instruments based on customer feedback. Not just what we say is the best, but what we’ve heard from countless users over the years. It’s not definitive but certainly a good place to start if you’re in the market for a new instrument microphone.

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Broadcast Your Voice

 

A question our technical support gets all the time is, “What microphone is best for broadcasting and podcasting?” The answer is, any microphone can amplify a voice. That’s easy. But does it sound natural? Is your deep voice too muddy? Is the sound too bright? There are some subtle differences with broadcast mics that make speech sound clear and smooth, the way it should over the radio. You want to select a true broadcast microphone for your radio show or podcast, especially if you have one of those deep radio voices.

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Mic’ing a Piano

Recording a piano isn’t easy. The sound quality depends not just on the microphones, but on the condition of the piano and oftentimes the room where the piano is located. For the best results, keep your piano tuned and in good working order.  Proper maintenance will eliminate one big hurdle of recording a piano. The rest is just a matter of good mic placement.

The piano is generally recorded using close mic’ing technique. Ideally, you’ll want a minimum of two microphones. Usually, the microphone capturing the higher strings is assigned to the left channel and the microphone capturing the lower strings is assigned to the right channel in the final stereo mix, though the stereo spread generally is not hard left and right. While a single microphone can be used, the lower and upper extremities of the instrument will likely be compromised. To capture the full range of sound, pick up a pair of instrument microphones, such as the MXL CR21 Pair or the MXL 603 Pair.

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How To Mic a Guitar Amp

Guitar
When you hear a memorable guitar riff, you’re probably not thinking of how it was recorded…where the amp sat, was it on a carpeted floor, was the microphone two inches or ten inches away. But it’s these details that contribute to the sound you hear on the recording. So how do you capture the sound of an electric guitar?

First of all, you want to record the amp. While the electric guitar can certainly be recorded directly, there are times when there is simply no substitute for the sound of a real amplifier. Guitar amps have particular gain stages that facilitate the popular “crunch” guitar sound. While digital modeling and processing systems certainly have their place, they may not have the same level of realism as the sound from an amplifier. A small guitar amp can be just as effective for this application as a stack, because you don’t necessarily need to “crank” the volume. Instead, you want to increase the amp’s initial gain to achieve the desired amount of overdrive.

Typically, a guitar amp is close mic’ed to achieve the highest direct sound. Placing the microphone roughly 4 inches from the grill, aimed directly at the center of the loudspeaker will produce the most “edge” to your sound. If you move the mic further away, it takes the edge off the sound. It’ll be a bit mellower.

Now, if you’re going to put a microphone super close to an amp, it better be able to handle some high SPLs (sound pressure levels). It doesn’t necessarily have to be a dynamic mic – a condenser or two can do the job. A good instrument mic can perform well on a variety of instruments, including a guitar cabinet.

Distance from the source isn’t the only thing affecting the sound. By angling the microphone slightly off axis and towards the wall, you can add more “room sound.” Experimentation is a key factor in achieving the sound you are looking for. You might put one mic close to the cabinet and one several inches way. You’ll target the cabinet but you’ll also pick up the cabinet sound as it’s reflected in the room.Diagram of microphone placement

A ribbon mic might also give you the mix of guitar and room sound you’re looking for. The figure eight pattern picks up sound to the front and back of the mic without any creative placement. It’s what ribbon mics are made for.

Placement of the amp is another important factor. If the amplifier sits on a carpeted floor, you are more likely to reduce the amount of brightness in the sound. Similarly, elevating the amplifier off the floor may result in a loss of low-end. If you’re looking for a big reverberant tone, placing the amp and microphone in the bathroom is another popular technique. The hard tiles and other reflective surfaces can do wonders for a dull sound. In this case, move the microphone back a few feet from the loudspeaker and crank it up!

Recording audio is all about getting the sound you want. Garage band or singer/songwriter? Rock anthem or wedding ballad? “Enter the Sandman” or “Faithfully”? Determine your desired sound and then adjust your mic and amp placement until you get it. There’s no wrong answer!