Tag Archives: home recording

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 Greetings From California – Available Now!

MXL Microphones Pays Homage To Classic West Coast Styles

Greetings From California

The limited-edition Greetings From California Microphone Series Features Restyled Versions of MXL’s top-selling Condenser Microphones: the MXL 770, MXL 990 and MXL Tempo USB microphone.

For a limited time, alternate versions of the MXL 770 will be offered in Sky Blue and Vintage White, the MXL 990 in Coral and Surf Green, and the MXL Tempo, a USB-powered condenser microphone, in Surf Green.

“The new Greetings From California series microphones are a classic west coast take on MXL’s top-selling microphones,” states Trevor Fedele, Director of Sales at MXL Microphones. “We drew from California beach and surf culture to reimagine these microphones as if they accompanied musicians and artists on a trek down the historic Highway 1.”

MXL Tempo Surf Lifestyle Image 1

The new Greetings From California microphone series will debut in the MXL booth at the upcoming NAMM 2020 Show at the Anaheim Convention Center, Jan. 16-19, exhibiting at Booth #14302.

Contact your local MXL Dealer for more info.  Dealer Locator

Three Types of Mics You Need To Know

Microphones, whether you know it or not, are essentially transducers, meaning they convert one form of energy into another. Microphones take acoustical energy and convert it into electrical, but the way this process happens changes depending on which type of microphone you’re using. Here’s a closer look at the three main kinds of microphones, and how they convert live sound into electrical signals:

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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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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!

Become a Recording Star without Leaving Home, Part 3: Adding Video To Your Repertoire

Above, the first music video  on MTV is now available on Youtube. 

There are two media outlets that have changed the way we share and consume our music. First it was MTV. Launched on August 1, 1981 with the song Video Killed the Radio Star, MTV revolutionized the music industry by bringing music videos into our homes 24/7. This created a big demand for content. Bands everywhere went into production of their music videos.

But, the bands still had to have funding to produce their videos and professional representation to get their videos played. In that sense MTV was the same as radio, but with pictures. Not everyone could use it.

The next influential outlet is YouTube. Developed by former employees of PayPal, YouTube launched in February 2005. It allowed anyone with a video and computer to upload their video. Amazing! There was no barrier to sharing your music video with the world…almost.

There was still that pesky task of producing a video.

Enter The Digital Age

As computers became more powerful, video editing software started to come of age. Now, anyone could learn to edit a video on their home computer. Digital cameras and DSLRs became less expensive and easier to use. It was the perfect storm of cost reduction and technology advancement. Shoot a video, edit on your computer, and load it up to YouTube.

The addition of a high definition video camera to your iPhone put a professional camera in everyone’s pocket or purse. With advanced video apps, the transition from professional equipment to affordable consumer products was complete.

Apps, Apps, & More Apps

With the sophistication of iOS apps these days, a lot of your production can be done right on your device. You don’t even have to use your computer. Everything is on your phone.

1. RecoLive Multicam is a superb app that takes four iOS devices and tethers them on a wireless network. The audio track is recorded by the main device. That same device can do live, four-camera production in real time. Then save your video in HD and share it.

2. Want instant streaming? Switcher Studio also does four camera production and streams live to YouTube. This is great if you want to broadcast a live performance.

3. Another handy app is Videolicious. It takes photos and video from your camera roll and creates a slide show. Imagine shooting a series of photos and videos and adding voiceover audio afterwards. Then you upload that video to YouTube.

4. If you are using your iOS device, I recommend Filmic Pro as your production app. It has many professional camera features, such as variable frame rate, variable recording resolutions, and live audio monitoring. It is the live audio monitoring that I like the most about this app. With it, you can monitor the audio as it is being recorded to confirm an adequate audio program. It works great with our Mobile Media mics, which each have a headphone jack on the cable.

There are many more apps to choose from. These are just a few suggestions.
There are so many low cost options, where does an aspiring videomaker begin? First, determine how you want to present your music, and then look for the equipment or apps that will accomplish your vision.

Video didn’t kill the radio star, after all. Video makes the radio star!

Become a Recording Star without Leaving Home, Part 2

MXL CR89 Microphone

I discovered a new music group that I enjoy very much.  The name is Postmodern Jukebox, lead by a brilliant piano player and arranger, Scott Brandlee.  He has hit YouTube pretty hard.  I’m not sure how long it would have taken him to become known without it, but the visibility certainly helped.

I really like his unique treatments of current songs.  But, it’s the simplicity of his recordings that really make an important point.  Today, all a group or artist needs is a basic audio recording system and a camera to get discovered.  When I think about studio recording, the picture that comes to mind is of John Lennon standing with his young son Sean, pontificating over an extremely complicated looking mixing board.  It doesn’t have to be that way to get a good sound today.

This article is intended to be a broad stroke guideline to setting up a home audio and video studio and not a detailed How-To.  There are a lot of articles that go into product related details.  I want to give you some general characteristics to get you started.

If there is one takeaway I want you to get from this, it is that all music distribution will eventually end up on YouTube and that’s where your music should be if you want to get discovered.

From Forbes.com: Youtube “is the leading online platform for music discovery, as well as the preferred music service for those 18 and younger. In fact, 38.4% of all its video views come from music, and 10 of YouTube’s top 20 channels are dedicated to music, according to the YouTube analytics firm Tubular.”

YouTube and the like have changed the way we consume entertainment in a profound way.  When producing music, a plan to add video is a must.  There are a number of ways an audio track can be produced these days.  There are two basic ways to get a record:  you either record in a studio or in a live setting. This blog post is about setting up a studio.

In the past, the only way to get a good audio recording was to rent a music studio.  In the extreme cases of A+ talent with plenty of financial backing, that is still the way things are done.  They use top notch, state-of-the-art equipment.  Now though, more and more start ups are going to scaled-down recording studios or even setting them up in their homes.

What does an aspiring artist need to set up a home recording studio?

The Brains of the Outfit

The centerpiece of a home recording studio is the computer, and the software program.  Whether Mac or PC, there are excellent recording programs.  Apple computers come with GarageBand built in.  It’s free, already on the computer, and adequate for basic recording.  PC users have to buy a recording program separately as each PC manufacturer has its own suite of software built in. Whatever you buy, I suggest you consult with an experienced home recording user to get advice on the kind of computer and software that will suit your needs, based on your level of proficiency.  One thing is for sure: if you are just getting started, you will upgrade as you gain experience.

Microphone

Interestingly enough, the microphone is where most musicians and recording engineers consider the most creative aspect of the recording process.  It is where everything starts and will change the tone of the recording.  The recording can be as simple as a single mic or an entire array of them wired into a mixer.

On the simple side, one USB mic plugged directly into a computer is adequate for a track-by-track recording.  The next step up is to use a traditional studio condenser mic with a digital interface.  The quality of sound is generally better than a USB mic.  It also opens you up to various mics, each with its own sound characteristics.

Analog-To-Digital Interface

This is the plug-in device that turns analog signals into digital signals.  An artist plugs their microphones and instruments into the interface in order to record directly into a computer.  Interfaces come in all price points and can have one input, or multiples.  The multiples have mixing capabilities but differ from a full mixing board.  An interface can have both mic and line level inputs.  An interface is still considered a device for more informal home recording.

Mixing Board

Once you get to a more proficient level, you may want a full mixing board, like the ones you see in a recording studio.  This gives you the ability to adjust the sound characteristics of each input before it gets recorded.  The mix is recorded onto some sort of recording media and later turned into a digital signal after the mix is completed.  Some artists prefer to create a “live” studio recording, having all instruments and mics plugged in at one time and then they go back later to tweak the mix.

Cables

The weakest link in any system is the cable.  Whenever there is a problem in a system, the first things I check are all of the cables and connections.  Most of the time that’s where the problem lies.  I also find that cable is where most novice users cut corners.  I can see why someone would think that all cables are alike…they look alike.  But to the experienced recording engineer, the cable makes all the difference in the world.

You don’t necessarily need the most expensive cable, but the difference in cost between a really good one and a not-so-good one is usually not that much.  Of course, we recommend Mogami for a number of reasons.  Try buying two or three different kinds and compare the sounds.  Another thing to pay attention to is the way a cable rolls and unrolls.  This is important if you are moving it a lot.  The lower quality cables will tend to kink up when they are packed up often.  It’s that kink that affects the performance.

Monitors

A studio monitor is what will play the recording back.  This will affect your perception of the recording.  No speaker is perfect; each one adds its own sound.  That is the physics behind speakers. There is no avoiding it.  There are speakers that will scope out to be perfectly flat.  That doesn’t mean that they all sound alike.  Listen to a number of speakers before choosing one.  Remember that everything in the chain will affect the sound.  So try and use the same electronics and cables so you are truly comparing just speakers and not full systems.  Find the one you like the most, as the sound you are mixing is your vision of the music.  There is no such thing as a perfect mix.  Perfect is the sound you like the most.

Environment

A real studio recording is one in which the room is as “dead” as possible.  Sound absorbing tiles will do just that, absorb the sounds, which means that the only sound the mic will pick up is the primary sound.  As a test clap your hands.  A hand clap will have no echo in a dead room. 

A dead room has almost always been the goal of a studio recording.  The opposite of that is a “live” recording, where room echo is a part of the sound.  It seems that today, the trend is away from a dead room.  There are numerous TV shows that are recorded in a live environment.  Again, the sound is your interpretation.  If you like the sound of a live room, that’s what you should have.

On the other hand, you definitely want to keep unwanted sounds out of the recording.  A song with dogs barking and lawnmowers running in the background is not acceptable.  Find the quite environment, and decide how much of the room acoustics you want.  Items such as sound tiles and reflection filters are items you may want to use.

These are a few suggestions for your audio recording.  In the next installment, I will discuss adding video to your creation.  It’s the video that will help get the song discovered on Youtube.


sable_guitarMany thanks to Sable Cantus for his contributions to this article. Sable is a higher education instructor of Digital Arts at Goldenwest College in Huntington Beach, where he teaches digital music recording.  He is also an accomplished musician, performer, music teacher, and arranger.  

Become a Recording Star Without Leaving Home

MXL Tempo USB microphone
Your home recording studio could be as simple as a MXL Tempo WR USB Microphone plugged into a laptop.
This is the first in a series of posts about creating and sharing music yourself.

It’s been 5 years since I joined MXL.  I came from the consumer electronics industry, where I spent most of my career in video.  I have been an amateur performer all of my life, participating in school plays, standup comedy, and as a musician.  I am no stranger to the microphone.  But working with MXL has really opened my eyes to all the different ways microphones are used.

I looked at all of the web sites that sell our mics and read the user reviews.  It didn’t take long to find out that people were using these microphones in their home studios.  I had thought that studio condenser mics were used in, well, recording studios.  But the majority of them aren’t.  They are being used in people’s homes.  I found out that the growth of home recording was exploding.  It was because of the growth of personal computers and programs like Garage Band and Mixcraft, and digital interfaces like Steinberg.  I knew people recorded music at home, I just didn’t know it was that many people.  That discovery raised another question in my mind.

How Are They Sharing Their Music?

The answer to that question is what changed my outlook on our products, and on my approach to everything I do creatively.  The answer is YouTube.  That technology…those two words, put together, has changed the face of entertainment and communications in a profound manner.

“YouTube  is the primary music platform  for  the 18-34-year-old crowd, the demo YouTube-parent Google  calls “Generation C”  who discover content online, via computer, smartphone and tablet.” – Forbes

With the advent of YouTube, anyone can share their music.  It was one thing to be able to record music yourself, in your home. Before the PC, a musician had to record in a studio.  It was expensive and reserved for the serious musician with financial backing.  And before Social media, in order to share it, artists needed to have a label to distribute their CDs.  Now, with the PC and a mic, anyone can record at home and distribute it to millions!

If a song is played in the woods, and there is no one there to hear it, is it still a song?

With YouTube and other social media, the artist can put their work out for the world to discover.  The other side of recording is listening.  What was once a complicated process – recording a song, finding a label, and then getting playtime – is now as easy as using a computer.

The Keyboard and The Keyboard

It’s ironic that the same word describes both an instrument used to make music and the object we use to control our computer when we create and share that music. There’s less and less distinction between the two. And MXL is in the forefront of this movement.

Our mission is to design and build quality mics at affordable prices, so that everyone who wants to record their art is able to do so.   From the most popular selling 990/991 vocal and instrument recording kit, to the stunning red and gold tube mic, the Genesis, MXL offers a wide range of value priced mics.  Each mic has its own unique sound and look.

From the novice to the most experienced recording artist, more and more recording is happening outside of the traditional recording studio.  For some, the creative process is enhanced by their surroundings.  I like to watch “Live From Daryl’s House,” a show on Palladia, which takes place at Daryl Hall’s (well known from his days with Hall and Oats) home.  He invites guest artists into his home to record music.  I also saw a documentary on Jeff Lynne (formerly of Electric Light Orchestra).  He has a recording studio set up in every room in his house.  Each room delivers its own unique sound.

That is what so many artists are doing these days.  Music creation comes from the soul.  The environment we record in can have a profound effect on the creative process.  Add to that the opportunity to share that work via You Tube, and you can now see why home recording is so popular.

We at MXL and Marshall are proud to be a part of that system which allows anyone with a song in their head the ability to transfer it to a recording.  In addition to our mics, we have cables (both Sound Runner and Mogami), and now video products to assist in the production and distribution of their art.  MXL offers an end-to-end solution for musicians everywhere.

I have come a long way in my understanding of the music recording process in the five years since I joined MXL.  It has helped me to lead the product design team and manufacture products that musicians need for today’s recording process.  MXL has also come a long way.  As we add new products, both audio and video, to our suite of products, we have become a unique brand in the industry.  Musicians can look to MXL and Marshall to give them a one brand, end-to-end solution.

Let us help you share your art with the world.