Adventures In Audio with Audio Masterclass
Readers' Letters: A soft vocal booth - it's the next big thing in recording!

Readers’ Letters: How can I get a good recording in my church, without hum, buzz and noise?, and more…


In response to How can I get a good recording in my church, without hum, buzz and noise?, Eloi Chiasson writes…

I'd like to add that electricity systems in older churches often tend to create buzz into recording. I experimented this in that church where I had to turn a couple of specific light switches off in order to completely get rid of a ridiculous 60 Hertz cycle buzz.

In response to MP3 or Studio Master – can you tell the difference? With AUDIO!, Christopher Woods writes…

I did the double blind test very quickly (in a less than ideal environment, with some cheap monitors) – I had to strain to hear a difference between the MP3 and 16bit copies, and the 24bit copy sounded no different (but I was just doing a quick drag & drop playback in foobar).

However, the audio test samples aren't really representative of the overall quality increase you get with 16- and 24-bit audio – it's when you have the big dynamic range, the really complex frequencies (groups of strings intertwined with the reeds or brass) that the higher bitdepth audio really comes into its own.

I would expect a 320kbps MP3 of a short test clip to perform quite adequately given the kind of audio that Linn have used as their 'test' audio. It's hardly representative, they should've offered an entire passage containing a far better dynamic range and mixture of instruments for comparison.

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That said, my hearing's still mashed up from being hit in the side of the head last week, and I didn't even get out my HD650s to do any kind of intensive listening, so my test method wasn't anything approaching scientific other than a quick ABX.

So yes, just my 2p!



In response to Can you use studio mics for live sound?, Sean Vincent writes…

I work as a live engineer and have done professionally for many years. We use 'studio' condenser mics all the time on stage. I use AKG C414's for drum overheads, C451 on the Hi-Hat…quite often a U87 or similar on a guitar amp. I've also been known to use a condenser on the vocal from time to time. The problems you describe are caused by lack of headroom, not the mics. This is nearly always down to poor speaker placement. Usually in small venues this can't be helped and you just have to live with it, but in bigger venues we aim to have the main speaker hangs in front of the stage's front line and make sure the stage isn't anywhere in the capture area of the PA system.

You'll find that studio mics are used plenty on tours and festivals… there's not a separate list of mics for gigs really…apart from vocals which more often than not use the trusty 58. I started out as a studio engineer and the mics i liked to use in the studio, i still use on stage.

Any howls or squeeks on stage are usually down to the monitor engineer….now that really is a hard job.

In response to 'Groove' – is it all-important, or does the band just have to play the way they feel?, Jimmy Lange writes…

You're absolutely right ! The groove is everything, from funky stuff to country, but certainly some music requires we musicians to ' NAIL IT ' more than others. Ever notice how reggae music played by Jamaicans has that indescribable quality to it, even though the chord changes and song forms can be quite simple ?…it's that incredible GROOVE that makes it rock our souls. If you ever get a chance to attend a recording session in Jamaica you won't even believe how intuitive the players are, even though some might argue that they perhaps do not have very much ( or any ? ) formal musical education….it is ASTOUNDING to watch them work their magic ! It's a groove thang man, plain and simple !

In response to What is the ONE thing you MOST need to know to make great recordings?, writes…

The secret that all great producers know to making good recordings is to take care of the music first. If you don't have a great song and a good arrangement performed by good players, no designer gear, microphone or, plug-in is going to make the recording a success. Start by fixing the music before you turn on the recorder.

When you do start recording, don't look for the perfect sound, look for an overall sound that fits the song and genre. If you listen to some of the albums that won Grammys for engineering and production you'll find that many of them aren't technically perfect, but they are musical masterpieces. As a matter of fact, many of the albums we as musicians consider “holy grails” of recording were made on equipment which produced lower overall audio quality than most current DAWs. Most of the Album of The Year awards go to those recordings which are musically significant and not a testament to recording technology or engineering. Don't put all your efforts into the technical side or you'll lose site of what's important – the music.

Making a recording is about capturing a piece of music which creates an emotion or connection with the listener. Making sure your songs and arrangements are good and using accomplished musicians to record the tracks puts you more than halfway to having a great album.

In response to – can they really get you signed?, Pete LeRoy writes…

I signed with Taxi about six years ago as a songwriter looking for cuts, and soon realised that what Taxi wanted were generic songs — generic pop, country etc. Their attitude as far as the music they forwarded was, don't rock the boat, give them what's in the charts…what they've heard before and hope will work again. So if you're a songwriter that's slightly edgey, slightly individual, slightly ahead of where the charts are now…don't bother with Taxi. They're great for finding clones, but not for spotting new trends. Oh yes, in my letter to them saying I wasn't renewing, I mentioned if anyone wanted to find the best new unheard music, a good place to start looking might be the dumpster behind the TAXI premises.

In response to George Martin *was* the Beatles, Billy Rhythm writes…

This is hogwash. George Martin contributed greatly to the sound and arrangements and probably should be regarded with more credit, but he didn't write those songs, Lennon and McCartney did. Martin himself says that Lennon and McCartney were the main creators, with George and Ringo along with himself being secondary. If Martin could write songs as well as John and Paul, why didn't he do so for any of the other acts he produced?

In response to The shocking truth about working in pro recording studios, Carl Williams writes…

On the treatment of the newcomer, well, as you say, the “pros” set rules – this is in part “gatekeeping”, happens in all professions.

However, actual talent usually side-steps this kind of thing. My limited experience from the analogous world of film production is that the newcomer's impression of an attempt to be helpful, and that of the “seasoned pro” can vary widely for the same event. If the chap described here had merely made one perhaps misguided offer of “help” with his laptop full of downloaded home recording effects, I can't see most people reacting quite so extremely as to tell him not to turn up again. However, if he's been sounding off in that tiresome way the young, clueless but enthusiastic have, and generally lacks the social skills to notice the raised eyes and glazed looks which his “expert” offerings elicit, then it's likely that two somewhat differing opinions of the value of his contribution might arise, i.e. his and everyone else's. Also, some folk just plain don't get along, and a recording studio's a small space – there's an inherent tension in having one's domain invaded by outsiders at best. I think, rather than take it too personally, the chap should incorporate whatever he's learned into his own repertoire and focus on developing his sound production skills, rather than bad feeling – no-one gets along with everyone.

In response to Classic Synthesizer: The Minimoog – VCO, VCF and VCA, Dave Bowling writes…

Just read your article on the MiniMoog. Neat synth.

I purchased mine in 1973 after attending a “Yes” concert. No user manual. No internet. Yipee.

In 1987 I purchased a new Oscillator card. Putting my degree in electronics to work, I carefully installed the new card, did all the calibrations, scaling and so on.

On the last page of the 30 or so instruction booklet, I read the following: “Now that you have installed and calibrated your new Oscillators, you will notice that your MiniMoog is lacking the rich “Fat” sound you're used to. This is due to the improvement in accuracy of the new Oscillators. Their lack of “Drift”. To obtain the rich sound you're used to, it is necessary to go back to section xxx, page xxx and purposely increase the drift of the new Oscillators”.

If I had read the last page first, I would have kept the old Oscillators and saved time and money.

It's true, often the original is the greatest.

In response to Question – “Can I record audio by plugging into my computer's audio input?”, John writes…

I found that the Realtek Line input was very noisy, so I use a USB interface now – not a really pro one like in the examples, but adequate (bought from ebay for about £12…). There are obvious advantages for using a really good one, particularly if you need an XLR input – (output to headphone is useful for monitoring as using the USB device will de-select your normal PC audio output). Within Audacity you may have to go to edit/preferences and select the USB device as your recording interface.

If you want to see how I connected a condenser mic to my Realtek soundcard (without USB) and recorded in Audacity, I wrote an online guide here:

In response to What is the difference between audio and MIDI?, Tom Ghent writes…

What is the difference between audio and MIDI ? That's easy. One can actually sound like real music ! T.G.

In response to Is it time for the $5 preamp to make a comeback?, Chris Johns writes…

Hi there,

just wanted to say I really liked this article, I was never aware of the do it yourself possibility of making a good preamp. I'm new to the DIY electronics side of making music (made my first xlr cables 2 weeks ago) but i'd really be interested in finding out some more about building a $5 preamp as a side project.

I am curious as to where you would find out information on what goes into making one? I'd take the expensive preamps in our studio to bits, but I fear they would probably never work again! 🙂

Any information would be greatly appreciated.



RP response: We'll see what we can do.

In response to How to 'oomph up' your guitar sound by combining it with other instruments, Tim Micsak writes…

The slightly overdriven organ worked vary well played by John Lord along with what many would consider a “thin” guitar part played by Ritchie Blackmore. The combination yielded the classic song “Smoke On The Water” as well as many others.

In response to 'Whole Lotta Love' – the mysterious pre-echo explained. Sort of., Tim Micsak writes…

To achieve this effect it could be as simple as placing the dry and wet (echo)tracks on two seperate channels, cutting the level on the dry that you hear first, and leaving the wet echo at unity volume to the track. Any other effect can then be done on the dry track, such as a megaphone ambiance or transister radio character. Another explaination would be that the vocal track inadverdantly recieved echo along with another track that was being processed in reverse, durring the adding of creative effects on those. There are good examples of reversing the tracks, adding echo and reverb to the reversed tracks, and then swapping the track back to forward, so the effect leads the delay. Some classic examples would be the intro to “Roundabout” by YES, or the larger than life drums in some Def Lepard songs.

In response to Great tone – What is it? How do you get it?, Tim Micsak writes…

Tone is indeed a relative sound. The word when referred to by guitarists (me being one), would be the desription of the voice of the guitar. Just as we all have preference to a certain or number of singers voices, and audible characteristics, we all have the same preference to guitar “voices” or tone. Julie Andrews, Martina McBride, Enya, Ray Charles, Robert Plant, and so many others are very much quuite different in voice or “tone”, and to say one is the holy grail would be limiting to say the least. But in every instance the tone fit, and/or MADE the style because of the way it characterizes the mix. Would anyone argue that Mel Blanc had great “tone”? Some of the greatest “tone” was created during the days of radio, when imagination gave “life” to all that was heard. Persnally, I have concluded that the best tone is the one that provides or inhances the realism of a mix. So “tone” could be whatever voice will create the character of the instrument, the person, the song, the cartoon persona, or whatever the visual or immaginative goal is.

In response to Can you hear up to 96 kHz?, Brian Rhodarmer ( writes…

Aliasing is what higher sampling rates try to solve. For example, watch a western movie. The movie looks great until you notice wagon wheels appearing to spin backwards! If the movie was recorded at higher frames per second, the wheels could spin correctly. This is aliasing. It is believed that the higher frequencies (10,000hz and up) are the “wagon wheels” of music. The higher sampling rates will more accurately represent these frequencies. How high should the sampling rates go, you ask? The world is analog, and it's sampling rate is infinity.



In response to MP3 or Studio Master – can you tell the difference? With AUDIO!, Neil WIlkes writes…

Your test is fundamentally flawed.

For it to be vaild, you need to play the files on the delivery system they were intended for.

Upscaling an MP3 to 24/96 is still going to be horrible but you are also eliminating the quantization distortion from the 44.1KHz sample rates by upsampling to 96, and you are increasing the word – ebven though padding with zeroes it is still wider, and less susceptible to the problems of 16-bit.

You may not have increased the resolution of the MP3, but you have certainly changed it from what it was.

The only blind test you can do is play each file from it's designed system all hooked up into the same amplifier.

So, an MP3 player into an amp, a CD player into the same amp & the studio quality into yet the same amp again.

Upscaling changes the data & the test is flawed.


RP response: In science, one never has to use the word 'sorry'. It would be useful and illuminating to try the test in the way you describe, even though using three output systems is clearly an inconsistency. We find that the more we test, in a variety of ways, the more illuminated we become. Devising tests that are absolutely and uncontrovertibly flawless however is incredibly difficult. Ask the hifi fraternity who have struggled with this for years. Any suggestions for a better test will be very welcome.

In response to MP3 or Studio Master – can you tell the difference? With AUDIO!, John Harris writes…

I listened to the mp3 test examples. At least the CD and mp3 versions. i have noticed before that very high pitch songs can sound almost perfect … However, anything that had low end material is very different. The bass in MP3 is fare more muddy .. much less punch. This example also was 360 kbps much higher than most mp3 resolutions

In response to Apple iTunes says your song is worth just 3 cents, AHX writes…

I would have to agree that that is an unfair distrubution of funds. I have my last CD project on Itunes, through a middle man company. I give them my CD and they put it on the itunes store for download. They charge me a small on time fee, and the whole process takes about a month before your up and running on itunes. Well after the wait, I searched itunes for my CD and behold there it was. To make a long story short, I recieve 70 cents on the dollar, per download. I know your talking about [songwriter] royality rates but I don't really worry about that to much. The simple fact is that the royality rate could never match what I recieve from (the middle man companys). Royalities were never meant to cater to the artist. It was design for the company execs to make more money, and to recoupe lost wages. We could fight or strike all day long, and that would only get us another cent on the royality rate. Use middle man companies they just want to help, there not in it for the GREED. Plus I get monthly statements showing me who and when someone downloads my music.

In response to MP3 or Studio Master – can you tell the difference? With AUDIO!, Moe Dbooni writes…

Both Studio Master and CD quality sounds almost the same, and I think that they are both 44.1 KHZ but the defference is the bit rate 24 and 16, but the mp3 quality is very obeviouse is especialy is the color of the reverb and the high frequency of the harpsichord. it is known that you can notice the mp3 files through the high frequencies.

David Mellor

Introduction to Audio Recording

Introduction to Audio Recording

You can't learn this type of info anywhere but here! Pro audio engineers share deep secrets about how they choose microphones for common recording situations.

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David Mellor