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Thread: Sound recording setup for non-professional usage

  1. #1

    Default Sound recording setup for non-professional usage

    I want to record my playing for several purpose,
    1, Record and play back to see the flaws and what to improve.
    2, Use the recording as a goal. I will repeat practicing on a piece until the recording sounds good enough.
    3, If I can achieve the second point, I may send the recording to my family members and friends.
    None for professional usage.

    I only tried to use my Android mobile phone and my computer to record the sound, and I tried several methods, (my phone is a mid level Android phone, it was produced in 2019 or 2020, not too old).
    1, Use my HP laptop computer to record (I tried both the built-in Win10 sound recorder and Audacity), then use both the built-in speaker and a blue-tooth speaker to play back. The result is the worst. I guess it's because the built-in mic is crap.
    2, Use the built-in sound recording app in the phone to record, then use the built-in speaker to play back. The result is really bad, but better than point 1.
    3, Use third party app in the phone to record, and set the sample rate to the highest 44.1khz, bit rate to highest 256kbp, then use earphone or a small blue-tooth speaker to playback, the result is so so. Though I highly doubt it reflects the real sound of what I've played.

    Now I use the method 3. However, I'm not sure if the recorded sound is equal to my playing.

    Do you think a mobile phone is enough my purpose? If not, what would you recommend? Such a microphone, or a portable audio recorder? I'm not going to pay too much money on it because I think it's auxiliary (correct me if my opinion is wrong). Maybe less than $100.

    Thanks

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Hi, wqking, if you wanted to stay with the simplicity of your laptop computer, you might check out the "Fifine" brand USB condenser mic, which can be found on Amazon for around $35.00. It just plugs into one of the USB ports on your laptop, has a volume control to vary your gain, and doesn't require any "phantom power" source other than the laptop itself-- so it's just "plug and go"! I have one, and have been very satisfied with it!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2019
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    Michigan, USA
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    You have two basic options before you (with some subcategories in each):

    1. Get a decent mic for your computer.

    2. Get a portable recorder.



    Let's start with option 1.

    This is probably the easiest path forward. You already have a computer, and you can organize files on there easily, so you can compare early records to how you sound later. There are plenty of USB microphones out there that should suit your purposes. Almost *anything* will be better than the built in mic on most laptops. Your budget will be whatever your budget is, but in the long run, it never pays to scrimp on sound equipment, so I suggest getting the nicest mic you can fit in your budget. I personally favor Audio Technica, and I like the AT2020USB+ ($150 condenser mic) or the ATR2100xUSB ($100 dynamic mic.) They are both USB mics, and are powered via USB, so you should be able to basically plug-and-play. I think the 2020 sounds a little better, but the 2100 might be the way to go if you are considering going with option 2, as I will explain below.


    Let's talk about option 2.

    This involves getting an external recorder. This is more flexible in one sense, as you can record anywhere without the need of a computer, but it is more of a hassle later since you will likely want to copy the files onto your computer and will need to keep them organized. (The browsing menu on most hand-held recorders is... adequate at best.) Again, there are a lot of different recorders out there. I have an older TASCAM DR-40 that does a nice job with its built in mics, but where some of these units really shine is that some of them have XLR inputs for external mics. When you use them this way, they basically become a portable recording studio. The ATR2100xUSB mic actually has an XLR jack built in, so you can use it as a USB mic, or you can plug it into "professional" audio equipment, such as one of these recorders.

    Some of the newer portable audio recorders will act as a USB audio device, so you can plug an XLR mic into the recorder, then plug the recorder into your computer, and the computer will be able to record directly from the mic. Mine is old enough that it does *not* do that, sadly.


    There are much more expensive things you can do, but these are your fastest way to decent sound.
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  4. #4
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    I always find that phone recordings make me sound worse. So if practice motivation is what you're going for, it's VERY unflattering. If all you're worried about is self-critique, I would think it's fine. A better mic will make you sound better, but the musical content is there. The only thing you might struggle with gauging is your tone.
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  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2020
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    671

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by wqking View Post
    I want to record my playing for several purpose,
    1, Record and play back to see the flaws and what to improve.
    2, Use the recording as a goal. I will repeat practicing on a piece until the recording sounds good enough.
    3, If I can achieve the second point, I may send the recording to my family members and friends.
    None for professional usage.

    I only tried to use my Android mobile phone and my computer to record the sound, and I tried several methods, (my phone is a mid level Android phone, it was produced in 2019 or 2020, not too old).
    1, Use my HP laptop computer to record (I tried both the built-in Win10 sound recorder and Audacity), then use both the built-in speaker and a blue-tooth speaker to play back. The result is the worst. I guess it's because the built-in mic is crap.
    2, Use the built-in sound recording app in the phone to record, then use the built-in speaker to play back. The result is really bad, but better than point 1.
    3, Use third party app in the phone to record, and set the sample rate to the highest 44.1khz, bit rate to highest 256kbp, then use earphone or a small blue-tooth speaker to playback, the result is so so. Though I highly doubt it reflects the real sound of what I've played.

    Now I use the method 3. However, I'm not sure if the recorded sound is equal to my playing.

    Do you think a mobile phone is enough my purpose? If not, what would you recommend? Such a microphone, or a portable audio recorder? I'm not going to pay too much money on it because I think it's auxiliary (correct me if my opinion is wrong). Maybe less than $100.

    Thanks

    For your purpose #1 and #2, what kinds of flaws /improvement are you looking for? E.g. articulation, timing, correct chords/notes? For some, sound quality isn't too important.
    For your purpose #3, how are you planning to send the recording? E.g. via a recording greeting card, web link? You should try to get the best recording setup to match the end quality. If you are sending a greeting card, then your phone is perfectly suitable.

    WRT your tools:

    For your HP laptop, firstly, not all laptop mics are equal. Secondly, not all laptop speakers are equal. This means, if your laptop has good mics (that's got the dynamic range and low noise), then you must also have good speakers to hear the sound. You can solve the speaker problem by using headphones. Also, another thing (oh, thanks to COVID, I'm becoming an expert on laptop mics and speakers), many laptops have mic arrays (at least 2 mics) to allow for directional sound recording. This usually means you've got to be just at the right distance from the laptop's camera (2-3 ft) for the mics to get the best recording.

    The laptop mics are usually much better than phone mics on comparable levels, e.g. mid tier phone vs mid tier laptop.

    If using their party apps, you must make sure that they really are running at the correct/advertised sampling rate. This is much harder than it sounds because Android is not a realtime OS; so most apps use the Android OS built-in Media Recorder service/library. This also means (if app use the same library), they record at the same quality level.

    I'd recommend forget the phone, concentrate on the laptop instead. First checking your laptop's mics with a decent pair of headphones. If they aren't up to par, then put your money into a Blue Snowball USB mic. I'm very happy with mine; it is definitely up to the challenges for your use case (might even be a little overkill).

  6. #6
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    I'd recommend forget the phone, concentrate on the laptop instead. First checking your laptop's mics with a decent pair of headphones. If they aren't up to par, then put your money into a Blue Snowball USB mic. I'm very happy with mine; it is definitely up to the challenges for your use case (might even be a little overkill).

    Yes. My Blue Snowball is excellent. About $40. It’s all you’ll need.
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  7. #7
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    Laptop plus a mid quality USB mic into Audacity is how I record my instruments, (not just ukes).

    Keep the mic about 12~18" away, & with uke, nearer to the uke than your mouth when singing.
    Trying to do justice to various musical instruments.

  8. #8

    Default

    Thanks all. You recommended some very good microphone candidates, that's helpful.

  9. #9

    Default

    It seems others have covered the main points.
    I have been using inexpensive setups to make Youtube videos for over a decade now.

    I'll recommend two pieces of equipment for consideration.

    1. Samson C01U USB Condenser microphone.
    Quite inexpensive, but is fantastic for recording some music on your laptop.
    Similar quality as a few other USB mics already recommended (Blue Snowball, AT2020 USB)

    OR

    2. Shure X2U.
    Very simple device that allows you to connect any XLR microphone to computer USB. Look it up.
    It's basically a compact and inexpensive interface device without the complexity and bulk.
    This gives you the versatility of giving you the option of plugging virtually any XLR mic be it $10 or $10,000, since XLR output is universal across microphones.
    With a USB microphone, you can't change your microphone. You're stuck with that USB microphone only.

    Furthermore, if you buy a nice dynamic XLR microphone like a Shure SM57 or SM58, it can double as a performance microphone that you can plug into an amp or PA system. Can't do that with a USB microphone.

    My favourite way to record is using a Shure X2U with a Shure SM57 instrument mic.
    The SM57 doubles as a performance/karaoke mic when I'm not recording with it.
    Last edited by kissing; 04-04-2021 at 04:09 AM.

  10. #10
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    I would go for adding a better microphone to the laptop.
    And listen with some good headphones.

    I have only ever used USB microphone.
    Besides the Audio Technica microphone allready mentioned, some of the most recommended usb mics are the Blue Yeti and the Rode NT usb mic.

    Cheaper alternatives like the Samson or Snowball will still be a huge step up from the build in microphone. But when I upgrade from a Shure Mv5 to a Blue Yeti I could clearly hear the difference. I would say buy cheap buy twice.

    The more serious approach with an interface and xlr microphone can be purchased as a bundle for the same price as the top USB microphones. So It is really about how much space you will allow the things to take up, more than the price.
    Last edited by UkingViking; 04-04-2021 at 11:36 AM.
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