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Best way to tackle recording 3 mics with this equipment?

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  • Best way to tackle recording 3 mics with this equipment?

    I recently did a recording using another person's interface and 3 microphones, one of theirs (Shure SM7b), and two of mine ( MD421, e906). The SM7b about perfectly filled in the sound between the e906 and MD421, and I also gave the e906 a top-end boost to make it occupy more range that doesn't overlap with the SM7b. The result is fantastic, and just double tracking yielded a huge sound, probably a lot bigger than 4x tracking with just the MD421 and e906.

    So I want to get myself an SM7b to this trio my default recording setup. However, my interface is an API A2D, going into my soundcard via SPDIF, and that interface has only 2 channels. But I also have other equipment that could help me overcome its limitations: a Firestudio Project, a couple Seventh Circle preamps (an API and a Neve clone), and a Little Labs Red Eye reamp DI.

    So one possible means to accomplish recording these 3 mics is to do everything reamped, but I think that might affect sound quality, with signals going back and forth through non-balanced cables.

    The other potential means I can do this is running one of the 7th Circle preamp outputs into a channel on the Presonus Firestudio, and having it send the digital signal to my PC alongside the A2D signals. I haven't tried this yet, I don't know if I would be able to use both my soundcard (which has SPDIF to receive the API A2D) and the Presonus Firestudio in Cubase at the same time.

    Another thought regarding using the Firestudio is that maybe the A/D converters will not sound very good.

    Another thing that might work is running one of the 7th Circle preamps into one of the API A2D's channel's A/D input, while also having another mic running into the mic input, and perhaps both signals will feed to my PC as one track.

    Any thoughts, advice, know of some gear that will make this easier that isn't another $2000 preamp / interface?

  • #2
    Sounds to me like you're dealing with stereo gear and need to move up to a multi channel interface.

    You can forget about attempting to run two different interfaces at the same time. DAW programs will only run on one set of drivers at a time. You also have to link the two clocks making one a master and one a slave. Otherwise the two will write to tracks at two different clock speeds.

    Some manufacturers make products that allow you to run identical cards at the same time. The M-Audio cards I use have drivers that allow you to run 3 together max. The first card provides the master clock and the second two cards receives the clock signal through their SPIDF inputs.

    I know some cards do allow additional interfaces to be connected through the SPIDF inputs. My cards will allow two additional digital inputs per card but I don't use them. I'm already using them on two cards to link their clocks and I cant use those inputs for two purposes without unlinking the cards.

    I'm not sure which Firestudio you have. If its two channels then you can try using your preamp into the SPIDF for an extra channel. Any kind of re-amping isn't going to get you there either. I think you need to face the fact you've outgrown two channel interfaces and need to upgrade to at least 4~8 channels. Multiple mics require multiple channels, preamps and converters, Bout the best you can do for now is plug all three in a stereo moxer. Pan one hard left, one hard right and leave the third some place in the center so it comes out on both tracks.


    • #3
      Thanks for that information. The Firestudio I have is 8 channels.

      Do you know if I were to use an XLR splitter to run an e906 and SM7b into one channel, would that work, and would their signals be equal in volume? And do you think the A/D converters on the Firestudio would negatively impact sound quality if I ran all my preamps into its channels at line level?


      • #4
        With an 8 channel interface you should be all set. Just plug one mic into each channel and you're good to go.

        The API A2D is mainly a preamp. if you want to use it I'd just use its line outs and run them into two of the Presonus Line inputs.
        I probably wouldn't bother using the preamps SPIDF output. The Firestudio should have perfectly good converters for doing the job. I probably wouldn't use the API either unless it did something wonderful for the sound quality. Having all three mics using the same kinds of preamps would likely do a better job and produce less noise but that's just something you'll need to try.

        You don't need to use XLR connectors between the API and Firestudio. I believe the Firestudio has 1/4" line inputs on the back (or maybe those dual purpose XLR that allow both) I didn't look at the specs for the SPI but most preamps should have 1/4" unbalanced outs. I'd just use two matching 3' 1/4" cords and run the preamp into the Presonus. Unless you're over 25" you wont have any notable losses at line level. Just make sure they are quality cords with 90% shielding to minimize noise.

        Which method will be better, will be a matter of experimentation. As a rule the shortest path is usually the quietest. You cant get much closer to the converters the preamps mounted in the same box. Manufacturers usually choose preamp designs that complement their converters best for the largest range of inputs. Its pot luck when you use exterior preamps.

        In your case, that SM7 may be an exception to the rule. I've never owned one but I've used a few. They can do better sometimes with a stronger preamplifier. The mic also has some bass roll off settings so you can use that too in matching the best gain and tone from a source.

        In all cases you're going to want to try all of these things forward, backwards, inside out till you know exactly what all the options will do for you (and maybe a few you haven't thought of yet) Recording is all about adapting your gear to meet the needs of a situation. at one session with one particular song one setup may be fantastic. You try and use that same rig on another situation, different players, different music and it may sound like crap. You have to know your options and when one isn't working, you evaluate the issue and move to a backup plan.

        In many ways it requires some excellent troubleshooting and judgment skills. When I have someone come in with a Tele and a Fender amp, I know what's going to give me a good tone or at least something I'm very familiar with recording that rig. If he doesn't have any major surprised using weird boxes, pickups or wacked out settings I can capture tracks I can fully manipulate mixing. If someone brings in a guitar or rig I haven't heard before I may go for a safe option or use a pair of mics for the first song or two. Once I hear them play I can then narrow down what might work best.

        The key here is I know my gear very well. I've put in thousands of hours using my gear and know its strengths and limitations. It helps me predict what I'll need and I can usually choose the right tools for the job. Not always of course. Like most I do get bored doing things the same way too much and may try something new. It may do better or just produce different results. If its not quite as good I may have to work harder to get it to mix well. Then you remember the results and apply them to some other situation more suitable. In this way, recording is just as much a a creative art form as the music itself.


        • #5
          Use the Firestudio as your interface.

          Run the SPDIF outs of the API into the SPDIF Input on the Firestudio.

          Use whatever mic/pre sounds best for the third mic and run it into an analog input, or even the Insert Return on Ch 1 or 2 on the FireStudio.

          I do this all the time on a Scarlett 18i8 and it works beautifully.

          Good Luck,

          "Thank You, NASA!"


          • #6
            I didn't realize the FS had SPDIF I/O (it's sat in my basement unused for years). I'll check that out, thanks!


            • #7
              Originally posted by WRGKMC View Post
              . . .
              You can forget about attempting to run two different interfaces at the same time. DAW programs will only run on one set of drivers at a time. You also have to link the two clocks making one a master and one a slave. Otherwise the two will write to tracks at two different clock speeds...
              That is not entirely true - I regularly run multiple interfaces during Reaper sessions on a MacBook without any issues at all.
              Last edited by onelife; 11-17-2015, 06:01 AM.
              "Isn't it a pity, isn't it a shame,
              how we break each other's hearts
              and cause each other pain"