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Ok well I was wondering if you guys could give me some tips on my recoing setup. I have a M-Audio 410 Firewire pre-amp thats works well and I like it. I also have a cheap directional mic. The problem I am having is that when I record, my saxophone has a very thin and wimpy tone. I was thinking I need a good condenser mic. Can you guys recommend some good mics that might fix this problem? If I get two mics, I can then dual mic my sax, and I think I will get a better sound; however, I wouldn't know where to place the mics. Can anyone give me some advice on mic placement?
 

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Typical mic placement is 6-12" off the bell, aimed at the left hand stack keys.
Some of the inexpensive condensors sound pretty good, though some can sound too bright and brittle.

When you say directional did you mean dynamic? Condensors are great, but very sensitive (pick up the sound of your toenails growing), so the choice between a dynamic like and RE20 and a Condensor like a Rode NT2 or AT 3000B may depend not only on the sound, but your recording environment.

Most of my recordings are done with a Rode NT2. I also have an RE20, but have even gotten good sound out of a shure SM58.

My credo; Do the best you can with what you've got where you are.

Wring the most you can out of that set up.
 

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trippr said:
Ok well I was wondering if you guys could give me some tips on my recoing setup. I have a M-Audio 410 Firewire pre-amp thats works well and I like it. I also have a cheap directional mic. The problem I am having is that when I record, my saxophone has a very thin and wimpy tone. I was thinking I need a good condenser mic. Can you guys recommend some good mics that might fix this problem? If I get two mics, I can then dual mic my sax, and I think I will get a better sound; however, I wouldn't know where to place the mics. Can anyone give me some advice on mic placement?
I'm assuming you are happy with the sound you make in person (if not, this is the first thing that needs to be addressed).

What is your budget? What kind of sax(es) are you recording?

The first thing I would do is make sure the room I was recording in sounded as good as possible (see http://www.ethanwiner.com/acoustics.html for a wealth of info).

Next save up and get a better microphone:

Shinybox 46 ($175 new) - (If choosing between a cheap condenser mic and a cheap ribbon - I would get the cheap ribbon; however, keep in mind when using a ribbon mic you need enough gain from your mic pre and that you must not use phantom power)
Audio Technica 4047 (~$350 used)
Blue Baby Bottle (~$300 - $375 used)
Sennheiser MD-441 (~$400 used)
Heil PR40 (~$325 new)

If you plunk down $500 - $800+ your choices really blossom, but you should be able to get a fantastic sound with any of the choices above.

After that, get a better mic preamp. Most pro pre-amps will run you $1,000+; but you can get something like an old rewired Ampex 350 or an old Altec Mixer or a used Groove Tubes "The Brick," or an FMR RNP for around $350 - $400 (watch e-bay carefully). If you can solder, there are pro-level kits (like Hamptone) for around $700.

Later upgrade paths (especially if you find yourself making money as a project studio) would include better digital/audio converters, better monitors, etc - but I wouldn't worry about that right now.
 

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Dual micing your sax will probably not work to correct the tone problem. The other posters were correct in talking about mic placement as well as your signal chain. You can choose to dual mic, but be careful as to the placement of the 2nd mic...if you put it in the wrong place, the two recorded signals will be out of phase, and the result will be a worse sound than what you started with. There's nothing wrong with micing the room if you want to capture the overall ambience of the space, however. If I'm not mistaken, the general rule is to place the 2nd mic three times the distance from the sound source as the first one.

To overcome the "whimpy sound"...you really need to look at your room acoustics first, your recording signal chain second, and finally your playback chain. I'm saying this from experience, having tried the dual-mic thing myself years ago in an attempt to overcome the same problem!

Check your room accoustics: do you like how you sound in the room? Better yet, do you like how someone else playing sax sounds in the room (realizing that when you play, you're alos hearing your skull vibrations which generally give you a sense of a deeper sound)? If so, then...

Check your recording and playback signal chains: Talk into the mic and listen to the play back. Does it sound like a 'real' voice? Or like a cheap boom-box tape recorder? If its the latter, record the playback to CD and listen to it on a variety of sources, to include the car and home stereo and computer speakers...or even a friend's studio with different equipment.

If it still sounds cheap and whimpy, then you'll have to do some troubleshooting to figure out where the limiting factor is. Before I would spend any money, however, I would try to get teh best results out of what I had, like AugustGarage says.

Record your sax and/or voice dry. Then, try fiddling with some EQ plug-ins on your DAW if you're using one, and learn what setting/knob does what. Do the same thing with delay plug-ins, and then try reverb. Compare your recorded sound with professional CDs, and try to adjust your playback settings to match. You may not get there, but the important thing is that you're training your ears and mind so you can make some informed decisions when you decide it is time to upgrade to more professional equipment.

When you're comfortable with your room's acoustics, and you do decide its time, and you've done the research on who provides what at what cost, then look at upgrading the components in the signal chain.

There is a ton of discussion on various forums like this one (I reccomend http://www.3daudioinc.com/3db/), but the general consensus is your biggest bang for your buck will be in a quality preamp and mic. Without breaking the bank, you might want to try a Sennheiser 441 or 421 mic, or if cost is a serious issue, then get a Shure SM57 for about $100.00.

The next step will probably be to look at your audio-digital (AD) conversion if you're recording into a DAW. Finally, you want to look at your playback monitoring...if you're using computer speakers, then most things are likely to sound 'whimpy'.

Its a lot to digest, and certainly too much to place into one post...hopefully this can help you get started and avoid wasting thousands of dollars in search of that "magic bullet" that will make you sound like your favorite album!

-A
 
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