Setting up a microphone – whether it’s for musical recording sessions in the studio, a live performance, or simply recording streams, podcasts, or Youtube videos – doesn’t just mean propping up a mic in front of speakers or vocalists and calling it a day. There are many different factors to consider to protect the quality of the sounds you capture.
Understanding the type of microphone you have, how to utilize its accompanying accessories, the quality of your devices, and how everything interacts with the recording location are all details that either enhance or diminish what you record.
Want to enhance the recording quality of your track in the studio, make your live music sound better to the ear of your audience, or get better sounds when you watch back and pay attention to the audio of your Youtube videos? Here are the important details you need to know when setting up your vocal recording, from your microphone placement to how to set up the optimal recording station.
Screw your microphone to a microphone stand or a swivel and use shock mounts to isolate vibrations. For dynamic mics, place a foam filter over your microphone to protect your recording and sound from plosives and sibilance, as well as to enhance your voice and make it sound warmer as well as develop a more natural sound. A pop filter works similarly for condenser mics, in addition to keeping an optimal measure distance and position between you and the microphone head while you’re singing or speaking.
It’s important to know the differences between your setup for dynamic and condenser microphones so you can get the right microphone placement and setup measure each time whether you’re recording for Youtube or a professional track. Finally, make sure to connect your mic using an XLR cable to your audio device, audio interface, recorder, or mixer before you start recording.
Your microphone setup process doesn’t end with connecting the gear and being able to measure the distance between you and the mic stand. Now you need to search and set all the parameters correctly to make sure the captured audio is of the highest quality.
Make sure to keep audio levels at around -10 to -12dB. The quietest recorded audio should be kept well above the noise floor, maximizing the signal-to-noise ratio. The noise floor is the signal created from the sum of all the unwanted audio noises. Make sure to measure it and set the correct parameter, with the recommended level for it being at or below -60dB.
Lastly, make sure that you never speak above 0db or higher. This can develop audio distortions which are very difficult to edit and reject in the post-production process. Ensure that you record loudly, as this is quite important for your music track, podcast, or Youtube video as members of your audience often watch or listen in a noisy location.
Testing the volume of your entire setup is key to getting the best out of your voice recordings. Whether you’re in a professional studio or at home recording for Youtube, the easiest way to adjust the volume of your microphone is on your computer via the sound control panel and by testing the hardware. A microphone should never peak into the red signal during your test, so make sure to watch out for that measure so that your vocals won’t distort.
On the other hand, testing out the mic for different types of vocal performances at a live location and before an audience involves speaking or singing into the mic for a bit to quickly find the peak of your voice and the middle ground. This can also be done at the studio so you can get a better measure of the singer and their voice.
No matter how good your microphone choice is and the quality of your devices when it comes to noise cancellation, and no matter what the scenario is, whether it’s for videos on Youtube, broadcasting for television, or capturing a live singing performance, if the location of your recording is full of background noise or your setup isn’t optimized, your microphone signal won’t be able to reject everything and will definitely capture these details that will unnecessarily complicate the post-production process.
Your microphone placement is essential to the type of vocal quality you’re going to get in the recording process. How close your microphone is to your singer and where it’s positioned in the room are both contributing factors to how your recording is going to sound. Make sure you have plenty of space around your microphone so you’re not picking up reflections of the singer or speaker bouncing off of the walls and back into the microphone.
For recording a track in a studio, having your singer stand in a corner or a position facing a hard wall in the studio without acoustic treatment will also negatively affect your sound. Using effective sound-absorbing material to reject sound bouncing off your walls while they sing will do more than a bit if you want to protect the sounds that your microphone captures.
Audio interfaces allow you to plug a microphone into a computer and act as the computer’s sound card. They are essential for capturing sound as professional microphones connect with three-pin XLR jacks and require a phantom power source to operate. You can easily learn more about this on Youtube or other professional sources.
By having preamp capabilities, the audio interface can develop a better vocal quality on your computer. Also, a good quality audio interface operates independent audio channels to reject experiencing distracting latency on your headphones as you record.
Search for a good interface for your vocal recording needs. This should have a mic preamp, support recording in 24-bit depth, have a headphones output, and very low latency. Consider also the additional inputs and outputs if you are planning to record with a guest singer or speaker, with a musical instrument, or even in another location.
There are a ton of written tutorials and Youtube videos out there that teach us a bit on how to generally set up a mic properly, but at the end of the day, there are so many different details and nuances that you need to remember.
From the type of microphone you have to the location of your recording, small things can make quite the difference. Learning more about your mic and devices and really understanding how they function together will help you even further in obtaining the best possible setup for you every time.
There are so many great mic options out there to search through for different needs, from Youtube and podcasting to singing and live speeches, that it can be difficult to know what works for you. It’s important to know what kind of recording you’re going to be doing and what kind of microphone quality you need so you can distinguish, reject, and narrow down your options.
Looking for some solid picks for the best vocal microphones? Check out our guide here.