Setting up a spoken word studio environment with a Mac
March 17, 2005 4:49 PM   Subscribe

I have the latest PowerBook G4 and would like to set something up in my home to record spoken word. I'm looking for recommendations on preamps, microphones and maybe software. From what I have read GarageBand can record vocals just fine. Does anyone have any experience they could share on that subject as well? Cost isn't really an issue, but I don't need anything super fancy or complicated.
posted by whatevrnvrmind to Technology (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you're not looking for hi-fi, you can just get an iMic and any one of those PC headsets (the VxI Parrot line is good I hear).

I know a guy who records PSA's for local events, and, using exactly the setup above, he just records directly into GarageBand , throws some sort of ambient music on another track, exports to iTunes and burns to Audio CD.
posted by boaz at 7:52 PM on March 17, 2005

I'm doing the exact same thing you're doing right now; setting up a Mac-based system in my home to record spoken word. I have a friend who has converted his living room into a recording studio, and he had the M-Audio MobilePre USB hooked up to his Mac to get the audio onto his hard drive. I tested it out, and it sounds great! I have an audio in on my desktop Mac, but it just doesn't give clear enough sound. I'm buying a different M-Audio product for my studio, the Fast Track USB, because it's a little cheaper and I don't need the multiple mic inputs or phantom power that the MobilePre has.

While I'm on the subject, make sure you get an audio input that will work with the microphone you buy. If you get a condenser mic, you'll need the aforementioned phantom power. A dynamic mic does not require phantom power. (The whole "what is phantom power" thing worried me for a long time, but I finally got the condenser vs dynamic thing worked out.)

As for your microphone choice, I've always been a huge fan of Shure microphones. I ended up buying a Shure 55SH Series II because it has a really nice sound, and, well, it's really really *cool* looking! I got a practically new one off of ebay for $99, and I love it to death. My studio friend mentioned another Shure that he said was the "workhorse" mic for vocals, but I'm afraid I forget exactly which model he mentioned. In any case, Shure has a handy selection guide to help in selection. Oh, and don't forget a mic cable!

GarageBand works fine to record spoken word, but it's really a music program, so if spoken word is all you need, GarageBand might be a bit overkill as far as interface and memory goes. When I just want to record spoken word, I use SoundStudio. Some people like Audacity, which is free, but it didn't click with me for some reason. At one point I used Peak, but l lost track of my program disc, so I switched over to SoundStudio. (Peak, and Bias' other product, Deck, are both worth looking at.)

I hope this helps! Have fun!
posted by NewGear at 8:13 PM on March 17, 2005

Oh, I forgot to mention: I bought Griffin's iMic and Microphone Cable, and will be returning them to the Apple Store on Saturday. They're okay for basic recording, but when I tried the equipment I mentioned in my earlier post, the difference was night and day. The M-Audio preamp/A-to-D converter and a good XLR-to-XLR mic cable sounded EXACTLY like I wanted: clean and crisp. With the iMic and XLR-to-1/8" cable, I got some static and scratchy sounds when the connections moved due to cable movement, and while the sound was acceptable, the sound with the M-Audio was amazing. The iMic feels a little cheap to me.
posted by NewGear at 8:21 PM on March 17, 2005

another Shure that he said was the "workhorse" mic for vocals

I'm guessing SM58. The SM57 might also work in this capacity, but I think it's a better all-around mic, and the SM58 is better for vocals.
posted by oaf at 8:54 PM on March 17, 2005

NewGear - Thanks so much for your thorough answer. I will be following some of your advice. A good friend of mine said something about the M-Audio MobilePre USB as well as the Digidesign Mbox.

As for mics, I think I'm going with oaf's advice. I used to work in a recording studio and I remember the engineer always using SM57s or SM58s for vocals, though a friend said to get a condenser mic. I may need a little bit more advice as far as that is concerned.

Hopefully a few more people will have some advice.
posted by whatevrnvrmind at 10:13 PM on March 17, 2005

Another option would be to go for a USB microphone - this would eliminate the need for a separate audio interface.

Blue, a company that makes some really great microphones, is releasing a dual-capsule mic called the Snowball sometime this Spring for around $130. It seems like this mic would be perfect for your needs, if you don't mind waiting a little while. Samson is releasing a USB mic soon too (it's even cheaper), but I can't find any links.

Keep in mind that I haven't heard either of these mics yet, but the plug + play readiness of USB and Blue's reputation makes me think that the Snowball will be extra-cool.
posted by sluggo at 7:18 AM on March 18, 2005

oaf--Those are the exact two mics he mentioned, the SM57 and SM58! Your posting just jogged my memory. Thanks!

whatevrnvrmind--So between oaf and my studio friend and your studio experience, it looks like one of those two is the way to go! My friend also specifically mentioned that both those mics are real workhorses; they're very sturdy and will hold up for a long time. They're also affordably priced and give a great sound.
posted by NewGear at 7:53 AM on March 18, 2005

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