Help a home recording noob solve direct-input and monitor issues.
November 9, 2012 1:22 PM   Subscribe

Help a noob figure out his home-recording troubles - I don't understand my M-Audio Profire DI or my reference monitors and a few other things.

What I'd like to do (record guitar tracks with overdubs) seemed like it would be so easy. After researching and buying gear and setting up a small studio....I'm feeling discouraged.

1) Headphone issues. I bought a Profire 610 based on reviews. I assumed I could plug in my headphones and it would kill the sound going out to the speakers. This would make it easy toggle back and forth while doing overdubs. But when I plug in headphones, nothing happens. Not only is sound still coming from the monitors, the track is barely audible at all through the headphones. The music I'm recording will be overdubbing is loud/noisy so I need a loud headphone signal.

Should I keep the DI and get a headphone amp?

Or is there a better DI that would do what I want? I just don't want to have to go to the Profire panel every time and mute stuff when doing overdubs.

2) Monitors. I'm aware how dumb this will sound, but bear with me. About a decade ago, I used to recording with a Mackie board and the sound was pushed out to a stereo receiver and 2 stereo speakers. It was helpful to hear, as I made the music, how it would sound to the typical end-user.

Last month, I bought mid-priced Mackie monitors because I wanted to do things the "right way." But those guitar sounds I've been recording with a Tele and vintage Fender Twin which sound amazing in the live room... sound terrible through monitors. Dull and bass-y. As it's explained to me, that's how monitors are supposed to sound when mixing.

For that matter, if I just use my Macbook Pro's internal speaker to record and playback those guitars, it sounds more "true" than the SM58->Profire->Mackies.

So - how do you know how to EQ your recording if monitors aren't the "true" sound you're looking for?
posted by critzer to Technology (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You have to learn your monitors.

Actually, that's getting ahead a bit. First you need to make sure that your room is set up properly. Your monitors might be too close to the wall. You might need bass traps. You might need a couple of acoustic panels. Putting your speakers in a room that isn't ready for them will make the best monitors sound like garbage.

Then you have to learn your monitors. You need to learn what a bright song sounds like on your monitors. What a muddy song sounds like on your monitors. What a super bassy song sounds like on your monitors. Then, when you hear a song that sounds dull through your monitors, you know what that will sound like on your laptop or in your car.

But room setup has to be first. Have you done any acoustic treatment? Are your speakers placed in a way that takes your room shape into consideration?

As far as your headphone volume issue with #1 goes, I don't know the ProFire specifically, but I'm willing to bet something is routed/mixed wrong somewhere. Check your onboard DSP mixer. But no sounds cards I've ever owned will kill the main outs if you plug in headphones, so I wouldn't spend too much time looking for that option. You should be able to plug headphones in and just turn down the master volume.
posted by Jairus at 1:47 PM on November 9, 2012

Best answer: 1) I have a similar setup. I just either unplug the monitors from the I/O box or turn them off when I'm in headphone mode. I guess it's not quite inconvenient enough for me to worry about it.

2) Monitors have a "flat" sound as opposed to your old stereo receiver/speaker setup, which had it's own frequency response curve. What sounded good on that old system might sound tinny on a car stereo, or bottom-heavy on a home theater/AV system. The purpose of monitors is not necessarily to sound "good" but to sound accurate. That said, there's definitely a learning curve to figure out how things translate from your monitors to other systems. Listen to professional recordings that you like or want to emulate through the new monitors and look for sound qualities you can identify.
A lot of studios have multi-monitor setups. I've read that Phil Spector had a crappy car-radio speaker in his studio that he'd turn way down to make sure every instrument in the wall of sound was heard.

Re: the laptop sounding more true: Where is the laptop mic in relation to the amp? Have you experimented with mic placements with the 58? What does the 58-profire-Macbook speaker combo sound like?
posted by onehalfjunco at 1:53 PM on November 9, 2012

The last couple USB inputs I've used to record have had separate knobs for monitor volume and headphone volume. I just turn the monitors down when I do overdubs
posted by InfidelZombie at 2:11 PM on November 9, 2012

I'm a little confused by how you're using the DI. Are you trying to use this device instead of a console? Whats in between the DI and the Monitors?
posted by bitdamaged at 2:14 PM on November 9, 2012

The 610 seems to have headphone volume adjustment. Can you turn headphones up and main volume down?

But by the way you've explained the issues it sounds like you might have some sort of weird routing set up. Are you sending your guitar directly through the 610 to the monitors, with no modeling or effects? A guitar will definitely sound strange if you run it direct to monitors with none of the usual gain/compression/eq/cab that would occur in an amp.
posted by MonsieurBon at 2:55 PM on November 9, 2012

Response by poster: The 610 seems to have headphone volume adjustment. Can you turn headphones up and main volume down?

It doesn't seem to affect anything? At loudest, it's still very quiet.
posted by critzer at 4:55 PM on November 10, 2012

Re: #1 - I use a M-Audio Fastrack and on the front of the unit is a "Mix" knob which controls the mix of what I'm hearing and playing. When turned all the way to the right, I hear only my guitar (my live instrument). When turned all the way to the right, I hear the recorded track/s that I'm playing over. If I put it in the middle, I am able to hear both (with some minor tweaking). In my manual it is described like below:

Input/Playback Mix Level Knob (Mix IN, PB)– This knob controls the audio mix sent to the Line Outputs, fading between the input signals (input monitoring) and the output signal from your audio application software. When turned fully counter-clockwise (IN position), only the input signals are heard at the line outputs. When turned fully clockwise (PB position), only the output signal from your DAW software is heard at the line outputs.

In looking at the manual for your device, I do not see such a knob. It appears to have a software interface for this tweaking. I don't know if this is your issue but maybe a direction to look.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 8:08 PM on November 21, 2012

« Older Where can a US citizen get a loan to study in...   |   Already Seen Pollyanna Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.