Pro Audio Files

How to Record – Lesson 4: Signal Flow

Transcript
Hi, it’s Warren Huart here. Hope you’re doing marvelously well, and today, in lesson four, we’re going to talk about signal flow. As ever, please subscribe, go to producelikeapro.com, and sign up for the email list, and you’ll get lots of goodies. You’ll get some free drum samples, you’ll get some free songs, and you’ll get access to our Vimeo account. We’re actually just about to add a little studio tour of Sunset Sound to that one, so look out for that.

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Okay, so signal flow. I’m going to keep this very straight forward and very simple. We’re going to talk about plugging into interfaces, into the front of mic pres, etcetera, etcetera, how you open up a track in Pro Tools, and how you assign it, and all that kind of good fun stuff.

So let’s get started!

Okay, so here is our microphone. As you can see, this is a condenser mic. It’s a Lewitt condenser. It’s called an LCT-550. We use this a lot on drums, etcetera, vocals, pianos, you name it. And here’s our mic cable. So let’s plug our mic cable in here, like so. Okay.

So there’s your mic cable. Simple as that. It now goes to our interface. Great. So here we have a good old fashioned M-Box. This is one I bought a few years ago when I was traveling, and I wanted something small so I could work in hotel rooms. I was doing a cartoon music for a TV show, and I was making a record at the same time, so I’d come home late at night, get to the hotel room, and start recording on my laptop. So I bought this.

So this is a really straight forward — this is the M-Box 2 Mini. I’m not sure if they still make this. They probably do. As you can see on the back here, there’s the mic input here. So what we do is we’ll just plug the mic cable directly into this.

Now, we can do one of two things. If you’re using an external mic pre, we would come in on the line input here. Okay, so this is the mic input here. Like such.

Now, this would be using the internal preamp that’s built into this, which when I was making a — when I was doing the cartoon music that I was doing, I was doing it every night on my laptop, and I was just plugging directly into the back. If I was going to do an overdub of a tambourine or something like that, or a background vocal part, I just plugged into the back.

Obviously, when I was doing guitar stuff, I didn’t bring an amp back with me to the hotel, it was going to be far too loud, I just plugged directly into the line input on the back. I didn’t have a DI box. I went to line input and then just used amp simulators.

So with the microphone plugged directly in the back, it’s also important to remember that if we’re just going straight with the condenser microphone into here, to engage the phantom. The 48 volt phantom will obviously — you know, power the condenser microphone, so it’s — we’ll have to engage there.

Now, when we use the mic preamp going into the line input, we’ll engage the 48 volt phantom power on the front here. So it’s important to make sure that you engage phantom for condenser microphones. You don’t need it for dynamics. They won’t damage the microphone, but of course, if you’re using a ribbon mic, especially the older ribbon mics, you can actually damage the ribbon mic by sending phantom power to it.

So be aware not to send phantom to old ribbon mics.

Alright, so here we have a mic preamp. It’s a DMP, I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about this many times. We’ve given a kind of giveaway on one before. Um, it’s a 1073 in a box, very straight forward. You’ve got a mic input, and an output here from the preamp.

So we take our mic here. We take the end of the mic cable, and we plug it into the mic input here.

We then take our output here and plugin our mic pre output. We then take our mic pre output cable and we’ll need to put down — put a quarter inch on the end of it. That quarter inch will plug in to the line input here. So now, you’ll have the mic, a microphone, going into the mic pre, out of the mic pre into the line input on your interface, and that is the basic way that you could use a mic preamp with this interface.

You can obviously use the inbuilt mic preamp, but of course, 1073 mic pre of this kind of quality is going to be significantly better quality than that.

So that’s how you — that’s basic signal flow 101 from mic into your interface. Then of course, your interface plugs into your computer. We’ll go from there.

Okay, so let’s setup a track in Pro Tools. You can do it one of two ways. In Pro Tools, you can go to track, new, like this and hit that, or just the way I always learned to do it, you can go Shift+Command+N. So that’s Shift+Command+N, or as we used to say, Shift+Apple+N, when that used to be an Apple logo. So Shift+Command+N.

You see here, it says, “How many tracks would you like to create?” Uno. One. One mono, one audio track. You hit Create, or Return. That’s easiest for you, and it will create a new track. Okay, we can set our output of our track, because we’re going from my console here, I’m going to set the output to 13 and 14 for my console. My input is… 18, and I’m going to call it, “electric guitar,” because that’s what we’re doing.

I’m going to mute before I go into record, just in case there’s some strange patching. You never know. I don’t want to send the whole place into feedback.

[guitar]

Okay. It looks like we’re good. There we go, some guitar.

[electric guitar]

Nice. There it is. A guitar patched in. So it’s very, very straight forward. So we’ve gone guitar, to our amp, obviously, as per normal, we’ve got our microphone on our speaker. We have the microphone cable going in to the front of our mic pre, out of our mic pre, we’re going to the back through an — through a quarter inch input, sorry, into the back of our little M-Box, and that is coming in on track number 18 on Pro Tools.

So as simple as that. Very, very straight forward. So thanks ever so much for watching. That’s the basic signal flow from microphone, to preamp, to interface, into your DAW.

As ever, please leave your comments below, hit me with any questions you might have. I’d love to share in your experiences, what equipment do you use? What mic preamps, what microphones? Recording guitar in particular, there’s so many different ways to do it, and I’d love to know what you do, and we can share all the different ideas.

So thanks ever so much for watching. Please, as ever subscribe, go to producelikeapro.com and sign up for the email list, and there’s loads of wonderful things that you can get, and I look forward to speaking with you soon! Thank you, bye bye.

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Warren Huart

Warren Huart

Warren Huart is an English record producer/musician/composer and recording engineer based in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at producelikeapro.com.

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