PC Video in REAPER 4

Friday, October 28th, 2011

REAPER 4 has brought quite a lot of improvement to REAPER video handling. With a little creativity it’s possible to add titles, cut between multiple clips, and insert stills, all with reasonable stability, excellent performance, and great audio processing. I’ve done a blog post and a video about using REAPER to sync audio and video, but I thought I’d do another one that looks at making a complete simple music video, with titling and overlays. (more…)


Second Look at the H2n – External Mics and Line In

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Here are some more observations on the new Zoom H2n recorder. In this entry we’ll look at the Mic/Line input for connecting external mics and line level sources. In the H2 these were separate inputs, with the mic input controlled by the Mic Gain H-M-L switch while the line input had no adjustment. On the H2n these inputs are combined and the Mic Gain dial adjusts the sensitivity of that input. (more…)


First Look at the Zoom H2n

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

I’ve probably recorded more hours on my Zoom H2 than any other recording device I’ve ever owned. It’s handy and functional, but still some distance from perfect, I’m afraid. When I heard about the new Zoom H2n and read the feature list I knew I’d get one as soon as they were available. Happily they were released a bit ahead of schedule, and mine is here. (more…)


Mid-Side and Blumlein recording with the Zoom H4n

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

I was surprised to find that a Mid-Side decoder function is included in the H4n, this is usually a feature of high end field recorders but it’s easy to do in the digital realm so the Zoom engineers could “throw it in” without much added cost. I love fooling with different mic arrangements so I had to set up a couple of figure 8 mics and do some recordings. (more…)


First look at the Zoom H4n

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

The previews of the Zoom H4n have generated a lot of excitement so I added a few airline miles to the family account and ordered one of these new hand held recorders.



Very Inexpensive Microphones

Thursday, April 5th, 2007

From what I’ve read on various internet forums, it’s much easier to make a good omnidirectional (or non directional) (or just omni) mic than it is to make a good directional mic. And as a result it should be easier to find good, cheap omni mics, which would be great for me, because I love them. They can be placed very close to the source because they don’t have the proximity effect that occurs with directional mics. They seem to capture a big, clear, realistic sound very easily.

The problem has been that there are not a lot of omni mics around. The market doesn’t seem that interested in omnis, so the manufacturers are not interested. In the five years or so that I’ve been recording and buying gear, I would guess that models of directional mics in the marketplace outnumbered omnis by 20 to 1 or more, and almost all the hip new inexpensive mics have been directional.

In the last year or so, though, Jon O’Neil and his Naiant Studio Store has begun selling a very inexpensive omni microphone which Jon builds himself. He use readily available capsules, adds his own active electronics, and mounts the whole thing in an XLR connector shell. The result is compact, rugged, and inexpensive. I think they work pretty well, too. Here’s a brief comparison of a pair of Naiant MSH-1 omnis to a pair of DPA 4061s:

Naiant MSH-1
DPA 4061

The DPAs carry a list price of $429, and they require an adapter to connect to standard mic preamps that adds about $75 to the cost. Even used they cost about 10 times as much as the Naiant MSH-1 costs new. It’s certainly true that the DPA can be used in more applications, because it’s very small and unobtrusive, and the two different mics are not equivalent, but just on the basis of sound quality, I think they’re amazingly close.

This year Naiant began selling the MSH-2, a mic based on a larger capsule. Jon describes this mic as having lower noise and a gently falling high end compared to the MSH-1. I’m a sucker for an inexpensive omni, so I ordered up a pair. Here’s a recording using one of these new mics alongside an industry standard for microphone quality. I’m using a John Hardy M-1 preamp and Lynx2 converters. This time I set up the Naiant MSH-2 on one channel and a Schoeps CMC6/MK2 on the other. I mounted the mics so they were a few inches apart and about 6 inches from the Martin OM-18GE. Here are the two mono files that resulted:

Naiant MSH-2
Schoeps CMC6/MK2

I can hear some slight differences, although they’re pretty subtle. By turning up the volume and listening to the extended “tail” or decaying signal, I can hear a higher noise level in the Naiant track. But considering that the Schoeps costs about $1400 and the Naiant costs $35, I’d call the similarity pretty amazing. Certainly if someone asked me for an inexpensive microphone to record solo acoustic guitar, I’d be quite comfortable recommending the Naiant MSH-2.


The $4.00 Digital Studio

Tuesday, February 13th, 2007

On the acoustic guitar forums I visit, one common question goes something like:

How do I record my guitar so I can judge my progress (or lay down a rhythm track or even make a CD just for family and friends). I have a pickup in the guitar, I don’t need great quality, and I don’t want to spend a lot.

Since this person is posting on an internet forum, I will assume they have a computer. If it’s a PC type, it almost certainly has some kind of built-in soundcard, with at least a mic input. So all we need to do is hook the guitar pickup to that mic input and use some sort of program to capture that input and save it to a file. It just so happens that there are some very effective recording programs available to download for free, so that leaves as our only problem some way to connect the guitar pickup to the mic input. And here it is:

This is a 1/4″ phone female to 1/8″ mini male adapter. A normal guitar cable like the one just above the adapter in this picture (male 1/4″ phone plugs at both ends) fits into the hollow side. The pointed side plugs into the mic input of the computer. It costs about $4.00 at any store or web site that sells electronic geegaws (like Radio Shack). This is all you need to connect your pickup to your computer (assuming you have a guitar cable).

Now, on the software side what are the options? Unfortunately, the built-in Windows Sound Recorder is not very useful. It’s limited to about 1 minute of continuous recording without intervention. There are not effects or editing features, no click track or metronome, no metering, and certainly no multitrack overdubbing and mixing.

The easiest free program I’ve found is Audacity – it’s a little clunky but it is full featured. It includes plenty of editing capability and built-in effects, and you can save your recordings to various formats like .wav for burning to CD and (with some free extra software) to .mp3 for your portable music player or web site. I’ve used this little adapter and Audacity to record new song ideas on our laptop when we’re traveling. I’ve also used it to create practice loops when I’m trying to nail a tough section of a new song. Compared to a decent microphone, preamp, and audio interface these recordings are fuzzy, noisy, and crude, but they do the job, and the price is definitely right.

Here’s one verse of an old Hawaiian song, “No Ke Ano Ahiahi,” recorded as a solo guitar instrumental using the the 1/8″ mini plug adapter and Audacity.

And here’s the same track with some reverb added.

Obviously these are not “major label quality” recordings by a long shot. The direct output from a pickup is not very close to the natural acoustic sound of your guitar. But we’ve looked at a tool that can help get your pickup based recordings much closer to a natural acoustic sound in a previous blog entry: “Better EQ Through Software”. And, as we stated at the beginning of this entry, the whole purpose of using this simple, cheap adapter is to get simple, cheap recordings, not Grammy awards.


About the Blog

    Howdy, my name is Fran Guidry and this is my Homebrewed Music blog.

    I play Hawaiian slack key guitar and recorded my solo acoustic CD at home. Most of the recording information I find on the internet seems focused on bands, drums, multitracking, and so on but my main focus is recording solo acoustic guitar. Lately I’ve been enjoying video recording along with audio, so that shows up in the blog as well.

    I’m also a guitar nut. I love big ones and little ones, handmades and factory guitars, cheap ones and expensive ones. So I’ll be sharing the fun of exploring guitars as well, along with the challenges of amplifying acoustic guitars for live performance.



    My recording philosophy is pragmatic, skeptical, not super critical. After all, the performance is by far the most important component of a track, and every aspect of any recording is a matter of taste.

    But I do like to know “about stuff.” Back in hifi days I learned about double blind testing. I learned that we humans can easily hear differences that don’t really exist. The more I’ve learned about our human auditory system, the more I’m skeptical of what people say they hear, especially if they claim that a particular microphone or preamp or cable has some magical property.

    I’ve only been recording since 2001, and when I started I found the usual places on the internet. I sought advice and accepted it, thought I would improve my recordings by using more expensive equipment. It didn’t work.

    Two things that did seem to lead to better recordings were experience and room treatment. Getting an appealing sound is the combination of many small details, and learning those details only comes from experience. Amd the sound of the recording space is obviously a big factor.

    I’ve only recorded seriously using digital technology, but I remember trying to record rehearsals and gigs back in analog days. I don’t have any nostalgia for analog recording and playback systems at all. I think even low end digital systems can capture marvelous recordings. So when I look at gear, I look for good specs: low noise, broad flat frequency response, wide dynamic range, low distortion. I’m not interested in colorful components, mics and preamps with a sound, I want the sound to be the sound of my guitar.

    But the last word is that I’m just learning and I hope you find something useful in my posts.