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Low Input Volume/gain On Shure Sm57 + Ux1

ux1 gain microphone shure sm57 input volume noise reaper xlr

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#1 nicky872

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Posted 16 September 2013 - 01:05 PM

I have been using my POD Studio UX1 to record electric guitar DI with great success (or at least with very few technical issues) for the past few years.  More recently I have ventured into the scary world of recording acoustic guitar and vocals.  For this I have been using a rather low-budget dynamic microphone (Superlux TOP-258) running into the UX1 XLR input.  It has always frustrated me that I cannot seem to get sufficient gain when recording my acoustic guitar this way.  I have cranked the mic gain rotary nob all the way, hit the +18db boost button in POD farm, etc.  I previously used Cubase to record, but have since switched to Cockos Reaper.  Needless  to say, the low mic gain issue persisted despite the DAW switch.

 

Suspecting that the low gain might have something to do with my low-budget mic, I decided to invest in a Shure SM57 (the fact that I use the word "invest" in this context should give you a clear indication of my budget...), hoping that results would improve.  To my dismay, however, the low mic gain issue not only remains unsolved, but actually seems worse with the SM57 than the Superlux mic.  I feel somewhat at a loose end.  I have seen reviews of the SM57 where it is plugged directly into some USB audio interface (just like I do with my UX1) and the artists manage to record acoustic guitar with tons of gain (or so it seems from my perspective).  

 

To make it clear: I am running the SM57 directly into the XLR input on the UX1 via an XLR-XLR cable, gain is turned up 7/8ths of the way, directly into my DAW (any more mic gain and the white noise becomes rediculous).  The gain when recording vocals (using only a pop-filter between the vocalist and the mic) is acceptable, but still not fantastic.  The noise to signal ratio when recording my acoustic guitar, though, is atrocious.  Can any one offer advice as to what the problem may be?  Could it be the XLR cable? Could there be something worng with my UX1? Is the amount of maximum amount of gain I can hope to get out of the UX1 simply to little to ever be able to record acoustic guitar with a dynamic mic at an acceptable signal-to-noise ratio? Any inputs are appreciated, though may I kindly request that you refrain from suggestions that I purchase a condenser mic (I have noted a trend on these forums to recommend condenser mics as a sort of panacea to any type of mic gain query, even when the purchase thereof is not an option (for whatever reason) to the OP.  Given the UX1's lack of phantom power, purchase of a condenser mic would in any case neccesarily imply purchasing a different audio interface, in which event I may as well consider getting an entirely different interface with better preamps and, more importantly, more input gain than the UX1.)       


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#2 Triryche

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Posted 17 September 2013 - 12:02 PM

Are you adding any of PF's virtual preamps to the signal chain?


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#3 nicky872

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Posted 17 September 2013 - 12:57 PM

Are you adding any of PF's virtual preamps to the signal chain?

I am trying to avoid PF as far as I can and rely on other vst plugins (I do not hate on PF or anything, I just prefer other bespoke vocal chain and mastering plugins).  However, I have tried all of the various virtual preamps included with PF and while they certainly do increase the volume of the signal, the same can be said for the noise.  That now seems to be the primary problem.  If I push the mic gain and hit the +18db button, the signal level is acceptable (for acoustic guitar), but the white noise is really loud also.  In fact, I should probably mention that the white noise is sometimes clearly audible even when the mic gain is turned all the way down!  I tested my setup agiain today.  Running a dry mic signal into Reaper with the Mic gain at 3/4 produces very audible white noise peaking at around -50db 9according to my noise gate vst).


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#4 Triryche

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Posted 18 September 2013 - 05:32 AM

So if you capture the dry (weak) signal, is it still unusable with you other (non-Line6) vst plugs?
If so not you may need a separate pre-amp to the UX line in, or an entirely different interface.
I have cheap Peavy mic and can get a usable dry signal into Reaper, it is pretty weak, but still usable.
FWIW, when I was using a Lexicon USB interface, the built-in pre-amps gave more signal than the UX2.
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#5 fflbrgst

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Posted 19 September 2013 - 04:37 AM

You have not mentioned what the dB level is when you are trying this.  Ideally you should be recording somewhere in the -18dB to -12dB area.  It is not necessary to record the incoming signal any louder than that. 

 

Side note: hope you got your SM57 from a reputable dealer, there are a large number of counterfeit SM57s out there (some work quite well, if its any consolation!)


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#6 nicky872

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Posted 23 September 2013 - 09:28 AM

Thank you Triryche and fflbrgst for your responses.  It is much appreciated. 

 

I did buy my Shure SM57 from a reputable buyer and am fairly confident that it is indeed legitimate.

 

I have attempted to test the noise and signal dB levels using different mic gain settings to record in Reaper (with the aid of Reaper's useful meter-hold feature).  I did three groups of recordings: (1) vocals at 10cm distance from Shure SM57 with no mic gain boost; (2)  vocals at 10cm distance from Shure SM57 with +18dB mic gain boost; (3) acoustic guitar at 10cm distance from Shure SM57 with +18dB mic gain boost.  I attach an image of the noise and signal level stats at the end of this post.

 

It seems to me as though the signal-to-noise ratio actually improves as one cranks the mic gain knob on the UX1 (unless I am sorely mistaken?).  I am still concerned about the level of noise in comparison to the signal I get, irrespective of the level of mic gain I use.  Are the figures above "normal" or is something amiss with my UX1?

 

I am now considering purchasing an M-Audio DMP3 mic preamp in the hope of coaxing more life out of my lowly SM57. Do either of you have any thought on whether this may (1) be a solution to my low-signal-high-noise issues and (2) is feasible with the UX1 (i.e. will it work with the UX1)?  Any responses are, again, appreciated.Attached File  Levels.png   193.83KB   0 downloads


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#7 fflbrgst

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Posted 24 September 2013 - 05:04 AM

Looks like at 6 gain with boost for vocal, 7 gain plus boost for guitar, you have acceptable recordinglevel, but the noise is high.  For vocals you could get closer to the mic than 10cm, but will get some proximity effect.

I can't comment on the M Audio preamp, no experience with it.

There are any number of inexpensive audio interfaces with very good preamps - M- Audio, Tascam, Steinberg, Presonus.


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#8 nicky872

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Posted 29 September 2013 - 09:25 AM

Looks like at 6 gain with boost for vocal, 7 gain plus boost for guitar, you have acceptable recordinglevel, but the noise is high.  For vocals you could get closer to the mic than 10cm, but will get some proximity effect.

I can't comment on the M Audio preamp, no experience with it.

There are any number of inexpensive audio interfaces with very good preamps - M- Audio, Tascam, Steinberg, Presonus.

Thanks for the input Mike,

 

I can live with the noise floor when recording vocals. However, my main concern remains the high noise floor when recording acoustic using these settings.  As it stands, I am now on the verge of purchasing another audio interface to replace my UX1 (I'm coveting the Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 or 18i8 massively at the moment!). I do love my little UX1 and it has given me so much joy over the past few years, but I feel like it's time for a significant upgrade in any case.  However, before I do this I would still like some clarity on the following: does anyone know exactly what the maximum gain provided by the mic preamp on the UX1 is?  I've scoured the net in search of a definitive answer, but I have had no luck.  Some forums have mentioned something like +44dB, but I cannot seem to find an official answer.  I know that the +18dB boost in pod farm provides additional digital gain, but I would still like to know what the max analog gain on the unit is. It would obviously be foolish to purchase another interface that does not provide at least as much gain as the UX1, if not substantially more.  Your inputs are, as always, appreciated.


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Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: ux1, gain, microphone, shure sm57, input volume, noise, reaper, xlr

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