I have a small home studio setup.I'm using a focusrite interface and dynamic microphones as SM-58. I feel as if the recorded signal is not big enough and I always end up having to push some Pro tools plugins to make it sound better. The final result is a bit crap and sounds too processed. It's like I don't have enough signal to work on.

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    In case it isn’t made totally clear, the answer to your title question is emphatically no. Sep 20, 2018 at 20:45
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    I heard once that Bono sometimes recorded with a Shure 57. Rumors about PJ Harvey, too. It's my opinion that they don't sound very good. I once had the pleasure of singing into a Neumann U-89 and they sound unbelievable. I would strongly suggest buying a large-diaphragm condenser mic. These will require your interface to provide phantom power. You could do worse than a Perception 220
    – S. Imp
    Sep 21, 2018 at 0:21
  • This AKG seems to be a good deal. I hadn't opportunity to play that much with condensers but I've worked for a short period in a studio and I used to record some backing vocals on those Neumann and sounds really incredible. They were plugged into a Avalon tube pre. I don't know what was sounding great in that case. Sep 21, 2018 at 10:50
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    @Tetsujin you have a nice voice, but 57s and 58s sound muffled to me. They lack clarity on the high and low ends. For another $50 or so you can get a large diaphragm condenser with a shock mount that sounds 10 times better. You clearly didn't click on the link. The AKG is only $150.
    – S. Imp
    Sep 21, 2018 at 20:23
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    @GuilhermeRibeiroDeveloper I would point out that your focusrite is responsible for amplifying the signal. Hopefully it has a preamp (with phantom power) and a gain knob. If not, you would also need to get a preamp. What model focusrite?
    – S. Imp
    Sep 21, 2018 at 20:28

5 Answers 5


It sounds like your problem is you've been told (as we all have) that the quality of a recording is determined by the quality of the recording equipment, which is completely false. The quality of a recording is determined by the skill and experience of the recordist.

You wouldn't post a question saying, "when I play bass, it doesn't sound like Les Claypool. Do I need to buy the same bass he used to play the same way he does?" Of course that's ridiculous. Recording is an art form similar to playing an instrument. Giving someone who has never played bass before Les Claypool's bass won't make them a good bass player, and if you hand Les Claypool an MIM Squire P-Bass he will still be an awesome player and he will make that bass sound as good as it can sound.

The same thing is true with recording. A recordist who has been learning and recording for 20+ years can make great sounding recordings with almost any equipment. Someone in their first year of recording things is still learning and is going to struggle to get good sounds no matter what microphones, etc. they are using.

To improve the quality of your recordings, you have to improve your skill at recording. Buy books, study, read web sites and forums, check out YouTube videos, but most of all: Practice Practice Practice. Practice recording every day, if you can. Move the mic around. Listen to what happens when you change things. Develop your ears. Recording everyone and everything. It's like learning an instrument. It takes time and dedication and it's very rewarding.

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    After some hours of practicing on the bass it self, recording and hearing it isolated , I've figured out it needs a balance between execution and managing the input gain. First I've noticed I was using the monitor and that was summing up volume to my headphones. I've disable it and could hear the exact bass sound. Then I've kept an eye on both input levels and the fierce applied on the strings. I think I was having a wrong impression of how the true tone was. Sep 23, 2018 at 10:36
  • I think this is a great answer, but it begs the question: in that case, why would anyone spend thousands of dollars on 'high-end' equipment?
    – Time4Tea
    May 5, 2019 at 17:00
  • @Time4Tea Using better equipment makes a difference, it just doesn’t make it good. A great engineer can get great sounds with inexpensive equipment and can get different great sounds with expensive equipment. Sometimes you want those different great sounds. Alanis Morissette is a great example. Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie was recorded on 20-bit ADAT, which was very cheap at the time, and it sounds amazing. That said, her vocals were recorded with an AKG C12, which is a very expensive mic. But it’s perfect for her voice. So you have to know where to spend the money. May 5, 2019 at 18:02
  • @Time4Tea Also general the most expensive equipment is owned by studios and companies that rent the equipment. Like a Stradivarius violin, the violinist doesn’t own it, it’s owned by a wealthy person or organization who may or may not charge for its use. Studios amass large amounts of very expensive gear because it brings in the clients and thereby pays the gear off (eventually). Engineers should spend their money on food and rent and not gear. May 5, 2019 at 18:04

The only result of 'not enough signal' would be a raised noise floor as a low level was brought up. And I don't think that's what you're talking about.

No, you don't need a tube preamp to add 'interesting' distortion. A condenser mic will be brighter, but the SM58 was designed to flatter vocals, and still does a pretty good job of that.

Paradoxically, you may actually be recording too loud. A signal that 'hits the buffers' at any point in the recording path will be irretrievably damaged.

Also, make sure your SM58s actually ARE SM58s. The market is flooded with fakes. If you paid a 'too good to be true' price, you've probably got a fake. One test is to unscrew the ball and see if the capsule is mounted on a rubber shock absorber. If it's rigidly fixed to the mic body, it's a fake.

  • the mic is brand new bought from a famous shop , I doubt they would do that. I mind the interface gain to keep the input within 'green light' . It may hit buffer sometimes but the bass sounds weak in general. Unless I put a lot of power when playing it but noises will pop up though. It's like either the interface is not pushing the waves in a amount enough or the bass is not good (Squire P bass new strings custom gauge, 110) Sep 20, 2018 at 15:36
  • Ps: I plug the bass on the interface. The SM-58 is only for vocals/guitar amp Sep 20, 2018 at 15:37
  • what inputs does the interface have? is it a combo xlr and 1/4" jack (trs)? do you change anything when you are recording bass vs recording vocals with the mic?
    – b3ko
    Sep 20, 2018 at 17:41
  • I've been using an SM58 with a £4 capsule, and not even put the transformer back in yet. No-one's commented on it, and I'm happy with the sound. It's great for open mics, as I can afford to lose it/ get it knocked over. Although I honestly think it's rather good...
    – Tim
    Sep 20, 2018 at 17:46
  • Interface is Focusrite 1 XLR and 1 LINE ( mic / bass ) Sep 21, 2018 at 10:36

Are you confusing 'better' with merely 'louder'?

Bear in mind, modern pop records go to extremes to get everything sounding as loud as possible by the time they're released. Very few people ever track with all that compression on; maybe a gentle curve on the input, everything else is done in post.

Achieving those high levels at mix/mastering is in itself no mean feat. Whether you love it or hate it, it takes a good bit of talent & expensive gear to push that loud without sounding bad.

Compulsory link to The Loudness War

...and no, a valve pre-amp will not make 'all the difference', neither will a cheap condenser.
A hugely expensive valve pre [eg Manley VoxBox, the single best mic pre I have ever had the privilege of using] & an industry standard Neumann U87 will only help if you know exactly what to do with them to gain that relatively tiny sonic improvement compared to the thousands of dollars' extra investment.

  • Yes maybe you're right because my latest references are like Daft Punk, DRE 2001, Pink Floyd , Beatles . Maybe I'm expecting too much of my gear. But I mean mixing is destructive. I may be wrong but I think I need the louder input as possible. Sep 21, 2018 at 10:41
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    To take a slightly different tack; live recording, when you can't go back & do it again if something goes wrong. The BBC peak at -12dB, a movie sound engineer will be even more cautious & work at peak -20dB. It's not how loud you record it, it's how well you record it.
    – Tetsujin
    Sep 21, 2018 at 10:47
  • As suggestion of Todd Will above I'm practicing a lot. I'm now recording only the bass in many different setups. I'm even trying using Iphone Amplitube before the interface. Sep 21, 2018 at 10:53

It works both ways. If you take your skill level and use better mics and preamps and better equipment, the results will probably be more pleasing. Turn that around and say you're going to use less than optimal recording equipment, that same recording can probably be more pleasing if you have better recording skills. Generally, we have to work with the equipment and skills that are at our disposal and accept the results until our skills and/or equipment improve in quality. That's usually how we acquire experience and understanding about what we're doing. It's a valuable part of the learning process.

  • Yes in my case I have over 20 years of experience playing the instruments but not great experience recording ( mostly theory ). That's why I'm asking. The execution is fine but most of the time it's not very well captured Sep 21, 2018 at 15:55
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    @Guilherme Ribiero Developer - Don't be afraid to spend a lot of time experimenting with little things like mic placement and different locations in a room. Attempt to find the sweet spot on your microphone and use it to your advantage. Sometimes, bathroom acoustics can add to the sound of a recording, usually used on a single track. I've known people who practice their instruments in their bathroom because it sounds so much fuller in there. Experimentation will help you learn your equipment's actual limitations, and also develop your skills. Sep 22, 2018 at 4:16

Great-sounding vocals always start with the vocalist. A voice is an insanely flexible sound source and there are so many dimensions to a vocal performance: pitch, elocution, dynamics, and an infinite range of possibilities for your personal style. You can scream, croon, growl, whisper, or lilt.

I usually record rock bands and to record vocals well, I recommend these tools:

  • Large diaphragm condenser mic. Neumanns sound amazing but you can get a Perception 220 with a nice shock mount for $150. This mics have tremendous clarity and capture both highs and lows really well. They can be delicate so treat them nicely.
  • A pop filter. Certain "plosives" or fricative sounds overload the mic making a popping sound so you put this panty hose thing maybe half an inch or an inch from the mic and it stops the pops.
  • Compression. A really good singer doesn't need compression but I've found they really help instill confidence in performers because you can get up close and whisper and then shout your brains out and the compressor will instantly adjust the volume. It helps prevent vocalists from getting sheepish about their performance.

Good bass sound (and kick drums and low end in general) is like the final frontier when you are recording acoustic (i.e., non-electronic) instruments. It's hard to do it well.

To record a bass guitar, I use a direct box and an AKG D112. The direct box lets you capture the signal straight out of the bass (or line out on your amp) and the D112 is a sturdy mic usually used for bass drums. I wish I had a better bass mic and I've been told an Electro Voice RE 320 is even better. The P-220 should also work.

Mic placement for guitar speakers makes a huge difference. To be honest, except for possibly the guitar itself, this is the single most important consideration affecting the sound of your bass recording. I strongly suggest you experiment extensively til you find a sweet spot. Avoid pointing it straight into the center of the speaker or you might get some phasing. Angle the mic from one side a bit and point it straight at the center of the speaker. Start with a 45 degree angle and then move it around. Less angle. More angle. Closer. Farther.

So you record both mic and DI for your bass performance. And OF COURSE you have to play it well. That should go without saying. Make sure there is no peaking or overloading. If those red lights are going off you have a problem. Turn down the gain.

Then, in your mix, you blend the two bass tracks to taste. If the bass is getting lost in the mix, consider adjusting: guitar tone/pickup, amp settings, mic placement. It's better to adjust these than try to fix it later. If it sounds really good in the room, consider moving the mic a bit. It's not unheard of to place a mic back from the speakers to capture the room sound also -- although bass tends to suffer from standing waves. If you find that certain notes are just super loud and tend to fill the entire room, that's probably a standing wave and these make it tricky to record with a mic. Consider turning down the amp and/or moving the mic closer to the speakers.

I would also strongly suggest learning to use compression effectively. A perfect performance doesn't need any, and too much compression can rob a mix of all its energy, making it sound lifeless. But compression can also tame an unruly mix and make a rough or raw recording sound much more controlled. I always compress bass and vocals. If your bass is getting lost in your mix, consider compressing it 5-8db and turning it up.

EDIT: I neglected to discuss amps but assume that you probably have a rig and don't plan to simply purchase another rig. A super expensive Orange or Boogie or Ampeg rig will obviously sound better than a cheap used junker. I like tubes better than solid state. But if you can't purchase a new rig, consider trying a different speaker size. For downtuned metal, you should consider a 15" or possibly even 18" speaker. For funky stuff and most rock at normal tunings, 10" speakers sound good.


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