Carry on being Creative in Isolation: How To Record Effectively In Isolation

Isolation is a tense time. The entire world has been bought together, unwittingly, towards a much greater threat than we ever could’ve imagined. In these difficult times, a lot of us in the audio community have been thrust into obscure and unfamiliar environments to carry on our day to day; and we feel like an industry leader it is our responsibility to help our customers, the audio community as a whole, but most importantly ourselves individually within our creative family, through this hard time. 

With this in mind, we wanted to create a short series to help you, friends, or colleagues you know who would benefit from our experience and advice, in allowing yourselves to ‘keep calm, and carry on’ as the old saying goes - starting with how to record effectively for your projects during isolation. 

Learning this valuable skill now, while we all have a lot of time on our hands is going to give you ample experience for once the world resumes it’s every day. We’ve covered in depth previously on the importance of recording the best source ‘takes’ when creating any audio project, due to it being easily 80% of your overall sound in the final outcome.

There is an old rule that to become an expert at anything, it required 10,000 hours of practice to consider yourself one. Let's utilize the time we have now at our disposal to start putting in those hours - starting off with the basics to help you through this trying time while at home.

Microphone Choice

We’ve touched on the topic of microphones and the types available to you - Dynamic, Condenser, and Ribbon. But in a little more detail, it’s good to know what makes a microphone sound like it does, and knowing it’s the makeup of its design allows you to appropriately select it for the desired outcome of sound from the source. 

For example, the V11 is a perfect microphone for Piano or violin, acoustic guitars, female vocals or clean male vocals - acoustic instruments that need a silky, expensive touch of class that gives the listener the image of recording in the highest quality possible.

The BH2 or BH1s however, is a solid choice for almost anything it touches - a real workhorse in the studio and lives, phenomenal on pop vocals, or drums as overheads, but with the touch of class needed to take a normal recording to the next level.

For a dynamic choice, the HH1 excels on electric guitar and bass amps, heavier, aggressive vocals, snare and toms, cajon, etc. any loud sound source that needs a real obvious sense of individuality and quality that stands out from the run of the mill dynamic mic’s commonly used.

With the source being the most important part of your recording, it's imperative to make sure you choose the correct mic and the correct flavor for the tone and style you and the artist have in mind. You can read more about our options of microphones to help you at home here, including our sales to alleviate the financial stress!

Quality, not quantity

When looking to record at home, the main question you need to ask yourself regarding an interface choice is ‘what am I going to realistically be recording?’

By this, I mean are you likely to be recording a full 16 piece mic setup for drums while in isolation, or is it viable to work with insane sample libraries from makers such as GGD or Toontrack? 

To this end, the likelihood is that the answer is, ‘no’ - or at least ‘not yet; not while I’m isolated’.

So with this in mind, we thought it best to focus on the few interfaces that will give you an ample number of inputs, and a mirrored high quality to the microphones outlined above too, but without breaking the bank.

Right now, and without repeating myself too much,  the priority is to be achieving the best quality at the source and a pristine, clear and low noise preamp is needed to meld well with whatever microphone choice you use. 

Take a look at the video below from SanjayC below. I’ve recommended to several audio engineers going through this exact problem and it’s allowed them a clear insight to the pros and cons of 7 interfaces, all tried and tested and left for you to decide on what's best for you in your situation: 

It’s not just us that’s here to help…

With all this bad in the world, it’s extremely humbling to see other companies reaching out to help as much as they can in the audio world. A great one that happens to be a Latvian counterpart of ours, Sonarworks, is a mainstay in many studios we work with including my own. 

Reference Headphones and Reference Systemwide are two invaluable tools that are now available at your disposal on a trial period to help you achieve the best results from calibrated speakers and headphones.

Now, by calibrated, I simply mean that almost all headphones and speakers have their cones and specific characteristics in sound that add a slight discoloration to the true sound of your mix - simply they’re usually made to have added op end or enhanced bass to ‘sound’ better than the original track was maybe meant to; and this can be great for playback but not when you’re trying to get a true representation of your mix so it translates well across the board on all mediums (studio to a mobile phone, or a car system, for example, can sound vastly different when mixed on headphones or speakers in this way). 

Sonarworks have developed a tool to flatten the EQ curve of your headphones or speakers allowing you to achieve a more studio-quality result, without the need for studio-quality acoustic treatment for your room or the flattest EQ’d headphones known to man. With this in mind, we urge you to pick up the trial for either one of the software above and try it out for yourself at least while the quarantine is in effect worldwide, to achieve the best sound possible while you’re recording. You can find more information about Sonarworks Reference 21 day Trial period here:

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