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Old September 23rd, 2009, 06:54 PM   #1
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Is the Aphex 230 an audio matte box with grads and promist?

Scenario: podcasts, VOs for web/PPT (screencasts).

Is it a totally stupid idea to mate a lower end mic like a ProCaster or even a mid end mic like the SM7B to a hairy chested box like an Aphex 230? Or is a 166 going to suffice? I'm assuming that moving up on the mic front is a bad idea as I can't pick my recording locations and my edit suite isn't ideal.

I really like my Rode ProCaster, it catches what I want and rejects most of what I don't want, but it needs some (no, 'lots of') post work to make the voices I record (yes, that includes me) sit in your mental lap like a happy but podgy cat.

I currently just shove it straight into an Edirol UA25, and thusly into STP where I apply a smidgin of multipressor and a bit of EQ. But it's depressing to note that Garage Band seems to do a better job globally whilst creating some annoying artifacts locally. So I've got lots to learn.

So, for happy lap cat VOs for podcasts, web video and DVD... get a magic box, get a standard cheaper box, stick with STP, find a magic plug-in or upgrade the mic?
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Old September 23rd, 2009, 07:48 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Daviss View Post
Scenario: podcasts, VOs for web/PPT (screencasts).

Is it a totally stupid idea to mate a lower end mic like a ProCaster or even a mid end mic like the SM7B to a hairy chested box like an Aphex 230?
No, not stupid. That box has just about everything you could possibly want to use on a single channel of voice (or anything else). If you have a poor mic you can use it to make it sound a bit better, with a good one you can use it it to fix common problems and enhance the sound. Usually mid and high end mics will sound significantly better than a cheap mic.

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Or is a 166 going to suffice?
Not sure what '166' you mean. If dbx 166, that is a two channel device which has less options - works well, but limited to compression, gate, and peak limiter.

It all depends upon what you are trying to do. With a good voice, for pretty straight voice narration, etc., the SM-7 and a dbx 166 is a fine combination.

If you have voice problems to fix, the Aphex will get you much further since it has many more types of processing options. Also, it may be useful if you are trying to create 'hyped' voices such as for certain kinds of ads, or other special effects.

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Originally Posted by Matt Daviss View Post
I'm assuming that moving up on the mic front is a bad idea as I can't pick my recording locations and my edit suite isn't ideal.
This is actually where the SM-7 shines - you can eat the mic, and it will still sound good. If you do that, it can get you a more consistent sound while locations change. Since you are very close to the mic, it tends to minimize room problems. (the actual element on an SM-7 is back a ways from the built in windscreen, it is not the same as eating most mics when you get right on top of it.)


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Originally Posted by Matt Daviss View Post
So, for happy lap cat VOs for podcasts, web video and DVD... get a magic box, get a standard cheaper box, stick with STP, find a magic plug-in or upgrade the mic?
If you don't already have one, I would suggest getting the SM-7 first. See how that does, then consider the Aphex.

Understand that the basic quality of the voice hitting the mic and processing is the most important thing. Some people are just born with voices that sound great when recorded.

-Mike
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Old September 25th, 2009, 01:39 AM   #3
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Mike, thanks for that.

As I mentioned, I'm currently using a Rode ProCaster (the XLR version of the Podcaster I believe) and when treated right, it's really rather impressive considering its price. However the SM7 seems to be more... 'straightforward' for mic-eaters to understand. I'm happy to drive my ProCaster, but it can be tricky to hand it over to your average Senior Manager to deliver his PPT preso script. But at this stage, it's either SM7 or A230 budgetwise.

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Originally Posted by Mike Demmers View Post
Understand that the basic quality of the voice hitting the mic and processing is the most important thing. Some people are just born with voices that sound great when recorded.
Oh yes. Most definitely!

My predicament is that in most situations I will not be able to choose the voice or the location. So let's say 'flexibility' is the watchword. A nice well-behaved gate to lessen the room tone 'spill', some EQ to help beef up a non-pro voice, some compression to assist with 'nodding' around the mic, and all this with the ability to record in familiar surroundings with a small friendly audience to get that 'live' feel. Working with COS-11s or other small unobtrusive mics has lead to clean but flat recordings that may be fine for video but don't podcast particularly well.

Another situation: I get fed an audio signal from the desk of most conferences I film. Again, the feed is clean but missing troublesome frequencies according to the venue. It too could do with some help.

So in that situation, would I be on the right track that doing some heavy lifting BEFORE the audio hits my recording would ultimately lead to better results than taking what I'm given and bashing away at it in STP afterwards? (hence the rather ham-fisted analogy of A230 and matte box)

The DBX166 has a bit of a rep for radio (with DJs performance rather than content owners), but I've been lead to believe that the Aphex 230 can work some magic on less than perfect stuff. And believe me, some location audio is a long way from perfect!
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Old September 26th, 2009, 07:51 PM   #4
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Mike, thanks for that.
So in that situation, would I be on the right track that doing some heavy lifting BEFORE the audio hits my recording would ultimately lead to better results than taking what I'm given and bashing away at it in STP afterwards? (hence the rather ham-fisted analogy of A230 and matte box)
As long as it is you that is responsible for the final product (not going to someone else to mix, post house, etc.) there is no harm, but some things are better done later - see below.

The A230 is designed to be pretty much 'everything you could possibly want for a voice' in one box. It's reallly a studio piece, and contains some faddish stuff like a tube mic preamp, and a couple 'special effects' like the big bottom (a low frequency synthesizer/enhancer) and the exciter (high frequency synthesis).

Comparing this to the dbx166:

The special effects are not something you would normally use on any kind of straight dialog, they are strong flavors with very limited use. You can ignore those for your purposes, I think.

That leaves:

The mic preamp - good if you need one. But I will say that a tube preamp would not be my first choice for a situation where I had to cart gear around (fragile) and any benefits would be pretty subtle. Probably inaudible in a podcast.

Built in EQ - Useful if you have just ONE voice on that channel. EQ is very specific to the individual voice. Normally I would not eq in a live situation. It is a very sensitive task, and there are too many distractions in a field situation to be able to hear well. (the single exception would be a low cut filter) If several voices were on one channel, I would definitely save this for post processing so I could split them out or automate eq changes for each voice.

Built in de-esser - this is again, a problem solver very specific to an individual voice. Easily done in post, and best done in a controlled situation.

The dbx unit has everything else. Plus - it has two channels, which gives you more options, since you are probably recording to a device that records two channels. That might allow you to take a board feed into one channel, and set up one special spot mic on the other, both with some processing to protect from overload and help create the sound you want.

Gating is very dangerous in a live situation, I would not use it. However, the dbx has a downward expander mode which CAN be useful, if you use conservative settings (don't let it expand all the way off, use it as a helper, never doing so much you cannot manually fix it later if it does something you do not want.)

If budget is a concern you can get an SM-7 and the DBX for about the price of the Aphex unit. The SM-7 has a built in low cut filter, and a switch to make the high end boosted or flat which can be useful with different voice talent. From the situation as you describe it, that is probably what I would do. (assuming you already have a mic preamp).

If you really want to eq live, you can add an eq unit later. And that same EQ could be inserted into the dbx sidechain to create a de-esser, if needed.

If budget is not a concern, both units would be wonderful. ;-)

-Mike
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Old September 27th, 2009, 11:25 AM   #5
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Good points, Mike!

I'm fully taking on board the 'Do No Harm' and 'different voices' messages.

I had heard that the A230 was a 'secret weapon' on Conference PA, and the more I learn, the more I'm beginning to doubt I got the real story.

On the events I'd get a pre-EQ feed, I probably wouldn't need much help as the Sound Engineer is doing great. It's the lower end of the market with the dreaded in-house PA that I burn up (unpaid) time repairing faulty sound. And at the other end, there's the desire to get really nice client-voiced narration at their office where all of the paid editing time goes into making lots of disjointed takes work rather than in sweetening.

But I think you guessed my ulterior motives... find a regular scenario for which a given desired toy is a little bit overkill, but just perfect for the irregular but fun situations. Heart says A230, head says 166. An ex BBC colleague used to use shedloads of Behringer boxes for taming live audio before streaming - time to buy him a beer or three, methinks.
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