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Old March 27th, 2013, 07:58 PM   #1
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Recording Car Audio

I am going to be recording a lot of car audio in the coming months here and at the moment, the Zoom H4n isn't cutting it with it's native mics.

The main useage of this will be recording aftermarket automotive exhausts and I am looking into something that will get a richer, deeper tone than the tinny, high strung sound that the H4n sometimes gets and I am looking into something better.

After doing some research I am leaning into grabbing a Rode NTG-3 that I can suction cup/tape to the bumper/trunk to get rolling audio as well as the boom as I do customer testimonials at times and being able to hang a boom and not handhold an H4n in my lap, pointing at them would be an upgrade for sure.

Does anyone have any recommendations for good mics to get a solid bass note out of aftermarket automotive exhausts? I find that the Zoom mics have too much treble and don't catch the solid bass tone that I hear in real life. I have been recording off axis to minimize the raspiness that I find I get with the H4n but it obviously doesn't quite cut it.
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Old March 27th, 2013, 08:51 PM   #2
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Re: Recording Car Audio

Have you considered a large-diaphragm condenser mic? They are usually used for recording vocals and sometimes kick drums. This would definitely get the most bass out of the exhaust sound.

For interviewing, literally anything except tin cans and string is better than using the built-in mics really far away from your subject. The NTG-3 on a boom positioned 4-6" away from the talent will make you audio better by a thousand times.
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Old March 27th, 2013, 09:24 PM   #3
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Re: Recording Car Audio

Oh I've made do... I've even used my Elinchrom strobes' modeling lights for a warm fill!

I heard a lot of people mentioning large diaphragm condenser mics but they aren't something I have a lot of experience with. I have used cardioids and shotguns plenty in the past but no large diaphragms. I assume they have very close proximity? Any recommendations?

I still think I will end up using a shotgun for versatility because as I understand it the large guys have very close proximity?
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Old March 27th, 2013, 09:33 PM   #4
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Re: Recording Car Audio

As with any mic, the closer the better. LDCs are usually cardioid in pattern, and as such their proximity effect is increased.

One mic I was thinking of actually isn't a condenser, but rather a dynamic mic: the ElectroVoice RE20. Now I've never used this mic for car sound effects, but I do like it as a vocal mic and a kick-drum mic.
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Old March 27th, 2013, 11:18 PM   #5
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Re: Recording Car Audio

Audi soundtrack and sounds - YouTube
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Old March 28th, 2013, 10:07 AM   #6
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Re: Recording Car Audio

Yep Brian, watched that quite a bit and was trying to ID mics as it went along. Unfortunately the MKH-60 which seems like a hell of a mic is a bit out of my price range. Its even more relevant as this will be... drum roll... for Audi products! It looks like they use shotguns for rolling audio on that R8 rigged out, pointed down, in the slipstream to minimize noise.

B&H I see has this piece of kit which seems like a decent starting point for an NTG-3 as I will need a boom for a variety of situations:
Rode NTG-3 Basic Shotgun Microphone Kit B&H Photo Video


If the LDCs have a really nice deep tone I will need to consider them. I also just noticed this bundle of shotgun/LDC on B&H but I am unsure as to the mic quality (although I am sure they are a MASSIVE upgrade from what I am using now):
Audio-Technica AT4040SP 40 Series Studio Pack AT4040SP B&H Photo


Any more guidance is appreciated.
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Old March 28th, 2013, 10:45 AM   #7
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Re: Recording Car Audio

I've used everything from Schoeps CMC's to Shure SM58's. I remember getting decent results from Sennheiser e609's which are made for recording electric guitars. They're also inexpensive.

The bigger issue won't be what mic you use, but how you deal with wind noise. Even with those wind socks you're going to hear a ton of wind once you get the car up to speed. Many of the video game companies that use car sounds record with dyno machine. Looks like Audi has a facility for that also. If you have to record the car in motion, do as much as possible at low speed.
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Old March 28th, 2013, 04:28 PM   #8
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Re: Recording Car Audio

Well, lucky for me, I have access to a chassis dyno AND engine dyno so I can record everything individually.

It looks like Audi is using shotguns for rolling audio, but switching to LDC when recording outside chassis audio and exhaust audio on the dyno? I have a soundproof'd room as well I can record engine audio in, so this will be used in that application as well.
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Old March 29th, 2013, 04:09 AM   #10
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Re: Recording Car Audio

I loved the Audi Soundtrack video. They certainly gave it their all, and didn't skimp on dollars! I spent two years working in our NVH department in a similar anechoic chamber with chassis dyno, but it only had one set of (very large) rollers, and my goodness, we didn't have _anything_ like the kit those guys had. Not even close! I don't even remember what microphones we used, but we used a lot of Bruel & Kjaer and Nagra kit.

It would be nice to have access to some of the sound library the Audi guys put together, for comparison purposes, but I couldn't find anything.

Speaking of which... Justin, will the various recordings be used to evaluate the qualities of the various aftermarket exhausts? If that is the case, I am wondering what strategy you have to ensure like for like results?
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Old March 29th, 2013, 09:30 AM   #11
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Re: Recording Car Audio

It will not be a recording across manufacturers, but rather, a recording of baseline (factory) and post installation in reference to the stock tone. The problem is, all companies in the industry all use varying levels of sound quality all the way down to native DSLR audio so the worry is not about all the other manufacturers, but rather getting a good baseline and a good post installation to highlight the tone difference and simply using consistent recording techniques throughout. That in itself is already a step up from all the other manufacturers. I've been A1 in a variety of situations before so I am not terribly new to audio, but that was sports broadcasting so we use shotguns on all the cams, and headsets for the talent, so I have little experience in the way of other styles of mics.

Asking around I get people consistently telling me to use the SM57s with a pop guard. For $100, I think I might just get one before any big purchases to see how it fares. Digging around now for a mic stand with a removable boom arm and a pop guard.
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Old June 6th, 2013, 03:33 PM   #12
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Re: Recording Car Audio

Alright, gonna throw another post in here to follow up on this in case someone finds this in search.

I ended up getting 2 mics, a Shure SM57 and an Audio Technica AT875 to record my audio with. I had a decibel meter when I originally recorded the exhausts to be around 90-100dB depending on how hard it was revved so I figured that the 105dB range on the shotgun would be enough, but alas not.

Under load the cars are exceeding 115db which blatantly blows out the range on the shotgun. I can turn the gain on my H4n down, but the fidelity isn't there so it clips regardless. The Shure handles it MUCH better being a dynamic mic. I use a suction cup mounted right around the license plate and point it to the exhaust tip to record. Much better quality and the noise level is JUST right inside its good range and it keeps the top end clean enough to be usable.

I used my shotgun in the same position and it would not record well, just too damn loud. I was mimicing the placement used in the BTS Audi video above, but obviously recording a factory car is much quieter than a modified one.
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