Lesson 20

The Source

This chapter is more of a personal philosophy, but it works for me, and is an integral part of many decisions I make throughout the recording process. As I explained in the intro 1.2, my prime consideration is maximum fidelity. The recording chain starts with the source, then the room, the mic, the mic cables, the preamp, the ad conversion, the daw, dsp, summing, the da conversion, the cables, the speakers, the room, and finally the listeners ears. As we know, a chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link, this is true for the audio chain as well. If any one of these links are not good, the final sound will also be not good. However, some links are more important than others. For instance, poor quality cables might not have much effect on the final sound. My rule of thumb is that the order of importance is the same order as the signal flow. The closer it is to the source, the more important it is. Based on this philosophy, the most important aspect of getting good sound, is having a good source. A good quality instrument that produces good tone, and a talented musician who doesn’t make mistakes and plays consistently. The goal of the recording process is to capture the sound, so if the sound sucks, then that’s how the recording is going to sound. The next most important aspect is the room acoustics. Room acoustics are often overlooked, and underestimated, but in fact play a huge part in the sound. I go into quite a bit of detail regarding room acoustics in section 1.17.
Next on the list is the microphone. There’s a variety of different types of microphones, which is covered in more detail in section 1.9 and 1.10. Using the optimal type of microphone, as well as a high quality microphone to retain the signal integrity. Fortunately, high quality microphones are now more accessible than ever because all iSK microphones are very high quality, and also very affordable.

Next in the chain is the preamp. Preamps come is all kinds of shapes, sizes, and sonic characteristics. The single biggest factor that separates a high quality preamp from a low quality one is how much noise it creates. All preamps, even the best ones in the world, make noise. As you turn the gain up, the white static noise becomes more noticeable, and is usually fairly prominent at maximum volume. better preamps simply have less of this noise, and therefore you get a better signal to noise ratio.

From the preamp, the signal goes into the ad converters. The quality of the converter affects the accuracy in which the analog sound is turned into digital sound which the computer can process and playback. Honestly, the quality of the converter doesn’t make a huge difference, and you would need a high quality playback system to hear it.