Upgrading my audio environment has been a daunting – albeit rewarding – task. When I worked in The Cave, audio mastering involved a series of carefully applied bandaids in order to make the most of what I had. Those patches worked for the most part, I got work. However, going from a dynamic to a condenser mic as well as adding an Optimal Sound Environment was a whole other ball of wax… Ear wax, to be exact.
I had to break down and ask for help in chasing down the source of a HUM. This hum was the bane of my existence for 4 days straight. I checked the power cord, the mixer, the connections, different rooms, different power strips & outlets. Turned off fans, a/c, fridge, pencil sharpeners, ANYTHING that could have possibly been the source. It was THERE.
Rip it Off Quick, Like a Bunny…
I don’t like asking for help, but I will when the situation calls for it. So I asked. That didn’t go so well. I won’t go into details, but I would like to offer this: When a person thinks highly enough of you to ask for assistance, exercise decency – even in the face of a blatant error. Avoid a chastising/belittling tone. I’m fully aware that tone can be misinterpreted via the written word, mind you. If those same words were said to my face, they still would’ve felt like being smacked on the nose with a newspaper. They were unduly harsh.
What was said was true, though. 90% of it was caused by ear fatigue and not paying attention to previously applied bandaids. 10% was me turning up the gain so the hum could be heard. After licking my wounds & soothing my ego I set about doing what I normally do – figuring it out for my damned self.
Go for the Gold
I asked myself, “What didn’t I do?” The upgrade involved everything except a new microphone cable. I researched audio issues caused by bad/cheap/old mic cables. Well, whaddya know? HUMS. My mic cable wasn’t old, but it did cost $10. It served well for my purposes before the upgrade, but since I upgraded everything else, why not?
My first stop for product reviews/opinions are the pro-audio forums. It didn’t take me long to discover that Mogami Gold was the way to go. I then scootched over to Guitar Center’s website. Yowch. $47 total for the 6-foot cable. Ah, well, I’m in it to win it, and I refuse to let a piece of equipment slow my roll. Just to cover all bases, I Google’d reviews for the Mogami Gold… and they found it good.
“Made very well, absolutely no noise in the signal chain. Its complete quiet and accurate!…Sounds awesome! If you suffer alot of noise and a buzz in your signal chain, get the Mogami! Its worth every single penny. If someone tells you that a Mic chord is a Mic chord no matter what brand, dont believe them!” Review from zZounds
“This XLR cable is one of the best out there, and considering how delicate vocals can be, it is obvious that any advantage you can get in recording or reproducing it needs to be taken. The cable that you connect to your mic can add quite a bit of noise, so you will want something quality. This cable is the answer.” Review from Guitar Center
No Snow in the Forecast
Noon. The following afternoon. Mogami Gold in hand. Home -> Booth -> Connect -> Power Up. First thing I noticed was absolutely no white noise – a soft version of antenna TV snow. Gone. Nice. The previous band-aid for that was to lower the gain, and noise gate & raise the master in post. No more.
So, I turn up the gain annnnnd….. hum. Note: I didn’t say HUM, though. Could I work around this hum? Well, no. It’s un-Noise Gate-able. I had to have a quick chat with myself. Yes, seriously.
Deep breaths. Stave off panic attack. Focus, T. Stay calm. You didn’t come this far to play the workaround game and settle. Keep going, you’re almost there.
Pick & Roll-Off
The chat continued… Pick a switch or button to push. Do it gently.
I look at my mic. The roll-off switch was engaged, so I disengaged it. Hum…. gone.
Yeah, I know. An anti-climactic end to my audio-drama. Pun intended.
Well, that was it. Yes, I had disengage the roll-off switch previously, but the cheaper cable had the white noise & kept the hum there. The engaged roll-off took the edge off.
2 Points to Ponder
- You get what you pay for.
- That’s how you learn.
Inside the Optimal Sound Environment sans white noise & hum, I could now turn the gain up to “just right”. Right on.
Stay tuned for Part II…