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Recording vocals on the go

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  • Recording vocals on the go

    Hi, has anybody tried to record vocals on the go in the 1010 music blackbox and how? I would like to use it as a scratch pad for vocals too. Thank You. Luca

  • #2
    A lot will come down to how ‘on the go’ you are looking for, as different people will have different ideas of how little or how much gear is acceptable, how little or much setup time and space, etc.

    The two main options which I’ve used, and can be tweaked to your own personal work flow are the following…

    1 - field recorder
    2 - smartphone with or without microphone option

    The field recorder is good because it will give a relatively strong signal out of it headphone jack for recording into the BlackBox. It will also have a back up on its memory card for later manipulation. Depending on the field recorder, it may have XLR and line inputs for further mic and instrument options. It of course could be used without firing up the BB for quick ideas or easier setup, you could transfer the files to the BlackBox later.

    The smartphone is good for similar reasons. Modern smartphones have decent mics built in. A simple and affordable lav mic can upgrade the sound quality and usability without adding any real bulk to your kit. USB mics would be the next step up, greatly improving the audio, be powered by the phone, and also be quick to setup, of course adding some more bulk to the travel kit.
    Another big advantage of using the smartphone is being able to use apps that will allow you to us EQ, compressors, filters, and other effects to your recordings. It also will give you a separate backup recording like the field recorder to use in case the BlackBox recoding is too hot or cold etc. Additionally you could use synths and drum machines, and also have a sampling source.

    The smartphone with lav mic or usb mic is what I’d recommend if you don’t have a field recorder already, and don’t need to use a specific XLR microphone, phantom power etc.
    You probably have a smartphone or tablet already, Lav’s are cheap and good, USB mics are $60-$150 and really good quality.

    Good luck on your choice!

    Last edited by Suspect Frequencies; 02-20-2022, 11:12 AM.


    • #3
      I'll second the field recorder idea. I use an old Tascam DR-05 and it works great using the built in recorder mics. I just connect an aux cable from the headphone out on that to the audio in on the Blackbox. Easy to set levels and comes through nice and clear. I can then add reverb or slight delay in the BB.

      In experimenting, I've tried a few other things that were somewhat, or not quite as, portable. I tried using my battery powered Roland VT-4 vocal effects processor with both a good dynamic and condenser mic hooked up. While I could eventually get a usable sound, the signal from the VT-4 to the BB is pretty weak even maxed out, so I had to really raise the input level of the BB. The final sound wasn't appreciably better than the DR-05, unless I actually wanted to use the effects on the VT-4 (harmonizer, vocoder, or robot effects could be cool for some songs). I also tried both mics through my desktop Behringer X1204USB mixer into the BB. While it would add some other options going in (3 band EQ and compression or effects in the mixer) and tended to have more bass frequencies with EQ at noon, I wouldn't say it was that much better of a tone than the DR-05, especially given the fact that it wasn't portable at all.

      Thus, my personal analysis is that my DR-05 makes the most sense for getting vocal ideas down. Between using that and attaching a battery to my BB with dual lock strip, I have a super portable rig that I can throw into a backpack with my Keystep and I can go anywhere to get ideas down. (In case you ever want to record electric guitar or bass, I use a Nux MP-2 Mighty Plug guitar jack headphone amp if I want to record guitar or bass parts in with good sound.)


      • #4
        I also use a DR-40x as my primary field recorder. And, I own the Shure MV-88 and it is an excellent option. I use the MV-88 when I travel.


        • #5
          Well, thanks everybody, I appreciate you took the time to answering me. I do like both options. I mean the smartphone with an attached microphone, and the one with the field recorder. Thanks again.


          • #6
            This is a tricky problem I've come up against myself. Field recorders are great but they're explicitly designed to take a lovely recording of the whole room. That's generally the opposite of what you want for vocals, which is a clean recording of the voice with as little room sound as possible. One of the zoom ones that will take XLR in would work well but that's more and more to carry. A USB battery powering the apogee mic or similar that has headphone out for direct monitoring might work well as that would give a reasonable condenser mic optimised for voice, but with a built in preamp.


            • #7
              Not all field recorders are specifically designed to pick up the white room. It depends on the field recorder, what pattern pickup of it mic, etc.
              One of my field recorders has a microphone designed to do just the opposite. So it really depends on which model, what mix pattern, wether it has interchangeable mics, etc.
              My Zoom recorder with shotgun mic attached does a great job of rejecting room noise and only capturing the source I’m pointing it at.
              One can only be so picky when recording in a mobile situation with limited gear. This is when location and ingenuity go a long way in increasing the chance of success.


              • #8
                My DR-40x has adjustable mics so you can choose from different patterns and it features 2 XLR/Combo inputs. It is a 4-track recorder and audio interface (Mic to USB).

                Though I use the Shure MV-88, I also have the Rode Video Mic. It is an inexpensive, mono mic that is compatible with DSLR and smartphones. It sounds great. It is a matter of finding the right tool for your needs.


                • #9
                  I’m looking for a way to take my music efforts on the road while traveling.

                  I need a way to record voice in a pad. I don’t want to take a mixer or one of my dynamic or condenser mics with me. I looked at lavelier mics like the Rode Lavelier Go. It won’t work as it’s designed to pair with a camera or wireless system supplying power (much like phantom power for a larger condenser, I suspect). Clearly the line-level inputs on a Blackbox (or Bluebox for that matter) won’t do this.

                  I tried using the microphone on my iPad, routed out through a high quality DAC adapter, using AUM to make the microphone-USB C connection. It works, but produces a low-level and noisy signal. I suspect this is due to an impedance mismatch between the headphone-oriented output of the DAC (likely low impedance) and the line-level input of the Blackbox (assuming higher, line-level impedance).

                  Any ideas as to how to make this work?

                  As an aside, what are the input and output impedances of the Blackbox? It might be useful to have these specs, which don’t appear to be published anywhere.


                  • #10
                    I'm using an Olympus LS-P4, it's very small (unlike other portable recorders) and coming out of the headphone jack in to the BB is fine.


                    • #11
                      steveg thank you! I am looking at a few of the smallest recorders as an option.

                      Has anyone found a small microphone with a pre-amp/impedance match to work for a line input?


                      • #12
                        The blackbox does not operate at line level. Instead, the blackbox functions at +5v eurorack level. The input does have considerable gain but you will need a mic pre for a quality sound.


                        • #13
                          Hi Steve,

                          Could you please explain in layman's terms what the +5v means in general relating to say 0dbv / -10 / +4 that I'm familiar with. Does this mean the BB has hotter inputs and outputs or does it mean something different in terms of what I should be doing with gain staging? I'm a musician rather that a technical person!



                          • Steve
                            Steve commented
                            Editing a comment
                            Line level uses a reference of 1v. so line-level audio is +1v. Blackbox outputs +5v. So the signal is much hotter than line level. the input can also take +5v and has a scaleable gain control for non-eurorack devices. Mostly, this means you will need to attenuate the output to not overdrive some other (non-eurorack) gear. But you still may find that a mic pre is needed. For optimum sound and [possibly] phantom power.

                        • #14
                          After speaking with a very capable electronics engineer at an innovative company called Headset Buddy, I learned that Apple devices change their output according to what they sense is connected. If a USB-C headset DAC/Jack is connected, the output is scaled to that requirement. This has to do with how the TRS jack is wired, the engineer told me.

                          He recommended I order a Belkin Rockstar USB-C to Aux cable, which will produce a consumer line-level signal out of the Apple device, and get closer to what Blackbox expects. Next week, when I arrive at the location where I had Amazon ship this, I will give it a try and report back here.


                          • Steve
                            Steve commented
                            Editing a comment
                            That is true. The DAC in the iOS devices is really pretty good. It lives in the shadows of other features like FaceTime, Facebook, and all the other face apps! etc...

                        • #15
                          I have used the Samson Meteor microphone for this very thing... you can plug the USB from the microphone into the USB slot on the black box and then just run an eighth in Jack from the microphone to the "in" Jack and you are good to go. I just checked online and the price has come way down on a used meteor you can pick it up for about $40