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Vocals: 7K-10K grainy/distorted - why?


I'm getting a grainy kind of distortion when recording vocals in the 7k-10k area, most apparent around 7.5K or so (but sometimes this area seems to change a bit). This isn't an in your face super-obvious thing (i.e. the casual listener might not notice), but I hear it and it can get emphasized when processing the vocals (eq/compression).

  • Studio Projects C1 (with pop screen)
    Studio Projects VTB-1
    RME 2496 PAD sound card
    Cubase SX2

Things I've tried:
  • Lowering input/output levels on VTB-1 (I don't think they were too high to begin with, but I tried anyway)
    Turning the tube drive off on the VTB-1
    Changing the mic cable

I've done some searching via Google for info on this. The only thing I've found was a short blurb somewhere about using Ribbon mics (which I realize the C1 is not). This site stated that the ribbon mics didn't have any bumps in their frequency response in the high-end which can cause problems when digitally recording.

So - I'm hoping there is something simple going on that I can be quickly fixed, but the note I came across has me wondering if I'm just running into a limitation of my equipment?

I'll appreciate any assistance.


might be the wrong mic...

I don't have a huge mic collection but I certainly find that some mics just don't work for some singers.

I have a TLM193 that is slightly dark sounding, so it works better for the bright sounding singers.
My GT-66 is bright and works better for darker sounding vocals.

Also try moving the mic, a different angle, and or the distance from the mic. Maybe try this first.


Eric Dahlberg

Purveyor of musical dreams fullfilled.
This is a case of equipment working against each other. Namely, the C1 & VTB-1 both emphasize top-end, the build-up from using them together is probably causing the distortion. The VTB-1 distorts pretty easily as it is, too. That pre is well-suited for ribbon mics since ribbon mics (especially the lower-priced ones) can sound too dark on many other preamps & also don't put out enough level to distort the VTB-1. The VTB-1 also has an impedence switch especially tailored to working with ribbons.

Another solution might be to simply pad the mic level down before it gets to the preamp. It'd be cheesy but it'd work.
Randy - Adjusting the mic placement/distance isn't something I've tried so far, so I will. I've been up pretty close on it (2 inches) in an effort to boost the low end a bit.

Eric - I suppose I can just try the pad on the mic? It is -10dB.

Thanks guys.

Eric Dahlberg

Purveyor of musical dreams fullfilled.
Yup, the pad would be the place to start, I forgot about that. You'll usually want to be 6\" from the mic, proximity effect can sound cool on acapella vocals but it normally just sounds boomy in a mix.
Well - tried all the tips so far, but nogo. I also pulled out an SM-58 and found I'm having the same basic issue when I try it. I'm guessing this has to do with the VTB-1: either my particular unit has a problem, or perhaps I'm just asking too much of it.

Thanks again for the feedback!

Leo Sunshine

New Member
Isn't it distortion? I have worked with a singer who had a very strong voice and the membrane of the mic was distorted by the sound pressure. I told him to sing above the mic and the problem solved.

You could be right. I tweaked some things and ran some tests and wasn't able to reproduce the problem. So I went back and tried some more vocals (i.e. singing 'for real') and... there the problem was again. I'm guessing I didn't sing as I normally do during the tests.

Singing \"over\" the mic is something I'm about to try, along with a few other tips I've received. I'll post back.

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