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pedals, microphone and a noisy mixer
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Production Techniques  
Author pedals, microphone and a noisy mixer
Scories
I bought 3 pedals to process a vibraphone and a Superlux ORTF microphone.

At first, I used two channels of my Mackie 1202 VLZ-PRO mixer panned left/right for the stereo microphone and used both inserts to feed the [pedal 1] (mono 1/4 male to dual 1/4 female Y-cable). I used the pre-fader AUX 1 for the [pedal 2] and the post-fader AUX 2 for the [pedal 3]. At the end of the line, I had a noisy mess. This made me realised how noisy VLZ PRO's AUX and EQ's can be.

In order to bypass the mixer's EQ's and AUX, I tried this setup: Again, using both inserts of the ORTF microphone inputs of the mixer to feed the [pedal 1] with the same Y-cable and then sending the output of the [pedal 1] to the [pedal 2] then to the [pedal 3/delay], then to the Zoom recorder (using the mix knob on the pedal for dry/wet control). With this setup I can get a decent signal to noise ratio, but I loose stereophony, and (mostly) interaction with other gear and sound sources.

So I tried this other option: sent the output of the [pedal 1] to one input of the mixer via a Y-cable and used the insert to route the signal to the [pedal 2]. But as soon as I send an other signal to the [pedal 2] via the Y-cable, the volume drops significanly and the inherent hum of the [pedal 2] becomes apparent. Using one mixer AUX for the [pedal 3/delay] also bring extra noise.

Obviously, the Mackie VLZ has nice routing options, but comes with extra noise.

Are the VLZ4 mixers significantly less noisy than the VLZ PRO? Any other flexible/silent small mixers out there? Or should I get something like a JDI box to eliminate the noise?

Otherwise, I'm also considering a passive matrix mixer as a replacement for the AUX of my mixer.

I think I tried pretty much everything I could with my current setup, so any suggestion would be appreciated. thumbs up
noisejockey
Trying to wring out the very best out of a stereo vibraphone (and using ORTF vs AB, no less) with mono pedals isn't hard. That said, I own most of those pedals, and know of all of them: You have weird and very good tastes. thumbs up I've done this sort of routing before and it's been OK, so gonna run through some ideas, forgive me if any of this is remedial. (racks shotgun o' ideas)

First, I'm really wondering if you're getting phase cancellation by just using a Y connector, and that's cutting outbound signal to the pedals. How far are the mics away from the vibraphone?

One thing you don't mention is your gain staging. That's usually where these things crop up. Are you just using the Mackie's mic pre's, and if not, what are you using? Around where are the gain peaks you are seeing on the mixer?

The S502 isn't the world's quietest mic, self-noise wise. You'd want a super strong signal. If you record in high humidity that may also cause issues.

How are you powering your pedals? Clean AC? 9V? That makes a massive difference.

Are you using short cable runs in and around the mixer? Any cables paralleling power cables?

Consider using a proper re-amping box to ensure impedances are matched.

In the meantime, alternatives: You could get into very similar territory with a 100% stereo signal path if you replace your pedals with Eurorack modules: Clouds by Mutable Instruments, and the Dual Looping Delay by 4MS, with maybe a random source module and a dual or quad LFO. You can do the same thing with a Ciat Lonbarde Cocoquantus, all in one beautiful artifact/box.
Scories
Hey, thank you very much for taking time to write. Much appreciated. I used to have a Cocoquantus (even 2!!), but I wanted something with a better resolution and more control. I even built a small device that triggers the tap switch of my CT5 every time I use the dampening pedal of the vibe.

noisejockey wrote:
First, I'm really wondering if you're getting phase cancellation by just using a Y connector, and that's cutting outbound signal to the pedals. How far are the mics away from the vibraphone?


Apparently, summing an ORTF mic makes a subtle comb filtering effect. The mic is located 2-3 feets away from the instrument; a little higher than my own ears.

noisejockey wrote:
One thing you don't mention is your gain staging. That's usually where these things crop up. Are you just using the Mackie's mic pre's, and if not, what are you using? Around where are the gain peaks you are seeing on the mixer?


Right now, I'm just using the Mackie's preamps. To avoid extra noise, I had to bypass the EQ and the rest of the line by using an insert cable.
It's good to know that the Superlux is not dead silent. Thanks for the information.

noisejockey wrote:
How are you powering your pedals? Clean AC? 9V? That makes a massive difference. Are you using short cable runs in and around the mixer? Any cables paralleling power cables?


I'm using the Boss PSA120s with a multi-plug cable. Makes no difference to use a separate power suply for each pedal; it even gets noisier. The Boss seems to be good enough IMHO.

noisejockey wrote:
Consider using a proper re-amping box to ensure impedances are matched.


That is new to me. I don't have much knowledge with these technical details (that can make a good difference). Do you have any model to suggest?
I also use a small Serge panel which might take control of the ground and complicate things a little more...
noisejockey
Some other basic questions:

When you say it's noisy, what do you mean? Hiss? Ground hum? High-frequency RF/EM whine?

How clean are your recordings without any of the post-processing stuff in the way? If the answer is "it's always noisy," get those mics 18" away from the surface, from the top, capsules parallel to the floor, just to experiment with trying for a better S:N ratio.

Can you just mic the whole thing on center and send THAT through your pedals? Just throw an SM57 in there and see what happens. Then your stereo problems disappear; you already have the issue of collapsing to mono, but maybe the vibes and room go wide and the effects go narrow - different, maybe interesting, who knows.

I am sorry to be That Guy: Is Phantom Power on for the mics?
noisejockey
Oh, and crap: Re-amping boxes. Pigtronix Keymaster, many nice and killer ones from Radial Engineering. Matches impedance and other subtle things. I run my entire modular through an entire pedalboard using the Keymaster. You may consider buying or borrowing one to see if it makes a difference.

Some pedals handle line in just fine, others are finicky; a re-amping box lets you just not worry about it and use the pedals you want/like.
Muzone
I'm far from an expert but have found "noise" to be a problem when using pedals with line level input, especially the more exotic effects.

I solved my issues using an amp interface, you'll need two if you're working in stereo though.

I use this one

https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/orchid-electronics-amp-interface
Scories
Some wise advice here. For sure, the Keytronics seems like a sweet device. Though (as for the dual expression pedal), it's not the kind of thing you buy on an impulse.
As for my noise issues (mostly hissing and humming from one pedal), I spent many hours, trying to find the best configuration and I came to an acceptable strategy.

Here's my final configuration:

Superlux ORTF to [pedal 1] via the mixer
Dual XLR outs to VLZ PRO's XLR ins (channels 3+4)
Channels 3+4's insert outs to [pedal] in (via Y-cable splitter)

[pedal] out to [pedal 2] via the mixer

[pedal] out (mono) to VLZ PRO's 1/4 in (channel 2)
Channel 2's insert loop to [pedal 2]

[pedal 3/delay] on AUX 1 (set as pre-fader)
AUX 1 out to [pedal] in
[pedal] out to Aux in
AUX 1 MASTER at 2 o'clock
AUX 1 RETURN at 9 o'clock

With this scenario, no pedal is directly linked to an other; 2 EQ's out of 3 are bypassed (less noise); by boosting the AUX master, I can reduce the return level and then, the noise becomes less of an issue.

I guess that my weakest link must be between the line signal out of the amplified microphone and the [pedal 1] in. A re-amp box might be useful here for an ever better sound...
prscrptn
check eventide - mixing link thumbs up
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