Music production has so many processes and technical bits that surround it.
Microphones for example are tools that we used to capture vocals so that we can edit them in our various Digital Audio Workstations.
It’s therefore a good thing to understand how certain controls work and how they affect recordings.
Microphone gain for example, is an important control and parameter that has an effect on the audio signal being recorded.
So, should you use microphone gain?
Not to worry, this post will discuss this in detail and take you behind the Workings of gain so you understand it better.
but before that let’s answer the burning question…
Should you use mic gain?
Microphone gain should be turned up when you notice that the audio signal being recorded is too low. But you should not use a lot of mic gain.
You want to have it moderately low because when it’s too high you run the risk of clipping.
A good practice is to set the gain knob at about 2 o’clock and then record at the loudness that is desired and the distance at which the person recording will be.
If the waveform is too low, then you can turn up the gain a bit and try recording again.
If the waveform is too high and clipping, turn down the gain and try recording at various gain levels until you find the sweet spot.
Factors to consider
Below are some factors that one need consider when deciding whether to use mic gain or not.
The sensitivity of your microphone will determine how easily it can pick up sound.
Which means that you’ll probably have to rely on very little gain with a high sensitive mic.
On the other hand, if your mic is not very sensitive, you might find yourself relying on some mic gain boost.
This is why you need a microphone that is suited to the kind of work you’re going to be doing.
You should be able to record with a little gain…therefore scrutinise your microphone and ensure that you have it set up right.
In recording, you need to be at the right distance with your microphone because being too close can lead to what is called the proximity effect which is basically distortion…
If a person is recording too close to a mic you probably won’t have to boost the gain…you might actually want to tone it down.
The volume of the sound source
Another thing that will determine whether it will be necessary to use mic gain or not is the actual volume of the sound being captured.
If you’re recording vocals, this means the loudness of the singer or performer.
It’s always good to coach your artists so they can build up some confidence when recording.
With good levels of confidence, they can project vocals more without having to rely on a boost of gain.
If the sound source lacks the natural loudness then you can consider bumping up the gain and paying attention to the noise. If you notice hiss or humm then you need to tone down your mic gain.
If the sound source has the natural loudness then try to capture it as is, without any utilisation of mic gain.
Measuring and determining gain
The easiest way to basically get a good sense of mic gain is with your ears.
If your mic’s sensitivity is low and you’re far from the mic, but it sounds like your shouting, you can easily come to the conclusion that the mic gain is too high.
Getting a good understanding of your mic gain is pretty easy and all about your ear and how you want your recording to sound
In music production where quality is cardinal, microphone gain staging is very important if you want to produce a quality.
Gain staging is simply a process that ensures that all the devices are producing the best sound possible.
The headroom and noise floor are two other factors in maintaining an overall clean sound.
The headroom is simply the available upper space in the signal which determines how much louder you can push the recording after processing.
The noise floor is the sound that is coming from your audio devices and Analog to Digital/Digital to analog conversion.
Its important to keep your sound as high above the noise floor as you can.
Gain staging is important because keeping your signal to noise ratio low is what determines the quality of the sound you end up with.
Otherwise, your output will be pretty much be distorted.
Getting a firm understanding of mic gain is important if you are recording audio.
.Using gain the wrong way can cause problems for you in the future.
Putting in so much hard work in recording, only to end up with a bad recording can be quite frustrating.
I hope this article has given you a better understanding about the use of mic gain.