I enjoy working hard to provide high quality instrumentals for independent artists all across the globe! But after you've licensed my instrumentals, the journey of quality continues with YOU! So how do you get professional quality vocals at home? There's many factors to getting quality but today I'm going to speak specifically on equipment. If you invest in quality equipment, you'll help the mixing engineer to give you a high quality end product.
So where do you start? Assuming you already have a computer and recording software, it all starts with having a quality recording interface for your computer. There are many options on the market today, especially depending on the type of computer you have (PC or MAC).
If you're on a budget, I recommend the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. With a price tag of only $149.99, it's a great entry level piece to get you started. It's one of the most popular pieces for musicians on a budget. This USB interface works with PC or Mac. If you have a bigger budget, I highly recommend the Universal Audio Apollo Twin interface. This is the interface that I personally use and the quality is top notch! At $899.99, this interface will give you pristine sound quality. However, the thunder-bolt version only works with the Mac platform. If you're on PC, you need to grab the Apollo Twin USB for PC.
After you get a nice recording interface, you need to grab a quality microphone. Just like interfaces, there are a multitude of options on the market for microphones but these are a few of my suggestions.
If you're on a budget, I recommend the Shure KSM27. Shure is a very reputable company that makes quality products. At $300, the Shure KSM27 is a workhorse mic that works on a wide variety of voices. I used the KSM27 exclusively from 2007 to early 2015. Every hook track you hear on my site was recorded with this mic. Unfortunately, this mic has been discontinued. But, you can still find it used on sites like ebay, amazon, and craigslist though. If you don't like used mics, Shure released an updated version called Shure SM27, but I haven't personally used it so I don't know if it sounds the same or better. It's supposed to be an improved version so it may be winner! Either way, Shure is a quality company so you can't go wrong!
The KSM27/SM27 is a more neutral mic for a wide variety of voices, but if you looking for something brighter and have a higher budget, check out the Avantone CV-12! At $499, it's becoming a popular choice amongst home recording musicians and is the next step up from the CK-7. Here's a youtube video that demonstrates the quality of the CV-12. Make sure to watch in HD https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hj1KOBcFcf4
My personal mic recommendation is the Shure KSM42. At around $800 (with shock mount), this is my favorite mic for my voice and the quality is amazing! It sounds great on a WIDE variety of sources. If you don't have the budget to purchase more than one mic, that's something heavy to take into consideration. More bang for your buck! I've gotten the most compliments from tracks that I've recorded with this microphone. One recent example is my hook beat "Forever Love 2" which was recorded with this microphone. Shure is a world class brand that has been around for ages. They don't make low quality products. If you're trying to get top quality at home, the Shure KSM42 will do the job fantastically.
Now that you have a great interface and microphone, it's time to handle the acoustics. When recording vocals, we tend to expend a lot of air with syllables and this often causes bursts of air (plosives) to enter the mic. In order to avoid that, you need a pop filter. There are two types of pop filters: Metal and Nylon. I recommend metal pop filters as they sound better and they're much easier to clean. Nylon pop filters can sometimes diminish higher frequencies and they can get really smelly over time lol! My personal recommendation is the Stedman Proscreen XL. At $49.99, it does an excellent job preventing plosives and has a wide coverage area. Also when recording, our voice tends to reflect off walls and the surfaces around us. In order to avoid this, you need to purchase acoustic treatment. One thing you can do is place acoustic panels in your recording area to reduce the reflections. I recommend Auralex acoustic panels. They come in a variety of colors, sizes, and styles to fit your room. Acoustic panels must be glued to your walls so they're best for use in housing properties you own. Rental properties may not appreciate the messy aftermath of removing the panels lol! You can get a 24 pack of these panels for $129.99. Another option is placing acoustic blankets around the area you record in. Unlike acoustic foam, they don't require being glued to your walls so if you're renting, the blankets may be your best option. The most popular product is the Audiomute blanket. You can view different pricing and options here.
Another way to help tame reflections is by using what's called a Reflexion filter. This device attaches to your mic stand and is positioned behind your mic to block your voice from reflecting off walls and other surfaces. You can get the Reflexion Filter pro for $249.99. For the best results, I recommend trying a combination of the Reflexion filter and acoustic foam or Reflexion filter and Audiomute blankets.
These are all the tools you need to get you on your way. But, if you want to take your vocal quality a step further, I recommend buying a dedicated microphone preamplifier. A mic preamp powers your condenser mic and amplifies your mic's signal. There are mic preamps included on your interface, but the quality of a dedicated outboard preamp can be far superior. If you're going to get an outboard preamp, I highly recommend the Avalon M5. At over $1600, this is one of the preamps that I personally use. It's expensive, but I recommend you skip the budget outboard preamps and only get high quality preamps. You'll outgrow interfaces, but high quality preamps will always be useful for years to come. They also retain their value well in case you decide to sell them later. It's a great investment. You can also further advance your quality by buying high quality cables from companies like Monster and Mogami.
How to Pay for All of This
The links that I've provided above are all for Amazon. But if you don't have the full amount needed to pay for your gear right now, the following website makes buying gear super affordable for almost any budget! Since 2007, one of my favorite places to buy gear has been AmericanMusical.com. For orders over $249.99 and under $1000, they allow you to do a 3 payment plan with no credit check! And your gear ships to you after the first payment! It's by far the best way to get the gear you need when you're on a budget. If your order exceeds $1000, then the system will resort to the 5 payment plan which requires a credit check. But if you call in and speak to a rep, you may be able to do a 3 payment plan and avoid the credit check. You can find all the products I've listed here (except for the audiomute blankets and Great River Preamp) on their website.
I hope this blog post was helpful to you! If you're frustrated with how your vocal quality is coming out, making the upgrades suggested here will help you improve your sound. As always, I thank you for your support and I wish you the absolute best!! -Tone