Mic Stuff: Basics on How to Mic a Guitar Amp


When you hear a memorable guitar riff, you’re probably not thinking about how it was recorded: where the amp was placed, whether it was on a carpeted floor, or if the microphone was two inches or ten inches away from the speaker. It’s these details, however, that contribute to the sound you hear on the recording. So how do you capture the sound of an electric guitar?

First, you want to record the amp. While the electric guitar can certainly be recorded directly, there are times when there is simply no substitute for the sound of a real amplifier. Guitar amps have particular gain stages that facilitate the popular "crunchy" guitar sound. While digital modeling and processing systems certainly have their place, they may not have the same level of realism as the sound from an amplifier. A small guitar amp can be just as effective as a full stack, because you don't necessarily need to "crank" the volume. Instead, you want to increase the amp's initial gain to achieve the desired amount of overdrive.

Typically, a guitar amp is close mic’ed to capture the most direct sound. Placing the microphone roughly 4 inches from the grill and aiming it directly at the center of the speaker will produce the most "edge". If you move the mic further away, it takes away some of the edge and mellows the sound more.

If you’re going to put a microphone close to an amp, it needs to be able to handle high SPLs (sound pressure levels). You can use a dynamic mic, but a condenser can do the job, too. A good instrument mic can perform well on a variety of sources, including a guitar cabinet.

Distance from the source isn’t the only thing that affects the sound. By angling the microphone slightly off axis from the speaker, you can add more "room sound." Experimentation is a key factor in achieving the sound you are looking for. You might put one mic close to the cabinet and one several inches way. You’ll target the cabinet but you’ll also pick up the cabinet sound as it’s reflected in the room.

A ribbon mic might also give you the mix of guitar and room sound you’re looking for. The figure eight pattern naturally picks up sound from the front and back of the mic.

Placement of the amp is another important factor. If the amplifier sits on a carpeted floor, you are more likely to reduce the amount of brightness in the sound. Similarly, elevating the amplifier off the floor may result in a loss of low-end. If you're looking for a big reverberant tone, placing the amp and microphone in the bathroom is another popular technique. The hard tiles and other reflective surfaces can do wonders for a dull sound. In this case, move the microphone back a few feet from the loudspeaker and crank it up!

Recording audio is all about getting the sound you want. Garage band or singer/songwriter? Rock anthem or wedding ballad? “Enter Sandman” or “24K Magic”? Determine your desired sound and then adjust your mic and amp placement until you get it. There’s no wrong answer!


How to Set Up for a Great Hybrid Meeting

Working remotely has been a concept that has been around for years.  Ever since author Tim Ferris published his book ‘The 4 hour work week’ people have been fascinated about this modern way of working.  Fast forward to 2021 where a large portion of workplaces, particularly office based, have decided that they are willing to adopt a fully remote working style or a hybrid system which would require some workers to work in a designated office a few days a week. 

A recent study done by McKinsey surveyed 504 C-suite executives and three-quarters of them stated they expected the typical “core” employee to be back in the office three or more days a week. 

Virtual Meetings have quickly become a massive part of remote working culture and many employees are now experts in how to set up and participate in these virtual meetings but it's also important that these meetings are optimized for hybrid systems so that all participants can receive the full benefits of what the meeting entails.  

 

Let's now take a look at how to set up for an optimal hybrid meeting.

 

Make sure to have a great audio setup

Audio is key when taking hybrid meetings into consideration.  If your video link knocks offline and is unavailable, then the meeting can probably still continue using audio alone.  That’s why it is so important that you have a high quality audio setup, so you can avoid participants saying things like “Can you speak a bit louder please?  We can barely hear you”.

When choosing the correct audio equipment you want to consider the size of the room your meetings are being held in, and how many people will be in attendance.  

Larger rooms with 4+ people can use a product such as the AC-360-Z V2.  With it’s 360 degree audio pick up it should be more than adequate for producing a high quality sound.  If the meeting is set in a smaller meeting room, such as the home office or huddle room, then the AC-44 would be more than suitable due to its compact size and portability. 

 

Keep up with the latest technology

With all that has happened in the last 18 months it is no surprise that technology companies have literally invested billions of dollars into designing the latest communication software.  Companies such as Zoom, Microsoft and Slack have all seen a huge surge in users during this time and are always needing to constantly innovate so they can keep up with customer satisfaction.  Hybrid meetings aren’t going away anytime soon and these providers are always trying to enhance user experience.     

A good example of these latest innovations can be seen from Microsoft's communication platform ‘Teams’.  When you turn on the recording feature while giving a presentation, Teams will automatically start transcripting the video.  This feature will be hugely beneficial for users as it offers a high level of convenience and captures that extra detail of what is being spoken about within a meeting, making sure key details are not missed.

Another example can be seen from the collaboration platform Slack.  Slack offers their new ‘Slack Huddles’ feature which allows users to have quick, informal conversations with their colleagues.  Using the audio feature only, anyone in the conversation can join, and once the huddle has started you can then have the option to share your screen and turn on live captions.  

It’s always useful to try and keep up with these latest technology trends yourself so you can make sure you are getting to full benefits of these platforms.

 

Consider your remote participants

When setting up a hybrid meeting initially, it is easy to forget about the individual needs of the participants attending the meeting.

‘Can we all see each other clearly?’

‘Is the whiteboard in the background visible on screen?’

It’s these types of questions that need to be asked so that each participant can have the best experience possible.  As well as asking these questions you can also enhance participant experience using the latest technology.  The ACVC-360-Z  provides a complete audio and video  conferencing bundle consisting of a complete plug-and-play package for easily integrating popular web conferencing applications into meeting rooms and huddle rooms.

Another way to get your participants more involved in meetings is to try and give them a greater presence.  A way of doing this is to set up two additional monitors on each side of the main monitor in the centre of the room.  These two additional monitors will portray ‘life size’ images of all the other remote participants that are involved in the meeting.  When participants are involved in a meeting using this type of set-up it can help involve them more into the conversation as they seem to have a bigger presence.

 

Test the technology

Technology has advanced a long way and it can be mind blowing at times seeing the things it can do, however there is always that chance of some sort of glitch interrupting your experience no matter how advanced it is.  This is no different to video conferencing technology.

A good habit to get into, is to test your audio and visual set up by performing a dummy test run before the actual meeting commences.  If there are any bugs you need to fix then this should show up on the test run and it can allow you time to get it fixed so your meeting can go ahead on schedule.

 

Provide strong facilitation

Keeping a hybrid meeting on track can be a difficult task, much harder than if the whole team were in person or online.  That's why it is important to assign someone as a key facilitator.

A facilitator will be able to keep participants engaged and ensure that people within the meeting can be heard, as their voices can be lost at times due to colleagues talking over one another.

Having a person who is a facilitator in the meeting not only keeps everyone engaged in the meeting, it also stops other attendees becoming more dominant in the discussion.  Stopping this can be hugely beneficial as it will keep the main topic of the meeting on everyone's focus. 


Zooming in on Different Zoom License Options

This time last year, you may not have heard of Zoom, or maybe you turned to the platform once in a blue moon. However, if you’re like us, once the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Zoom became an everyday tool, not only for work but also to communicate with friends and family…from a distance. At this point, you’re probably a Zoom Pro and have likely even downloaded a series of backgrounds to go with your virtual conversations. But, how do you know if you’re utilizing the right Zoom license to best fit your workflow needs? Rest assured we have your back. We’re here to help you figure out which Zoom license is right for you.  

Zoom Options – Free or Paid

1) Non-Licensed Users

A Basic user is a user without a paid license. This user can host meetings with up to 100 participants, however, if three or more participants join, the meeting will time out after 40 minutes. Additionally, Basic users cannot utilize user and account add-ons such as a large meeting, webinar, or conference room connector. We recommend the Basic option for personal or social use. It’s a great way to keep in touch with your friends and family while we ride out the rest of this pandemic.

2) Licensed Users

A Licensed user is a paid account user who can host unlimited meetings on the public cloud. Compared to non-licensed users, paid licensed users have these additional features available:

  • Customize Personal Meeting ID.
  • Record to the Zoom cloud.
  • Assign an alternative host and allow others to schedule meetings.
  • Utilize account add-ons such as a conference room connector.
  • Be assigned user add-ons such as a large meeting, webinar, or personal audio conference.

There are three different options in regard to paid Zoom licenses. The first option is the Pro license, which is an ideal solution for small teams. With a meeting duration limit of 24 hours, Pro users have access to user management and admin feature controls. There is also an option to purchase up to nine hosts per account, whereas the Basic plan is restricted to one host per account.

Next up is the Business license, which is an ideal option for small to medium size businesses.  Where Basic and Pro are limited to 100 participants, the Business option includes 300 participants, which is a great option for webinar applications. Our favorite feature of the Business plan is the option for customization. You can add your company's branding to your own customized page where attendees go to join a meeting. You can also create a branded email template to send customized invites to attendees as well as a unique URL (yourcompany.zoom.us).

Lastly, there’s the Enterprise license, which is ideal for large corporations and educational facilities. With unlimited cloud storage, Enterprise includes 500 participants, and for a step beyond, Enterprise Plus includes 1,000 participants. Enterprise users will be matched with a dedicated customer success manager to ensure your platform is always running smoothly. Additionally, this license option offers bundle discounts on Webinar and Zoom Rooms–which will bring us to our next point….

 


Zoom Rooms

Aside from the fact that it sounds super cool, Zoom Rooms are smart conference rooms that make it easy to run or join video meetings with a tap of a button. With Zoom Rooms, users can seamlessly start a meeting, schedule a meeting and share content with attendees. A Zoom Room utilizes its own PC and hardware, allowing the platform to always be “online” and available to employees. Its native DSP audio processing offers reliable and high-quality audio to enhance the video conferencing experience. Our favorite features of Zoom Rooms include its HD video quality, one-touch to join, one-click wireless sharing capabilities and powerful meeting security to ensure disruption-free sessions.


Let’s Talk Audio

We know what you have to say is important, and we don’t want to miss a word. Combine Zoom’s cloud platform with a microphone best suited to fit your needs in order to enhance the audio quality of your meetings. At MXL, we have a range of Unified Communication (UCC) microphones that feature USB plug-and-play compatibility with any Mac or PC.

For your individual collaboration needs, our go-to mics are the MXL AC-404 and AC-44. For Zoom Rooms specifically, check out the MXL AC-360-Z V2.

The AC-404 features a three-capsule design for 25-ft. audio pickup range in a 180° arc, and the AC-404-Z variant comes with an installation kit specific for Zoom Rooms. For a more hip aesthetic, the AC-404-LED  features eight preset color modes, offering a cool range of customizable options including white, yellow, red, green, blue, purple, magenta, and auto-blend. Perfect for limited space applications, such as your work from home setup, the AC-44 offers pristine audio quality in a compact design.

Designed for use in corporate communication settings, the AC-360-Z V2 is compatible only with licensed Zoom Rooms software and features 360° of audio pickup for a 25-ft. range. MXL continues to work alongside the Zoom team and tailors its products to work seamlessly with Zoom’s DSP audio processing. This brand partnership also allows customers to take advantage of some exclusive Zoom features, including the upcoming Speaker Switch system. As daily Zoom users ourselves, we are more excited than ever to continue to grow our Zoom-compatible product line.


A Guide to Working Remote and Building a Mobile Workspace

It seems like a lifetime ago when we could simply pop by our colleague’s desk to ask a question or brainstorm an idea (or simply just to chat). With many employees still working from home for the foreseeable future, it is crucial to take advantage of the many tools and products available to help improve your remote workflow.  Let’s take a closer look at how to build the ultimate mobile office to help you thrive while we ride out the rest of this pandemic.

The remote worker’s digital toolkit

  1. Communication - How are we going to effectively communicate now that we are no longer in the same room? Don’t worry, speaking with colleagues is still an easily achievable task, it might just take an extra step or two. Conversations that used to take place in person, whether an office meeting or water cooler talk, are now taking place virtually using a range of platforms that include Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, and the list goes on. What used to be occasional resources are now part of our everyday lives; and we’re okay with that.
  2. Collaboration - Now that your coworker is stationed 40 miles away from you, rather than 40 inches, you won’t be able to simply slide documents across their desk. However, digital services like Dropbox and Google Suite allow you to seamlessly share your work with colleagues, but instead of moving from desk to desk, your work will move from screen to screen. Added bonus: you’ll save a tree or two.
  3. Task Management - From calendars to to-do lists, there are a ton of digital platforms available that will help you to stay organized while away from the workplace. Some of our favorites include Google Calendar, Trello and ToDoist. Also, to help you connect with clients or customers without double booking, it might be a good idea to download a scheduling platform. We prefer mobile apps including Square and Acuity Scheduling.

 

The essential gear

  1. Cameras - We did not have much time to plan before going into lockdown, so we won’t blame you for having to resort to your laptop from 2010, which doesn’t have the best camera. But rest assured, there’s a way for you to be seen clearly without breaking the bank for a new computer—all you need is a new camera. Some of our favorite cameras that can be plugged into any computer by USB connection are the Marshall Electronics CV-610 and the Marshall CV503.
  2. Lighting - In addition to a high-quality camera, lighting plays an important role in capturing clear video. While working remotely, no longer confined to an office with florescent lighting, you might be in too dark of a space to be seen clearly during a video conference. Lighting is an easy fix, especially with the Lume Cube Video Conference Lighting Kit. Compatible with both laptops and desktops, Lume Cube’s Panel Mini LED light provides soft and professional illumination with fully adjustable controls.
  3. Microphones - Now we can see you, but the audio isn’t great. At MXL, we understand how important it is to use something other than your computer’s built-in microphone if you want to be heard clearly. Our new AC-44 Conferencing Mic is the perfect solution for your mobile workstation kit. With a compact footprint, crystal clear speech intelligibility, and powered by a USB-C connection, the AC-44 offers a simple plug-and-play solution to enhancing your audio quality on a budget.

 


Amwell Enhances Audio Capabilities with MXL’s AC-404

Amwell - C250 telemedicine cart

The telemedicine industry, and the product manufacturers that support virtual patient care, is experiencing a massive surge in demand amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Amwell, a leading telehealth solutions provider, rose to the challenge by continuing to equip clinicians and patients with the tools needed to continue conducting quality care visits, virtually. As the company searched for an enhanced microphone solution for its C250 Telemedicine Cart, it turned to MXL Microphones’ AC-404 USB-Powered Microphone, which offers pristine audio clarity. For this OEM application, a customized casing mount allows the AC-404 microphone to easily affix to Amwell’s C250 Carepoint via a magnetic connection, simplifying the setup process for users.

Replacing the microphones that previously sat on Amwell’s C250, MXL’s AC-404 is now the company’s primary microphone option for this cart. As a compact solution, the AC-404 meets Amwell’s requirement of integrating a microphone that seamlessly fits within the cart’s worksurface while still providing best-in-class audio performance in challenging acoustic environments. In addition to its small size, Amwell also chose MXL’s AC-404 for its sleek design, which aligns with the overall aesthetic of the C250 Telemedicine Cart.

Supporting the nation’s top docs

“The value of telehealth has never been clearer than it is today,” says Merrill Roller, Senior Product Manager, Connected Devices, Amwell. “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of providers at the nation’s top hospital and health systems depend on telehealth carts to safely meet with patients and ensure that everyone in need of care could access it. Our C250 cart is unique in that it allows hospitals to connect to the Amwell provider network as well as to their own providers, offering access to thousands of specialists on demand. This has been especially critical during the pandemic, as it means that hospitals in geographies with higher patient traffic could leverage additional providers when needed to support the demand.”

Amwell’s C250 cart has consistently been one of the company’s most-loved and well-utilized Carepoints since it was first released. By adding the MXL AC-404 worksurface microphone as a standard accessory, and as telehealth continues to prove its value in the hospital setting amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Amwell expects more organizations to turn to its C250 cart to gain access to thousands of virtual care providers across a wide variety of use cases.

The value in dependable solutions

“Feedback from clients has been very strong,” adds Roller. “One client mentioned that the AC-404 with the C250 Carepoint performed better than any other audio solution they have used—even in their CT room, which proves to be a very challenging audio environment. When lives are at stake, the last thing you want to worry about is the reliability of technology, and thankfully, MXL’s AC-404 microphone has provided our clients with dependable audio capabilities, allowing clinicians to accurately assess and listen to patients in order to provide the best care and experience possible.”


A Look at Indico Systems Evidence Recording Systems

Indico Systems is globally changing the way industries record and mobilize digital evidence recordings in a secure, efficient and productive manner.

Through innovative software development, Indico has digitalized processes and procedures to improve the performance of recording suspect, witness and victim interviews, as well as interrogations and court sessions. Hundreds of customers around the world, including police forces, children’s safe houses, courts, military, hospitals, audit firms and the United Nations rely on the company’s solutions to provide accurate records of their operations. To capture pristine audio recordings, the company turns to MXL Microphones’ AC-404 USB-Powered Microphone.

To deliver Indico’s solution to users around the world, the company installs their ‘Recorder’ software onto a laptop, which gets packed into a portable case along with USB cameras and MXL’s AC-404 USB-Powered Microphone, for a truly plug-and-play solution. “When looking for camera and microphone solutions to integrate with our software, we knew USB-powered devices were the way to go. This way, there are no additional power sources needed,” says Stig Knutsen, CEO of Indio Systems. “You simply plug your camera and microphone into the laptop, which has the ‘Recorder’ software previously installed, and you’re ready to go.”

When searching for a USB-powered microphone, choosing MXL’s AC-404 was a no-brainer for Knutsen due to its high voice intelligibility.

“When recording audio files such as interrogations and interviews to be used as evidence in court rooms, it is extremely important to capture crystal-clear, unfiltered sound. We tested out several USB microphones, but other manufacturer’s solutions could not compare to the high-quality audio of the MXL AC-404. Other mics’ recordings were much lower, and a lot more muffled. Once we heard the MXL mic, we immediately knew that was the mic for us.”

 

Another benefit of MXL’s AC-404 USB-Powered mic for Indico Systems is its range of audio pickup. “Our customers are often surprised that they only need one microphone to capture the interview recording,” says Knutsen. “The AC-404 does an amazing job of capturing multiple sources of audio without an issue. Even if the interviewee gets up and starts walking around while talking, we can rely on the AC-404 to pick up an even and clear sound throughout the process. Whether the person is speaking right next to the microphone or on the other side of the room, the recordings always sound great.”

For Indico Systems, it is crucial that they provide their customers with an extremely reliable and durable microphone solution. “We have over 2,000 MXL AC-404 mics, and we are constantly packing, unpacking, and shipping them around the globe, so rigidity was also super important to us when choosing a microphone,” adds Knutsen. “The durable all-metal construction of the AC-404 has helped to ensure that when our customers unpack their kit, they are receiving a microphone in perfect condition. The MXL AC-404 is a solid microphone, and it always works. We are looking forward to trying out other solutions that MXL has to offer!”

The AC-404 captures crystal clear speech intelligibility for a variety of applications with easy plug-and-play USB connectivity and a low-profile design. Three microphone capsules in a surface-mount boundary form deliver a 180-degree pickup pattern with a 25′ range, making it ideal for conference rooms, courtrooms, connected classrooms and more. Designed to simply rest on any flat surface, the AC-404 is now available in white and black and its discrete and convenient design makes it the perfect solution for everyday use.

Learn more about Indico Systems here

Learn more about MXL’s AC-404 and other solutions here


How to Improve Your Audio When Working From Home

In these bizarre times in our world, many of us find ourselves relying on our computers for communication. Like anything in technology, there are hurdles and difficulties. Either the camera is too dark, too bright, the connection is choppy, or the audio is fuzzy.

Here at MXL, we want to share information to help you improve your audio when working from home or just catching up with friends and family over a video conference.

Common issue/question:

Why does the microphone on my laptop or computer sound so bad and echoey?

At MXL, we often get customers looking for an upgrade in their web conferencing experience. We constantly hear things like "the sound is always so echoey" or "everyone sounds so far away." We even had a customer ask, "Do computer manufacturers just not care about good audio?"

There are many reasons why users have these kinds of experiences, and we'll try not to bore you with too many details. Typically the microphone in a computer is there to pick up audio; that is it. It's a function and less about the quality of that function. This is similar to a steak from a sketchy roadside diner vs. the best cut of meat you have ever had from your favorite steak house.

In addition to microphone quality and steaks, the main issue with built-in microphones has to do with physics and something called Critical Distance. In a simplified form, Critical Distance is the distance at which the reflections and reverberations of a direct sound, equal or exceed the volume of the direct sound from the sound source.

Example: When you start to hear more of your voice bouncing off the walls in your office than direct sound, this is what can make it sound like someone is in a bathroom when they are on a web chat.

In a 10x10 room (bedroom or office), the critical distance of a sound to a source can be as short as 9.6".

Unless you are sitting with your face pressed against your computer screen, you are likely more than 9.6" from the microphone. Your computer microphone is going to be picking up as much if not more indirect sound (the echoey bathroom sound) than the direct sound.

How do we solve this? Get the microphone closer to you by using an external USB microphone.

The AC404 is a USB boundary microphone. A boundary microphone uses a flat surface to avoid acoustic issues and enhance the audio (this is an oversimplified explanation). Using an external microphone also allows you to place a microphone right in front of you instead of far away at the top of your laptop screen.

In addition to those benefits in a mic like the AC404, we are using high-quality capsules, components, and circuitry, all tuned for the human voice to enhance clear communication.

For all of these reasons, many people already use external microphones or headsets for web conferencing for work or just catching up.

The MXL AC404 is plug and play with pretty much any computer capable of running a video conference. Adding an external USB microphone to your workspace should be hassle-free, and you'll impress everyone with your improved audio quality.

MXL offers a few versions of the AC404; the differences are primarily cosmetic. Here is some info about them below:

MXL AC404 - The base model AC404 mic

MXL AC404 White - The base model AC404 mic in white

MXL AC404 LED - LED version of the AC404. You can change the LED color with a dial under the base. Very cool for gaming.

MXL AC404Z - AC404 for Zoom applications, and it comes with a few accessories that integrators and installers prefer.

If you arent using one already, an external microphone can significantly improve the audio quality of your voice on web conferences, recordings, and presentations. Be sure to check out the AC404 and some of our other products.