Studio for Beginners: Proximity Effect on Vocals

While recording vocals in the studio I found that trying the vocalist way up on the mic and taking advantage of what is called the ‘proximity effect’ was really useful to capture a great performance. The ‘proximity effect’ is something that happens when you get all up on a mic and it seems to the listener that the bass, or low end, gets louder. (If you want to read more about it, check this article out on Wikipedia.) The advantage of this is two-fold to my ears 1) your vocalists voice sounds fuller and 2) you get a recording that sits in the mix better.

The interesting thing is that this also seemed to free up the performer a bit. They backed off and relaxed knowing they were getting a super positive sound on the mic.

The only challenge I had was a) I needed to really control the input gain especially on stronger/louder passages and b) the vocalist sometimes wanted to get *too* close. Rather than creating an intimate sound, I ended up needing to re-take the passage since we ended up with some muffling, etc.

I should point out that I am using large diaphragm condenser mics such as the Studio Projects C1, CAD Trion series, Octava 314, Shure KSM27, MXL V63, etc. Usually mics like these will be noted in instructional books and videos as properly being recorded at roughly 12″ (1 foot) away. I was trying some things as close as 3″ with the vocalist’s nose almost touching the pop filter! And yes, this was recording a very dynamic vocalist. (No compression used.)

Side note: I will be getting my hands on a cool dynamic mic (think Shure SM58 like what you would use in a live situation) called a Shure SM7B which has proven to produce some great close up vocal recordings.

7 Responses to “Studio for Beginners: Proximity Effect on Vocals”

  1. September 7, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    Check out Manley’s newest microphone… only $10,000… ohh, street price is a measly $7,200… seriously, what’s wrong with ppl… a vintage Neumann U87 is only $3,500… charging double… in this economy…lol. Put the glass down down slowly Ms. Manley…. You’ve had too much to drink πŸ™‚

    • September 11, 2009 at 11:21 am

      STUPID. Dude that is crazy. *Only* $10,000. For $10,000 I could get 10 mics all quite amazing each in their own way. Seriously. And here I am a bottom feeder buying $200 mics and modding them. I could get 20 of those!

  2. September 9, 2009 at 10:35 am

    I think more sound guys need to be very aware of the proximity effect, especially during live performance. I’ve found that background singers get their mics really close to their mouths, and so the background vocals tend to be very boomy. If I were a sound guy, I’d use a high-pass filter to roll off a lot of the low end. You don’t need low end in most BGVs these days, IMO. Oh, and I’d compress the junk out of the BGVs. That’s “the sound” these days…. πŸ™‚

    Hey, I just bought a MXP-744 Sony Mixing Console off of eBay. 77 pounds and 6.5 feet of analog loveliness. What a deal: $511: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=360185519303 πŸ™‚

  3. 5 Ted Slater
    September 10, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    Well, I just brought my new board home. It is 6.5 feet wide, but closer to 250 pounds heavy. What a crazy beast, resting for now on our dining room table. I’m planning to sell off two of the four power supplies that came with it and donate it to MSC. It’s really exciting to own, even for a few days, such a massive studio-quality board. πŸ™‚

  4. September 11, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Hey man, not sure what you would use it for after all. Hmmm, a local recording studio might have need of it. πŸ™‚

    Hey, I have that C1 safe and sound in its case and wonder how or when I can get it to you…

  5. 7 Ted Slater
    September 12, 2009 at 8:44 am

    Thanks, Mike. Maybe I can pick it up and get a tour of the studio!

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September 2009

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