Resources for the Recording Musician
September 4, 2017

Older computer and microphone

Hi! I have two questions. Firstly, do you think that an older iMac (mid-2011) with RAM upgraded to 20GB would have sufficient capability to run music recording and processing software? Sorry, I have the software, but not the time to learn and put it through its paces and really test it. I was upsold a MacBook Pro today, and have a limited time to decide if I want to return it. I also bought a Rode NT1 microphone, but read your article about the SM58. I would be recording female vocals in both a large room with little to no padding, and a tiny closet done up in studio foam. The vocals go the range from very loud, operatic or Broadway-style, to quiet lullabies. I read your article, googled whether the Rode NT1 is a large condenser mic like the kind you tell us not to get, and then went, Oops. Now wondering if I need to return the Rode for the SM58. Or if it would work for me due to the large room (with high ceilings) and loud volume of the vocals. Thank you for any and all advice you can share!

I'm not a Mac person, so I can't comment on that specific Mac. It really depends on the processor and hard drive as to how suitable it will be for recording. The amount of RAM won't make a whole lot of difference unless you need to have a lot of samples loaded into RAM at once (for a virtual sampler, for instance, that doesn't stream well from disk). 2011 isn't that old, and my own studio DAW (PC that I custom built myself) is almost that old. I'm running on an older i7 processor, with quite a few fast hard drives installed, and only 12GB of RAM. The only time I run into issues now is when I'm mixing and trying to use a lot of the newer plugins that are very processor hungry. If you are mostly doing simple recordings at home, and not trying to run a whole lot of virtual instruments and/or plugins at the same time, your older computer will probably be fine. The only thing you would need to check is that the software and drivers are compatible with your OS version and your hardware. If that computer works for your needs, no need to update to the latest/greatest thing.

Regarding your microphone, I haven't personally used the Rode NT1, but, in general, most people prefer to use a large diaphragm condenser microphone for vocals. It's not that I was trying to say that you couldn't use it, just that it will be much more sensitive than a dynamic microphone and will pick up more room noise if your room isn't treated. The tiny closet done up in studio foam will probably work to give you a fairly dead sound, so you should try some recordings in there first to see if you like the sound. For the larger room, if you are finding you are getting too much room noise for you liking, you can always hack together some DIY gobos to put in a U-Shape around your microphone to block some reflections. Use whatever you can find to create some makeshift frames and hang some heavy quilts or packing blankets over them. Or, even use some mattresses.

The SM-58 is relatively inexpensive (around $100), so if you have the cash, I would pick up one in addition to keeping your Rode. You can never have too many microphones! Each microphone sounds different, just like every voice is different, so it's good to try out different microphones to see which sounds best for what you will be recording. Also, there may be times where you want the sound of the Rode, and others where you want the sound of the SM58, since it sounds like the type of vocals you do are wide ranging in style.

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