I have a little home studio and so far, just recording with my Studio Project B1 microphone right in my Presonus Firebox was ok for vocals. I have some money to spend on an upgrade for this setup, and some people suggested for me to get a compressor. This should help my vocal take to be more even and remove some unwanted noise.

Would you suggest this add-on to my current setup? Or would you suggest something else? I was also thinking about an effect rack, to replace the bad plugins that I have. Some people also suggest that I should get a better pre-amp (instead of relying on the one built-in the sound card).

Any help will be appreciated!

EDIT I record vocal mainly for rock/Alternative/Metal music but it could also be soft vocals with acoustic guitar.

  • 1
    It might be useful to clarify what type of vocal recording you're doing (assuming "pop" but could be spoken, choral, heavy rock). Meanwhile, its going to be hard to be prescriptive ... but this question discusses the priorities for vocal recordings; and this question touches on the hardware vs software debate.
    – richaux
    Commented Nov 30, 2011 at 10:27
  • Thanks for the comment. I just forgot to specify. I edited my post! Will wait to see if an answer come up with details about my musical style.
    – Jean-François Côté
    Commented Nov 30, 2011 at 12:11
  • Thanks, I suppose the kit & techniques in using them are applicable to many styles, especially where you've quite a range to cover (e.g. metal through acoustic) ... anyway, [this question] (avp.stackexchange.com/q/1705/741) on HM Vocals, may be worth a peek too.
    – richaux
    Commented Nov 30, 2011 at 21:32

4 Answers 4


Your pre-amp should be plenty good. You should be able to use a compressor in-the-box. Compressing while tracking could be beneficial, but not strictly necessary. Unless you can articulate exactly why you would need an out-board compressor, chances are you actually don't. Most live venues will have compressors so there's no need to get your own in most cases.

Things to think about in order of importance:

  1. Improving your performance. Performance is king. If you are doing rock/metal, consider looking into the Zen of Screaming DVD series, or better yet, an actual teacher. Improving your performance is the biggest thing you can do to improve the end product.
  2. Microphone technique. Are you an appropriate distance away from the mic? Do you use the characterics of the microphone to enhance your performance? Are you modulating your distance from the mic, i.e. backing away when singing louder so you won't peak the levels? Look at what very good singers do, the ones with a ton of stage experience tend to do this subconsiously.
  3. The room you record in. Is the room appropriate for what you are trying to do? Do you have unwanted room ambience? It can be as simple as setting up a deadening panel (portable vocal booth or similar) behind your mic or singing under a set of furniture blankets, or as involved as building a vocal booth or just finding a good-sounding room to record in.
  4. The microphone. Your microphone is decent enough - I have the same one. You are unlikely to find a significantly better microphone without diving into the 500-dollar range or beyond.
  5. The pre-amp. Your presonus box has very good pre-amps and you are unlikely to find anything better before you start shelling out 500 dollars or more, and odds are it's not the weak link at all.

Knowledge is better than gear.

  • 1) I have the 2 zen of screaming DVD :) 2) I think i have a proper technique but it's true I can always improve. 3) I have a vocal booth 4 and 5) Thanks for the information, I didn't know how good it was . Thanks for the comment
    – Jean-François Côté
    Commented Dec 2, 2011 at 15:26
  • I'd like to underline the importance of point 3: room acoustics affect the sound in a much more complex way than preamps, EQs or compressors. It is therefore extremely hard to do anything about a bad room post-recording, while it's relatively easy and can work fine to add the other FX afterwards, be it digital plugins or analog hardware effects. Commented Dec 5, 2011 at 22:23
  • DarkJaff: Basically all cheap pre-amps are soem variation of surface-mounted IC circuitry and there's not a huge variation in quality. The big jump comes when you move to signal chains with discrete components, but those pre-amps are much more costly in general - oh, as an aside: for screaming vocals in particular I found I had better results with an sm57 than a b1. The proximity effect seemed to help quite a bit and I could do more with mic technique :)
    – Markus Koivisto
    Commented Dec 28, 2011 at 8:10

For my home studio, I went for an external pre-amp/compressor as a means of improving the quality of the vocals, as discussed in this question. It allows the raw vocal to be captured in a more controlled manner for subsequent processing. [As a caveat, I'm not familiar with the Firebox, so I'm not sure whether this is the weak link in your system.]

n.b. My choice was coloured by the need for the device to be rack-mountable and within a certain budget.

The other item I considered was external EQ but, for my setup, capturing the vocal clean and applying EQ changes through my DAW has been sufficient.


I would definitely recommend compressors. We use hardware compressors for as many channels as possible (8 I think) so we don't load the computer's CPU unnecessarily.

It makes a great difference to the separation and quality.


Buy a better mic FIRST. In order of importance;




Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.