I discovered Smule in 2016, but it was just a passing interest. I had never really sang much other than in the car, in the shower, and maybe if we were at a bar that had a karaoke machine. But I loved to sing.

In 2017, I got my Samsung Note 8, which came with AKG tuned headphones. This was my first real improvement in recording quality, and it is also when I got interested in singing on Smule:

Smule Summer 2017 AKG Headphones

Samsung SM-N950UZVAXAA Galaxy Note8 (US Version) Factory Unlocked Phone – 6.3″ Screen – 64GB – Orchid Gray (U.S. Warranty) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07539DSV3/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_6IJABb52AD264

I got a chance in 2017 to sing in the choir and church and started to put my first effort into putting together an actual “setup” for Smule recording. I had never really sang with a microphone, etc. so this was all pretty new to me. Since I already had some camera and video recording gear, I found that my biggest challenge was that I needed to be able to hear BOTH the music AND my own voice WITH NO DELAYS!

So I came up with something that worked for me for a short while:

Smule Fall 2017 Setup

Sennheiser HD280PRO Headphone (new model) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00IT0IHOY/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_tKJABb5F1BB84

Zoom H5 Four-Track Portable Recorder https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KCXMBES/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_fLJABbDF831C4

AmazonBasics 3.5mm to 2-Male RCA Adapter Cable – 4 Feet https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01D5H8JW0/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_qPJABb6CE9294

3.5mm to RCA Stereo Audio Cable Adapter – 3.5mm Female to Stereo RCA Male Bi-Directional AUX Auxiliary Male Headphone Jack Plug Y Splitter to Left / Right 2RCA Male Connector Plug Wire Cord https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01JEBLEIC/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_8PJABb8B96544

Maeline 3.5mm Female to 2 Male Gold Plated Headphone Mic Audio Y Splitter Flat Cable https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PYZ2BT4/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_0RJABbD7C4A94

Headphone Mic and Audio 2 in 1 Adapter Cable, iXCC 1 Feet 3.5mm Male to 2 Female Premium Gold-Plated Corrosion-Resistant Y Splitter Cable for Headphone, Headset https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073RXXS4N/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_nRJABbCE45884

Movo WST-R30 Fitted Nylon Windscreen with Acoustic Foam Technology for Zoom H4n, H5, H6, Tascam DR-100 MKII and Sony PCM-D50 Portable Digital Recorders https://www.amazon.com/dp/B012Y85YME/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_ZMJABbDEE97A4

However, I quickly grew tired of not being able to listen and review the songs in stereo without having to change cabling around, mess with levels, etc. I also found that my best time for singing was late at night, and I didn’t want to keep my family awake with my late night singing.

So I worked on a DIY studio / vocal booth setup in my basement underneath our stairs:

Smule Summer 2018 Studio v1

IK Multimedia iRig Pre microphone preamp for smartphones and tablets https://www.amazon.com/dp/B007534LFK/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_DSJABbCD2F724

Rode NT1A Anniversary Vocal Condenser Microphone Package https://www.amazon.com/dp/B002QAUOKS/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_yTJABb6DFCE04

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 9.7-Inch, 32GB Tablet (Silver, SM-T820NZSAXAR) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MRDL916/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_5UJABb750EA64

Harbinger L1202FX 12-Channel Mixer with Effects https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PV6GZG6/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_5WJABb9016444

Shure SE425-CL Sound Isolating Earphones with Dual High Definition MicroDrivers https://www.amazon.com/dp/B003NSBKSC/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_ZYJABbC36A454

Sterling MX8 Studio Monitor

https://www.guitarcenter.com/Sterling-Audio/MX8-8-Powered-Studio-Monitor.gc

Neewer Universal Smartphone & Tablet Stand (Sturdy Metal Arm, Padded Holder, Adjustable Mounting Clamp) for iPhone 6 Plus, GALAXY Note 5, iPad Air/iPad Air 2, Samsung Galaxy Tab and More–Black https://www.amazon.com/dp/B016F5HXBC/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_61JABbF447514

Microphone stand

https://www.guitarcenter.com/Musicians-Gear/MG100B-Tripod-Boom-Microphone-Stand.gc

Recently, I decided that I would really like to have a similar level of quality for monitoring while singing, but I would like to be able to take it with me to perform recordings in different locations.

So I have come up with this setup that I am currently implementing along-side my studio setup:

Smule Fall 2018 Portable

I then added on to these setups over Fall 2018 and into Winter 2019 to include a nice scissor boom for my mic, acoustic treatment for the room,

Smule Fall 2018 More

And I made some additional improvements that included a vocal pedal and lighting improvements:

Smule Winter 2019

 

None of this is necessary for good Smule recordings. I know folks that seem to get better recordings out of their iPhone and iPhone headphones. But I use this studio for other voiceover, recording, and broadcasting needs, so the key to me is making it easy to sit down and get right to recording, reviewing, and broadcasting quickly and easily, with expected, reproducible results.

NOTE: I’ve also added a Shure Beta 58A handheld dynamic supercardiod mic that I use for certain recordings. I’ve also found that with the supercardiod mic, that I can use my floor monitors to listen and do not need to wear in ear monitors, but don’t suffer from doubling the original source. The Rode NT1A is better for songs where I want to be breathy and light, but it can be a little more harsh up high than the Shure Beta — so it really depends on what I’m going for in the song as to which mic I might choose to use. Also, learning to modulate via a handheld mic versus moving my body around a stationary condenser is something that I’m having to learn about.

Stay tuned for more improvements.

If you have any questions about my gear or setup, leave a comment below!

Harold “Hop” Ballinger aka “SparkleCityHop”