We all know recording ourselves is important when learning saxophone.
But, often just recording into our iPhone or smartphone can sound a bit rubbish. Today I’m testing a new product from the clever people at CloudVocal that might be the solution to better saxophone recordings.
About this video
Today I’m checking out a new product from the very clever microphone company CloudVocal. It’s called the AR-1 and I wanted to find out whether it will help us make better saxophone recordings on our iPhone or smartphone.
I’m going to be unboxing the AR-1 and having a look at the features. Then I’m going to connect it up and make a recording into my smartphone so we can have a listen and see how it performs.
You might have seen the other reviews that I’ve done on the CloudVocal microphones for saxophone – they’ve got the iSolo Choice and the newer iSolo Prime. Loads of my Sax School students use this microphone for recording and gigging. You can watch the full review that I did on this microphone here.
I like what CloudVocal are doing; their gear is super-compact and affordable, but actually sounds pretty good. So I’m curious to see if the AR-1 keeps up with this high standard.
About recording yourself whilst learning
You might be wondering you even need to record yourself when you’re learning saxophone.
Recording yourself playing your sax is the best way to super-charge your progress. In Sax School we encourage our thousands of members in Sax School to make it part of their practice routine. In fact, many of our students are running their own YouTube channels, as well as performing regularly, and joining bands. They’ve got the confidence to go out and perform, because they’re practicing their performing skills all the time, when they make videos to share with our Sax School Community, friends and family and wider on social media.
So making videos of yourself is a brilliant way to see what’s going on actually with your playing, and also to build your confidence with your performing skills. If you are not already recording yourself, I would really encourage you to do it. You will really see the benefit.
Now I’ve convinced you to start recording your saxophone, let’s see if the AR-1 can help us make better saxophone recordings.
Inside the Box
The CloudVocal AR-1 it’s nice and compact, and inside it’s really simple.
The AR-1 has multiple connections on it, including an on/off switch, the headphone connector, a headphone socket, a volume for the headphone socket, and finally a power indicator on the top.
It also comes with a box of cables. There’s an adapter and three different connection options, that would go from the AR-1 into the device that we’re going to record onto. There is also lightning cable, USBC, and standard USB.
This means we could go from the AR-1 into a smartphone or maybe even into our computer.
Comparison with Isolo USB Interface
If you’ve seen my CloudVocal microphone review, you’ll know I tested the the Isolo USB interface. So, if you have one of these, why do you need the AR-1?
The Isolo USB Interface is a really cool device, which connects your microphone directly to your computer. The microphone sends a message to the USB interface, which goes straight into the computer so you can record into Garageband, or Logic, or whatever program you use.
However, you’ve got no way of hearing a backing track, or what your saxophone sounds like, because there’s no connection on it for headphones.
The AR-1, on the other hand does have a headphone socket on it, so I’m hoping that that’s going to give us that extra, more professional feature that is really helpful when we’re recording with backing tracks.
Connecting it Up
On the AR-1, the signal goes from the microphone, to the receiver, into the AR-1, and then via a cable, into our smartphone. So the first step is we need to connect the cable that’s appropriate for our phone into the AR-1, and then that will go into our smartphone.
You could use any app for recording into your iPhone or smartphone. You could use Garageband, but I’m just using the memo app that came with my iPhone.
When I turn on the AR-1, there’s a power indicator on the top, so I know we’re good to go.
A signal comes from the microphone, through my receiver, through the AR-1, and into the smartphone. There’s a headphone socket on the AR-1, so I’m going to connect my headphones too.
I can adjust the volume for the headphones on the AR-1 as well. So now with my headphones I can hear what’s actually coming from my saxophone microphone, including the effects that i’ve dialled in on my microphone receiver.
There’s also an option to use a backing track. I’m going to play the backing track on my laptop, and take a mini jack cable from my laptop straight to the auxiliary input on the CloudVocal receiver.
Do you use a CloudVocal microphone already, or do you use a different wireless microphone?
Let’s have a listen
All I need to do is connect the microphone to my saxophone. I’m using my soprano, and I’m going to be playing through a Tom Scott transcription. If you haven’t seen the Tom Scott piece that we did recently, you can check it out here.
We did a great full masterclass with Tom, who is an absolute legend, inside Sax School, if you want to go check that out.
Better Saxophone Recordings?
So once I’ve got my smartphone ready to go, and my backing track on my laptop, I’m going to press record.
As soon as I hit stop on my phone, I’ve got that recording on my smartphone. I can listen back to it straight away through the headphones via the AR-1. Or I can actually just edit it and send it straight out to Soundcloud or to wherever I want to share that recording. And it sounds great!
I think this microphone has got a great sound for using in a live situation, it’s a more condenser microphone, and it’s a smaller setup, so it does sound more compressed than something I’d use in the studio, but it sounds great with a backing track. And, because with the CloudVocal microphone receiver, you can stick those effects in there straight away, and you can get a really professional sound straight out the gate. This is a great option for a better saxophone recording.
Nigel’s Final Thoughts
I think the AR-1 is brilliant piece of kit. Would I use one?
I’m fortunate to have a pretty comprehensive setup in my studio here, because I’m recording and filming every single day for our Sax School lessons. But if I was looking for a more compact setup that I might use on the road, or if I was just starting out and looking to get a setup that would get me going quickly with better saxophone recordings, then I think that the AR-1, matched with the Cloud Vocal microphone and receiver is a really good option.
One of the downsides is that you will need a second device to play your backing tracks into the receiver, so then you could record on another device into your smartphone. However, that actually gives you quite a lot of flexibility.
It also means most importantly that we can get better saxophone recordings really quickly into our smartphone, then we can start to share these recordings with the minimum of hassle.
If you’re thinking of buying the CloudVocal Prime microphone, you can grab a discount using this link.
I would love to hear your feedback because I’m always looking for new pieces of equipment like this that I can recommend to our thousands of students. We want to know about anything that makes practicing and learning easier, and helps us make better saxophone recordings.
When you’re ready, find out more about Sax School on our website. We’ve got hundreds of lessons to help you really move your playing ahead, PLUS you can get involved with our thousands of other students from all over the world through our Community. We’ve got a great team of fabulous tutors too, who will guide you along the learning process. Find out more here.
Backing track and transcription by Simon Niblock: https://nibmusic.dk/