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studio microphone recommendation


carter_

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I'm looking for a general-purpose studio microphone suggestion.

 

Something suitable mostly for recording misc instruments - tambourines, shakers, harmonica, the occasional vocal though too.

 

From what little I know about microphones, a condenser would probably be the most suitable, but the selection is a bit daunting. (I record via an audio interface, so a USB mic isn't necessary, though not ruled out.)

 

This is in the category of a "I'm looking to buy a digital keyboard, can you please let me know which one is best" post, but I'm pretty clueless when it comes to microphones, so appreciate any advice.

 

Looking to keep it under $150.

 

Thanks in advance.

 

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Try to swell your budget a little bit so you can get at least something like a Shure KSM 27. I also really love the Studio Projects C1 available from Sweetwater for $250. I use 2 of these to mic my piano and it sounds damn good.

 

I'd stay away from 'ultra budget' condensers.

Kawai C-60 Grand Piano : Hammond A-100 : Hammond SK2 : Yamaha CP4 : Yamaha Montage 7 : Moog Sub 37

 

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get at least something like a Shure KSM 27. I'd stay away from 'ultra budget' condensers.

I couldn't agree more. The KSM 27 has been discontinued, replaced, and slightly improved upon by the SM 27.

 

The last few KSM 27's sold on the bay for under $200.

The extra money you spend now will not be wasted.

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For tambourines and shakers, you're going to want something that isn't brash, unless you just want something functional vs. high quality. Quite frankly, that's a challenge on that budget.

 

Nevertheless, other than for high frequency percussion with lots of transients and soft dynamic details, you can do VERY well on your budget. But you also mentioned harmonica, and that's another "odd man out" instrument from a miking point of view; usually employing a dedicated specialty mic at close range (e.g. The Cardinal).

 

Given your budget, then, I recommend forgetting that you have chosen three of the more challenging instruments to record well, and just buy a VERY good general purpose mic within your budget -- making sure to take advantage of one of the MANY sales going on this week at RMC Audio Direct, Full Compass, Front End Audio, BSW, or any of the more generic sites that don't specifically specialize in pro audio and microphones.

 

You can't go wrong with ANY mic from Audio Technica, and their entire line is on sale this month. But due to the harshness that many condenser mics can add to the instrument categories you are focused on, I'm going to recommend sticking with dynamic mics.

 

Audio Technica is the ONE mic company that I can recommend with no reservations -- I have tried or owned most of their mics and there isn't a bad egg in the bunch. A couple of other brands also have a similar (though not spotless) record (Beyerdynamic and Electro-Voice) but tend to cost a bit more than AT.

 

You MIGHT even be able to wing a harmonica specialty mic AND an "under $100" mic within your budget, and get slightly better coverage of your VERY different needs for your three main categories of sound.

 

Although you can save money by buying used, in my experience you often lose the savings by having to re-buy the mic clip and/or mic pouch that most owners throw out or lose, and so it's usually better to take advantage of frequent mic sales at specialty vendors that usually are cheaper than the generic on-line shops.

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BTW shoot me a PM, because I have five excellent mics that I am considering letting go of, that were placeholders and are likely to not be needed in my collection anymore due to some recent upgrades in several categories. All would be within your price range.

Eugenio Upright, 60th P-Bass, Geddy Lee J-Bass, Hofner HCT-500/7, Yamaha BBP35, Viking Bari

Select Strat, Select Tele, Am Pro JM, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, ES295, PM2, EXL1

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Yep, I was going to add that the normal rule about condenser mics adding harshness in the upper mid to lower high frequencies doesn't apply so much to most of Audio Technica's mics.

 

Also -- although WAY over your budget -- my LONG-TERM recommendation is to get a ribbon mic for high-frequency percussion instruments. I can especially recommend the unusual and mid-priced ones from Beyerdynamic; two of which are unique inn having a hyper-cardioid pickup pattern vs. the usual figure-8 pattern.

 

I use them on hi-hat, ride cymbal, tambourine, and shakers. The models are: M130, M160; M260. One of them -- I think the M130 (I'm in a rush) is figure-8, and they did it this way so that you could use two different models in M/S configuration.

Eugenio Upright, 60th P-Bass, Geddy Lee J-Bass, Hofner HCT-500/7, Yamaha BBP35, Viking Bari

Select Strat, Select Tele, Am Pro JM, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, ES295, PM2, EXL1

XK1c, Voyager, Prophet XL

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If you're looking at Audio-Technica ones for that cheap, the AT2020 is probably your best bet. AT makes good solid microphones, and that one can be purchased for around $100.

 

Depending on what sort of vocals and such you're looking for, you could consider a dynamic. Why? They're good for some rock vocals, particularly if you want a nice warm sound, and they help out with some extreme transients from tambourines and shakers and do well with harmonica. For shakers and tambourines, I frequently use a Heil PR40 or PR30, which is a large diaphragm dynamic, and it sounds fantastic. I occasionally use the PR40 for vocals too, especially rock vocals in which the person is really belting. I've had good luck with male and some female vocals so far.

 

If you increase your cost more, than you'll get a wider variety of options and better quality, obviously, but you can make a good quality recording with a sub=$150 mic all the same, especially if you have a decent mic preamp and have good microphone placement and a good sounding space.

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The PR30 and PR40 are well-made mics. I sold mine as I couldn't get on with how they seemed to make things sound compressed (I forget, but maybe they're an FET design, which tends to have that effect). In this context though, maybe that helps. :-)

 

As for the AT2020, you can get the non-USB version from $79.20, today only, at RMC Audio Direct by visiting their home page, searching recording gear, then using their microphone discount code at check-out. That's a really good deal, and a great mic.

Eugenio Upright, 60th P-Bass, Geddy Lee J-Bass, Hofner HCT-500/7, Yamaha BBP35, Viking Bari

Select Strat, Select Tele, Am Pro JM, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, ES295, PM2, EXL1

XK1c, Voyager, Prophet XL

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+1 on the Heils.

 

Moe -did you ever make the trek out to "Ye Old Music" in Marissa in the '70s ? :)

 

I remember my first trip out there with one of my High School bands. We were something like 19 and VERY impressionable . There was Bob Heil, showing off his mega stack PA that he said he personally designed for the Who. I had never heard music that loud played in a space that small before as when he demonstrated that PA... :laugh: He was a combination blowhard and visionary. He started resurfacing at NAMM about 4 years ago with his mics, I went up and said hi . He hasn't changed much, still thinks highly of himself... :)

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I endorse the Studio Projects microphones, and own several. There are a lot of really good choices under $500, but $150 is very limiting. At $250, I honestly don't think there is a better option than a SP C1. There are some good mics as noted by AT, Rhode and Sterling at this level, but I believe the SP is the best and most versatile for the money. If you can't bump your budget, try one of there B1s instead. Please don't be tempted by the vast selection of MXLs under $200. While they have a few models that work OK in specific applications, overall they are inferior in sound quality for the price (imho).

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+1 on the Heils.

 

Moe -did you ever make the trek out to "Ye Old Music" in Marissa in the '70s ? :)

 

Oh yeah. In fact, my band moved to Marissa for awhile, and I worked at Ye Olde Music Shoppe for Fast Eddie after Bob sold the store and was just doing manufacturing. I used to refurb all the Hammonds they got in.

Moe

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Consider a Rode NT1-A for a great all-purpose large condenser.

 

I have a Studio Projects B3 I got for $80 which has also been very handy. It doesn't get the rave reviews of the C1, but the extra pickup patterns are very useful, and my Martin HD28 sounds great through it.

 

I also highly recommend a decent mic preamp like a Studio Projects VTB-1, especially for dynamic mics like Shure SM57/58. It adds at least 10 dB to my old Unidyne III's, making them work much better for medium to low volume instruments like acoustic guitar.

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At $250, I honestly don't think there is a better option than a SP C1. There are some good mics as noted by AT, Rhode and Sterling at this level, but I believe the SP is the best and most versatile for the money.

 

Exactly.

Kawai C-60 Grand Piano : Hammond A-100 : Hammond SK2 : Yamaha CP4 : Yamaha Montage 7 : Moog Sub 37

 

My latest album: Funky organ, huge horn section

https://bobbycressey.bandcamp.com/album/cali-native

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Can you supply some info:

 

(1) where are you going to be recording? - e.g. if it isn't a treated space or soundproofed, how quiet is it?

 

(2) and how confident are you in your ability to capture a performance? Are you a beginner or ...?

 

Condensors pick up a lot. Maybe an SM57 (dynamic) would be a better choice (and within budget). You won't have to worry so much about the environment.

 

Second thing - percussion instruments like shakers work best in a mix with some eq cuts. The Karl Coryat (?) Guerrilla Guide To Home Recording is good, inexpensive, available on Amazon and worth a read. There's a chapter "how to record anything" which is actually very good.

 

Good luck with your purchase.

I'm the piano player "off of" Borrowed Books.
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The PR30 and PR40 are well-made mics. I sold mine as I couldn't get on with how they seemed to make things sound compressed (I forget, but maybe they're an FET design, which tends to have that effect). In this context though, maybe that helps. :-)

 

I'm a little confused here. First of all, it's not an FET design.

 

If you are comparing the PR30 and PR40 to condensers, then of course you will think that it sounds compressed. They are, after all, dynamic mics. That said, for a dynamic mic, they are considerably more responsive than most of their dynamic brethren due to innovations in diaphragm technology because it uses a large but low-mass diaphragm. If you are comparing them to dynamics, they'll sound noticeably livelier.

 

For tambourines and shakers, although having a fairly extensive mic locker, I will still reach for the Heils for things like this.

 

For vocals, things like the Heil or the Shure SM7b are often coveted for their smoothness for vocals. The latter, for instance, is used by countless vocalists, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

 

By the way, the Heil PR40 is probably my favorite mic for bass cabinets. Wow. Just throw that thing in front. Really beautiful physicality of the bass, good and warm and present and, again, physical. Amazing on kick drums too. I use PR30s for overheads for drums, achieving a sound that is not terribly unlike using ribbon mics for overheads.

 

As for the AT2020, you can get the non-USB version from $79.20, today only, at RMC Audio Direct by visiting their home page, searching recording gear, then using their microphone discount code at check-out. That's a really good deal, and a great mic.

 

I've never used one, but my understanding is that this is truly one of the killer deals for large diaphragm condensers.

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If you are wanting the AT2020 non-USB - do some looking around pricewise = B&H is listing it for $60.83 and Amazon is listing it at $59.99.

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Well, we all clearly have different tastes -- I spent an entire weekend throwing the PR30 and PR40 on every application imaginable, and always got harsh and compressed results.

 

Remember, everything is relative: I have an extremely extensive and high quality mic collection. But note that I said high quality, not expensive. My most expensive non-ribbon mic is probably still my KSM32.

 

I have yet to find a mic that delivers better on bass cabinet -- or even close-miking most guitar cabinets -- than the trusty Sennheiser MD421 mk II. But that is an expensive mic, even at internet discounts, so I did not recommend it in this thread. Remember, the budget here is $150 max!

 

Audio Technica mics frequently go on sale, and just as frequently are liquidated. They don't want to get trapped like Shure and AKG into being known for certain mics as opposed to being known for mic design. So they continue to liquidate excellent models and replace them with new ones that, strangely (cf. ATM250 replacing ATM25, where the ATM25 excels on floor tom but the ATM250 is entirely different and excels on rack toms), don't always have much in common.

 

I only mentioned FET because I didn't have time to look up the specs on the Heils and didn't have them memorized. FET designs tend to be compressed, but my recollection is that such designs also are typically found in condensers not dynamic mics.

 

I second the recommendation for the Guerilla Guide to Recording -- it's an excellent primer. It's also pretty easy to find detailed and clear mic tutorials on the web. Not to mention mic shootouts.

 

ZenProAudio has a feature called The Clipalator, which compares gear in the same context. They have a mixture of cheap and expensive mics on the list, so it's worth taking a listen. My main complaint is they used an emo singer so I get nauseous at ALL of the vocal examples. Also, it is all in the Indie Rock context, but still gives an idea of bass, guitar, and drums. No coverage of harmonica, percussion, or tasteful vocals though.

Eugenio Upright, 60th P-Bass, Geddy Lee J-Bass, Hofner HCT-500/7, Yamaha BBP35, Viking Bari

Select Strat, Select Tele, Am Pro JM, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, ES295, PM2, EXL1

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AT2020 for $65 at Nova Musik:

 

http://www.novamusik.com/search.aspx?type=Model&keyword=13588&mid=449&lbs=2

 

Kinda a no-brainer deal.

 

I'd get one myself, but I already have the higher-end version of this mic.

Eugenio Upright, 60th P-Bass, Geddy Lee J-Bass, Hofner HCT-500/7, Yamaha BBP35, Viking Bari

Select Strat, Select Tele, Am Pro JM, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, ES295, PM2, EXL1

XK1c, Voyager, Prophet XL

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The Rode is bright, bright, bright. M-Audio Nova is fine but no better than the slew of other low budget condensers on the market. I'm telling you guys, for inexpensive, high-quality mics, it really doesn't get any better than Audio Technica. I own a pair of AT2010 mics, which are a hand-held condenser for live performance, that are excellent and replaced my much more expensive Shure Beta87 on the road. They sound better than the Beta87, too.

 

I have three ATM450 side address pencil condensers. These are my go to mics on drums. I'm currently using them as overheads for the upcoming organissimo record I'm tracking in my home studio. I posted a clip from those proceedings awhile ago (the cover of "Never Can Say Goodbye" which will not be on the CD but was just a test to see how everything sounded). They also work great on single drums like toms, snare, etc.

 

For kick, I use the ATM25. I don't know why they discontinued this mic. It's killer on toms, too.

 

On toms, I've been using the ATM650, AT's answer to the venerable SM57, but less internal compression and closer to a Sennheiser in terms of tone.

 

One of these days I plan to pick up a pair of AT4050s. And I'd love to try their new ribbon mics.

 

Oh, and I also love their ATH-M50 headphones. Yes, I'm a fanboy. :)

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Well, we all clearly have different tastes -- I spent an entire weekend throwing the PR30 and PR40 on every application imaginable, and always got harsh and compressed results.

 

Well, again, are we comparing this to condensers or dynamics? It's a dynamic. For a dynamic, it reacts faster than other dynamics. That's not just my ear. This can be borne out by test results. I get that you may not like Heils. I know other people who don't as well. But it's truly the opposite of compressed for a dynamic mic. This isn't a subjective thing; it's considerably more responsive to transients than just about any other dynamic.

 

Remember, everything is relative: I have an extremely extensive and high quality mic collection. But note that I said high quality, not expensive. My most expensive non-ribbon mic is probably still my KSM32.

 

My microphone collection is very similar.

 

I have yet to find a mic that delivers better on bass cabinet -- or even close-miking most guitar cabinets -- than the trusty Sennheiser MD421 mk II. But that is an expensive mic, even at internet discounts, so I did not recommend it in this thread. Remember, the budget here is $150 max!

 

A 421 is an excellent all-purpose mic. I have three of those. I prefer the Heil PR40 for bass cabinets (and so do many of the bass players I record), but that's a subjective thing. I can get a killer sound with a 421 for many applications, including bass cabinets.

 

I only mentioned FET because I didn't have time to look up the specs on the Heils and didn't have them memorized. FET designs tend to be compressed, but my recollection is that such designs also are typically found in condensers not dynamic mics.

 

Right. And the Heils are dynamic mics.

 

They're very responsive dynamic mics, so much so that some people get away with recording even things like acoustic guitars occasionally, but they're definitely dynamics.

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Looks like B3-er and I have similar mic collections for the main tasks. :-)

 

The ATM450's are an AMAZING deal at roughly $150 each. I use a pair of them as my main drum overheads as well, preferring them in ORTF configuration. Very detailed and even in their response. But they're so busy doing drum duties that I haven't had a chance to check them yet on acoustic instruments etc.

 

The headphones are excellent as well, and are on sale this weekend for something like $117. Although I still prefer my Beyerdynamic DT770-PRO's (low impedance version) for tracking and overdubs and my Beyerdynamic DT-880's for mixing, the ATH-M50's are the most popular cans with other musicians in the studio by far. This is when ghost tracks, guide tracks, or overdubs.

 

Interestingly, the Clip-a-lator at Zen Pro Audio's site confirms my feelings about the Heil mics, and Warren himself loves them. It gets back to having different ears and preferences. It is not true that these are "scientifically provable" statements about one mic vs. another. It also matters what gear you are recording (and the musicians and genres) in terms of which mic is the most appropriate. Please note that I did not say they are bad mics, just that I don't like them, and also that I think they are poor recommendations to someone starting out who needs to cover a lot of bases, as they have a very specific sound so are a risk for many.

Eugenio Upright, 60th P-Bass, Geddy Lee J-Bass, Hofner HCT-500/7, Yamaha BBP35, Viking Bari

Select Strat, Select Tele, Am Pro JM, LP 57 Gold, G5422DC-12, T486, ES295, PM2, EXL1

XK1c, Voyager, Prophet XL

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