Good budget condenser mic for beginning home recordist?

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by guitguy28, Mar 3, 2006.


  1. guitguy28

    guitguy28 Member

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    I want to get a decent large-diapragm condenser mic for recording at home that's not really pricey.
    What's available these days? The only "bang-for-buck" brand name I'm aware of is Rode Mics. They seemed all right, perhaps a bit too much presence in the sound, judging by what I've heard (some locally made CDs where Rode mics were used) and by what people have said about them in forums.
    I have a Roland VS-840, as well as a basic PC setup with Cubase. I'm not sure what else I'd need other than a condenser mic... preamp? compressor?
     
  2. Aldwyn

    Aldwyn Member

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    Depending on what you mean by "budget". :)

    I have a Audio Technica AT4040, and love it! Nice, warm, clear. I have used it for vocals, amp micing, and percussion with great success. You should be able to pick one up new for about $300.

    I recently got a MXL992 for free when I bought my Firepod last month. I have yet to try it out, but if I get a chance, I will do so this weekend, and report. It's supposed to be a peer of the AT4040, but we'll see. Musicians Friend has them for $179.00.

    Peace,
    Aldwyn
     
  3. roygbiv

    roygbiv Member

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    Aye, cap'n, you need to define budget.

    If you're really tight on budget consider the Studio Projects B1.
     
  4. guitguy28

    guitguy28 Member

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    Sorry I wasn't being more specific about budget.. but that AT mic sounds like it could fit the bill.

    What other gear do you use it with, Aldwyn? Preamp? Compressor?
     
  5. TedintheShed

    TedintheShed Member

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    The Studio Projects C1 has turned plenty of heads.
     
  6. Aldwyn

    Aldwyn Member

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    I do use mic pres. They are built into the Firepod, so that makes me happy (and they are excellent pres!).

    Before the Firepod, I used to use a Berhinger mic pre. It was warm, but a little to brittle for my taste.

    I would recommend a pre if it can fit into your budget!

    I do use some compression occasionally, but use DXi or VST plugins with my sequencer software (Sonar Producer 3x) to do it. Before then, I was using a Alesis Nanocompresser... nice little box. Great bang for the buck, and it'll fit nicely on a desk if need be. You may find it easier to use a plugin for Cubase though. I tend to find the plugins a little more forgiving, and like the idea of having presets that come with it... helps schmucks like me who dont know how to properly use compression. :)

    Peace,
    Aldwyn
     
  7. THROBAK

    THROBAK Gold Supporting Member

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    The Studio Projects mics are a great bang for the buck. All of the clips on my site were done with the 3 pattern fet Studio Projects mic.
    www.throbak.com
     
  8. TheArchitect

    TheArchitect Guest

    In the $300 range I highly recommend the ADK Hamburg and Vienna Mic's
     
  9. tedm

    tedm Gold Supporting Member

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    with shock mount, usually $69 at MF with nice case.
     
  10. GuitslingerTim

    GuitslingerTim Member

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    MXL V67I for $150. It has bright and warm settings.
    MXL V69 for $300 if you want a tube mic.
     
  11. LSchefman

    LSchefman Supporting Member

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    >>They seemed all right, perhaps a bit too much presence in the sound, judging by what I've heard (some locally made CDs where Rode mics were used) and by what people have said about them in forums.<<

    Let's talk about large diaphragm (LD) condensers for a moment. Understand first that a large diaphragm has inherently more coloration due to several factors, including the size of the diaphragm and backplate. This coloration can be a very good thing, but you have to know about it to deal with it, and decide, first of all, if you even need an LD condenser.

    Generally, they're great on certain things, and not as good as a smaller diaphragm mic on others, but it all depends on what you're trying to accomplish. Mostly they're all about vocals, saxes, and acoustic bass, but people use them on everything (mostly bad choices IMHO if something else will work better, and again, my opinion, but a good often less expensive small diaphragm mic trumps a mediocre LD mic on stuff like piano, acoustic guitar, and overheads any day of the week ).

    Most good (and expensive) large diaphragm condensers have a "presence peak" centered around 1-2Khz and a gentle rise in response thereafter. This is a classic feature of the old Neumanns, for example. It's one of the things that makes these mics desirable, because it increases intelligibility on vocals. Some Rodes have it, some have less, but mic selection should really depend on what you're recording. I don't currently own a Rode mic, but several are very fine mics indeed, especially for the $$ (and several aren't great too). These presence peaks on the early LD mics weren't designed in, they were going for flat response, but the early LDs were just a bit peaky by virtue of their design limitations. Remember that measurement mics, designed for extreme accuracy, often have tiny 1/4 inch diaphragms, and that orchestras are routinely miked by small diaphragm mics for classical recordings.

    Note also that frequency response is but one of many factors in mic selection; off axis response, off axis rejection, distortion, SPL handling, coloration, etc., are all factors that help to define the sound. It isn't much good to have a mic with a flat response if the thing is brittle sounding, breaks up under loud vocals, etc. So there are a LOT of factors. A mic that sounds perfectly fine with a soft voice, or speaking into it in the store, can prove to be absolute sh^t if when the vocalist in your studio opens up, the mic compresses, breaks up, or otherwise sounds annoying, and the fact is, often there is a reason expensive mics are expensive. Not only in tolerances, materials, etc., but also in the degree of hand tuning and the skill and time spent by people who do indeed actually set up the diaphragm of the mic, which is, after all, the reason you're buying it, not just to have a big impressive looking mic hanging off your boom in your room and looking cool.

    It isn't unusual to line up several mics in front of a vocalist at the start of a recording session, and find one that works best with a particular singer (or instrument for that matter). Some singers benefit greatly by a peaky mic, and some don't. Without experience with the mic, you don't know what will or will not work in your application.

    Miking, mic selection, and the kind of sounds you desire to create, are all part of the art of recording. About the worst idea I can imagine is to go out and buy a microphone without trying it based on the buzz on internet forums.

    As to local CDs, merely by listening to one, what you don't know is how the tracks were eq'd, compressed, further processed (incl. reverbs, which do change the sound field), and mastered with mastering EQ.

    In other words, it's pointless to decide whether you like a mic without using it and seeing what it can do with your rig, in your studio.

    Aldwyn, with all due respect, Behringer mic preamps are among the worst on the market, so no wonder you found them brittle. They're brittle and break up because they're fairly poorly designed and cheaply manufactured, using low-spec parts with poor tolerances.

    I can't imagine a worse place to get advice regarding microphones than an internet forum, unless you know the person commenting, and what kind of work they have done. Therefore, take my advice with a grain of salt as well.

    In any event, there are ten zillion cheap mics available in the under $300 bracket, some sound better than you'd expect, and some sound worse. All of them will be mentioned in this thread, I'm sure.

    In general, A-Ts and Rodes are generally well-regarded, and have proven useful over the years in many sessions. Some of the MXL mics are reputed to be bargains, and sound surprisingly good, especially the ones made in the US, but some of their models based on early designs are absolute crap and among the very worst mics out there. On a personal note, I've had good luck with A-T small diaphragm mics, but there is something about their large diaphragm models in the mids that bugs me, but it's close to a sound that bugs me on an AKG 414, and I actually use the 414 in my studio a lot for some reason. I simply EQ out what I don't like in their midrange.

    The Shure LD condensers are also well-regarded, and neutral sounding, but I think they lack personality. Still, they'd be a good starting point, since they have a relatively flat response. From there you can decide which kinds of coloration work for you, and which don't.

    Among the bargains are several Russian mics, by the way, and they can be had dirt cheap. I have a fondness for Russian mics, and have chosen them for certain sessions over my far more expensive German, Austrian, or Latvian mics on occasion. As I said, it all depends on the instrument or voice, and what YOU hear in your head and want to accomplish.

    If you want to spend a bit more, the Blue mics are great for vocals, and I generally like them and have owned everything from the Kiwi to the Dragonfly, but I've tried their $500 "baby bottle" model and don't care for it. So it just goes to show you, don't go by brand, reviews or internet buzz. Go by your own ears.
     
  12. Aldwyn

    Aldwyn Member

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    No offence taken, Les! Indeed, when I sold the pre in question, it was a year or two ago, and I had been working without a pre until the Firepod... I think it says something when I'd rather work without a pre then with the Behringer. :)
     
  13. LSchefman

    LSchefman Supporting Member

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    >>I think it says something when I'd rather work without a pre then with the Behringer<<

    You said it all right there, my friend.

    Anyway, I hope my long post wasn't too wordy or pushy.
     
  14. discountsounds

    discountsounds Member

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    Les, I've been following this thread with some interest as I am just getting into digital home recording and I, too, have been wondering what microphones would be best for me in terms of being good quality without being cost prohibitive.

    I think the suggestions in your post make perfect sense in the abstract, but I'm wondering if you have a practical recommendation re: trying out microphones to see which one I like...

    -Would you suggest bringing my digital 8 track, compressor, mic pre-amp and monitors to the local music store and auditioning the microphones in that manner? I can see how that might work for auditioning LD condensers for vocals, but seems like it would be prohibitively difficult if I wanted to audition an SD condenser for micing overhead on drums.

    -The other thought I had would be to buy a few microphones, audition them at home and then return the ones I don't want and keep the ones I do. I could see how that would work for some, but unaffordable for someone like me on a very tight budget.

    Thanks in advance for your response.
     
  15. retro

    retro Member

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    I've been using mostly AT 4033a, 4050 and AKG 414.
    A friend turned me onto KEL's mic's.
    I would definitely recommend taking a look at KEL mic's and what others are saying about them. Plus you can return them in 21 days if you don't like them.
    Besides being a bargain they are simply good mic's.

    http://www.kelaudio.com/ourproducts.html
     
  16. Bassomatic

    Bassomatic Silver Supporting Member

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    "...but a good often less expensive small diaphragm mic trumps a mediocre LD mic on stuff like piano, acoustic guitar, and overheads any day of the week".

    Amen, Les. Just though that bit could bear repeating.
     

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