Large-Diaphragm Condensor Mic for under $160 (or less)

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by AshlandBump, Mar 10, 2006.


  1. AshlandBump

    AshlandBump Member

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    I need a condensor mic to record my guitar amp, acoustic guitar and some vocals at home using a Presonus Firebox. Here are the main ones I'm looking at:

    Audio-Technica AT2020 ($100)
    Samson C03 ($100)
    Studio Projects B1 ($100)
    Studio Projects B3 ($160)

    I don't have a lot of money to spend so please don't tell me to save for a Neumann, etc. It's not going to happen.

    Any thoughts about any of these, or other recommendations, based on the intended use? Thanks.
     
  2. guitar_rockin

    guitar_rockin Member

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    I bought the AKG Perception 100 new for $120 at GC. The Perception 200 has more features but I'm sure if it says within your price range or not.
     
  3. AshlandBump

    AshlandBump Member

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    Thanks. I realize, too, that a SM57 would probably do just as well if not better for the guitar amp recording but I'd also like to use the condensor for room recording with a band, for demo purposes only.
     
  4. RMS

    RMS Member

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    Here's an opinion :jo

    I've used condensors quite a bit and have a few models. However, one of my first purchases was a Studio Projects C3. I must say that it works well. It might be considered the multi-pattern version of a B3. If using the C3 in cardioid mode is any indication of what the B3 sounds like (please don't argue, I KNOW it's not the same thing;) ), it tends to have a slightly darker, and slightly slower transient response than, say, an AT-4050 or AKG C4000 (which are both multi-pattern pricier mics). The C3 in cardioid sounds very nice though, in it's own right, if not a bit 'warm' comparatively. I still choose it for voice-over stuff and acoustic or electric guitar.

    I've also used the C3 in classical settings such as on a soprano opera-like vocal/material. On a different occasion, I prefered the same vocalist through a Neumann TLM 103, but there is NOTHING wrong with the C3 recording. The point is that the cheap mics are not the same as the expensive ones, but they are very usable and even customers with highly tuned ears (like music PhD students) are thrilled with the results.

    My opinion is the Studio projects over the AT2020, although I am a big AT fan and it's a close call. I say that based on the larger diaphram of the B3) I have not heard the sampson, but have never been impressed with the brand in general.

    happy pondering :AOK
    -RMS
     
  5. krash

    krash Member

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    We have a small selection of large-diaphragm and other condenser mics in your price range, including one of the ones on your list.

    Studio Projects B1 is a really great mic, very useful for a lot of things, and really great for some vocals. If we are recording a wooly/dark sounding singer, we will reach for the B1 all the time. Also use the B1 for kick drum a lot (usually in combo with another mic like an SM57 or a MD-421). it also makes a good room mic, can be really good on percussion, and that one-mic-overhead drum kit tone cannot be done better than with a SP B1 as far as I know. However, it is only useful (IMHO) on clean guitar tracks, or with a really dark sounding amp. But it's way too bright to my ear for my other guitar amps (Classic 30/Private Jack, Princeton Reverb/Weber P12R, etc.) with any kind of overdrive going on. Just comes off as shrill and ice-picky. I really can't think of any reason why I wouldn't use one of the dozens of other mics I have instead of the B1 on a guitar cab if it was a tone with any kind of OD or hair on it. Almost anything is better. For acoustic guitar, if you have a really crappy sounding guitar with no top end sizzle to it at all, then it can sound ok but with a decent guitar, it stinks IMHO, again ice-picky and just too bright in a not-good way.

    Now to add some stuff to your list:

    If you want to lean in favor of acoustic and electric guitar recording, far and away the most versatile condenser mic we have is a KEL HM-1. We have two and will be acquiring more in the future. This is our go-to mic on guitar cabs almost all the time, we use it most of the time on acoustic guitar too, it kills on toms, fingerstyle on acoustic guitar, as a room mic, and pretty much everything we point it at, sounds great. We have recorded vocals with it but not a lot. It is not our first-pick vocal mic but it's certainly serviceable. You can get one from KEL directly for $100. This is a 1/2" diaphragm back-electret so not strictly a "large diaphragm" mic but it has a very warm, almost-dark, but detailed and pleasant sound.

    We also have a couple of Oktava MK-219's which are ridiculously cheap at Guitar Center ($60/ea). Just be sure and audition them before you buy to make sure they sound good since they can be variable. We have two of these, both with grille mods and one with the resonators removed from the diphragm (makes it darker sounding, more detailed). These can be flat-out great vocal mics and are certainly in the hunt for acoustic guitar, particularly flat-picked or strummy stuff. They work great for electric guitar cabs too, but are not our first-pick (KEL wins there). However, for your $160 budget, you can get a KEL HM-1 AND an Oktava MK-219, and use the MK for vocals and strummy acoustic guitars, and use the KEL for guitar cabs and fingerstyle acoustic.

    With a KEL HM-1 + an Oktava MK-219 you might be missing out on a mic with a lot of top end and therefore your recordings may end up sounding a bit dark but the current trend is for home studio recordings to sound shrill and harsh. I wouldn't worry. These warmer mics are not going to aggravate the gritty top end of lower-end mic pres or consoles nearly as much as a toppier mic like a SP B1.

    Another cheap LDC I have heard really good things about is a MXL V67G. I would like to get one and I've heard some really good recordings from them. Dunno how they'd work on a guitar cab or acoustic guitar, but they may be a reasonable alternative to the Oktava I recommended above at about 2x the price. I hear they are terrific on vocals.

    If you are going to be recording mostly a warm/dark sounding vocalist, you may do well to get a brighter mic like a SP B1 and using it for vocals and clean guitars, and then pony up the extra change for a KEL HM-1 to augment that for overdrive guitar cabs and acoustic guitar. You're not going to have an easy time finding one mic that'll do all three without some major compromise.

    IMHO.
     
  6. LSchefman

    LSchefman Supporting Member

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    I'm not a fan of condensers on guitar amps. Unless the one you buy has a good sounding pad, you're better off with a dynamic if you're not looking to distant mic.

    On acoustic guitars, my preference is for a small to medium diaphragm condenser. (BTW it's condens-"er" not "or").

    Vocals often are nicer with a large diaphragm condenser, as are saxes, acoustic basses, and a few other instruments, but if you have a deep voice, you might still be better off with a medium diaphragm model.

    Of the mics you listed, I'd go with the Studio Projects or the A-T, depending which one you like better with your voice (or your vocalist). No mic sounds good with every voice, no matter how expensive or inexpensive.

    I second KRash on the Oktavas, assuming you can find a Russian one (the old importer has started to manufacture "Oktava" mics in China; the difference is that the real ones have serial numbers and sound better). GC has been blowing them out, but when they were first introduced at $600 or so, they got really good reviews in some of the trade mags, which interested me in them. I have a few truly expensive mics, and yet I still like my Oktavas for certain things.
     
  7. krash

    krash Member

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    BTW I forgot to mention:

    The Studio Projects B3 is a multi-pattern version of the B1. It should sound real similar if not exactly the same. Unless you have a really good room, you may not get much benefit from multi-pattern mic.

    AT2020 AFAIK is a 1/2" back-electret mic stuck in a LDC-look case. I have heard it's a decent mic but nothing to write home about. My guess is it'll be a lot better on acoustic guitar than it will on vocals or guitar cabs.

    The Samson mic is probably some rebrand chinese mic that I would avoid at all costs. Not that I have anything against Chinese mics (MXL, Studio Projects), but Samson is not exactly a premier name, even in the low-end market.
     
  8. LSchefman

    LSchefman Supporting Member

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    >>Unless you have a really good room, you may not get much benefit from multi-pattern mic.<<

    They can be useful for backing vocals on a figure 8 pattern, and the omni pattern is often useful close miking acoustic guitars if cardioid gives you too much proximity effect. These often prove useful options even in a bad room, but I'm splitting hairs here.
     
  9. krash

    krash Member

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    yeah multipattern can work but frankly, you'll get a lot more benefit out of ANOTHER $60 mic than spending another $60 on multipattern option for the same mic. I mean, you can get a decent cheap omni SDC for about $50 and have a whole new option. I like my Behringer ECM8000's (omnis) on guitar cabs and acoustic guitar nearly as much as the KELs ... different side of the coin, but really the room has to be right.

    KEL HM-1 doesn't have a pad and we haven't had any problem with them using sub-30W 1x12 amps. Most amps suitable for a home studio will not need a pad on a condenser mic for recording. If you have a SLO-100 and a 4x12 then all bets are off.
     
  10. AshlandBump

    AshlandBump Member

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    Thanks for the responses and the information. The Kel looks interesting, I'll probably go with one of those or a Studio Projects.
     
  11. krash

    krash Member

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    SP B1 and KEL HM-1 are kind of opposite ends of the condenser mic spectrum.

    Here's the SP B1 + an ambient mic on acoustic guitar (final production recording):
    http://prophetsandpoets.com/josh/files/flood.mp3

    Same guitar with KEL HM-1 + an ambient mic (raw recording, no reverb, EQ, comp, different room & pres):
    http://prophetsandpoets.com/josh/files/ac_scratch.mp3

    The big thing tho is that a KEL HM-1 is going to really work great for guitar cabs but other than clean, the Studio Projects mic is not a great choice for guitar cabs. OTOH the SP mic is far better with vocals in my experience.

    YMMV... they are cheap enough, get one of each :) But don't discount the Oktava. It may be a better all-around mic than either of the others.
     
  12. AshlandBump

    AshlandBump Member

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    Cool recordings Krash. It may be the production or the other variables but I preferred the sound of the guitar on the first recording, the one with the SP B1.

    I'll throw the AKG Perception 200 ($160) into the ring as well, in case there's anyone with experience recording guitar cabs and acoustic guitars with one.
     
  13. retro

    retro Member

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    If you can add $20.00 to your budget, for $180.00 the AT3035 is a steal.

    IMHO one of the best all around budget condensers. Can handle up to 158 dB SPL with the pad. Works great on cabs. Vocals without sibilance issues and does a decent job on acoustic for this type of mic. If I could only own one mic and it had to be under $200.00 it would be an AT3035. As I can't think of another budget mic that can do as much, as well.
     
  14. AshlandBump

    AshlandBump Member

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    The AT3035 sounds interesting and if it does a decent job at covering these bases, I'd go $20 higher. Seems like most places are selling these for $200 though, have you seen a place selling them for $180 recently?
     
  15. retro

    retro Member

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  16. Sir EL84

    Sir EL84 Member

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    Sorry for the SPAM, but I have an Audio Tecnica 3035 for sale now for $150 in the Buy/Sell forum. Mint, Mint, Mint. Shockmount, papers, box, etc. I really like it, but I'm finally replacing my AKG 414 that was stolen from me back in 1999. Great Ebay feedback. If interested, please email me directly at jzuzze@ptd.net Thanks.
     
  17. krash

    krash Member

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    the "flood" recording is processed and mixed for release, while the other one is straight to disk and has absolutely no work done on it at all. big diff. anyway, the B1 is very strident if you play with a pick, but only hints at that stridency with a fingerstyle tune like this.
     
  18. valcotone

    valcotone Supporting Member

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    MainStreet - I just bought two AT3035 from http://www.musiciansadvocate.com/ at $120 each. This was part of a larger package deal so they gave me a generous discount. It's worth a call to them to see what they can do on them. I was happy with their service.

    I've used the AT3035s a couple of times now and like the sounds I'm getting.
     
  19. j_riv

    j_riv Guest

    Where does the M-Audio Nova fall in with these mics? It's a large capsule cardioid condensor for $100 at MF.

    http://www.m-audio.com/products/en_us/Nova-main.html

     
  20. hw2nw

    hw2nw Member

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    Used a B1 on some recordings for vocals and guitar. A great microphone...nice airy high end that really sounds more expensive than it is. The B1 is an excellent multipurpose choice and I highly recommend it.
     

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