Maximum Microphone Bang for the Buck?

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by kmgiants, Aug 25, 2008.

  1. kmgiants

    kmgiants Member

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    Looking for a little help. I'm trying to take my home studio set up to a new level, and right now I have only low end, entry level condenser mics, and a couple decent, common dynamics I use live (beta 58, SM57). I'm mostly going to be recording male vocals, acoustic guitar, and electric guitar, plus possibly hand percussion (no drum kits or wind instruments though).

    I know no one can tell me "the best" mic or mics to get, since it depends on the room, the particular voice being recorded, the entire signal chain, etc. but I'm curious of some general suggestions on maximizing my dollars - around $800-900 total for mic(s), particularly related to multi-pattern, versatility and "neutral" vs. "character" mics.

    I'm thinking of getting 2 microphones - one LDC and one SDC - to get the most versatility I can. I am stuck on if I should try to get switchable multi-pattern mics (such as the AT4050, Rode NT2a, etc. for LDCs; or Oktava MK-012 which has different capsules for SDC) given that my recording space can be fairly noisy - my place has many poor quality windows and I live on a busy street, and don’t have an excellent room - which may render omni useless. Still, the multi-pattern mics seem to offer a swiss-army knife all-in-one, which is attractive from a budget perspective.

    However, a lot of the mics I'm reading about look to be "neutral" and I'm hoping that my LDC can impart some character to vocals and could be of a quality that would give professional results. I've looked hard at the Blue Baby Bottle - which includes no roll off, no pad, no multi pattern but seems to get rather universal acclaim.d

    As for SDCs, in addition to the Oktava, I've also taken a look at the Shure SM81 and the AT451.

    What combo of 2 mics do you recommend for maximizing bang for the buck, versatility, quality, etc. These will be getting used with an apogee duet. Even if people are reluctant to (or tired of!) making specific mic recommendations, let me know your thoughts on multi-pattern vs. fixed; character vs. neutral. (And is there *anywhere* that you can buy mics and return them within a short trial period?) Thanks!
     
  2. masque

    masque Member

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    i own a neumann tlm 103 which is about $1000 these days and i love it. however, i purchased a rode nt-2a about three months ago for about $400 and it has honestly blown me away. i cant say its as good as the neumann but i also cant for sure tell you the neumann is better than the rode.....they are just different but both are fabulous mics. there is a real nice video demo of the rode in action on their website and I can tell you from experience that it sounds like the video or you can click on the link below to hear how the neumann sounds on multiple recordings i have done in my studio.....

    check out the tunes "my surprise" (long intro but the vocal is excellent once it comes in about a minute into the tune)....or you can listen to "sinner" or "on my headstone". The acoustic guitar on "on my headstone" was also recorded with the neumann.


    http://musicexe.com/news/?page_id=24
     
  3. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    I feel that a Neumann M-147 is the best bang for the buck large diaphragm condenser. Unfortunately that doesn't mean it's cheap, but you can find one used for around $1500 on eBay. It sounds fantastic on almost anything and should last a lifetime, if you take care of it. I've been using mine for about 2 months, pretty much every day.
     
  4. Steve Dallas

    Steve Dallas Supporting Member

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    I'll need to know your budget before I can make a recommendation.
     
  5. kmgiants

    kmgiants Member

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    Sorry - guess my post was sort of long. Budget is $800-$900 for 2 mics. Looking for versatility, but willing to sacrifice some versatility for great sound.
     
  6. SBRocket

    SBRocket Gold Supporting Member

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    I can't recommend the Audix SCX 25a highly enough. It's about $500 and sounds amazing. It is billed as an piano/instrument mic but I've used it on several vocalists too and everyone loves it. It is very transparent and really sounds like a blanket has been lifted off of your speakers.

    For a more traditional sounding vocal mic try a Blue Mouse. They pop up on ebay used for about $600 all the time and people really love them. It's u47ish, although it's a stretch to say that, it does have a nice "airy" quality.

    Personally, I would buy one of the two above and spend the rest at Home Depot building inserts for your windows to cut the noise. You could build them so they come out of the window very easily. I have a super quiet (but not dead) 10x10 recording booth and that has been the best investment ever for my recordings. It makes everything easier to record.

    Steve
     
  7. Jan Folkson

    Jan Folkson Member

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    Mics are tools and there are lots of them that serve different purposes. Which is why studios have lots of different mics. My suggestion for your budget would be to get a pair of small diaphragm condensors, I'd stick with a pair of SM81s or AKGc451s (the new ones are great) either pair will hold up over the years and both are great for acoustic guitar and hand percussion (as well as on drum kits in different applications should you ever need that). Having a stereo pair is essential IMO. I'd also get a Shure SM7b which is a great male vocal mic that is not very expensive. It's also good on a guitar amp and you've already got a 57.

    All three mics could be had for around 1k and all of these mics are ones that you'd find in just about any professional studio and can handle all of the situations that you described.

    The next purchase I'd make after these would be a high quality tube condensor. There are lots of choices on this one...The Bock Design (formerly Soundelux) ones are very good. I have several and I'm very happy with them. Or alternately a ribbon mic for guitar amp. I've got both a pair of Beyer M160s and a pair of Royer 122s and both are great!

    The idea is to buy mics that you're going to want to add to and start building a collection, not replace in a few years. While the octava and some of the chinese mics are ok, they're not going to make the cut as your skills improve and eventually you'll probably want to improve on them.

    HTH.
     
  8. michael dukes

    michael dukes Member

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    I would humbly suggest that unless this original poster is doing solo acoustic guitar stuff, getting one better quality SDC would make way more sense vs. a stereo pair of mics that don't sound as good. Sort of like when I run across guys that have several average sounding amps or guitars, my personal sense is get one of something that sounds really terrific and you're way ahead of the game. Same deal with mic pre's.

    The Oktava 012, if modded by Michael Joly, is a pretty darned nice mic. I used one on a 40 year old Gibson J45 yesterday, and have a couple of much more expensive mics which wouldn't have worked as well for this guitar/this track. Also I wouldn't worry about having multi patterns, a rolloff switch or a 10dB pad. Especially if you're working at home in an untreated room and won't need to record a drum kit. Not that these things aren't nice, just at this price point having one better sounding capsule is a much bigger issue vs. lots of amenities/flexibility.

    57's are obviously a standard for guitar cabs, but a smoother yet somewhat similar dynamic is the Audix i5, which can be had for under $100. Amazing on electric guitars, almost comes through like a cross between a 57 and a nice ribbon.

    Don't know about LDC's in this price range, so can't help there.
     
  9. lespaulreedsmith

    lespaulreedsmith Member

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    my budget was about the same and I bought a couple of mics -

    CAD M179 - $129 shipped
    Audio Technica 4047 - $300 shipped

    I like to think I went way under my budget
     
  10. ttingley

    ttingley Member

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    In my and many others opinion the M-Audio Sputnik is the most amazing sounding LDC under $1,000 ever produced. They run around $799 at most places but they can be had for less if you work your mojo. When they first came out they were priced in the $600 range and everyone went crazy for them so they raised the price and people still call them one of the best mic values of all time. Seriously, it sounds famous, like a much more expensive mic.
     
  11. Jan Folkson

    Jan Folkson Member

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    No disagreement there Michael. However, both the SM81 and C451 are great sounding mics whether by themselves or in a pair at a price the original poster could afford, which is why i suggested them. Both are studio staples and have found there way onto more records than you can imagine.
     
  12. guitarcec

    guitarcec Member

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    i would look into ADK mics. specifically, the TC (or TL if you're not into tube condensers) and an SC-T would make a good pair for the acoustic instruments and vocals you want to do, and you'd still be under your price range. neither of them would be really great on electric guitar, but you said you already have an SM57, maybe go out and pick up a Sennheiser e906, or Heil PR20 or PR30 if you want to upgrade in that area. really great sounding mics...
     
  13. frankencat

    frankencat Guitarded Gold Supporting Member

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    Don't forget about the AKG C3000. Excellent sounding mics that are very versatile and can be had very cheap. Kind of a poor man's C414.

    Also, I have been looking into the Nady ribbon mics lately. We used one in the studio recently and it was a pleasure as a room mic. This is also the same mic that they used to record the Tonefest '08 clips recently.
     
  14. fr8_trane

    fr8_trane Member

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    You might want to consider getting quality LD dynamic mics as an option for quality & versatility. Cheap LDC's can be a crapshoot whereas these workhorses are well known studio standards.

    SM7 (not the sm-57. This is the mic that was used on MJ's vox for the entire thriller album.)

    Sennheiser 421.
     
  15. mrface2112

    mrface2112 Member

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    $900 total? Buy used. As if that needed to be said. :roll

    For acoustic guitar/vocals/percussion, I would steer you towards a BLUE Dragonfly. You can usually find those in the $400-500 range. FANTASTIC mic (and not just "for the money"). largely neutralish, with a bit of a sparkly end. but unlike the cheap chinese mics, it's a compelling top end rather than a harsh one.

    The Dragonfly also excels at drum overheads, guitar amps and as a general "room mic". Outside of front of kick drum, there's nothing i've found the dragonfly not at least usable. it's VERY picky about placement though.....and it might not be the best mic for a given source (which is why you need many mics), but it can almost always work. nothing works on everything all the time.

    Secondly, i would steer you towards a good dynamic mic. And in that, i would echo the sentiments of either a Shure SM7 or a Sennheiser MD421. both mics are great for drums, electric guitar, vocals, you name it. hard to go wrong with either. the 421 is my favorite electric guitar amp mic--can't make it sound bad (well, i can with my bad playing:roll).

    Another dynamic mic that many don't know about is the old EV RE38. It's a cousin to the well-known RE20, and i'd put it in the same camp as the SM7 and 421. it's great on kick, bass, amps and i've gotten some GREAT vocals out of it.

    With the money you save buying used, you can pick up a pair of MXL 603's. They're cheap chinese SDCs which are surprisingly good on acoustic guitar. Get a set of omni capsules to go with em and you get rid of the strident high end and boomy proximity effect when using them on acoustics. I've got an omni 603 on permanent under snare duty. shocking, really.


    cheers,
    wade
     
  16. bearbike137

    bearbike137 Supporting Member

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    Can I ask you -- how much have you used this mic and how? I own a Sputnik, and though I do use it (mostly for background vocals and the occasional acoustic insturment), I wouldn't even begin to consider it the best "LDC under $1000 ever produced". Not even close. The mic is very bright and a tad grainy. I honestly think the mic is somewhat overhyped and overrated. All the initial excitement related to it being a cheap chinese tube mic that didn't sound "bad". The cool thing is that the mid-range is very clear -- not a bit "phasy" or clouded like most of the species. However, next to very good mics, it is immediately revealed for what it is. I'm glad I have mine -- it's my favorite background vocals mic -- but I think at what I paid for it new (when they first came out), it represented more a great value than a great mic. At the current price, I'm not so sure...
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2008
  17. Ulysses

    Ulysses Member

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    I agree. After 25 years of sorting through mics my collection looks pretty much like every other studio with the typical industry standards. Not from copying but from the cream rising to the top and holding on to what ends up getting used and cutting the rest. If I had it to do over again I would buy nothing but the industry standards rather than budget priced attempts at large diaphragm condenser like the home studio grade Neumann's, many of the AT's, the consumer grade AKG's, the Chinese mics, etc. I would take a pro studio staple dynamic mic like a 441 over any of these budget LDC's. You'll never have to replace it and will always have a world class mic for various tasks around the studio. Stick with the dynamics - 57's, 421's, 441's, RE20's, SM7, etc, until you can afford a true pro LDC. The SM81 is an excellent choice for your first small diaphragm condenser pair as is the C451. Once you can afford it, a Coles 4038 is a good mic to introduce more color to your mixes. That's another mic a world class studio won't be caight without. This is all still just more TGP armchair advice so subscribe to TapeOp and pay attention to what mics are chosen by the big boys on a regular basis. Buy used and do your best to buy once. Better to have two great mics than 10 budget priced consumer types.
     
  18. jumpnblues

    jumpnblues Member

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    In your price range, if buying new...Shure KSM-44. Incredible multi-pattern condenser mic for $800. It's outstanding for just about anything. Hear one used as a room mic below.


    Tom
     
  19. kmgiants

    kmgiants Member

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    Great post there, Ulysses. Thanks! What do you see as the "lower" end options in the "true pro LDC" field? Would the Blue Baby Bottle do it? or are you talking U87, 414, etc.? thanks!
     
  20. kludge

    kludge The droid you're looking for

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    Maybe you should consider shaving a few hundred off the mic budget and invest in some room treatment. Bass trapping and reflection control can work wonders. Go to realtraps.com and the like for fiberglass-based stuff, which is WAY more effective and WAY cheaper than Auralex foam. Which is better... a clean-sounding performance on an okay-quality mic, or a performance full of passing cars, flutter echoes, and weird bass booms and dropouts, captured on a great mic?

    That being said, I also like variety over "great". I'd suggest a cheap ribbon (or two), a D112 or something similar for dynamic bass, SM7/RE20/other broadcast-style dynamic, something with a figure-eight pattern for M/S stereo recording, a cheap crystal mic for low-fi, etc.
     

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