Best Condenser Mic Under $500.00

Discussion in 'Recording In Progress' started by teleman78, Oct 28, 2012.

  1. still_fiddlin

    still_fiddlin Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    I would love to hear an A/B of the new mic/preamp setup on acoustic guitar or vocals vs what you are replacing.

    Kind of like TPrior, my own experience with a good mic (AT 4051a, $100 off CL) is that when I was able to use it in studio or well-controlled settings, it was wonderful. At home, the quality of the recording of the instrument I aimed it at was just as good, but the takeoffs and landings at the local airport (3 miles away) were also remarkably good :). In my house, "better is the enemy of good," as they say. Or, at least, it *can* be.
     
  2. AirBagTester

    AirBagTester Friend of Leo's

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    I totally agree. All of my microphones are under $200 each but none of my rooms are treated either. If I had nicer microphones it would still be like enjoying a fine meal while seated next to a smelly dumpster.
     
  3. T Prior

    T Prior Poster Extraordinaire

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    Thats a great answer..oh and yeh..I love great gear but not the prices that go with it. I suppose if I was tracking on a regular basis for "means"., I would approach things differently. I am working on a 10 or 12 track project for multiple purposes but I doubt I will have to open up a ROTH IRA with the proceeds ! Until then I'll try my best to play the right notes and be in tune !

    t:lol:
     
  4. peteycaster

    peteycaster Tele-Meister

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    Totally agree with T Pior on this. Gear should match the recording environment. If your vocals are crap, a $5000 mic won't fix them. If your room is crap, a $ 5000 mic will probably only amplify this fact.

    We all feel the need to step up to the next level and improve and want to knock out the best recordings we possibly can. The hard decision to make is "how much is it worth spending" based on the space you have for recording. the most expensive mic I have is a $300 NT1A which I picked up on special for $150. This was a step up from my previous mic but would a $1000 mic have made much more of a difference? I suspect not.
     
  5. slowpinky

    slowpinky Tele-Afflicted

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    :lol:


    So true - And especially if you are tryng to record drums , horns or anything as dynamic - but really for anything. Like the mics or outboard gear - how much treatment is enough? Most of us arent quite ready to build the 'room within a room that is the ideal home studio according to all the acoustic designs. The 'colour' of the room in your recording should be a known quantity - and then everything else is about colour too - even a cheap mic has a colour - preamps have colour, compressors have colour ...etc etc
    I think a bit like a painter - with a basic palette - ( occasionally I'l borrow a U87 or a 414 they really are great mics) , but only in as much as they have a special sound for me on steel string in my room... and my own limited but (hopefully) still interesting landscape....
     
  6. Old Cane

    Old Cane Poster Extraordinaire

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    Well, my room is 18x22 with canted 11' celings. Not treated but I do sneaky stuff so it works like it is. The biggest thing you can do and doesn't cost a penny is to open the door. Face the mic (make sure it's not centered in the room) toward the doorway. Play or sing into the mic. The only downside is you won't know when your wife gets home and tries to talk you from behind during a vocal track. No, it's never happened to me but it might to you.
     
  7. kiwi blue

    kiwi blue Tele-Afflicted

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    The room issue is certainly relevant and can I suppose negate certain subtleties that make a mic great, but IMO it’s a bit simplistic to say an expensive mic or a really good mic is wasted if you don’t have the right room. What’s more important is the type of mic that suits the environment in which you are working and the application, and how you use that mic.

    If you’re picking up jet planes and dogs barking, then in your particular circumstances you should consider a less sensitive mic, probably a dynamic, and close mic everything. It may also be cheaper, but that’s not the point. The point is how that type of mic works. Within those limitations, a good sounding mic (eg, clear and rich) will still sound better than a poor sounding one (eg, muddy, dry).

    If your room sound sucks, you can try to minimise the reflections being picked up by the mic. For example, by close miking amps and vocals, using a less sensitive mic, opening the door as Cane suggests, lining the walls with duvets, investing in an isolation screen, or whatever .... Then use a good reverb to get a “room” sound. But that doesn’t mean you won’t hear any difference if you use a better sounding mic. It means use the mic differently and if necessary use a different type of mic. It’s still worth using the best mic of that type that you can afford.

    My room is just a small shed made entirely from wooden planks: floor, walls, ceiling, all wood. It has a bed and some benches that I suppose must break up some standing waves. The ceiling is peaked, fairly high in the centre, not low and flat. I have not treated it.

    I certainly wouldn’t record drums in it, but I can use the room sound when I record electric guitars, and it sounds ok to me. But I also close mic the amp with a dynamic and blend the two. If the room totally sucked I’d stick to close miking, maybe use two close mics for tonal variety.

    For voice, I work the mic quite closely. It’s a sensitive LDC. And yes I can hear the difference between different mcs, and between different LDCs, in my room, on my voice, and on my modest system. Maybe I won’t get as much from that mic as I would in a professional studio with expensive cabling, pres, and outboard FX, and a great room, but it’s still worth using a good quality mic.

    The start of the chain is the performance, then the room in which the voice or instrument bounces around and is changed, then these are captured (and changed) by the mic. Beyond that you are only treating what is already there. It can be made worse but the basic tonality can't be improved much. Ask yourself, what is the mic capturing? If the room isn’t enhancing the performance, then the mic should be capturing as little of the room as possible. You can use a mic that captures less room, or use techniques to capture less room. An inferior LDC is still going to capture just as much room and background noise as a good LDC, and will still make the primary signal (voice or instrument) sound worse.

    This is just my personal experience recording myself (guitar and voice only) in my room and with my gear. I’ve done plenty of recording in professional studios as a musician, but I’ve only recently started to learn the engineering side, so I don’t pretend to be an expert.
     
  8. Geoff738

    Geoff738 Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    Yeah, the mics matter. As does the room. As does everything else. The whole weakest link in the chain thing. Buuuuut .... It's not like picking up a vintage M49 is gonna make what would've been a dodgy recording into a great one. It might get it a bit more of the way there. But that's it. And, a lot of budget stuff is pretty good these days.

    The one thing I will say about the cheaper mics is that it's the off-axis response that isn't the greatest a lot of the time. So, if you have a sub-par room, you're always gonna be fighting that. Whereas a mic with a smoother/better off-axis response you don't have to worry about as much - at least frequency-wise.

    Back to the dollar thing for a moment. If you're running a commercial studio, part of the deal is having gear that brings in clients. A U87 might, but having six of one of the Chinese clones probably won't - even if the client can't tell them apart in a blindfold test. If we're just doing this at home, we don't have to play that game. We just get what tickles our fancy the most for the budget we have.

    Cheers,
    Geoff
     
  9. kiwi blue

    kiwi blue Tele-Afflicted

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    I agree Geoff. Mainly I wanted to point out that it's important to understand various mics, how they work, and their applications, and also how the room interacts.

    And I agree that a good mic isn't necessarily all that expensive these days. Even a pro studio with access to very expensive mics will sometimes reach for something cheap for a particular application. It all depends on the application, the source (eg the voice) and the music.

    I have one particular dynamic that isn't by any means a "good" vocal mic (although I like it on guitar cabs). It has a narrow bandwidth, sounds a bit rough, and smudges the diction, but I used it on a particular song precisely because of that!

    The only bit of equipment that really matter is the ears.
     
  10. AirBagTester

    AirBagTester Friend of Leo's

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    That's definitely important, yes.

    I guess my fear is that since I'm a mere hobbyist recording at home, I might buy a really nice $3,000 ribbon microphone to record a small practice amp only to have it sound absolutely horrible. And instead of learning how to use it properly, or treating the room a bit, moving things around and doing some homework, I think I would just cry about it. Obviously this is a case of "operator error" though, and has nothing to do with equipment :)

    But yes, if someone wants to put their best efforts into recording, they should definitely get the best gear they can afford, I agree.
     
  11. Fran Guidry

    Fran Guidry Tele-Meister

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    I'm curious. In what way will a $1000 mic necessarily be better than a $200 mic?

    http://www.dougyoungguitar.com/mp3/AB_MicCompare/A.mp3
    http://www.dougyoungguitar.com/mp3/AB_MicCompare/B.mp3

    One of these clips was recorded with 2 AT2020s. The other with a pair of Brauner VM1s. $200 vs $10000.

    I've posted these before:

    http://www.homebrewedmusic.com/audio/20090626-F.wav
    http://www.homebrewedmusic.com/audio/20090626-G.wav
    http://www.homebrewedmusic.com/audio/20090626-H.wav
    http://www.homebrewedmusic.com/audio/20090626-I.wav

    One of these mics cost $150. One is about $400. One is about $1000. One is nearly $2000.

    If a more expensive mic is "better" then we should all be able to rank both these comparisons by cost without error.

    I once thought that the cost of a mic, preamp, or a/d converter was significant to its audible performance. I no longer believe this to be true based on my experience.

    There are lots of differences in mics, and lots of reasons for price differences, and mics are cool fun shiny techie objects. But I haven't noticed better recordings to come from higher price tags.
     
  12. Geoff738

    Geoff738 Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    Fran,

    Is this you playing? Very nice!

    FWIW, I prefer the second one. They both sound nice though.

    On a very quick run through of the other four, one of them (the third one I think) seemed obviously brighter than the others. Is that bad or good? It all depends. Which I guess is partly your point. And, moving the mic back an inch could change that too.

    But, the OP has his new mic.

    I do think it isn't a bad idea to have a few different types of mics around if you're doing any variety of instruments. An LDC, a pair of SDCs, dynamics, maybe a ribbon. Having different patterns can come in handy too.

    Cheers,
    Geoff
     
  13. teleman78

    teleman78 Tele-Holic

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    SE Reflection Filter?
     
  14. MonkeyKing

    MonkeyKing Tele-Meister

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    The thing is, once you have a good mic, you can eliminate that from the chain and work on other issues -room sound, preamp, etc.
     
  15. Fran Guidry

    Fran Guidry Tele-Meister

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    The OP has his new mic, but the idea that more money buys better sound keeps popping up.

    That's the estimable Doug Young playing the A and B clips, his mics as well. Mine are the four clips from Homebrewed Music.

    Doug writes for Acoustic Guitar Mag, has done two home recorded CDs of his own and engineered a number of others, hosts a long running (over 5 years) monthly acoustic guitar round robin show, has written books on DADGAD and acoustic guitar amplification, does a monthly streaming internet show, and created a wonderful database of acoustic guitar pickup samples.

    http://www.dougyoungguitar.com

    I absolutely agree that there are good reasons to have a variety of mics. I have and find good use for omnis, cardioids, hypers, and figure 8 patterns. I was glad I had several switchable LD mics when I recorded our Hawaiian string band, and I really like the full natural sound of a pair of omnis on my solo fingerstyle.

    My point is, over and over, that simply spending more money will not in and of itself result in better recordings. And that gear can solve problems, add functionality, improve workflow, but if it does none of those things it's not going to make better recordings.

    I'll send you the key to the mic comparisons in a PM.

    Fran
     
  16. slowpinky

    slowpinky Tele-Afflicted

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    I agree with all of that - my guess is - that would be the context in which the OP is exploring mic options too - and it seems to be the way many work around here. Im always conscious of the difference between the pragmatism toward gear on this forum in comparison to some others I could mention.
    My first mics were a pair of Studio Project C4's and an SM57. I spent months recording my acoustics and doing live stereo recordings. Since Ive started recording Ive heard Behringer O/heads sound amazing on a Jazz drum kit, my steel string sound absolutely terrible through a U87, and even my nylon string sound dull using a Schoeps(yes - it was as much my playing as anything) - my amp sounds great with an M88(my favourite mic) on it and I dont use my 57 at all much any more for anything ...Ive played on a session where the engineer - a real veteran, replaced the vintage Neumann being used for the female lead vocal with a 300 dollar SP C3 with amazing results...blah blah.. There are several recurring themes, one; is choice - having options, and two; knowing just what those options can do(and how they do!)...AND last but not least - having something worth recording - great music- and that all takes time - lots of time....
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2012
  17. Old Cane

    Old Cane Poster Extraordinaire

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    I didn't listen but don't have to. Are you going to notice a difference on an mp3? Maybe but probably not. And it may make absolutely no difference to you....or to me for that matter. But a $200 mic may work great for a couple of projects, a couple of years etc. and that may be all you're after (or after right now). A u47/67/414/251 etc. will be passed down to your kids. It's an investment in quality and yes, should sound better. It may not matter for what you're doing. If you're doing songwriter demos for a buzz-saw band I wouldn't bother. Like I said above a $1000 mic won't be 5 times better than a $200 mic. But if you don't care about gear (more/better/bang-for-buck) you're probably in the wrong forum.

    Also, I want to add, just because it is a better mic may or may not make it better for you or for what you're doing. It's like asking what strings to use.
     
  18. Fran Guidry

    Fran Guidry Tele-Meister

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    The second set are WAV files.

    I visit this forum and others like it because I feel that the heavy emphasis on magic gear had a terrible impact on my learning process. The time and money I spent on gear went down a rat hole. The time I spent seeking solutions other than magic gear led me to better recordings. I'd like to help others in a meaningful way.

    Investment value of mics is much more a matter of history and rarity than usefulness as a recording tool, just as investment value of a car is hardly related to its usefulness as transportation.

    You make a claim - that a more expensive mic results in a better recording. I present evidence which I believe refutes your claim. You refuse to consider the evidence. Oh well.

    Fran
     
  19. Old Cane

    Old Cane Poster Extraordinaire

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    Good lord, I did no such thing. A $10k mic can make crappy recordings if the loose nut behind the console has no clue. Nobody is saying you aren't happy with what you have. I did in fact listen to these a bit after I posted. I didn't care for any of the wav files. I either don't care for your guitar or your recording technique. I don't care which is which. I don't however know what context these are going to fit. It may be perfect for your material. Your opinion is all that matters to you. Mine to me. There are tons of inexpensive mics and most will do just fine for anything you need it for.

    But don't try to tell me what I like. I'm not trying to change your opinion. Mine is as valid as yours and if its not point me to the facts that prove that.

    I know what I own and believe it or not that's what I'm going to use. You use what you want and the OP can use what he wants. He asked for opinions. He got them. If you don't think quality counts nothing I'm going to say will matter to you. You've made up your mind.
     
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