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  • Budget Microphone Recommendations

    Hello everyone,

    I'm keen to record more often but I currently only have one microphone (an SM57) and I would like to acquire another one.

    I will mostly be recording guitar cabs (both clean and distorted) but also occasional vocals and acoustic guitar. I suppose I would need to get something more suited to vocals and/or acoustic instruments in the future.

    My budget will be about £125/€150/$250 and I'm in the UK. I thought that maybe an Audix i5 or a Sennheiser E906 might offer something a bit different to the SM57.

  • #2
    You've got two different types of microphone that I'd recommend to someone in your situation - ribbon mikes, and condenser mikes. The ribbon will be spectacular on your guitar cabinets, and possibly cool on acoustic guitar, and maybe even on vocals too, especially if you've got a "bright" voice and / or are looking for more of a vintage sonic character.

    A condenser will possibly sound good on the cabinets, and will almost certainly be a big step up for the vocals and acoustic guitar.

    For the ribbon, in the USA, I'd suggest looking into a Cascade Fathead BE - they sell over here for about $129, so assuming you can score one for a similar price where you're at, you could probably squeeze that and the Audix i5 into the budget. I really like the i5 a lot, and I tend to use it more than the SM57 these days. It's a "bigger" sounding mic, with fuller lows than a SM57.

    However, if you already have a 57, the i5 probably wouldn't be the next mic I'd recommend adding - again, it's a dynamic mic, like the 57. Better IMHO to get a inexpensive vocal condenser and a ribbon to add to the 57 if you can swing the cost of adding both. An Audio Technica AT2020 or AT2035, Rode NT1, MXL V67G or any similar condenser mic will be much better on acoustic guitars and vocals in many cases than the SM57 will be. The condenser mics I mentioned range from just under $100 to a bit over $200.
    **********

    "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."

    - George Carlin

    "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."

    - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

    "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."

    - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

    Comment


    • #3
      If I had to do again my mic collection would begin with a 57, a fathead and an nt1a. That's a solid beginner closet.

      Comment


      • #4
        Yeah the 57's' or e609 never let a budget down...
        changes come w/ the whether...

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Phil O'Keefe View Post
          For the ribbon, in the USA, I'd suggest looking into a Cascade Fathead BE - they sell over here for about $129, so assuming you can score one for a similar price where you're at, you could probably squeeze that and the Audix i5 into the budget. I really like the i5 a lot, and I tend to use it more than the SM57 these days. It's a "bigger" sounding mic, with fuller lows than a SM57.

          However, if you already have a 57, the i5 probably wouldn't be the next mic I'd recommend adding - again, it's a dynamic mic, like the 57. Better IMHO to get a inexpensive vocal condenser and a ribbon to add to the 57 if you can swing the cost of adding both. An Audio Technica AT2020 or AT2035, Rode NT1, MXL V67G or any similar condenser mic will be much better on acoustic guitars and vocals in many cases than the SM57 will be. The condenser mics I mentioned range from just under $100 to a bit over $200.
          Thanks for your advice, Phil, the range of options is quite bewildering!

          The Fathead BE seems cool, although it doesn't appear to be very easy to obtain in the UK. I've seen the Fathead II for £180 (I suppose that would be about $320) but I don't know whether that represents a good deal when compared to similar mics.


          Is there a big difference between the AT2020, AT2035 and NT1? Are condenser mics of that kind ever used with electric guitars?
          Last edited by penelope twee; 06-20-2014, 09:13 PM.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by cryptosonic View Post
            If I had to do again my mic collection would begin with a 57, a fathead and an nt1a. That's a solid beginner closet.
            I agree, except I'd probably recommend the latest NT1 instead of the NT1a. It's a bit more expensive, but IMHO, it's a better mic, and worth the extra money... but if you're on a really tight budget, even a used original version NT1 or NT1A would be a good first large diaphragm condenser mic.

            I do agree that having those three mics gives you the ability to do quite a bit... after those three, then the next step would probably be a pair of small diaphragm pencil condensers for stereo recording / acoustic guitar / drum overheads, and then maybe a large diaphragm dynamic like the Shure Beta 52, Audix D6, E/V RE320. By the time you get to that point, you've got enough for Glyn Johns-style drum miking.

            But back to the OP. If it comes to a question of one or the other, ask yourself what you do more of, and what is most in need of improvement on your recordings. If you only occasionally record vocals (and/or if your voice sounds good with the SM57), but you track a lot of electric guitar parts, then I'd suggest you get the ribbon mic first. If you already get decent sounds with the SM57 on the amp, but feel your vocals aren't working very well with the SM57, or you track a lot of acoustic guitar parts and you want to get more transient attack, presence and clarity than the SM57 is giving you, then get the condenser first.

            Either way, you can hopefully save up a bit more and get the second mic later. As cryptosonic said, having the three will give you a solid mic collection to get you started, and a lot more flexibility than you have now.
            **********

            "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."

            - George Carlin

            "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."

            - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

            "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."

            - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by penelope twee View Post

              Thanks for your advice, Phil, the range of options is quite bewildering!
              True, it can be... but remember, I collect / use mics like guitarists use pedals. The more the merrier!

              The Fathead BE seems cool, although it doesn't appear to be very easy to obtain in the UK. I've seen the Fathead II for £180 (I suppose that would be about $320) but I don't know whether that represents a good deal when compared to similar mics.
              There are a few different versions of the Cascade Fathead. The BE is a ultra-low cost / no frills version. Then you go to the regular Fathead II, which has a stock transformer in it, but it comes with more accessories, like a nice case and shockmount. Then you have versions with upgraded transformers - Cinemag and Sowter? I don't recall exactly which ones they offer, but the nicer "iron" can make a audible improvement in the sound of the mic, but good transformers like that increase the cost of the mics appreciably. I mention that mainly as a caution to be sure you're comparing apples to apples / same models.


              Is there a big difference between the AT2020, AT2035 and NT1? Are condenser mics of that kind ever used with electric guitars?
              Sure - I have been using condensers on guitar cabinets for decades, and I'm hardly the only engineer who does. Nearly every guitar on every Beatles recording you've ever heard was recorded with either a Neumann U47/48 or U67 condenser.

              I don't do it all of the time, or on every part, but I'm nearly as likely to use a condenser on a guitar amp as I am to use a dynamic mic.

              It really all depends on two things: The sound of the source (guitar / efx / amp) and the sound you're trying to achieve on the recording. A good engineer can accentuate or de-emphasize things, depending not only on the mic(s) they decide to use, but also on where they place them. It really is an art form. Having a condenser, dynamic and velocity (ribbon) mic gives you all three main mic types, allowing you to use what's most appropriate for the task at hand.

              As far as the three mikes, the NT1's a real winner. I've got extensive first-hand experience with that mic (the latest reiteration of the NT1 series). The older, original NT1 is a decent mic - it was one of the first affordable yet solid performing large diaphragm condensers to come along. The NT1a improved upon the original version. The new one is almost entirely new, and not just a revision of the older ones.

              The AT2020 is also a good mic, and a lot of people rave about it. I have only used it briefly. It's got a roughly $100 price here in the USA. It's definitely a contender in that price range. The AT2035 is a similar mic, but it has a few things that improve on the 2020 - it's quieter, it has a true large diaphragm (IIRC, the 2020 is a mid-sized or small diaphragm), it has a high pass filter and pad (both of which can be useful when recording vocals and guitar amps), and it's probably worth the extra $50 it costs for its extra features in the long run.

              Are there differences in the way they sound? Sure. While condensers have certain general characteristics, the sound can vary quite a bit from model to model. You'll hear engineers talk about the fatness of the Neumann U47 and the punchy mids of the U67, and the open airy top of the AKG C12. That's three of the "big five" vintage vocal condenser mikes (the other two would be the Neumann M49 and Telefunken ELA M 251) , and none of them sound alike, even though AKG built both the 251 and C12, and Neumann made the other three mikes. The same is basically true at the other end of the price scale with mikes like the ones we've been talking about. The NT1 sounds different than the NT1a, and they're both different than the Audio Technicas.

              So now you're really wondering which mic will sound best... and that's entirely subjective, so I can't give you a definitive answer. You can tell us a bit about the type of music you prefer, what other gear you have, and the types of sounds you'd like to get, and we can offer some suggestions and narrow it down based on that, but at the end of the day, it comes down to whatever sounds good to you.
              Last edited by Phil O'Keefe; 06-20-2014, 10:10 PM.
              **********

              "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."

              - George Carlin

              "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."

              - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

              "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."

              - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

              Comment


              • #8
                I would definitely like to accumulate some more mics longterm and could increase my budget a bit if necessary. I primarily play and record electric guitar so it might make sense to get a ribbon microphone first. I'm pretty gentle with my equipment but are they usually very fragile?

                I've had a brief look at Cascade's list of dealers and it doesn't seem to be very easy to get the basic version of the Fathead in Europe (I suppose I might be able to order from a US dealer, I've done that plenty of times with pedals).

                I've found an article that has a bit of a breakdown of the ribbon mics that are widely available in Europe:

                http://www.musictech.net/2014/04/ribbon-mics-1/

                Comment


                • #9
                  I've used the sm57 for vocals as well a cabs, and the beta 57 for both too, the e609 for cabs, would like to get a e906 too though, all references aforementioned would be to guitar cabs, although it has been far to long, but the hands are get better by the days after the surgeries soooo, after a few more months of building strength, dexterity, stamina, we'll see how that worx out...Great info by the way fellas'.
                  Last edited by riff ie; 06-21-2014, 02:54 AM. Reason: to much ...
                  changes come w/ the whether...

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Phil O'Keefe View Post
                    As far as the three mikes, the NT1's a real winner. I've got extensive first-hand experience with that mic (the latest reiteration of the NT1 series). The older, original NT1 is a decent mic - it was one of the first affordable yet solid performing large diaphragm condensers to come along. The NT1a improved upon the original version. The new one is almost entirely new, and not just a revision of the older ones.

                    The AT2020 is also a good mic, and a lot of people rave about it. I have only used it briefly. It's got a roughly $100 price here in the USA. It's definitely a contender in that price range. The AT2035 is a similar mic, but it has a few things that improve on the 2020 - it's quieter, it has a true large diaphragm (IIRC, the 2020 is a mid-sized or small diaphragm), it has a high pass filter and pad (both of which can be useful when recording vocals and guitar amps), and it's probably worth the extra $50 it costs for its extra features in the long run.
                    I've invested these models and the price range would be: at2020 - £70, at2035 - £110, nt1a (bundle) - £135 and nt1 - £160.

                    ​The consensus seems to be that the at2035 is a bit better than the nt1a but the new version of the nt1 is superior to both. Although I understand that is dependent on one's preferences and objectives.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by riff ie View Post
                      I've used the sm57 for vocals as well a cabs, and the beta 57 for both too, the e609 for cabs, would like to get a e906 too though, all references aforementioned would be to guitar cabs, although it has been far to long, but the hands are get better by the days after the surgeries soooo, after a few more months of building strength, dexterity, stamina, we'll see how that worx out...Great info by the way fellas'.
                      Is this the first Riffie post that actually makes sense?
                      Last edited by travisbrowning; 06-21-2014, 04:10 PM.
                      http://lazarusband.bandcamp.com/

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Every now and then I brake out my seventh sense, communication...
                        changes come w/ the whether...

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I have a SM57, a MXL 990, and a Digital Reference DR-VX1. What would you suggest to round out what I have. I don't have drums. I use EZDrummer 2 and I don't have a bass yet.
                          -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                          Mesa Boogie Road King II
                          Carvin 2x12 cab
                          Egnater Rebel 30 Combo
                          Fender FSR Standard Black
                          Schecter Hellraiser Black Cherry
                          Ibanez RG570 Blue
                          Ibanez AR200 Red Wine
                          Gretsch G5120 Orange
                          Hofner Shorty White
                          Musket > Morley Bad Horsie > DynaComp > FullDrive 2 > BBE Green Screamer > EH POG2 > Ernie Ball Volume > Amp
                          Loop EFX: Line 6 M9

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by seibertdr View Post
                            I have a SM57, a MXL 990, and a Digital Reference DR-VX1. What would you suggest to round out what I have. I don't have drums. I use EZDrummer 2 and I don't have a bass yet.
                            Grab a condensor.
                            http://lazarusband.bandcamp.com/

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by penelope twee View Post
                              I would definitely like to accumulate some more mics longterm and could increase my budget a bit if necessary. I primarily play and record electric guitar so it might make sense to get a ribbon microphone first. I'm pretty gentle with my equipment but are they usually very fragile?
                              The number one thing to guard against is wind. Someone blowing into the ribbon mic, or a gust of wind is all it takes to snap the ribbon and put the mic out of commission. As long as you're careful about that, they're generally fairly robust... not as much as a moving coil dynamic mic like the SM57, but roughly comparable to a condenser. With condensers and ribbon mikes, you have things to watch out for that are not big concerns with moving coil mikes.

                              I've had a brief look at Cascade's list of dealers and it doesn't seem to be very easy to get the basic version of the Fathead in Europe (I suppose I might be able to order from a US dealer, I've done that plenty of times with pedals).
                              I don't know what their dealer agreement says about shipping overseas, but if they're willing to ship it to you, that is certainly an option.

                              I've found an article that has a bit of a breakdown of the ribbon mics that are widely available in Europe:

                              http://www.musictech.net/2014/04/ribbon-mics-1/
                              The T-Bone RM700 is similar to the Fathead, but they mount the ribbon in there differently. That will make a difference when using a pair of them for some stereo techniques (mid-side and Blumlein), but won't make a huge difference on guitar amps. In fact, since the front and back lobes of the figure 8 pattern sound a bit different, it may give you some added flexibility and tonal options. If getting a Fathead BE locally, or ordering one from a US dealer proves to be too difficult, you might want to give that a try.

                              Or you could get one of the other mics they mentioned - the Beyer M160. That's often my "go to" on guitar amps. I love that mic! The downside is that it would kill your budget...
                              **********

                              "Look at it this way: think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of 'em are stupider than that."

                              - George Carlin

                              "It shouldn't be expected that people are necessarily doing what they appear to be doing on records."

                              - Sir George Martin, All You Need Is Ears

                              "The music business will be revitalized by musicians, not the labels or Live Nation. When the musicians decide to put music first, instead of money, the public will flock to the fruits and the scene will be healthy again."

                              - Bob Lefsetz, The Lefsetz Letter

                              Comment



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