Harmony Central Forums
No announcement yet.

Microphone suggestions


  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Microphone suggestions

    Heya.  I'm looking for my first microphone, and i'm hoping yall can help me pick one out.

    I want to record guitars.  I play rock, with heavily distorted guitars.  The sound i'm looking for is heavy, but very clear and articulate. 

    I don't know what mics require a power supply or not, but for simplicity and budget's sake, i want a mic that requires as little extra stuff as possible.

    I would prefer something extremely durable (not that anyone would specifically want something delicate, but still, just saying that that is important to me).

    This may be unreasonable, but i'm looking for something high-quality that is roughly in the 50-100 dollar range new.

    Based on what I've read, an SM57 would qualify, but I'm hoping for something that'll surprise me.  I also have a tendency to avoid the standard, conventional gear, as i don't particularly want to blend in--given the choice i'd rather stand out, if i can manage to do so in a good way.

    Other mics I'm considering are the Senheisser e609 and Shure PG57.  Any thoughts on those?

    Side note:  The audio interface im looking to get is a focusrite scarlett 2i2 studio pack, which comes with the interface, plus headphones and a condenser mic for vocals/acoustic instruments.  If you know of an interface or an interface bundle pack of superior quality and comparable or lesser price, i'm open to suggestions.

    thanks much for the help


  • #2

    The 57 will do just about anything you need, and it provides a great learning curve in the process of mastering its use. You'll find the gear you use has very little to do with how you get tracks to sound the way they do. Its more about getting the sound from the source and mixing that part properly within a mix of other instruments.

    Those who haven't recorded before, are often under the misconception that a guitar mic must produce the biggest and fullest recording capturing every frequency range possible. For an acoustic guitar which is often a solo instrument this is true because its range of tone is very wide and fills in where other instruments don't exist.

    An electric guitar is a midrange instrument that has an effective range of about 200 to 5Khz. A mic like an SM57 will capture the frequencies a little above and below what most guitar amps produce and filter out the frequencies not needed to be emphasized with a bit of a bump in the 4K range to give a guitar its bite.

    You should realize an guitar is only part of a mix. Each instrument in a song recorded "Owns" part of the hearing range from 20hz to 20K hz. Its like a photograph of a sports team. To give the photograph good symmetric balance so everyone can be seen, You move the people around so the tall and fat guys are in back of the smaller guys and place them shoulder to shoulder. If You have one big fat guy up front he blocks the guys in back of him from being seen.

    The same kind of thing happens when You mix. If You give the guitar too much range from high to low frequency, That range must be stolen from the other instruments in a mix making them sound thinner and less powerful. The key to Big guitar sound is actually the opposite of what most think. It comes from making the other instrument sound big and using highly tuned midrange frequencies to get the guitar come through where the other instruments leave space in the frequency range. You scoop areas of the guitar out using an EQ to let things like the snare and vocals come through.

    Too much bass can make a guitar sound muddy when You bring that bass guitar up, adding too much high end treble gets mixed with the drum cymbals and snare and make for too much white noise that block any silence between notes and therefore reduces the dynamics impact of the notes. 

    Silence is the backdrop of the music. Think of it as the white canvas a painter paints upon. The white canvas mixes with the colored paint to lighten the paint and give You different shades of color. In sound the silence is what the notes are contrasted against. If the background already contains noise, the notes can only be louder to be heard. There is no dynamic impact below the noise level. 

    Look at it this way. If You have perfect silence and a note is plucked on an instrument, it may go from 0db to 80db. The person listening hears and feels that dynamic impact and it produces the maximum emotional response in the listener.

    Now say You have 40db of noise going on. Anything below that noise level is covered up. Its below the surface of the water and the listener can hear it until it rises above the surface. The same note is played, and it peaks at 80db. What the listener hears is a 40db dynamic impact.

    The key is the listener always seeks the surface level of the music. If You have 40db of noise happening, their ears hear that white noise level of say the drum cymbals as the center point between silence and maximum impact/emotion. The performer can Then take them up to maximum dynamic levels in loudness or to the bottom where silence exists.

    There's more to it of course. The musical arrangement, the tone the instruments produce, the number of instruments, the music genre, etc. Main thing is You have limited frequency range to fit your instruments in that the ears can hear. If You use up all of the sonic landscape with one instrument, You have no place to put your accompaniment.

    The other item is the fatter You make a part, the better the performer must be. If that person is going to hog the stage, They better be dam good, or they may wind up with egg on their face because every flaw is heard. Take an example like an old Elvis recording. Listen to how big the vocals sound in comparison to his accompaniment instruments. The man had a great voice that could be mixed that way, and it what made him a star, or You could say he was a stellar singer and didn't need allot of musical accompaniment to make the music sound good. Its like most stars You see in a film, the star is front and center and the supporting actors not only have lesser roles, but They stand off to the sides and have fewer full faced cameo shots.

    All this comes into play recording.

    An SM57 will help to get You there with less tweaking mixing. Its surely not the only mic You can use. You can use all kinds of mics from cheap ones to high end. Its like buying guitar pickups to get different tones. One may give You a very dry and clean tone, another overly detailed, another may capture more room reflection, and another can color the tone without the use of an EQ.

    The SM57 is middle of the road mic that's been used on hundreds of thousands of recordings and is a good place to start because You can get a good range from it. Its what You might call the Tele/Les Paul of mics. There are many other mics like there are guitars but a good guitarist should be able to make a Tele or a Paul singe If he's worth his salt, just like a recording engineer should be able to get an SM57 to record just about anything needed in a recording. From there, You develop a frame of reference to work from. The SM57 is the baseline for judging other mics in its category and when You do compare it to others You at least have a frame of reference to work from.

    Is it the best mic? Maybe, maybe not. Again like a guitar, its the mans mind and fingers that makes the sound. The instrument is merely the tool that converts mechanical motion into audio waves. If that tool is easy to wield, Then it frees the performer up to put on a good show. If the performer has to battle the instrument or its tone to say what he wants, it can make him look less professional. Same deal with a mic. If it captures what the amp or voice produces and You don't have to spend a month tweaking its response to getting a good playback, Then its a good tool to have..

    SM57's are inexpensive, good for guitar, snare, toms and vocals. Not my first choice for kick or bass, nor would They be my first choice for cymbals, but I'm experienced enough using them and mixing them where I could get a really good recording using only those mics recording a band. They are also directional mics that pick up limited bleedover from the sides. An ISMS uses the same diaphragm element, but its head basket is round and exposed to pick up more sound off axis as a singer moves around and sings into the mic and targets the mic a little off center.

    I wouldn't rule out using a PG57 either. Its a budget version of the SM57. I picked up a pair on EBay a few years ago new for $20 each. I want expecting much but I needed a change and I was recording pairs of amps in my band. I was using a Marshall and Fender amp to track and the other guitar player was using a Sunn and Fender. I used an SM57 on one amp and a PG57 the other for both of us.

    When mixing, one track sounded better than the other and not paying much attention to which track came from which mic, I got one track sounding great with no EQing at all. The other needed the normal EQ hills and valleys to get it to blend with the rest of the mix.

    I later discover it was the PG57 that needed no additional EQing and it was the SM57 that required extra mixing attention. I Then swapped the mics on the amps and recorded another session. Again, the PG track sounded great without any additional EQing. I've since been using the PG's on my amps and moved the SM57's to the drums.

    It just goes to show You, You don't have to spend a gazillion dollars to get good tone. The key is targeting the tones You want to capture. The PG's are also more solidly built and heavier than the SM57's. They don't sound bad used on a PA system either. Not the best for my own voice which is has a bit too much midrange. I need the extra highs and lows to fill my vocals out, but If I had one maybe 40 years ago when I was just beginning to play out steady, vs. an SM57 which I did use back Then, I would have developed a much better singing voice. The extra midrange would have forced me to extend my highs and lows to compensate for the mics eq response and helped me develop a fuller vocal tone.

    I'm sure others here will have suggestions as well. There's nothing wrong with using a couple of mics. A dynamic mic combined with a condenser that captures the room reflection is cool too. Condensers require Phantom power, whereas a Dynamic mic like an SM57 doesn't. A condenser often has a built in active preamp to boost the signal and therefore You get a wider frequency response, good for vocals and cymbals that could use the high frequency edge to get up above the guitars.

    A dynamic mic uses a transformer instead of a preamp to change the high current low voltage output from the mic diaphragm to a low impedance balanced output that has low current and high voltage. This travels better and has less frequency loss over a long cable. (high current is what the copper wire resists, this is why They use high voltage on your AC transmission lines and step the voltage down and current back up on the telephone pole on your street to feed your home.  The big power lines may have thousands of volt but little current and therefore, the long stretches of wires don't heat up and has less loss. Its converted back to high current so the devices in your home like Air Conditioners, Motors, Electric ovens have the power (wattage) to do hard work. Same holds true for a balances low impedance mic. There's a transformer inside the handle that converts the signal from the diaphragm to low impedance, and when it gets to the mixer or preamp, its converted back to high impedance where it runs through amplifying stages.

    That's about it. Google around and find all your options, look at the frequency response graphs, read reviews, find what your favorite musicians use, the buy what your thing will work. Then spend a few years learning how to use it to optimal results. Then get a few other types and explore their abilities. You eventually find ones that give You your own unique signature sound. Good thing is the range of mics available at low costs today has never been better. You can buy maybe 100 SM57 type mics that give similar responses and noone would be able to tell the difference in the recorded response using their ears.

    Its more important You learn to use them well. Like a Hammer a carpenter uses, it doesn't matter If the carpenter uses a dollar store special or the best Stanley made. If he's a good Carpenter, he can producer great work with either tool. 99% of a good recording comes from the engineers ability to use his tools. A better hammer may be better ergonomically for the hand, cause less blisters and require less focus driving a nail in.

    One may last a lifetime and the other wears out quickly because it's made of cheaper materials. They both do the same thing, They drive nails, and even though the cheap one requires more concentration to sink a nail well, the additional concentration needed to drive that nail is exactly what a beginner needs to become skillful. Think of it as boot camp. You need to develop your skills and the SM57 exactly watt You need in the proper proportions to get You there.

    Then If You experience bottle necking in your recording and need to expand your arsenal of tools, it has less to do with getting better tone than it does with getting more variety. The range of quality in gear is much like a pyramid.  The percentage of improvement vs. the coat of most gear, becomes less and less as You move up in gear quality. Its like interface converters, the difference in quality between a singe channel budget interface that costs $75 a channel, and the best which may cost $10,000 a channel is there. 

    But to a noob a hammer is a hammer. He first has to learn how to swing one before his abilities are acute enough to utilize those minute differences in quality to justify paying the higher costs he's pay for the better tool. So beware. When You start out, get something good vs. crap that may discourage You from using the tool. A squire strat is miles better Then a K Mart toy guitar that's unplayable. Then If You master the squire, You upgrade. By Then You don't need to have someone tell You what's needed because you've banged your head against that bottleneck and know exactly how you want to circumvent that bottleneck. 


    This is probibly more detail then you'll need on the subject, but its better to get gear focused into its proper perspective now when you're just starting out instead of chasing the dragons tail, thinking its the gear that makes a recording vs the skill of the engineer. You can give a good engineer $5 karaoke mics and he'll get a better guitar sound from them in a mix vs a noob using the best mics made. Thats because he did his time learning every aspect his craft. Its like the Chronicals of Riddick, He can wipe his enemy out with no more than a flip top as a weapon. he uses whats at hand with maximum effectiveness, whatever it may be.


    • #3

      Everyone is different. But the e609 is far superior to me than the sm57 for guitar. A lot of people might disagree. But if you want something to record more than just guitar, I would go with the sm57. If you need to record vocal's as well, you can get a very good condeser mic if you just saved a little more money. And that makes a big difference. I remember when I got my first condeser mic. I was probably 14 or 15 and I plugged it into my phantom power adapter and sung through it and I couldn't believe how clear and bold it sounded. Before then, I only knew dynamic mic's.

      If I was going to get one microphone, to do vocals and guitar, I'd use a condenser. I don't usually use a condeser on guitar, but I would if I had to just get one mic. But if you're just doing guitar, 609.


      • LSSD
        LSSD commented
        Editing a comment

        The Sm57 is a great mic to get and here is why...

        It has been used used in real studios, for over 40 years it is still frequently chosen over mics that cost a hell of a lot more.

        Because of this fact someone new to recording can put it in front of an amp and know that if it doesnt sound good it isnt the fault of the mic.

        You should be able to put ot on just about any instrument (including vocals) and if you know what you are doing get a very decent recorded sound

        It costs under $100.