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Which condenser mic would you recommend for vocals

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  • Which condenser mic would you recommend for vocals

    With around $500 budget.

    Will be my first but I want something to keep, I know different mics work better depending on the voices but this will have to do for now, Something versatile, mostly rock/pop.

  • #2
    That's like asking which guitar should I play. The problem is, everyone's skills and tastes are different. You could do that is you had someone there with you to hear your voice and was skilled enough make a good decision for you. That's not possible on a forum because no one can hear your live singing voice. What might be a perfect match for one persons voice may be the worst choice possible for someone else. Voices have different tonal ranges and singers have different singing techniques, word pronunciation, strength etc. that make them sound better with one mic over another.

    But you must begin somewhere. Usually singers who have performed out and spend time in studios have some idea of what's best for their voice based on trying out other peoples gear, and cost have very little to do with that. In my own case I had the hardest time finding a condenser I could use with my singing technique and techniques. I never had a really good voice and never had a great PA system for live vocals when I was young. I had to learn how to make due with what I had and use it most effectively to be heard. In later years when I got into recording heavily and could afford good gear I realize how much I had damaged my voice using bad gear. I can get reasonable results using a large diaphragm mic but much of my technique requires using a mics proximity effect from using a dynamic mic on stage for so many years. I found a hand held condenser or even a good dynamic mic does a much better job for most material I do.

    I do record other musicians who don't suffer from my unique requirements however. They do fine with mics I struggle with. I do have the luxury of hearing them sing live and through that mic however so even if they don't realize the mic is good for them, I do.

    Again, you have to begin somewhere. The question is do you spend allot on something that might not be optimal for you or do you get something less expensive to build experience in knowing what's best for you. If I were to make a suggestion it would be a blind suggestion. Something like the MXL mics are a good choice for many. They have a wide range of mics that give high quality for a wide range of applications. They are like buying a fender guitar. They have a cheap budget line of Squires and then that have the high end pro stuff. The Rhode NT1A is a good entry level mic many use. Neumann makes a couple of budget mics for around $700 and you may be able to find one used or on sale for around $500.

    If you don't have the ability to try a mic out then its a crap shoot to what might be best, so you just have to roll the dice and hope for the best. Don't expect too much from any mic however. Great vocals come from great vocalists, not great mics. Just like a Great guitarist who can make a budget guitar sound great, a great vocalist can make just about any mic sound good. Then you have the ability mixing to remove some of the imperfections and enhance other areas to optimize what has been recorded. Recording has just as much to do with tracking and mixing skills as it does with the mic singers performance.

    Condensers do need a good room to record in because thay pick up allot of room reflection. If you don't have a good sounding room you may do better with a dynamic mic like a Shure SM7 or a Sennheiser MD421 II. The first album I made with a band we used the senheisers for vocals and they did a wonderful job. We used those mics live too.

    Don't know what to tell you beyond that. without having heard your voice and its range, its impossible to make good suggestions that are best for you.


    • #3
      In that price range, I'd look for a used Shure KSM-32, a Neumann TLM-102 or a something in the Audio-Technica AT-40 line, like a 4050 or a 4047.

      All very good, serviceable mics, which are quite neutral, and will give you good results on just about anything you throw at them.

      "Thank You, NASA!"


      • #4
        Mark's got some good suggestions. I'll add a few more:
        I'm impressed with the CAD E100s. $360, super quiet, clean. Even the $180 CAD m179 is a great mic, an over-achiever.
        AT4040 is another good AT 40 series that isn't too HF hyped. An AE5400 is sort of a at4050 in a handheld.
        Shure SM7 if you have a decent preamp, RE20 too
        Heil PR40 is a great all-arounder mic.
        Used KSM44
        The Studio Projects CS5 is quite good
        Used you can find clean mics.

        What preamp(s) do you have?
        Last edited by witesol; 08-04-2014, 11:55 AM.


        • #5
          I only have a Focusrite Saffire Pro 24 for now, looking to upgrade.


          • #6
            I'm going to start with the Rode NT1, and keep an eye for a used Neuman TLM 102 or AT4050 Multi-Patter which look great.
            Thanks guys


            • #7
              My Sputnik is super clean and not sibilant
              Hamilton Steele CD's / Hamilton Steele MP3 Downloads / Hamilton Steele iTunes


              • #8
                Originally posted by RobC99 View Post
                I'm going to start with the Rode NT1, and keep an eye for a used Neuman TLM 102 or AT4050 Multi-Patter which look great.
                Thanks guys
                If you mean the new NT1, that's a good place to start, although I would agree with Mark that something like a used TLM102 would be a step up - I've reviewed both mics, and both impressed me a great deal at their respective price points.

                Neumann TLM 102 review on EM. (Scroll down a bit - it's part of a multi-mic "roundup.")

                Rode NT1 review here on HC.

                "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


                • #9
                  Save your money and get a Sennheiser E865S.
                  On stage or in studio, it will transmit your voice in a full, balanced, warm and present clarity with dynamic power and projection. EQ is hardly ever neccessary if at all, and it has excellent gain before feedback. I still have a 4 & 1/2 octave range, and it can handle all of it well.
                  Alternatively, if you really think your voice is worth all that, a Sennheiser MK4 or even better,
                  MK8. These two are pretty much studio application but have much the same characteristics and performance specs, if slightly different constructions & diaphrams
                  Last edited by Temple of Light; 02-02-2015, 11:48 PM.


                  • #10
                    Thanks guys, that's great info to get started and try different options


                    • #11
                      For recording and live the Sennheiser MD 421 is a great mic. We used them back in the 70's recording our first album and also used them as stage mics. They are Cardioid mics however, which is no big deal. If anything you wind up having less ambient noise without the condensers preamp going. The benefit is they do have a five position bass roll-off switch which makes the mic very versatile for recording voice or instruments. They do have a good Frequency response of 30Hz-17kHz too.

                      Last edited by WRGKMC; 02-10-2015, 09:00 AM.


                      • #12
                        Found an Audio Technica 4050 in mint condition for $475.
                        Thought it was suspiciously low priced, but seller has 100% w/ over 3k transactions.. so... I think I'll pull the trigger.

                        Used prices for the TLM 102 are surprisingly close to new.


                        • #13
                          I have always been very happy with my AT-4050 and you can get these used cheap. However maybe before you commit take advantage of Guitar Centers return policy to take gear home to play with. They will price match and B&H Photo is what I use and they have pretty much the best deals period. There are so many options out there that I dont think you need to even spend 500 anymore. There are so many cheaper mics today than if we were having this same discussion back in 2001 when I bought my 4050. I suggest you take my advice and demo some before you commit to one. Peter
                          Stupidity in of itself is a fine art.