Condenser Mic

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Michael Willis
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Condenser Mic

Postby Michael Willis » Mon Sep 25, 2017 6:47 pm

I'm considering buying a condenser mic for the studio. I would primarily use it for recording acoustic instrumental parts, but I may also end up recording vocal parts at some point. I found a wide variety of used ones for less than $100 on reverb.com, but I don't really know what to shop for. I'm just a hobbyist, so I have no desire for anything at "audiophile" prices, but of course I also want a nice sound. I would wire it up to a Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 (1st gen) that I'm currently using for midi and speakers.

Can anybody advise me on what to look for in a condenser mic? Is it realistic to think that I can buy a decent used one for less than $100?

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Re: Condenser Mic

Postby ssj71 » Mon Sep 25, 2017 8:25 pm

Well, I can't give much advice, but my AudioTechnica 3035 has been awesome for $80 with a stand from craigslist. Its my only mic but its been doing well for the open source musician podcast and my recordings. The mic certainly isn't the limiting factor at least. :)

Different mics will flatter different voices, so there's a bit of guesswork if you don't have much experience (and I don't). But there are a lot of decent mics out there and in general I think you get what you pay for, and the used market is the best place to score a deal.
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Re: Condenser Mic

Postby ufug » Mon Sep 25, 2017 10:58 pm

Am am not one of those "mic guys" so I'm not going to recommend anything specific or pretend I know about a magically awesome condenser mic for under $100.

But since you are in evaluation stage, consider where you will be recording as much as what.

Do you have a really great sounding room? I work in a room that doesn't sound very good, and condenser mics are very effective at showing off just how bad my room sounds! To get anything useful from them I either need to go somewhere else to record or else create elaborate structures to keep the mic from picking up the sound of the room. I can get a better vocal or an acoustic guitar sound with a couple close 57s and adding a fake room sound later if I need to (tangential to 42low's comment re: dynamics often being a better bang for the buck).

Just a thought since it's far easier to find resources that say "10 Great Condenser Misc Under $200" than it is "Reasons You May Not Want a Condenser Mic".

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Re: Condenser Mic

Postby Michael Willis » Tue Sep 26, 2017 3:10 am

Thanks everybody. To give more detail, I'll likely be recording in a room with bad acoustics and no sound treatment. As such, I don't want any of the room ambience at all. Furthermore, I imagine mixing live instruments and virtual instruments, which seems like it would go much better if the live tracks start out as dry as possible, and then they can all go through the same reverb plugin to sound like they are in the same space.

So I would really like to put a microphone a small distance away from my sound source (say the bell of a wind instrument), and ideally it would only pick up the sound of the instrument itself. The response from ufug seems like it resembles the set up that I imagine.

Let's say I know nothing about microphones (which isn't far from the truth). Would a dynamic mic serve me well in this case? What is a close 57? I am willing to put some amount of effort into sound treatment if necessary, but I'm wondering if I can try without and see how that goes first.

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Re: Condenser Mic

Postby lykwydchykyn » Tue Sep 26, 2017 3:48 pm

I've used an AT3035 for years (over a decade, now) and I've been happy with it. I think it was more like $300 when I bought it. I use it for vocals, distance miking, percussion... just about everything. The other mic I use is a peavy SDC that has a bit more presence and (ironically) bass.

The AT3035 sounds smooth and transparent to me compared to other mics I have. If it has a downside, I find that I have to bring up 2khz on my vocals to get them to cut through a mix, but that may just be my voice (I'm a baritone, for reference). The mic sounds better on my wife's voice, but that may not be the mic ;).

I used to put a lot of effort into dampening reflections with a curtain and what not, but eventually decided there wasn't enough return on investment. It's usually sufficient to put a pillow behind the mic to dampen reflections from the wall. If your mixes are dense enough and you mic close enough, you're not gonna hear that other stuff.

Is an AT3035 better than other LDCs in that price range? Dunno. Will it work better with your voice? Dunno. Best thing you can do is A/B a bunch of mics in your price range and decide for yourself. I was fortunate enough to have friends in the recording business who let me do this when I was mic shopping.

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Re: Condenser Mic

Postby sadko4u » Tue Sep 26, 2017 4:56 pm

I'm having this pair:
http://www.mxlmics.com/microphones/studio/550-551/
Pretty cheap (about $80), good sounding for acoustic instruments and vocals. Maybe this could be helpful.
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finotti
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Re: Condenser Mic

Postby finotti » Tue Sep 26, 2017 6:18 pm

This is an interesting thread... I was also thinking of buying a cheap (also about $100) condenser mic, in my case mainly for vocals. This would be my very first experience recording vocals (also in a "bad" room, with no treatment), but I assumed that condenser was the way to go...

I do have a Shure Beta 58 (which I use for live backing vocals) as well as a Shure SM57 (which I use to mic my guitar cabinet live). So, if I understand correctly, the Beta 58 would do OK for vocal recording? Maybe even better (in my case) than a cheap condenser? (Ideally, I would like to borrow a condenser to compare, but I don't think I will be able to...)

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Re: Condenser Mic

Postby ufug » Tue Sep 26, 2017 6:39 pm

finotti wrote:So, if I understand correctly, the Beta 58 would do OK for vocal recording? Maybe even better (in my case) than a cheap condenser?


A resounding yes IMHO. Also, the 57 you already have is associated with instrument mic'ing, but you can also use it on vocals just fine, many favor it. 57s and 58s are classic workhorses for a reason. They are cheap, tough, and sound great.

He was not my cup of tea, but Michael Jackson used a Shure dynamic mic (the classic SM7) to record the vocals on Thriller, and a lot of people seemed to like how that sounded ;)

The only issue with a dynamic is that you will get a very up front, direct sound, and you will want a little reverb or IR on there. That's actually a plus in a home studio--you'll have a lot more flexibility with the processing if you record dry.
Last edited by ufug on Tue Sep 26, 2017 6:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Condenser Mic

Postby lykwydchykyn » Tue Sep 26, 2017 6:40 pm

I used to record demos with a beta 58 with a singer who sang very loud and had a lot of vocal presence. He loved his beta 58. I always felt it was a bit harsh sounding, but the vocals definitely cut through the mix. I would probably use one for rock vocals, but I'd be skeptical of it for much else.

And not to be "that guy", but I want to point out that this:

A dynamic microphone cathes only what's in front of it. Not sound from the back.


Is not strictly true. All mics have a polar pattern, which varies over its frequency range, that determines how much sound is captured from the back or sides.

The AT3035, for example, is Cardiod, which means it actually won't pick up sound directly behind it, but does pick up sound off-axis behind the mic (a little off to the right and left); whereas the beta 58 is supercardiod, which means the beta 58 rejects those off-axis sounds, but technically picks up sound (out-of-phase) directly behind the mic. But this isn't tied to it being dynamic, as there are many cardiod dynamics (the original sm58 and sm57, for example). Shure has a good write-up on polar patterns and their characteristics: http://blog.shure.com/multi-pattern-mic ... e-and-how/

IMHO, unless you're recording a capella tracks or recording in a concrete basement under the railroad tracks, you're not likely to capture enough ambient sound to ruin the track. I'd be less concerned about ambient sound and more concerned about the tone you get from the mic.

EDIT:

I'll add, if you can't physically compare the mics in person, the next best thing is to hit up youtube for comparisons. Hearing the things raw without studio processing and instruments can give you a good idea of what you want.

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Re: Condenser Mic

Postby finotti » Tue Sep 26, 2017 7:49 pm

Thanks all for the replies!

lykwydchykyn wrote:I used to record demos with a beta 58 with a singer who sang very loud and had a lot of vocal presence. He loved his beta 58. I always felt it was a bit harsh sounding, but the vocals definitely cut through the mix. I would probably use one for rock vocals, but I'd be skeptical of it for much else.


My situation would likely be the opposite: I'd record my wife, who has a very soft and smooth voice. :-)

lykwydchykyn wrote:EDIT:

I'll add, if you can't physically compare the mics in person, the next best thing is to hit up youtube for comparisons. Hearing the things raw without studio processing and instruments can give you a good idea of what you want.


Thanks for the suggestions. I've found this, which compares some cheap and expensive condenser mcis and SM57: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QLHuRb1aVlo

All I can say is that I'm glad I don't do this for a living, as I can only barely hear any difference at all. At least it makes my decision a bit easier, especially since mostly only I listen to my own recordings, so if I can't hear it, it won't be a problem. :-)

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Re: Condenser Mic

Postby Michael Willis » Tue Sep 26, 2017 10:16 pm

lykwydchykyn wrote:recording in a concrete basement under the railroad tracks

:lol:

finotti wrote:mostly only I listen to my own recordings

That's not entirely true, I've been listening to some of your recordings probably about 100 times over the last few weeks :mrgreen:

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Re: Condenser Mic

Postby finotti » Tue Sep 26, 2017 11:02 pm

Michael Willis wrote:[
finotti wrote:mostly only I listen to my own recordings

That's not entirely true, I've been listening to some of your recordings probably about 100 times over the last few weeks :mrgreen:


:lol:

I imagine that is true, but that's an exception that proves the rule.


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