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Thread: Condenser mic for live and home recording

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    Default Condenser mic for live and home recording

    Is there a condenser mic under $500 that would work ok for playing a mandolin or guitar and vocals for home recording and also playing a small venue?

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    Default Re: Condenser mic for live and home recording

    Not sure about vocals, but I really like the SM81 that I use to play live with my band. My mandolin sounds like it does when someone plays across the room from me, doesn't seem to suffer from the proximity issues that color the sound of something like a SM57.

    I've been very pleased with it, enough that I plan to get my own when funds allow.
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    Default Re: Condenser mic for live and home recording

    There are many sub $500 mics in the marketplace. You will see a lot of Audio Technica fans here. I've used a Rode NT 2 in my studio for years, but an SM 57 for live, but don't do the gather around the mic thing. I also have a pair of SM 81 small diaphragm condensers for studio use. So many mics, so little money.
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    Default Re: Condenser mic for live and home recording

    I have several mics in that category...
    New to me, but loving it so far, Aston Origin.
    Used KEL mics, if you can find them.
    Shure makes great mics too.
    Avantone, nice presence, but I’ve been having reliability issues, though covered by a warranty.
    You might have to buy and or try many before you get the sound you want to hear.
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    Default Re: Condenser mic for live and home recording

    We used an Audio Technica AT4033 for years. You can get them for around 300. Our bass player got an Ear Trumpet Labs Myrtle that we use now but that's a bit over 500.
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    Default Re: Condenser mic for live and home recording

    What's the story about the guy who bought a whole studio full of more and more expensive mics, more and more expensive monitors, more and more expensive cables, etc. Was never happy with his recordings, but then spent $200 on acoustical paneling and all his problems were solved.
    My point is that a microphone is part of a system. A modest investment into the room and entire signal chain will give you much better results than spending a ton on one piece of the system.

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    Default Re: Condenser mic for live and home recording

    Look at A-T Sennheiser, AKG, Rode, SE electronics, Shure, Cascade ribbons (I think there are other ribbons in the price bracket worth considering). Don't overlook the basic lines like AT's 2000 series, Akg'S Project Studio which would let you get small and large diaphg. condensor mikes(there's also a mfr called "Studio project" who has decent Chinese clone condensors)

    Also you can learn a lot by flipping thru Sound on Sound magazine, this blog: http://recordinghacks.com/ and books on Home recording by Dave Hunter, Jeff Strong, Mike Senior etc

    But I was going to say the same thing Mr. Jacobson did, if the budget includes buying a decent preamp /interface/treatments, then that's a different question. An Akg 414 into a subpar preamp in a reflective room (and without having tried lots of mike placements)is going to disappoint you
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    Default Re: Condenser mic for live and home recording

    The wrinkle here, is that the OP mentioned singing as well as playing mandolin and guitar live. Unless you're gonna do the Bill Monroe thing and hold the mandolin up to your chest so the mic can hear it taking a break, that usually means more than one mic.

    A pickup on the instrument and mic for vocals could work live, but for recording I wouldn't advise a pickup. The OP might need to split the budget between a large diaphragm vocal mic and a small diaphragm mic for the instrument, mounted lower on the stand for live performance. Years ago, you couldn't pull that off with a $500 budget, but it might be do-able now.

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    Default Re: Condenser mic for live and home recording

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    The wrinkle here, is that the OP mentioned singing as well as playing mandolin and guitar live. Unless you're gonna do the Bill Monroe thing and hold the mandolin up to your chest so the mic can hear it taking a break, that usually means more than one mic.

    A pickup on the instrument and mic for vocals could work live, but for recording I wouldn't advise a pickup. The OP might need to split the budget between a large diaphragm vocal mic and a small diaphragm mic for the instrument, mounted lower on the stand for live performance. Years ago, you couldn't pull that off with a $500 budget, but it might be do-able now.
    My bands performance rig is a high and low condenser mic with pickups. The low mic provides solo boost, and the step in solo dance, as well as filling out the sound mass. Our vocal mic is set moderately low gain and selected to not have the proximity effect. Feedback is handled with a digital mixer with spectral analysis, 32 band eq, and 4 band parametric. Mixing is it's own art form, and takes effort.
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    Default Re: Condenser mic for live and home recording

    I think a lot of mics will work for live and home recording placed midway between instrument and vocal. I would hesitate in such a set up for professional recording. The bluegrass gospel band I played in for years used true one mic for 95% live shows and recording while practicing ( a ribbon mic) now I know that would be different in a venue of more noise but still believe the vocal don't have to eat the mic or be "inside" the instrument. If the room is that noisey no one is listening anyway. Just IMHO.

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    Default Re: Condenser mic for live and home recording

    Home recording? What interface do you have? Some of the audio interfaces have good preamps for instruments and mics already built in.
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    Default Re: Condenser mic for live and home recording

    Really, for live work, just about any decent quality LDC will work. I use an AT 4050, but have also used an inexpensive AKG P220 with great results while the AT was set up in the studio. For studio work, it will be hard to find a better sub-$500 mic than the Roswell K47. No reason it wouldn't be great for live use as well. I've owned dozens of LDCs over the years and it is simply astounding how good this mic is!
    https://roswellproaudio.com/products/mini-k47

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    Default Re: Condenser mic for live and home recording

    Quote Originally Posted by John Bertotti View Post
    Home recording? What interface do you have? Some of the audio interfaces have good preamps for instruments and mics already built in.
    I have the Presonus Audio Box USB and the M7 mic. I would like to upgrade to a better mic.

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    Default Re: Condenser mic for live and home recording

    Quote Originally Posted by foldedpath View Post
    The wrinkle here, is that the OP mentioned singing as well as playing mandolin and guitar live. Unless you're gonna do the Bill Monroe thing and hold the mandolin up to your chest so the mic can hear it taking a break, that usually means more than one mic.

    A pickup on the instrument and mic for vocals could work live, but for recording I wouldn't advise a pickup. The OP might need to split the budget between a large diaphragm vocal mic and a small diaphragm mic for the instrument, mounted lower on the stand for live performance. Years ago, you couldn't pull that off with a $500 budget, but it might be do-able now.
    Part of the reason for asking this question is that when you watch folks (pros I guess)) post videos of playing and singing a lot of times there is just one mic and they are sitting, the mic is several inches away, about chest high and they sound great.

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    Default Re: Condenser mic for live and home recording

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandoplumb View Post
    I think a lot of mics will work for live and home recording placed midway between instrument and vocal. I would hesitate in such a set up for professional recording.
    It might work, but the main drawback with a single mic in a compromise position is less available gain before feedback. There's a reason why you see people "eating the mic" in most pro performance It sends a nice hot signal to the PA and makes feedback control easier. It's the reason I use a clip-on mini condenser mic on my mandolin when playing live; very close to the instrument for good feedback rejection.

    I'm not saying it definitely won't work, because some Bluegrass bands still use the "everyone around one mic" idea. But it's one of the more difficult setups to use live.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Adrihan View Post
    Part of the reason for asking this question is that when you watch folks (pros I guess)) post videos of playing and singing a lot of times there is just one mic and they are sitting, the mic is several inches away, about chest high and they sound great.
    Right, if you're sitting down it's a little easier to capture vocals and guitar/mandolin, but you still may run into feedback issues if you can't get the vocal mic fairly close. It's also not ideal for recording, because ideally you want to be able to EQ and mix the volume separately for vocals and instrument. You may want a little more reverb on the instrument than on your voice, and so on. Separate mics are the standard for recording unless it's a live event where there isn't much control.

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    Default Re: Condenser mic for live and home recording

    If you are recording feedback is not a problem. You can have a hot signal and not worry about sound from the speakers getting into the mic. The videos are simply recording with no sound amplification.
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    Default Re: Condenser mic for live and home recording

    Plenty of good suggestions above, I’ll add in the Shure KSM32. As others alluded to, mic choice is situationally dependent. An LDC on a stage with a quiet audience is great. In the corner of a noisy bar, not so much.

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    Default Re: Condenser mic for live and home recording

    Quote Originally Posted by John Adrihan View Post
    Part of the reason for asking this question is that when you watch folks (pros I guess)) post videos of playing and singing a lot of times there is just one mic and they are sitting, the mic is several inches away, about chest high and they sound great.
    Many of those settings involve a good sound engineer off camera. Doing that job from stage is tricky.
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    Default Re: Condenser mic for live and home recording

    +1 on the Shure KSM 32. Works well on stage (room acoustics and monitor levels permitting) and is also good in the studio for both instruments and vocals. A very versatile and well-made mic. The KSM44 is even better, though you might find a mint used example somewhere around your budget.

    To add to what MontanaMatt notes (above) for recording you can 'distance' mic quite a bit. You have no PA to fight... and normally, you film in places with decent to fantastic acoustic properties. On stage - TOTALLY different. Frequently dire acoustics, reflected sounds from PA and monitors = feedback hell! So close-miking is often much more practical.
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    Default Re: Condenser mic for live and home recording

    As a cost-cutting cheap-o person, I'd even suggest investigating the MXL line. I've been using a couple of MXL 990's for live performance, with a Fishman SA-220 SoloAmp, and have had good results. You can get one for $70 discounted.

    However, need to warn you my standards are pretty low; if it sounds OK, I'll stay with it. I'm sure others on this thread are recoiling in disgust from such a low-end suggestion...
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    Default Re: Condenser mic for live and home recording

    The Sennheiser e614 is a nice condenser mic for an instrument. I put a Sennheiser vocal mic up high on an instrument stand and a Sennheiser e614 lower off the stand for the mandolin.

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    Default Re: Condenser mic for live and home recording

    Large Condenser mics under $500 that I have heard great things about or experienced directly:

    • Aston Spirit
    • Lewitt LCT 240
    • Roswell Mini K47

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    Default Re: Condenser mic for live and home recording

    I am a long time Penny pincher myself and go along with Mr Hopkins suggestion of the MXL 990 , I've used them for several years micing a 3 or 4 piece live. Mostly single mic , but sometimes 1 high and 1 low. Works very well. Nice for recording too, but in my home they tend to pickup noise from the surrounding. Coyotes and frogs or noise from the county road.

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    Default Re: Condenser mic for live and home recording

    The comment about many interfaces having decent mic pres is well taken. I think most, I use a MOTU track 16, can be effective with the under $500 mics. It is when you start buying $1k+ mics that the need for equal or better money be spent on a pre amp.

    But there is something really wonderful about $4k mics going into a Manley pre amp or a Neve channel strip. Kind of like getting a Gilchrist mandolin. The thing about using the sub $500 mics is realizing they are going to be fine, and learning how to use them properly.
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    Default Re: Condenser mic for live and home recording

    Quote Originally Posted by John Adrihan View Post
    Part of the reason for asking this question is that when you watch folks (pros I guess)) post videos of playing and singing a lot of times there is just one mic and they are sitting, the mic is several inches away, about chest high and they sound great.
    It's possible to really overthink a question like this. John has a simple interface and a modest budget. If you're interested in the one mic performance thing, give it a try. This is a mono recording off an AT 4033 that was also feeding the house PA. (to be 100% honest there is a stereo pair on the audience, but the recording is essentially mono and the PA was mono of course - and just getting the 4033) They're available all the time on ebay for $200? They are not magic. Other mid-price med-diaphragm cardioid condensers will do the trick. It may also be nice to have a Shure SM57 and 58 for live gigging where you may not have phantom power. (but if the club has a PA and a mic stand, they probably have SM57s and 58s - and remember, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings do OK with just those)

    A great piece of advice for using one mic: practice with headphones to learn where to stand!

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