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Thread: Microphones for home recording

  1. #1

    Default Microphones for home recording

    Man it's a glut of options, somewhat overwhelming.

    I'm looking at reasonably cheap but I don't want to get something I'll ditch in a year.

    On paper, a lot of reasonably nice looking mics - and favoured by guitarists - I suspect might come out shrill or harsh on those higher mando frequencies.

    I've whittled it down to either a Shure SM57 or paired Rode M5.

    The 57's are too well established to dismiss and I can see that I could make use of it for other things. Besides Grisman has used it on stage.

    I think the 57 might not do as good a job of getting the full range that paired M5's would - and they are said to have a flat response so less concerns about the high end shrill.

    Fearful to ask what others think because so much of this is personal choice but given that I can't do any testing prior to purchase I'm keen to hear what others have found in real world practise.

    Many thanks

  2. #2

    Default Re: Microphones for home recording

    I think the attributes of SM57 as a durable, inexpensive dynamic microphone as a sound reinforcement microphone for live gigs are well established. What you're looking for to record solo mandolin at home has very little in common with those on-stage situations. You're really looking for condenser microphones for home recording. Find one you can afford with a voicing you like and you're good to go.
    Last edited by Brent Hutto; Nov-29-2021 at 9:28am.
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  4. #3

    Default Re: Microphones for home recording

    The SM57 is a good mic, especially for live use, and, TBH, most mandolins do not really put out a wide frequency range, so it can work. It does have a low output (sensitivity), and will require a good amount of gain, which can be a problem with some [audio] interfaces, if that is what you're plugging into. It's not a "wrong" choice because it's so versatile, and almost always finds a use at some point. I would just caution that if you go that way, to be sure to have a good interface/preamp with sufficient gain, and avoid the used market, as there still are fakes (counterfeit Shure mics) floating around there.

    The space you're recording in and how you're recording, along with the instrument and your own playing, will all contribute to which mic, or mics, give you the best results. I have not used the RØDE pair, but they frequently show up in lists of good choices for entry SDC pairs. I have another, relatively inexpensive pair I use, but sometimes I use a single LDC, or one each, or even a pair of unmatched LDCs! RØDE has a good reputation, so if you want to try a pair of SDCs on a budget, you can almost certainly do worse . (Though, the used market is a place worth investigating here, as it's likely not overrun with fakes, especially in the lower end.) My only caution there is that working with any pair just involves a bit more complication in setup - an extra stand, cable, recording channel, and then placement, mixing, etc. Just realize you don't actually have to use both mics to start.

    Good luck.
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  5. #4
    Registered User Dave Hicks's Avatar
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    Default Re: Microphones for home recording

    I like hollering into a 57 for a vocal. I've got a mike that's supposed to bring out all the subtle nuances in your singing, but that's actually not that good an idea for some people. I also use the 57 for miking guitar amps.

    For recording instruments I use a large diaphragm condenser (Blue Spark) and/or a small diaphragm condenser (AKG P170). There are better (and more expensive) mikes out there, but these work well enough for what I do. For solos on acoustic instruments, I often point the Spark at the neck/body join and the AKG near the bridge, then separate the tracks spatially in the recording.

    D.H.

    Edit: If you search for "Sweetwater microphone comparison" on Youtube you can find lots of videos featuring a wide range of mikes. This might help in searching around before you purchase.

    Edit 2: The Cafe doesn't have a separate recording section, but the Acoustic Guitar Forum does, and that's a good source for info on recording unamplified instruments.

  6. #5

    Default Re: Microphones for home recording

    I pretty much only record my playing for me to hear, not to publish or distribute. So it doesn't make sense for me to get too elaborate with recording setups. After a fair bit of experimentation, here's what I've found (for my purposes)...

    Since I'm recording at home, the rooms either have no acoustic treatment at all or in the case of the "music room" where the piano is there are some drapes and heavy rugs installed to kill of the worst of the bright reflections. So when I'm recording my mandolin or guitar I do NOT want to capture the sound of the room. I want to get just the instrument with as little of the reflected or reverberant sound as possible.

    What I've settled on is just recording in mono. I have a just about decent quality, cardioid, medium diaphragm condenser (AKG P420) which I put on about a 24" high mic stand and place about 18" in front of the instrument, pointing more or less at the end of the fretboard. Single-channel preamp/interface into a laptop running Audacity.

    For at-home capture of my playing that will suffice. As long none of the neighbors are running a leafblower I can get a clean, undistorted single-channel recording that sounds pretty much exactly like I'd sound to someone sitting right in front of me. I can mix in a very small amount of fake reverb with a plugin if I want it sound a bit less stark and plain.

    I don't know how many hours I spent with various two-microphone setups trying to get something that a) sounded better than a mono one-mic approach and b) did not sound like poop because of room reflections. Never did make it happen. So I just kept it simple.
    The first man who whistled
    thought he had a wren in his mouth.
    He went around all day
    with his lips puckered,
    afraid to swallow.

    --"The First" by Wendell Berry

  7. #6

    Default Re: Microphones for home recording

    If you are recording in a quiet place where the mic can be placed away from the instrument/singer then there are countless cheap options that will perform better than a 57. If you want a more up close sort of sound then a 57 is more appropriate. The 57s superpower is durability. If you might use it for up close vocals, get a 58 which is a 57 with a pop filter. In fact a 58 is a better general purpose mic for that reason.

  8. #7
    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: Microphones for home recording

    Yup, lots to choose from.

    I'd say keep it simple; determine what you want to do with your recordings and determine what your quality needs are, before you decide on equipment. Also determine what equipment you need to complete the recordings besides the mic; there might be a lot involved there too. There's a whole big world out there and it's really easy to spend money and energy unnecessarily...

    From personal experience, I've got a complete full-on stage mixing PA (including stage mics), I've got a small PA for more casual performing, and I've got dedicated mics and interfaces for recording... 90% of the time these all sit unused.

    When I record at home, I use my relatively high-end laptop's twin internal mics; they are completely fine for home recording (as well as online jamming, etc.).

    In contrast, when our band records professionally (4 albums so far since 2010), we go to the studio. This is a high quality, single owner/operated professional studio that specializes in acoustic instrument work, sound booth track separation and full up-to-date digital recording. The owner/sound-tech is known nation wide and is often contracted by big-name artists. We've found it's best to let this studio worry about producing our professional quality recordings...

    Our 2019 studio costs for a complete 2-CD album were significantly under $3K. I've spent way over that amount for my own sound equipment at home, but I could never deliver the same quality that we get from the studio.
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  9. #8
    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Microphones for home recording

    I nearly always use a Shure 58 - same difference as a 57, just with a screen, typically used for vocals. That's because they're always around and for that purpose, at live gigs. And they work just fine, most of the time.

    HOWEVER, I just got done laying down a mandolin track on a recording project. I dug my Shure 58s out of my gig bag (haven't been gigging much lately) and nothing, Zip. Zilch. Nada. Bupkis. I called my friend who's much better at using the recording program, and troubleshooting on the equipment - nothing. Swapped out the mic cord- nothing. Same thing with both mics. Quite puzzling, all this.

    Then I plugged in this so-so Behringer XM8500 I had - no idea why nor when I acquired it - and presto! A signal. So both Shures were NG - no idea how that could have happened. It's not like them sitting around could have led to them going bad. Right? I went rooting through my odds-and-ends and found another Shure, a P-51 (I think it's a Shure with an on-off switch), and an AKG D790 - all of them were goldanged dad-gum dang-blasted no bloody good! Unbelievable! At least I had the one, and was able to finish the project. But holy guacamole! How does that happen? Five out of six NG, without even being used? Shure 58s are supposed to be durable and reliable. I don't know anymore. I could have plugged in, but I wanted an acoustic sound, not piezo (although the Fishman bridge is just fine). Crikey!
    Last edited by journeybear; Nov-29-2021 at 12:24pm. Reason: neatness counts
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  11. #9
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Microphones for home recording

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    I nearly always use a Shure 58 - same difference as a 57, just with a screen, typically used for vocals. That's because they're always around and for that purpose, at live gigs. And they work just fine, most of the time.

    HOWEVER, I just got done laying down a mandolin track on a recording project. I dug my Shure 58s out of my gig bag (haven't been gigging much lately) and nothing, Zip. Zilch. Nada. Bupkis. I called my friend who's much better at using the recording program, and troubleshooting on the equipment - nothing. Swapped out the mic cord- nothing. Same thing with both mics. Quite puzzling, all this.

    Then I plugged in this so-so Behringer XM8500 I had - no idea why nor when I acquired it - and presto! A signal. So both Shures were NG - no idea how that could have happened. It's not like them sitting around could have led to them going bad. Right? I went rooting through my odds-and-ends and found another Shure, a P-51 (I think it's a Shure with an on-off switch), and an AKG D790 - all of them were goldanged dad-gum dang-blasted no bloody good! Unbelievable! At least I had the one, and was able to finish the project. But holy guacamole! How does that happen? Five out of six NG, without even being used? Shure 58s are supposed to be durable and reliable. I don't know anymore. I could have plugged in, but I wanted an acoustic sound, not piezo (although the Fishman bridge is just fine). Crikey!
    I saw a Shure torture test where they threw them in the ocean, and they still worked! But maybe it’s the ocean air?��
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  12. #10
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    Default Re: Microphones for home recording

    Quote Originally Posted by MontanaMatt View Post
    I saw a Shure torture test where they threw them in the ocean, and they still worked! But maybe it’s the ocean air?��
    I've lost two Shure mics in basement flooding. However, Shure has a great repair program. If they can't fix it, it just gets replaced with new. That can be a fantastic deal, if the mic is an expensive model. Just got an SM58 Beta replaced new for $70, which is still a great deal
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  13. #11

    Default Re: Microphones for home recording

    There's a lot of interesting responses here, which is nice, thank you. Things to digest and reflect on. I think the net result of reading through all posts is that I'm now re thinking or rather - back where I started. Only instead of, what do I need, it's more, why do I need?

    As far as gear goes I already have a Mackie mixer that I can route through for phantom. I also have a decent sound card, if I want to go straight into the computer. I also have a portable recorder that can provide phantom if I want to record away from home I have that option too.

    The only mics I currently own and use are a pair of very sensitive lav-type omni's which I use for sound design purposes and actually do like them for use on instruments but they tend to capture the pigeons walking on the roof, the neighbours car radio as it swings on the street, or the builders across the way, etc. Lol.

    I think there's a very good point about budget. I know that I'm not going to treat the room or invest in higher end products in the chain so there's little point looking at anything too refined. I just want something that I can get a decent ish recording which I might or might not share/use publicly.

    I started this game looking at Studio Electronics SE X1 S. Within a few days I'd looked at a couple of Shures 57 & 58, AKG c1000, Avantone CK-1, the Rode M5, AKG P220, Audio Technica AT2035. Maybe others I've forgot.

    They are all roughly in the same ball park in terms of costs and part of me suspects only minor subtle differences will distinguish what they capture in a recording. Like I'd probably be happy with any one. Maybe it doesn't matter in the end at this price point and recording in these circumstances and so a Behringer B1 might fit the bill and save me money.

    Hmmm.

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  15. #12
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Microphones for home recording

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul B View Post
    ght not share/use publicly.

    I started this game looking at Studio Electronics SE X1 S. Within a few days I'd looked at a couple of Shures 57 & 58, AKG c1000, Avantone CK-1, the Rode M5, AKG P220, Audio Technica AT2035. Maybe others I've forgot.
    I've had very good results with the AKG P series mics.

    And every studio needs an SM57 or 58.

  16. #13
    working musician Jim Bevan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Microphones for home recording

    A pair of these worked very well for me:

    http://www.lineaudio.se/CM4.html

  17. #14
    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Microphones for home recording

    FWIW, the exchange rate for Swedish krona is such that that's US$132.32, plus 25% VAT. And shipping. Just sayin' ...

    On the other hand, it's really, really small - 77mm x 20mm, or 3" x 3/4", not much bigger than an XLR plug. Could be a plus.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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  18. #15

    Default Re: Microphones for home recording

    This topic is one of my favorite...and troublesome

    https://microphone-parts.com/collections/microphones

    https://intshop.jzmic.com/

    * I could go on, on, etc

  19. #16

    Default Re: Microphones for home recording

    Well, I got an MXR 990 before they went up in price. That said, there's no comparison. I use SM57s for stage work, but not in the studio. True, sm57s are tough and adequate freq. response.

  20. #17
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    Default Re: Microphones for home recording

    I prefer the Sure SM81s , they do require phantom power.
    I use 2 through a focus right scarlet 2 mic preamp- that feeds the computer via USB or has quarter inch out to a PA or amp.
    I mic the instrument left and right for home studio projects , but you can split one mic to stereo with the scarlet ( using the xlr input).
    I have used a single sm81 to mic the mando on stage, always worked well ( competing with fiddle guitar and acoustic bass)
    I used to plug the mando in but prefer the mic tone ( huge difference) a bit more pricy than the sm57 but I think the quality improvement is noticeable
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  21. #18
    Registered User Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Microphones for home recording

    A 57.

    They sound good, they last forever, and the price is right.
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