Affordable mic recommendation

Creating a home studio for recording the classical guitar. Equipment, software and recording techniques. Amplification for live performance.
Medveman
Posts: 6
Joined: Wed Nov 23, 2016 10:43 pm

Affordable mic recommendation

Postby Medveman » Wed Nov 30, 2016 7:50 pm

I would like to know about your recommendations on an affordable mic or mics to record classical guitar.
The interface is a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. I have not settled on a mono/stereo setup yet.
Does any of you have experience with the Rode M5 (matched pair) or with the Audio Technica AT2020 as a start?

stevel
Posts: 536
Joined: Thu Jan 06, 2011 2:15 pm

Re: Affordable mic recommendation

Postby stevel » Thu Dec 01, 2016 12:39 am

Hello,

Phew. Tough call. It's a very busy market now and manufacturers are jumping on the "home producer" bandwagon and trying to undercut the competitors.

But, generally speaking, this has made it a "you get what you pay for". So a lot of the inexpensive mics are made purely to have a mic in the price range and to get first-time buyers into a brand, etc. etc.

Rule #1. Don't buy anything with the word Behringer on it.

AT and Rode both make good stuff, and one can assume that they don't want to make total crap on the low end because they'd want consumers to move up in the line later.

Since you're talking $200 for a stereo pair, I'd actually consider getting a better single mic for that price and learn to record in mono first.

AT is on sale at Sweetwater right now, and I'd say go for an AT 4040 if you could swing $225.00

If you're new to recording, I'd recommend the following, which is a classic "old school" way of recording solo mono instruments:

1. Record Guitar in Mono onto one track in your DAW.

2. Send that track to a Stereo Reverb plug in. Stereo Reverbs can take one in (your Guitar track) and produce a "stereo spread" of Reverb. This is actually what happens in a real-world environment and it used to be standard practice. I think today, with DAWs and plug-ins, people have forgotten (or never learned) how to do this.

3. You return the reverb into the master bus (or another track that sends it there) and balance the dry mono signal in the center image with the "spread" of the reverb to emulate the sense of space.

Working this way will give you an "in the room" feel (assuming you're recording in a home or someplace like that) and teach you not only how to get the best sound on the mono track (where you can really hear what's going on) but how to mix in the reverb as well.

Then later, buy a dedicated stereo pair and keep both your decent quality mono mic, and use the stereo pair - and you can work with various types of recordings and learn stereo recording techniques, hopefully about mono-compatibility, and so on.

My feeling is, if you're going to go through the trouble of recording in stereo, you need to A. Know what you're doing, and B. have some really decent mics to record with. Otherwise, you might as well record in mono (and since a single decent mic can cost "half as much" as a pair...)

Now, there are obviously some decent stereo mics (single body) and things like the handheld recorders that have them built in, but they're usually set to an XY coincident pair which means with a single point source such as guitar, you're really not getting all that much stereo spread anyway (would be more for the room) and you wouldn't want to close mic with them usually, and that configuration is designed to be mono-compatible - might as well do mono!

Microphone choice is very important, but microphone PLACEMENT is a HUGE issue in recording. From that standpoint, just getting something very entry level like the 2020 and just spending 6 months or so just learning where to place it in your environment would be a worthwhile investment.

I see too many people buy $1,000 mic thinking it's going to make them sound good before they even know how to place it (or don't even try moving it around!) and end up selling it becuase they think it's the mic's fault!!!

So if you're at the level you're going to "experiment" and "learn" how to mic - yeah, the 2020 would be OK. If you're already used to doing a bit of mic'ing and are looking to improve your recordings beyond what you can do with placement, I'd be looking more in the 4040 range (LDC or SDC, or even MDC like the 2020 don't really matter too much at this point).

But do yourself a favor and learn mono recording first - it's a valuable tool for all kinds of things!

Lawler
Posts: 793
Joined: Sun Mar 31, 2013 12:36 am

Re: Affordable mic recommendation

Postby Lawler » Thu Dec 01, 2016 3:55 am

Medveman, either of the mikes you mentioned could work well. My suggestion is to position any detailed mic (condenser or ribbon) 2 or 3 ft away and work on your recorded tone by recording and listening back over and over. You may find, as I have, that it's you, not the mic, that makes the quality of sound.

2handband
Posts: 948
Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2015 7:31 pm

Re: Affordable mic recommendation

Postby 2handband » Thu Dec 01, 2016 1:12 pm

If you're thinking of getting a pair of cheap mics you'll do better getting one great mic. I'm a live sound engineer, and when micing acoustic instruments my go-to unit is the Shure Sm-81. You WILL NOT go wrong with this microhone.

LesC
Posts: 51
Joined: Wed Jun 01, 2016 1:21 am
Location: Brampton, Ont. Canada

Re: Affordable mic recommendation

Postby LesC » Thu Dec 01, 2016 5:06 pm

I recently got a Line Audio CM3 and am quite happy with it. It's very inexpensive but has received rave reviews, I think rightfully so. They are made to very close tolerances, so if you get one and like it, you can buy a second one for a stereo pair.

Medveman
Posts: 6
Joined: Wed Nov 23, 2016 10:43 pm

Re: Affordable mic recommendation

Postby Medveman » Fri Dec 02, 2016 8:56 pm

Thank you guys for your input, I really appreciate your reponses.

It seems one better mic is preferred over two inferior ones if the budget is limited and in this case it is. Regarding the sweetwater deal on the AT4040, I am in Europe, enough said. But I agree, for $225 it would be a no brainer. Beyond that price I won't consider a mic affordable, regardless how good is it (SM81). It is simply beyond the limit, I can spend on my spare time hobby.

At this point I think I can spend no more than 200 euros for a single mic. And yes, i have no real experience in micing anything...

What other brands/models should I consider up to this price? Røde NT1/NT1A? sE electronics X1? Shure Sm57? Audio Technica AT2035? Any AKG or Sennheiser?

acmost9
Posts: 162
Joined: Wed Sep 02, 2015 12:32 am

Re: Affordable mic recommendation

Postby acmost9 » Fri Dec 02, 2016 9:39 pm

Medveman wrote:I would like to know about your recommendations on an affordable mic or mics to record classical guitar.
The interface is a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. I have not settled on a mono/stereo setup yet.
Does any of you have experience with the Rode M5 (matched pair) or with the Audio Technica AT2020 as a start?


I have a 2020, it came as an extra promotional item with something I bought a few years ago, me, myself...I wouldn't go out of my way to purchase a 2020. It works though.I used a pair of Rode NT5s on some steel string stuff but not the M5s, they were decent as a pair and I also had Scarlett 2i2 for a little while. I'm just not a fan of the 2020 if that's going to be your only mic for an acoustic guitar. YMMV. Not much help here.

stevel
Posts: 536
Joined: Thu Jan 06, 2011 2:15 pm

Re: Affordable mic recommendation

Postby stevel » Fri Dec 02, 2016 11:39 pm

Medveman wrote:
What other brands/models should I consider up to this price? Røde NT1/NT1A? sE electronics X1? Shure Sm57? Audio Technica AT2035? Any AKG or Sennheiser?


You don't really want a Shure SM57.

There are two types of mics in your price range and for your experience level:

Dynamic Mics

Condenser Mics

Dynamic mics can be OK for recording if you have nothing else. They are also used by pros in certain application when a particular sound is desired. They are also used when SPL is high - such as mic'ing a Guitar or Bass cabinet. Shure SM57s are commonly used in the studio on Snare Drums and Guitar Amps.

They're also used in live situations as well (SM57 and SM58 are the workhorse industry standard for most live mic'ing, and most other brands are simply variations on that established theme).

But on acoustic sources - especially quieter ones, for recording, a dynamic mic is typically not the go to choice unless a very specific sound is desired.

So you want a Condenser.

Condensers come in two basic types - Large Diaphragm or Small Diaphragm (though more recently we've seen more and more "medium diaphragm" mics on the market).

The primary difference is that SDC mics tend to have less off-axis coloration. This, and their smaller size, makes them ideal for use in stereo pairs where you want to capture information "from the sides". They're also great for live use when you don't want a big mic in the way of someone's face or hand, or when you have to mount them on stands above a drum kit - the heavier LDC mics can topple over the stands and damage the mic!

Another consideration though is that apples to apples, SDC have more self-noise (which is an important factor in Classical Guitar recording) however in your price range, none of the mics are going to be as quiet as the upper end models.

Ideally, which you choose would be based on your recording environment.

Looks like 200 Euros is about 213 USD at this moment.

Here's what I feel like you need:

1. Condenser mic.

2. The lowest note on guitar is 82 Hz roughly. While the body itself may produce some lower frequencies that means you need a mic capable of getting down there. So the frequency range you need is at least 80hz to 20,000 hz (20khz).

3. Classical Guitar is a quiet, and somewhat delicate instrument in a lot of ways, and if your recording environment is not 100% noise free, a mic that requires higher gain (SDC) is not as good a choice nor is one with higher self-noise. Likewise, it's imperative that it have a bass cut feature for getting rid of any air, air-handling, rumble, etc. noise. That needs to be at 80hz so it doesn't cut any guitar notes.

The Audio=Technicas are on sale so hard to tell what they usually go for, but the only thing I really see that meets your needs and price range is:

ATM2050.

The ATM 450 would be a good choice as well, though at its current price of 219 it's topping out your limit, and since the 4040 is around 225, you might as well go for that if you can swing the 219.

So the ATM 2050 looks like the most likely candidate to cover your needs and to still be in a reasonable price range where you can get it (Amazon Europe? - it looks like it's $229 usd normally so if you can snatch one on sale...). It has a couple of additional advantages such as switchable polar patterns (which are great to learn and may provide more options for you getting a good sound).

I would dare say though, any mic in this price range that is that feature-laden also probably made some trade-offs in terms of sound quality.

But let's face it, if you're stuck in this price range, you can't expect miracles. Instead I would focus on LEARNING - learning about microphones and how to get the best sound with what you have to work with, learning polar patterns, placement techniques, and so on. So it's a great "learning mic" for not breaking the bank, assuming you can get it at that price where you are.

And the advantage of the 2050 with its bass cut and switchable patterns is that it could be used for other applications as well, which would make it a comparatively inexpensive all-purpose mic for you to learn on. If you upgrade in the future, you will have still gotten your money's worth out of it.

Honestly, any other mic in the price range is going to be a compromise. But I'll also add that I've never heard any of the SE mics personally, and the experience I have with AT and Rode are for mics above your price range. So the 2050 fits your needs "spec" wise - whether or not it gives you the sound you want is another matter.

I'd recommend buying from somewhere that has a return policy that will let you try the mic, see if you like it, and trade it for another if you don't.

Best,
Steve

2handband
Posts: 948
Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2015 7:31 pm

Re: Affordable mic recommendation

Postby 2handband » Sat Dec 03, 2016 3:43 am

Given your price limitations I'd strongly recommend the used market. Hell, almost all of my PA gear was purchased used. I just checked the big auction site and found Sm-81s starting around $150. For that money you probably COULD get your stereo pair and have real pro quality microphones.

Also I'll reiterate what Steve said: DO NOT buy a dynamic mic. I use SM57s to mic guitar amps and snare drums. Never acoustic guitars.

Medveman
Posts: 6
Joined: Wed Nov 23, 2016 10:43 pm

Re: Affordable mic recommendation

Postby Medveman » Wed Dec 07, 2016 12:26 pm

To be honest, I did not expect picking a mic that complex.
I thought that there are best buys for every price range, but apparently it is not the case.
However, I need to get into the recording somehow as I would like to record myself playing. "You cannot improve, what you cannot measure." And a mic is essential for that.

At this point I decided to hold on with the purchase and after adding more money to the budget next month, buying something around the 300-400 usd price range. I prefer buying once. I hope that for this amount of money I might be able to buy a mic that would take me far on my recording journey and I would never need to buy another mic for the same exact purpose, unless going stereo.

As it was suggested I also started checking the used market for midrange and higher end mics. Perhaps something shows up eventually.

Regarding the AT2050, I agree to choose the AT4040 instead, which I'll do I guess ultimately.

Peter

2handband
Posts: 948
Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2015 7:31 pm

Re: Affordable mic recommendation

Postby 2handband » Wed Dec 07, 2016 7:08 pm

Medveman wrote:To be honest, I did not expect picking a mic that complex.
I thought that there are best buys for every price range, but apparently it is not the case.
However, I need to get into the recording somehow as I would like to record myself playing. "You cannot improve, what you cannot measure." And a mic is essential for that.

At this point I decided to hold on with the purchase and after adding more money to the budget next month, buying something around the 300-400 usd price range. I prefer buying once. I hope that for this amount of money I might be able to buy a mic that would take me far on my recording journey and I would never need to buy another mic for the same exact purpose, unless going stereo.

As it was suggested I also started checking the used market for midrange and higher end mics. Perhaps something shows up eventually.

Regarding the AT2050, I agree to choose the AT4040 instead, which I'll do I guess ultimately.

Peter


If all you want is to record your playing so you can evaluate yourself, your phone will work just fine. No need to buy an expensive condenser mic for that.

Medveman
Posts: 6
Joined: Wed Nov 23, 2016 10:43 pm

Re: Affordable mic recommendation

Postby Medveman » Wed Dec 07, 2016 9:22 pm

But that's not all I want... in addition, the G.A.S is strong within me... :-) Seriously, I am pretty sure I can use it for other purposes.

Bill B
Posts: 993
Joined: Wed Dec 26, 2012 2:06 am
Location: Michigan

Re: Affordable mic recommendation

Postby Bill B » Wed Dec 07, 2016 9:44 pm

It doesnt have to be super complicated. Ive used a couple cad gxl studio packs for years. They do pretty good.
2013 Angel Benito Aguado
2005 Ramirez R-2

konstantine
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon Oct 03, 2016 7:08 pm
Location: Berlin

Re: Affordable mic recommendation

Postby konstantine » Wed Dec 07, 2016 11:23 pm

If you are on a tight budget, I advice getting a CM3 pair from Line Audio, they are totally flat and sound very nice on classical guitar. IMO you need to spend a lot more to top them.

stevel
Posts: 536
Joined: Thu Jan 06, 2011 2:15 pm

Re: Affordable mic recommendation

Postby stevel » Thu Dec 08, 2016 12:10 am

Medveman wrote:To be honest, I did not expect picking a mic that complex.


Peter, you know how guitarists here obsess over strings?

That's how recordists obsess over mics!

I'm not sure if you've ever played guitars with picks, but if you have, you'll know that there are thousands of them out there in all kinds of different shapes and styles and thicknesses. They all actually do sound different.

But there's never really a "best" pick. There may be a best pick for a certain guitar, or a best pick for a certain player, and so on.

Same thing with various strings of various tensions on various guitars.

Mics are kind of the same way.

Most people who record even semi-seriously have a "mic locker" with at least "the essentials" - a dynamic or two, a LDC with switchable patterns, a SDC or pair of SDCs, etc.

I think if you can save up a little more and get into the next bracket, you're going to have a lot better sound quality overall.

Do a little research on various mics and learn a little about what's out there. Many mics, like many guitars, are simply variations of a theme. So don't get overwhelmed. What you've got now are a lot of "start up" companies who are taking advantage of the "home producer" market and making what are essentially imitations (and in some cases, intentionally lower-priced) of most of the "classics" (which have taken advantage of their status and become over-priced!).

Here are some great mics that are "little brothers" to them in some cases - they're the same mic just missing a feature or two (which are not always necessary:

Great Classic LDC Mic: AKG C414.

Substitute: AKG 214. (different kind of capsule but designed to sound very similar, no switchable patterns).

Great SDC for single use or stereo pair: Shure KSM 141.

Substitute: KSM 137 (same mic, no switchable patterns).

Great SDC: SM81.

Substitute: Get the SM81 :-)

But you can see in the first two cases, AKG and Shure have made "entry level" versions of their really great mics to help people get a similar sound (sometimes with slight compromises) at a lower price point. They have done this because that's what so many other manufacturers have done as they've tried to "under cut" them. All these newer companies kind of come along and say "let's make something like an AKG C414, but cheaper", or "let's make something like an SM81,but cheaper". Now AKG and Shure make their own cheaper versions :-)

If you can ultimately shoot for the "great" versions (used is a good market as all the producers bought them then found out they had to get a real job to support themselves) but the "little brothers" are an excellent option.

Best,
Steve


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