Natural sounding budget condenser

Discussion in 'Microphones Forum' started by Neil27, Feb 20, 2011.

  1. Neil27

    Neil27

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    Hi there,

    I know it's probably been asked 1000 times before here, but i am looking for a recommendations for a second microphone, i own a SM57 but feel i need something better for recording acoustic guitar and vocals etc.

    I am looking at condenser mics under £150 that are natural and detailed, nothing harsh;

    Studio projects B1/B3 (is there any difference other than polar patterns switch?)
    AT 2035
    AT 2020

    Would anyone recomend any of the above, or have other recomendations?

    Thanks.
  2. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Moderator

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    Classical nylon/gut string or steel string? If steel string then get a SM81. If classical then find a used pair of AKG C391.
  3. Neil27

    Neil27

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    thanks for the rec. I record both types of guitar. both options would be over my budget. unless i get lucky on ebay.

    I have mostly been looking at large diaphragm mics as i figure they will be more versitile in the long run as i need to use it for vocals. plus might try micing guitar cabs or using it as a room mic,

    am i right in thinking a large diaphram wold be better for these and in general, more versitile?
  4. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Has Studio Services

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    A lot depends on the type of acoustic recording environment you have. Using an LDC on an acoustic guitar is very unforgiving of a poor acoustic space, and if your envirnonment falls into this category, you may well be better off with a single or pair of SDCs, or continuing to use your SM57.

    Under studio conditions, vocals are usually recorded with an LDC. Under non-ideal acoustic conditions, I have found that it is usually easier to get away with an LDC on vocals than it is using one on a guitar.

    That said, your £150 budget does not stretch to top quality mics. There are many mics in this price range, a lot of them similar-sounding and Chinese-made. As a personal preference, I would avoid the AKG Cx000 range and also anything from a low-price German manufacturer beginning with B.

    If you are determined to get an LDC, and don't need one immediately, then as you mentioned it may well be worth you while to keep an eye on Ebay and bid sensibly on mics that you know would be good for your purpose. For example, there are some RODE LDCs coming up (NT1-As and NT2-As) that would be worth watching. The NT1-As are either BIN or are likely to finish within your budget, but the NT2-As may go over. There's also an A-T 4033A, which is a versatile good-sounding MDC. However, I'm conscious that in the past when particular items on Ebay have been pointed out in these forums, the Ebay price takes a jump, so I'm merely illustrating the sort of thing you could look for.

    Contributers to these forums are always ready to give an opinion on things such as microphones, so if you see one you like the look of, come back here for some comments before comitting your cash.
  5. heva

    heva

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    I have two SP B1's, not used it very much, and recently got me a Superlux S502 (ORTF stereomic), which I think so far sounds better. I record mostly classical (choir) stuff.
    The B1's to me sound sound shriller/thinner than the (rediculously cheap) S502. which is based on the Superlux S241 mic. So maybe you could consider the S241?
  6. ACIDMAN

    ACIDMAN

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    If you're seriously on a budget then try the Samson C03 large diaphragm multi pattern condenser. Well within your budget and will blow away the 57 !!!!!!
    I've regularly used one of these on vocals, acoustic guitars, violins, guitar amps and even a double bass. And when I've told them how much it cost they don't believe me !!!
    If anyone says they don't like them ask them if they've ACTUALLY TRIED ONE ?
  7. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Moderator

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    I have heard the Samson. You can keep it. The low end on it is flabby and unresponsive and the top end is brittle.
  8. Big K

    Big K

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    ....on vocals, acoustic guitars, violins, guitar amps and even a double bass....

    ------------------------------------------------------

    I am sure it does give you something that can be recognized as whatever instrument and deliveres matching its price, but last time I listened
    it was far from anything I would like to use. Don't expect much better critics for it on the pro audio forum section.
    ;-)
  9. ACIDMAN

    ACIDMAN

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    We are talking "budget" mics here ! It's very good value for money !!!!!!

    I cirtainly wasn't comparing it with a Neuman U87AI

    Perhaps, Big K, no mic under £150 is worthy of the "pro audio forum" but unfortunately some people have a budget to stick to and they want to get into recording because they are as passionate about it as you and I.

    In actual fact, if you want to be blunt and honest, technically you won't get any "natural sounding condenser" for under £150
    And believe it or I can even hear the difference between my C03 and my Neumann TLM 103. And yes, believe it or not, I do prefer my Neumann. However it did cost me more than £150.

    How about coming up with some constructive comments like Boswell did !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 27, 2014
  10. BobRogers

    BobRogers

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    I'll agree with ACIDMAN that you are not going to come up with a "natural sounding" LDC for under $240 (£150 today). As I said in another thread recently, I don't think there is an LDC that is widely liked for under $500. ACIDMAN may be right that the C03 is the best LDC in its price range. But my experience is that there is a bigger gap between the LDCs in this price range and those at $600-800 than between low price SDCs and ribbons and their higher priced competition. Moreover, I am very skeptical about the comment that the C03 "blows away the SM57." I have not tried the C03, so I can't say for sure. But I've tried enough LDCs in this price range and listened to enough recordings made by them to form the basis of an opinion. It is very common for someone to get a cheap LDC and really like the brightness of the mic compared to a 57. If the mic isn't the worst of the lot, it may not even seem that harsh when listened to in isolation. But it will show up as harsh on some things (often vocals) and harshness will build up when it is used on multiple tracks. You will often hear experienced people say, "All of the mics in this price range are crap, but I've had good luck with X." But X changes from person to person, and I've given up on the category. (I've concluded the it was indeed "good luck.") In contrast, good dynamics - like the 57 - are definitely pro quality and can be had for under £150. The best go for under $350.

    In the SDC category the RODE NT5 is under £150, others have recommended others in that price range. The SM81 is a bit more. Yes there is a gap between these mics and DPA and Earthworks, but they are widely regarded as quality mics. SDCs tend to be less forgiving on vocals than either LDCs or dynamics.

    There are also Chinese made ribbon mics on the market like Cascade and Avantone that are in your price range. I've used the Cascade Fat Head and like it on most instruments. I don't like it much on vocals.
  11. ACIDMAN

    ACIDMAN

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    See ! Now that's what I call a good constructive reply !!!!!!! Thanks Bob !

    I may have slightly over reacted with the C03 but I've found,for me anyway, it gives me more flexibility in mixing than the 57 and even picks out some more subtle nuances.

    However,with rock music, I'm still a big fan of the57 on a 6" snare:smile:
  12. Big K

    Big K

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    Now, I can do that, too!

    Constructive criticism:
    Noisy, lacking output, much more uneven and smallish frequency range then described, sound is inadequate... showing the real sonic short commings when hooked up to a great pre-amp.
    If 90 bucks is all you can spend on gear on your way of becomming a passionate Audio Engineer my suggestion is not to buy the Samson C03. Unlike the SM57 you will find it unusable ( as a passionante engineer ), real soon, in pro studio work.

    Non-constructive criticism:
    I'd use it as a door wedge, but for a low budget hobbyist recording the first words of his little baby boy ( which will undoubtably be: Why the C03? ) it seems ok.
    ;-)


    My 2 cents: A good piece of budget gear gets credits from me, anytime. But I cannot hype anything that is not good for studio work just because it is cheap. Some other passionate up and comming Engineer might read this and think it would be a cheap but nice mic ... buys it and spends the rest of his cash on beer, instead of buing something of good and lasting value to his recording setup.
  13. Davedog

    Davedog Moderator

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    Unfortunately, when building these 'budget' condensers, a LOT of the manufacturers decided that voicing them bright and brittle with little or no firmness in the bottom end would sell more mics to the untrained ear.

    They were right.

    I own a few 'budget' condensers, but was very picky in the selection process and NEVER bought into a 'hyped' upper end response. So, all of the mics that I recommend in this category could be considered 'dark' mics. Heck, my U87 is 'dark.....really really detailed and 'dark'...kinda like what your ears hear..

    I found one of those Samson C03's for sale at a shop a while back. Real cheap and I was in a mic buying mood. So I put on some phones and gave it the old counter test. Since I've heard a plethora of all different sorts of mics over these last many years, it was pretty obvious, instantly, what this mic brought to the table.

    Others may find a use for it, but my guess is loading up a bunch of tracks with some of the aspects I heard on that particular mic, a mix engineer would be pulling out all the outboard and software just to get rid of some real crap.

    Better than a 57? Okay, but this is just your opinion. A 57 may not sound HOT or exciting on some instruments and especially solo'd up in a lot of instances....but it'll sit in a dense mix a lot better than a lot of hyped cheap condensers will. It'll take EQ a lot better than most, and through a great preamp is where its reputation really shines. I've heard a lot of the other 57 clone mics and the claims (mostly on the net) of A Better MouseTrap. I own a few of these 57-like mics. Better? No. Different? Yes.

    Now my recommendation for a budget natural sounding LDC.

    ADK. Avantone. 30 series Audio Technica.
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