Discussion in 'Strings' started by Gossling, Oct 11, 2008.

  1. Gossling

    Gossling Guest


    I'm looking to record and amplify my cello. I would prefer to use the same microphone for both purposes, but I'm not sure that that's possible. Don't worry, I'm not expecting professional results, and I'm aware that the microphone isn't the only factor when it comes to recording quality. I will already be spending about 200 dollars for an audio interface (E-MU 0404 USB), so I'm hoping that a decent mic would be enough for demo-quality results.

    I'm hoping to spend no more than 400 dollars on a microphone.

    Microphones I'm considering (open to recommendations):
    - Shure SM81
    - AKG C 1000 S
    - AKG C 3000 B
    - Rode NT1A (would this even work live?)
    - Samson C02 (pair)

    I have a specific question regarding the C 1000 S. It says it can be powered by phantom power or a 9v battery. If I choose to power it with the latter, would the quality or volume drop at all?

    I'm mostly debating between the Shure SM81 and the Samson C02 pair. The Samsons probably aren't as good as the SM81s, but the fact that they're so cheap as a pair (around $120!) makes me wanna spring for them. Would the quality of recordings drastically increase with a pair, using various recording methods? If I have one mic shooting the bridge of the cello, and the other somewhere farther away, wouldn't I be able to get some nice natural reverb? Or, if I was in a nice hall, would I get some natural reverb with the SM81 anyways?

    Any suggestions would be much appreciated.
  2. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Distinguished Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Scotland, UK
    "If I choose to power it with the latter, would the quality or volume drop at all?"
    It shouldn't, not by any noticable amount.
    There's a DI box I have, IIRC the max input volume actually drops when using phantom power, but it's inconsequential. +30 down to +24 or so.

    Just remember that cheap condensers are not always great.

    Oh btw, a condensor is a type of mic that requires power, either from a battery or phantom. Does the EMU 0404 supply phantom and if so, is it the full 48V?
  3. GentleG

    GentleG Guest

    the EMU0404 is great
    I've tried several different usb soundcards, and this one stayed

    I actually wouldn't buy a condenser, but a good dynamic, much easier for live performance
    examples: Beyer M99, Beyer M88, Sennheiser MD421

    I would rather have a SM57 than a cheap condenser live

  4. GeckoMusic

    GeckoMusic Guest

    Dito the SM57 over a cheep condenser live. For sound reinforcement try a dynamic close to the bridge or F hole. If you are using a microphone further away, you are going to have EQ or worse, feedback problems.

    For recording solo violin I like the sound of a SDC near the F hole, and an LDC 12-24" away depending on the room. I would think cello would be similar. Mix to taste. Phase can be a battle here if you are trying to run them both at the same level. Try delaying the SDC to match the time delay added by the LDC. This will fix the phase issue but it will not sound as think.

    As for the actual microphone type... I don't have enough experience with the cello to say.
  5. Gossling

    Gossling Guest

    Thanks everyone!

    Would the Shure SM81 be considered cheap? It runs about about 350 US dollars retail. It says in the product description that it can be used for live sound reinforcement in addition to studio applications. Is that a lie?

    Also, the Samson C02 says it can withstand high SPL levels. Would this prevent feedback and EQ problems? Also, would two Samson C02's be better than a single Shure SM81 in the studio?

    I've read that the Shure SM57 isn't the best mic for the price to be used on cello. Is this information incorrect? I'm sure I'd be able to get listenable results in the studio, but I think the SM81 would actually give really good results. But if you guys say that it won't work live, I guess that rules it out? Would there be any way to get the SM81 to work for live sound reinforcement?

    Would the dynamic mics you mentioned (e.g. Sennheiser MD421m) work as well as, say, the SM81 in the studio? Would the Samson C02 work better than the SM57 in the studio? I have read good things about both the SM81 and Samson C02 in live sound. Not sure if I should trust them.

    Codemonkey, yeah, the 0404 does have 48v phantom power.

    Thanks again.
  6. GentleG

    GentleG Guest

    before I 'll try and answer:

    what's the situation live?
    in a rock band, or a chamber orchestra?
    how big a venue? a stage? etc...

  7. TheBear

    TheBear Guest

    im not sure if i would use a 421 on a cello. the beyers arent a bad idea.

    the C 1000 im a fan of and you might like it.
  8. mwacoustic

    mwacoustic Guest

    High SPL levels just means loud sounds. So they are saying it can be used right up close to a loud amp or drum or something. I don't think a single cello would qualify as "high SPL".

    For feedback prevention, you want a tight cardioid pattern, which I think all the mics mentioned so far do have.

    For about a hundred bucks new, you probably won't regret getting an SM57, even if later you get something else that really makes the cello shine. Use the SM57 for vocals, drums, pretty much anything else. It probably won't suck on the cello.
  9. JoeH

    JoeH Distinguished Member

    Jun 22, 2004
    Philadelphia, PA/ Greenville, DE
    Home Page:
    Don't use a dynamic on the cello, unless you're really in a bind. They just don't have the response and detail you need for properly picking up the instrument's subtleties. (unless you're just looking for total frugality, in a situation where good, detailed sound doesn't matter, but volume does.)

    You haven't specified how/where this will be used, so to cover all bases, you should really have two mic systems (the preamp you mention has two channels, so you're probably covered this way.)

    One SD contact mic - depending on your budget, you have a wide variety of manufacturer's to choose from: DPA on the high end, down thru EV to AudioTechnica to Samson, etc. There are lot of good clip-on pickup type mics out there that won't break your budget. Start here. Ask around with pro cello players, esp ones that tour and are used to this sort of thing all the time. AMT microphones in NJ ( http://www.appliedmicrophone.com/ ) makes custom mics for just this sort of thing, but they're pretty pricy. You get what you pay for, of course.

    Consider a nice mid-priced LD microphone for secondary (natural) pickup, like the AT4040, 4033, etc. The SM81 is ok, but a bit big and obtrusive (visually) for what you're looking to do. Don't get me wrong, its' a fine mic indeed (I've used it for just about everything at one time or another in a pinch, although I wouldn't grab it first for cello....) Invest in a short mic stand and put the mic about 2-3 feet out, about the same height as where your bow contacts the strings, with the capsule looking at the instrument on the same angle as the sound board/face of the instrument.

    You can always feed both channels to the house sound person and let THEM choose the best for the FOH mix, and run the digital out to your recording rig and mix to taste later on in the studio/at home.

    Don't be foolish and skimp where it counts: Good mics for your sound.

    And put that SM57 to use where it belongs; on a snare or guitar cabinet. :cool:
  10. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Fredericksburg, VA
    I would agree - a 57 on a cello...I wouldn't do it. Of course, it really does depend on what you're doing.

    Personally, I'd go with a Beyer M160 first (a little higher than your budget) or a Sennheiser MD441 (also a little pricier). Otherwise, maybe the DPA 4061 (only a tad pricier...)

    The only dynamic other than the Senn that I would consider would be maybe an Audix OM-5 - very well voiced for cello.

    A great mic for live cello is the Josephson series as well.

    Before we go too far, it might be good to find out the type of music.

  11. Gossling

    Gossling Guest

    Thanks everyone.

    I will not need a lot of volume for my live sound reinforcement. I will never be around hard drums, loud electric guitars, etc. Usually I'll be on stage with a pianist, a couple of strings, a sax, etc. Not loud. Think jazz volume. They will not be in huge arenas or stadiums. Just small auditoriums, churches, etc.

    If I need more volume in the distant future (which may be the case) I'll buy either a contact (AKG C419/519) or vibration (AKG C411) mic to add some meat to my natural microphone. But for now, I just need a natural sounding microphone for studio applications which can also be used for live sound reinforcement.

    I have asked cellists, and they have recommended mics that are way out of my range (AKG C414) or just plain crappy (Fishman Pickup...). I have read about the AMT, but it is much too expensive to only be used for live sound.

    Besides the size and look, would the SM81 reproduce the cello's sound better than the AT4040?

    One additional question: If I were to buy a contact mic (specifically the AKG C419 or C519) later on, could I use this in the studio in addition to my natural mic? The contact mic would probably get a more aggressive sound, which could mix well with the airy sound of the natural mic, right? If this were the case, I would probably go with the contact mic (as opposed to vibration pickup) when I need more volume for live sound. Otherwise, I would go with the vibration pickup because they are highly resistant to feedback and easier to EQ and modify with effects.

    Also, would it be cheaper to rent a microphone in addition to whatever microphone I purchase, and record my cello (for college applications) with piano accompaniment or just go to a studio? I know it depends on the mic and the studio, but I would estimate a good 500 dollar mic (or two) to rent vs. a decent low-budget recording studio.

    Cucco, I'm pretty sure all of those microphones are out of my range. Any cheaper alternatives?

    Thanks again, everyone, you've all been a big help.
  12. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Fredericksburg, VA
    regarding the Shure versus the AT, the shure is going to be much better at rejection of feedback. Much much better.
  13. mwacoustic

    mwacoustic Guest

    Just to clarify my previous post - I only advocated the 57 as a generally good mic to have around. Surely there are others better for cello, esp recording, and on that point I defer to Joe and Cucco.
  14. GentleG

    GentleG Guest

    ah, I see, Jazz

    well then it's primarily a matter of keeping the sax out of your mic.
    so feel free to use a condenser with a tight pattern.
    or maybe a ribbon like the Beyer M160

  15. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Dec 12, 2001
    Oberlin, OH
    Home Page:
    If you are playing cello in a jazz situation this may or may not work for you or for what you want to do.

    Take a small diameter microphone (see http://www.locationsound.com/PDF_2004/quickbrowse/13_lavalier_microphones.pdf) and put some foam rubber around it and place it in your "f" hole at the top or the bottom of the "f" hole. We did this a couple of times when providing concert sound for a cellist and a large ensemble. YMMV. Make sure the foam rubber is all the way around the microphone and that the microphone does not contact the cello at all. Countryman makes some very good microphones for this.

    Best of luck!

    THIS IS NOT IDEAL BUT IT WORKS AND WORKS WELL in real world situations.

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