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Classical flautist unfamiliar with recording needs help with mic purchase!

Discussion in 'Recording' started by lovebird, Dec 17, 2011.

  1. lovebird

    lovebird Active Member

    Hello, I am a classical flautist, and I would really appreciate any advice you could give me. I would like to buy a USB microphone for casual recording that would be appropriate for classical flute. I am addicted to beautiful, pure tone, so sound quality is extremely important. Now for the bad news- I am looking for something preferably under $150. I realize that my expectations are exceeding my budget, but I am hoping there might be a reasonably priced microphone for my needs out there... somewhere!?! I read an online article on a recording site written by a flautist who recommended a ribbon mic for classical flute. Is this my best bet? If so, what models would you recommend, and what else would I have to buy in order to record with it? I am currently using a Macbook. Thank you very much for any assistance you can offer!
  2. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Well a $150 budget is going to be tough to work with. If you are addicted to pure, beautiful tone expect some serious withdrawal symptoms.

    One option is to record to a portable flash recorder, then transfer the audio file to your Macbook for editing and burning to CD. I'm not familiar with the under $150 recorders, but Zoom's more expensive recorders get good reviews here and elsewhere. I consider this the best very inexpensive option. Even if you move on to a better recording system, a flash recorder has a lot of uses for a musician.

    I don't know of a USB mic that has a reputation for excellent audio quality (at any price.) That doesn't mean there are none out there, but I'm skeptical.

    The most common basic computer recording setups use a microphone into an "audio interface" that includes one or more microphone preamps, an analog to digital (AD) converter, and a connection to the computer via USB or Firewire. (The interface usually has a DA converter and connections for monitors.) There really isn't any way I know of to get both a mic and an interface new for $150. Should you decide to increase your budget I would recommend looking at the Cascade ribbon mics. There are, of course, better ribbon mics for more money, but Cascade has low priced mics that are not a waste of money. I really don't know enough about the cheapest interfaces to make a suggestion. Note that you will need a mic stand and cables for a system like this. Portable flash recorders can often be mounted on a camera tripod.
  3. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    I'm agreed with Bob. The best USB mic is going to sound harsh and sibilant on a flute. Ribbon mics are a great choice for high winds as long as they are positioned away from air/breathing. That could simply mean positioning above aiming down. Cheap interface....hmmm.....pure tone......er.........fail. Apogee Solo or Duet or RME Babyface are your pure sound options. Bob you think the Avantone might be better than the Cascade?
  4. lovebird

    lovebird Active Member

    Thanks for your help. I had a feeling that there would be very few, if any options out there that would fall within my budget. I would love to purchase a higher quality outfit, but that is just not feasible at this point. Do you think a USB mic would work in an open space like a church if the mic was placed at least a few feet away? Thanks again for your help ; )
  5. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    The prices go Cascade Fat Head $175 / Avantone CR-14 $259. To me, the extra money is worth it for the Avantone, but I think the Cascade is a good mic for the price, and I don't mind recommending it to anyone on a very tight budget. The Royer 101 ($799) and the Beyer 160 or 130 ($699) would be better still.
  6. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Being a flautist myself, I have tried many different mics for both recording (and PA), and I really would not use a low-cost condenser if you want a recording that does not grate on the ear. Although a lot depends on the acoustics of the environment in which you are performing and the degree of visual clutter that can be tolerated (e.g. in a public performance), you need to go with high-quality condensers or ribbons to get the best results.

    Below that level, I've had acceptable results from a Beyer M88 dynamic positioned carefully on a boom projecting from behind over the right shoulder, and set about 15" - 18" from the instrument. If the acoustic can take it and the performer is playing an open-hole flute, a Shure SM81 condenser can work in a similar fashion if positioned at a slightly greater distance.

    Any miking of this sort does mean that the player has to stand fairly still to avoid tonal variations through natural movement, and this does not come easy in a public performance.

    Once you are in a postion to capture a good microphone signal, there are several medium-cost USB interfaces that would be adequate for recording. At the upper end of this scale, the RME BabyFace stands out. Again, I would avoid the low-cost units, since a solo flute waveform seems to be particularly difficult for these units to record in a way that does not tire the ear on the resulting recording.

    I don't think a flash recorder is not going to help you with this type of project, unless you get something like the Zoom H4N and use external mics. Note that many external ribbon mics do not produce enough output for these portable recorders to give a result that has an acceptably low level of equipment noise.

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