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General Purpose Condenser Mic; what one?

Discussion in 'Microphones' started by jdhughes, May 24, 2009.

  1. jdhughes

    jdhughes Guest

    Hey, I've been using a MXL 990 and 991 condenser mics to do most of my recording. I use them from drums to vocals. The only thing is that I realized that they are just not that good. Sounds seem too muddy and they seem to need so much EQ, and by that time it sounds totally different from what I started with. So my question is, what is the best/most standard condenser mic that I could use for most applications, and is in the 200-300 dollar price range? Thanks!
  2. ferociousj

    ferociousj Active Member

    Hmm I used the 990 to record and I thought it sounded fine actually. And the room I was recording in didn't even have very good acoustics. Sure I had to EQ it but theres nothing wrong with EQ. I personally think that its the acoustics of the room that make the biggest difference. I've gotten so many different sounds out of my 990 based on which room its in. How does your room sound?
    Sorry I can't really answer your question though because Im cheap and never shop in that price range.
  3. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    In my limited experience there are very few "general purpose" condenser mics, and there are no $200-300 general purpose condenser mics. The MXL get about as much love around here any as cheap condensers. But (without having used them) I'm guessing that's because they sound OK on a fair number of sources and good on a handful. I have some condensers at close to your price range- the Rode NT5-55 and the Shure SM81. They do a very good job on a lot of sources (though not as good as mics costing 3-5 times as much) but I would not call them "general purpose."

    The only "general purpose" mics in the $100-300 range are dynamics - the SM57 and its competitors. They sound great on a few things, good on some more, and at least OK on just about everything. They may miss a lot of a performance, but they don't add bad sounds. The SM57 is a "first, do no harm" mic. You shold own at least one.

    P.S. Read the thread on the AKG C414. That's probably a "standard" general purpose condenser. Still has plenty of places where people can pick holes in its performance. Not in the $200-300 range.

    P.P.S. Having only read four lines of text from you I'll make this bet: the problem isn't the mic. Top three candidates: 1) Performance 2) Recording Technique 3) Room Acoustics. Microphones are about 8th.
  4. jammster

    jammster Active Member

    True, the MXL 990 + 991 are rather lacking in luster IMO. I had gotten turned on to the special at "Buffoon Center" a number of years ago.

    Turned out I was very unimpressed by the quality of the 990+991 mics.

    If you really want a good tone I would check out an Oktava MK 319. Its really a matter of taste.

    Remember that nowadays you cannot return a mic once you buy it, they assume you've used it and health law now prevents any returns of mics.

    You may go to your local "Baffoon center" and try them all out. If you find one you like you may take some time to do online research before you buy.
  5. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    In the 200 to 300 dollar range there are SO many mics. A lot of them not a lot better than the 100 to 200 dollar range.

    Heres a couple. ADK Hamburg or Vienna.

    Octava MK319.

    Kel HM 7, HM 3, HM 1

    Studio Projects B1, B3.
  6. FlyBass

    FlyBass Active Member

    I second ADK microphones; I love my Hamburg. Also you might look at a Rode NT1-A or an AT 4040. And as BobRogers points out, the Shure SM-57 is a true utility player.

    Maybe some more information about your set up. What is your interface, preamp and recording environment? I'd love to hear samples of BEFORE EQ and AFTER EQ using your MLX mic on vocal recordings -- they may be revealing as to what you are looking for in terms of sound or technique.

    A shiny new microphone isn't always the answer.
  7. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    I truly like mt Rode NT-2's for the "economy"/"budget" range in the condenser mic category.

    I've not heard the newer NT-2A, so I can't/won't speak for it.

    The original NT-2A is a bit of a sleeper, in that it didn't get the notoriety of the NT-1 or the rest of the initial offering class.

    It's got a presence boost, so you have to be aware that it's there. But all in all, the mid low's and low's are respectable and reasonably well behaved. Actually more so than the venerable favorites of many folks; the AT 4030 and it's close cousin, the 4033.

    The roll-off and pad are quite accurate and relatively benign as far as signal degradation.

    The multi-pattern selection isn't as wide as say a 414, but it it doesn't cost what a 414 does either... so there ya go.

    I've used it on male tenor, baritone and bass vox with mixed results. Female vox are another thing altogether. It seems to readily lend itself to pretty much flatter any female voice except any kind of voice that has that "Bonnie Raitt" type of raspiness. It just doesn't seem to quite do that type of harmonic content justice. It captures it, but it's just not quite capable of making that voice very strong in a mix.

    I've used it on bass a couple of times, with good results. Now that I have the Reddi's and the P47's, I seriously doubt I'll be using it in that application any more.

    They're quite serviceable as a mono or stereo spaced array drum mic. They don't quite have the ballz to handle a really strong drummer as overheads, but I think they'd do quite well in a jazz situation.

    I'm not much of a fan of the NT-2 in front of a big phat plank spanker rig like a Marshall or Orange stack, but in front of a twin or a smaller club rig... it does ok. It's just a bit too easy to overdrive the capsule for close micing.

    On acoustic instruments is where I think the NT-2 shows what it's made of. Horns and Sax's really capture well with a good pre. I can't wait to try it with a really good pre, like my 1073's. or the quad 8's. Although, I might actually find out that the noise floor of the thing isn't all that great... which is typical of the lower end/budget mic's.

    All in all... I'd say give one a go if you can find it on the used market.
  8. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Max brings up a good point that isnt addressed as much as it should be....noise floor. With a high-gain preamp of the very clear type...you can find with these less expensive designs, the noisefloor is increased in some models almost to the point of unusable.

    Of course if you're used to mixing 90 tracks then the noisefloor of one little ole mic isnt going to mean much...or is it?

    Point being that the noisefloor of a mic isnt a lot of trouble with semi-pro gear. You just dont have to deal with it due to a lot of other aspects.

    And then you get a taste of really high-end stuff and the wonderment of the depth and width of the image and that huge sound pallette makes you wonder if you've really heard music at all!

    The Rodes are quiet. As are the ADK's , the Studio Projects, the Kel's, the Groove Tube's...... The Octavas can be mic to mic so auditioning is in order unless you buy from one of the dealers who does the weeding out for you. The MXL's are also noisy until you get to the upper end of their mics. Some of the Nady mics are okay, from what I hear, good mics to DIY upgrades on. A lot of info on the net about this.

    I have heard a Michael Jolly upgraded Octava and it is a very very good mic. I was going to do my 319 but I apparently have the Wednesday built one from the Russian factory so other than a decent preamp it needs nothing and compares to my U87 in tonal character. YMMV for sure on this one!

    So noisefloor is something to consider when buying less expensive mics and as I have said, some companies make this an important part of their design philosophies ,while others simply hang a capsule behind a spitscreen on top of some easily assembled electronics, make it look like a lot of high-end stuff and pawn it off at what seems like a rock-bottom price and you, as uneducated consumers, snatch them up by the boat load. And while they mostly do pass a signal, theres alot to be said about the degredation of that signal and now we're hearing more and more people confessing to the fact that their recordings have suffered for this.

    Sure, budget is ALWAYS a big consideration when buying the mic. A lot of people approach this is the bassakwards way. They think that the electronics is the thing to spend the money on when in FACT, the mic is the first line in capturing that sterling performance of your hit song.

    If you can use a preamp or some kind of interface with pres that doesnt add a lot of noise at a decent level, then why would using a mic that picks up, not only the source its aimed at, but also all sorts of room anomolies and truck traffic five blocks away simply because the design is poor and the components arent any quality at all. Sensitivity in a controlled manner is a good thing for a mic. Sensitivity simply to be loud isnt. Added noisefloor due to poor design isnt either.

    A few dollars more can move your recordings to a higher quality plane and all it takes is research and listening to the folks who have been there done that and are willing to share this knowledge.
  9. jammster

    jammster Active Member

    Dave, can you tell us what it means to have a "Wednesday built one" , I am not sure I understand your lingo.
  10. jg49

    jg49 Well-Known Member

    It usually means a good day at the factory. RAther than a hungover Monday or can't wait to leave Fri.
  11. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    The three MXL mic's that I have used and thought passable were the 603s/604, the 2010 multi pattern and the 2003. I wouldn't consider them baseline microphones though.

    My personal baseline microphones are C414, C391/394/392, MD 421, RE27, and SM57. There are other microphones that I own or have access to that I like better for particular applications but these are what I consider my minimum standard references.

    I like the Rodes NT5/55 and I like the Oktava recordings some friends have sent me. I also like the AT4051 for SDC.

    Hopefully next year I will begin my self education in ribbons since Cucco keeps taunting me with his collection ^_^
  12. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    I told you guys we needed that cheap condenser sticky. 8)
  13. MadMax

    MadMax Well-Known Member

    Sadly, DD's spot on about noise floor and something that should be priority, but it's the usual Wal-Mart mentality of "Low Price Above All Else" that gets folks to buy whatever they can afford, as long as they can have it now - over realizing that a decent quality tool is better (and cheaper) bought once than buying cheap junk tools twice.
  14. jammster

    jammster Active Member

    Pardon my Rant please?

    I agree Max, Wal-Mart shopping is conquered the heart of America. Does your average American really give a S&!#? I argue this may be contributing to our economic downfall.

    Personally, I don't shop at wal-mart for anything because I dislike the attitude. Cheap wages for workers while the sale of items made in china continue.

    In the construction trade, plywood made in China will instantly make you sick, I've had it happen to me and others I know. I make sure when I buy plywood now it does not say China on it!

    Another problem has popped up with Chinese made drywall that I am sure some of you have heard about.


    There are many items made in China to have a short life span and will be ending up serving as land fill material in the years to come. There are quality items too, which is scary! IMO its time to take responsibility for our own actions.

    If you have a brain, use it. Don't support cheap, unfair wages to workers in other countries to justify your savings. There is no savings there, its all a big deceptive lie made to destroy our ability to compete in the world marketplace!

    Rant over!
  15. jdhughes

    jdhughes Guest

    Hey thanks for all of the response...now I can sort of make up my mind.

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