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Good Budget Stereo Mic for Recording Piano

Discussion in 'Piano' started by Unregistered, Jan 6, 2012.

  1. Unregistered

    Unregistered Guest

    I have a quick question for someone who may have some suggestions or knowledge in this area. I have been playing piano for a while and I would like to start recording my playing. I would like to say this: I am not looking to set up a home recording studio, at least not now; I would have no room anyway, most of it is taken up by the upright piano itself. I would just like something that is simple, no mixing equipment or anything. The only thing about the mic I must have is that it has to be stereo and within budget range. Preferably the mic should be usb and be recognized by my computer as sound input. I have seen many stereo usb mics but I'm sure that though they would be good for voice and not piano, or at least not ideal. There's probably a difference between voice and piano recording that a mic that would be good for voice recording would not be so for piano, such as limiting or compressing (again, I have no knowledge in this area). One thing to note (not sure if it makes any difference) is that I own a studio upright piano and it is against an inside wall. Another thing to note is that the entire front does come off, not just the top, so I'm thinking that might make it easier, maybe? Basically, I would like it to be simple, budget friendly, and at least decent quality for the price. Basically my budget is this: the cheaper the better, money-wise, and at most $150, maybe slightly higher if it meant much better. Any help will be appreciated! :)
     
  2. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Zoom H4n. A usb mic or one of those sony stereo mics is insufficient. Transfer to your computer via flash card or usb cable.

    Sent from my DROIDX using Tapatalk
     
  3. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    You are wrong in your assumptions about USB microphones more appropriate for vocals than for pianos. That's simply not the case. They may have a contoured frequency response as many quality $3000 microphones have. Some are razor flat. Some have a presence rise. And that presence rise may be exactly what you need. Especially since you indicated you don't want a home studio, not going to install a home studio and want something usable in compact.

    Secondly, you generally will not find any stereo USB microphones. So this would require 2 USB microphones on stands. You can also utilize a special stereo mic bar on which to mount them to a single stand. And who told you you needed a stereo microphone?? You don't. You need 2 microphones, yes but they don't have to be in a single little package. The suggestion of the Zoom H. 4 is a good suggestion. And on that, you have a reasonable pair of small diaphragm condenser microphones in an XY configuration. Of course it would have to sit right in front of your face with your opened up upright piano. That could be wholly impractical for you? And so having a single microphone off to your left and a single microphone off to your right will simply provide you with an ultra-wide stereo soundscape. There aren't many of us that utilize an AT or Sony crappy stereo microphone on our piano's. Instead, you'll find us with at least 2 if not 4 or, 6 microphones on and around a piano. Otherwise, a zoom H 2 sitting on top of your upright would be all that you would need.

    Then you take that solid-state memory card and either inserted in your computer or just take the USB output from the device to copy those digitally recorded data tracks into your computer. Then you can further manipulate the sound any way you choose, burn a CD, create MP3's for upload to the Internet, flash, MP 4, etc. for websites and/or e-mail purposes.

    If you had me come to your house to make a recording, I would slap up a couple of SHURE SM 81's into my API preamps and into the computer. That's a home studio that sits on a chair next to you. And don't you have a laptop? So all you need is another little 3 in.² box to go with your laptop. And a couple of microphones. And you don't have room for that?

    So my question to you is do you or do you not want to make a reasonable professional recording of your piano?
    Mx. Remy Ann David
     
  4. Unregistered

    Unregistered Guest

    Thanks for the reply!! Yes is my answer, I would like it to ne as good as possible within reason. There is plenty of room to set up a chair with equipment, but it would have to be somehing I could store away. I would have never gussed two separate mics actually, like I said I'm completely new to this. I only suggested using my laptop becuase it literally sits right next to my piano and I thought ot would be easier that way? How would I set it up so both mics would be recorded at the same time?
     
  5. Unregistered

    Unregistered Guest

    Also, I could deal with it right in my face, as any songs I would record would be memorized. So is the H2N stero? Again I don't expect it to sound profesional from something inexpensive. I don't nessesarily need a wide stereo soundscape, just enough so it dosn't sound so dry like mono recorders.
     
  6. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    The Zoom H4n can be a stereo mic and/or a mono mic. If you want to sing then get yourself a Shure SM58 and two stands and a microphone cable. Set the Zoom up to record it's in built stereo pair of the piano and then plug the SM58 into one of the bottom preamp ports and adjust the level to not max out. One unit-easy setup-quality dependant on your performance.
     
  7. Unregistered

    Unregistered Guest

    Unfortunately, the H4N is a little out of my price range. Anyway, if I was going to spend that kind of money, I would just get two mono mics to create a woder stereo soundscape. What about the H2n? That is in my price range. Is it stereo and is it basically a similar model to tbe H4n?
     
  8. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    For vocals you want mono and not stereo. The H2 only does stereo. It is decent but not as capable as the H4n.
     
  9. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    The H 2 while it only can record from its XY stereo microphone, after you dump it into software, you could eliminate one of the microphones to create a mono vocal track in software. While having recorded the piano in stereo, first. Then you can utilize it as a USB computer audio device to record your vocals with software into the computer. Then you would mix in the computer to develop your finished stereo mix which you could then Master in software to complete your project. And it will all sit next to you on a chair and be easily Stoabel. And voilà, you've got it.

    Wasn't that easy?
    Mx. Remy Ann David
     
  10. Unregistered

    Unregistered Guest

    Yes, I think the H2 will be fully capable of achoeving what I want, hough I will take suggestions still as it will be a few weeks until I make my final decision. Also, by the way, I am NOT looking to record voice as of now, just piano. So as long as the piano dosn't sound distorted or fuzzy, the H2 I believe would be fine. Thanks!
     
  11. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Just to verify your decision-making, the H 2 should do you well. But you will want to experiment a little bit with placement. It may never sound quite like a studio recording in and by itself without a little help from some software. Even then, you will be dealing with some compromises. But it shouldn't sound like dreck (crap). Though you may also be amazed that it doesn't give you a wide stereo piano recording. XY microphones while they can provide excellent stereo imaging can also sound rather monaural (Mono) like depending upon the application. They put those microphones together that closely in XY to prevent phase cancellation from occurring. The further apart they are, the wider the stereo image and the greater chances of hearing anomalies from phase cancellation occurring. The exception to that rule is MS. MS stereo microphones work on a different principle and offer an adjustable stereo width without any fear of a phase cancellation. That's because it's all based upon phase cancellation to create the stereo image to begin with. And when you collapse to Mono, the stereo portion is electrically eliminated yielding only the front center pointing directional cardioid microphone. But there aren't any solid-state recorders made with anything other than XY microphones.

    I will also point out that should you start to record vocals, XY can sound nice. It will sound nice if you'd never turn your head back or fourth. Because if you do, people listening with headphones on standing up, will generally fall over to one side or the other when your head turns. And that's the reason why we record vocals as a single track in Mono to be panned to the 12 o'clock high position equally between left & right channels. So then if you move your head back and forth, left to right, the image stays right where it's supposed to be, front and center. So when recording vocals with your XY microphone, you may want to favor the directional pattern to be singing more towards one microphone than the other. When you transfer that into the computer as a stereo track, you'll simply eliminate the channel of the microphone you weren't favoring or singing into. And you have to do that with your software. There are generally presets that allow for that. So you could take the left channel of the XY microphone that you have sung into and just a sign that channel to both left & right channels in your software as a dual mono track. Conversely, you could just tell your software to just create a single mono track from the left channel of what you transferred in that was stereo but not the kind of stereo as I mentioned. In that respect, your piano will appear in stereo and your vocal should appear 12 o'clock high in Mono (dual channel mono or single channel mono it doesn't matter). I know, a difficult image in your head to perceive right now until you start doing this. And we'll still be here to help you when you do that.

    I'm always thinking about the unthinkable since I only have part of my brain to think with. It's true.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
     
  12. Adam Worth

    Adam Worth Active Member

    OK...first of all...at a budget of 150$ there is no such thing as a voice/piano/guitar/etc microphone. They might be called that...but they do not capture the frequency in a professional way. Secondly...be more concerned on how you will EQ or master the sound. Even though getting a clear input is the most important, when you're on a budget it is more important to properly edit the track than to have the so-called specialized equipment. Hope this helps!
    ________________________________
    Adam Worth
    purchase pianos
    digital piano
     
  13. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Sorry to say this but Adam is a little confused. At $150 there absolutely is a voice/piano/guitar/etc. microphone. Not sure where Adam got his information from or didn't get his information from? A simple SHURE SM57 can and does fill all of those requirements in a professional way. The only reason why Adam me feel the way he does is because he has not yet learned how to best use a SM57. Even cheap condenser microphones for that same price can also fill the bill. Because it's not really what you have but how you use it that makes all the difference. And in many recording situations, you shouldn't even grab at the equalizer. In fact, a lot of good recordings never require an equalizer. It only requires proper placement of the microphone in which you're using. This is how bad and misinformation gets around where people and believe it is gospel. It ain't. Good engineers can get beautiful recordings with even some of the worst junk equipment. And I demonstrate that just like that for people that believe what people like Adam have to say. In fact I get downright angry over this kind of misinformation. This is the voice of inexperience that is trying to lead you down a misinformed path. Now I'm not exactly angry at Adam. He only knows what he doesn't know. I don't post every single recording I've ever done but I could. And in those recordings, you would understand how a five dollar integrated circuit chip microphone preamp and a $50 microphone can still yield professional results in comparison to my + $3000 microphone and $1500 preamp. And I'm not kidding. A great guitarist will always sound like a great guitarist even if they are not using a great guitar. That's because it's not what you have but what you do with it that counts. I can play you a recording that I made when I was 14 years old with 3 very cheap dynamic microphones and a consumer Sony home tape recorder that would blow your socks off. Conversely, I could play for you a student's recording made on my $100,000 vintage British console with over $30,000 worth of microphones in use at it will sound like crap. And no amount of grabbing at equalizers would change that. There is theory and then there is practice and practice and practice and that's how anybody gets to be good. So please believe me when I tell you with a few SM57's & a dirt cheap Behringer mixer you too can make very professional sounding recordings. Even with less than a stellar sounding $80 USB computer audio interface. This kind of continual poppycock only fuels a screwball mindset that only expensive equipment will yield good recordings. Many great rock 'n roll recordings use an abundance of SM57's. Of course a SM57 into a better preamp will in fact sound sweeter than a five dollar preamp. But the five dollar preamp can still provide for a fully professional sounding recording and I can prove that as well. Perhaps in Romania where Adam resides, the power grid may be rife with poor regulation and terrible radiofrequency interference, spikes and surges that can and does affect equipment. And so, Adam may have run into these issues? But even with that kind of scenario, there are devices to filter and clean the power that will make all equipment sound and Ron much better. I also don't know what Adam's experience level may be? Mine spans over 40 years of doing this on a professional level. From home recordings, to studio recordings, two major albums with multiple major award nomination, to 20 years spent working for one of the greatest American radio and television networks. So you can believe those people who have not progressed in their professional understanding of what they're doing. But you can also believe those that have had an illustrious career with a major track record. It's up to you if you're going to make a good recording with whatever tools you have at hand. And with lesser quality equipment comes a greater challenge that will only make you a better engineer in the end.

    No offense to Adam
    Mx. Remy Ann David
     
  14. Adam Worth

    Adam Worth Active Member

    No problem. It's my personal opinion. I agree that the SM57 is a great microphone that can have great results....I was just trying to stress the fact that the microphone is nothing without a quality Sound Card/Mixer/DAW and most importantly without the know-how of positioning and exploiting it to the maximum. I totally agree with you in this respect, I just didn't want people to think that microphones are the most important part of a recording, of that they can make such a big difference. When someone tells me that they want to buy a specialized mic...I assume that they consider that this is the solution to all their problems.

    And yes...the power grid here is terrible!:))

    My experience is in no way close to yours and I agree with most of the things you said but I analyzed the problem from an absolute beginners perspective. There are a lot of people who overestimate the functionality of microphones. I also use Behringer and cheap Samson condensers and I am satisfied.

    Hope you have a great day and thank you for the elaborate response!:D
     
  15. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Many of those inexpensive microphones do provide one a good working knowledge of what all these various types have to offer. Condensers along with dynamics & ribbon microphone technology always help to expand ones horizons. I do have a pair of cheap $80 each Samson condenser microphones which I have used right alongside my Neumann 67's & 87's. And on those real budget jobs (meaning the cheap ones) where I don't want to risk having a +3000 & + $4000 destroyed from a raucous rock 'n roll festival, those 67/87 looking $80 Samson's workout just great. And even my Radio Shaft $30 PZM's I still utilize which are more than 20 years old. Because they actually sound great. And that's because those cheap Taiwanese capsules utilized in those microphones are actually the same and identical capsules used in their + $300 Crown manufactured originals. It's true, I spoke to Crown on the phone about that years ago. And they provided me with that actual information. Which is why a lot of these inexpensive Chinese knockoffs can do so well and actually be so valuable as a creative tool. So one should not be embarrassed by utilizing these incredible bargain microphones. Are they as good and as pristine as their very costly and expensive cousins? Not exactly but it's only rock 'n roll, it's only rock 'n roll and I like it, like it, yes I do. (Mick Jagger 1970s) And that's the name of that tune quite literally. And is so along with those microphones even budget preamps can perform and provide for great sound. Many of my earlier recordings from the 1980s sound fabulous where only a five dollar 5534 IC chip microphone preamp was utilized and I still love those recordings I made with them. I still listen to them all the time. And even those cheap IC chips were utilized in many of the great and famous consoles such as Neve, SSL, MCI, SoundCraft, SoundTracs, Sphere, Trident, etc.. And there are even nicer sounding inexpensive and newer IC chips made today that provide for an even higher-quality of inexpensive microphone preamps. Because it's not what you've got but what you do with it that counts. It's the understanding of their limitations that makes a huge difference. And that only comes through listening and experience. So never belittle what you have or what you use. That's the unprofessional thing to do. Professionals can make good sound with virtually anything. And that's strictly in your hands and not the specifications.

    I only specify good engineering and performance value.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
     

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