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Help pick beginner recording equipment

Discussion in 'Recording' started by New Guy, Feb 15, 2013.

  1. New Guy

    New Guy Guest

    Just beginning to get into recording. Looking to record some of my own music.
    Here's what I am working with:
    PC running Windows 7 Home Premium
    AMD Athlon II X2 215 processor 2.70 GHz 64-bit
    8 GB RAM (can increase if significantly improves quality)

    For DAW, I plan to use Audacity or LMMS for now.
    Just need to pick the best audio interface I can get right now. Trying to decide myself, but would be helpful if those more knowledgeable in this stuff help me pick the best out of the bunch.
    My main goal is to get the best, clear, good sound recordings for what I can afford.
    Please no comments saying you can't get any good quality for that cheap. I know I should save up for better gear, but I am deciding to get gear now. If you are not going to be helpful, please don't bother.

    The microphones I am still deciding on. Recommendations are appreciated, under $80 each please (Dynamic and Condenser XLR). Yes, I know, I am very "cheap", not everyone has the luxury to spend so much.
    I want the interface to connect through USB. Prefer to not have to install a card into my actual computer, like a internal soundcard.
    Want at least 1 XLR mic input, but prefer 2 XLR inputs. Has to have +48v phantom power (all the ones I will list have phantom power). Still not 100% sure what a preamp is, but I supposed it would be useful if it included a built-in one. All extras are just a bonus. All I plan to record and hook up is my vocals, a ukulele and a acoustic guitar, all separately plus my headset (don't have monitors/speakers yet, but would like the posibilty to set up in the future).
    So out of these options, which one should I get for the best, clear, good sound recording? I will list the price I can get the interface for, but is not a deciding factor as all I will list are potential ones I would buy. So I basically know the features, but the actual specs of the product determining the quality of the product, I am not sure of. Looking for a good interface under $110. If there are more channel interfaces, but have more "interference" noises, I would rather get the one with less channels and less bad noise. I suppose all fit my needs, just need to figure which is best to get. To my knowledge the first 4 are best?

    EMU 0404. Can get for $90. Says 24-bit/192KHz, but I think it actaully breaks down to 92KHz? Amazon.com: E-MU 0404 USB Audio Interface: Musical Instruments

    Focusrite 2i2. Can get for $90(Dead Link Removed)

    M Audio Fast Track Pro. Can get for $75. Amazon.com: M-Audio Fast Track Pro 4x4 Mobile USB Audio/MIDI Interface with Preamps: Musical Instruments

    Lexicon Lambda. There is one for $40, but can get for $75 if that one is sold. Lambda | Lexicon Pro - Legendary Reverb and Effects

    Alesis iO2. Can get for $80(Dead Link Removed)

    Tascam US122. Can get for $55. Amazon.com: Tascam US122 Audio/MIDI Interface with Free Software: Musical Instruments

    Can get for $50. Amazon.com: Pyle-Pro PAD10MXU 2 Channel Mini Mixer With USB Audio Interface: Musical Instruments
    New Pyle PAD20MXU 5 Channel Rechargeable Audio Mixer w USB Audio Interface | eBay
    Amazon.com: Behringer 302USB Premium 5-Input Mixer with XENYX Mic Preamp and USB/Audio Interface: Musical Instruments
    Amazon.com: ART Tube MP Project Series Microphone Preamp: Musical Instruments
    Art USB Mix 3 Channel Audio Mixer with Computer Interface Usbmix | eBay

    Sorry, just tired of reading comments of people downing others for getting lesser gear. Giving knowledge as to why not or to get something better and still answering the question is greatly appreciated, but talking down I don't like. So if you do want to say a certain brand or product is no good, tell me why it isn't. Said this to hopfully get more helpful answers and less down talk.
    Thanks to those who are helpful. Your help is very much appreciated.


    Thanks for all the great informative answers everyone. The type of music I am going to make is mixed, from singing, Reggae, Rap, Hip Hop, R&B and whatever I feel like really. Beats made with acoustic guitar and ukulele, but mainly from computer programs.
    I know there are more expenses on other piece of equipment I need. I just want to know what gear I should get for the best, clear, good sound recording quality I can get. For mics I want get them under $80 each. Audio Interface for under $110.
  2. Boswell

    Boswell Distinguished Moderator Resource Member

    Apr 19, 2006
    Home Page:
    You don't say what sort of music it is that you play, so it's difficult to make solid recommendations, but I'll make a bold assumption that you are a singer/guitarist. You say you want to record yourself by spending not more than $110 on an interface and a pair of $80 microphones, total $270. Don't forget you will also need at least a short and a tall mic stand plus two XLR cables. You will also need some method of listening to the results, and if you want to track the guitar and vocals separately, you will need a good pair of closed-back headphones.

    Of the interfaces you list, I would go for the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, and complement that with a Shure SM58 microphone for vocals and an SM57 for guitar. If you are not going to spend anything on acoustic treatment for your room, dynamic microphones will give better results than condensers.

    I would be tempted to go into a big music store and and tell them the items you need and that you have $270 to spend and see if they can accommodate you. Be very wary of buying SM57/58s on the internet, as there are a lot of poor-performing fakes around.
  3. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Sep 26, 2005
    I'm basically with Boswell on this.

    Many folks prefer the Focusrite because of its Rupert Neve lineage. And if I were to get rid of my 1970s Rupert Neve all discrete transistor audio console of 36 inputs, I'd go for a Focusrite of virtually any type.

    Basically though it is someone starting out, there really isn't a bad piece of equipment made within your budget. And within your budget, there really isn't any " better ", over much of anything else in that price range. Why? Because they're using the same chips by the same suppliers of these chips overseas. So my criteria in choosing an inexpensive interface with USB connectivity would simply be to look for one whose control interfacing makes sense to you. Does it have the functions, knobs and dials you want? All of the microphone preamps are going to be transformer less and all using basically the same chip. You certainly aren't shooting for the top shelf, top-of-the-line stuff. And years ago I didn't either.

    For example, around 1984, I purchased my first 2 inch 16 track, MCI JH 10-16 which just happened to have been Curtis Mayfield's personal 16 track machine he had before his accident. And my 12 x 4 all germanium transistor Phillips console with the 8 API 550 including its own 4 built in Neve like equalizers, wasn't going to cut it for 16 track production. So I purchased a console that was both portable and could handle 16 simultaneous record tracks and had a separate 16 channel mixer both with rudimentary high low EQ and 2 effects sends. Providing for up to 32 channels of mix down capability. And it had the cheapest microphone preamp in the world! It was a single 5534 chip. The whole mixer was nothing but chips. And I made some wonderful recordings with that dastardly cheap board. No it didn't sound like my API 3124 mixers. It certainly didn't sound like the Neve I was using at NBC-TV. But it worked and worked quite well for everything I needed it to do. So I actually purchased this mixer not based upon its specifications of these chips that were used in everyone else's consoles, inside. I purchased it based upon the functionality that I required not its sonic integrity. I already knew the sonic integrity would be more than adequate, based upon the known performance I had of the chips inside. No I don't like transformer less equipment at all. This was completely transformer less. And I made good use of that mixer.

    So it's one thing to be asking about what cheap equipment to purchase. It's a whole other thing to be able to deliver professional results from your gear, providing that you have the proper engineering chops with which to pull it off. And that takes a few years of practice. You do understand about practice don't you? You did go to school for more than one or two years before you may have graduated? Or, not? I didn't. I said screw the BS I was getting through academia. Which was teaching me nothing I deemed of value for a professional lifelong career. I already knew what I was going to do for a lifelong career at seven years of age. I became captain of the AV team in elementary school by the time I was 12. And I was repairing movie projectors and record players. By 14, I had already become a novice licensed ham operator. By 15, I became a licensed FCC broadcast engineer. By 16, I had custom-built my high school radio station with scavenged parts and pieces from an old Presto 800 tube reel to reel recorder's electronics. By 17, I was working for the largest recording studio south of New York City which wasn't Philadelphia. It was Baltimore. And I worked there for a couple of years before I ended up as the overnight disc jockey for the #1 Album Rock Progressive station in Baltimore. When I left there, I ended up at a couple of other local radio stations for a short while. And then, by 20, I designed and custom-built Baltimore's second largest recording studio. I custom-designed and built the 24 x 8 console from scratch. From there I ended up at one of the hottest hit studios in New York City. And I was hired as a maintenance technician even though my heart was in music engineering. And I was doing music engineering late at night, after my shift, for an in-house future, hopeful Studio Manager, who wanted to be a Producer. And I was there for about one year until I got mugged in NYC. So then I ended up as the engineer for a very successful international multimillion dollar advertising agency. Where I cut thousands of commercials with the best announcers. And where are the boss believed in me when I said I could deliver these very expensive 24 track jingles were getting from Chicago and NYC in our little voice over crappy production studio on an 8 track machine. And I had this lousy Yamaha PM 1000 PA board that had been installed as a recording console. It wasn't. It was a PA board and was known to sound a lot like a Neve since it was cloned/patterned after a Neve. Well it sounded like that going through the console once. I had to loopback through this console sometimes up to six times. And with every time I went through that not cheap PA board, audio deteriorated rather quickly. It wasn't designed for an application of multitrack music recording purposes. It was designed for a once through scenario. And so I really had to fight with that Yamaha PM 1000. And it still didn't hold me back from making these totally incredible, unbelievable sounding multitrack sixty second music productions. We really didn't call them jingles because they weren't jingles. I was however working with some of the hottest studio rhythm musicians in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale Metro region. And all of our strings, brass, woodwinds, harpists and tympani player roll from the Miami Symphony Orchestra. And when all was complete, it was like a commercial version of Jesus Christ Superstar on Broadway. I had half of the Miami Symphony Orchestra in our announcer booth. 6-8 at a time. And everything was overdubbed up to four times for each of those sections.

    This also required that I went about this production in a most unconventional way. Separate pieces of one-inch 8-track tape had to be utilized for the numerous section overdubs. They were then bounced as a single channel to the right channel of a 1/4 inch two track recorder. The left channel contained the rhythm section which was only used for hand synchronization purposes as I flew these tracks into the master 8-track reel, by hand, without any kind of synchronizers. And every time that was done, I had been looping through that PM 1000 at least four times over before I even got to the mixing stage. And the audio would continue to deteriorate upon each pass. And so it required me to modify my limiters as high-frequency weighted limiters. This allowed me to keep jacking up the high-frequency controls and without anything or anyone becoming overly sibilant or unnaturally bright sounding.

    And so that was all produced with run-of-the-mill, rudimentary junk. And it still blows away most anything anyone here has come up with, with superior equipment and that other blah blah, you don't want to hear anything about. And I think that's perfectly fine. And I was doing that on equipment far less state of the art than any of those $100, 2 XLR microphone input, USB computer audio interface devices sound like. And why you should purchase one that has all of the features that you want. Don't bother looking at the specifications. They will all be within a couple of db's of each other. Which does not really indicate that one is any better than the other. Those inexpensive units are all virtually the same. And you shouldn't worry about which one you purchase. They are all transformer less. They are all using similar/same IC chips.

    What you do want to look for is a USB audio device that features direct pass through monitoring. All digital has some latency which can be difficult to contend with if you're USB audio interface does not have direct pass through monitoring capabilities. Those are fine if you are not overdubbing anything. Fine for live multitrack capture purposes where you could plug in more than one. I've plugged in up to 3/4 different USB units to all simultaneously feed the laptop. And all because I was too cheap to go out and purchase one of those $500 or so FireWire devices that offered 8 simultaneous XLR or, 1/4 inch inputs. Which would have made monitoring a lot easier without the need for an external analog audio mixer to monitor the outputs of those multiple USB devices for multitrack capture.

    I also highly recommend, highly recommend, did I say I highly recommended the SHURE SM58's. It's the only microphone/microphones you really need. Don't waste your money on those good-looking Chinese condenser junk microphones. Not necessary. Unneeded. They don't even sound good on vocals. But a 58 sounds great on vocals. Especially, if you include an additional foam pop filter which SHURE, actually makes one for their 58. But you can use anyone's including Radio Shaft. Of course you also neglected to indicate what part of the world you're in? Which also wasn't very helpful. And you have to be careful of those counterfeit 58's. THEY DON'T SOUND LIKE 58's even if they look like them. So beware, be careful. Get it from a reputable equipment dealer and you won't get a counterfeit and waste your money.

    I've been doing this for over 42 years, professionally. Boswell and others have had very similar experience and knowledge like myself. We are not here to sell any products by any particular manufacturers. Though we do have our favorites. One of my favorites is the Pre-Sonus product line. Though I own no stuff of their stuff. I've used it and repaired it and was very impressed at their very rugged and heavy duty build quality. Something you don't find much in these cheap units.

    Unfortunately, your budget is quite miniscule. So ya can't buy a new stingray. You can't even afford a used stingray. All you can afford is an old used VW beetle from 1968. So while ya don't want to be told about what you can't do, how are we to advise you what to purchase with a $150 total budget? That is completely unrealistic and childlike. You'll just have to save more money from your paper route and taking the garbage out for your mother and father to receive your weekly allowance. Simply because, you can't make cheese without milk. So what you want and what you have to spend are incongruent with your requests. So you're not going to hear what you want to hear because you don't have what you need to have. I mean if your budget is so nothing? Then all you really need to purchase is a USB crappy Chinese condenser microphone or two. Because that's all you have for your budget. And you'll only be able to monitor one of those microphones at a time. So even that doesn't cut the mustard.

    Any reasonable cheap USB audio interface, bundled with software that will blow your mind are all over $150 each not including any $100 each microphones. Of course you can take your chances with purchasing used equipment from eBay and/or other sites. But that can turn into a hugely un-gratifying result along with a waste of your money. So you can be as stupid or as smart as you want to be? Sometimes you win? Sometimes you lose? And with only a $150 total budget, what do you think you're going to get? So don't tell me you don't care about quality. That's nonsense. If ya don't care about quality, then just use the soundcard supplied with your computer. Purchase a Radio Shaft XLR output microphone and one of their XLR to 1/4 inch impedance converter adapters. Because that's all you have a budget for. You've not dealt with anything of a realistic basis of recordings.

    And I happen to know that your name is not New Guy and you do not live outside the planet Earth. And you're not indicating what kind of musical genre you're recording intentions are? Are ya recording symphony orchestras, Opera? Jazz? Most likely rock 'n roll? So your descriptions of clear, clean, transparent, quality is completely bombastic. It's a non sequitur in your budget. Those are the cruel facts of real life my friend. So if you're just going to toy around, you can do it with toys that are around, within your budget. And everything you need is available at Radio Shaft in the US. But I don't even know if you're in the US? You didn't have the courtesy to supply good information. And then you issue us an order of what you don't want to hear. Well I don't want to hear idiotic questions like yours, $150 OMG you must be kidding? Or your 15 years of age? And you're speaking with people old enough to be your grandparents because I'm 57. And you are likely at least 40 years younger than I? You're taking a teenager's stance.

    So any of those choices you have indicated would be likely candidates. But even the chips used in those devices of only a couple of years ago, are quite inferior to the chips that are being used today. But how are you to know that since you have read nothing? You've read magazine advertisements and eBay listings. Does that make you an expert? Obviously not since you don't know what to purchase.

    Don't get me wrong here. I am not trying to denigrate your decision-making. I've made lovely recordings on total garbage equipment in my younger years. Before we had any of these choices. We didn't have any choices. We used what we had. We squeezed every little db out of what we had. You can too. You first have to learn what you have to use to begin with. And if you're recordings sound like crap? You have to determine whether it's the equipment or your lousy recording technique, lack thereof or capabilities. Because that's usually why one makes a lousy sounding recording. It ain't the equipment. It's the operator a.k.a. operator error. Lack of technique. Lack of experience. No piece of equipment is going to provide that for you. And you've posted nothing of what you have already done? Which is another reason why I know you are a kid. And if you are not a kid? Then you are a clueless uninformed unread, adult. And you're dictating what you want like a child. People like myself don't take kindly to folks with your kind of attitude. You're not interested in learning ANYTHING. I just think better equipment is going to make you a good engineer. It's not. It won't. Not going to happen. And if I can make wonderful recordings on rudimentary junk, so can you. But only if you know what you're doing? And obviously you have no idea? Which might be why I'm treating you like a child? It's like these other morons who don't want to pay their taxes here in the US. And as the greatest power house country in the world, we in fact a far less tax than any of our other advanced societies and countries around the world. Yet Americans keep bitching about their exorbitant taxes. And yeah? You think it's exorbitant? Try moving to England, Germany, France, Canada. Then you'll really see how lucky we are to be Americans living in the US. And then you might not bitch about your taxes? It's lower than any other developed nation. Yet people are still unhappy. And they're unhappy due to a lack of knowledge! And they have college degrees. I don't. So how come I'm so much smarter than these moron college educated idiots? It's because I read. And I don't bother with worthless novels, fantasy. I read about the equipment. I read about technique. I read about everything audio and video from scads of numerous different books and magazine publications/trade journals like the AES journals. And I speak with other fellow quality and highly experienced engineers for things I do not know and for which I am having trouble finding definitions in print. What the heck have you investigated other than eBay? Obviously nothing.

    Got it? Good.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  4. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    there's the long of it, now here's the short. you're starting from scratch so it's going to take maybe $650 or so ....

    almost any interface you choose at this price will work as well as the next. i personally am attracted to the little mixer thingies like alesis or mackie makes. ($200)

    get a shure 57 ($100) and a cheap cardioid small diaphragm condenser mic ($100) ...

    don't forget stands cables ($75), a pop filter and some decent headphones ($75) and /or (better yet both) a set of cheapo powered monitors ($200).

    a rig like this will serve you well.

    as for software, forget audacity ... it's far too limited. you can get free downloads of Studio One free off the interweb thing ...

    have fun
  5. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Resource Member

    Jul 21, 2009
    Boston, Massachusetts
    Home Page:
    you can get adobe audition 3 for free now from their site. huseph kindly made a thread. having not used studio one, i would imagine it has more current midi implementation. just an alternative thought. the only 'advantage' or shall i say can of worms, w/ the fast track is that you'll have some level of pro tool m-powered compatibility. seems like your leaning towards 2/4 in units. if your looking for more i/o on the cheap the tascam Amazon.com: Tascam US1800 8-Channel USB 2.0 Audio US-1800 Interface Recording Studio Kit: Musical Instruments is pretty cool. that link happens to include some generic cables and phones, fpr 30 bucks more than the usual asking price of the unit.
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Moderator (Distinguished Member) Resource Member

    Nov 25, 2012
    Akron/Cleveland, OH
    Home Page:
    While many here are professionals, and use expensive, high caliber gear, unlike some of the "other sites" out there, most, if not all of the pros here, understand that everyone has to start somewhere, (and trust me when I tell you that most of us here started out with far less than what is readily available and affordable today)...

    In short, we don't expect beginners to run out and buy a rack of API pre's, a $3500 condenser, a 10 thousand dollar converter ... instead, we would say "welcome to the party", use what you can afford, and jump in... it's much better to do this as opposed to waiting on the "dream gear" that can cost you a second mortgage... and... it doesn't matter what caliber gear you use if you don't know how to use it.

    A half million dollar Neve console in the hands of someone who has no idea of what they are doing will result in worse mixes than a person who does know what they are doing while using an Mbox and an SM58 mic. ;)

    Most of what you mentioned is probably going to serve you about the same, and you shouldn't worry about it all that much right now, because that beginner-level gear is going to allow you to at least get started. And, as long as you place importance and focus on the engineering (mic technique, gain structure, EQ, compressors, downward expanders (gates), etc... you will do just fine. :)

    Much of what we hear these days that is lacking in fidelity isn't so much the fault of the equipment as it is the fault of the user and their ignorance and the lack of knowledge regarding those things I mentioned above.

    We might all have our personal preferences when it comes to recording platforms... some of use prefer progs like PT, Sonar, Reaper, etc... but don't think that you have to use Pro Tools to do great recordings, because you don't.

    If you had any of those audio I/O's, a Shure 57/58, a recording platform that you were comfortable with - and most importantly: a solid working knowledge of recording techniques, as I mentioned above- you're gonna do just fine. ;)

  7. New Guy

    New Guy Guest


    Mr. Remy, see this is the head butting I was trying to avoid. I have done research and have seen your post come up often. I know you are knowledgeable in this stuff. Just like everyone, well all start not knowing anything. So no need to rant off at someone who is new with not much knowledge. Educate instead. I don't care how respected you are in this community, it is very low of a person to talk down on others. And like you said, there are many reasons to why a recording can be lousy. Just like it doesn't matter if someone has the most expensive gear and best techniques, if the person just plain sucks at making songs then nothing else matters. Now I am pretty poor which is why I have to settle for lesser quality equipment. There are tons of people who can sing/make great music, but come from a very poor place. If I had the luxury to afford better equipment, I probably would. But as I don't, I have to settle for the best I can afford. That is all I have to say. No need to reply with more be-littling, as it is a waste of time.
    Thanks to everyone for the helpful answers, including parts of your Mr. Remy (lots of helpful information, but also lots of unneeded down talk). It is truly appreciated.
  8. New Guy

    New Guy Guest


    Thanks for the input. For the research I have done and input you guys have given, I will go for a Shure SM58 for vocals. Probably the Focusrite 2i2 interface, but if they are truly all the same quality, I make just pick one out of the top four listed with the most extra features.
    Any recommendations for a condenser mic under $80?
    Would the Shure SM57 be better than most condenser mics under $80 for recording an acoustic guitar?

    I am aware of the replica Shure mics out there, I have seen how to tell the fakes from the real ones. Thanks for mentioning.

    Off to do more research. Thanks guys.
  9. apstrong

    apstrong Active Member

    Feb 13, 2009
    Most likely, but the real advantage of the SM57 is that long, long after your cheap interface has become a paperweight and you've upgraded your studio 17 times over, you'll still use that SM57 for something. Maybe not for recording the acoustic guitar, but you will still use it. It will never be obsolete.
  10. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Sep 26, 2005
    Please except my apologies for my unfortunate personality flaw. I had a lot of old engineers bark at me in my much younger days at NBC-TV. And while it still seemed belittling, I was still learning from those old coot's. But I do empathize with you and apologize as I cared for that know better than you.

    You can certainly get reasonable, small diaphragm condenser microphones for around $100 per pair. Sure, they're made in China or Russia. They still sound like decent quality SDC microphones. 100% adequate and totally usable. Some even come from down under in Australia, Rode makes some very nice affordable condenser microphones. Of course they don't quite sound like the high-priced spread but they come damn close and a great bang for the buck.

    Great to hear that you'll also get yourself a real SM58. Just don't forget to get the additional foam pop filter for that 58. It makes a big and considerable difference. You don't need a pantyhose lollipop. In fact, I like the sound of the foam, I like what it does. Without it you will get plenty of pops and blasts. Not pretty.

    When recording acoustic guitar, you really have quite a load of possibilities. Obviously with the device that only offers 2 inputs and only 2 inputs, you'll have trouble doing anything in threes. Because generally when I record acoustic guitar, they'll frequently have a pickup. And I find it's still important to take that. At the same time, I like to place a couple of microphones on the guitar. And baby makes three. So what to do? That kind of depends on how nice that pickup might already sound? I've heard plenty of lousy ones. I recorded some fabulous ones. Some so good, I wouldn't even want to put a microphone on the acoustic guitar such as Earl KLUGH. MMM MM that guitars sounded unbelievably sweet and it was also on a wireless pack. It was live and he was moving around a bunch. So that was just a single mono feed. Though I did cop some stereo ambience, coming off the stage, from other microphones. And that helped fill the tone in even better.

    Now, do I want condenser microphones or dynamic microphones on the acoustic guitar, in the studio? And if I choose condenser microphones, would it be large or small capsule? The answer is yes to all of the above and I'm not trying to exactly be funny. Frankly I quite love the sound of a couple of 57 or 58's on acoustic guitar. While the condenser microphones most definitely enhance articulation. So in the studio I'm quite likely to use my very nice large diaphragm condenser microphones. I just have to decide whether I want that lush German sound or that slightly more strident Austrian sound LOL? Perfectly wonderful with SHURE SM-81 SDC's. But it's also perfectly wonderful with my AKG 414's. While it's also quite lovely with the Neumann 67/87's. Each one sounds quite different. The 81, clean, flat. The 414 can actually have a more prominent sounding top-end. Where those 87's and the tube 67's are way darker sounding with a rather mellow high-end. And these decisions can only be made when you first place them on the guitar, listen, move them around, listen again, move them again, listen some more... and then grab a different pair of microphones and try that again. You can even mix and match for more prominent stereo effects. If you have two very different sounding microphones you'll get two very different sounding channels of that single acoustic guitar. If you want greater consistency? Use a same pair of microphones and where the stereo image may not appear as prominent? But selection and placement are the real key to the real sound you want to get. And every time you move any of these microphones one-inch, everything changes, completely. We're all used to that. Placing the right microphone in the right position is like choosing the right lens and focusing it on the source image you want. Anything out of that focal point won't be in focus. It may still be discernible but soft? It could become completely indecipherable. And the choice of your microphone and the placement they're in it is the same as having that focus ring ever so slightly off. The problem is, we can't just see it. Which would make our lives a hell of a lot easier. Pretty funny to note that some years ago, these guys made a robotically controlled microphone placement arm designed for the bass drum. Pushing the buttons either way would move the microphone ever so slightly. Because dialing in the right focus on a microphone is frequently a two-person job. So this gizmo was primarily designed for those solo studio owner/operators, without the A-2 on his belly, in this studio, with his head in the bass drum, when the engineer comes blaring over the studio speakers move it one more inch to your right. And then 1 inch is too much. And the guys that made that robotic microphone placement arm knew that.

    So you're wondering when I'm going to stop this blather and tell you which microphone to use in what positions they should be in? Sure, no problem. Most obviously a great deal of sound, depth and resonance comes from that hole which is about the size of my mouth. And where the neck gets a lot more of that fingers squeaking articulation up and down the strings. Now here's the fun part. Try the 58 over the hole. And a small diaphragm condenser microphone up the neck. See how that sounds to ya? Now reverse the microphones and see how ya feel about that? And then work from there.

    What about a room that has some kind of usable acoustic signature? That's when you can try to go for more of that classical feel and stick those small diaphragm condenser microphones in an XY configuration, 3 feet away. Maybe more? Depends upon how much room acoustic you want with the guitar?

    Want that close-up intimate sound and the room? Cool, no problem. That's where I might put the 57 on the guitar and the small diaphragm condenser microphone across the room. You'll get big stereo ambience that's really mono in one channel. And you'll get this beautiful lush warm intimate feel in the left channel with very little room.

    When I record a stereo acoustic guitar, with microphones, I most definitely prefer using the MS technique. This is considerably different and it requires substantially different microphone polar patterns. But it always gives you a very solid center that upfront and this incredible variable width stereo image, you can dial in to any width you want your stereo image to be. But this requires a forward facing cardioid polar pattern (preferred standard configuration) and a figure of 8 bidirectional microphone that should closely match that forward facing cardioid microphone. It's also what we call 100% mono compatible causing absolutely no, zero, zip phase cancellation or other phase anomalies that sound bad. It's a process by which few people are comfortable using. Monitoring is strange therefore problematic. It must be decoded in software or with three channels of the two channels, on a console. If that doesn't blow your mind? I don't know what will? It's certainly this wacko's favorite stereo microphone technique I've been using for more than 30 years. Generally it requires 2 multi-pattern/dual capsule condenser microphones both large and small diaphragm. The other way you see is with ribbon microphones. Ribbon microphones are unique in that they were actually all figure of 8, bidirectional. Though a couple were released that had been offered in strictly cardioid or with a mechanical adjustment through an acoustical labyrinth that would allow for a cardioid polar pattern from the RCA 77 DX but only the DX and not the others before it. There were quite a few 77's but only one, in the later years, had adjustable polar patterns.

    The next problem is trying to take these rather large beasts and come up with a home-cooked contraption to mount them so they are head to head. Ya can't just use one of those straight stereo microphone bars which is only designed for XY and ORTF. I mean you can with some microphones and extra additional hardware pieces. But not with all of them. Ribbon microphones and acoustic guitars are nearly identical in design and are really made for each other. It's the same as your guitar with a single string. And the wire at both ends. The rest is just the magnet. And ribbon microphones don't exactly respond to the air pressure. No. They actually respond to the velocity and speed at which the sound is moving at. And why they are also referred to as " Velocity Mics ". They never sound harsh. Never sound thin. Particularly great on all stringed instruments plucked or bowed. Squeaky women will never sound more voluptuous. It was designed for brass instruments. It's become very popular to combine one of those with a 57 on an electric guitar cabinet.

    People almost completely gave up on ribbon microphones back in the 1970s, 80s, 90s. People were throwing them out by the box load. And then we got digital. You can only find some of these from only one or two companies left making them. Now every manufacturer of microphones today have at least one ribbon microphone they feature. They have become a hot commodity over these crispy condenser microphones on digital, it ain't funny. I've been going at people about these microphones for years. They make digital sound like something you might want to listen to. Royer's advertising campaign exclaims " they hear like your ears do ", Or something to that effect. So why screw around with small diaphragm condenser microphones on Krispy digital? How about a pair of ribbons and a 58? You want good sounding guitar right? And today, you don't have to spend $900, $1500, more for a decent Chinese imported ribbon microphone. I've seen new ones by Cascades starting at under $200 each. Originally introduced at $159. Want even better sound? A $100 upgrade to a quality microphone transformer within is also offered. And it makes it sound like one of those $900-$1500 versions. However they are extremely fragile. You don't want to drop them. You don't want to blow into them. You don't want anybody to handle them roughly. You want to store them vertically not horizontally. You might even want to get a nice big foam up filter to further help protect the ribbon, frequently referred to as the motor. It's the only microphone with a motor. It's OK if your license is suspended due to a DUI because you really won't be driving this microphone outdoors. It's an indoor microphone. And so that's something you might want to also consider and think carefully about? Anyone who knows anything about recording knows the value of ribbon microphone technology. It's brand-new stuff. Originally designed in 1928. I mean the good dynamic and condenser microphones didn't start to happen until WWII. And everyone who's anyone wants this state-of-the-art 1928 technology product. They are amazing sounding critters. Not bright. Not crispy. Many people express that it has a dull sounding high end. Some of the good latest ones are quite flat. Typically, the older classically designed units do have a smooth roll off that starts around 7 kHz. It's only a few db down at 20 kHz. That and with the way that they work is a winning combination on every acoustic guitar recording.

    I hope those comprehensive suggestions and information aid you in your purchasing decisions?
    Mx. Remy Ann David

    PS... you don't have to call me Mr.
  11. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Resource Member

    Jul 21, 2009
    Boston, Massachusetts
    Home Page:
    the at 3035, is a nice condenser for 60-80 bucks used. if you want a condenser for that price range, it is yet to be beaten, by my ears, or on this site (that i know of). the value of mic choice, and mic placement, cost you much, much more time, and money. take what people have said as truth, it is. experience comes from trial and error, and since people our age are lucky enough to 'hear it' thru text, it helps us get closer, faster, to a final result. belive me when i tell you i still get barked at by a dude who's has more records w/ his name at than i have seen penny's.

    sometimes... old dogs refuse to learn new tricks, new dogs don't learn fundamentals. people just don't want to accept new ways, especially if the proven old were successful. yet news ignore what actually made the old great. which is often more physical than technical.

    if you get a 57, and a 3035, you'll have all the mic prowess you'll need to get familiar. this takes the tools out of the equation, which you may or may not want. but it will, those tools leave your recordings up to you. and how your able to manipulate them into the room/instrument/player e/de ficciences.

    like don said the stuff now is better than most of us started on. true. this also makes mistakes, on the basics (like he outlined) more apparent, and glaring. for instance, i could set the mic gain way to high and not have it obtrusive on a 4 trk. not today in digital. it's ugly. if anything, the more refined tools are making/breaking engineering, as they are less forgiving..

    a 57 would do fine for an acoustic, set compression to taste. 57's just are great. bottom line. if you had 50 mics already, well lets talk specfics, 57's just don't do wrong, used, new, beat up, doesnt matter. they are the most reliable, most famous, line, "sm" series, of mics ever. and they prove it.
  12. New Guy

    New Guy Guest

    No hard feeling Remy. Thanks again for your knowledgeable input. Very usefull.

    Kmetal, do you know if the AT3035 has a newer progressor? Can't find any of the 3035's for sale. If I could, they were quite a bit more expensive than mentioned. Haha.
  13. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Sep 26, 2005
    Unfortunately I was making a low-end generality about that price. Though you might find them used for half what their MSRP was? I mean you get a condenser microphone of a certain size for little more reason than you want a large diaphragm, small diaphragm or miniature diaphragm condenser sound. You don't get it just because it says it's for studio use. That's not the reason to own a condenser microphone. Quite frequently, you can get a real silky high-end out of SM58's that with a little EQ and other effects processing doesn't turn into the sound of shattering plateglass. Not that I'm trying to discourage you from such a purchase. But on a limited budget such as yours, it's almost not even realistic to think that for 80-$100 you're going to end up with a microphone that sounds better than a 58. It will just have this nice clear cold sterile sound to it. Which some people seem to describe as clear, neutral, transparent. Crispy, metallic, neutered is generally how I perceive those microphones. That doesn't make them unusable. But it also doesn't make them desirably universal which a 58 most definitely is. You might be barking up the wrong microphones? You can have toys that look like the other rich people's toys. Or you can use a 58 with an additional foam pop filter? It's stupid how perfect these microphones work out 99% of the time. I laugh every time I use them because they are just so right over anything but the best that Germany, Austria and the US have to offer. Everything else is but a usable imitation that certainly can produce beautiful professional results for other folks to enjoy because, after all, isn't that the bottom line?

    My personal criteria is everything dynamic microphones for live capture, most studio capture, with the exception of the overheads. We're any small diaphragm condenser microphone will sound great. Large diaphragm microphones will sound great, depending upon the acoustic surroundings. So not all that hot sounding in smaller rooms regardless of the gobbledygook you placed all over the walls and ceiling. Live vocals? 58 of any variety. Studio capture of the vocal... that all depends? Plenty of folks end up using SM-7, because you pay more for those. Ya get the same thing out of a 58 when you use them correctly and is right in your price range. Believe me I'm not trying to lead you astray. This is something I absolutely believe in and have the results to prove it. This doesn't mean that I don't always have a dynamic microphone in front of the lead singer. Frequently it's the small diaphragm, handheld, professional condenser microphones like the SHURE SM & Beta 87's, Neumann KMS 100 series, Sennheiser's and the like. And in fact does I'll have increased issues with sibilance that also is an additional item that must be dealt with. There is nothing normal about normal sounding. Normal sounding recordings might be breathtaking in their own right. Or they can all sound like mud.

    The pop music industry is built upon not so much the capturing of the sound but the building of the sound. And that has nothing to do with natural or normal. Though it might be a jumping off point to start with. And those that might demand that with the dollars to back up their requirements. And then there's all these companies that know there are folks out there that can make money with. And their reasons can be quite compelling. I really never recorded anything that I couldn't have done with just 57 & 58's and that includes Symphony Orchestra work and Operatic work. And actually I have with simply stunning results. I mean what else are you going to do when your phantom power supply blows up? The concert is going to start and you barely have enough time to pull up all the microphones you hung from the ceiling to replace with a bunch of 57 & 58's. And then you have to swap out those highlight microphones on the stage with some more 57 & 58's. And then everybody marvels at the beauty, warmth and depth of your recording. And then they tell you it sounds so much warmer than the previous recordings LOL. And so what are you going to use on them next time? You see this has a spiraling effect but it goes up instead of down.

    It's a goofy I tell ya just plain goofy.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  14. New Guy

    New Guy Guest

    Just wondering if there is a better audio interface under $200 than the Focusrite Scarlette 2i2.
    Don't really need any more inputs or outputs than the 2i2, but are there any others out there with better preamps or gains?
    Must be USB.

    Also on mics, I know the Shure SM57 and SM58 are highly recommended under $100. I found locally for sale are also some Shure Beta 57a, Beta 58a, and Beta 87a (condenser) for sale locally. Done a little research on these betas over the regulars, but it's a toss up. I hear the betas are a bit bright in the highs, but some say the betas are better for vocals. What would you suggest I get? Just about exclusively using this mic for vocals. Singing and rapping.
  15. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Sep 26, 2005
    Yeah you see here, when you say better better how? This company has a great lineage and reputation having made some of the finest and most expensive audio consoles, in the world. So they were not a low-end company ever, to begin with. And these particular products that are so wonderfully affordable that they have presented as for your interest, no one has any complaints about. But this might relate to something that is warm and lush. Not something that is aggressive and hyped. Which sometimes certain other people perceived as better. It ain't better. It's only different. And what difference that you prefer. These are known to be big fat luscious sounding pieces. Though in use that big fat lush can be turned into big fat lush that aggressive and hyped. But if you start with thin and crispy sounding equipment, that to you might sound better, you might end up with crackerjack's and disappointed with the prize in the box. I mean the box that had no prize which is even worse.

    My views and listen to the Pre-Sonus items. Unlike my Neve & API stuff, it had a smoother quality. And after all they advertise their circuit is Class A, known for its smoothness in its timbre & character, in fact, to me, the API & Neve stuff I own most definitely sounded more aggressive. And the Pre-Sonus lived up to that advertised Class A known sound.

    Stuff like the Mackie's similar in character to my API but it lacked a little of that zippiness. If ya had to describe it I would call that just kind of generic and completely usable. Just not exciting. It's there to serve a purpose which it does quite well.

    A lot of these devices within the same price range all pretty much stick to mostly IC chip circuit technologies. And these little chips can be fabulous sounding. They can also sound like dog food. Especially if you understand they don't have headroom and ya can't push them like transistor circuits. While the circuitry within that silicon wafer and its corresponding theoretical schematic don't express the same kind of audible transference when you try to make them work a little too hard. There was nothing exciting or beneficial to that sound.

    On the other hand, devices that were designed and built with discrete physical parts like resistors, capacitors, diodes, inductors, transformers, transistors, these little operational amplifiers called discrete op amps actually have a far smaller parts count than the amount of transistors within the chip. This is known as low topography designs where only five or six transistors and not 35, are involved. And when you push those kinds into their stratospheric limits, they do this cute little audible dance for ya. And then your jaw falls open and your eyes bulge out of your head and ya can't believe what you're listening to because it's just totally magic. So while there are hundreds if not thousands or more transistors in a 16 input Mackie board than you could ever imagine, there is only a couple hundred transistors in my 36 input Neve. And so the ones with the smallest topography parts component count, seem to cost a heck of a lot more, and those chip based pieces with thousands of transistors in them. And if there is more of those transistors, shouldn't it be better? And that's the question you have to answer for yourself. Sometimes your answer comes from budget alone. And chips can rule. And while everybody knows the sound and reputation of Neve consoles, the brand that you're thinking about was created by that guy, Rupert Neve. But the folks out there in the know, all know his later IC chip based consoles also sounded great but they didn't sound like those older transistorized consoles. And those are the ones everybody really wants. The ones that don't have chips unless they got into the faders along with the coffee and Coca-Cola?

    So some people really insist on that crispy new sound. Others like that classic feel because it brings back mammaries.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  16. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    i'll chime in again here.

    i'm not deriding any type of equipment here. i gave up on that a long time ago. that horse has been beat to death twice. i decided it exists, it's here, it's not going to go away just because i want it to so get used to it

    the fact is much of what is offered at the all you can eat for 5 bucks table is perfectly acceptable in terms of performance and if anyone is asking about it they probably can't hear the differences.

    a lot of what you pay for when you start ordering ala' carte is support, better build quality and control, and hand assembly on this side of the world. but much of the crop of offerings built in the far east and assembled on robotic / slave labor assembly lines sounds pretty damn good. actually a lot of us old farts would have drooled at gear that performed as well a few centuries ago ... (back in my day blah, blah, blah ...).

    this is what i mean when i say there's not much difference in the performance of budget gear. it all performs at about the same level of quality. many of these pieces use the same topology op amps and designs. they are more similar than different and the all offer the same degree of headroom, signal to noise ratio frequency response and gain. the main differences are going to be user interface and features.

    so go out and get what tickles your fancy at the moment. chances are your going to either buy it and use it a few times and then put it on a shelf and forget it / put it up for sale on CraigsList, or you will get the virus and begin the sick, sick,sick habit a lot of us have, always lusting for the next and "better" piece.

    if i were you i just wouldn't start in the first place .... run ... i mean it .... RUN!

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