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Help! Recommendations on buying a new mic

Discussion in 'Microphones' started by Jeremy Dean, Mar 19, 2016.

  1. Jeremy Dean

    Jeremy Dean Active Member

    Hey everyone,
    I've been searching around a bit wanting to buy a new microphone, but I'm on a very tight budget. So far I've only recorded with mics that are around the $100 and down range. I've gotten some pretty good results with these mics. I've used a VERY cheap mic for almost all my recordings for the last few years and have learned to get good results. The one mic I own at the moment is a cheap dynamic, and I feel I've learned this mic well and it's time to add another to my setup and do some more learning. I belive that if I can learn to make great recordings and mixes on cheap gear, that when I'm able to take a step up gear-wise, it'll sound even better because I've learned and practiced with lesser quality tools. If I've learned to make beautiful paintings with old paint and "bad" brushes, than I should be able to make gorgouse breath-taking paintings with better paint and well crafted brushes. Just an opinion, you're welcome to disagree with me here, but I've been convinced that the tools you own aren't always the most key component to making something beautiful. They sure can help, but they may not be vital all the time.
    So, I'm on a tight budget of about $150. I know I'll get a lot of laughs here. To make you laugh even more, I'll just be completely honest with you. The $150 is on Guitar Center gift cards I've saved up. I'm a 19 year old finishing high school, have a LOT on my plate, and won't be able to have enough time to hold a good job 'till after graduating. I'm just looking to learn some more skills in the studio and think a new mic would help me in the learning process of capturing great music. I know this probably sounds pretty silly to some of you guys with $1,000s of gear, but hey, you don't normally start real big. I'm willing to work from the ground up, and if I do that by making baby steps, then so be it. :)
    Anyway, any suggestions on a good mic to buy at this point in that price range? I'm thinking a condensor would be a good choice since it will be mainly for studio recording. I've found that buying a mic used from Guitar Center can give you a great bargain. Some mics normally costing $200-250 will be $100-150 or less used in good working condition. I guess people might be uneasy about buying a used mic, thus the giant price drops??? Anyway, some mics I'm considering: AT2020, Rode NT1A, sE Electronics sE X1, Blue Spark
    I'm leaning towards the Rode NT1A. My trouble is that I can't test them out myself. If any of you own one of these and can honestly recommend it, go right ahead. Any help here is greatly welcomed and appreciated! Thank you!
    - Jeremy
  2. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    Your analogy to good tools is quite correct, but remember the old adage " a bad workman blames his tools". I'm old, and have a very full mic box, but in it I also have many excellent mics that I bought, thinking I'd use them. The NT1 is actually a very decent and useful mic, and somewhere, I have a pair. I don't think I have used them for ten years. Nothing wrong with them, but I started using something else I liked better.

    In your case, you have some mics that are cheaper. What do they do badly? Guitar centre, like most big stores cater for the masses, and the staff often are only a bit less green than you, so their recommendations are suspect. Not always, but sadly often. If you need a large diaphragm mic, the NT1 will do the job, but much of what it does really well, needs two of them - as in stereo pairs. One means vocals, or perhaps slapping on a sax, whatever your music needs. Sometimes you will still need your older, cheaper ones. If you said I want to buy a mic for vocal recording, in the studio, I'm sure it will do a great job. It's not a real all rounder, like a 57, that does a reasonable job on almost everything. If you are into acoustic guitars, or percussion, or maybe you record frequently a female with a high thin voice, the NT1 might not be the one for you?

    What's your usage going to be? That's the key here.
  3. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    Rode Nt1A would be my recommendation for the money.

    I have one and also the Nt2A. For a LDC they are value for money if thats your budget.
  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    No one, or maybe I should say hardly anyone, started out with a Neve and a Neumann U87. I started out in '76 with a Biamp 6 channel PA mixer, a 4 track reel to reel Dokorder, an SM 57, and a pair of Realistic Headphones. The fact that you are doing it is what is most important. The more you do it, the more your ears will become trained to listen for certain nuances and tones, and the more you can recognize where you need to improve. There's not a thing wrong with using a 57 or a 58; especially if you are in a space that is highly reflective, because the dynamics won't be as sensitive to those reflections as condensers will. OTOH, you've said that you have built yourself a small vocal "tent", and this will help to attenuate some of those upper frequency flutter echoes, so you might be in a position to try a condenser like the Rode. If I had to choose, I'd pick it over the AT2020. I can't comment on the SE, as I've never used it.
  5. Makzimia

    Makzimia Active Member

    I'm also going to give a plus one for Rode mics. You really can't go wrong with the right one for a job. It's a great starting point for a less expensive condensor mic.

    Also FYI, I recently sold a lot of my gear on eBay including a hardly used baby blue bottle. If someone has a good rating on eBay very good chance you'll do fine.

  6. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    With $150 you could get an AT 3035, and a shure sm57. I don't think it's possible to do better than that for the money.
  7. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    I agree with you Tony, I purchased my NT2A from a dealer on Ebay, there are quite a few who do the Rode mics new, unopened in the box and they are pretty competitive on the pricing. I picked mine up off the Australian Ebay site here (just add .au at the end) and with the conversion at around .75 cents USD = $1 AUD @Jeremy Dean you may save some money and still come out in front with the postage cost.

    Rode mics are made here in Australia, so they all make the trip across the Pacific to the dealers in the US anyway.(y)
  8. Jeremy Dean

    Jeremy Dean Active Member

    Thanks guys! Your comments should help me get moving in the right direction. I realized later after posting I left out some important info. I've recorded a pretty wide variety of things: acoustic guitars, electric guitars, pianos, drum kits, random percussion including household objects, male and female vocals, gang vocals, kids choirs, a whole lot of stuff. So, ideally it would be nice to have a very well-rounded mic that will do well with a lot of different intruments and people if that helps you guys any.
  9. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

  10. miyaru

    miyaru Active Member

    I'm on a tight budget too, as it is a pure sparetime thing for me. I haven choosen the NT1a from Rode to do the duties, and it serves me wel. You can get them in a package with a shockmount, plopfilter and a cable included. With this microphone you can't go wrong. I think it's clear and clean. It can stand up to lot of mics around, and is well build. It will be a big step up from your dynamic microphone, altough they can be good too.

  11. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Most of those needs call for different mics.. it's very hard to have just one mic to do it all.
    Altought I find the NT1a a bit harsh on the HF (depends on the preamp that will be used too) the NT1a is still a nice starter mic.
  12. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    What preamp/I-O are you currently using?
  13. Jeremy Dean

    Jeremy Dean Active Member

    Haha, here's another laugh for some of you guys. My "preamp" is a small Behringer sound board. Here's my recording signal path: Mic ----> Behringer sound board ----> simple Behringer interface ----> DAW. I've looked around at different preamps and it seems anything of decent quality is above my budget at the moment. Any advice on this is definitely welcome here as well.
  14. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    I guess a presonus or focusrite audio interface would have better preamps than your behringer mixer. It could be your next step.
    Choosing an interface with digital inputs is a wise thing to do because you'll be ready for some future addition.
    For exemple, I got the RME Fireface 800 used for under 1k. It has 4 preamps, and 8 input to converter. It also has Adat inputs that let me plug an 8 preamp/converter unit and a spdif input that I use for a highend converter used with my better external preamps.

    It all depends where you want to go with recording in the future.
    If recording a full band live is your goal, you'll need something like 16 input ch or more and an equal amount of mics.
    If the maximum you will do is tracking a drum alone. You then need to match the mics and inputs to serve that purpose..

    We all started somewhere. But if you want to make a bit of money to help you expend. You can aim for voice over and karaoke recording. With all the TV talent show, everyone dream of becoming a start if you advertise and offer a good quality to do this, you'll at least earn a bit of money ;)

    My actual voice over chain is : Shure KSM44 /UA LA-610 / Mitek AD96 / RME FF800 / DAW
    Depending on the type of voice I have a few mic alternative.
  15. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I think that in the hierarchy of the signal chain, your mic is what's most important, but followed in a very close second by your preamp.
    So, you may want to gradually work towards improving that at some point. Actually, based on what I know about Behringer through experience working as a consultant to low budget home studios, you wouldn't have to spend all that much more money to get an improvement in your pre amp. Both Focusrite and Presonus offer budget pre's that - IMO - sound better than anything I've ever heard from Behringer. Now, of course, they won't sound like a Neve, or a Millennia, or a John Hardy... those are pro pre's and they sound pro.

    But you can improve gradually, and I think you'd hear the difference between these two manufacturer's pre's and what you have now, especially if you end up improving your mic to something like a Rode:



    I think you've done well with what you have to work with so far. You may have reached the point now where you're going to start hearing the differences between what your level of sonics are, and those of better signal chains.

    There's nothing wrong with starting out with budget gear, for several reasons, but if for no other than that doing so allows you to hone your listening skills to where you can start to hear the differences between what you have, and better signal chains.

    pcrecord likes this.
  16. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    LOL... Marco and I posted the same pre suggestions right on top of each other. I think he beat me to it by a minute. ;)
    pcrecord likes this.
  17. Jeremy Dean

    Jeremy Dean Active Member

    Ok, thanks for the advice! Very helpful info on the preamps as well. So as it stands now, I'm leaning toward listening to sample recordings online of some of the mics mentioned above on several sound sources and comparing them since I can't really try them out in person, and then pick the one most pleasing my ears. It seems the popular vote is for the NT1a, but when researching it about 30% of the reviews on it mention the HF being a bit harsh. I would hate to buy it and end up being in the same camp with that 30%.
    Anyways, I'll most likely wait to get a new preamp, like one of those from PreSonus or Focusrite, until after choosing a mic. Seems right to make that my next step.
    kmetal likes this.
  18. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    Don't pay too much attention to reviews on microphones. I don't remember mine being harsh - that word I'd ascribe to things like AKG C1000's which I hate the sound of, yet despite continual bad press, and disparaging comments has been a decent seller for AKG for many years now. When Rode first appeared, many people ignored the fact that they were cheap and sounded good, and hunted for things to complain about. I wanted a more mellow sound, and when I bought some Oktava 319s, I stopped using the Rodes. Now I'm using brighter ones again, as my work has changed and perhaps my ears too as I've got older.

    The Rodes are good microphones. In isolation, I'm sure you'd like them. Only when you buy more mics can you start to compare the tiny subtle stuff. Hunting for the Rodes today didn;t discovered them, but it did uncover all sorts of mics I'd forgotten about that over 20 years or so have been just stored. I've now got the Oktavas out again, and a pair of other LDCs I don't remember buying, a clip on sax mic and an AT cardioid lav that I've never seen before - so thanks for getting me moving.
    pcrecord likes this.
  19. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    +1 on the rode being harsh. I own one. The NT 1/2 are good mics. The "A" version are not the same mic, and sounds significantly cheaper. The AT 3035 is $60 used and cannot be beat in the sub $300 LDC category. A shure Sm-57 can also be had used for $60. 2 mics that are killer, can be had together, for half the price of a rode. ART makes good low priced pre amps also.

    A couple of decent cables, and sturdy mic stands are also necessities. You don't need boutique level items, just don't get the bargain bin cables and stands and you'll likely get a lifetime from them.
  20. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    Indeed, but he has no cash, just vouchers for a particular outlet which means restricted range. This also shows how we all like what we like. I too like the AT, but sadly, it seems to live in my studio on a stand, never put away - but rarely used. Just not a favourite. That's the trouble with mics - so many excellent ones, few real dogs!
    pcrecord likes this.

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