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Mic purchase for instrumental recording

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Unregistered, Mar 21, 2011.

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  1. Unregistered

    Unregistered Guest


    I'm looking to purchase a basic pair of mics to record woodwind, brass, and string instruments in solo or small ensemble settings. I've owned a zoom recorder for quite some time, and as a music student I've found it useful for making reference recordings, but I'm looking to get something that offers a little higher quality that would be suitable for competition and audition tapes. My budget is limited, so I can't afford anything terribly sophisticated. I found two condenser mics that I think would suit my needs, but I want to make sure before I make a purchase. I'm looking at Shure (PG81) or Audio-Technica (AT-2020). Both of these mics seem similar to those used by other recording people I've hired to do solo or small ensemble recordings, though they are likely lower quality.

    Essentially what I'm trying to ask is: which of these two mics would be a better choice for instrumental recordings (or are there other similarly priced mics that would be better)?

  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    You have to appreciate that the two mics you named are very different and would be used in different circumstances. I assume you are talking about studio use rather than live stage use, but are you thinking of plugging external mics into your Zoom, or do you have pre-amps and an interface to a computer? This information is needed as it could affect the choice of external microphone.

    It is usually small diaphragm condenser (SDC) mics that are used for small ensembles, as the mid- and large-diaphragms (MDC and LDC) are generally more suited for single instrument and vocals. Both the PG81 and AT2020 are at the bottom end of their respective ranges, and, while being reasonable no-frills mics for the money, have considerable limitations.

    The sub-£100 ($150) not a section of the microphone market where there are obvious candidates for this type of general work, and I probably don't need to tell you to beware of most of the cheap Far-Eastern condenser mics. My feeling is that you should see if you can stretch to the next level up, where you could find a matched pair of Rode NT5s, (or, for more flexibility, the NT55s).
  3. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    I second Boswell's suggestion of the NT5's or the NT55's if you can afford them. I'm not at all confident that the PG81/AT2020 are that much better than the mics on the H4N. (I assume that's what you are using. Is that correct?)

    If you pay a lot of attention to placement of the H4N you can make big improvements in your recordings. Use the tripod mount and read up on placement of stereo mics for the various sources you mentioned above.

    Finally, if you are really concerned about recording quality you are better off paying someone with better experience and equipment. It costs far less than buying the equipment necessary to make a significant improvement over the Zoom. On the other, as you know, these flash recorders do a very good job of capturing a performance. There are a lot of people who disagree with me, but any music professor who lets his or her judgment of a performance be affected by the sound quality of a well placed flash recording of a good instrument in a good room is not worth auditioning for. A couple of my daughter's friends used Edirol R09 recordings I made of District and State concerts as audition pieces. (They were better than the professionally recorded CDs in at least one case.)

    To summarize a rambling post.

    1. Get the most out of the Zoom that you have by working on placement with a tripod.
    2. Add a pair of NT5s or NT55s for some improvement, but mostly for fun and the chance to experiment.
    3. Pay to get the job done if you really want a big improvement.
  4. ecc83

    ecc83 Active Member

    Agreed, not a lot of real quality at that price band but you could do worse than two (don't think they do matched pairs) AKG Perception 170s. They have a 20dB pad which might be useful on brass!
    And yes, steer clear of the big jobs in this context.

  5. Unregistered

    Unregistered Guest

    Ok. I just wanted to get some advice and input, so thanks for the responses. I was talking with a friend of mine who is a bit more knowledgeable in this area than I am, and he mentioned the NT5's as well, so I think I'll wait and save for those instead and experiment with the H4 in the meantime.
  6. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    I agree with the others regarding the Rode NT5/55 mics, they are serious bang-for-the-buck (in most regions of the world).
    They are no DPA's but they are a BIG step up from the mics you mentioned, as well as the AKG Perception series, which is just another ho-hum Chinese mic.
  7. ecc83

    ecc83 Active Member

    Well I love my two (which are in fact P 150's ) so there! Can't all live in the RME World.

  8. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    In an RME world you'd be looking at DPA or Royer or high end AKG. The Perception line is budget for a reason and definitely not as good as the in built mic's on the Zoom H4n. It's not personal. If you like them that's great but the OP wants to step up a bit.
  9. ecc83

    ecc83 Active Member

    "The Perception line is budget for a reason and definitely not as good as the in built mic's on the Zoom H4n."

    I would like to see your evidence for that.

    The zoom is a very complex bit of kit that sells here for around £270.00. That does not leave a lot in the pot for particularly esoteric mics? Then, although Zoom is a Japanese company I wonder where they source their cap mic elements from?

    Can't remember but maybe there was a reason I stayed away from here so long!

  10. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    I guess if you are offended that folks aren't applauding the perception line of mics you might have a problem. I've used both the Zoom and many of the Perception mics. The quality difference is apparent. Are you aware that the mic element in the Crown SASS is the same as Radio Shack sells for cheap? The difference is testing and quality control. The electronics portion of the Zoom is not very complicated in today's world.
  11. ecc83

    ecc83 Active Member

    So, you don't have any evidence other than your personal taste?

    Fine. I shall leave it there.
  12. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    You are correct that in the end it is taste. However my experiences as a professional location engineer with both microphones correlates with most other experienced professional engineers. The AKG Perception line is not any way equivalent to their profession lines of mics and te Perception line doesn't hold up well to Rode mics at all. I guess I don't see any evidence from you that the Perception mics deserve more respect.
  13. ecc83

    ecc83 Active Member

    The comparison was not made between the Rode (which I will concede is a better mic but more expensive) but with the units on the Zoom? Has anyone done that in any valid way?

  14. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Dave - Thought you were going to leave it. The facts are pretty clear. You've used the Perception mics and thought they were worth the money. John has used the Perceptions and the Zoom (perhaps in different situations) and feels the Zoom's mics are better. No serious audio pro is going to do a controlled listening test of this question without getting paid to do it. It's just not that important a question. No one is putting you down because they don't like a mic that you like.
  15. ecc83

    ecc83 Active Member

    To The guest OP.
    Your original request was for suggestions for BASIC mics. I put the P170,s in that class but above the Behringers of this world. If you have the chance, try them with an open mind.

    BTW I know the Zoom is Japanese (made in?) but I wonder where they source the mics from?

  16. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Basic mics for acoustic brass strings and woodwinds- presumably classical music.

    The Perception line is quite aweful for that purpose. He isn't micing up a guitar cab or a drum set or even a dobro.
  17. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    A lot of times, people become so attached to their purchases that they will eventually begin defending the indefensible in order to justify these buys.

    Its great that you like this mic. I'm sure it does exactly what you want to hear for a very good price.

    Heres something to consider, I would bet a couple of hard-earned dollars(us) that the Perception line is made in the same factory as Ber&*$ger and most all 'other' outsourced budget mics in the world. I would also bet that the technology, the topography, and the basic list of parts used in these is the same. Perhaps AKG then bench tests all the mics before shipping to QC to a certain level.

    At that price point with an Austrian company and the cost of labor there, dont bet on it.

    But....and this is MY point....coming on here and lumping this site into your disagreement with someones opinion is bogus.

    We all have opinions and suggestions to posts we choose to reply to. We dont all agree on everything, but at least most of us are mature enough to not react with disrespect in our disagreements.

    John has presented real-life usage as a benchmark for his assessment. He's not attacking YOU or your choices. The SITE is not to blame for your desire to be here or not.

    Your attitude is.
  18. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    I will say that I think that AKG probably comes in for a lot more criticism for the Perceptions than other mics in the same category (and probably the same quality). But that's probably fair since no pro would look at a $100 SDC if it didn't have an AKG badge. This is always a tradeoff for a well known company that markets a "bargain" brand. Before they introduced the Perceptions AKG got a lot of bad reviews for the C1000. Interesting that none of this has ever rubbed off much on the flagship mics.
  19. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member


    This fellow makes a living making the C1000 into a usable mic.
  20. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    I've heard about this and there is a company making kits for this purpose....could be the same one....there was a review in TapeOp not long ago....I'll see if I can dig it up. The pricing seems to be similar....

    Anyway. The C series AKG's are really wide ranging with their devotees. A LOT of people HATE the C1000. I do and I owned one. I really did like it live over a drum kit though..

    The C2000 and C3000 have the same kind of hot/cold relationship though the C3000 is sort of a gem in disguise....It is a solid mic that doesnt hold its MAP well so they become bargains in the used markets and work quite well on some sources.

    There is a C4000 but I've never seen one.

    Another AKG mic with seriously mixed reviews would be the SolidTube. My initial reaction to the one I got a chance to hear was "Meh"...but some sources state that this is a mic totally dependant on the mic pres attitude.

    I think the reason that these mics havent done much damage to AKG's standard time proven selections is that the 414's and such are simply great mics.
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