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Mic Standards?

Discussion in 'Microphones' started by Kurt Foster, Feb 6, 2015.

  1. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    on a budget! what would be the short and long list of must have mics you would choose for a studio? short list would be for a small one man operation recording one or two tracks at a time and no live drums and the long list would be for any studio recording bands live and small ensembles.

    i will start.
    short list; 414, a pair of pencil condensers (of your choice), sm7, pair of 57's.

    long list; pair of 414's 2 pairs of pencil condensers (of your choice), sm7, re20, 6 57's, 4 421's, a pair of nice ribbons (of your choice), a pair of kick drum mics (of your choice)at least one U87.

    bare bones mic locker imo.
    Big_D and Chris like this.
  2. Big_D

    Big_D Well-Known Member

    It would be hard to argue anything on your list. On a tighter budget I might substitute a pair of 4033's for the 414's and maybe a 4047 for the U87 but yeah, it's a great list!
  3. pcrecord

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

    I think my answer was lost from a recent crash.. :oops:

    I like your list very much Kurt. I can imagine being able to do many good recordings if I was invited to work in a studio that had those.
    Althought I don't really care for the SM7, I would add drum mic kit from sennheiser(e600), they are nicely Pre-EQ for most musical style unless you are doing Jazz or bigbands and they are affordable.

    If I would start over from scratch. I'd certainly consider some Octava and telefunk in my list.
  4. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    i like the 414's for their pattern selection. also for the "classic" diaphragm. yeah they're a bit bright.a pair of A/T 4050's would d...o as well but i just like the 414's.
    have you ever used them for vocals?

    a lot of the choices i made take into account that they can serve double or triple duty .... RE20, 414, 421, 57's all go a long way in the flexibility department.

    a pair of 414's 2 pairs of pencil condensers (of your choice), sm7, RE20, 6 57's, 4 421's, a pair of nice ribbons (of your choice), a pair of kick drum mics (of your choice)at least one U87. $8500?
  5. pcrecord

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

    Honestly I didn't. But After seeing many video comparing the sm7 and sm57 being close. I'm kinda leaning for the 57 instead (maybe I've been misleaded with all we can hear online...) In any case the sm57 with LA-610 sound relativily good on vocals..

    I'd be glad to have 4x 421, they are work horse and sound good on toms, guitar cabs etc... But they are not cheap and I dispite their mic clips..

    I say it again, I'd be happy to work with your list any day !! ;)
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I don't believe the question is as easy to answer as one might think. So much of it is personal preference, styles, etc.

    I can tell you what I have in my mic locker:

    (2) AKG 414EB's, (1)U87, (1)U89i, (1) EV RE20, (3 )Senn 421's, (4) Shure 57's, (3) 58's, (1) PG56, (2) Senn 409's, (1) MXL 860 Ribbon, (1) AKG D112.
    Kurt Foster likes this.
  7. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    I think that someone reading this might be disappointed in the $8900 price point for a small studio in their house or as a starter set. I ,personally, believe the list is ,in fact, a complete one for anyone serious about doing something like that, but the budget would be out of bounds for a lot of people.

    I agree completely that the type and styles of the mics chosen are a great investment and would certainly go a long ways in stemming a continuous search for 'something better' and in this light makes budgetary sense for the future.

    Unfortunately with all the buzzwords and claims associated with recording gear as a whole industry, a lot of really junky sounding stuff gets substituted for the things that are solid and quality in their performance of capturing sound.

    So, it ultimately gets down to "the budget" and while I agree wholeheartedly with these choices, again, this 'budget' is probably way out of range for the average person just starting. It is unfortunate that a LOT of people will drool and lust for a $1000/channel preamp and when they get that, they plug some $100 Chinese capsuled condenser into it and wonder why their pride and joy doesn't give any joy at all.

    I guess I should be clearer....these days it isn't the capsule as much as it is the components the capsule is feeding that makes some of these mic choices sound so bad. A LOT of boutique mic builders outsource their capsule requirements to Chinese manufacturers and they should. The big guys over there have state-of-the -art factories for this and a culture that allows people working there to have pride in their quality. Its not like it was 20 years ago. Research it if you don't believe me. Also, I'm just talking about the capsules. The rest of the parts you see being used in a lot of the budget mics is really garbage. That's why a lot of modders can make decent pieces out of these things. Good components and an adherence to sound design gets products that do the job.

    I digress.

    I believe there is a series of budget price-points that a new studio owner could look at and meet and still have quality reproduction of sound. I would say that Kurts 'long list' is at the top of the budget food chain and something the strive for without a doubt.

    So, here's an exercise we can all participate in. I hope all the regulars and the pro element will play along as this is about a teaching moment and perhaps an enlightenment for some. Lets set as parameters, a budget point to meet and have quality of capture in mind.

    The categories might look like this:

    Basic short list $0.00-$1000.00 Basic Long list $1000.00 - $3500.00
    Intermediate short list $0.00-$2000.00 Intermediate long list $up to $4000.00
    High-end short list $0.00 - ?? High-end long list up to Kurt's $9000.00
    Dream list..short....long no budget..........!
    All mics can be duplicated to each list....ala: including any or all desert island choices. If, in your opinion, a studio setting cannot have a better mic for multiple sources than x______________, then by all means include it on every list level. A bit of extrapolation on the why's and wherefores about each choice would be an excellent addition and a good reference back to this thread from any 'net search. So let's have a fun time and this is meant as a discussion of relative merits within a budgetary limit. If you find you don't agree with someones choices but don't have any experience with their particular call on something, ask why but refrain from judging simply because of the nameplate. There's a LOT of stuff that sounds great when it actually shouldn't.

    Kurt Foster likes this.
  8. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    all the mics i specified were picked because imo they are "must haves". standards. mics no studio is complete without. mics you will be asked repeatedly about. "Uhhh .. got any Neumanns?" the mics i left as, "of your choice" are up to interpretation.

    not sure where $9k or $8900 comes from. my estimate was $8500 and that's basic street prices. i'm sure they could be had for less as a package from someplace.

    we talk all the time about computers, converters, software and plugs that cost at least as much as that. due to the modern day studios need to interface on the net, a lot of people spend this much over and over in the upgrade cycle just trying to keep current, compatible and "upgradeable". i have several expensive "doorstops" loaded with thousands in software that i can't give away .... a $10k investment in mics can last indefinitely and can be at least partially recouped at a later date.

    there are ways to help tame sticker shock like finding used gems like older 414's at a discount. i could probably find all those mics for less than 6k if i looked for a month or two. anyone want to "front" me 6k? :)

    i think that's the case. old wives tale. SM7's, 57's or 58's are not the same. completely different capsules. look up the parts numbers ..... i would reserve judgement until until you use them on vocals. that's what they were made for.
  9. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Sorry. I mis-typed 8500 and made it 8900 in my mind. Then rounded up. But for the sake and purpose of what I wanted to add to this thread 9K is a good number to stock an excellent mic locker with "lifetime" mics. As I said in the second line of my reply. I thought you started an excellent thread and wanted to extrapolate on it for the sake of folks who haven't ever owned a Neumann or an AKG higher than a Perception series. Our search engine these days is a powerful tool. So lets teach from it.

    As far as potential clients asking about what mics you have, I'm finding that fewer and fewer are asking for the "names" in mics. Most are more interested in your software and what version, and what your DAW platform is and whether it would translate or be integrable with their own home system. The small studio guys care about you having pieces they cant supply their clients for sure, but the cooperation of one studio to another isn't what it could or should be. Especially for the small market engineers and owners.
  10. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    no foul ......... :LOL:

    Dave (or dvdhawk),
    since your in the middle of a purchase cycle, you probably have some of the best dealer contact networks at the moment. if you have the time you could ask them all what they could put a package for or how it could be had wholesale....
  11. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    HAH! Actually I'm at the end of my upgrades cycle for the next three years. Now its just workworkworkwork...........
  12. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    We may be not putting enough attention on styles. A studio where the bulk of the clientele is rap, is going to have a different set of criteria than a facility that specializes in remote classical recording.

    I'm not saying that there aren't tried and true mics that work well in every genre - we all know that there are. My personal opinion is that all styles could benefit from mics like 414's orU87's, but I also get what Dave is saying, in that not everyone can afford those industry standard mics.

    If a small studio owner came to me and said, "I have $1000 to spend on mics. Could you recommend several that would be useful in all applications?" I would recommend the following (all proces are based on MSRP, buying some of these models used could save money)

    Option 1 Package, $1000 Budget:

    SM58's. (Or a couple 57's and 58's). There is no doubt that these mics are standards in every studio, both small and big, and there is a reason that they are: they can be used on virtually everything - from kick and snare to guitar amps, to horns, and even vocals. They are also rugged. (Most everyone here has heard my "57 story" by now, LOL)

    ( 2) SM 58's, (2) SM 57's... Price: $400 ( a bit less if you trust someone selling them lightly used, but watch out for counterfeits on the 58's. ;) )

    (1) Rode NT-1 Condenser: Not my own personal favorite, but for the money, a solid, decent sounding condenser mic. Good for vocals, brass, acoustic instruments.
    Price: $215

    (2) Shure PG81's, Small Diaphragm Condensers: for stereo miking acoustic instruments, Drum OH's, or any other app where an SD condenser would be used.
    Price: $250 for a pair

    (1) MXL 860 Ribbon: . I think every studio should have at least 1 ribbon mic , and the 860 is surprisingly good for its price. Its frequency plot is very close to the mic it was designed to emulate, the infamous Royer 121. I'm not saying that it is an exact replica of a 121, but, if you get a few extra bucks, you can have it modified with a different tranny - like a Lundahl - and it'll sound very good. I love using ribbon mics on guitar amps, andthey are also very nice if you are looking for a more vintage "darker" vocal sound.
    Price: $120

    Total Package: $985.00

    Alternatives: drop one of the 57's and 58's ($200) and upgrade the Ribbon to a Cascade Fathead.

    Option 2 Package, $1500 Budget

    (2) SM58's, (1) SM57's.
    Price: $300

    (1) Rode NT-1 Condenser
    Price: $215

    (2) Shure SM81 SD Condensers
    Price: $700

    (1) Cascade Fathead Ribbon
    Price: $300

    Total Package: $1515.00

    These are not my favorite mics... but, I have used all of them, and I think that they reflect a very good starting point - that is, these are all decent mics for the assumed entry-level limited budgets. And, the mics listed above would also benefit greatly from a really nice preamp.
    (You'd be amazed at how great a simple SM58 can sound when it's connected to a nice preamp. ;) )

    IMHO of course,

  13. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    I'd have a hard time improving on Kurt's list. My question @Kurt Foster, do the mics in question have to still be in production - as if you were starting from scratch buying new mics to equip a project studio?

    @DonnyThompson, as an a/v contractor - system installer, yes I do have access to just about any brand of mic worth having (or just about anything else for that matter). It's not something I've ever actively pursued here, but if an RO member is compiling a mic bundle I'd be happy to throw together a package price. I'm hooked up with most of the major manufacturers direct, and have distributors for the rest. Small wonder that I have accumulated a few over the years.
  14. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    actually if they are in good shape, i like to buy used mics if possible.
    pan60 likes this.
  15. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    That's good to know, Hawk. The packages I suggested above were only that - suggestions. It's not impossible to get a few nice mics for $1000, but I thought it might be better to diversify a bit, and give the potential user a wider array of choices, so that they could be able to gain some experience with different types of mics.

    @Kurt Foster, I agree as long as the seller has taken care of them. Both my U87 and U89 were used when I bought them.
  16. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    Me too - and I've bought quite a few unusual ones. D202 was a nice surprise - dual capsule, HF and LF, very smooth and distance doesn't change the sound very much when you use them for voice overs. In fact, the mics I use most are simply the ones I know well. Even some of the Chinese samples I decided not to buy are quite good for certain things where their characteristics are a plus. One I bought thinking about X/Y stereo was quiet thin and weedy, but makes a great drum overhead, giving the cymbals a real sing - and because the bottom end is a bit iffy, snare and of course kick don't feature much.
  17. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I have found this to be true as well.. and that's coming from a guy who owns a pretty nice collection of high end mics and who , for a long time, felt that these Chinese mics were substandard, and for the most part, garbage.

    I don't think that anymore, or at least I don't paint them all with the same brush as I used to.

    After having tried some different models, I've found that some of them can bring certain nuances that are 'right" for a particular scenario. I'm pretty sure that Kurt would disagree with this - LOL - but, for example, I got a hold of an MXL 860 Ribbon, that in fact sounds very nice on guitar amps. I'm not suggesting that it's the exact same thing as a Royer 121 - for which it was designed to copy, and, having used R 121's many times in the past, I can say that they aren't the same mic - but... that doesn't mean that the 860 sounds bad. With a transformer upgrade, like a Lundahl, it gets even better, and there are guys who do in fact have this mod done.

    Three weeks ago, I was at a client's home "studio", and he had a Sterling condenser mic (I don't recall the model, it was black, a simple cardioid, no pads or filters) and we recorded an acoustic guitar track with it... his preamp was a Focusrite 2i2; and it really wasn't bad at all. In fact, it had a nice mid-rangey thing happening - not necessarily a bump I'd prefer for vocals, but it did manage to bring out some nice musical-sounding mids on his acoustic without sounding harsh or brittle.

    Of course, it was by no means a C12 or a U87, but, it didn't sound bad - or at least it didn't sound bad for tracking his acoustic. And, for the $100 or so that he paid for it, he'll get use out of it. He's not a pro, he just does it strictly as a hobby, he doesn't even upload to iTunes or soundcloud, he just does it for fun, so a guy like that would be kind of foolish to drop $2-3k on high quality mic when this is only a hobby for him.
  18. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    This is kinda what I was looking for as far as making a list within a budget. There ARE lots and lots of mics that in the past (and certainly lots that just from the manufacturers label) you would expect to be junk that no longer are. Many have a stigma generated from sites like this one, that either lauds their abilities to sound just like a ______________ at a fraction of the cost or ones that shouldn't be touched with 27 foot pole.

    People searching the net for information and answers to their questions about particular pieces will invariably be prompted to us simply because the search engine function is as good as it is.

    Again, a reason for the attempt at lists. The PROFESSIONAL recordists/user doesnt really need such a list except to perhaps find out about a jewel in the rough or perhaps discover something they have no experience with but might fill a gap they feel they have in their locker. Its why I have some of the mics I own and use.

    Its hard to be active about ALL the mics one accumulates simply because most sessions only require a basic set of mics for the task at hand. If you have a locker full of quality go-to mics, then chances are the ones that might be a true budget piece will get left behind in favor of a standard. I try and exercise all my mics fairly regularly but it becomes harder to reach into the back of the box and get the ones that aren't the high-end mics, especially for a full-length project with sales and distribution as an end result, EVEN THOUGH I KNOW that the sound of these budget mics I own will not effect the outcome one single bit.

    I am one of those people that believes that certain mics are de rigueur and theres no real substitute for them. So a basic locker MUST contain these mics. SM57/58 is really the bottom line for this. I DO NOT believe that 'no locker is complete without a U87 Neumann'. I own one. A very very nice one. An unusually great sounding one. When they get age on them, as this one has, its much like the amalgamation of the parts aging together of a favorite classic guitar.....it just sounds like no other and this can't be built without the aging process being a part of the formula. But I cannot in good conscious advise ANYONE that you need to spend this money they cost on a mic that I feel has many many rivals at its price point that generally out perform it in a lot of situations.

    Don't misunderstand, I LOVE Neumann U87's and appreciate what they bring to the table that many many other mics are designed to do in a similar fashion but fail every time. Its an industry standard for sure, just not a beginners mic in any way. I truly believe that your ear has to be trained to a level capable of understanding this. I also believe that once you begin to use these upper-end pieces that it becomes the same principles as wanting to play your favorite instrument all the time, as the sound and comfort level and satisfaction to your sonic sensibilities is met with its use.

    In the end, all mic choices are ones that need to be met with the need of the recordist's styles of music and types of sessions being attended to. As Donny pointed out, the really important issue of mic buying is fitting the need for the time and place. Someone who is self-producing their own material may want to spend some time demoing and discovering a particular mic that fits their voice like a glove. At the point of finding this, that particular mic locker model would be complete....at least for a vocal mic.

    Another reason for a 'basics' list. Heck there's already a thousand articles available on the net about someones opinion of this list already so why add to it?

    Because every day people are directed to this site via the search engine. Almost every one of the people who frequent here and have come here in the last three years were directed through the search engine function to answer some question they typed in and wound up here.

    So maybe the basics list should include defined sub-categories linking to basic recordings of basic sources. A list of VOCAL MICS and their relative budget....DRUM MICS.....ACOUSTIC INSTRUMENTS....ELECTRIC INSTRUMENTS....etc....
    Sean G, DonnyThompson and Kurt Foster like this.
  19. pan60

    pan60 Active Member

    my short list;
    Wont argue the 414, pair of 57's or RE-16's and an RE-20.
    Not a fan of electrits but theirs many that are fine but a pair of small true condensers would be a nice.

    long list;
    Pair of 414's, a couple pair of true small condensers at least a pair of RE20's, 6 57's and or RE-15's , RE-16's or similar. A pair of nice U47's or quality U47 clones , at least one U87 or other just nice large condenser.
  20. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    This is whats cool. especially for young guys just getting going but already having an ear to discern those little differences in "good" and "better". I LOVE the RE EV mics. I just haven't found a real good shape RE16 yet...

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