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Mics that cost $500+

Discussion in 'Microphones' started by sk2122, Sep 24, 2013.

  1. sk2122

    sk2122 Active Member

    Why do people buy microphones at $500 or above? Looking for some feedback on whether there is really a sound quality difference, or is it mainly for the prestige (or other reasons).

    Also curious to know if these mics have become more affordable in the last few years. Will there be any $500+ mics left in 5-10 years? Or is this market "protected" from any further price erosion due to brand reputation / sound quality etc.
  2. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Manufacturers of good, better, best or worst, I'm sure the Chinese will be a big contributor in price reduction.

    I recently sold a RODE Classic II which I regret. For me, it sounded every bit as pristine through my system, better actually to my Neumann M49 that costs $5 grand ( $3000 more); The Classic II is also more versatile so go figure. Many people on other forums say they don't like the sound of the Classic II but I bet 99% of those people have never even used one; RODE hasn't sold that many.
    The M 49 is an amazing mic but it is way to hot for my taste. But, with the right pre amp and application, it might be unbeatable.

    Some here say they compare a $300 Kel mic to a $2500 Neumann U 87.

    I love Royer ribbon mics for a lot of applications and I absolutely love DPA. These are expensive products and worth every dime to me.
    I have a bunch of RODE SM58 nockoff's (M1) here and they are right on! Shure SM57/58 are the most versatile microphone ever made and they cost around $100. Everyone should have at least 2.
    I wouldn't be using them for OH or tracking a classical guitarist if I had other choices, that's for sure. But some with 35 + years of experience claim they are great for even tracking large Choirs. Go figure.

    There is a lot of hype, stupid and misinformation around rock solid advice in this business which is all very subjective. I'm a firm believer we get what we pay for but it might not always be what we need.
  3. pcrecord

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

    It all depend on what you track. If you track a snare or a amp cabinet, a SM57 may be all you need, very affordable and versatile mic.
    The SM57 is a dynamic mic that is mostly use for close mic so, less problem with room acoustics..

    Most people saying 1000$+ mics are no worth it, just don't have what it takes to hear the difference. (room, monitor, preamp, ear training...)
    Oh yeah, get a good preamp and you will rediscover you 100$ mic. But plug a 1000$ mic in a 30$ preamp is a waste of money..

    All in all, I'd like to buy a 414 or a u87 for 200$, I really do. But for most professionnal they are worth paying the extra money because those mic make a difference, they capture sound in some ways other mics don't. That's why the industry accept paying more for some key products.
  4. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    It's not universal, but more expensive microphones do, in general, give a "better" sound, whatever "better" might mean in this context.

    There are also differences due to source width and type of material. A $5000 LDC designed for studio recording of single vocal sources can sound unpleasant off-axis, which is one of the reasons why recording of orchestral music, for example, is usually done with small diaphragm condenser (SDC) microphones.

    You must additionally take into account that the differences between a $500 and a $5000 microphone will be much reduced when used with an inadequate-quality pre-amplifier or in a poor acoustic environment.
  5. sk2122

    sk2122 Active Member

    That's interesting.. To date, I believe none of the high end ($500+, $2000+) mics are manufactured entirely in China. Any ideas as to why that is? Is there anything about more expensive mics that makes them harder to be replicated in China?
  6. pcrecord

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

    China has the habit of replicating technology and sell it for a lot less by breaking patent laws. (with similar look or even identical copies) For exemple : If the Shure decided to have their mics made in mexico and not china, it's probably to protect their patents and technology. Other thing to consider, china has a reputation for cheap and bad quality gear, so in my opinion, it would not be a good idea for successfull company to use china and keep high prices. (when customers see made in china, they automaticly associate it with cheap)

    Few years back I bought 2 AKG D880 for live performance from china, Both have very difference level of output signal and very different frequency response. At 35$ each, I kept the one sounding ok and throw away the other one. 70$ was still less expensive than 160$ for just one mic.. But from that day, I stopped buying important gear from china.
  7. pan60

    pan60 Active Member

    Some very nice dynamic mics in the up to $500.00 price range some go beyond that. Typical I have not felt much love for condenser mics in that price range. From what have had in here $1000.00 would just get you into an okay condenser.
  8. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Mojave as an example, which makes an awesome line of mics around this price point has parts of their mic built in China. But, the intricate parts are also built and assembled in the USA. Things like the casing, mesh may be made in China.

    RODE as another example, had ( I believe used China) make some things for them but eventually got wise and built the most advanced mic manufacturing plant in the world now.

    So, RODE is actually on the cutting edge in both RD and manufacturing.

    Watch this. The RØDE Difference

  9. rocksure

    rocksure Active Member

    Rode takes more of a bashing on some forums than they deserve. They make some great mics, and some others that are ok (but not so great)...that are definitely usable. For example the NTK and K2 are both really cool mics in my opinion, and very well worth owning and using for all sorts of tasks.

    The AKG C414B-ULS is an older mic that goes used for more than $500..........but it's still cheaper than your Neumann's etc, and worth every penny in my opinion too. Mine gets used lots........it's a real workhorse that's good on almost anything. But there will always be room for using Rode mics in my setup as well.
  10. ondray

    ondray Active Member

    It all depends in the application they're being used on and the performance of course will out weigh mic selection probably 90% of the time. I think Sure, Oktava and Audio-Technica make great mikes under or around $500. Manufactures who have been in the business a long time like Neumann / Shoeps etc, also have spent more effort into research and development over the years ... and of course the name "brand" and knowing they can charge $5k for mic will play into the cost.
  11. sdelsolray

    sdelsolray Active Member

    Microtech Gefell and Schoeps microphones (among a few other brands) are "made by Elves you know". The Microphone Elves™ only live in Europe.
  12. pan60

    pan60 Active Member

    I think Rode takes more of a bashing, because of some of the crapish mics they made.
    I have an old NT2 and it dose nothing for me at all.
    Would rather use my old Alesis Groove Tubes ( even the AM51 ), then the Rode.
    I do hope the newer Rode mics coming will be cool, looking forward to checking them out.

    I have be told the Rode Classics are nice but I have never tried one.
  13. mberry593

    mberry593 Active Member

    It is very important to have a U87. You should be able to get a used one on ebay for about $3000 USD. If you are lucky, you may be able to find a non-working case that you can use to hide a smaller microphone.

    Here is why you need one.

    Sooner or later you will run into a singer who insists that he must have a U87 to capture his wonderful voice. If you try to put anything else in front of him he will complain. He will spread the word around that you are incompetent and your studio is inferior. You can't satisfy this person by renting a U87. In spite of his protests, you will actually have made him very happy because he is really looking for an excuse to use if his performance isn't a platinum hit. It won't be his poor performance, it will be your fault. In his mind, your not supplying him with a U87 means that you don't know what you are doing. Save yourself this hassle. Just go out and buy one. Although they are overpriced, they are decent microphones so it won't be a complete waste of money.
  14. pcrecord

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

    Interesting point MBerry.
    It's true that some costumers ask for the gear name by reputation and not because it's the right tool for them... But a U87 (I wish I had one) is like a reference in the industry... the starting point you might say. You could say, yes I have one but I rarely use it since I discover this other mic and make the signer test it. But this is gambling..
    Instead, I try to put the person in the loop of creating a good sound. I explain that a mic is like a glove and none fit all. I then ask them to participate in finding the right mic and preamp that fit their unique voice and they get to decide which is the best for them.
    Once a singer is in the loop of deciding for himself(herself) you win! (your job to influence him in the right direction) thumb

    As for how much you can spend and is spending more is worth it ? I have a ksm32 from shure, I bought it for 1200$ 15 years ago and it still serve me well on a lot of vocals. It sells new around 600$ now a day. But I sometime use a AKG C3000b (Bought it for 400$) which sound better on some vocals that are darker. This mic was eating dust until I bought the dual preamp ISA TWO from focusrite. Some great vocal recordings where made with a SM57 (worth 100$), but the preamp makes such a difference it could be disturbing how a mic would better fit the source with the proper preamp.

    I don't want to point a gun at anyone but some say they don't hear the difference between a 50$ and a 3000$ mic. I'd say to them it's true, on cheap monitors, 30$ preamp and cheap converters everything sound the same. To evolve we must invest where it counts. One could have all the gear in the world but be lost in how to use it.

    My chain of priority is :
    1- Trained ears and communication skills
    2- knowledge of how sound and gear works,
    3- Room to record in, instrument quality + customer skill to perform, mic placement, Monitors and control room
    4- Converters and preamps
    5- Mic choice
    6- mixing skills and musical knowledge
    7- Basic knowledge about instruments and playing technics

    Am I forgotting something ?? Oh yeah :
    8- Love of music and easiness to bound with people and their projects !
  15. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    If you cannot discern the difference in sound between a U87 Neumann and a $50 anything, then you're in the wrong business. I'm not saying that great sounds can't be obtained by 'budget' mics. Quite the opposite. But these are specific to the source at that moment in that environment.

    I own an older U87 and it is a gem. Sounds great on anything. NOT "perfect" on everything, but a great representation of the source its pointed at. Recent recordings I've made have this lovely original vintage mic paired with a $300 KEL HM-7 condenser for lead male vocals. Quality mic pres allow this two mic setup to work as well as it does. I get things in the tonal spectrum from the KEL I dont get from the Neumann and vise-versa. And some of this difference is made clear by what pre its plugged into.

    This is the great thing about having some selection. I have around 20 mics I wouldn't hesitate to put up as a main vocal mic but in the end, most don't get used as much as others. When I'm tracking a whole band at once, for example, I ALWAYS use the SM7b simply because I can position it and reduce the bleed from the other instruments to a usable level if we happen to capture THE TAKE from the singer. Paired with some of the pres I have this is often as not the ONLY mic I will use even when tracking a vocalist by themselves. Any style of music also, not just heavier or harder stuff. With the right pre, the SM7 has plenty of articulation and covers plenty of tonal range to be the right mic.

    Just like the Kel, or the Neumann.

    As for the prestige factor.......a Neumann in the collection will sometimes get you a project, but at the same time if thats the ONLY reason you got the project, it will also get you some headaches in trying to complete it.
  16. jonathanm777

    jonathanm777 Active Member

    I've tried a lot of microphones and have settled on a few that work well for me. I have a SM57 and Royer R122V, both great for guitar cabinets, the R122V is great for acoustic instruments too. I also have a Mojave MA200 and a Mojave MA201fet, both are great for vocals and acoustic instruments. I guess I never tried any cheaper mics that sounded that good. I had a few MXL2001s which I did the long gone Mojave modification to and the before and after is a big difference.
  17. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    LOL... you owe me one new computer keyboard.... as I soaked my current one by spitting coffee on it while reading your post.

    It wouldn't be so funny if it wasn't so true.

    I have a U87 ( not vintage, picked it up around '92 or so) a U89 ( bought it around '89) an older 414EB ( this one is older, I bought this around 1981 and love it) and a slew of other dynamics including an RE20, several 421's, 57's and 58's...

    I was doing a session once where the vocalist insisted on using a Neumann, so I put up the 89. He rebelled instantly, saying that he meant "the" Neumann, which in his mind meant the 87. I think he said something like, "This one is smaller than the U87, how can it be as good?" or something to that affect.

    The U87 was in fact not at the studio that day, I had taken it home a few days previous to record some stuff in my little studio at home and had forgotten to bring it back. The result was that he ended up singing into the 89, but three days later came back to record the track again using the 87. It had apparently been on his mind over that three day period, to the extent that he lost sleep and couldn't function in life knowing that he had settled for a U89 instead of the U87. I really do believe that I could have put up a U67 or a U47 and he would have still had a nutty, because he just HAD to use the 87. It was that or nothing.

    No foolin'. True story.

  18. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Funny. And not so rare.

    I must have a similar story but its not worth my time to type it out.

    The proliferation of budget to pro-sumer level equipment is astounding in its numbers.....There are many examples of reverse-engineered electonica out there from countries other than China.....If you have a piece of gear that has a large budget attached to the engineering, then the chances of a superior product are increased several-fold. Its when the components of said design start becoming ....errr....budgetary....then we lose fidelity, depth of field, and tonal integrity. But like all gear of any sort, there is a range of operational response in which the TYPE of circuit employed with components and the engineered technique needed to produce said circuit, will work at an optimum level. The real key for any recordist is to choose devices which give the best chance of quality reproduction of a source. And does PRICE effect these abilities?

    Yes but not in a linear measurement of cost vs. performance.

    This is NOT the WHEEL.

    A wheel rolls at so many feet/inches/centimeters/etc per degrees of rotation. Simple. One is larger and goes further with less numbers of orbits than another.

    Should a larger wheel cost more than a smaller one simply because it goes father for less amount of rotations?

    Only if its the right wheel for the job.

    The original poster wants to know about the relative value of a type of product at a certain price point. $500 is a very popular price point on a lot of on-line forums discussing this. At length and ad-tedium at times. $500 can be a lot of money to someone. Especially if this is simply a hobby you occasionally indulge in. That would be a big investment for someone not blessed with disposable income. For a Professional...I do mean those that charge for their services and even some who record only themselves but with a point of business about it....ie: sales of product...demos for playing time live....recordings for immediate family members isn't really "Pro" but you yourself might be a Pro at this.......Those folks who look at these pieces of gear with more of a need for robust build, ease of use, quality reflected in the results of its use, the ability of the gear to withstand repeated use....

    These are all points of emphasis when selecting a piece of gear. And dealing with the price of said gear.

    Then there's those of us who simply want something else...............

    YOU ALL KNOW WHO YOU ARE! but thats a whole nother thing....

    ("Hi, my names Dave and I am a GEARAHOLIC....." ) all in room-> "Welcome Dave......."
  19. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I've been fighting GAS ( Gear Addiction Syndrome) for years now. I have bad GAS. I've been walking around with GAS for as long as I can remember.

    There's no 12 step for it. Don't kid yourself. Just realize you have no control over it and give into the dark side. ;)
  20. rmburrow

    rmburrow Active Member

    A Neumann U67 cost around $460 US in 1964. The AC701 tube cost around $10 in 1969. Look how much this stuff costs now, besides the fact these items are no longer made.

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