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Small diaphragm condensers for guitar and drums OH

Discussion in 'Drums' started by insanecooker, Jun 30, 2004.

  1. insanecooker

    insanecooker Guest

    Hi everyone,

    I've been looking for a pair of small diaphragm condensers that would work well with an acoustic guitar and for drums overheads.

    Some people have suggested the SM81's for me. Any alternatives I should consider? They are within my budget, no problem, but I wonder if they are the best option (they seem to be a studio staple around here).

  2. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    SM 81's have been an industry standard for years ...

    Neumann KM 180 series mics (183 through 185) are also top of the line pencil condensers ...

    AKG offers the C451B re issue (not a true pressure gradient mic but instead a back charged electrit type) and the C480, a ULS series mic.

    These are all relatively expensive mics but should serve you well into the future. If you are searching out a more cost effective alternative, I suggest you consider the Studio Projects C4's. These come as a matched pair with both omni and cardioid pattern capsules that comes with shock mount mic clips and a nice carrying case for around $500 list.
  3. insanecooker

    insanecooker Guest

    Actually, due to weird pricing down here, the C4 pair would cost as much as 2 SM81's (they don't come in matched pairs, right?).

    Which would be better between those?

    I might be able to stretch my budget to fit the AKG C451B (US$1000 for the pair), but the others are just too rich for my blood (now). Do you think they would be much better than the SM81's to justify the extra US$350?

  4. djui5

    djui5 Guest

    You could also look into a pair of AT 4051's, EW SR-77's, Neumann KM184 or KM84's, DPA 4011's.....
  5. sdelsolray

    sdelsolray Active Member

    Jul 5, 2003
    Portland, OR
    There's basically three quality classes of small condenser mics: good, excellent and incredible. Not surprisingly, price separates the three groups rather clearly (there are exceptions). I classify the three groups by price, as it seems the quality of the mics follow the price groups:

    1) Good: Under $500 for a pair. These are usually the Chinese mics. There are many brands, and there are minor differences between them. Also included in this group is the (now missing in action) Octava MC-012.

    2) Excellent: $500 to $1,500 for a pair. The mics in this group are more different from each other than those in the first group. These include Shure SM81, AKG 451B, Neumann 180 series, Microtech Gefell 300, Josephson C42, some of the Earthworks mics, among others. Most would say these mics usually sound and work better to much better than the mics in the first group.

    3) Incredible: Above $1,500 pair. Like the middle group, there are some stark differences between these mics. One thing they all have in common though is near magical capabilities concerning detail, accuracy, off-axis response, etc. These mics are the real deal. This group includes Schoeps, DPA, Josephson Series 6 and 7, T.H.E., Microtech Gefell M200 Series and the 2000 series, Neumann 100 Series, and many of the Earthworks mics.

    More often than not, a particular SD will work equally well with acoustic guitar and drum overheads, although some do one better than the other. Conventional recording techniques use SDs for these applications, but with the explosion of LDs over the past several years, it is not uncommon to see use of LDs or quality ribbons for acoustic guitar or overheads.

    Good luck!
  6. insanecooker

    insanecooker Guest

    Well, I went price-checking for the mics mentioned. The ones that remain are these:

    - Shure SM81
    - AKG C451B
    - AT4051A
    - KM183
    - KM184

    The first three are in my budget, no problem (the AKG is already a bit of a stretch, but I can fit it in). The Neumann I'd have to sell something to get :)

    Are they much better than the other three? Because, if they are, I'd pay the extra. If so, what's the difference between the KM184 and the 183?

    If not, which of the first three would you get?

    Please keep in mind these will be my only pair of SD condensers for a while, being used for drums and acoustic guitar.

    Thanks for everything.
  7. Ellegaard

    Ellegaard Active Member

    Feb 17, 2004
    Central Copenhagen
    Any comments on RODE NT-5?
  8. insanecooker

    insanecooker Guest

    I have read mixed reviews of the NT-5s.

    Apparently they are a bit too much on the dark side, and they'd be better for drum OH than for acoustic guitar. That's the conclusion I got after reading about them for a while.

    Hope some others can chime in on them, since they are very inexpensive. :)
  9. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    Let me reitterate ... the C451Bs are not a true pressure gradiant condenser ... they are an electrit design and while advances in this type of design have been recently made, I still feel they are not up to snuff (my opinion).

    The difference between the Neumanns is the 183 is an omni capsule, the 184 is cardioid and the 185 is a hyper cardioid ... (not to beat the dead horse again) the SP C4's come as a matched pair with both a cardioid and omni capsule supplied ... along with shock mounts and a flight case ... all for less than you would pay for one Neumann ... and look at this ..


    Yes but you wouldn't be getting a matched pair or the ability to change from omni to cardioid capsules .... The C4's are a great deal at twice the price. It is unfortunate that the pricing is so weird in Brazil ...

    There has to be some way around all that ....
  10. insanecooker

    insanecooker Guest

    Well, the C4's seem to be pretty good. I've heard good things about them from pretty much anyone, but they always seem to be good "for the price", if you know what I mean.

    The pricing issue: the fact isn't that the C4's are too expensive down here. They cost US$850 here from the local dealer. The SM81's cost each US$600 from local authorized dealers.

    However, I have found an alternative (still legal) way to get SM81's here for US$400, so that a pair would run me US$800. I'd still have to get shock-mounts, an extra US$100 or so.

    There's no way to do that with the C4's however, and the lowest I have been able to find a pair selling for in the grey market is US$675. No warranty, though, and would take over a month to arrive.

    I'm not really concerned about my budget regarding these two, since they cost about the same for me. The Neumanns sure are more expensive (i'd probably get the cardioid KM184s), but, if they are much better, I'd pay for them.

    The real doubt: imagining the SM81s and the C4s are about the same price, would you still get the C4s?
  11. djui5

    djui5 Guest

    I've used almost all the mic's listed on this thread...and can say that I really love the AT 4051's....they sound great..on acoustic guitar and drums....not just OH's...but HH and Ride too....

    You also never said what type of music your doing....that makes a difference..
  12. fetzir

    fetzir Active Member

    Nov 25, 2003
    I went thru this same thing a few months ago, and went with a matched pair of Josephsons (C42), and have never looked back. They are golden....$999 for a matched set...

    Good luck,
  13. herr

    herr Guest

  14. insanecooker

    insanecooker Guest

    djui5: I like the idea of the AT4051s too (on the less expensive side, but they don't come in matched pairs at least on my dealer).

    My band (which will be my main client :)) is a soft rock band, lots of acoustic passages. We sometimes venture into rockabilly territory, at our heaviest we're sort of like the Strokes (at least that's what people tell us). Lots of variety.

    My acoustic is somewhat on the darker side (Larrivee OMV-03), if that makes a difference. I really like balanced mics (no hyped frequencies for me).

    fetzir: I'll see if I can find the Josephsons locally (I highly doubt it).

  15. djui5

    djui5 Guest

    Matched pairs are overated unless your doing measurements or classical music...

    Personally I think the 4051's would be fine for you applications..
  16. maintiger

    maintiger Distinguished Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Whittier, California, USA
    Home Page:
    Here is a link for the josephson mics- about $950 for a matched pair

  17. insanecooker

    insanecooker Guest

    djui5: They seem to be a good option. I'm keeping them on my list. I hate not being able to test this sort of stuff.

    maintiger: Thanks for the link. I checked and they really aren't available locally. If I bought them at that price, they would end up costing me around US$1400 (no special import method for them), which is about the price of the Neumanns. How would they compare?

  18. sdevino

    sdevino Active Member

    Mar 31, 2002
    2 more points:

    I ALWAYS like omnis for acoustic guitar better than cardiods. I ALMOST ALWAYS like omnis for drum overheads better than cardiods.

    The drum overheads and your acoustic guitar mics are going to be the key elements to the over all sound of your recordings in that they are going to create almost all of the ambient space anyone hears and will thus establish your sound signature (other than vocals of course).

    Unless your room sounds like crap, omnis will give you a far bigger, fuller, fatter, real sounding image than a cardiod. SD omnis are probably the most accurate mics you can buy. Cardiods can be advantagous where you want to "effect" the sound for a specific reason, such as the Ac Gtr doesn't sound that good except when miced at a very specific spot etc. But given a great player and a great sounding instrument, the only thing that will capture anything close to what you hear in the room is a great omni.

    Earthworks, DPA, Scheops, and others in the high end omni category are the way to go.

    If you must use a cardiod, I would recommend the SM81 over many that are on your list (especially the Neumann KM184).

    And that's my opinion!

  19. insanecooker

    insanecooker Guest

    Actually, I can't tell you right now if my room sounds good :) Kidding, it's just that it's still being built. It probably won't, since this is my bedroom that I'm converting to a studio (cube-like shape, low ceiling) until I can move to someplace decent.

    Actually, it's pretty easy to record my acoustic. You can "point" the mic pretty much anywhere and it will sound good.

    Thanks for the SM81 suggestion. They are the only ones I have used from this list, and they surely are good.
  20. LordAlvin

    LordAlvin Guest

    I have used all of the mics mentioned here with the exception of the Studio Projects and Josephson mics. The pair that I eventually settled on are the Sennheiser MKH 40's. The reason I like them so much is that they have an intangible quality to them that makes them sound very real. Most SD mics that are designed to have a flat response just sound boring to my ears. The MKH 40's are not hyped yet they still sound clear, natural, and musical. A producer that I work for explains this effect as "sugar coated reality". They also take eq very well. I have found them useful as acoustic guitar, overhead drum, piano, upright bass, and even electric guitar mics. They seem to really shine when used in an ORTF configuration, but often times I find them just as useful as 3-1 spaced pairs. They have very low noise and can handle high SPL's with intense peaks without distortion. My only wishes are that they came with a good shockmount and a swivel head so I could easily use them as tom mics. I purchased some aftermarket shockmounts from Audio Technica that work pretty well. I suggest that you give them a try.

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