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Vocal / Acoustic Guitar Mic Advice

Discussion in 'Microphones' started by Spencer Baird, Oct 4, 2015.

  1. Spencer Baird

    Spencer Baird Active Member

    So I am thinking about investing in a new mic or mics but have quite a few questions.

    So I am looking to pick up a new microphone for the use of recording male & female vocals. (Primarily male and mostly acoustic style tracks but also some EDM vocal tracking.)

    I am also looking to pick up a new mic to record acoustic guitar.

    I currently own a Electro-Voice Co9 and Shure Sm58 and my current set up is Mic -> Scarlett 2i4 -> Ableton. (Tracking vocals and Guitar seperately.) I am in an untreated room, and have a pair of yamaha Hs8s to monitor.

    My budget is flexible but I would ideally like to stay sub to ~ 500$ region.

    My questions are the following:
    • for what I have descirbed is there a microphone you would recommend that do the job on both acoustic guitar and vocals? If not what would you recommend for each individually?
    • at what point does improving my mic become irrelevant if I am only using the scarlett as my AI (instead of a proper microphone preamp) and if my audio skills are lacking
    • at this price range & for my set up will I even notice the difference between the 200$ model of any given mic and the 500$ of that same mic? Ie. since I will be processing the audio in Abelton at what point is it diminishing returns?
    I understand that I am looking at low end microphones at my price range but I am a broke and trying to avoid a situation where I spend 200$ and regret it because for an extra 200$ there was a massive improvement or on the flip side where I spend 500$ only to not even notice the improvement over the 200$ mic / my 58.

    Any advice / recomendations / links to articles to read up on are highly appreciated!
  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Frankly, in an untreated room, you are doing the right thing by using cardioid dynamics, although the CO9 is more of a live mic than a studio one, and might be a candidate for replacement. The SM58 is an all-round professional's choice of dynamic vocal microphone, so keep on using that!

    One thing you many want to consider is whether you would benefit from using a stereo pair for the acoustic guitar recording. Small diaphragm condensers (SDCs) are the traditional mics for this job, and would give you more spacious recordings with increased top end than a mono dynamic, but be considerably more sensitive to the room acoustics, particularly things like floor reflections. An example would be the Rode NT5 matched pair at around 400 USD.

    Your Scarlett 2i4 is a great little 2-channel audio interface, and is not the weak link in your chain at this level.
    audiokid and pcrecord like this.
  3. Spencer Baird

    Spencer Baird Active Member

    Thanks for the reply! Thoughts on using up my budget on a single, superior SDC, recording mono and doing some stereo widening in the box? Or even a LDC which could be used for vocals as well/would pickup less room noise I would imagine?
  4. pcrecord

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

    Stereo widening in the box often imply the use of stereo enhancer plugins which are the worst things created because it uses phases disaligment to do their work. It can create a bunch of problems in your mix so I try to avoid it. Instead, if the song calls for it, I'd track the guitar twice and pan them. Or you can use a wide reverb or a M/S processing plugin.

    Usually LDC are more detailed and sensitive than SDC, so they usually pickup more of the room noises and reverb. With small steps like putting thick curtains or draps on walls or singing toward an open closet full of clothes. You can definitly record some good track if the sources are close to the mic.
  5. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    You can't "widen" a mono signal, and an M-S plugin won't help because there is no S channel. If you can't multiple-track the source, about all you can do is use a stereo reverb or some other artificially wide effect.
  6. pcrecord

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

    Boswell, what I wanted to say is to put a stereo reverb and then use M/S processing to enhance it...
  7. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    I think that would not sound good. It would be better to find a wide reverb, like the Lexicon one. Don't forget to check the result in mono - some reverbs leave nasty artifacts in the centre that are not apparent when listening in stereo.
    pcrecord likes this.
  8. Chris Perra

    Chris Perra Active Member

    Akg 214's are at the top of your budget but work well with acoustic and vocals. You will pick up alot more of you room though with a mic like that.
  9. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    +1 on the rode nt-5s excellent mics. Maybe a used AT 4050 with its bright top end would be nice on acoustics, it's a great female vocal mic. Maybe an avantone cv-12 for an all arounder? They sound nice when you replace the tube.

    It's difficult to reccomend (condenser) mics in an untreated room. Maybe an AT 3035, a few moving blankets and a used groove tubes Brick preamp would make the biggest sonic difference.. Certainly at the top of your budget but exceeding not a whole lot. And that's a lot of mojo for a rig.

    As far as 200-vs 500 mics, really nothing is a a significant level up in that rAnge, your not gonna find $500 mic that blows away a decent mic of lesser. When you start talking $500 and up that's a more definitive line, as you get into 414s and 40 series audio techincas, and a personal fave the sennheisser md 441. In the +500 you get into the more workhorse mics you see in a typical studio enviornment.
  10. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    ( @Boswell @pcrecord @kmetal @Spencer Baird @Chris Perra )


    There's nothing wrong with your pre; the Focusrite 2i4 is a nice little entry-level pre/i-o, and as Bos mentioned, there's nothing wrong with using an SM58, either.
    In fact, in your current room situation, it's probably your best bet, as it will pick up far less of the sound of the room than a condenser would.

    The fact that the room is untreated is probably going to present the most issues for you - at least at this point, anyway.

    (There's nothing that says that an untreated room will always sound bad - but it's very rare that the "typical" room in a home will sound good without treatment to some degree or another.)

    You don't necessarily have to treat the entire room for recording, either; as Marco mentioned, you can use materials like roll-up rugs for the floor, or thick packing blankets, hung over mic or speaker stands, or, if you're in a place where installing some small hooks into the ceiling won't get you into trouble, you could hang the blankets in that fashion as well. These temporary recording "booths' can work well at attenuating mid to high frequency reflections/flutter echo, and they don't have to be permanent, either. You can set them up or take them down as you need within a few minutes.
    Now... they won't provide any isolation - so if you're located in an area with heavy traffic or city noises, they won't help with that - but they will help to tame the amount of room reflection that the mic will pick up.

    I agree with Kyle that within your current budget, most of the mics that reside in the $300-$500 price range are all going to be pretty similar - it's when you start to get above that $500 range that you'll begin to hear differences in quality.
    That's not to say that you can't get a decent workhorse mic in that range, because you can - Rode and AT both make decent sounding mics at that price level. But when it comes to picking up the sound of the room you are recording in, they're all going to be sensitive to that, because they're condensers, and that's the nature of those beasts. And, the higher the quality of a condenser, the more sensitive it will be, so until you do something to treat the room reflections, stepping up the quality of the mic will actually end up working against you, at least in this scenario.

    As a side note, if you are using the same room to mix in as you are to track in, you may want to look into some form of real acoustic treatment, ( bass traps, broadband absorbers, etc) because you're likely to get some very skewed mixes if your room is "lying" to you when you're listening. So at some point, as your budget allows, this is something you'll want to seriously consider.

    I recommend Rod Gervais's book, Home Studio - Build Like The Pro's for room treatment solutions, many of which are not at all expensive - yet are very effective - and most of the materials needed can be found at any of the bigger home improvement stores.

    Kogwonton likes this.
  11. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    I didn't want to be the one to have to go there d :) right on as usual.

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