1. Register NOW and become part of this fantastic knowledge base forum! This message will go away once you have registered.

Which high(er) end microphone, or do I need one for my low end system?

Discussion in 'Microphones' started by AreBar, Jun 20, 2015.

  1. AreBar

    AreBar Active Member

    This is my first post, so hope I got it in the right place.

    I have a simple home studio setup and a VERY cheap microphone. I'm willing to spend up to US$ 4000 for a new mic that suits my voice, but maybe it's pointless with my sound card? I use an Apollo Twin DUO sound card and only plugin pre-amps. I use Logic Pro X.

    When I record myself I think the quality sounds ok after I use 610B plugin for example. But my voice is colorless, thin and lacks presence. I won't give up trying to sing though and think that a proper microphone might help my motivation to keep learning.

    I attached a sound file with some samples to show which range, and what type of music, I usually sing (an unlisted youtube clip since I didn't know of any other way to attach sound).

    The first 16 seconds is in Swedish, but then English. My kids are playing/screaming in the background and this was just done very quickly while I was eating breakfast. I only used the 610B and Pultec to bring out a little mid tone. The mic was a single MXL 990. The last snippet of Outside Woman Blues is way outside my range, but did it to show the thin squeaky voice I have.

    I almost only record singing and playing acoustic guitar. The other issue then is that any condenser mic will pick up the guitar and limit mixing possibilities. But I only want it this way and will not record vocal and guitar separately. I then feel I lose the "live" sound. So which mic to do this? I can of course use two mic's. I've tried a couple dynamic mics (SM7B and SM57), but it gets too noisy (need a booster of some sort probably).

    I have a weak voice and usually have a very low volume when singing.

    My microphone was given to me: MXL 990. I've read that it is extremely cheap/low quality and so I'm thinking any other higher quality could help. I'm looking at Neumann U47, U87 AI or maybe AKG 414 XL II (choices based on reading forums and listening to youtube). But the shops here in Norway usually don't stock them, so I can't easily try before I buy.

    The other issue I have is when I use for example LANDR to master my tracks. I choose the cheapest low-res MP3 output. But I'm not able to hear the difference between that or the AIFF file in my bounce (set to 24 bit 44100). My studio monitors aren't great (M Audio CX5), but my headphones should be ok (AKG HSD 271). Could it be that I get a higher resolution regardless due to the "simple" recording with only vocals and guitar, and maybe due to my low-res mic?

    (AIFF bounce from Logic Pro X imported to Final Cut Pro and uploaded to YouTube as 1080P file)

    I do of course know that no mic will make me sing better. And I realize I should learn how to sing before spending 4000 or 400 (what do I know) on a mic. But I have the opportunity to do it, and, as sick as it may sound, gear motivates me to work harder wink.gif And recording has become a big hobby for me.
    kmetal likes this.
  2. pcrecord

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

    There is a lot of questions in your post. I'm gonna focus on your sample and try to explain the things you could change.

    I can hear quit a bit of room in your sound and the guitar sound far. Using one condenser mic in an untreated room will do this.
    You are right that in your environement, 2 dynamic mics maybe a better choice because they will reject some room sound but only an hypercardioid will create enough seperation between the guitar and vocal. Your problem with dynamics is that the preamps of the Appollo, Althought good sounding, may not give you enough clean power to drive low level mics like dynamic or ribbon mics.

    Also 2 mic offer no seperation, so in my opinion only buying a U87 won't do it. You could use 2 x 414 and make use of the rejection of the figure of 8 pattern.
    But if you are really serious and with 4k of budget I bet you are. You need to address this by all the angles and may seperate your budget to work on the room, mic and preamps.

    It's like a recipe and you need all the elements right to have success.
    kmetal likes this.
  3. AreBar

    AreBar Active Member

    Thanks for the feedback - I really appreciate it!

    I am definitely serious. Just need to know what my best approach is. You're right with the Apollo. It's a great interface, but I see that it lacks the power to drive my dynamics - as you said. Would you replace the Apoolo with other equipment, or is it possible to add a pre-amp to it? Don't really know much about this. I always thought UA strip were great, and that the Apollo Twin DUO was the same, except in a small format, but I guess I was wrong.
  4. pcrecord

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

    The appolo has a digital input, but there isn't a lot of highend Preamps with a digital outputs to make use of that.. I would pursue that avenue and if nothing pops up to your taste and budget, I would definetly think about an interface that sends the line(s) input(s) strait to converters. So you don't do a preamp in a preamp and waste a bit of quality.
  5. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Hello and welcome. In all honesty, I believe you're being too critical of the tone of your voice. In the first 3 songs, which are more in your comfort-zone, I found the tone of your voice to be very nice, and very complimentary to the acoustic style. I completely agree with pcrecord's comments, in that I'd prefer to hear less of the room's characteristics, and like to hear you mix in a well-placed mic (or two) on the guitar. Find, or create, a better sounding recording space and I think you'd have something measurably better using the equipment that you have. I think minimizing the room sound on the track would definitely benefit the vocal.

    Please take this for what it's worth: Vocally, it sounds to me like you are singing completely from your throat - with no air support from your core. The first 3 songs have a sweet, intimate, almost lullaby, quality to them. But speaking generally, singing so gently makes it more difficult to sing on-pitch once the note goes above a certain range. So then when you carry that approach over to a song like Outside Woman Blues (or anything else on the high side of your vocal range) you're not even singing from your throat anymore - it's moved up out of your throat into your mouth (again with no support from your diaphragm), which does sound thin no matter who is doing it. As an experiment, sit all hunched over and sing the first line of that song without even taking a breath. Then try it again, but start with as deep a breath as you can manage with the terrible posture. Lastly, sit up straight, take a deep breath, and let it go with some force behind it. You should hear an immediate and noticeable difference. I'm not saying you should always sing like you want to disturb the neighbors, because sometimes you will want that lullaby feel. Your voice has a real charm in that style. However, a rockin' blues song like Outside Woman Blues calls for a stronger delivery and you have to approach it differently. In either case, if you learn how to control your air and support the voice from the gut, your pitch will improve. Honestly, the louder vocal could be a blessing or a curse in a small untreated room - only time would tell.

    All I know for certain is, there is no way I'd throw thousands of dollars into a microphone and then do everything else exactly the same. I'd much rather see you spread the budget over several areas rather than just one mic hoping for miracles. (especially if I couldn't hear it first with my voice before I bought it)

    Best of luck, I hope to hear more soon.
    AreBar and pcrecord like this.
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I'm in agreement with my esteemed colleagues. If you were able to tame the room, I think you'd be happier with the results.

    Don' get me wrong, it's always good to use the best mic possible, especially for vocals, because they are generally the focal point of the song, the attractor to the listener. But you could have a great mic - like a Neumann, AKG, ADK - or any other hi-end/hi-dollar mic, and if your room sounds bad, you probably won't be as satisfied with those mics in that room as you be would using a cheaper ( but still good) mic in a well-treated room.

    And, the preamp you use will matter, too... not that there's anything wrong with the Apollo you're using, but if it lacks sufficient gain for dynamics ( which means ribbons, too) then you'll be limited in what you can do with it. Adding a nice, quality, beefy preamp would really help, but, many of these lack digital i/o connectivity, too; and in that case, you usually have to come out of the preamp to a Line In of your converter (the Apollo). But, if the Apollo lacks a Line Level Input, then it's going to be tough to get that added preamp into the conversion stage of the Apollo - which gets it into your DAW.

    At this point, if it were me, for at least right now, I'd first see what I could do about getting the room you are currently recording in to sound better, and see what that does to improve your sound. At that point, if you're still not happy, then you you could look at a better mic. After that, maybe a better pre. I'd definitely work in that order, and try the less expensive things first.... especially because you'll need a decent sounding room to record in anyway, regardless of what mic(s) you end up using.
    pcrecord likes this.
  7. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    In honor of remy, I'm saying all you need is an sm 58. Lol. And a couple moving blankets. Sounds good man, what the fellas are saying is true. A couple of moving blankets, maybe an sm 87 or nt5 pair, and a 414, or an avantone cv12, that's where I would start my thinking as far as mics and stuff.

    Moving blankets are cheap, mic stands are great to hang them from and I belive not a fire code hazard because they are not mounted to the wall? I dunno don't sue me.

    I think experimenting with mic technique, and polar patterns, as well as placement of you and the mics, are areas that don't cost money, and can make good significant differences with any microphone or pre.

    Wait a minute, they cost money if you hire me to do it for you, down at my office, but that's one thing home studios have the edge in.
  8. AreBar

    AreBar Active Member

    Thank you all so much for very constructive replies. This helps me a lot. I also appreciate the singing advice Donny and I am struggling with mastering singing from the chest/belly. I will focus much more on that!

    I'd love to get a rack, pre and some analog equipment (did I mention that I love gear). I particularly would like Universal Audio's 6176 Vintage Channel Strip. Then again, I hear people in forums saying that the plugin equivalent, from the same company, is almost as good and hard to hear the difference. But I will focus on the room first now and then see what happens.

    About the mic for the guitar. In the youtube clip I only focused on recording the voice. The guitar was kinda just there. It usually sounds better. But I do see the need for getting one more condenser microphone (I just seem to like the sound of condensers much better for acoustic guitar than dynamics (from my very limited testing) ). In my head I picture one for vocals and maybe two for the guitar (to plug the guitar in is obviously out of the question). The issue with the condensers is of course that everything will be in all of the microphones. And one of the reasons I was looking at a new mic would be to control the patterns a bit more than the MXL which is omni all the time AFAIK. And it is of course difficult to mix one mike for a good sounding guitar and vocals. I do have the MXL 991 (cigar type) but like the 990 better both for vocals and guitar, so I don't use it (sound thinner - I feel I need more body for the acoustic).

    I have definitely underestimated the importance of a suited room. The room I'm in is small and has a lot of stuff on the walls (prints, guitars, shelves etc), so it doesn't "feel" echo'y or that it needs much. But from your feedback and re-listening to my tracks I totally agree that the characteristics of the room is way too much in the recording. I have a sound booth (one of those small ones on a mic stand) but did not use it for the samples. I do have a nice thick carpet, but I am worried about my proximity to the walls around me. If the mic is in the center of the room I'm still only 3 ft away from the walls (see pic).

    On the far right of the pick the entire wall is a big storage type unit with doors. So any permanent sound proofing would not be easy here, but I suppose moving blankets would help. Maybe to occupy one of the rooms in our basement and make it in to a little studio.

    Thanks again for all the help!

    (EDIT: ooops - that pic was really big... sorry)

  9. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    This was Hawk ( @dvdhawk ) who mentioned this part, (although, making about 30% of my living as a singer, I totally agree with him)... so I'm just adding this correction to give credit where credit is due. ;)

    There's a big difference between sound proofing and acoustic treatment.

    Sound proofing is the process of sonically isolating your space, so that outside noises can't get in, to potentially foul your recordings, and so that what you are doing in your studio won't leak out... resulting in the neighbors calling the cops if you decide to belt out vocals at 3 am.

    Acoustic treatment is the process where you are balancing the sonics of your room - and it's a wide subject - from taming upper end frequencies that can cause flutter echos, to absorbing low end frequencies so that you can mix your songs with more accuracy.

    While some acoustic treatment can also carry with it the benefit of improving "the sound" of your recording space, these are actually not the same things, either. Looking at the picture, ( but not actually being there so what I'm saying is suggestive only), I'd say that you have a lot of hard, reflective surfaces... lots of places for sound to bounce around, and this is what is causing your tracks to have so much of "the sound of your room" in them, and using a sensitive condenser mic isn't helping any, either.

    There are some cheap fixes that you can implement for improving the space for recording - things that have been mentioned, like packing blankets hung on mic stands that surround you while you are singing - but this will only help to a point, and, only with certain frequencies... but, hey, it's a start.

    As far as treating your space to be more acoustically balanced, which would allow you more accurate mixes, this is a much bigger topic, and requires a lot more than just suggestion...it involves actual physical measurement, electronic measurement, physics, geometry, and calculations and corrections based on all of these things... so this is probably best left for its own thread... and much of this topic has already been discussed already, many times here on RO, so you could start by doing a search on the subject if you were interested .

    For now, as a quick and easy test, grab some packing blankets for your next recording that involves a mic, and listen for any improvements. ;)

    kmetal and AreBar like this.
  10. AreBar

    AreBar Active Member

    Thanks and thanks for setting the credit straight. Eyes to brain to fingers error on my part ;)

    The Apollo Twin Duo do have line input - IF it is the right kind. It looks like the mic input is combined with line level in. I could of course get a CloudLifter or something similar to improve the gain, but I always like to buy right first time around - and now I wish I had bought the rack mount Apollo Quad - oh well. But acoustic treatment first now. I assume using my SM7B (and a pre amp with enough power) might help a bit on the room issue, but treatment I'm sure is still key. But maybe then the "cheap fixes" will be more noticeable.

    Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 12.45.16.png
  11. AreBar

    AreBar Active Member

    After a bit more investigation, I see that it isn't a great match. I think I will try with a CloudLifter to increase the gain. A very affordable solution and one that has been tested by many with Apollo and SM7B.

    Thanks again for great advice!
  12. pcrecord

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

    NO MAN, don't listen to them. If you record with a mic and a preamp, then put a preamp emulation. The best it could sound like is as a preamp in a preamp in the real life. And it won't solve the noise problems of a preamps that doesn't have enough clean power.
    The mic and the 6176 strait to converters will sound a world apart for the plugin! I have 2 UA LA-610 and would never favor a plugin over them ;)

    Ok let's list a few options :
    1. Buy a preamp with digital output to send to the appolo : this is one that could be interesting : Link removed
    2. Buy high gain preamp(s) of choice and a digital converter to send to the appolo : http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/HV37 + Mytek AD96 or Lavry AD10
    3. Change the interface for a digital converter AD/DA and add 2 preamp of choice : http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/ADI2
    These suggestions are based on the face that you would use only 2 channels.. OF course if you aim for more than one mic for the guitar
    Another plan could be a unit similar to this : http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/ALMX164 OR this : http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/FirefaceUC
    with your beloved UA 6176 for the vocal and a HV37 for the guitar (2channels)

    BUT I would by nothing of this before treating the room ;)
  13. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Every studio should be lucky have an 1176. I haven't used pre amp emulation but I don't doubt it's good. Or will be. But compression and eq (to some extent) on the way in cannot be replicated after the fact. Dynamics processing will directly affect the feel and tone of the performance as the artist is listening/playing it. They will react to it even subconsciously.

    You've gotta try these things before you by them. You don't by paintings with your ears eh?

    Portable treatment is super easy. These are no more complicated than glueing some acoustic foam or such to some plywood, or even a paint stirrer, and hanging on the wall like a picture. Not much more to it than that. The ceiling cloud which is as necessary or more than the wall stuff, is easy as a couple of eye bolts and string, or some Velcro. Guerrilla acoustics can be both effective and fun.

    Mic placement is huge. Have you aimed the small diaphragm condenser at the 12th fret from 8"-a foot away?

    Omani can sound great in dead booths on vocals, and in really nice sounding rooms...
    pcrecord and Kurt Foster like this.
  14. AreBar

    AreBar Active Member

    Thanks for the input from both. I will definitely to a thorough review of room and mic placements before doing anything else. So I have the Apollo Twin adn really nothing else. I love the plugins though, and have spent a lot of money on adding more. For a home studio, the price tag for plugins vs hardware is great. But for essential items, I wouldn't mind buying hardware. I checked out all the items you mentioned "prerecord".

    I'm still very confused about the signal path. Confusing for me with A/D D/A converters and why and in different setups, there seem to be more than one pre-amp in the path. But I will keep researching with google.

    I would like to have at least 3 inputs if possible - one vocal and 2 for guitar. So that means I need to replace the Apollo Twin anyway. In order to keep using my plugins, maybe another Apollo interface would do the job. For instance this one: http://www.uaudio.com/interfaces/apollo-8.html But it comes in two versions - with or without pre-amps. Would that mean that the preamp version I could for example plug the guitar mics directly in it, and then use line out from the 6176 for the vocal mic?
  15. pcrecord

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

    A/D = analog to digital and D/A = digital to analog
    We need both, 1 to record and the other to listen and mix.
    Many units have both but when like you that already has it with the Appolo but wants to had inputs via the digital spdif, a stand alone AD may help if you can't find a preamp with A/D convertion. If you ever go that route, it would mean 2 input via digital in and still the possibility to use the onboard preamp of the Twin...

    Another common digital input is ADAT. ADAT can receive 8 channels at 48khz and 4 channels at 96khz. So you could buy something like the Focusrite ISA 428 that has a digital option card with ADAT and make use of it with any audio interface that has a ADAT input. (the ISA is just an exemple. . . while it sounds very good on guitars, I like the a bit less on vocal.

    The 6176 is a one preamp channel strip. You can make use of the DI or the Mic input but not both at the same time. Althought you can seperate the compresor from the preamp. But I recommand using both together for the vocal mic OR the guitar mic.
    Altought a DI signal from the accoustic guitar could have it's place in a mix, I wouldn't use it alone without grabing the guitar with a mic also. I often record with DI an mics and end-up not using the DI. This is different with electric guitars with which you can use the clean signal to reamp through many amps or amp simulators.

    The Appolo 8 seems like a good unit, it has plenty of features and future expension capability.
    But the it has the same preamps, we all agreed they are good but if you don't like yours already...

    With all the possibilities it's easy to get lost. If only you could book a few hours in a pro studio, you could try many mics and preamps, bring that home and take your time to choose wisely ;)
    kmetal likes this.
  16. AreBar

    AreBar Active Member

    Thanks for clearing these things up. I knew what A/D and D/A meant, just not how it applied to this since I thought there was only analog signals through the whole chain and that it was only converted to digital in the Apollo sound card so that my Mac and Logic Pro would understand the signals. And I absolutely do not dislike my Apollo Twin. I love it! The only reason I got into the 8 channel Apollo was to use 3 microphones simultaneously. I tried with two condensers (one vocal and one on the guitar). But the MXL991 on the guitar picks up so much of my voice that it's difficult to get a good mix = good sound for guitar, but not good for my voice when both channels have the right levels. But - I am sure again that fixing the room will help this sound be more pleasant.

    What does "D/I" input mean? Is that the Line Input?

    Great video! And it shows that good great indeed is possible with just plugins :)
  17. sdelsolray

    sdelsolray Active Member

    Room treatment first. Then get a new mic.
    AreBar likes this.
  18. pcrecord

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

    DI stand for Direct injection. They are simply circuit that allow for impedance changes.
    They are used to switch from Hi impedance or line level to Low impedance (mic input)
    A lot of DI we find in audio interfaces are also called instrument input because the circuitry have been adapted to receive low level bass or electric guitar signals.

    This can sometime be optimised by the use of different polar patern mics. For exemple a figure of 8 mic will pick from the front and the back but reject sound from the sides. So it is possible to use that at your advantage and put the side toward the instrument you don't want on the track.
    AreBar likes this.
  19. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    The Apollo twin is fine as is its converters are not a weak link. Get a $200 presonus eureka or a stereo pre with digital outs. If you do end up with something like the 6176 just use that instead of one of he stock Apollo amps.

    You don't need a new interface. And even if you do add on, the twin is w suitable headphone and monitor volume knob and the plug-insare nice. Ivr research t a lot for my personal interface/pluggin host. And I installed my cousins Apollo 8 which is worth the money in all around functionality.

    Mic, pre, conversion. That's the order it goes in the recording process, and hence the order of importance I use in general.
  20. AreBar

    AreBar Active Member

    Thanks! :)

Share This Page