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Which studio condenser mic to get?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by sabathiel, Jul 16, 2011.

  1. sabathiel

    sabathiel Active Member

    I am upgrading my studio condenser mic. I have been using a cheap Apex 435 which costs me around $60 from amazon.com. I use the mic for vocal recording as I plug acoustic guitars to the amp. Now I have my eye on 2 mics. Both are under US$200. The first one is:

    MXL V87 Condenser Microphone
    MXL V87 Condenser Microphone - find the largest selection of the hottest music gear at music123

    One thing that I like with this mic is it has a custom metal pop filter. The downside it hasn't got a case not even a soft bag but then again I don't use it for travel so I won't be carrying this around. It will remain on the mic stand all the time.

    The second one is:

    New AKG Perception 220 Condenser Mic +Shockmount + Case | eBay

    The goo side is it has a hard shell case.

    Can anyone give me any advice which one to get or any other mic under US$200?
  2. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    The only mics that I can recommend as long term investments under $200 are dynamics, e.g. the Shure SM57 and SM58. Yes, there are a lot of large diaphragm condenser microphones at low prices now, but I have not heard one that I would recommend. They have more response in the high frequencies than the dynamics and that can make them seem "crisper" than the dynamics when you first hear them. But those high frequencies are not the same quality as those produced by more expensive condensers. They are more ragged and hyped. This can make the cheap mics seem more exciting to an inexperienced listener especially on an individual track. (This is a reason that cheap mics often win shootouts against more expensive mics.) But those aggressive highs can build up when you layer multiple tracks (which can definitely happen when you only have one condenser mic). I think you are even taking a gamble in the $200-$400 range with condenser mics like the Audio Technica 20 series and the lower price Rodes. I admit that a lot of people find these mics useful, but there are as many people who find their sound annoying. Once you get up to the $400-$500 range you find mics that have much broader support: the AT 40 series, Shure KSM32, etc. My advice would be to save your pennies until you can get something in this range.
  3. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Great advise from Bob.

    If the OP looks over his post, you'll see you are more impressed by the cosmetics of these microphones than how they actually perform (custom metal pop filter and case). MXL microphones are all about, "looks", not sound quality. As Bob said, save your pennies and keep reading the forums.
  4. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    You already have a mic under $200 that is as good as any that you have listed. In fact if you do your research, you'll find that more people mod the Apex mics to make them better. Perhaps our member, Link will chime in on this as he does mod upgrades.

    I'm with audiokid, that case and the custom metal pop filter have nothing to do with the sound. And here's something you obviously dont know....Leaving a charged condenser on the stand without a proper cover will allow air-borne particles to attach themselves to the diaphram which eventually lead to the mic becoming inoperable.
  5. sabathiel

    sabathiel Active Member

    I am no pro so I don't expect professional level sound recording that costs lots of money. I record songs to post on Youtube. At the moment I use my Apex 435 with a Behringer 1202FX mixer and a Boss Pro CL-50 limiter/compressor/gate connected to the line in input of my desktop. Here is an example of my recent recording after using the mic for around a year:

    What do you mean leave the mic on the stand "charged". I switch off my equipment does that mean I still leave the mic on the stand "charged"?
  6. sabathiel

    sabathiel Active Member

    Well I guess now if my Apex 435 is dusted and not in good working condition which I wouldn't know or can detect anyway I need to get a new mic and look after it properly like cover it when not using it with a cloth or something. That means I need a new mic anyway or maybe even get the AKG Perception that has a hard shell case so I can put the mic in the case when not using it for long term. Yes I mainly use a studio condenser mic for show because it looks really professional when I post videos of me singing on Youtube and these mics are really sensitive to the tiniest sounds. Also those mics that I mentioned above are on sale and their real price are more around the $400 figure. So next mic I buy I will look after as it is probably to late to look after the Apex 435.
  7. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    I doubt that theres any 'dusting' involved with your mic to the point that it doesnt work properly. My point was about leaving any condenser on the stand without a cover while its not being used. If you research what I'm talking about you will learn something.

    In short, a condenser mic has a capacitor that charges a plate that creates the mics ability to move its diaphram to capture sound vibrations. This charge disappates slowly after you turn off the mic and it attracts all kinds of crap floating around in the air which attaches to the diaphram creating added weight and restricting its ability to move properly.

    So caring for any mic no matter the price is imperative to it staying 'new'. However, if looks and price are the only requirements you seek in a mic then by all means buy the ones with the highest retail that are on sale for the best savings. BTW, 'retail' has little to do with 'performance'.
  8. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    For what you are doing on YouTube the aesthetics of the mic are important and any subtle nuances in sound quality will be lost. The Aphex is cool looking and - as has been said - sounds as good as any of the mics in the price range you are considering. If you are doing live gigs you should have an SM58 and know how to work with it. (Anyone running a sound board will know exactly how to mix it and make it sound its best.)

    Don't sweat the dust on your mic. I've played enough gigs on bandstands next to the kitchen door and come home smelling like cigarettes and fried chicken that I stopped worrying about the damage to my equipment long ago. Unless you are a heavy smoker recording in the kitchen you should be OK for several years. It doesn't hurt to cover the mic with a cloth or put it in a closet, though.

    And speaking of aesthetics, dynamics like the SM7 and R20 are used all the time in radio and have a definite "pro" vibe to them. They would be pro quality mics that are great looking and distinctive as well.
  9. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    To add some humor... I been playing when dance floor fight broke out and someone grab the entire mic stand and used it as a weapon. When he couldn't swing it because the mic cable got all pulled out of shape, the other guy grabbed it and took the mic out the clip and start beating on the other guy. The SM78 had dents but it sounded the same. Smoke only makes them sound better lol. Those things are hammers.

    I think Dave was talking about higher end studio mics, right Dave?
  10. sabathiel

    sabathiel Active Member

    I don't know if anyone notices but I have for awhile now turn the mic upside down now so that means I guess dust will not be able to float around and land on the mic. The mic and my studio equipment which I use to record is located in a very clean room and no one smokes in the house.

    Well I am having doubts buying a new mic now for sound reasons if there is absolutely no difference in sound (not even very little difference?). The thing is that I am a member of an online karaoke community called Singsnap where people record and post their karaoke performances. Some members are insane that they get Neumann mics just for this. I often here how some people say how much difference they sound after getting a new mic when the new mics are low or middle end of the range studio mics. One person I know was raving about how great his new mic is compared to the older one he had. This is his new mic which has a a pre-amp phantom power inside the mic:

    R102 Figure 8 Active Pressure Gradient Electro-Magnetic Low Mass 2.5 Micron Aluminum Ribbon Microphone, Superlux

    I am now attracted to get the MXL V87 for aesthetic reasons because it includes a custom metal pop filter. If I want to get the AKG Perception 220 I need to get the KAM PF-1 Metal Micro Mesh Studio Microphone Pop Filter

    KAM PF-1 Metal Micro Mesh Studio Microphone Pop Filter | eBay

    However this costs around $50-60 (including shipping to Australia) alone just for this special pop filter and alternatively I can just get this pop filter and attach it to the shock mount of my Apex 435 and that will look extra cool for Youtube. I don't perform anywhere else apart from the regular karaoke bar and that doesn't require my equipment and uses simple dynamic mics or radio mics. I am kinda glad I posted at forums to get opinions from people who have knowledge about this issue before simply jumping and buying based on my lack of expertise and impulse on this matter.
  11. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    I don't think anyone said that cheap mics all sound the same. They all (at least the ones I have heard) have flaws. Many of the flaws are similar (a hyped, harsh high end). But there are probably bigger differences between them than there are between better mics. Now one of these mics might fit your voice very well. But I doubt that there is any "cheap condenser expert" out there who can hear your voice and say that "Mic X will be great for you."

    Again, as far as the sound goes almost any of these pop filters will work the same and are really not much different than panty hose stretched over a coat hanger or a fry pan splatter guard. The apex pop filter looks good and seems to work for you, so just stick with it.
  12. sabathiel

    sabathiel Active Member

    Now a karaoke buddy tells me what makes a real difference to the vocal sound or music sound is getting a good external sound card rather than use the built in Realtek sound card on the PC. Is this a better and wiser move to improve sound quality?
  13. GZsound

    GZsound Active Member

    I highly recommend a CAD M179 for a great all around studio mic. It works on just about everything and costs less than $200. Highly professional recordings can be made with that mic.

    And yes, getting a professional interface can make a big difference in the sound. Most built in soundcards are pure junk.
  14. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    You are making some very basic but simple mistakes here. Let me try to lead you down the correct path otherwise everything you do will sound like sushi.

    Your video was cute but you know, the microphone in the video was not the microphone we heard in the video. The microphone on your video was on your camcorder/from your camcorder i.e. the camcorder microphone. If you truly believe that the microphone were singing into was the one we all heard on the recording, then you have your microphone turned around 180° backwards and you're singing on the back side of the cardioid capsule. This will not do.

    It is absolutely imperative that is, absolutely necessary that you stop using the poor quality soundcard that came with your computer. That sound device is basically a toy and sounds like one, works like one and provides quality like all of the other toys being imported into the USA from China. So, junk and I'm not talking boats. A $150 US USB sound device with built-in 3 pin XLR microphone inputs with +48 V phantom supply is absolutely a mandatory purchase. You cannot do without this.

    If you like that Sammy Davis Junior/Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin classic big band stuff, that active ribbon microphone is probably just the ticket! These active ribbons have similar advantages to condenser microphones with the lush acoustic quality of many of the classic RCA ribbon microphones these guys originally sang into. It will also be less offensive sounding in a small room such as the one you are using. This is a handy electronic way to improve your room acoustics without improving your room acoustics. In fact a non-active version from a company like Cascades with their Fat Head for $160 US might even be a better microphone for you. But to play it real safe with those, get yourself a large foam pop filter and not those filters everybody thinks you should be using. Like you are currently using.

    If you knew sushi like I knew sushi...
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  15. sabathiel

    sabathiel Active Member

    No I am definitely sure the webcam mic is turned off and the line in input microphone is activated. I turned the webcam mic all the way down and there is an option to select the line in microphone on. I have done both on my webcam recording software. I never knew that the studio condenser mic has two sides, the front and the back side. Both sides look exactly the same to me except that one side has the brand name which is the same that faces me when I sing always.

    Yes I just purchases on eBay a new Creative Sound Blaster xi-fi xtreme music sound card which has an audio creation function and also a comprehensive mixer control panel in one of its audio softwares. So I am hoping there will be a noticeable improvement in sound quality after I install that sound card. Also until now I didn't know and didn't use the "stereo mix" or "what-u-can hear" function to record songs for Youtube. I always use the "line in mic" function. The "stereo mix" function apparently gives a much louder sound and boomy as well bassy audio with all the effects from the mixer being noticeable on the earphones monitor which boost one's confidence when singing.

    No I don't always record big band swing karaoke songs. Mostly I sing rock/pop/pop rock/folk rock mainstream Top 100 songs. So far I've only recorded 3 big band swing songs on my Youtube channel. So that Ribbon mic is not absolutely imperative although I wanted to upgrade that cheap studio condenser mic of mine but after getting advice from people on this thread which says any mic under $600 won't make any real noticeable difference to my Youtube videos I've changed strategy to getting a new sound card instead. If I don get a new studio condenser mic now my eyes is set on AKG Perception 220 or Rode NT 1A. Probably the AKG because it is cheaper.
  16. Lance Lawson

    Lance Lawson Member

    I suggest a Rode NT1A. for a LDC
  17. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I don't know how you're dealing with these microphones that require +48 V phantom with an onboard soundcard? And you are not getting the sound from a microphone you are singing into. Near the end of your video, you lean right into that microphone and it's not you on that microphone. You don't quite understand the operation of the onboard mixer applet. There is both the recording and playback section. And your lovely new SoundBlaster isn't an improvement nor an upgrade. You need a professional USB audio interface with XLR connectors on it. Or you are utilizing a standalone mixer that has +48 V phantom taking the line output from your mixer into the input of your sound card line in? But I know what I'm hearing and I'm not hearing you on that microphone. You need some better wiring theory & application. Your mere misunderstanding of what you hear selection in your software mixer and such indicates you do not understand the proper operation. Any onboard soundcard including your new Sound Blaster, all can utilize the Microsoft windows mixer applet. In fact they are all tied together. So the SoundBlaster gives you their mixer but it parallels the Microsoft one. Only when you step into a different device altogether may you find or even not find a mixer applet. You will find routing but not necessarily the toys like environment in which you are currently working. So get with the program and get a real soundcard not a SoundBlaster. It's no better than what you currently have. It doesn't matter if it costs more, it ain't professional working or sounding. That's why God created professional audio magazines so you could read all of the advertisements and learn.

    Mx. Remy Ann David
  18. sabathiel

    sabathiel Active Member

    Trust me the vocal sound that I am getting IS from the condenser mic because the webcam mic is muted and as well not selected as a mic source. The studio mic that I am using is connected to Behringer 1202FX mixer and when I am singing or testing the studio mic during sound check or during the recording I can hear the various sound effects used such as delay, reverb and echo. This would be impossible if I was using the webcam mic as source of my vocals. There is a massive difference in vocal quality between the webcam mic and the studio condenser mic (even if this mic is only a cheap $60 studio mic). I have tested and played around using different mic sources. Phantom power is provided from the Behringer mixer where you can turn on or turn off but since I am using the studio condenser mic it is always turned on. However since studio condenser mics are very sensitive and the mixer has no compressor function I use an extra device called Boss Pro CL-50 compresor/limiter/gate which I use as a compressor to get rid of the vocal distortions when hitting the high or loud notes. This device is no longer needed when I get the Sound Blaster sound card because the sound card comes with an audio console software (GUI) which has mixer like capabilities including a compressor function. I get my advice regarding my set up from this guy here which uses the same mixer and sound blaster sound card except he uses an AKG Perception 200 studio condenser mic. He is a recording support technician at an online karaoke site. He doesn't use my Boss Pro CL-50 compressor and doesn't experience vocal distortion because the sound blaster sound card which he uses has an audio mixer console has a vocal compressor function. Here is an example of his recording:

    I understand quite well there is a playback and recording function on the on board sound card and setting are adjusted accordingly based on my friends advice. So far all my recordings have used the line in input on the PC but my friend uses the "stereo mix' or "what-u-hear" function. I will be using this function from now on either with my on board sound card or after I disable my on board sound card and uses the sound blaster sound card. What do you mean when you say "near the end of your video, you lean right into that microphone and it's not you on that microphone". It is me on that microphone both visually and vocally so I don't know what you are talking about there. And once again the vocals DOES come from the studio condenser mic through the Behringer mixer using phantom power connected to the Boss compressor into the line in input of the PC. You may not think so but I know so because I have tested how I sound with the webcam mic.

    As for professional working or sounding what do you expect from people who only records for Youtube postings. How many Youtube videos have professional working or sounding recordings. If anyone wants professional sounds then go to a real music studio or be prepared to pay thousands of dollars like buying Neumann mics. Then you'll get truly professional sounds. You get what you pay for just like anything else in life.

    Here is an example of a recent recording of mine where I accidentally turned off the compressor function on the Boss Pro CL-50 and you can hear the vocals slightly distorted towards the end when the vocals picked up and began to kick in harder. This is not as bad as singing rock songs when you started belting the vocals where you can really hear the distortion.

  19. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Look dudeleiedude, there are a few Of us here than have been doing this for over 40 years. I'm one of them. I know when people are on microphone. I know when they're not on microphone. The microphone I'm listening to is your multimedia microphone. Yes, you have it muted for output. But you've not adjusted the recording section of the mixer. It is still selected as the recording source. You're moving in and away from the microphone and there is no change in the proximity of your sound. All cardioid directional microphones exhibit proximity effect as you change your distance and as you turn your head and face away from the capsule, the sound would change monumentally. It's not changing at all as you go off axis. It's coming from your multimedia microphone sitting on the desk. I'm not the stupid one here. You're listening to your microphone perhaps in your headphones but it's not the one you are recording. Now having been a troubleshooter for NBC television, for nearly 20 years,, I know what I'm talking about. You don't quite know what you're doing even though you're having fun doing it. Bottom line is, I'm not sure if you're here to ask for help or you're trying to impress us with your technical ineptitude? I'm not impressed. If in fact you were recording this microphone, you'd sound a heckuva lot better than you do in these videos. But that's because you're not doing it right. If you're not going to listen to us then, go away because we are here to help you and you think you don't need help because you think you know what you're doing and you don't. I'm a specialist in vocal recording and I know this better than anybody else. How many major award nominations do you have? None? Do you own a quarter million dollar studio? No. You are a hobbyist/enthusiast and we can make you better if you listen to what we're telling you. So what are you really here for? I've been troubleshooting junk like this for my entire +40 year career. And when you do it at a big hit recording studio in New York City or for major television network, that's basically because you know what you're doing. You don't. Really, I think you're giving good performances but you're not recording what you think you're recording. It has nothing to do with your little compressor gizmo either. Now If you'd like to give me a call, I can walk you through it. You call me and I'll call you right back so it doesn't cost you anything. 202-239-7412 and leave a message with your number and the best time to call. I'm trying to help you.

    You can't fix things for people that don't listen
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  20. sabathiel

    sabathiel Active Member

    OK now I know what you mean with certain things that you've said. First, let's clarify a few things. You can boast all you want about your technical proficiency and here they mean nothing because anyone can say anything they want. I can for example say I am a Professor of Law at Harvard University. So? Having said that however I do believe you anyway. You don't have to be so defensive and sprout out your technical achievements or what you have done about recording because you are only dealing with someone who in essence knows nothing at all about recording issues. So even if you are none of what you say you are you are still far better than me and what I know about sound gear and recording. So is that clear now?

    Second, who are the "we" your talking about? You said "we are here to help you and you don't think you need any help". You are yourself and you don't speak for others so what's with this "we" part? I listen to others here and I took their advice when they tell me don't get a new microphone if I am only going to use it for Youtube or want to get another mic under $600 because basically it is not a good investment. So yes I do listen when I think what they say have merit. I make my own judgment as to the merit of the advise I get. I wouldn't be here if I don't need any help. Do I know what I am doing with my gear? Probably not! Do I set my own gear up? No! I get help from that recording technician whose Youtube video I posted here. But one thing that I know is that my Youtube videos WERE recorded with my studio condenser mic. How do I know that? That's because I just checked. After hearing how confident you are in what you are saying I began to doubt if I was in fact recording with the mic I thought I was recording with. So what did I do? I checked again. I checked the settings of my webcam mic. What is muted is the input recording of the webcam mic. So when you said I have it muted for output you are wrong! Input is muted. That's what it says on the preference settings of the webcam mic. Now OK this still didn't give me absolute confidence that I am still recording from my junk studio condenser mic. So what did I do? I try recording me singing with the exact same settings as I did with my Youtube videos except with one major big difference. I unplugged the studio condenser mic cable from the mixer and started recording with the webcam. Guess what? Wait for it.................THERE WAS ABSOLUTELY NO VOCALS IN THE VIDEO RECORDING! Now I am absolutely convinced that I have been recording my videos with my studio condenser mic. OK maybe not absolutely convinced as I still am no expert on this issue but dare I say I am 99% convinced!!!

    You are absolutely right when you say:

    "All cardioid directional microphones exhibit proximity effect as you change your distance and as you turn your head and face away from the capsule, the sound would change monumentally".

    That is what happens when I don't use my Boss Pro CL-50 compressor/limiter/gate. This is an example of that recording without using the Boss compressor and you can see as I turn away from the mic the vocal sound changes monumentally:

    SingSnap | Stairway To Heaven by sabathiel

    So I am thinking maybe, just maybe this little device called the Boss Pro CL-50 compressor is making this change that affects the operation of the junk studio condenser mic I am using as it changes the dynamics of how it actually operates on its own. However having said that I do still notice that when I am recording the vocal sound gets slightly weaker when I pull away from the mic. That's why when I pull away from the mic I raise the volume of my vocals to compensate for lost of volume in the vocals. Without the Boss compressor there will be much more volume lost of the vocals. Another example is when I sing falsetto which has less vocal power I move closer to the mic to get more vocal volume and power. When the falsetto is over I pull back from the mic. So yes there is still vocal changes as you change your distance or singing direction from the mic but not as monumentally as without the Boss compressor being used. However to minimise this vocal variation in volume or vocal power I adjust my vocals accordingly by singing in a certain way so that difference is not so noticeable in the final recording result.

    Now no one is actually stupid here (and yes I read your original unedited post in my email notification which has not been toned down) Having said that just because you are some recording expert doesn't mean that you are infallible and never or won't make any mistakes (stupid mistakes even) or make a wrong judgment or erroneous analysis without possessing the full facts such as being at the actual place where the recording was done and having access to all the data which I have here where I record. Sometimes when an expert jumps into conclusion without actually making sure he/she has the full facts and full knowledge of what was actually done he/she makes a less than proper judgment to put it mildly.

    Now as for your invitation for me to call you and you will call me back. I won't waste my money making an international call from Australia until I know I am dealing with a sound recording expert with proper common sense as well as objectivity who does not claim infallibility without knowing all the facts regardless of what impression he/she gets from watching the video based on his/her own professional expertise in this field which may be subjective and not fit as a final conclusion or final analysis on this issue. Do I think you can advise me as to sound better with my video recordings? Absolutely. Do I think you can do a better job if you were in fact in my house dealing and checking the equipment first hand rather than watching my videos online or advising me through the phone? Definitely as well. Do I really want to based on your rushed judgment and lack of humility as well as your clear insults (in your unedited post)? I am not so sure.

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