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if i was to choose a small hand full of decent vocal microphones for my new home project studio which ones should i get? under $500 is preferred. currently looking into the mxl v89 and the AKG 200.

i've recently understood that even a hot rodded vintage Neumann won't sound as good on say a certain female vocal than an mxl mic might. i understand it depends on so much.

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Davedog Sun, 10/04/2009 - 11:16

ira wrote: if i was to choose a small hand full of decent vocal microphones for my new home project studio which ones should i get? under $500 is preferred. currently looking into the mxl v89 and the akg 200.

i've recently understood that even a hot rodded vintage Neumann won't sound as good on say a certain female vocal than an mxl mic might. i understand it depends on so much.

While it is true that certain tools will work better on certain sources, to assume that an MXL mic of any sort will be 'better' than any vintage Neumann is pure heresay. And while I'm sure there are decent sounding MXL mics, I have never heard one that exhibits the sheen and character of a Neumann in any way.

To answer your question, equipping a home project studio for hire requires you to decide what your generalities of styles, types of projects you may encounter, workflow, and budget. There is no silver bullett as far as gear goes, but if I was to head down this path, I would look at gear that is as neutral in character as possible as well as having good quality in sound and build and function. If this mic is to be the centerpiece for vocals and other sources, then I would look at multi-pattern LDC's.

For your budget, I would search for a Shure KSM44 or something similar.

Another type of mic to consider is a large diaphram dynamic. There are very few voices that cant be captured in a good way by one of these.

A good LDC and an LDD will give you many many choices to go to no matter who walks in the door.

ira Sun, 10/04/2009 - 12:44

vocal mics

hi dave, i enjoyed reading your response. you helped me wake up to the fact that a microphone for a vocalist is similar to a guitar for a guitarist... there's apparently no 1 magic vocal mic for all and no 1 magic guitar mic for all.

i havn't done any recording yet with my current setup but do have recording experience with a 4 track cassette, 8 track 1/4" reel to reel and roland 1680 digital box off and on for the past 20 years. i'm a multi instrumentalist ie. drums (ksm44's as overheads), elec & acoust guitars, elec bass, keys, etc etc...all in a 12x12 live room with a vaulted ceiling. the 9x10 bedroom next door serves as my control room/office (no window). i will be collaborating with various musicians over time on mostly my musical endeavors. i am open minded at least to minimal projects for others...but not full scale bands.

for now i'd like to focus on mics for vocals only. seems to be a plethora of LDC's out there. mxl's flagship mic the GENESIS is $200 less than the ksm44 and the mxl v89 is $300 less. however if the ksm will sound better than the other two then i feel paying another 2-300 bucks is well worth the extra cost. maybe i should buy all 3 for variety? i don't know!! any other mics to suggest for comparison?

any suggestions for LDD manufacturers? should i have both LDC and LDD mics on hand?

dvdhawk Sun, 10/04/2009 - 23:49

A variety of mics would always be a plus. A mic that is perfect for you may sound horrible with me.

The Rode NT-2 is a very respectable LDC in it's pricerange.
Shure's SM7B is getting to be a very popular LDD.

I need to add some ribbon mics to my collection, so Cascade Fathead will probably be my next addition.

Davedog Mon, 10/05/2009 - 00:23

I agree that a number of mics will be the way to go in order to be able to present the correct tool at any time for any source. The amount of mics you choose to carry in your locker will only be determined by your own needs, budget, and of course, amount of the highly contagious disease known lovingly as GAS.

Primary vocal mics are, as described, a very personal thing for each person.

I have an older Neumann U87. It does NOT get to be the ONLY vocal mic in the bunch. Not that it couldnt be. It sounds great on everything. However, for some functions, the Octava MK319 is the right choice, or the AudioTechnica 4033, or the Studio Projects, or the SM57...or get my point.

But I do have the choices. And this makes it easier to choose a tool for the job.

Plus I like shiny things.

If I had the budget, there'd be a bunch of shiny things on stands in my room.

LDD. Great choices for this would include the standards. EV RE20/27....Shure SM7....Heil PR40....Sennheiser421/441....etc and of course no studio is complete without a 57 and a 58 lying around. Yes, I agree there are other mics that will do what a 57 or a 58 can do....some better and this becomes subjective at some point. Most engineers with a lot of time at this can do things with 57's that others without the experience havent been able to get them to do. Mic pres play a big role in this scene also.

There are a lot of mics that sound 'okay' at everything but plugged into a very high-end pre, become another animal alltogether. And this isnt always the case. Some mics simply dont sound any different no matter what the chain. I dont have a reason its just the way it is.

The same is true with LDC mics. Some of your less expensive mics will have all the warts completely exposed when subjected to a high-end mic pre. It is not unusual to find a studio owner who, when the step up in mic pre quality levels, to become disenchanted with their mic closet soon after this occurs. Its usually the cheaper LDC's that get the dust collection duties as the flaws in their performance becomes exposed.

So, my suggestion of a neutral in nature as well as high quality LDC, is based on this to some extent.

tifftunes Mon, 10/05/2009 - 03:02

+1 for the Electro-Voice RE27. It can rival some premium LDC in sound quality! Can't beat it for the money. Plus it has greatly reduced proximity effect, which lends itself to vocals and acoustic guitar. Its also great on bass guitar, and kick drum. Quite versatile, and proven in broadcast booths around the world. It is a "neodymium" version of the RE20, which among other things is THE most common mic in the broadcast industry. It has also been Stevie Wonder's mic of choice for several decades!

Shure SM57/58, KSM44, and RE20/27 are all indispensable mics for a reason! If you cannot afford the expensive Neumann mics (or the equivalent), it would be a good idea to have as many "work-horse" standards as possible. When and IF you tire of these mics, you will most likely recoup your investment when you sell them. They tend to hold their value well - another sign of the demand for them...

jg49 Mon, 10/05/2009 - 04:49

I own the AKG 200 which I purchased early in my recording experience and I have to say give me a SM58 for vocals over the lackluster performance this mic has for vocals. I find the only time I do use it is for micing speaker cabs which it yields fair results, mostly used dual mic with a 57 and blended.

FlyBass Mon, 10/05/2009 - 09:51

Besides the Shure SM57/58, I like Rode and ADK LDC mics for vocals (both under $500 depending on model). I use a Rode NT2-a and an ADK Hamburg Edition.

Picking a vocal microphone is a very "personal taste" sort of thing. There are some definite "don'ts" and some definite "do's", but it gets down to what sounds good to you when recorded with your gear on a particular vocalist.

BobRogers Mon, 10/05/2009 - 13:33

When you say "home project studio" I get the feeling you mean a studio that is set up for you a specific, small set of vocalists. If that's the case, then of course you want to match the mic to the specific vocalist. Our recommendations are only a starting point. Ideally you want to audition the mics and get the one (or ones) that match your vocals best.

I like the recommendation for LDD and LDC mics so far, and I don't have anything to add in your price range. Let me add two categories. Tube LDC: I like the Rode K2 which is a bit above your budget, but close. Ribbon: I like the Beyer 160 or 130, again above your budget. A Cascade Fat Head is well within your budget, but I have not liked it much on vocals. Listen to the clips in the Ribbon shootout below.

I'll add a comment that I don't think applies in your situation. When buying for a commercial studio (no matter the size) that is looking to attract and satisfy clients, the strategy is much different. You need to be able to impress people and inspire confidence. Too many cheap mics can work against that. The LDDs are a big help here if the budget is tight. People recognize things like an RE-20/27 as a professional mic. Same money as a cheap condenser. (Again, if we are talking about one vocalist - buy the one that sounds the best for that person. Cheap or expensive.)

ira Wed, 10/07/2009 - 23:16

vocal mics

hi dave and everyone! based on everyone's input i will probably spend more money than i intended on 2 mics: 1 LDC and 1 LDD to start with such as the ksm44. however i will consider more costly mics as well. it seems that the middle price range for a quality vocal mic is around $1000 (more?)

i obviously have some homework to do and i'm ok with that. seems like i will never get this new studio up and recording...! but i realize taking care of small things like running cabling, setting up instruments, acoustical wall materials, etc etc is crucial to get the best end result possible. i've been at it a year now. haha...thought i'd be recording in march of this year!! at least i've been practicing my drums a lot in the mean time. it's interesting building a studio where i am the one playing all the inst. ie. drum, bass, gtr, keys yadda yadda...lot to think about but i'm trying to keep things as minimal and user friendly as possible. i also think that if i have to record others' it will MAKE me learn all this gear better, which, i believe, is a good thing. i work well with deadlines (most of the time)

i will have to read everyones comments again and comment at a later time...lots of stuff to absorb! so many mics to choose from.

oh, dave...does GAS mean "gear accumilating syndrome"? pretty sure i have that wrong

soapfloats Thu, 10/08/2009 - 00:18

You're on the right track.
Minimal usually is better.
Nothing wrong with waiting and making the right choices.
Acoustics and room are as critical as mic/pre choice.
And doing others will do you well - I've had a lot of traffic lately, and everytime I put a mic up or work on a mix, I get better.
Learning the gear, like you said, but also learning situations.

If you're going costly, I have to recommend the AKG 414 for LDC. Vanilla? Yes. Good on almost anything? Yes.
I need to get a good LDD myself. Right now my 421s fill that role.

And you're right about GAS... most of us have it, to one degree or another.
Although here it's called Gear Acquisition Syndrome. It's almost inherent to recording...
Looking back... I'd kill for 8 channels of really nice preamps and mics. I've got about 5 1/2. What's missing? The aforementioned LDD, and an API 3124. Good preamps help those better mics do what they should.
Of course I'd like better ribbon mics, more LDC choices, 4 channels of Neve preamps, etc, etc, etc...!!

ira Sun, 10/11/2009 - 16:24

vocal mics and preamps

if i was to use 1 best sounding neutral vocal LDC with a $1200 budget what would it be? seems like the ksm44 for $7-800 would be a good contender so far. but if there's something better sounding closer to $1200 then i'd go for it. i'm curious of bob rodgers recommendation of the rode k2 tube LDC. hmmm! ...also same idea for a LDD.

am also serious about getting one really nice mono vocal preamp with a $3000 budget. but i'd love to spend less if it's possible. heard great things about the avalon m5 ($1500) and the avalon VT-737SP ($2220) or manley preamps. i wonder if the $700 trident s20 would rival the avalons??

ira Sun, 10/11/2009 - 16:45

vocal mics and preamps UPDATE!

UPDATE! just a minute ago someone told me there's not much to look at between $800-$1500 for LDC mics. he recommended i go straight up to the Neumann tlm49 for $1500 ...bit above my budget but if that would sound even better than the ksm44 or the like then i believe it would be worth investing in the tlm49

Davedog Sun, 10/11/2009 - 19:33

I have not heard this particular Audix. But I am a fan of their products.

As for 'nothing in the $800 to $1500 range for LDC', rubbish. Its actually in this range that many newer smaller companies with very high quality stuff reside. As well as some of the big boys having very good mics in this range. 414 AKG's come to mind as well as most of the high-end ADK's. You would certainly be able to score a tube ADK Area51 TT which has a continuously variable pattern and sounds like a much more expensive mic. And you'd have change enough for a EV RE20 to boot.

I dont know where you're 'hearing ' this stuff but it aint true.

The TLM49 is a very nice mic. It is voiced for speach and vocals. It has only one pattern. This may be okay...but ti may limit its value in a studio for hire setting without some multi-pattern mics as supplements.

The KSM44 is a multipattern mic. Is it better than the Neumann? Well, it certainly wont sound the same except in its ability to capture strong and clean signals accurately.

I like the Avalon stuff. The Manley equipment should not be mentioned in the same sentence as it as it tends to blow it away completely. There isnt a lot of comparison. Manley is really high-end and sounds incredible.

The BEST and this is a relative term to use, but in my experience, value wise, trying to equip a project studio with something that will not only sound great, be easy to use and last forever, you cannot go wrong with the Langevin DVC. You should hear an SM57 through one of these......You start with this, get a couple a very good mics and then after a while your ears will not fail you at knowing what sounds you're going to be looking for. As a baseline for gear it doesnt get any better.

ira Sun, 10/11/2009 - 20:19

mics & pre's

thx dave. the c414 and area 51 look nice and i can afford em'. well...will be nice to hear mics like that as well! do you think 'over all' these 2 mics would sound better than the ksm44? i realize it depends on things like pre's, etc. just wondering. is it always this difficult to get right for newbies like me?!?

and i agree with you to have enduring gear that sounds great yet user friendly. my goal is to learn the gear that i have to learn but most importantly i want to create the music ie. PLAY the instrument more than fiddle with wires and knobs. i'm a musician...not an engineer. i realize that learning how to run recording gear is important though and that there will be a certain amount of engineering. thats ok.

looking to spend 3k or less on a mono or stereo pre. that possible with manley?? research on manley pre's is difficult to find on the net. heck, guitar center here in seattle has about 6 or 8 models on the floor. one of them was $7600 !!! any opinions of api, neve, ssl ?

correct me if im wrong but i'm trying to find the absolute best gear i can find within my budget. if the $2200 avalon doesnt sound as good as the $1800 langevin dvc then of course i dont want the avalon. hope im making sense.

dave i gotta say i really appreciate your advice with all this. your experience really helps. i'm curious, do you run a full fledged commercial studio here in the states? home studio?

Davedog Sun, 10/11/2009 - 23:31

Since you're in Seattle and the Hawks won so easily today I'm in a good mood and will try to answer your questions.

ADK's are based in Vancouver Wa and they are nothing but class guys to deal with. Plus the products are GREAT! I dont think the 414 is the do all be all VOCAL mic but they sure as heck are on most of everything else you can possibly record with them. They are a studio standard for a very good reason. The KSM44 is also a very very good mic. Not only because its a Shure, but it also works really well on everything you point it at, and its fairly level and neutral response makes it a good choice for a lot of different voices.

The Avalon stuff is also very well made gear. There are a couple of pieces that I have liked a lot, the U5 DI box is a real deal kinda box and the 2022 is a great unit. They seem to be a bit overpriced but they do have a fancy case and lots of bling......bling always makes things sound better.....but I digress.....The DVC eats em up. Period. This is one of those underrated boxes. You dont hear much about em except from people who have em. Its got that really simple EQ and a compressor thats one of THOSE compressors. Plus the mic pre is really great....Its like an old school channel.

Neve, API, SSL....all great stuff. The best. A person could get a lot out of a 3124 API. Kind of a do-it-all box. Four channels of do-it-all. John Hardy makes mic pres that basically make me cry they're so huge and pure sounding. Its amazing what a real circuit will do and all you need is a single knob to work with. Genius. Real old Neve will cost you a thousand a pound for it these days. Lots of clone work has been done to duplicate that sound. Vintech is close. Brent Averil is supposed to have it nailed.

Great River stuff is so sweet.

Its like being in a great guitar shop only its rack gear.....and mics.....

As for me.....I'm closing down my current studio. Its an atypical home setup. No computer though...I have worked in several studios through out my ?career? My new house has a room large enough for a mixing suite, and some recording. I wont have a drum setup any longer though. Its too bad. Its what I do best. I'll be looking at having the facility to mix in most of the popular formats eventually. With great converters and upgrading my console I should be able to warm up any protools mix I get to work on. So its production and mixing in my future.

At least thats the plan.

ira Mon, 10/12/2009 - 09:27

mics & pre's

hi would appear that the adk tt mic and the langevin dvc would be a great pairing for their quality, longevity and price range. the ONLY reason i'm staying away from the akg 414 is because it "may" not perform as well as the adk strictly vocally speaking and hell...i gotta choose something to start with! i like that the dvc has 2 channels in case i have to record 2 vocalists simultaneously. but i could live with 1 mono unit as well.

i'm very very interested in brent averil pre's but the $3200 price tag is pushing me away. maybe down the road a bit i'll look into it.

since you live here do you know where i can get the best deal on this type of gear? i've been working with scott down at gc pro audio dep't and he seems to treat me fairly...price matching and what not. gc sells both the adk tt and dvc.

hope you had a good weekend

moonbaby Tue, 10/13/2009 - 08:33

ira wrote: moonbaby...i'm getting some good feedback about the dvc preamp. thanks for helping to confirm that and sorry you dont have one anymore

Thanks for the sympathy. I have been told that since I have been a good boy this year that Santa may have one to drop off on Christmas Eve. It will cost me some serious bling, though. Hey when you're in love, it's ALL good, ain't it?

ira Sun, 11/29/2009 - 11:35

vocal booth

Hi Davedog,

so i finally purchased the Langevin dvc and an akg c414. havnt used any of it yet as i'm finally doing the basic finishing touches on everything. your advice was spot on to get the dvc as so many others speak highly of this piece as well.

so now i'm looking for the absolute best solution for a vocal booth. well i'm not going to build a room with a door and spend $3k. am thinking more of using high end diffusion/absorbtion materials that i can suuround a vocalist with...also the temporary setup must be easy for me to put up, dismantle and store. i've done some reading about products such as the SE Reflexion Filter. the available space i have is 4'x4'. the room is 12'x13' with a vaulted ceiling: lowest point is 7' and highest is 10'. in that 4'x4' area the vocalist will be standing where the ceiling is 9'. there's a drum kit in the room that i'll be padding to squelch overtones while tracking vox. also in the room is elec. keys, a few guitars/amps, leslie cabinet, etc


Boswell Tue, 11/25/2014 - 10:58

Yes, nice video. I have several NT2As and use them for lots of tasks, but I don't think I would consider one for the type of voice that the female singer in the video had. Nothing against the voice, it's just that the upper mids of the NT2A don't suit her.

One thing that the video did not mention (not unexpectedly) was the off-axis reduction in quality when used in cardioid configuration. This is common to most LDCs. Fig-8 and omni are fine.

Given its sensitivity, the mic's pad settings really should be more like 10dB and 20dB.

Overall, it's a very good mic for its price.

Tommy osuna Thu, 11/27/2014 - 23:53

Well I'm reading your post on mics but looking to get a pre also

Well try and check out the Mojave m200 you'll love it's diversity .

If your looking to spend 2 to 3 grand for a mic pre then I've been recently very happy with the Pacifica by a designs

It's punchy and very clear awesome for vocals,Gtr ,bass,overheads ,have a great sound also.

Cool I hope that helps