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microphones to record classical guitar at home

Now I use Zoom H4n with the in-built microphones to record classical guitar at home. I use it as audio interface to record to Audacity, or record to SD and then import it to PC. Here is a recording example:

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I would like to upgrade my system and need some advise: I think it would make a difference if I added a RODE NT-4. What do you think?
Also, is it better to buy a RODE NT-4 or one better mono microphone like Neumann KM-184-MT?
Maybe some other idea?

Thank you

Comments

anonymous Mon, 12/15/2014 - 03:20

I really like your recording... I think it sounds very warm and smooth... although I do think it's missing some "silk" and "air" up top.

Having two mics - or one stereo mic - does give you the luxury of being able to record in stereo.

There's noting wrong with the NT4, but it is permanently set for an X-Y coincidental pattern, and there are other patterns that can serve just as nicely, and sometimes even nicer, depending on what you are doing and the environment in which you are recording.

For example, if you were to get two separate cardioid mics, you could not only do X-Y, but also ORTF.

If you were to get 1 nice multi-pattern condenser with a Fig 8 setting, and another cardioid condenser, you could do M-S miking.

All of the above lend very nice depth and space to recordings of instruments - like acoustic and classical guitars - but, your environment needs to be taken in as a factor too, because if you have some acoustic anomalies happening in the room - things like flutter echo, or ringing/pinging, then a multi mic array (or a stereo condenser mic) will tend to enhance those acoustic problems.

Have you looked into the various multi mic array patterns?

You may want to start there...

http://www.soundons…

Boswell Mon, 12/15/2014 - 04:24

Just to get a couple of things out of the way first: I'm assuming that the purpose of your recording is to have a record of your solo playing, and also the acoustic environment where you are recording seems to be a bedroom or something similar.

The Rode NT4 as a microphone is not hugely better than the pair of SDCs built into the Zoom H4N. The NT4 is a little smoother over the upper mids and probably has lower noise levels, but the pre-amps in the H4N are not sufficiently quiet to let this feature show through.

My feeling is that the NT4 would not be the best investment for you at this point. If you went for a stereo pair of the NT5s or the NT55s you would get more flexibility by being able to position them independently as Donny suggested, but the Rode SDCs all use basically the same cardioid capsule so are sonically similar. The NT55s of course come with interchangeable omni capsules as well, so can be used in A-B configuration where needed, but I would not advise using A-B configuration in the acoustic surroundings apparent from your YouTube video. Although I use M-S microphone positioning for many classical guitar recordings, I think I would have similar reservations about using it in this case.

What it comes down to is that you have to take the acoustic environment into consideration when choosing what type of microphone to use. Those that have a reasonably wide choice of microphones to choose from for any recording assignment would listen very carefully to how the room is behaving before selecting two or three to use for trial recordings. Careful listening to these trials usually enables the narrowing down of the choice to one type or one configuration, but I for one often record additional microphone tracks for safety, even if it turns out they never get used in the final release.

This means that if you are restricting recording to the room shown in the video you may decide to purchase a mic that is most suitable for that acoustic, whereas if you need a mic that could be used in that room but was capable of giving substantially better results in a better acoustic, then you may decide that's the way to go. Either way, I would not rush out and buy something only to find there is no real improvement on what you can achieve with the H4N on its own.

As an aside, for this sort of work I would always record to the SD card in the H4N and then transfer the recording via USB to a computer rather than use it as an audio interface, as you get 24-bit recordings to the SD card but only 16-bit when used as an interface.

anonymous Mon, 12/15/2014 - 05:00

Boswell, post: 422321, member: 29034 wrote: As an aside, for this sort of work I would always record to the SD card in the H4N and then transfer the recording via USB to a computer rather than use it as an audio interface, as you get 24-bit recordings to the SD card but only 16-bit when used as an interface.

See there? I didn't know that... and now I do. ;)

Haris Mon, 12/15/2014 - 05:27

Boswell, post: 422321, member: 29034 wrote: Just to get a couple of things out of the way first: I'm assuming that the purpose of your recording is to have a record of your solo playing

Exactly!

, and also the acoustic environment where you are recording seems to be a bedroom or something similar.

Yes, it is a small room that has a bed, a desk with PC and selves with books. I play here guitar and make here my recordings, because if I play in some other room, I will wake up children etc.
Also, I have to setup my recording equipment every time I want to make a recording and then put everything in a safe place bacause otherwise my 3 years old daughter may destroy something. So it has to be something that can be setup easily (that is why I thought of NT-4).

The Rode NT4 as a microphone is not hugely better than the pair of SDCs built into the Zoom H4N. The NT4 is a little smoother over the upper mids and probably has lower noise levels, but the pre-amps in the H4N are not sufficiently quiet to let this feature show through.

Should I also consider to buy a preamp?

This means that if you are restricting recording to the room shown in the video you may decide to purchase a mic that is most suitable for that acoustic, whereas if you need a mic that could be used in that room but was capable of giving substantially better results in a better acoustic, then you may decide that's the way to go. Either way, I would not rush out and buy something only to find there is no real improvement on what you can achieve with the H4N on its own.

I will record mostly in this room. But occasionally I may record in the living room which is much bigger.

Thank you for reply!

anonymous Mon, 12/15/2014 - 07:30

A nice preamp will always make any good microphone sound better than if you use the same nice mic through a cheap, budget preamp - audio I/O.

There are things to consider when looking at preamps / I-O's... ( like the quality of the preamps, how much gain they have, and the quality of AD-DA converters in the I/O, which can really make a difference in the quality of your sound).

Also, telling us what type of computer you have (CPU, RAM, HDD) as well as the type of connection you want (USB, Firewire, PCIe Card) is important, because there are different ways to et audio into and out of your computer.

It would also help us to know what price range you have in mind, as this would assist us when it comes to certain equipment recommendations.

There are also some inexpensive and easy ways to make the room you are in sound better acoustically, too, but again, we have to have an idea of your available budget, along with your location, because - depending on where you are, certain items and materials may not be available to you - or - may cost considerably more than what we pay in the U.S., Canada or the U.K.

Now... this is important too....you need to ask yourself just how serious you want to be - in regard to the quality of the final product you expect or want to deliver.

If you consider yourself to just be a hobbyist at this, ( which is fine) then you can get by with gear that is much cheaper, but, the sound you'll end up with won't be as nice as it would be if you purchased equipment that is higher in sonic quality, and accordingly, more expensive.

Tell us how serious you want to get, how much money you have to spend, what kind of computer you have and where you are located, and we can help you more.

;)

Haris Mon, 12/15/2014 - 08:37

Thank you for extensive replies!
My PC is Intel Core i3 3.50 GHz, RAM 8GB
Disks: 1 SSD 447GB, 1 HDD 1TB, 1HDD 4GB.

I would prefer USB (2 or 3) connection.
The price range for the mic is about 600-700€ or maybe a little more if needed.
Later I consider to buy a preamp.
About the quality: I am a hobbyist and want to have good sound for myself without buying something extremely expensive. I would prefer 1 stereo mic, because I don't want to mess with adjustments also as I said I want to easily setup and put it back to storage. That is why I asked if it is preferable to buy 1 better mono mic than 1 lower quality stereo mic.
I am located in Greece.

Thank you again!

pcrecord Mon, 12/15/2014 - 09:49

DonnyThompson, post: 422326, member: 46114 wrote: you can get by with gear that is much cheaper, but, the sound you'll end up with won't be as nice as it would be if you purchased equipment that is higher in sonic quality, and accordingly, more expensive.

Some recordists will get away with cheaper gear knowing a few tricks like finding the sweet (narrow) spot of onboard interface preamps and gain staging correctly. A great part of a recording is good performance and creativity no gear will teach you that ! ;)
I sometime get homemade tracks from customers, not that my setup is perfect but, I usually pinpoint very soon what there problems are. They become their signature (same frequency peaks in all recordings, room noise or ambiance etc) It is sometime easy to compensate but other times you can't do anything.

What ever our setup is, we all need to adapt and learn the limits of our gear.

Boswell Mon, 12/15/2014 - 10:05

pcrecord, post: 422345, member: 46460 wrote: I sometime get homemade tracks from customers, not that my setup is perfect but, I usually pinpoint very soon what there problems are. They become their signature (same frequency peaks in all recordings, room noise or ambiance etc) It is sometime easy to compensate but other times you can't do anything.

Too true, pc. Some of the worst tracks to mix are those recorded by someone who only has one microphone and uses it for everything. When you mix several tracks recorded like this, the nasty frequencies add together leaving the musical bits many dB lower. It's often better to record multiple tracks using as many different microphones as you can so their sonic signatures do not stand out in the mix.

audiokid Mon, 12/15/2014 - 11:19

Boswell, post: 422347, member: 29034 wrote: Too true, pc. Some of the worst tracks to mix are those recorded by someone who only has one microphone and uses it for everything. When you mix several tracks recorded like this, the nasty frequencies add together leaving the musical bits many dB lower. It's often better to record multiple tracks using as many different microphones as you can so their sonic signatures do not stand out in the mix.

Exactly, I am faced with this every mix I do for people. Some are better than others but there are few ideal. This is another example of what I am getting at with bleed. It too has a sonic signature that comes from headphones. It translates as spiky sss and shirly proximity effect. Which is what I am hearing with Donny's 414/ Tube examples too. Which has sparked a new topic of the week for me.

There is a direct correlation to gear quality and developing skills that teach us to identify things we once never noticed or heard, or never will. This is also that last 2% where the bits are holding back the bytes.

anonymous Tue, 12/16/2014 - 03:23

audiokid, post: 422352, member: 1 wrote: Which is what I am hearing with Donny's [[url=http://[/URL]="http://www.akg.com/…"]414[/]="http://www.akg.com/…"]414[/]/ Tube examples too.

I dunno (shrugs). I didn't even use headphones on the 414 track excerpt example. I wasn't singing to a track, I just sang a 1/2 chorus excerpt - without monitoring anything.

Doesn't really matter, I guess, as the track isn't up to par either tonally or performance-wise, so obviously I've got other issues to contend with.

Haris Tue, 12/16/2014 - 22:15

I thought I could buy a Neumann KM-184-MT to have a simple good quality mono setup in my small recording room and later if I wanted buy a second same one to make stereo recordings. Or the technology may change and the second "same" mic will not be the same anymore? What do you think?
Are there any good quality stereo mics like Rode NT-4 but better?

Boswell Wed, 12/17/2014 - 02:43

Haris, post: 422439, member: 48680 wrote: Are there any good quality stereo mics like Rode NT-4 but better?

Yes, there are, but before listing all the top models, I think you should give us some idea of your budget. A single Neumann KM184 is quite a lot more than a Rode NT4, so what it will stretch to?

pcrecord Wed, 12/17/2014 - 03:14

Haris, post: 422439, member: 48680 wrote: I thought I could buy a [="http://www.neumann.com"]Neumann[/]="http://www.neumann…"]Neumann[/] KM-184-MT to have a simple good quality mono setup in my small recording room and later if I wanted buy a second same one to make stereo recordings. Or the technology may change and the second "same" mic will not be the same anymore? What do you think?
Are there any good quality stereo mics like [[url=http://="http://rodemic.com/"]RODE[/]="http://rodemic.com/"]RODE[/] NT-4 but better?

It always seems appealing to buy 1 piece of gear while thinking it will sound 200% better. But in fact it is not like that at all.
Making a good cake requires having all the good ingredients.
In recording this means

  • having a room that will enhance the sound by its natural accoustics or a room that you won't hear on the recording
  • A great sounding instrument and good performance
  • A mic well adapted to the instrument and the right placement (or many mics depending)
  • A preamp that will either be transparent or have a pleasing sound signature
  • accurate converter(s) and recording system
class="xf-ul"> If any of those are put to the side, your sound will be missing something (or have too much of).. ;)
You need to figure out at what point you will be satisfied because you can buy the best mic while spending your entire budget only to realise you also need threatment, preamp, audio interface etc, to achieve the sound you want.

My first step would be to control the acoustic of that small room and revisit the placement of the H4N.
Or
Visite a pro studio, book a couple of hours and get a grasp of what sound you can dream of. It may not be very far from what you have...

pcrecord Wed, 12/17/2014 - 04:44

Haris, post: 422455, member: 48680 wrote: pcrecord, thank you for extensive reply! Room can not change, all else can. I know H4N mics are not very good neither is H4N as a preamp. That is why I want to add mic(s) and some time in the future a preamp. And then I will try to have the best result with all rest.

The thing is, a better mic and preamp may just capture more of the room which is what you want to avoid. Condensers, specially large diaphrams, will capture more ambient sound than a dynamic cardioid. I didn't ment to transform the room or make extensive acoustic threatment. It could be as simple as putting the mattress verticaly on its side and playing toward it. Then you could leave the closet door open (if full of dresses ;)) Having a thick carpet. Those are things that can help without spending much.

Haris Wed, 12/17/2014 - 05:37

pcrecord, post: 422462, member: 46460 wrote: I didn't ment to transform the room or make extensive acoustic threatment. It could be as simple as putting the mattress verticaly on its side and playing toward it. Then you could leave the closet door open (if full of dresses ;)) Having a thick carpet. Those are things that can help without spending much.

Thank you, I could easily to all above.

Haris Thu, 12/18/2014 - 05:52

DonnyThompson, post: 422326, member: 46114 wrote: Tell us how serious you want to get, how much money you have to spend, what kind of computer you have and where you are located, and we can help you more.
;)

Boswell, post: 422450, member: 29034 wrote: Yes, there are, but before listing all the top models, I think you should give us some idea of your budget. A single Neumann KM184 is quite a lot more than a Rode NT4, so what it will stretch to?

So, could you please make some specific suggestions?
Thank you!

pcrecord Thu, 12/18/2014 - 08:38

IF you control your room a bit, you will avoid wasting the quality that can be achievable with high-end gear.
You know that sky is the limit here and there ain't one route but many.

Let's put aside the stereo vs mono; If you are to record only your guitar and it's gonna be that on the final product, a mono mic is perfect for an intimate in your face sound. If your music will have more than a track (vocal or other instruments) it's nice to be able to push the guitar away from the center and let some space for other instruments. It could be with a wide reverb with that mono mic or using a stereo mic.

The [[url=http://[/URL]="http://www.neumann…"]Neumann[/]="http://www.neumann…"]Neumann[/] KM184 is a very good mic but you have other options. If you bring your guitar to a music store and try a few mics you will get a sens of what kind of sound you want. Some have great results with AKG C214, C414 or Shure KSM 32 or 44 or Rode NT5. Also those mics can all be purchased as matched pair. There is a lot of other mics that are available and some might be better for your sound that does I suggested. It all depends on the initial sound of the instrument and the sound you want to achieve.

Now for preamps.
If you go mono ; PreSonus Studio Channel,Golden Age Pre-73 MKII, Focusrite ISA One, Grace Design m101, Universal Audio SOLO/610 (All below 1k)

For dual preamps : ART Pro MPA II, Focusrite ISA Two (below 1k)

Or you go for an audio interface with good preamps : RME Babyface, Universal Audio Apollo Twin SOLO etc...

Boswell Thu, 12/18/2014 - 09:31

For microphones, don't forget the old standard instrument mic: Shure [="http://tweakheadz.com/review-of-the-sm81/"]SM81[/]="http://tweakheadz.c…"]SM81[/].

For pre-amps/audio interfaces, as well as the ones that pc mentioned the Focusrite [[url=http://="http://uk.focusrite…"]Scarlett[/]="http://uk.focusrite…"]Scarlett[/] series give a very good account of themselves within the price range.

pcrecord Thu, 12/18/2014 - 10:08

Boswell, post: 422534, member: 29034 wrote: For pre-amps/audio interfaces, as well as the ones that pc mentioned the Focusrite [[url=http://[/URL]="http://uk.focusrite…"]Scarlett[/]="http://uk.focusrite…"]Scarlett[/] series give a very good account of themselves within the price range.

I was aiming at higher quality preamps/interface but yeah Focusrite and Presonus make good quality products for the price. ;)

pcrecord Fri, 12/19/2014 - 02:54

I guess, an advantage of the NT5 is that you can do more that the XY placement. As is, you can do many placement that cardioid allows and you could even buy the omni interchangeable capsul to do Blumlein technic. Of course you would need a bipolar patern mic to do mid/side, but other than that technic all the other can be achievable.
https://www.cakewal…

Also :
Quote from sound on sound : the response of the NT4 is slightly less flat above 10kHz, almost certainly because of the acoustic interaction between the two closely spaced capsules and the main mic body.

Boswell Fri, 12/19/2014 - 03:42

I can really relate to the concluding sentence from that Cakewalk article - it sums up what many engineers feel spending the whole session trying to get a half-decent recording with an inadequate performer in poor surroundings:

It’s important to be weary of those types of situations especially in highly reflective rooms that are very small or have low ceilings.

Haris Fri, 12/19/2014 - 06:31

Thank you pcrecord, I just did not understand and so I asked. Of course I don't think I am a great player, guitar is my hobby, when I have time from work and family I play. But I like it!
Also, I would never pay a pro to record me, because as I said I am not at this level. That is why I try to find out how to do it myself as good as possible.

Back to topic now: There is no single stereo mic suggestion, is it on purpose because you believe a single mono mic is a better solution?
And, if I buy a single mono mic, can I buy later if I want a 2nd same mic to pair them, or I have to buy them paired from the beginning?

Boswell Fri, 12/19/2014 - 07:35

No, it was in no way a dig at you, Haris. I was making a (poor) joke about the spelling in the article.

Did you look at the microphone techniques for acoustic guitar described in the Cakewalk link? They are only one person's opinion which not everyone would agree with, but the article illustrates a range of types and positions.

anonymous Fri, 12/19/2014 - 08:24

Haris, post: 422567, member: 48680 wrote: Also, I would never pay a pro to record me, because as I said I am not at this level. That is why I try to find out how to do it myself as good as possible.

I wouldn't rule that out entirely. "Never" is a long time. ;)

Even some pro engineers - who are also musicians and songwriters - will occasionally turn the controls over to another professional engineer from time to time, so that they can concentrate on the music. I've done that many, many times.

Having yourself professionally recorded is something you should do, at least once. It will give you an indication of just how good you can sound, ( as well as demonstrate the difference between a novice/hobbyist and a real engineer) and, as I mentioned above, it will allow you to concentrate on the music, and let someone else (who knows what they are doing) be concerned with the technical side of the craft.

It's also a great way to better your own knowledge about recording in general, and the gear involved. If you are paying for studio time, most engineers are happy to answer your questions, if it's on your dime.

It's an experience every musician should have at least once in their career. ;)

FWIW

d.

Haris Fri, 12/19/2014 - 09:24

You are right on that. I just said that because I am not a pro, I play for hobby, and my level maybe would not justify to do that. Of course I would learn a lot and it would be a great experience! Who knows, maybe some time..

Please don't think that I believe that I will be able to make a recording that could come even close to that of a pro by buying new mic , maybe a preamp and by asking questions here that you very kindly and patiently answer.

as well as demonstrate the difference between a novice/hobbyist and a real engineer

I am sure that the word huge is to small to describe that difference.

Space Fri, 12/19/2014 - 16:45

I do not know anything about mics but I have an idea about rooms an how they are the first acoustic instrument in the chain.

Chris started a thred back in June of 2014: http://recording.org/index.php?threads/recording-acoustic-guitar-and-room-acoustic.57262/#post-422571

If I were the poster, this is a thread I would read and consider how much of either the room or the mic it is that I want to change.

It is a given that both will need to be changed.