I am looking for advice on a decent setup for recording saxophones a Mic and a Pre-Amp. Making a call to one of the big online pro-audio companies gives me different advice for every engineer I talk with and the last seemed only to only recommend choices based on the high end of my "budget".
Note: I cannot afford to spend $5,000 on a gold plated vintage Neumann :) and was hoping to stay under $1K for each option not more than $1600 all together.
The type of music will be Contemporary Jazz where there will be louder volumes, high altissimo notes, and much more air pushed through the horn at times than in straight ahead jazz. But there will also be a wide range of volumes: The song may start off relatively soft but by the time we are into the solo and vamp I will be louder. Some songs will stay relatively soft the entire time especially using Soprano. Another thing is Soprano by virtue of it's shape sometimes has the microphone positioned at the middle of the horn over the top instead of by the bell. Just something to think about may be having to add a 2nd mic at that position as well as the main mic which would be used for all the saxes near the bell maybe 1-2 feet away?
So I need something that can handle that range, give me the warmest and most round sound, assist with clipping, and hopefully something that has a little leeway regarding position of the horn. I don't want to have to have a precision rack hold the horn in the exact same spot so when I have to punch in I don't sound like a different person :)
I will be recording in a room not a booth as this is home. I am also just a horn player that knows enough to work Logic 9, I have recorded in a studio many times but I did not go to school for Recording Engineering. So please be patient with me.
What are you using for an interface?
I like ribbon mics on sax. Because you are doing this at home I'll start by throwing out the [[url=http://[/URL]="http://www.sweetwat…"]Beyer 160[/]="http://www.sweetwat…"]Beyer 160[/] . It's cardioid so you will get less of the room, more of the direct sound of the sax.
I'd recommend putting some bass traps / acoustic treatments in your budget. It will go a long way toward making your recordings sound better and make your room more pleasant to practice in.
I'm going to hold off on a preamp recommendation until I hear about the interface. You are sort of in a middle range - more than the cheap stuff - less than the expensive channel strips.
I am using the M-Audio Firewire 410 to interface into the MacBook Pro using Logic Pro 9.
I talked to my daughter who majors in classical sax and music tech at Duquesne. She would go with a dynamic mic - specifically the Sennheiser 421 ($380) or 441 ($900). These definitely sound great on Sax and are better for live situations than ribbons. They are generally a less picky, more robust mic than a ribbon (and Alice likes the more expensive AEA and Royer ribbons more than the Beyer).
If you go with the 421 or the 441 used* you will have more available for a preamp than with the Beyer. (I'd be hesitant to buy a used ribbon without being able to check it out thoroughly.) There are some single channel preamps and channel strips in your price range. Since I don't own any of the single channels I won't give a recommendation, but the way you describe your music you want something that will give a bit of "color" rather than a very "transparent." (Don't put too much weight on those descriptive terms. There is a style difference, but with high end preamps it's probably smaller than the differences in high end saxes.) Look at Universal Audio, Great River.
*Dynamic mics are tougher than condensers and ribbons and so they are better candidates for buying used. In the other hand, these are great drum mics, so if you buy used get a good description. The used 441s seem to be going for a deeper discount on ebay than a lot of mics. The 441 is a great mic, but there are a lot of people who won't pay the difference between the 421 and a 441. Preamps are good to buy used but the best don't get sold that often. The Universal Audio 610 Solo does sell on eBay pretty often. My guess is that it is at a price point that attracts a lot of beginners who then lose interest. I have not owned one, but you should see if you can get a chance to try one.
The Sennheiser mics get a lot of praise for sax. I used a Beyer M260 on my saxes for live use starting about 1974, but it didn't translate well in the studio. I don't own any Sennheisers, but tried an RE20 with mixed results.
I had good luck in the studio with an AT 4047 and a Blue Baby Bottle mostly on my tenor (1949 Selmer Super Balanced Action), but for my 1967 MKV Selmer alto, which was bright, I ended up trying and using a really inexpensive CAD GXL 2400 LD mic. That mic picked up the entire horn and was nice and smooth..and only $70..