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Mics for a Songwriter

Member for

21 years

I tried to A/B some mics at the local stores but they never let me A/B all at once so here i am. I am assembling a small home studio in a house we rent so it is not acoustically treated.

I want principally to be able to record my acoustic guitars and Male and Female voices. (I'll record Violin / Sax but not a priority right now although if the same mics could work that would be great).

Music Style ranges from Folk, Pop to Rock.

So far i have:
Monitors: Dynaudio BM6A
Audio Interface: TC Konnekt 48

Budget: up to $1000 but of course the less i spend the better as this is a hobby :-)

What do you think of the following combinations?

- Vocals: Studio Projects B1, $119.99
- Guitars:
Shure SM81, $349.97
OR Studio Projects C4, $360.00
OR anything cheaper like the Shure SM57?
CHOICE MORE HIGH-END: (is it worth it?/will we hear a difference?)
- Vocals: Audio-Technica AT4050, $480.00
- Guitars: ??
CHOICE : MORE PERSONALITY??: (again worth it?)
- Studio Projects TB1, $299.99
- Studio Projects T3, $599.99
- BLUE Bluebird, $299.99
- BLUE Baby Bottle, $499.97
- Audio-Technica AT4047/SV, $549.97

I don't think that would fit into my budget but would you recommend to add a better pre-amp? What about the Studio Projects tube pre-amp?

Thanks in advance for your feedback


Member for

15 years 11 months

RemyRAD Wed, 02/13/2008 - 00:02
Singer-songwriter's aren't allowed to have microphones. If you had one, then they would all want one and then we would have to kill you all. Singer-songwriter's should only be allowed to have Shure SM58's. Because those are not microphones. They are actually hammers disguised as microphones and nobody has ever been the wiser.

Ms. Mike Hammer

Member for

15 years 5 months

BobRogers Wed, 02/13/2008 - 03:41
For guitar I'd go with the SM81. Very safe choice.

For vocals its a matter of matching the voice to the mic to the preamp. Your interface has decent preamps so it's just a matter of experimenting with mics. And since you are talking about multiple vocalists, that may mean a number of mics. Remy has a point. Unless you've tried it and not liked it, an SM58 sounds good on a lot of voices. Get one as the bedrock of your collection. You can always use it for live performances.

Then start looking at the large diaphragm condensers on your list. Condensers will have more high end than the 58. Problem is that it's not always a really nice high end - especially combined with individual voices. If you can get a local store to work with you (or an online retailer) take the mics home on approval, return anything that doesn't sound better than what you already have, pay the restocking fee or return shipping as money well spent, and move on.

Also, you have room in your budget for some acoustic treatment. There are some bass traps available (or you can build yourself) that look good and are portable. They are good for listening to music, and practicing music, as well as recording music. Check out the acoustics forum.

Member for

16 years 6 months

moonbaby Wed, 02/13/2008 - 06:02
Like BR stated, you WILL need to treat the room. It doesn't need to be permanent, you can put up some panels and heavy blankets. An overstuffed sofa and area rugs can help, too. If you don't do this, I wouldn't even think of popping for an LD condenser. They have too wide a pattern, their off-axis is too colored, and that will just sound bad in a poor environment. This is why the 58 may be the key here-it's designed to reject ambient noise to minimize feedback. THis works for recording, too.
And the SM81 is the go-to mic for guitars, many other stringed instruments. I have a couple of AT4047's, they are great on all sorts of voices, very full and smooth. Also good on alto/tenor saxes. As for preamps, unless you want a cheap tube pre as a fuzz box for the mics, don't bother with the SP thing. For acoustic instruments, as well as vocals, the Grace 101 is the hands-down winner here. Very transparent, clean and detailed. Even a 58 will sound better through it.
Let's do the math:
So far, you have some nice gear. Definitely worth keeping and expanding upon. Save up for the 4047, you won't regret it. Good luck.

Member for

15 years 5 months

BobRogers Wed, 02/13/2008 - 06:58
I have not tried the TC Konnekt 48, so somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but my guess is that the pres are pretty good. The Grace (and many other pres in that price range) would be a step up. But I'd suggest buying something you don't have (like bass traps / acoustic treatment) before upgrading something that's pretty good without having maximized its potential.

Member for

16 years 6 months

moonbaby Wed, 02/13/2008 - 23:12
You blew it, my friend. Asking the above question was like saying,"I just drove a Kia. Will it beat an Acura?" HELL, NO!!! Shure PG mics are cheap crap! Whoever is steering you towards them is a thief, a liar, and a scammer!
Yes, they have lower output than a condenser. That isn't a bad thing. Do your homework! Pop for a 58!!!!!!!! And stay away from whoever tells you that the PG is "as good as" the SM line. They are LIARS!!!!!!
As far as the Beta series is concerned, this depends on the source material and the model mic. For example, the Beta 87a works well on female pop vocalists. Not on male rock singers. Or male folk singers. Or female rock screamers. Or female folk balladeers. Or male jazz crooners....get the point? Get a "REAL" SM58. Accept no substitutes!
FYI: The Beta line tends to be less forgiving a mic, with a tendency to sound "harsh" with singers with bigger "lungs". Some models DO have the advantage of having even less ambient noise pick-up, but at a price. Stick to the 58...SM58. You'll be glad that you did!

Member for

21 years

Member Thu, 02/14/2008 - 10:26
CAD M-179

Both are definitely budget, but they have multi-pattern options and the M-179 has very low self noise (the better of the two... or more highly regarded).

I've read good things about how neutral it is (which is good if using it for multiple sources).

I just purchased the GXL3000 yesterday for $69 on special at MF, don't know too much about it yet... might be junk... but just thought I'd throw those two recommendations out there, take it with a grain of salt... I'm a newb.

Member for

21 years

Member Thu, 02/14/2008 - 10:40
moonbaby, I think the question was not "Will the PG be better than the SM58?", rather it was "Will using a 58 give higher levels than the PG, which was really low?"

Or in your analogy...
"I just drove a Kia, and it wasn't a smooth ride. Will driving an Acura be better?"

No argument on the points you made, though. 8-)

Member for

21 years

Member Thu, 02/14/2008 - 10:52
Everybody should have sm57 and/or 58. The Beta's aren't worth the extra expense.

Don't go cheap on the condenser mic. The cheap ones tend to be harsh in the mids and high frequency range for vocals. If money is a real issue then by all means keep lowend, be careful and try to find one that fits your voice. The preamp also makes a big difference because it is part of an equation.

Same for preamps. I would rather have a good one without the bells and whistles and fake tube circuits. Go for an RNP or Grace 101 than slightly more expensive or even cheaper trash.

Member for

13 years 10 months

bent Fri, 02/15/2008 - 07:57
I tried a PG Shure on the Konnekt 48 and the levels where really low.

Here's my take - the PG is a cheap mic that works in a pinch (live sound on a budget, primarily), but if you want the good stuff, the SM57, 58, 81, A/T 3000 and 4000 series, Senn 421 and 441 (among many others) are quality mics - and workhorses of our industry.

The Shure SM series of microphones are found in damn near EVERY studio and broadcast facility in the world. There's a reason for that, and it 'aint marketing.

There's a signature sound that one can expect to achieve with these mics, and they meet that expectation every time.

Plus the added benefit, as Remy said - the 57's and 58's double as hammers!

Member for

21 years

Member Sun, 02/17/2008 - 18:41
ou blew it, my friend. Asking the above question was like saying,"I just drove a Kia. Will it beat an Acura?" HELL, NO!!!

The analogy is interesting as i drove many cars when i needed to replace my car. And in fact i chose a Volvo S40 as it was the best value for money in this category for me. The Accura and Audi were much more expensive and i found it was not justified. The KIA and others seemed like toys and not safe.

I'm a big believer in the power of the witch and not the wand. I am not looking for the holy grail product that will make hits for me. I am looking for a decent and consistent "paintbrush". I don't want to buy cheap stuff that would be of no use later, as they would cost more to replace with something decent.

Member for

21 years

Member Wed, 02/20/2008 - 20:47
last email

I did the mics shoot-out test and this helped me sort things out.
I hope this is my last email about this topic for quite some times. So please don't hesitate to give me your feedback.

In the tests, I very much preferred:
B Sennheiser 421 $379.97
D Neumann TLM 103 $999.00
E Shure SM7 $349.97
H Rode NT-1 $229.95
K Schoeps P48 ???
Q AKG C-3000 $349.00
P Oktava 319 139 Euros = $205
A Studio Projects B1 $119.99
and did not like mics like Neumann U87 and Audio Technica 4050!
This might talk about the inexperience of my ears :-) ?
I don't know how to describe what i did not like about the U87 but i found the AT4050 too clean somewhat with no life.

So now for a vocal mic, i am now looking into the 421, SM7 and the Oktava 319. It seems i would be happy with any of them.
I am tempted to go with the SM7b or the Senn 421 as they get much more warm reviews than the 319.
Any feedback about Senn 421 vs SM7b vs Oktava 319 for Vocal?
The only drawbacks about each mics are:
- Shure SM7: has very low output, and needs a good quality preamp to drive it properly???
- Sennheiser 421: annoying/fragile stand adapter??
- Oktava 319: not consistent???

What Mic would you then recommend for acoustic guitar, should i go with a small condenser: like the SM81, AT4041 or the cheaper Oktava MK012 or CAD e70 or should i go again with a Dynamic mic like a SM57 or a Heil PR-40 or a pair of Studio Projects C4 ?

I am also tempted by the cheap Cascade FAT HEAD II to add a cheap different paintbrush to my tool/play box.