Need budget mic recommendation

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NateD81
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Need budget mic recommendation

Post by NateD81 » Sat Dec 01, 2018 4:22 pm

I’m going to be recording my Fender DRRI at home, and looking for any recommendations on a cheap 100$-ish mic to use on the amp. My gut says a SM57, but I’m open to alternatives if you guys have a particular mix you think might pair better with this amp.
Last edited by NateD81 on Sat Dec 01, 2018 6:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Need budget mix recommendation

Post by oid » Sat Dec 01, 2018 5:35 pm

NateD81 wrote:
Sat Dec 01, 2018 4:22 pm
I’m going to be recording my Fender DRRI at home, and looking for any recommendations on a cheap 100$-ish mic to use on the amp. My gut says a SM57, but I’m open to alternatives if you guys have a particular mix you think might pair better with this amp.
For home recording you can get away with any decent mic.

In the studio when you are paying by the hour the engineer needs a wide variety of mics so they can just grab what will compliment the sound of the guitarist, clients will not be happy if they have to pay for an engineer to spend hours trying different mics and placements to capture your sound.

Your time is free and you can setup the mic, put on the head phones and listen to what you get in real time, tweak your amp, your technique, and mic placement to get the sound you want instead of just accepting the sound of the mic and falling back on traditional studio techniques and safe mics. Personally I would get one of the MXL condensers or the like, they play much better with low volumes and dynamics and are much more versatile. The 57 is at its best with higher volumes, it has a stiff diaphragm to help make sure it will survive life on the stage which lowers its sensitivity and high frequency response. Nothing wrong with the 57 though, plenty of good recordings done with not much else, but it has its own sound that is difficult to work around if you do not want that sound. The low sensitivity of the 57 can be nice in the home studio though, much easier to avoid ambient noises but quiet bits and low volumes can sound dead due to that lack of sensitivity.

Edit: Autocorrect changed 'mic' to 'mix' in your title, might want to change that, more people may weigh in.
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Re: Need budget mix recommendation

Post by NateD81 » Sat Dec 01, 2018 6:23 pm

oid wrote:
Sat Dec 01, 2018 5:35 pm
NateD81 wrote:
Sat Dec 01, 2018 4:22 pm
I’m going to be recording my Fender DRRI at home, and looking for any recommendations on a cheap 100$-ish mic to use on the amp. My gut says a SM57, but I’m open to alternatives if you guys have a particular mix you think might pair better with this amp.
For home recording you can get away with any decent mic.

In the studio when you are paying by the hour the engineer needs a wide variety of mics so they can just grab what will compliment the sound of the guitarist, clients will not be happy if they have to pay for an engineer to spend hours trying different mics and placements to capture your sound.

Your time is free and you can setup the mic, put on the head phones and listen to what you get in real time, tweak your amp, your technique, and mic placement to get the sound you want instead of just accepting the sound of the mic and falling back on traditional studio techniques and safe mics. Personally I would get one of the MXL condensers or the like, they play much better with low volumes and dynamics and are much more versatile. The 57 is at its best with higher volumes, it has a stiff diaphragm to help make sure it will survive life on the stage which lowers its sensitivity and high frequency response. Nothing wrong with the 57 though, plenty of good recordings done with not much else, but it has its own sound that is difficult to work around if you do not want that sound. The low sensitivity of the 57 can be nice in the home studio though, much easier to avoid ambient noises but quiet bits and low volumes can sound dead due to that lack of sensitivity.

Edit: Autocorrect changed 'mic' to 'mix' in your title, might want to change that, more people may weigh in.
Thanks for the heads up - fixed my title!

Also, thank you for your thoughts. I hadn’t considered the fact that the 57 is going to be less sensitive, it’s been awhile since I’ve recorded. I’m definitely going to investigate a MXL condenser - I’m not going to be cranking my amp and so it sounds like a 57 might not get me where I want to go.

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Re: Need budget mic recommendation

Post by Larry Mal » Sat Dec 01, 2018 7:49 pm

Yeah, I don't like the SM57 for very much at all.

Modern condensers can handle pretty high SPL these days, I would look for one that had a good rating for that and hopefully one that has a -10dB pad, also. Probably a large diaphragm condenser of some kind, there's a lot to choose from out there.

The SM57 certainly does have its place, but its strengths are also weaknesses. I'd keep looking.

Years ago I read an oral history of punk, and there was some interviews with the members of the Stooges, and the guitarist was talking about how they went into the studio with their Marshall stacks to record their first album, and they cranked their amps up like they did on stage. The engineers wanted the Stooges to turn the amps down since their microphones couldn't handle the volume, but the Stooges wouldn't do it, since they considered cranked amps to be their sound.

I am pretty sure that attitudes like that are the reasons why the SM57 became known as a guitar amp microphone. Honestly, I don't think it's a very good microphone.

And sure, whatever happened in the studio those days are what the Stooges sound is, you know? I'm not bashing that. Whatever happened those days are what made the great albums.

But still. The SM57 is a pretty dull microphone, something of a one trick pony in my mind. Great trick, though, and I am not saying that good engineers haven't gotten great results out of it.
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Re: Need budget mic recommendation

Post by marqueemoon » Sat Dec 01, 2018 7:54 pm

I like the EV 635a on guitar amps, at least for the sound I typically go for.

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Re: Need budget mic recommendation

Post by NateD81 » Sat Dec 01, 2018 8:22 pm

Ok so I'm definitely going to take a hard pass on the SM57. I had one for forever, but that was also forever ago and I guess there is a reason that I usually used my Shure KSM27 mic on amps. Sounds like I should keep my eyes peeled for a workable large diaphragm microphone. That'll probably be more versatile anyway as I'll want to use it to record the occasional acoustic guitar.

Thank you all for the input! If you have any mics you like, hit me up and I'll keep my eyes peeled on reverb!

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Re: Need budget mic recommendation

Post by smjenkins » Sun Dec 02, 2018 12:11 pm

I'm a home recording nerd and I'd recommend the 3U audio mics. Really great capsules for the price. Incredible in fact.

Here's one on the eBay:
https://rover.ebay.com/rover/0/0/0?mpre ... 2996579651

There's an epic thread on these mics on gs. I picked up a couple of the Warblers based on this thread and they really sounds great.

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/low-end ... cings.html

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Re: Need budget mic recommendation

Post by oid » Sun Dec 02, 2018 3:35 pm

I think I will amend my previous statement to say small diaphragm cardioid condenser. While the large diaphragms are nice and tend to be closer to neutral, they are really good at picking up ambient room noise and that garbage truck driving by, which can be an issue when recording a low volume amp in a residential setting. The small diaphragm condenser is much easier to point and isolate sounds with, its decreased low end is not an issue with guitar and helps filter out room rumble, it's one real draw back is that they tend to have more HF than most guitarist would like, but our amps, guitars, fx and mic placement offer enough tone shaping to remedy that.
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Re: Need budget mic recommendation

Post by øøøøøøø » Sun Dec 02, 2018 5:59 pm

IMO, there's nothing wrong with an SM57 on guitar amp, unless you're Steve Albini (or a fan of Steve Albini who copies his peculiarities).

I'm exaggerating a little.

There are a few other people don't like it for whatever reason (and I don't love it ALWAYS), but... it's a very common choice on guitar amp for a reason. If I had just $100 to spend, it's the only thing I would deem worth buying. If I could stretch to $300, I might opt for an MD421 instead. Might.

EV635 is cool, I also love it on guitar amps, but it's an omni which is a different thing... I'd recommend having one someday, but not sure I'd want it as my ONLY choice.

I would stay away from ANY condenser microphone costing $100 or less.

If I had to choose between purchasing an MXL condenser or an SM57 for a guitar amp, I would choose the SM57 like 200% of the time. No hesitation.

Will I use fancier things if I have them at my disposal? Hell yes. Do I like a U67 or U47 better? Most times, yes. But a 57 (or a 57 plus an MD421) is ALSO something I use, if the part calls for it. There's something about a 57+MD421 (into Neves) on a Marshall cab that I often like better for distorted rhythm than anything else.

So take that for whatever it's worth. YMMV and all that. But in my view, there's no need to overthink this one. SM57 and done.

If you decide at some point that the SM57 isn't cutting it for what you want for whatever reason... save up more money and try something else like a Royer R121, or try a Beyer M160, or MD409 or MD421or MD441 or any number of other great mics people use on guitar amps.

But don't get an MXL condenser. If you want to use a condenser on guitar cab, I have to say that in my experience the payoff doesn't really come until pretty high up the price scale... like vintage U87A, U67, U47 type money.

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Re: Need budget mic recommendation

Post by øøøøøøø » Sun Dec 02, 2018 6:17 pm

oid wrote:
Sun Dec 02, 2018 3:35 pm
I think I will amend my previous statement to say small diaphragm cardioid condenser. While the large diaphragms are nice and tend to be closer to neutral, they are really good at picking up ambient room noise and that garbage truck driving by, which can be an issue when recording a low volume amp in a residential setting. The small diaphragm condenser is much easier to point and isolate sounds with, its decreased low end is not an issue with guitar and helps filter out room rumble, it's one real draw back is that they tend to have more HF than most guitarist would like, but our amps, guitars, fx and mic placement offer enough tone shaping to remedy that.
I think we should be careful with these generalizations. I'd caution that, while perhaps these behaviors might be observed with two specific microphones, those qualities mentioned are not directly impacted by diaphragm size. We could easily come up with counterexamples that exhibit behaviors opposite to those described here.

A large diaphragm gets you improved signal-to-noise ratio, and that's about its only theoretical advantage. This was particularly important with tube and early FET electronics, where higher levels of amplification could make self-noise of the electronics a problem. It's seldom a concern with modern electronics. LDCs do have some subjective qualities that are deemed desirable, but "closer to neutral" is not usually cited as their raison d'etre.

A small diaphragm gets you more-predictable directional performance. The smaller the diaphragm, the more similar is the directional pickup of all frequencies. This is because, as the wavelength of a frequency begins to approach λ = d (where d= diameter of capsule), the directional characteristic begins to depart from the theoretical ideal. A U87 will exhibit a much narrower pattern at 16k than it will at 100 Hz, and this isn't really true for a KM84 (for instance).

With SDCs, there can be some theoretical ultrasonic extension due to reduced diaphragm mass when compared with an LDC, but this is seldom significant in human hearing frequencies of interest (and would be most unlikely to be a factor when discussing the sort of bandwidth that can be produced by a guitar amp).

The reduced diaphragm mass can also be an advantage for transient response, but... again... an electric guitar through an amplifier presents nothing even resembling a challenge for any decent microphone in this regard.

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Re: Need budget mic recommendation

Post by oid » Sun Dec 02, 2018 7:34 pm

øøøøøøø wrote:
Sun Dec 02, 2018 6:17 pm
I think we should be careful with these generalizations. I'd caution that, while perhaps these behaviors might be observed with two specific microphones, those qualities mentioned are not directly impacted by diaphragm size. We could easily come up with counterexamples that exhibit behaviors opposite to those described here.

A large diaphragm gets you improved signal-to-noise ratio, and that's about its only theoretical advantage. This was particularly important with tube and early FET electronics, where higher levels of amplification could make self-noise of the electronics a problem. It's seldom a concern with modern electronics. LDCs do have some subjective qualities that are deemed desirable, but "closer to neutral" is not usually cited as their raison d'etre.

A small diaphragm gets you improved directional performance (i.e., the directional pickup of all frequencies are more-similar than with a LDC, where very high frequencies begin to become more directional). As the wavelength of a frequency begins to approach λ = d where d= diameter of capsule, the directional characteristic begins to depart from the theoretical ideal.

With SDCs, there can be some theoretical ultrasonic extension due to reduced diaphragm mass when compared with an LDC, but this is seldom significant in human hearing frequencies of interest, and certainly not a factor when mic'ing a guitar amp (most times).

The reduced diaphragm mass can also be an advantage for transient response, but... again... the electric guitar through an amplifier presents nothing even resembling a challenge for any decent microphone in this regard.
The generalization is that of the common mics on the market, not about theoretical aspects of diaphragms, which are far less than the ideal of our idealized mathematical models. I said the large diaphragm gets you closer to neutral sound, not neutral sound, and in the cheap condensers I was discussing, I think this holds true, as does the frequency response of the small diaphragms. I gave OP credit to be intelligent enough to realize I was offering generalizations and opinion based on personal experience and not summing up the entirety of mic knowledge in a single paragraph.

There is far more affecting frequency response, pickup pattern, sensitivity and signal to noise ratio of a mic than the diaphragm, a mics own body and grill, the actual design of the capsule and the electronics all contribute. Taking the diaphragm on its own, especially out of the context of the rest of the capsule is like taking the guitar string on its own, useful if you are designing but useless in the real world, it tells you almost nothing of the complete mic. While interesting, your discussion on diaphragms is only useful in a purely theoretical context and has no place in a thread like this.

Increased transient response is an advantage in this case, as I said in my first post, it is very useful in low volume situations and makes recording in those times when you do not want to disturb others in the house much easier.
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Re: Need budget mic recommendation

Post by øøøøøøø » Sun Dec 02, 2018 11:15 pm

oid wrote:
Sun Dec 02, 2018 7:34 pm
øøøøøøø wrote:
Sun Dec 02, 2018 6:17 pm
I think we should be careful with these generalizations. I'd caution that, while perhaps these behaviors might be observed with two specific microphones, those qualities mentioned are not directly impacted by diaphragm size. We could easily come up with counterexamples that exhibit behaviors opposite to those described here.

A large diaphragm gets you improved signal-to-noise ratio, and that's about its only theoretical advantage. This was particularly important with tube and early FET electronics, where higher levels of amplification could make self-noise of the electronics a problem. It's seldom a concern with modern electronics. LDCs do have some subjective qualities that are deemed desirable, but "closer to neutral" is not usually cited as their raison d'etre.

A small diaphragm gets you improved directional performance (i.e., the directional pickup of all frequencies are more-similar than with a LDC, where very high frequencies begin to become more directional). As the wavelength of a frequency begins to approach λ = d where d= diameter of capsule, the directional characteristic begins to depart from the theoretical ideal.

With SDCs, there can be some theoretical ultrasonic extension due to reduced diaphragm mass when compared with an LDC, but this is seldom significant in human hearing frequencies of interest, and certainly not a factor when mic'ing a guitar amp (most times).

The reduced diaphragm mass can also be an advantage for transient response, but... again... the electric guitar through an amplifier presents nothing even resembling a challenge for any decent microphone in this regard.
The generalization is that of the common mics on the market, not about theoretical aspects of diaphragms, which are far less than the ideal of our idealized mathematical models. I said the large diaphragm gets you closer to neutral sound, not neutral sound, and in the cheap condensers I was discussing, I think this holds true, as does the frequency response of the small diaphragms. I gave OP credit to be intelligent enough to realize I was offering generalizations and opinion based on personal experience and not summing up the entirety of mic knowledge in a single paragraph.

There is far more affecting frequency response, pickup pattern, sensitivity and signal to noise ratio of a mic than the diaphragm, a mics own body and grill, the actual design of the capsule and the electronics all contribute. Taking the diaphragm on its own, especially out of the context of the rest of the capsule is like taking the guitar string on its own, useful if you are designing but useless in the real world, it tells you almost nothing of the complete mic. While interesting, your discussion on diaphragms is only useful in a purely theoretical context and has no place in a thread like this.

Increased transient response is an advantage in this case, as I said in my first post, it is very useful in low volume situations and makes recording in those times when you do not want to disturb others in the house much easier.
I think you may have just forgotten to mention the specific microphones to which you were referring. You said:
While the large diaphragms are nice and tend to be closer to neutral, they are really good at picking up ambient room noise and that garbage truck driving by, which can be an issue when recording a low volume amp in a residential setting.
Since you didn't cite a specific LDC that exhibits these traits, I assumed you were speaking in general. Which would've shown you to be mistaken about the basic traits of the respective technologies..

The operation of large versus small-capsule microphones is well-understood, both theoretically and in practical use. And none of those characteristics you describe are in any way inherent in the technology.

Similarly, when you said:
The small diaphragm condenser is much easier to point and isolate sounds with, its decreased low end is not an issue with guitar and helps filter out room rumble, it's one real draw back is that they tend to have more HF than most guitarist would like, but our amps, guitars, fx and mic placement offer enough tone shaping to remedy that.
Without a specific make and model, I was led to assume that you were speaking of SDCs in general. And if that were the case, it would've been likewise in error.

Because there's nothing inherent in the technology that says an SDC will have "decreased low end," nor that it will have "more HF" than any other microphone. An SDC, just like an LDC, can be designed to have extremely wide bandwidth (well beyond the capability of human ears at either extreme).

Further, any directional characteristic from true pressure omni to figure-of-eight to supercardioid have been realized with both large and small capsules. On the latter point, an SDC can be designed to behave closer to those theoretical ideals (with the expense of a small noise penalty) above around 15kHz (not generally a frequency of interest in guitar recording).

Perhaps you had specific microphones in mind and just forgot to mention them? I saw that you mentioned "MXL" in general. But they offer several microphone models (none of which, if I may editorialize, are very good).

---

By the way, I'm not trying to pick on you-- I just wanted to clarify for our readership.

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Re: Need budget mic recommendation

Post by oid » Mon Dec 03, 2018 12:18 am

"common mics on the market" and "the cheap condensers," it is safe assume what are the most common cheap condensers on the market and "I was offering generalizations and opinion based on personal experience."

I think that clears up any possible ambiguity in my posts and the second paragraph still addresses all you have said since. I am done on this it is just going beyond the scope of the thread to prove opinion. Feel free to start a thread on the technical aspects and theory of condensers, I will join in as long as it is constructive.
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Re: Need budget mic recommendation

Post by øøøøøøø » Mon Dec 03, 2018 7:19 am

oid wrote:
Mon Dec 03, 2018 12:18 am
"common mics on the market" and "the cheap condensers," it is safe assume what are the most common cheap condensers on the market and "I was offering generalizations and opinion based on personal experience."

I think that clears up any possible ambiguity in my posts and the second paragraph still addresses all you have said since. I am done on this it is just going beyond the scope of the thread to prove opinion. Feel free to start a thread on the technical aspects and theory of condensers, I will join in as long as it is constructive.
Everything I've addressed here has been in the name of making sure our OP has accurate information on which to base his purchase decision--but if general facts (not opinions) about microphone design aren't helpful, let's look at some real-world specifics!

Here are frequency response plots of two of the "most common cheap condensers on the market"-- the Oktava MK-012 small diaphragm condenser, and the MXL 2001 large diaphragm condenser*.

Oktava MK-012 cardioid (small diaphragm)
Image

Note the rising low-end response in this SDC (blue trace is on-axis). The lift begins at 40 Hz, is +2dB at 25 Hz, and back to +0 at 20 Hz. Note also the falling top-end; the top octave falls off dramatically above 15kHz, down to -8dB by 20kHz.

MXL 2001 (cardioid large diaphragm)
Image

In the MXL LDC, note the severely truncated low-end, falling steadily below 1kHz to -8dB by 20Hz. Note also the presence peak, rising to a staggering +10dB between 1kHz and 10kHz before falling back to a "mere" +5dB by 20kHz.**

To be clear: I do not think it would be wise to base purchasing decisions off of published frequency response plots. But having owned, used, worked-on and modified both of these inexpensive condensers, I'd say this data confirms my subjective impressions; the MXL2001 LDC is unacceptably bright, thin and harsh, while the MK-012 cardioid SDC is smooth with a touch of bloat in the extreme bottom end (especially at proximity).

I'm sorry, oid, if you think my posts are off-topic. I maintain that they are not.

---
* I wouldn't recommend either of these for recording guitar amp; the MK-012 is a pretty cool microphone that overperforms its price point. I sometimes like it on toms to this day. I've rebuilt two MXL2001s into something more useful... they can be improved with a complete redesign of the head amplifier, but the capsule itself is a weak point).

** This is the result of using a K67/K870-style capsule knockoff without any of the U67/U87's HF de-emphasis in the head amplifier... conceptually a bit like using a turntable with a preamp not having the RIAA EQ.

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Re: Need budget mic recommendation

Post by Larry Mal » Mon Dec 03, 2018 10:06 am

For the record, this is the frequency response of the Shure SM57:

Image

And while I will say that one should not base what microphone one buys off a graph, this does kind of illustrate why I don't love the SM57 (I do own one) and would not be quick to recommend one as a singular microphone to own. Like I've said, there are specific situations in which it excels, and it certainly does have its uses.

But I'm not going to go along with what I think I am reading here and suggest that there is no benefit to using an LDC rather than a Shure SM57 until you reach the level of Neumann microphones? I feel I must be misreading that.

Regardless, there are a lot of large diaphragm condensers that can handle a guitar amplifier and still have other uses that an SM57 won't have. For instance, the Blue Baby Bottle, an inexpensive microphone that I like, will handle maximum SPL of 134 dB, so it can be put in front of a guitar amplifier no problem. And that microphone will find other uses on things like vocals and acoustic guitars for which I would prefer that to the SM57.

So I approached this as recommending an all around purpose microphone since it seems that the budget is such that having a good all around LDC might be more useful overall than an SM57 which is less useful in my opinion.

I want to make clear that I am not recommending that someone run out and buy a used Baby Bottle- I haven't owned one in years, I remember liking it OK on a guitar amp, but I don't feel like doing some tit for tat about a couple of microphones especially since I have no idea what application any of this is going to be used for. I am only saying that if the budget is such, then there are "better" choices out there than the SM57 that can be made to do more for one than what the SM57 is really good for in my opinion.
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