The Best $100 You Will Spend

2009 Oct 25, 2009

Today I want to get right to the point. So much of the information floating around on the internet relating to home recording is a waste of your time. I can say this confidently because a good chunk of the advice and articles written (and posts on forums) tell you to “buy this XYZ preamp, or XYZ converter and you’ll have better recordings...” Or they’ll tell you to spend a lot on nice monitors and room treatment, or top of the line cables, or a vintage microphones...and the list goes on and on. Now, of course there is some great gear out there, and if you have money to burn (and more importantly) know how to USE the dang stuff, then it can definitely be an added bonus to take the plunge on some of that equipment But I won’t tell you do any of that here. And this post will be a good example of why. Here’s a’s not what you use, as much as it is how well you use it!

Jumping Right In
When I started out home recording as a hobby years ago I learned one thing early on. To get a good recording, you need a good microphone. Not an expensive microphone, just a good one (and the right one for the job). Some good advice came my way encouraging me to purchase a large diaphragm condenser mic. So I took the plunge and coughed up $100 to purchase a Behringer B1 mic (complete with road case, shockmount, and windscreen).

Back then it was a lot of money, but it has paid dividends over the years. Now, the B1 is a simple studio microphone. Nothing fancy about it all. I recommend it to people all the time, along with a handful of other great mics just like it. Honestly it didn’t matter so much that it was the B1 that I got, just that I got it.

Microphones are how we capture physical sound waves and convert them into an electric signal for recording (either digital or analog). So we know we need microphones. But the problem comes when we hear that we need all sorts of different microphones to get the job done. Or even worse that some mics are “better” than others. All of this information is a distraction from actually making music. If you are expending energy “deciding” which mic to buy (or worse) which one of your mics to use in a given situation, then you are missing the point.

You see, the key to getting a good recording is just diving in. What you and I need to do is purchase one quality $100 large diaphragm condenser mic and start learning it. Learn what it sounds like in front of your acoustic guitar on the 12th fret versus the sound hole. Learn what it sounds like in front of the center of the speaker in your guitar amp versus off center. Learn what it sounds like on your vocals in your bedroom by the wall versus in your closet. Eliminate the variable of which mic, and focus on where to put the darn thing to get a good recording!

Still Going Strong
Almost a decade later (and much money spent) I still come back to my beloved B1. I’ve used it for vocals and acoustic guitars like crazy on the last 3 projects I produced. Is the B1 just that good? Well yes and no. It is a great microphone. It’s quiet, accurate, and simple. It does what a microphone should do...capture the source you put in front of it well. But the reason I love the tracks I’m recording with it is because I’ve learned how to best use the B1 in a given context. I’ve learned to make the mic “hear” what I want it to hear. And that my friends is the crux of this post. Microphones are just tools. The better you know how to use it, the better your recordings will be.

So don’t listen to the hype online (except for this blog of course). If you haven’t purchased a solid $100 mic already then today is the day. Get it, use it, learn it...but don’t blame it for bad recordings. Better recordings come with time, experience, and trial and error. In time I believe you will find that this microphone will serve you for years to come and could possibly be the best $100 you ever will spend! You can bet me on it!

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