Hey friends Graham here from the therecordingrevolution.com.
Today I want to show you some of my favorite microphones for the home studio. I’m looking at affordable microphones, that’s a keyword here, and well-performing microphones. And this is in response to an earlier post I wrote on the blog about different microphone types. If you haven’t checked it out, go read it.
I wanted to give some fundamentals about 3 major types of microphones. Condensers, dynamics, ribbons. Why they are different, how they each have a place in the pro studio and the home studio, and why the more you know about these microphones and how they capture sound differently, and what their uses are, the more power you have in sculpting a really really good sounding recording before it ever needs any EQ or any mixing.
You’ll have tracks that fit better together and you have matched the microphone to the source better, so that mixing becomes easier and you get tracks that sound great, faster. This is a huge yet simple part of recording that every engineer should know and so today I just want to simply show you some of my favorite microphones that I think are a great, great starting point for a home studio because they’ve matched their affordability and the performance.
So let’s start with condensers. I’ve got it already up here. One of my all-time favorite microphones, the Rode NT1-A. I have one of these for probably a decade. It is a very very flat sounding microphone to me. So to me it’s a very transparent and it sounds good on almost anything. Vocals, acoustic guitar, drum overheads, toms, I have done on tom drums, guitars amps, room mics. It’s got a little bit of a top end. It sounds nice and clear so on some voices it can be a little harsh, but I think for the most part it sounds very flat. This is a great starting point about 200 bucks for the whole kit. Here US it’s just one of those perennial microphones that should be in every mic locker, in my opinion. One of my favorites from Rode.
Another one I used on my last record was the blue spark. I actually never had used this microphone and all my vocals are sunk through this and it sounds so phenomenal. Again it is very very clean and transparent. It was a great fit for my voice. And again that’s the key thing here is microphone’s a good fit but again for the $200 mark which is a really really good bargain and microphone laying for large diaphragm condenser. This is a great sounding microphone that I can highly recommend.
If you want to be little more affordable, I love microphones that are super affordable and sound ridiculously good. And this is one of them. The Behringer B-1. Lot of people hate on Behringer. I’ve always been confused by that. Maybe you had a piece of gear that didn’t last very long and maybe build quality wasn’t there. That could be a case. I have a Behringer B-1 and a B-2 by the way. But I’ve had a Behringer B-1 for 15 years maybe. It’s been a long time and this is a really good sounding microphone. I’ve done records with this for many many years. It’s just your standard 1 inch diameter capsule condenser microphone. It has a little bit of a presence boost which may not be good fit for all voices or all sources. But on a typical, let’s say male vocal or an acoustic guitar, it can sound really really nice. It also has a high path filter and 10db pad built into it which is pretty pretty cool. At $99 US, this is a steal of a deal, and a very very usable microphone. I don’t care what people say. It’s great, I still have and use it.
Even cheaper is the Samson C01. This is one of those microphones that a buddy of mine had in college. I’d never used it before, and you know this is over 10 years ago, probably 12 years ago now. And I was helping him mix something, work on something and this was his vocal microphone, and the vocals sound he got on this thing was insanely good. So much so that I picked up one for myself, we had them at our church. I’ve used them for drum overheads, vocals. My dad uses this exclusively as a professional voiceover talent for a radio program. And you would never know, I don’t think people really know what he’s using as home studio, and he’s using a $79 microphone, and his voice sounds amazing on it. So again, matching the voice to the microphone for $79. It should not sound this good.
Those are some standard large diaphragm condensers. There are many many more. These are the ones that I actually own and use. And have used in the affordable range that I think you cannot go wrong with. So again the condenser microphone, it’s going to capture lots of detail which is great for things that you want full range of detail like the air on your vocals, the air on acoustic guitars, symbols, all that kind of stuff.
Now I don’t think you should only have a condenser microphone, once you have one of these, you should save up and buy a dynamic microphone if you can and the perennial one is the SM 57 by Shure.
A dynamic microphone like I wrote about earlier this week. Uses a very different technology to capture sound. It uses a moving coil which takes a lot more air to move it, so it actually doesn’t give you as detailed or as clear of a sound, may be in the up top range. So it’s sometimes a little more focused mid rangy sound which can be very very good if you have an overly bright or overly aggressive sound. Like a screaming guitar amp or screaming human being. Dynamic microphones are great for that. They are also a lot less sensitive so you won’t overload the capsule like you would on a condenser.
And SM57 is one of those sneaky microphones that is in every pro studio. It’s used on almost every snare drum you’ve ever heard. It’s used on almost every guitar amp you’ve ever heard. And it’s actually used in a lot of vocals, believe it or not. No one wants to admit it but if you look it up, this microphone is used on vocals all over the place. It sounds really really good. It’s great. If you don’t need a ton of air on the top in. so everyone should have an SM 57 or similar style microphone. You can get them for even cheaper, used on eBay. They are very versatile and especially if you have someone who is overloading a condenser microphone, maybe a rock aggressive vocal, grab a dynamic like an SM 57 and it’s great option for you.
Another dynamic that is great. Little bit more expensive is the SM 7B from Shure. This is actually used on more vocal recordings, like major labor records you don’t even know. It’s a fantastic sounding microphone, a little fuller than maybe the SM 57. It’s just great on the right voice, it’s great. This could be the perfect microphone for your voice. Again $350 is little bit more than the 1 to $200 range. But it is one of those stellar microphones for dynamic as well to have in your arsenal that could be great on anything. Absolutely anything.
One of my other favorite dynamics is, I know these are all Shure dynamics. Just, I happen to have lot of Shure microphones. It’s the Beta 52. This is my go to kick drum mic. It’s also great on bass guitar amps. And you can also use this on vocals as well. You can use it on anything, put it on a guitar amp. Again it’s another dynamic. It has a different frequency of response and it’s kind of tailored for kick drum sounds, some scooped mids, low end boost and upper mid boost for some of that click. So it’s got a scoop in it but that can be really really cool. Especially if you are recording drums, this paired with a condenser over top can be a great two microphone drum setup. Or at least the foundation of it larger drum mic setup. There’s plenty of other ones, HAC makes a great kick drum microphone but again, kick drums blast a lot of air, and it’s easy to overload a condenser unless you have like a 20dB pad or something. Shure Beta 52 is a great great option.
So again condensers, fantastic for the studio, but if you are overloading them with a really loud sound or a very aggressive overly bright sound like a vocal or a guitar amp, then the condenser can soften that sound for you a little bit. And give you more focused punchy sound so you don’t need to cut too much EQ later.
One third and final option is Ribbon Microphones. Ribbons are a very different technology in general. And the way the ribbon actually captures audio. It preserves a lot of the upper frequencies like a condenser. But it actually smooth. It sounds a little smoother than a lot of condensers so it’s not as brittle. Some, if your voice is a little harsh, but you want all that air and clarity at top then a Ribbon can be almost the perfect little microphone because it can absorb some of the top end and keep it, while smoothing it out at the same time.
Now the Roir 121 is a great Ribbon microphone. It is much more expensive than what I’m looking at here, the sE Electronics X1R. I don’t own this one yet, but sE makes some great microphones and this is an insane price for a ribbon microphone. Ribbons have come down in price in the last 5 years tremendously. Which has made them lot more accessible to the home studio. And I would say this is your 3rd option. Get a condenser or two, get a dynamic or two, and then consider if you want to save and add to your mic locker a ribbon microphone because it will sound very different. These are great on drum overheads. Great on drum overheads. You get a very smooth simple sound with all the clarity you’d expect from a condenser. These are also perennial favorites on guitar amps. Because again you get a lot of clarity on the guitar amp, that maybe you’d get with a condenser. But without some of the harshness. It smooths out some of upper frequencies, you get a very warm yet clear guitar amp sound. So it’s a great option alongside even an SM 57 in a guitar cabinet.
So these are just some examples. There are many many more, and I’m sure you have some of your favorites. In fact I would love for you if you are watching this video to leave a comment below and leave your favorite condensers, dynamics and maybe even ribbons if you have any. You know and let’s say 1 to $400 price range. So we can help out each other. Any of the home studio people, project studio people that really want to keep their microphone collection in an affordable range. Give us your favorite mics for the dollar. The ones that have really served you well and list them below the video.
There’s a ton of manufacturers making a ton of microphones that I hate to usually single out a few as if these are the only upgrade options. We are living in a wonderful time now, where there are so many great microphones being built at ridiculously affordable prices. Anything below $1000 is affordable for microphone by history standards. And all of the microphones I showed you today are under $400 which is insane. So we are very very blessed and fortunate to be working on music in this day and age. Hence the recording revolution.
So again, I’m happy with almost every mic that’s out there. The key here is to understand the 3 different types. Condensers, dynamics, ribbons. That they do sound different in terms of the way they capture audio and then even inside those, you know compartments, condensers, dynamics, ribbons, all condensers don’t sound the same. And all dynamics don’t sound the same. And all ribbons don’t sound the same. And the beautiful thing here is is you want to find a mic that matches your source.
So if you sing a lot of vocals, try couple of mics as best you can. You know money is not always flowing. So be smart about it, but try to borrow some mics or rent some mics or get a mic return policy, and find a mic that fits your voice, that matches your voice. It complements. So the moment it hits computer, it already sounds like it ready to be mixed. You don’t need a lot of EQ, there’s nothing to compensate before it just sounds good. This is a huge part of engineering.
So that was what I wanted to show you today. Give you some options and show you some of my favorite mics in the home studio. Subscribe to these videos if they help. Thanks for being a part of what we are doing at the recording revolution. I’ll see you on another video soon.