a few questions about microphones....

  • mikef
Posted: Wed, 07/11/2007 - 20:30
Dear folks and Daniel, I have been reading about microphones on the internet a bit and looking at prices. I do have some microphones but they rather old now I guess. What is odd is that there seem to be fairly cheap microphones like the Shure SM57 that are regarded as being excellent and others like the Neumann U87 or whatever it is that are unbelievably expensive that are also regarded as being very good. E.g. for recording a snare drum it seems that an SM57 is first rate. Recording vocals with an SM58 is also pretty good it would seem too. But better for vocals seems to be to get a microphone with a condenser and a dynamic function in it i.e. two microphones in one and blend them together in a mix and match fasion that I think you can control to some extent if it's a fancy enough microphone. If you are recording drums you are supposed to also have overhead microphones as well to get a stereo image and I guess some surround sound or whatever it's called. These ones I think are supposed to be condenser microphones. I occured to me that if combining the sound of a dynamic microphone with a condenser one is good for vocals why not buy an SM58 and a relatively cheap condenser microphone and then use both in parallel through separate channels or even tracks and then blend the sound yourself to get the apparently better result that is claimed for the combination..... There are some of these fancy double barrelled microphones that are sold by e.g. AKG and Audio Technica that seem to be cheaper alternatives to the Neumann U87. Do you have a favourite one here. Also which microphones do you think are good for the following: Vocal Acoustic guitar Bass Drum Tom Tom Crash/Ride Cymbal Hi Hat Piano Flute Saxophone Guitar Amp Bass Guitar Amop Trumpet Harp. I have a list of suggested mics for these applications but opinion varies on different web sites. I am not going to prejudice people's responses with these recommendations. I am interested in your opinions on reasonably economic choices. Another comment about recording drums in a home studio. I have been reading web pages on this. People recommend funny things like putting mics in an adjacent room to get ambience etc. When I was a kid my pals and I recorded the drums in a glass conservatory attached to the house. This got plenty of ambience and did not sound like it had been recorded in someone's living room. We used to put a towel over the snare to get a less rattly sound out of it. We also used to stick cushions and so on i the bass drum to fix that as well. We found that with various tricks and farting around we could get a cheap drum kit to sound quite alot better. The snare always took a good 40 minutes of messing with to get it sound OK. In those days I used to think that adding electronic reverb, echos and delay type effects seemed to be a good way of altering the drum sound so that you couldn't really tell that it had been recorded e.g. in a living room. Maybe that was a dumb idea. We used to make jokes about "mineshaft recordings", with too much reverb/delays, not enough close mics and general incompetence. Hints on ways to avoid the mineshaft recording problems especially recording drums at home with not too many microphones would be appreciated. There was also a tendency to get carried away with the vocals..... Comments appreciated. Regards Michael Fothergill

old but good

  • Dominique
  • 10/11/08
  • Sat, 10/11/2008 - 11:33
Old mic can be outstanding. I still use a very old sennheiser rubber microphone that a guy give to me it was many years ago, and that mic is definitely the better mic I never owned. I also use an old shure dynamic mic and an old grundig stereo dynamic mic. Only passive mics here. Generally speaking, cheap mics with phantom power introduce noises when passive dynamic mics do not introduce noise. So, if dynamic is a matter (you are playing not only loud but also some kind of pianissimo), I would prefer some dynamic mics over cheap electret mics. As emillo pointed out, 2 dynamic mics are what I would want to buy first. If you have enough money, good capacitor or rubber microphone are the best one you can get. It is a good wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microphone Be aware with electret mics. The better and more expensive ones can be as good that a capacitor (or condennser) mic, but the built-in preamp in the cheap ones will introduce noises.

simple mics tips

  • darwinna
  • 02/14/08
  • Thu, 02/14/2008 - 00:57
hi! the sm57 is great for stage voice, with its hump in the mids. for studio voice i got nice recordings from the dynamic blackfire BF... sennheiser. a quality super-cheap mic is the electrets capsules you can find from maplin or any general electronic component supplier. the only drawbck there is a bit of background noise -unnoticeable with loud sources like an amp or drums. a cheaper and decent capsule e-static mic (needs fantom power) from rode, good for vocals and acoustic instruments. a true and excellent mic for acoustic anything is the schoeps colette series, wide cardioid capsule for full/warm results, cardioid sounds more metallic (eg ok 4drums). you really can use the schoeps up to 20m away or more! simple efficient drum kit mic'ing: 1 stereo pair about above the head of the drummer for all the 'vertical' instr. +1 dynamic for the BD (the only horizontal one), mono. whether the stereo pair is in AB(ortf) or XY is a matter of audio taste, not a principle. mic'ing up 'isolated' acoustic instruments: there is nothing like 1st using your ears and turn all around the player to find the best angle, that can be anywhere, also above or on the floor. can look silly at times but i garranty you great results. -oh and sometimes the musicians still need a mic in front of them, then grab a spare one and pretend it's connected, they will feel such better!


  • Quentin Harley
  • 05/24/07
  • Fri, 11/23/2007 - 06:28
I had the same problem initially. No way to hold the foil. If you look at pro large diaphragm microphones, you'll see that the foil is clamped on, rather than stuck on. The clamping involves a machined ring that presses over another ring that is covered with the foil. Another issue is that while it lasted, the sound quality from my attempt was very muddy indeed. no high frequencies to speak of. The weight of the foil was probably to high, or the tension too low, or both... So, I went for a small diaphragm. The best way to do this is to shop around for specs, and get the most expensive electret capsules you can find. Look for SNR (as low as possible) as small diaphragm mics traditionally have higher noise levels. Also your design needs to include a balanced amplifier of sorts in the body of the mic - as close as possible to the capsule. The big joke about building you own mics, is that it is not cheap at all. I built many prototypes, and while I could at least do recordings using them, and it sounded okay, it took many small alterations to body and electronics to get the mics I use for my recordings today. In the end my total development cost brought me well over the €600 it would have cost me for the expensive stereo pairs. Would I do it differently - No! My mics are the way I like it. It is part of the technology philosophy behind my project studio. I put everything together the way I like it. Right from where the sound waves hits the diaphragms to where the laser in the drive cuts my CDR, with everything in between. And to top it off, no "stolen" software here! And, if I offer the mics commercially in the near future, I'll remember the root of the project. I built these because I wanted high quality studio mics, and I could not afford any. Daniel, I am putting together a site, and I'll have some sample recordings on it. Cheers, Quentin


  • emillo
  • 08/15/07
  • Wed, 08/15/2007 - 14:42
Hi Michael, I have some microphones and experience, I use AKG C3000, Oktava mk012 and mk220 (can't afford neumanns) and shure sm57, various sennheiser md421, md21 and one md441. I also have some 60's beyerdinamyc and a beyer m500 ribbon. Each microphone sounds different in many respects, but those differencies are less obvious than you might think. Generally, if you want detail, crispy highs and fast transient response, use condensers. Dynamic mics though are very useful too, and an sm57 is a must have, given the price. Sennheiser Md421 is an excellent dynamic, I bought them from ebay for around 150/200 € each Speaking of condensers, I really like my oktavas: a russian brand making mics since 1927 they're not super cheap but lot better than chinese made mics. In particular I have a matched pair of mk012, a small diaphragm condenser that sounds good on almost everything. Having a stereo pair of good/very good mics would be the second step after a good set of dinamyc mics (a pair of 57 and a 421, for example) The md421 is good on Bass drum, toms, percussion and voice, and you can get useable sounds out of it on many other sources. Md441 is a bit expensive but is an exceptional mic, a supercardioid dynamic with a 5 position bass rolloff switch. Also MD21 is a useful tool, an omnidirectional dynamic, and can be found for as low as €100. Can't speak for audio technica but they get usually good reviews, in partucular the at2020 (a €100 condenser) and the not-so-cheap at4050 (with switcheable patterns). I would avoid condenser mics under €100. Audio technica, sennheiser, beyer, shure, AKG are all good brands and you hardly go wrong with them. HTH ciao


  • Quentin Harley
  • 05/24/07
  • Thu, 07/12/2007 - 09:23
Hi Michael When I started out I wanted to get mics to do a classical music recording in a live setting. I had no equipment to speak of, and I could borrow some typical cardioid passive mics you get at the bottom of any roadies kit. Initial testing obviously left me very worried indeed. I could not afford the neumans or the senheisers of the mic world, so I had to go over to plan B. Build my own! Having an electronics qualification did come in handy, and my first pair were ugly clunkers, mediocre range and very specific 18v phantom power, but they sounded very sweet indeed. I now make all of my mics myself, and all are ultra high range omni directional mics. I get source separation in the traditional way... make the source-mic distance as small as possible in multi channel setups. Some of my mics are used as live performance stage tools for acoustic instruments at the moment as testers, and they are doing well so far. Perhaps I will offer them commercially soon. The nice thing of recording raw and in 24bit means that you still have the "live" data with you when you start mixing. And there is not much you cannot do with software anymore! my 2p/c worth

Home Made Mic

  • Dick Wright
  • 07/26/07
  • Thu, 11/22/2007 - 21:16
I should be interested to know about Quinten Harley's home made mics. I have attempted to make a condenser mic but with limited success. I have used the aluminium covered mylar foil taken from a capacitor for the diaphragm. I have tried varous clamping arrangements and many adhesives but none have satisfactorily held the foil.

Watch out for fake mics!

  • Daniel
  • 05/22/07
  • Thu, 07/12/2007 - 11:48
Hi Quentin - can you post some sample recordings you've made with your own mics, so we can have a listen? :-) On the subject of budget mics, you have to be careful these days. I've heard several reports that fake Shure SM58's are for sale on eBay and various other places. They look identical, but sound very poor. It's always worth trying your local music technology store to see if they will let you audition the mics before you buy - a very valuable service that you don't get with on-line and mail-order stores, and well worth paying extra for in my opinion. For condenser mics I rate the Audio Technica 40 series - better quality than the budget models, but not super-expensive like the classic German mics. For cheap fun I like the Oktava MK-219, which is a Soviet copy of a Neumann from the 50's. You can get these really cheap secondhand, as thousands were exported from Russia in the 90's. The only trouble with old Oktava mics is that the factory quality control was really poor, so you don't know if the mic is just OK or excellent until you try it.

Old mics can be good mics

  • Daniel
  • 05/22/07
  • Thu, 07/12/2007 - 12:00
Hi Michael, Your old mics aren't neccessarily bad, as the basic designs haven't changed for a long time. It's just a question of putting them in the right places. Then if you find there's a big gap in your collection (a condenser mic for vocals, for instance) you could buy new mics one at a time until you've covered all your needs. For drum mic technique (which is a contentious subject) I would suggest you read the back issue articles on http://www.soundonsound.com/ Cheers! Daniel