Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Right Mic

My wife pointed out that in last week's post I never really got around to recommending a particular microphone for the starter studio. Maybe indirectly I did, but I covered lot of ground on the entire studio last time, so this time let's just talk mics and get specific.

The Starter Mic: Less Than $200.

There are dozens of brands making - or rebranding - hundreds of models of microphones for vocal use. That's far too many to choose from. That's the bad news. The good news is that there are a lot of pros out there with years of experience to guide you, either in person or via the web. Now, some of these guys are blowhards with a severe case of Mic Envy, but even those guys wouldn't spend their hard-earned money on a tube condenser if it didn't make them sound good. So, don't just listen to my advice; check around and get as many points of view as you can. You can learn something from any one of us.

It's my opinion that anyone starting their own studio should buy a dynamic vocal mic like the Shure SM58. Alternatives include the CAD D189, the Audix OM3, or comparable mics offered by Audio Technica, AKG, ElectroVoice, and any brand that sells PROFESSIONAL GRADE mics. If you've been in broadcasting or advertising for a few years, you might qualifiy for skipping straight to the Less Than $1000 level. "I've been pounding out the spots on an RE20 for years, dude. I got skills." True, but I'd still suggest a handheld on a good quality boom stand for your studio even if you can afford the RE20. Here's why:

The mics I mentioned are road-worthy hammers, built to take the punishment dished out by musicians on tour, in clubs, and even on The Tonight Show. Museum pieces like Paul McCartney, David Bowie, and Elton John have been signing into SM58's for decades. Lather on the duct tape and Roger Daltrey can play bolo with one all night. These mics can be dropped, stepped on, sneezed on, barfed on, held in a toilet, (Liar by Three Dog Night) run over by the tour bus, and still sound great. If they an take all that, I'm thinking your Golden Retreiver cheweing on it won't put you out of business. We're talking bulletproof mics, here.

Second, these mics are available in your hometown. Chances are, if you walk into your neighborhood music store and ask for a Shure SM58, the dude behind the counter will hand it right to you. Or, he'll point out one of the equivelents I mentioned with a sale price. (CAD's are the Hyundai's of microphones: cheap, but reliable.) If your 3 year-old knocks over the stand and the mic is, against all odds, actually knocked out out of commission, you can easily replace it, without going bankrupt or waiting a week for delivery.

Third, even if you hit the Powerball, or Uncle Willie dies and leaves you his vintage Neumann U47 with the correct tube, you'll still want that hundred dollar high ball. Because the world is filled with Golden Retreivers and 3 year-olds, you'll keep the Neumann in its box when danger lurks.

And fourth, the shallow pickup pattern of these mics will make up for your lousy studio acoustics. Sure, you could buy a nice Audio Technica studio condenser for under $200, and get nice recordings of your room ringing, your neighbor's lawn mower, an ant walking on a cotton ball, and anything else that wants to compete with your voice. It's uncanny how the fire department knows when you hit the record button and sends every piece of equipment they have down your street.

Next post: the upgrade mic.

No comments: