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  1. #1
    ajs
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    Default Best all purpose mic?

    Hey guys,
    So my dad wants to get into some acoustic guitar recording, and I'm curious what the best microphone is for the job? I'm looking for a reasonably priced microphone (~100-200$) that can record guitar, and still handle vocals as well if he decides he wants vocals too. I've heard that the Shure SM58 is a good all around microphone, but are there better options out there? How do condenser microphones hold up to acoustic guitar (and other acoustic instruments for that matter)?

    Thanks,
    Ari

    P.S. Dynamic mics still need a pre-amp, but don't need phantom power right? What if a dynamic mic runs through a pre-amp with the phantom power on?

  2. #2
    venuestudio's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best all purpose mic?

    Phantom power will not damage a dynamic mic so don't worry about that.

    The SM57 or SM58 will certainly do the job. The difference between that and a condenser mic is that the condenser will have more output, so it will need less gain compared to a dynamic and it will have an extended high frequency in comparison. These are generalizations of course and every "mic A vice mic B" will be a bit different. I think if you are just looking for something to get going, either the SM57 or SM58 would be a fine place to start. Really there is very little difference between those two mics, essentially the windscreen is the only difference, frequency wise they are identical.
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  3. #3
    danmanisa's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best all purpose mic?

    Sm57 and 58 will do a more than serviceable job on most things. Condensers are fine (large diaphragm more so) too and for that price range, perhaps the Rode NT1A will more than do the job,

    Just my two cents worth. Just be aware that if you plan on recording drums or high impact instruments, that the dynamics are better than the condensers. Still, if you are simply doing vocals and acoustic guitar, any of these suggestions will be fine and get you good quality* (assuming you can play, have a decent sounding room and mic position suits what you are doing - never ends huh!).
    I'm sure others will pitch in with a few mics around that ball park too.
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    Rules do not belong in music. Like food, there are flavours that work well together, but in the end, it's each person's taste that determines the quality of the meal.

  4. #4
    PunkGuy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best all purpose mic?

    If you're micing a room and stuff and need a hotter signal then I'd have to refer you to the dark side and get a condenser mic. I've heard Neumanns are pretty good.







    But an expensive mic will do nothing to make the playing better, singing more on key, and room less roomy sounding. You can fix two of those for free and the other one for almost free (assuming you have something to hang some thick blankets on in the middle of the room.)

    So at the end of the day I'll have to go with the sm58. It'll need some gain though. Nothing a budget preamp can't accomplish though (this is in addition to the preamp built into the interface.) That's my two cents anyway.

  5. #5
    ajs
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    Default Re: Best all purpose mic?

    Sorry to bring up an old thread, but I'm still not completely certain (I'm about to buy the SM57 in the next week) - I currently have a budget audio interface/preamp (shown here: Product: US-122MKII | TASCAM) with phantom power and usual gain knobs. PunkGuy is suggesting that I need some gain in addition to the gain already available in my audio interface/preamp?? If I do need additional gain, can this additional gain be done digitally in my computer (i.e. with a gain unit in the FX chain), or does it need to happen before the signal goes into my computer?

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Best all purpose mic?

    It's not absolutely necessary, it depends on how loud the source is. From what I understand, when you crank the gain knobs, the preamps will start putting more noise into the signal. You can put something in between the mic and the preamp that amplifies the signal, so you won't get as much noise (from the preamp). The 57s also generally seem to need more gain than some other mics, so it might be necessary to have something there.

    I personally don't have anything like this, but I think the studio at my school uses these when they need them:
    Cloud Cloudlifter CL-1 Mic Activator | Musician's Friend

    All that does is boost the signal by 25dB before it reaches the preamp/interface.
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  7. #7
    Rockerdude's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best all purpose mic?

    For a great sounding all around mic at an affordable price I would suggest an Audio Technica 2035. My first mic was the AT 3035 which is the older version of the 2035. It sounds excellent on acoustic instruments and voice. There are some good video demos on youtube for both of these mics. Ive seen the 3035 on ebay for about a hundred bucks, maybe a little more, new 2035 is about 150.00 I think. I still have my 3035 and use it all the time

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Best all purpose mic?

    SM57.

    Not only will it do a good job, but it teaches you a LOT about microphone placement. You will get good results AND learn a lot using a 57.
    Spanky.

  9. #9
    PunkGuy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best all purpose mic?

    I need some gain in addition to the gain already available in my audio interface/preamp?? If I do need additional gain, can this additional gain be done digitally in my computer (i.e. with a gain unit in the FX chain), or does it need to happen before the signal goes into my computer?
    It's not absolutely necessary, it depends on how loud the source is.
    Like misfitxcreepx says, it depends how loud the source is. You can certainly bring up the gain to unusable levels in your DAW. The problem isn't how loud can the signal technically get, it's how noisy the signal is and the quality of the signal. Do you have a crappy room? Then it doesn't matter if you use a freaking Neumann unless you place it well enough and adjust the source well enough to sound good in the end. Essentially, the nicer the preamp, the cleaner and louder you can get your signal to be. An sm57/58 is like $100. Everyone has one. You might as well get one.

    There is a lot of potential in rooms. Corners, floor level, source placement, all sorts of tricks you can play around with to get the sounds you are after. A nicer preamp isn't really a shortcut to better sounds, but it is nice to have. Sometimes I'm lazy and I just crank the gain on my interface and boost more in my DAW. It works fine. So pull the trigger on that sm57. If you can't get it to sound good then you know that the problem is not the mic...

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  10. #10
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    Default Re: Best all purpose mic?

    A dynamic MIC can use some electronic muscle from a preamp. The condenser MIC has some of that built-in. The AT and Shure will be good quality, but you can go cheaper if you don't need to manhandle them a lot.
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  11. #11
    PunkGuy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best all purpose mic?

    The condenser MIC has some of that built-in. The AT and Shure will be good quality, but you can go cheaper if you don't need to manhandle them a lot.

    That's like telling someone you can survive on fast food and ramen... technically. I think it will take me a few decades to ever give a condenser mic under $500 another chance. Those EQ curves or whatever the patterns in cheap condensers are whacko. At least the internet is full of knowledge on how to get an sm57 to sound good even if there are "better" mics out there.

  12. #12
    garww's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best all purpose mic?

    OK ! Everyone with a cheap Tascam interface raise their hand ?

    ajs and me, so far. ajs is a great motoring company, too.
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  13. #13
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    Default Re: Best all purpose mic?

    Another inexpensive option would be the CAD m179, which will might be better on the voice and almost definitely better on acoustic guitar.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Best all purpose mic?

    I personally tend to prefer condenser mics on acoustic guitar, but I've heard enough good recordings from dynamic mics as well that I wouldn't rule them out. With a dynamic mic, you will probably have more noise issues because the output is much lower, so you'll have to crank the preamp quite a bit harder than you would with a condenser.

  15. #15
    Ron Snijders's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best all purpose mic?

    An SM57 will do, and will get you far with other sources as well. But buying one mic for acoustic guitar and vocals, I'd go for a condenser myself. Within that budget an Audio Technica AT2020, Røde NT-1A or perhaps a Røde NT-5.
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  16. #16
    garww's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best all purpose mic?

    If it wasn't me, I might get a new 57 and a sub-$100 LDC. Me, I originally got a used us-122 package with the dynamic and headphones. It's a good Tascam MIC, but it didn't give me much freedom with the preamp section. Getting a better MIC is always a good idea, but you'll only be hearing what makes it through the Tascam
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  17. #17
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    Default Re: Best all purpose mic?

    One of my Rode NT-1s with the inner headbasket screen removed. I'd use one on anything.
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  18. #18
    brandondrury's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best all purpose mic?

    The SM57 ain't my dream mic on acoutic guitar, but it'll sound like an acoustic guitar.

    If I could only have one mic in that price range, I'd probably go with the ADK S51 MK5.2 Condenser Microphone Review | Home Recording Blog although I saw a used ADK S-7 on Ebait last night that would be outstanding as well. That does bring up the issue of phantom power however.

    The SM57 is more work for me, but I could do what I do with it alone.

    Brandon
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  19. #19
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    Default Re: Best all purpose mic?

    The interface is USB powered and is spec'd to draw a MAX of 500ma. I can do stuff like a speaker cone and snare with a dynamic, but I usually only use the Tascam with a powered MIC. And I only use the Tascam when I haul the laptop into the bedroom for the room sound. I'm more likely to use the Behringer 1002fx mixer into the realtek 3.5 jack, though. I can knock a dB off the top of the gxl-2400, if I feel it's needed. The only new MIC I've bot is the $70 champ, and it's better sounding than you expect if you get one that works;
    Nady SCM 960 Studio Condenser Microphone | Musician's Friend

    Out of the box, it seemed obvious that you don't want to play with the switches too much other than to wipe the contacts
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  20. #20
    Pande's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best all purpose mic?

    I'd also sway more to condensor for this job for the same reason boz mentioned, plus you'll need a preamp. If you have one (sounds like you do?) that's not an issue, but if you don't it can be hard to find a no-nonsense preamp.

    If you want to go the easy route, the mics I use is a Blue Snowball ($70-90) or Samson C01-U (~$75) which are cheaper than a shure sm57 bought new, but not as applicable. I have to toss a douvé over it to record using the snowball's omnidirectional mode or I get mega clipping, so it's really not a viable mic for loud things. However, for guitar and vocals, I've not yet used better condensors, pretty happy with how this picks it up. You will get a better noise-to-sound ratio with the Samson C01-U but you will also get less settings, for example it doesn't have the omnidirectional mode which makes it even more niche-use than it already is by being a condensor (and a USB mic).

    Both mics I mentioned are USB which really limits you, but if you are going no further than a laptop, mic, and guitar, then they will work perfectly and tend to save you a lot of money.

    If you want to continue recording things then I'd say get yourself a cheap condensor XLR mic like the Shure PG81 (~$150) or Audio Technica A2020 (~$160 but easily found for ~$120), and a good dynamic mic (drumroll please....) like the SM57 ($90-110).

    edit: seconding that Nady mic mentioned above, I've used that before at a friend's set up and although I thought it sounded a wee bit 'skinny', it was sort of irrelevant considering it's price, that's pretty cheap considering the quality of mic and that it's *NOT* a USB mic! Although their marketing is annoying, another one of those companies that tout their 'gold sputtered diaphragms!' (gold sputtering is a technique that is basically necessary for any accurate microphone, and it would be pretty rare to find any regular studio mic that *isn't* gold sputtered). That's just a pet peeve though.
    Last edited by Pande; 11-19-2013 at 10:17 AM.
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  21. #21
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    Default Re: Best all purpose mic?

    The spec on the Tascam's MKII input as a MIC/instrument jack is 15-kohm. I think my old Tascam mixer is 45 kohm on the MIC ? My Gina 3G is 1.5 kohm on the MIC. My ART DPS is 5 kohm at the MIC and the Behringer mixer is 2.6 kohm. Things are going to be differrent with that impedance handshake
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  22. #22
    ajs
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    Default Re: Best all purpose mic?

    Man you guys knocked this question out of the park. Really appreciate the feedback from everyone here at HRM. Really an invaluable resource.

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Best all purpose mic?

    The sE2200a II is hands down the best budget mic I've ever used. It actually puts some of my other much more expensive mics to shame on some applications.

    Although the rest of my mics tend to be character mics rather than all-rounders.

    But if I'm not sure what to use on something, the 2200aII is my go-to
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  24. #24
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    Default Re: Best all purpose mic?

    I've used mostly condenser mics on acoustic guitars... For a low-budget large diaphragm one, try the Behringer B-2. I've used one a lot and it tends to give me good results. Anyone else have experience with this mic?
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  25. #25
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    Default Re: Best all purpose mic?

    Originally Posted by ajs
    Hey guys,
    So my dad wants to get into some acoustic guitar recording, and I'm curious what the best microphone is for the job? I'm looking for a reasonably priced microphone (~100-200$) that can record guitar, and still handle vocals as well if he decides he wants vocals too. I've heard that the Shure SM58 is a good all around microphone, but are there better options out there? How do condenser microphones hold up to acoustic guitar (and other acoustic instruments for that matter)?

    Thanks,
    Ari

    P.S. Dynamic mics still need a pre-amp, but don't need phantom power right? What if a dynamic mic runs through a pre-amp with the phantom power on?
    It depends how quiet your preamp can go to 50dB. And it depends on how much transient noise proof your recording room is.
    Let me know about that and i will give you my 5 cents.

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