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Condenser Mic for home recording

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Condenser Mic for home recording

Postby Agustn Paulos » Tue Oct 29, 2013 1:54 pm

Condenser Mic for home recording
AKG: C214
C3000

Audio Technica : AT4040

Shure: SM27

Avantone: CK7

Senheiser: mk4

Rode : NT1a
NT-1000
NT-2a

Se : Se2200 II

Which one do you recommend using it through a scarlett 2i2
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Re: Condenser Mic for home recording

Postby Brian M Rose » Tue Oct 29, 2013 9:20 pm

I only really do voice-over work. I bought an AT4040 as the best price/performance compromise for this task. I really wanted a Coles ribbon mic but couldn't afford it.
I have to say that I (and rather more importantly everyone else) is happy with its performance. It's very clean, does not seem to impose a 'personality' either on myself or on various other voice artists and works well both at distance, as well as in proximity if you want that wonderful 'in a cinema near you!' effect. It's also very, very quiet.
As I said, my comments are purely for voice overs.
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Re: Condenser Mic for home recording

Postby Mike Stranks » Tue Oct 29, 2013 9:56 pm

Your question is a bit like asking, "Which car do you recommend?". Without a lot more detail it's impossible to answer - and even then we'll only be making educated guesses.

So:
What do you want to use it for? Instruments? Which ones? Voices? Anything and everything? Is your room acoustically treated? What styles of music do you want to record? Male or female vocalists or both?

A bit more info please...
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Re: Condenser Mic for home recording

Postby Skerrick » Wed Oct 30, 2013 2:30 am

Mike Stranks wrote:Your question is a bit like asking, "Which car do you recommend?". Without a lot more detail it's impossible to answer - and even then we'll only be making educated guesses.

So:
What do you want to use it for? Instruments? Which ones? Voices? Anything and everything? Is your room acoustically treated? What styles of music do you want to record? Male or female vocalists or both?

A bit more info please...

^ THIS.
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Re: Condenser Mic for home recording

Postby The Elf » Wed Oct 30, 2013 7:00 am

^^^ as above

And, as I often seem to be pointing out, the answer is possibly not *one* mic, but *two* - we live in a stereo world!
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Re: Condenser Mic for home recording

Postby ConcertinaChap » Wed Oct 30, 2013 7:22 am

Plus you could always try the "Search SOS" box above. Most, if not all, of these mics have been reviewed in the mag and the reviews are online for all to see. They are balanced and thoughtful and far more detailed than anyone could realistically put in a forum post.

Just a thought.

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Re: Condenser Mic for home recording

Postby CS70 » Wed Oct 30, 2013 8:57 am

As Mike and others say, it'd be useful to know what you want to do specifically. But without being too pedantic, the way you pose the question seem to indicate this is your first mic and your first foray into home recording ("hei, I want to record and make a song like I hear on the radio! What do I buy?"). Your list also seem biased towards vocal-oriented mics that can also do other stuff, which seems another common starting point (it certainly was for myself!).

Under that assumption, all the mics you mention are in the same ballpark: they're all good products in similar price/quality range (the ones I know, at least) and they'll get the job done well enough if you know how to use them. Honestly, I don't think it will make a huge difference which one you pick - you'll be far more limited by your own skills, the "home" (i.e. the room), your mastery of recording gain structure and so on, rather than the specific mic off your list. That's the first thing to understand: exactly like with playing an instrument, your skills matter much more than the gear you use, and that holds for quite a long time.

If - as it often happens when starting - you want to record yourself or your band, the one thing worth doing is to take personally test recordings with each mic and compare the results.
Especially on vocals, keeping everything else equal each mic will "sound" just a bit differently, and even with beginner's ears you'll like some result better than others. Not so much because of the inherent quality of the hardware, but for the specific choice and response of it to your own voice, and your own taste and vision for the recording.

I think vocals are a good place to start since you are familiar with your voice, which makes it easier to perceive the differences imparted by the mic.

Also keep in mind that the performance matters much more than the gear for the quality of the result - and if you end up mixing recorded tracks, the specific sonic quality of a mic may be completely mangled in the end result, in order to serve the mix.

In conclusion, they're all more then decent mics: test if you can, pick up one and start recording :)

All of the above, under the assumption that you're starting out. If your name is Quincy and surname starts with J, you definitely don't need any of it :-)

Hope it helps.
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Re: Condenser Mic for home recording

Postby Tim Gillett » Wed Oct 30, 2013 11:19 am

CS70 wrote:
I think vocals are a good place to start since you are familiar with your voice, which makes it easier to perceive the differences imparted by the mic.

Actually how we hear our own voice is quite different to how a mic (or another person) hears our voice. With practice we can become accustomed to how a mic (or another person) hears our voice, and that can be some sort of relative basis for comparing mics.
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Re: Condenser Mic for home recording

Postby CS70 » Wed Oct 30, 2013 11:48 am

Actually how we hear our own voice is quite different to how a mic (or another person) hears our voice. With practice we can become accustomed to how a mic (or another person) hears our voice, and that can be some sort of relative basis for comparing mics.


Indeed - never said it would sound the same ;-)

The reason I think it's a good starting point for beginners is because we are used to voices and have opinions about them independently from our competence in any audio or music field.
We also hear a lot of musical vocals - on which people express opinions (I've heard lots of times people saying "what a beautiful voice", but never "what a great drum overhead sound" - unless it's from audio-savy people, that is :-). With voices, everybody's already experienced enough to give a more or less consistent and significant meaning to "I like"; less so, I experience, with stuff with which we have less familiarity and focus.

Ymmv, of course.
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Re: Condenser Mic for home recording

Postby Tim Gillett » Wed Oct 30, 2013 2:34 pm

CS70 wrote: With voices, everybody's already experienced enough to give a more or less consistent and significant meaning to "I like"; less so, I experience, with stuff with which we have less familiarity and focus.

Ymmv, of course.

Yes but even when it comes to voices would the "I likes" of ten different people agree with one another? Would all ten listeners independently agree on the same colouration to a particular voice, at least within a db or so across the vocal spectrum?
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Re: Condenser Mic for home recording

Postby Mike Stranks » Wed Oct 30, 2013 7:17 pm

Voices - spoken or sung - are the most revealing sound of a mic's character and it's thus easier for a potential purchaser to differentiate between mics - assuming that the same voice and acoustic space is used for each recording.

Beauty is, of course, in the eye of the beholder, but I've always found that voice is the quickest and easiest way for me to evaluate either an individual piece of gear or a connected chain.
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Re: Condenser Mic for home recording

Postby CS70 » Wed Oct 30, 2013 9:23 pm

Yes but even when it comes to voices would the "I likes" of ten different people agree with one another? Would all ten listeners independently agree on the same colouration to a particular voice, at least within a db or so across the vocal spectrum?


Good point: no, not at all. If it were so, everybody would agree that Mozart (or AC/DC) is the top, and the hell with the rest.

The consistency I am talking about is personal. When one does not know where to look, it's easy to fail prey of marketing (big ad page on magazine), brands or fandom (X is the best!), peer pressure (gearslutz honchos declaring everything's sh*t but what they use) or other's people subjective feeling about gear they like. Critical judging does not come natural at all to anybody, in my little experience, and it may well be practically impossible for any beginner in anything little more than trivial.

So - if our friend wants to buy a mic, the only "like" that matters is his own. But he'll have a better chance not to regret that he "liked" a specific one if he, from the start, uses a selection parameter that he's experienced with, and which also happens to be actually relevant (it ain't the painting color of a car :-). That's the thinking.

If, instead, he's a great connoisseur of recorded snare sounds, my $.10 is that he should use them as a test and go hitting a snare before buying: he'll know what he likes.
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Re: Condenser Mic for home recording

Postby ConcertinaChap » Thu Oct 31, 2013 10:00 am

CS70 wrote:if our friend wants to buy a mic

Actually we don't know that, because the original post didn't say s/he intended actually to buy a mic or indeed very much of anything. Plus, of course, we haven't heard any more from the OP. I think we're at risk of fruitlessly chasing our own tails here.

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Re: Condenser Mic for home recording

Postby Tim Gillett » Fri Nov 01, 2013 1:20 am

Mike Stranks wrote:Voices - spoken or sung - are the most revealing sound of a mic's character and it's thus easier for a potential purchaser to differentiate between mics - assuming that the same voice and acoustic space is used for each recording.

Beauty is, of course, in the eye of the beholder, but I've always found that voice is the quickest and easiest way for me to evaluate either an individual piece of gear or a connected chain.

Mike, I agree with your second statement. We always have our voice with us and so using our voice on a mic is a quick and easy way to test a mic or the components in a chain. Like you I've done it many times and will continue to do it.

But I do not believe that voices "are the most revealing sound of a mic's character", and neither is the "quickest and easiest" method the best method. Mic manufacturers use sophisticated and calibrated test setups on mics for good reason. Those tests are objective and repeatable, within the stated tolerances. Just listening to a voice through a mic, we cant hope to match that level of measurement precision.
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Re: Condenser Mic for home recording

Postby Bob Bickerton » Fri Nov 01, 2013 9:27 am

Tim Gillett wrote:But I do not believe that voices "are the most revealing sound of a mic's character", and neither is the "quickest and easiest" method the best method. Mic manufacturers use sophisticated and calibrated test setups on mics for good reason. Those tests are objective and repeatable, within the stated tolerances. Just listening to a voice through a mic, we cant hope to match that level of measurement precision.

We've had this conversation before Tim. The mic manufacturer's published specifications are a guide to how a mic will sound and are an average of what you might expect from a particular microphone. Higher quality mics may actually ship with the frequency response of that particular microphone (as opposed to an average) and may give you a more accurate idea of what to expect, and if you've ever seen one of these print outs you'll note they are far from the smooth published 'average' results.

Consequently how a mic actually sounds is all important, and because as humans, we are particularly sensitive as to how a voice should sound, a good assessment of a microphone can be made by recording a voice on it.

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Re: Condenser Mic for home recording

Postby Tim Gillett » Fri Nov 01, 2013 10:04 am

Bob Bickerton wrote:
Tim Gillett wrote:But I do not believe that voices "are the most revealing sound of a mic's character", and neither is the "quickest and easiest" method the best method. Mic manufacturers use sophisticated and calibrated test setups on mics for good reason. Those tests are objective and repeatable, within the stated tolerances. Just listening to a voice through a mic, we cant hope to match that level of measurement precision.

We've had this conversation before Tim. The mic manufacturer's published specifications are a guide to how a mic will sound and are an average of what you might expect from a particular microphone. Higher quality mics may actually ship with the frequency response of that particular microphone (as opposed to an average) and may give you a more accurate idea of what to expect, and if you've ever seen one of these print outs you'll note they are far from the smooth published 'average' results.

Consequently how a mic actually sounds is all important, and because as humans, we are particularly sensitive as to how a voice should sound, a good assessment of a microphone can be made by recording a voice on it.

Bob

Bob, when you speak of being particularly sensitive to how a voice "should" sound, do you mean how it *does* sound when listened to, standing in front of the person, with nothing in the way, or as we might think it would *sound best* in a recording?

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Re: Condenser Mic for home recording

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Nov 01, 2013 11:04 am

Tim Gillett wrote:But I do not believe that voices "are the most revealing sound of a mic's character", and neither is the "quickest and easiest" method the best method.


You are, of course, entitled to believe anything you choose... My experience, though, exactly matches that of Bob, Mike and many other forum posters.

Listening to a human voice captured through a microphone has proven time after time to be extremely revealing of a mic's tonal characteristics -- as well as a very quick and easy way for the inexperienced to make reliable evaluations in picking a mic that is fit for purpose. The plain fact is that we all have a lifetime's experience of learning what human voices are supposed to sound like (in all their infinite variety), and consequently are well attuned to spotting resonances, over/under-emphasises of harmonics, sibilance, and other mechanical failings that many mics suffer to varying degrees, purely because they are instantly recognisable as unnatural. The same approach is just as informative when evaluating speakers, for exactly the same reasons.

Mic manufacturers use sophisticated and calibrated test setups on mics for good reason. Those tests are objective and repeatable, within the stated tolerances. Just listening to a voice through a mic, we cant hope to match that level of measurement precision.


Yes they use test setups for good reasons. Yes they are objective and repeatable. However, I would suggest that they are measuring very different things compared to the kind of voice auditioning test that Mike is talking about.

Listening to a voice captured by a microphone won't tell you about the self-noise contribution of a capacitor mic's impedance converter (unless it's really bad!). It won't tell you the maximum SPL capability for a given level of harmonic distortion, or the phantom current drain, or the output impedance, or many other technical parameters that are relevant when designing (and marketing) a microphone.

But equally, the typical simple frequency response sweep that manufacturers perform (and publish)during development and QC control of a mic falls way below the natural analytical capability that is built in to a normal human's hearing system. Our ear/brain process and analyse sound in a completely different way to standard audio test measurements.

We use very complex (and still not fully understood) signal processing of numerous independent critical bands, and as a result can hear things that standard measurement techniques can't hope to detect, let alone analyse with current technology. Equally, we are often remarkably insensitive to some technical parameters that we can measure easily -- harmonic distortion being an obvious example.

Perhaps the clincher, though, is the fact that every mic (and speaker) manufacturer I have visited (which is a lot), performs extensive voice (and other source material) listening sessions alongside their sophisticated and calibrated test measurements. I wonder why that might be?

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Re: Condenser Mic for home recording

Postby shufflebeat » Fri Nov 01, 2013 11:28 am

The paperwork will also struggle to predict how a performer will react vocally on hearing their own voice monitored through a particular mic.

Nice Neumanns make me sing better.
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Re: Condenser Mic for home recording

Postby ConcertinaChap » Fri Nov 01, 2013 11:34 am

Sound recorded with a mic is intended for no other use than to be heard by the human ear, with all the attendant psycho-acoustic grey matter that lies behind it. Only the human ear can be the final arbiter of what sounds good to the human ear.

Manufacturer's test equipment is essential but for a different reason. Manufacturers (at least good manufacturers) will be deeply concerned with quality control, consistency and reproducibility. The human ear is pretty awful at that sort of thing, but lab gear is good at it. Hardly surprising that manufacturers do both.

So for us to decide which mic we want to use on which voice for which purpose we must use our ears.

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Re: Condenser Mic for home recording

Postby Tim Gillett » Fri Nov 01, 2013 5:08 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
Perhaps the clincher, though, is the fact that every mic (and speaker) manufacturer I have visited (which is a lot), performs extensive voice (and other source material) listening sessions alongside their sophisticated and calibrated test measurements. I wonder why that might be?

H


I'm sure the manufacturers do indeed carry out extensive listening tests on vocalists and other sources, and that on the basis of those plus their extensive test measurements, I'm also pretty sure they are convinced - even though that knowledge is not exactly calculated to sell as many mics as they might have preferred - that just one of their excellent mics will more than suffice for recording any of the "infinite variety" of human voices out there.

Perhaps in a similar way, we humans dont seem to have much trouble accepting that that same "infinite variety" of human voices can be appreciated very well indeed, even when each of us listens to them for decades through the severe limitation of just one set of ears, with which we were born.

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Re: Condenser Mic for home recording

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Nov 01, 2013 5:31 pm

Tim Gillett wrote:I'm also pretty sure they are convinced ... that just one of their excellent mics will more than suffice for recording any of the "infinite variety" of human voices out there.

The point is that while you are 'pretty sure'. Some of us are fortunate enough to 'know' ;)

...but we've been around this and similar loops before and I'll waste no more effort on updating your belligerent view.
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Re: Condenser Mic for home recording

Postby The Elf » Fri Nov 01, 2013 5:40 pm

Is this a five minute argument or the full half-hour?

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Re: Condenser Mic for home recording

Postby Bob Bickerton » Fri Nov 01, 2013 8:51 pm

The Elf wrote:Is this a five minute argument or the full half-hour?

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You'll be lucky to get away with just a half hour with Tim!

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Re: Condenser Mic for home recording

Postby Tim Gillett » Sat Nov 02, 2013 12:07 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
Tim Gillett wrote:I'm also pretty sure they are convinced ... that just one of their excellent mics will more than suffice for recording any of the "infinite variety" of human voices out there.

The point is that while you are 'pretty sure'. Some of us are fortunate enough to 'know' ;)

...but we've been around this and similar loops before and I'll waste no more effort on updating your belligerent view.

Hugh since it is you, not me, claiming the certainty, would you be so kind as to point me to independent, reputable sources to back up your claims? I mean more than just a bare list of microphone text books.

Specifically, independent, double blind listening trials where vocalists are "matched" to mics, where those matching choices are independently agreed upon by a significant sample of testers and which results are repeatable. If you are unable to provide this perhaps others here could do so.
Without that, the claims seem little more than an appeal to subjective preference.

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Re: Condenser Mic for home recording

Postby Random Guitarist » Sat Nov 02, 2013 12:58 am

Tim Gillett wrote:
Without that, the claims seem little more than an appeal to subjective preference.

Tim

But surely the very fact that we are trying to record sounds with a tonality that we like means that microphone choice is a subjective preference? So what can be wrong with using our ears with a source material that we know well?
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Re: Condenser Mic for home recording

Postby Bob Bickerton » Sat Nov 02, 2013 2:15 am

Tim Gillett wrote:Hugh since it is you, not me, claiming the certainty, would you be so kind as to point me to independent, reputable sources to back up your claims? I mean more than just a bare list of microphone text books.

Specifically, independent, double blind listening trials where vocalists are "matched" to mics, where those matching choices are independently agreed upon by a significant sample of testers and which results are repeatable. If you are unable to provide this perhaps others here could do so.
Without that, the claims seem little more than an appeal to subjective preference.

Tim

The trials you request are well represented in these forums, with the exception of yourself, as the opinion of industry professionals with years of experience of using vocal microphones in real world situations. I would suggest that the fact you refuse to accept that says a lot more about your ego and attachment to ignorance, than it does about any efficacy in your argument.

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Re: Condenser Mic for home recording

Postby turbodave » Sat Nov 02, 2013 2:30 am

Apparently Tim lives in a world where figures on a page are more important than human listening...in an industry that only relies on human perception. All the figures in the world, Tim, can only be a guide! My ears are knackered, but I make good music for other people who also have knackered ears! Dave
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Re: Condenser Mic for home recording

Postby Tim Gillett » Sat Nov 02, 2013 3:44 am

turbodave wrote:Apparently Tim lives in a world where figures on a page are more important than human listening...in an industry that only relies on human perception. All the figures in the world, Tim, can only be a guide! My ears are knackered, but I make good music for other people who also have knackered ears! Dave

I think you misunderstand. It's about human listening alright but a group of listeners, all independently coming up with the same listening choices. Is that so hard to grasp?

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Re: Condenser Mic for home recording

Postby Mike Stranks » Sat Nov 02, 2013 8:19 am

You've pursued your hypothesis that if a microphone is technically perfect it can be used for anything and everything in several forum threads over the months Tim.

Your tenacious attachment to this concept intrigues me. It leaves me wondering if this is just theory or whether you pursue this approach in the real-world of recording and live-sound.

So could you help me here:
- Are you actively involved in studio and/or location recording or live-sound?
- If yes, are people paying money for your services or is it just an interest/hobby?
- Assuming you are doing this stuff in a professional capacity, do you own and use more than one make/model of microphone?
- Whether the answer is yes or no, would you mind telling us what microphone(s) you use?

I really am genuinely intrigued about this as it flies in the face of everything I've read, discussed and practised in over 40 years in 'the business'. Have I been hoodwinked/deluded and bought all these different microphones unnecessarily?
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Re: Condenser Mic for home recording

Postby turbodave » Sat Nov 02, 2013 9:38 am

It would seem Tim doesn't have a preference for Teles over Strats, Bubinga over Maple or any other choice we make as recordists/musicians. A good guitar is a good guitar, a drum is a drum and any "good" mic will do.....texture Tim, texture...explore your palette! Dave
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