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Advice on starter gear for vocals

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Advice on starter gear for vocals

Postby RepeatableYearning » Sat May 30, 2020 6:22 pm

Hi there

I've long used GarageBand and now Logic Pro on my MacBook to make tracks. Believe it or not, I always actually use my phone to record vocals.

I'm looking on advice for buying starter gear for recording properly. The trouble is, I'm paralysed with choice, and it's hard to sift through genuine reviews and sponsored articles.

I mainly want to record vocals at home in Logic X with a price range of £100-£200.

People often mention Shure, for which I found the SM57LC for £105:
https://www.thomann.de/gb/shure_sm57lc_bundle_ii.htm
And also the AudioTecnica AT2020
https://www.thomann.de/gb/audio_technica_at_2020_bundle.htm

I was leaning towards Shure, but I know I need an audio interface, so would I be better off getting a bundle like this from Focusrite which has the interface and headphones?
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07QTDKS59/?coliid=I13HEIXG8WOHDL&colid=12WD8OQZKVHCW&psc=1&ref_=lv_ov_lig_dp_it
It's £183 and the interface on its own is £98 (bundle also has headphones, cables, USB).

I don't have a lot of money so I don't want to waste it on something that isn't right for me.
I also want it to be noticeably different from recording on my phone to make it worth my while.

If it's really not possible to get anything worthwhile in this price range, then I'd rather just hold off and save up.

Any thoughts?
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Re: Advice on starter gear for vocals

Postby ef37a » Sat May 30, 2020 8:26 pm

I am going to raise an eyebrow or two and suggest,
Behringer UMC204HD interface and their XM8500 dynamic microphone. You could get the lot under £100.

You will need an XLR mic cable and stand. Do you have headphones? If not maybe spend a much as you can on those but I will leave others to make those suggestions.

So how, you might say can such a cheap rig be any good at all? Well the mic for example just happens to be rather good and just an absolute steal at 15quid! I have had the 204HD interface and it compared very well with both my Native Instruments KA6 and an old Focusrite 8i6. I dare say very stringent tests could separate them but you would need very good signal sources and impeccable monitoring. Audio electronics these days is just SO damn good and so damn cheap!

Once you have got the hang, you might then look at a capacitor microphone as they are THE 'studio' mic you often see and yes, will be a tad 'crisper' than a dynamic but then plenty of great songs were made on dymos!

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Re: Advice on starter gear for vocals

Postby Sam Spoons » Sat May 30, 2020 8:51 pm

Agreed, modern budget kit is capable of getting you 90% of the way there. The next 9% will cost you 10 times a much and the last 1% 10 times again (and, actually, would still not quite get you to 100% in real life).

But the most cost effective way you can improve your recordings on a budget is with a couple of strategically placed duvets. Acoustic treatment is 90% of what separates a proper 'recording studio' from a living room. There are lots of threads and articles on here that will fill in the detail, a search and a lot of reading will be time well spent but I'd say an iPhone recording in a well treated space will likely sound better than a decent mic and interface in your kitchen.
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Re: Advice on starter gear for vocals

Postby Diniles » Sat May 30, 2020 9:09 pm

I am going to raise an eyebrow or two and suggest,
Behringer UMC204HD interface and their XM8500 dynamic microphone. You could get the lot under £100.

I can vouch for the UMC204HD. It's a really capable little interface. If you're going to be recording vocals I would generally recommend a condenser mic rather than a dynamic, but you are right that there is just too much choice. As Sam Spoons said, a good acoustic space is as important as the mic. A £9000 mic in a concrete box will just give you a wonderfully accurate picture of how nasty singing in a concrete box is. The closer up you are on the mic, the less the room is important.

So if it's not included in your budget, I'd add a couple of those heavy winter duvets to it.

As for mics, really the issue is that a vocal mic is dependant on the voice. A big studio may audition several mics. It's hard to tell if it'll be the "right one" by buying blind.

That being said, UMC204HD and duvets, you could get an AT2020, an AKG P120, or several others that will do a good job. I'd suggest looking at Audio Test Kitchen, or Podcastage's channel on youtube - both are great resources.
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Re: Advice on starter gear for vocals

Postby James Perrett » Sat May 30, 2020 10:11 pm

ef37a wrote:I am going to raise an eyebrow or two and suggest,
Behringer UMC204HD interface and their XM8500 dynamic microphone. You could get the lot under £100.

I'd agree that you don't have to spend much on an interface but I'm not sure that the mic is such a good suggestion. When you look at the sort of mic quality that you get for £80-£100 I can't see any point in going cheap here. Personally I'd probably look at an AT2020 for a condenser mic at an affordable price.
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Re: Advice on starter gear for vocals

Postby ef37a » Sat May 30, 2020 10:25 pm

James Perrett wrote:
ef37a wrote:I am going to raise an eyebrow or two and suggest,
Behringer UMC204HD interface and their XM8500 dynamic microphone. You could get the lot under £100.

I'd agree that you don't have to spend much on an interface but I'm not sure that the mic is such a good suggestion. When you look at the sort of mic quality that you get for £80-£100 I can't see any point in going cheap here. Personally I'd probably look at an AT2020 for a condenser mic at an affordable price.

You may have a point James but based on my opinion (and several not-usa studio peeps!) the
ubiquitous SM57/58 is not 'all that' but gets recommended much of the time. The Behringer really is just about as good! The OP can then play around for very cheap.

Then there is the oft repeated 'fact' that a capacitor mic needs to suit the voice? Such niceties are not usually said about dynamics. A cynical person might say because they are all pretty much 'Mehre' on any voice!

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Re: Advice on starter gear for vocals

Postby James Perrett » Sat May 30, 2020 11:56 pm

ef37a wrote:You may have a point James but based on my opinion (and several not-usa studio peeps!) the
ubiquitous SM57/58 is not 'all that' but gets recommended much of the time. The Behringer really is just about as good! The OP can then play around for very cheap.

Then there is the oft repeated 'fact' that a capacitor mic needs to suit the voice? Such niceties are not usually said about dynamics. A cynical person might say because they are all pretty much 'Mehre' on any voice!

Dynamic mics are definitely fussy about voices - apart from the SM58 in my experience. The SM58 shares the same characteristic as the Neumann U87 in that it will work acceptably well on all voices. In fact I've been surprised a number of times at how well the vocal sound from an SM58 works - it just sounds right. I suppose that could be down to years of hearing that sound everywhere. I've heard plenty of mics that claim to work as well as the SM58 but in practice none of them share its ability to work acceptably well everywhere (and that comparison includes expensive mics as well as cheap ones).
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Re: Advice on starter gear for vocals

Postby ef37a » Sun May 31, 2020 6:29 am

I defer to your experience of course James. I am just going on the information found on most forums. Capacitor mics, especially LDCs are branded 'voice specific' whereas dynamics are not. Mind you! The recommendation* is almost always for the Shure and very often the SM57.

The SM7b gets mentioned all the time as THE best DJ/ speech microphone, never had one but I think the 204HD might just show a bit of noise with such a low sensitivity microphone?

*Not everyone though, someone once said "The SM58 is a great mic IF you want to sound like 90% of everybody else!"

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Re: Advice on starter gear for vocals

Postby Diniles » Sun May 31, 2020 12:04 pm

ef37a wrote:The SM7b gets mentioned all the time as THE best DJ/ speech microphone, never had one but I think the 204HD might just show a bit of noise with such a low sensitivity microphone?


Considering the OP was talking about less than £200, I don't think we need to worry about whether the SM7B will work or not!
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Re: Advice on starter gear for vocals

Postby cyrano.mac » Sun May 31, 2020 12:27 pm

A friend refers to the SM57/58 as a "low resolution mic". :lolno:

I'll admit it's a very sturdy mic. Basic for live. For recording... Yeah, for reamping. For all the rest there's a ton of other mics. I don't love it, but it's not a bad investment.

The SM7b, otoh, is "standard operation procedure" for podcasters. At least, if you believe the Tube. That definitely is a bad investment, even if you would like to sound like Jack Wolfman.

The XM8500 was a great deal. I don't know current prices. It has a bit more definition and a bit more sensitivity. I've had several over the years.

If it's the first time I buy gear, I buy the cheapest stuff I can find. Just to play around with. In this case, I'd get an XM and UMC. Using it for a while will teach you it's limits. You'll learn what to look for in the next buy. And how much more that'll cost...

My bet is the XM and UMC will last a while :headbang:
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Re: Advice on starter gear for vocals

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun May 31, 2020 3:04 pm

Wonks did a very thorough review of several stage vocal mics including the XM8500 here https://www.soundonsound.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=27&t=70540 well worth a read.
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Re: Advice on starter gear for vocals

Postby ef37a » Sun May 31, 2020 3:09 pm

Diniles wrote:
ef37a wrote:The SM7b gets mentioned all the time as THE best DJ/ speech microphone, never had one but I think the 204HD might just show a bit of noise with such a low sensitivity microphone?


Considering the OP was talking about less than £200, I don't think we need to worry about whether the SM7B will work or not!

Yes, knew that. Just me rambling...

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Re: Advice on starter gear for vocals

Postby resistorman » Mon Jun 01, 2020 4:00 am

Actually, the Focusrite Scarlett package from the original post looks fine. With a dash of the ever popular duvet room treatment, of course.
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Re: Advice on starter gear for vocals

Postby ef37a » Mon Jun 01, 2020 6:45 am

resistorman wrote:Actually, the Focusrite Scarlett package from the original post looks fine. With a dash of the ever popular duvet room treatment, of course.

Maybe but I have a horror of these cheap, one lunged interfaces. IF the OP is very sure he will never need to use two microphones, could be good but I always have a suspicion that these single mic units are THE very lowest in facilities and in any case I cannot see any advantage over the 204HD? Yes, it's a F'rite. What else?

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Re: Advice on starter gear for vocals

Postby Mike Stranks » Mon Jun 01, 2020 9:42 am

Just a comment on the Focusrite 'package'...

I've never used one; never even seen one...

... BUT I do see a fair few of the mics from this package popping-up on EBay... Perhaps an indication of 'the weakest link'...?
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