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Singer-songwriter mic setup
Old 18th June 2022
  #1
Here for the gear
 
Singer-songwriter mic setup

After using a blue yeti for everything for two years I've decided I deserve an upgrade. I'm a little uncertain what direction to go though.

Should I go all-out on one nice mic, or should I buy a couple of different budget ones to preserve versatility? In terms of dynamic vs ldc vs sdc vs ribbon, ldc seems to be the most versatile option, but ribbons and dynamics also seem to see use on almost every source imaginable. Which models sound good on both vocals and guitar?

My budget is around a thousand bucks, and I don't mind buying used (in fact I prefer it). I'd be recording vocals, classical, acoustic and electric guitar mostly, maybe with a sprinkle of piano (although midi is always an option for that). All in an unproofed bedroom, which also brings up the question of whether I should spend less on the mic and more on soundproofing?

I appreciate this post is both very wordy and all over the place, but I really appreciate any wisdom you could throw my way
Old 18th June 2022
  #2
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🎧 5 years
No reason to apologize for writing several sentences about your situation and what you are looking for.

These things can be rather involved and even with all you wrote there is still plenty that you didn't like do you have an interface already? Because you will need one if you are going to buy any non-USB mic.

Dynamic mics are not the usual go to for acoustic guitar, still some people do use them but that tends to be with a larger production not just a single guitar and vocal.

Also are you going to want a mic for vocal and a mic for guitar because you will record both simultaneously or will you record guitar furst and then vocal later as an overdub?

Some people like to record acoustic guitar with two mics so: one, two, or even three mics are all possible ways of doing which means you have a lot to think about.

If you don't record guitar and vocal at the same time then putting all of your mic budget into one mic might make sense. However some people really perform better playing and singing at the same time so in this case you will need at least two.

If you record vocals and guitar simultaneously then mics with a figure of eight pattern can be very useful. Most ribbons are figure of eight but multi-pattern condensers also do this.

Well that's a few things I think that you should make some decisions on before even getting to the point of what mics exactly you might consider.
Old 18th June 2022 | Show parent
  #3
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by JLast ➡️
If you don't record guitar and vocal at the same time then putting all of your mic budget into one mic might make sense. However some people really perform better playing and singing at the same time so in this case you will need at least two.
I'm one of those people who performs better doing it all at once. But I also like to be able to change words and fix mistakes after the fact. So I generally work this way:

• Do a "roadmap" guitar/vocal track to a click using one mic;
• Re-track guitar, one mic;
• Re-track vocal, one mic. In both cases, doing my best to match or beat the energy and spontaneity of the roadmap performance. I'm sure I'm not the only one who works this way. And I'm also pretty sure that, with some practice, pretty much anyone can have both "performance" and separation.

Point being, re OP's question, one mic.
Old 18th June 2022
  #4
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🎧 10 years
I like Brent's method a lot for a situation like yours. Investing in the best-quality mic you can is the way to go, here. Singer-songwriter music tends to involve recording relatively quiet sources, and for that you'll probably want a good condenser mic of some sort. Something like the Audio-Technica AT4050 or Vanguard V4 would be within your budget, well-made, and versatile, with multiple polar pattern options. They're not the fanciest mics in the world but they get the job done, and they'll sort of get "out of the way" and let your music sound like your music. As JLast said, you'll also need to get a decent audio interface or some sort, but you should be able to get a basic one (Focusrite Scarlet, Motu M2/4, Steinbert UR22, etc) along with one of those mics above and still be under a grand.
Old 18th June 2022
  #5
Here for the gear
 
I got a second gen focusrite 2i2 used for mad cheap, so that'll be my sound card.
I've gotten pretty used to recording vocals and guitar separately, it's just easier to work with, lets me comp and add effects etc. I'm a little curious about JLast's comment about figure-8 recording - how would you position a mic to record a performance like that?

There were two reasons I was considering several mics. The first is that I was unsure whether it would be better to get different mics for vocals, guitar and cab. The answer there seems to be no; better to get one allrounder.

The other more significant reason is that I would kind of like to be able to record in stereo. Mid/side seems especially attractive since it seems to me that you can record literally anything mid/side and then choose after the fact if you want it in stereo or not since you still have the main mid track. That would probably work best with a condenser plus a ribbon or two condensers, no?

Of course spaced pair is also a consideration since that seems to be the most used for acoustics, but then that seems to call for a matched pair of sdc on top of a vocal mic, and that gets to be expensive pretty fast.

There's a used WA251 on sale in a nearby store, and I've read good things about that mic on this forum. Anyone have any thoughts on that mic?

This is all based on online research and not at all on real experience so if I'm off anywhere please do correct me!
Old 19th June 2022
  #6
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🎧 10 years
There's not really any "one right way" to do this, so you'll get a bunch of different opinions. As for recording with two mics, sure, there are a lot of good possibilities there. I'd still start by buying the best single versatile mic you can, at first, and then maybe add a second later when finances make it possible.

I'm sure people get good recordings with all kinds of Warm Audio gear, but in that price range I personally would steer toward a "clean" mic instead of a "color" mic. I think clean mics like the AT are a better bet in the $500-1k ballpark, generally speaking. If you were to start with, say, an AT4050 as your workhorse, and then add something like the Shure KSM141 later on (a cool SDC that sounds good and can be either cardioid or omni), you'd have plenty of tools to record voices and instruments in many configurations. Add color in the box until you can spend serious money on the "color gear" you really want (if you ever even need to).
Old 19th June 2022
  #7
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On a budget of $1000 i would get two Shure SM57s , two Shure SM58s , and whatever Ribbon mic i could find used in my community .

The Ribbon is for Vox , the SM57 is for Guitar , the other SM57 is for recording the output from a floor monitor if you·re using one , and the two omni SM58s are for the room .

Without any insulation , your room is probably going to have a lot of high-end and maybe some flutter echo . Even just adding a 1" - 3" thick foam pad to the center of each of the walls will break that echo up and diffuse the sound better . If you can get studio quality spike foam that·s great , sed even normal foam will work .
Old 20th June 2022 | Show parent
  #8
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by MaritLage ➡️
On a budget of $1000 i would get two Shure SM57s , two Shure SM58s , and whatever Ribbon mic i could find used in my community .

The Ribbon is for Vox , the SM57 is for Guitar , the other SM57 is for recording the output from a floor monitor if you·re using one , and the two omni SM58s are for the room .

Without any insulation , your room is probably going to have a lot of high-end and maybe some flutter echo . Even just adding a 1" - 3" thick foam pad to the center of each of the walls will break that echo up and diffuse the sound better . If you can get studio quality spike foam that·s great , sed even normal foam will work .
On the basis of this post and THIS ONE, I predict a brief but amusing GS arc.
Old 20th June 2022 | Show parent
  #9
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David Rick's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn ➡️
On the basis of this post and THIS ONE, I predict a brief but amusing GS arc.
OMG They really ought to rename that forum to "Low Information Theory".
Old 20th June 2022
  #10
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🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by MaritLage ➡️
On a budget of $1000 i would get two Shure SM57s , two Shure SM58s , and whatever Ribbon mic i could find used in my community .

The Ribbon is for Vox , the SM57 is for Guitar , the other SM57 is for recording the output from a floor monitor if you·re using one , and the two omni SM58s are for the room .

Without any insulation , your room is probably going to have a lot of high-end and maybe some flutter echo . Even just adding a 1" - 3" thick foam pad to the center of each of the walls will break that echo up and diffuse the sound better . If you can get studio quality spike foam that·s great , sed even normal foam will work .
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn ➡️
On the basis of this post and THIS ONE, I predict a brief but amusing GS arc.
Well here we go...



SM58's are cardioid not omni.

While they would possibly work as room mics (any mics can really) I don't see why one would use room mics for vocal or acoustic guitar except in a pretty unusual situation.

57's are great mics and useful on many things but for a singer song writer with just vocals and acoustic guitar I would say they are usable but probably far from choice for most people.

Yes, I realize Springsteen recorded Nebraska with two 57's but most people don't have Columbia records to do a ton of work on their tracks and make them somewhat listenable.

While I'd say one should be able to get a good vocal recording with a 57 I think a condenser will offer the clarity and detail most would want with simple singer song writer more easily. The same or even more so with acoustic guitar if the song is sparse instrument wise.



Cheap ribbons can be cool but many need quite serious eq to get them into shape.

Some of them are fine if you know what you are doing with them and are not afraid to turn knobs a bunch but kind of dark and disappointing otherwise and some of the short thick ribbons can't even do that very well even using heavy eq on something like a vocal or acoustic guitar being far more suited to electric guitar or maybe horns.

I think a small diaphragm condenser (SDC) and a large diaphragm condenser (LDC) would be the best place to start for someone like the OP here.

This offers mics that could be used as a pair for acoustic guitar and also when recording vocal you can have two different sounding mic choices, put them both up and learn the differences between them.

An Oktava MC012, a Warm Audio WA84 or the venerable Shure SM81 are good SDC's that fit in this budget along with maybe an LDC with a K47 capsule like the Roswell Mini K47 or Tech Zone X2 Vintage or on the more expensive side the Audio Technica AT4047 (not a K47 cap but the mic is going for that vibe) . These LDC's are a somewhat smoother and bit less bright than many budget condensers and may suit the style more than the usual peaky overly aggressive suspects.
Old 20th June 2022 | Show parent
  #11
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Progger's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn ➡️
On the basis of this post and THIS ONE, I predict a brief but amusing GS arc.


This kind of gold is why Loki blessed us with the Internet. To sow chaos and amusement.
Old 23rd June 2022
  #12
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🎧 5 years
I agree with JLast.

A LDC and a SDC will get you very far in the beginning. Even better if you can get a pair of SDCs since that opens up options for stereo micing and using the room to get other textures and placing the instrument better in your mix as opposed to close micing.

Myself, I really like 251-style mics on my voice. But it might not be for everyone. Start with something that is clean without adding colour and you’ll eventually learn which colours you’d like to add.

OTOH, life’s a journey. You can’t go wrong as long as it’s yours.

Old 23rd June 2022
  #13
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Al Rogers's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
A word of advice. Buy microphones with good resale value. Check eBay and Reverb for the info. Chances are the next microphones that you buy will not be your final destination but merely the next step in your journey. You don't want to buy a microphone and find out five years later that you can't give it away.
Old 24th June 2022 | Show parent
  #14
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Al Rogers ➡️
A word of advice. Buy microphones with good resale value.
It's not just mics, and it's not just resale value. It's also liquidity -- being able to sell something fast if you need to without losing your shirt on it.
Old 24th June 2022 | Show parent
  #15
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Al Rogers ➡️
A word of advice. Buy microphones with good resale value. Check eBay and Reverb for the info. Chances are the next microphones that you buy will not be your final destination but merely the next step in your journey. You don't want to buy a microphone and find out five years later that you can't give it away.
This seems like great advice on the surface but unfortunately it doesn't really work like this.

A brand new Neumann U87ai will cost about $3600 for the full kit with shockmount. Add to that sales tax (let's just call it 8%) $288, for a grand total of $3888.

Now say you change your mind and want to sell that mic... what do you think you will get for it even if it is perfect? Looking at sold items on on Reverb I would say $3200 is pretty generous. Now if you can find a buyer on your own that's great but it seems unlikely so let's just call the fees on Reverb, Ebay, or whatever 6% (I think I'm shooting low) that's $216 so now you got back $2984 out of $3600 for a total loss of $616.

Similarly let's look at a somewhat cheaper mic like the KM184 ($849 new about $920 with tax). These go used about $650 on the high side. Considering about $40 in fees to sell it leaves you with a loss of around $310 not quite as bad as the U87ai.



So... instead you could buy a $300 mic, smash it and toss it in the trash for a total loss of $324 (assuming sales tax) or buy a $100 mic and only loose about $108. If you did manage to sell these even for not very much money rather than throwing them away you would lose even less obviously.



Buy the mic that you want and can afford whatever it happens to cost and simply accept that it is going to be an expense that you will lose money on.

If the mic is cheap then there is only so much you can lose. If the mic is expensive then just like driving a brand new car off the lot you have to realize that you will lose a bunch.

Mics are generally tools not investments.

Unless of course Neumann happens to go out of business the day after you buy your brand new U87ai.
Old 24th June 2022
  #16
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🎧 15 years
Using the figures above, you'd recoup about 83% of the outlay for the 87, and 66% on the 184.
Old 25th June 2022
  #17
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Thanks for all the responses guys! Consensus opinions seem to be forming on a lot of the questions I've put out which is pretty nice, makes my job easy Don't really know how to make the distinction clean vs color that Progger mentioned, so can anyone elucidate that for me?

I'm kind of limited in what I can get because I'd like to buy used, so what's available is kind of arbitrary. I'm gonna throw a few mics out there and see if there's any opinions. Should I shy away from clones? (MA201, Peluso 22 251 and BU87i are all available around the same price) How about something like a Neumann 102 or Avantone PS-12?

I've read reviews of all these mics, mostly here on gearspace and they all seem reasonably equally well received, meaning it's hard to make any real distinctions apart from obvious things like tubes and polar patterns.
Old 25th June 2022 | Show parent
  #18
Here for the gear
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Al Rogers ➡️
A word of advice. Buy microphones with good resale value. Check eBay and Reverb for the info. Chances are the next microphones that you buy will not be your final destination but merely the next step in your journey. You don't want to buy a microphone and find out five years later that you can't give it away.
Time to get an SM7B then, and sell it at a profit to some podcaster in a year
Old 25th June 2022 | Show parent
  #19
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🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Faeger ➡️
Time to get an SM7B then, and sell it at a profit to some podcaster in a year
Not sure if you are just joking or are somewhat serious here. The SM7b isn't high on the list of mics I would recommend for what I might envision as singer/songwriter stuff but then again I don't know your voice, your music, what kind of sound you are after, or how you might choose to work.

Honestly the SM57 isn't all that far away from the sound of the SM7b and with your budget you could probably almost pull off a decent LDC, SDC, and an SM57. This would really give you the tools to be able to learn a bunch about mics.
Old 25th June 2022
  #20
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David Rick's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Faeger ➡️
My budget is around a thousand bucks, and I don't mind buying used (in fact I prefer it). I'd be recording vocals, classical, acoustic and electric guitar mostly, maybe with a sprinkle of piano (although midi is always an option for that). All in an unproofed bedroom, which also brings up the question of whether I should spend less on the mic and more on soundproofing?
The SDC + LDC suggestion that @ Progger made is a possible starting point, but with these caveats: Both the AT4050 and KSM141 offer an omni pattern option. I love recording with omni's but they are utterly useless in untreated acoustics. Also, the point of KSM141's is to have two of them and record in stereo. I honestly think you're not ready for that, acoustically or skill-wise. Learn single mic techniques first and buy a pair of '141's later.

The cardioid and figure-eight patterns of an AT4050 are both useful in untreated spaces. You'd think that figure-eight pattern would also be good for M/S work when combined with a second mic, but I've been less than pleased with it in practice. Still, it's a very good mic choice for someone of modest means, they're easy to find used, and reasonably easy to sell again when you outgrow it. But, as a vocal mic, it's generally better liked on women than men. Truth is, it doesn't sound markedly different (on axis) than a SDC.

You mentioned some clones of nicer LDC's that have more character. Trouble is, character can be good or bad on a specific voice and we don't know what works on you. Most of the clone models you mentioned would be hard to resell without taking a big loss. A TLM 102 can be resold when the time comes, but that time will come because it's not really on par with the upper tier Neumann's as a vocal mic. Sounds nice on guitar, though.

An Austrian Audio OC818 makes a very fine "do everything" mic in the tradition of the AKG 414. It offers multiple patterns, including hypercardioid -- very useful in dodgy acoustics -- plus variable HPF corners and pads. These are fairly new, so not many on the used market, but there's one on Reverb for $1000 right now. Older 414's do show up. The "classic" ones are often way overpriced, but there are some newer models at prices below $1k. If you're wanting a "do everything" mic at a price slightly above what you'd pay for a used '4050, that's an option; just avoid the XLII model.

When it comes to recording classical guitar and piano, I often lean towards a pair of SDC's (expensive ones!), but that's mostly for concert repertoire; for pop, anything goes. One LDC that does work nicely is the Neumann TLM 193. It's cardoid only, with no pad, rolloff switch, but it's a big step above a '4050 in basic sonics. As a vocal mic, it won't make you sound like a rock god, but it will make you sound like the best version of yourself. If you ever record random percussion toys, they are stunning. A used TLM 193 would be slightly over your $1k budget, but it's well worth eating a few macaroni dinners at home to get one. I own a lot of more expensive mics, but I will never sell my TLM 193's.

I'll answer an emphatic "Yes!" to your last question about room treatment, though I say so sadly because a $1k budget gave you better mic options. (The correct term is "sound treatment"; "sound proofing" costs big money and involves stuctural changes. You are never going to be able to record when someone is mowing a lawn.)

Are you willing to do a little work to keep your mic budget intact? I mean scrape up a few extra dollars and invest in some DIY. If so, here's a link for you.

DIY Acoustic Panel Kits

David
Old 25th June 2022
  #21
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🎧 10 years
David just gave you a treasure-trove of advice. Some great reading in there!
Old 26th June 2022 | Show parent
  #22
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🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Progger ➡️
David just gave you a treasure-trove of advice. Some great reading in there!
Yes, I agree!

But to clarify more about colour and clean, I’d say any mic that try to mimic or be “inspired” by a classic mic will have colour.

For starting out and getting cheaper SDCs I recommend Line Audio CM3 or CM4. I’d say they are of the clean type and costs like $100 each so you can get two.
You can get “better” mics but for the price they’re hard to beat and they show up occasionally in the used sections.

I’d also say for LDCs that brands like Audio-Technica does clean. But when I think about it I’m sure others can give better advice since I tend to go for colour with my own mic choices.
Old 26th June 2022 | Show parent
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Progger ➡️
David just gave you a treasure-trove of advice. Some great reading in there!
Yes. This is the version of David Rick that is really helpful, and it reminds me how valuable this site can be. I actually have a word doc with chapter headings (comps, pres, etc.) full of quotes and useful tips from people on here. I may be new to posting but I've trolled here for many many years.

Sometimes I have nightmares that David and Bushman are yelling at me.

Kidding. Good stuff indeed. I could outline a five-year purchase/upgrade plan off just that post.
Old 27th June 2022
  #24
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Super grateful for all the advice! It's crazy how I can ask a question like this and people more experienced than I take the time out of their day to answer it thoughtfully. Power of the internet, man
Old 27th June 2022 | Show parent
  #25
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gruner ➡️
Sometimes I have nightmares that David and Bushman are yelling at me.
I actually never yell at anybody. On rare occasions, I've been known to deliver stern lectures to people posting nonsense about things they don't understand. Don't talk about sampling theory or dither and you'll probably be fine. @ Bushman , in addition to mastering hit albums, has years of experience keeping order in classrooms. Don't cross him!

David
Old 27th June 2022 | Show parent
  #26
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1 Review written
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gruner ➡️
Sometimes I have nightmares that David and Bushman are yelling at me.
It’s kind of cool (in a very odd sense of “cool”) to think of myself as a Freddie Krueger in your audio nightmares. I will gladly share that distinction(?) with David.
In reality I yell at really bad drivers and some Fox “News” commentators. Neither group has ever noticed.
Old 27th June 2022 | Show parent
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bushman ➡️
In reality I yell at really bad drivers...
That was you?
Old 29th June 2022 | Show parent
  #28
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🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bushman ➡️
In reality I yell at really bad drivers
So you're on the East Coast now?
Old 29th June 2022 | Show parent
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bill5 ➡️
So you're on the East Coast now?
Nope. And from my experience out west with New Yorkers, I wouldn’t start a yelling match with anyone from there.
Old 29th June 2022
  #30
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🎧 5 years
Actually my reference was to the bad drivers...they're everywhere obviously, but my experience (almost none of it in Calif admittedly) was West Coast/Southwest drivers are better, on average.
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