Beginner's home studio mic?

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alex matson
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Beginner's home studio mic?

Post by alex matson » Thu Nov 23, 2006 12:28 am

From reading and posting here, I've bought a few things and learned a few things. The most important thing I've learned is that it all starts with the songs and performances. Next, the quality of the instruments. I'm going to list my current gear so that you guys might come up with a suggestion for me.
Apex 450 9-pattern tube mic
ART Prochannel
Presonus Firebox
Dell 420sc running Tracktion & Nuendo
Mackie HR824's and AKG K240DF
Yamaha CP80
Epiphone Les Paul
Yamaha acoustic
Epiphone classical
Vox Tonelab SE
Kurzweil K2600
Yamaha AN1X
Fender P-bass
Roland SPD8 running BFD

Influences: Beatles, Grandaddy, Grant Lee Buffalo, early REM, Low, Boards Of Canada, Shins, E. Smith, Radiohead, Built To Spill, etc.

I'm primarily a keyboard player, but I've played guitar for a while, and even recorded a pedal steel on an album a while back that wasn't completely embarassing later. I want to record primarily myself, in my basement studio.
Me singing lead and harmony and playing everything for the most part, for the purpose of finding my voice as a songwriter, and if the tracks are usable in a bigger studio, great!
I'm working my butt off this season, and should end up with a couple of thousand to spend. Should I concentrate on using what I've got, and then worry about buying something else later, or should I buy a better microphone? Here's the real question - when you don't know what you're doing, how do you make an intelligent purchase? Do you buy with the condition of being able to return it? Just get something that people recommend? Particularly when I read "Oh we tried the Neuman, but it turned out the SM57 suited his voice the best!", and things like that, it makes me feel that buying a mic blind is a crap shoot. Hence the title of the thread - is there something I can grow with that'll remain useful and sound good given my experience, gear, and acoustics (i.e. dead room with carpet and no reverberation?)
Bonus question: there's a concrete and tile bathroom twenty feet from the computer, just a shower and toilet. Is that a potentially good vocal or amp chamber? Of course the answer might be, "Try it and see", but I ask because I want to buy all nice cables this Friday when I get paid, the final missing link to hooking all this stuff up and learning what it can do, and i want to get as short a mic cable as I need. If the bathroom is a dumb idea, I don't want to buy a thirty foot cord for nothing, when everything else is within arms reach. Thanks in advance, as usual.
Edit: in case it's not obvious, the keys and electric guitar will be recorded direct; through the Tonelab, in the guitar's case. A recording amp is an option; feel free to recommend that as well. But the mic's use will be acoustic guitar and vocals for now.

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Post by Barry Jive » Thu Nov 23, 2006 1:08 am

You could set aside 1300 bucks to replicate a CD. You'd still be able to buy something fun with the rest of the dough and give yourself a reason to make some damn good recordings. Just an idea.


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Post by syrupcore » Thu Nov 23, 2006 1:09 am

fwiw, I don't think I've ever kept a bathroom take. Maybe once. I may have only lived amongst lesser water closets though. for me, and recording, bathrooms are only for reading tape op.

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Post by alex matson » Thu Nov 23, 2006 1:40 am

Funnily enough, while searching for a thread about Mogami, I saw the 'what's the best condenser mic under $200' thread. Joel Hamilton recommended the AT4033, so I ebay'd it up, and impulsively bought one for $257 from a dealer that's in my home state of Oregon. I bought the Apex on the recommendation of a dealer/friend several years ago, then proceeded to watch it become popular with no one. It's one of those cheap chinese condensors, and while I'm sure it'll have its uses, I just wanted to have something with some kind of reputation for quality.
So it's been quite a month: new computer and software, a/d interface, bass and now mic. Now it's time to get to work!

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Post by standup » Thu Nov 23, 2006 6:08 am

Why not start recording your stuff, and see if anything feels missing? Everyone's different.

I would note that you're missing a guitar amp for guitars and maybe the CP80 (that's one of those electric pianos that has strings in a mini-grand-piano-shaped harp, covered in tolex, right?) What about getting a Pro Jr.?

If your only mic is a multipattern condensor, having a dynamic mic around would be good. An SM 57? RE/PL20? Something versatile like a 441? Or one of those Heil mics everyone here likes?

What about a small diaphragm condensor? Oktava, MXL, etc?

Don't obsess about cables. That's one of those incremental changes that will give you the last .675% of the song's quality. Also, balanced mic cables are pretty impervious to length issues. The difference between a 20' and 30' mic cable should be imperceptible.

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Post by eeldip » Thu Nov 23, 2006 8:48 am

yea, jeez you really have everything you need. i would plunk down $100-$200 for a nice dynamic mic and start making your record.

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Post by syrupcore » Thu Nov 23, 2006 9:53 am

if you have a little bit of extra cash before making a purchase, maybe rent a few good mics and see which one makes you happy first?

totally agree on a 57 and an amp - you'll get tons of new sounds from you keyboards. I've been trolling portland craigslist lately and have seen a ton of decent ones cheap. and if you go that route, a passive DI for reamping is a worthy 60 bucks.

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Post by Bodoc » Sat Nov 25, 2006 7:42 pm

Kel-audio hm-1's. A condenser mic of choice for a variety of uses (particularly to tame unruly high end).
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Post by dirk_v » Sun Nov 26, 2006 1:46 am

syrupcore wrote:if you have a little bit of extra cash before making a purchase, maybe rent a few good mics and see which one makes you happy first?.
Definitely a good idea to rent if possible. Try out a few mics for a small percentage of their cost, and decide what you like. My local music shop has always been fatastic about letting me rent what I want to, and 75% of the time, I end up buying the item. Of course, it doesn't help that they let me roll paid rent into the cost of purchase, but hey, they know I'm weak...

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Beginning mics

Post by AudioJunky » Sun Nov 26, 2006 3:30 pm

Find a cheap Sm57 on craigslist.. or an AT4033. I LOVE my AT4033 over an SM57 or my AT3035 anyday. I found my AT4033 on craigslist in another state for about $200.

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Post by The Scum » Sun Nov 26, 2006 4:21 pm

I'd advise that you keep you nose to the ground and get a handful of interesting (not necessairly expensive) mics. Learn for yourself what the differences are.

Then set them up and learn what they're good for, and which ones you prefer. Thay've all got a little different character, and a large part of recording real instruments is learning which mic to put where. So spend some time getting to know them. There are times a 57 works as a vocal mic, and times it doesn''s a good start for the slightly distorted John Lennon tone.

Keep you eyes on Craigslist, Ebay, Music go Round, pawn and thrift shops, etc, and snap up bargains whan you find them. I'd watch for old EV, Shure and AKG dynamic mics, "bullet" mics from whatever manufacturer, and Crown/Realistic PZMs. They'll all crop up for under $50 each, and you can build some variety without breaking the bank. I think you're already covered for condensers...unless you want a stereo pair.

Then take them home and test drive them. When I get a new mic, I like to set it up using a "t-bar" next to some other mic I know better, to make it easy to audition with a known reference...if you put them to separate tracks in Cubase, you can come back for a listening test sometime after the tracking, with fresh ears. Figure out what you've got, and what you're missing.

Rentals are cool, too. You can get a Neumann for a day and see just how much difference it makes for you. Keep in mind that a KM84 is very different from a U47 is very different from a U87...

After a while, you'll have an idea of what's working and what's not. If something just never turns you on, flip it. And if somethig really grabs you, get a second one, so you can use them in stereo!

And get several mic cables, each long enough for your regular duty. If you want to record in the bathroom, you can always daisy chain them. A long headphone cable will prove valuable as well. I've got 4 50 footers (yeah, 200 feet!) that have been daisy chained for that sort of experimentation before.
A recording amp is an option; feel free to recommend that as well.
For electric guitars, I strongly prefer the sound of a real tube amp. The newish tweed Peavey and Fender tube amps aren't bad.

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