Looking for a good but inexpensive mic

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Looking for a good but inexpensive mic

Postposted on Fri Jul 12, 2013 7:23 pm

I have been asked to do some voice acting for some Skyrim mods and my elcheapo desk mic is not going to cut it. I am looking for decent sound at a decent price. What I have now came as a freebie with a computer system I bought at least 15 years ago, probably longer. It works good enough for Mumble or some other voice chat but picks up too much noise to be useful doing voice overs. I have been told to forget headsets and lapel mics because they have issues with not sounding good or picking up noise when you move.
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Re: Looking for a good but inexpensive mic

Postposted on Fri Jul 12, 2013 9:06 pm

For the best sound, you basically want a large diaphragm condenser mic with a cardio pattern, a stand, windscreen, and an isolation room.

Here are a couple that plug into USB ports. Anything else and you're going to need a lot a more gear.

MXL USB-006 Powered Condenser Microphone (This actually comes with everything except the quiet room.)
http://www.wwbw.com/MXL-USB-006-Powered ... 69096.wwbw

Nady USB-1C USB Condenser Microphone
http://www.wwbw.com/Nady-USB-1C-USB-Con ... 24591.wwbw

CAD U37 USB Condenser Microphone
http://www.wwbw.com/CAD-U37-USB-Condens ... 99956.wwbw
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Re: Looking for a good but inexpensive mic

Postposted on Fri Jul 12, 2013 9:31 pm

Flatland, what's your opinion of the Blue Snowball? That's what I've been using for Ventrilo. Like everything about it except for the overall size and it's height, but it's sensitive enough to be put relatively out of the way.
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Re: Looking for a good but inexpensive mic

Postposted on Fri Jul 12, 2013 9:43 pm

Flatland_Spider wrote:For the best sound, you basically want a large diaphragm condenser mic with a cardio pattern, a stand, windscreen, and an isolation room...


Wow, those are cheap if they come with a stand, windscreen, AND isolation room! :P

Just funnin' with ya. :)

To the OP; if you don't have an audio interface (with preamp) already that you could plug a "real" mic into (I kid, I kid...USB mics are indeed "real"!), then these USB choices might work well for you. And Spider's right, a large diaphragm condenser mic with a cardio pattern would be what you want. A tabletop stand with boom might be adequate for your needs if you have room on your computer desk. Otherwise, they make floor-standing booms. I have at least two "traditional vocalist's" stands and one monster overhead boom that allows me to drop a mic from above; good for setting up a room mike or recording a violin (which is held higher off the floor than a guitar, and also faces upward and forward from the player if standing up).

Note that a good microphone will pick up EVERYTHING. The room ambiance, fingers sliding on strings, binding horn valves or slides, air conditioning, ceiling fans that have just been oiled, the crickets or locusts outdoors, frogs in the night, the kids playing in the swimming pool three houses down, the performer's clothing-on-clothing or bodily noises, and even those little clicks and slurps we all make with our mouths subconsciously. You name it, your mic will hear it. And that's the fun part!

As for room ambiance, your room may have too much "echo" in it, especially if you have a lot of hard surfaces (or worse yet, an empty room with only a few hard surfaces and no "soft" ones. A person mixing or mastering the audio can almost always add reverb, but it's difficult/impossible to reduce/remove it, hence Spider's mention of an isolation room. You may luck out and find a room in your house that already has a low and pleasant ambiance. I had some friends who recorded vocals for their CD in their living room because it was "just live enough" to have a good vibe for vocals.

In lieu of an isolation room, sometimes a fully stocked walk-in clothes closet will serve nicely to deaden the sound for a single performer. My master bedroom's walk-in closet is directly on the other side of one wall of my recording studio, and it's just big enough for a single person with a guitar, violin, or horn, music stand, barstool, and microphone boom. One of these days, I just may drill a small hole big enough to poke a microphone cable into there... :D

Good luck; it sounds like you're gonna have some fun voice-acting!

Tharp: I know you asked Spider...but I like the concept of the Snowball; I just haven't heard one yet. Actually, I like the concept of all mics from Blue. :D
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Re: Looking for a good but inexpensive mic

Postposted on Fri Jul 12, 2013 10:01 pm

For my streaming setup I bought a C-1 Behringer and it works quite well, just as the reviews on Amazon note, very cost effective (cardio pattern is what you want).

http://www.amazon.com/Behringer-C-1-Stu ... 000CZ0RLK/

Stand:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0087UPRMQ/

Mixer to USB, also includes phantompower for the microphone (condenser mics need phantom power unless they're self powered):

http://www.amazon.com/Behringer-302USB- ... B005EHILV4

You'd need a XLR cable too, you can find those on monoprice:

http://www.monoprice.com/products/subde ... id=1150902


I personally wouldn't get a all in one USB thing as you can't swap out a mic if you ever want a better one without replacing the whole thing. Really good microphones wont be all-in-one too, so you'll end up having to buy a setup to support them. Plus it's cooler having a mixer.

I personally don't own the mixer board. I have a NADY SMP phantom power adapter and my Auzentech Forte accepts balanced inputs from that. I own the stand and the mic though.

Blue Yetis are often recommended though for AIOs. I've also heard the snowball being recommended a few different times. There used to be a giant thread on this stuff on teamliquid I believe, but I can't find it anymore.
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Re: Looking for a good but inexpensive mic

Postposted on Fri Jul 12, 2013 10:33 pm

Hey mate,
I have the Blue Snowball and its fine if absolute quality isn't worth paying a bit more for. I don't use it for recording at all I just liked the look of it (I have a white desk) and needed something to skype with. Its served me well and sounds fine for my purposes.
If its a quality result you're after I would stick to manufacturers who play in the sound recording world rather than something off brand but its not something I have a lot of experience with directly. I know someone that had good things to report about the AKG 120 USB desk mic which comes with stand but if it was an absolute quality argument I would probably lean towards a good USB mic pre amp and a sennheiser voice cardio mic which was in the right price range. Check out B&H online shop.
No point in limiting it to usb, who knows maybe having a XLR mic might come in handy in the future.
Also environment and position are going to do more for the quality of the recording than an expensive mic. Someone else mentioned that Team Liquid thread, I can't find the link but I've read it. Probably worth checking out.
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Re: Looking for a good but inexpensive mic

Postposted on Mon Jul 15, 2013 2:05 am

Yup, I think there are actually a lot of really good mics out there, it all comes down to personal preference once you get a nice setup. I recommended the C-1 cause it's cheap and it works fine, but there are tons of mics to choose from and most aren't terrible (just read the Amazon reviews). You just have to get the setup to go from XLR to the computer (like with the mixer board I linked).

USB mics are convenient, but if you decide in the future you want a more expensive mic or even something exotic like a ribbon mic, you can't do it.
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Re: Looking for a good but inexpensive mic

Postposted on Mon Jul 15, 2013 5:07 am

If you're going to go pro, get a pro mike. For pure vocal work the best starting point is a Shure SM58. You'll need an XLR mic preamp as well.

It helps that the things are indestructible (ask Roger Daltrey).
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Re: Looking for a good but inexpensive mic

Postposted on Tue Jul 16, 2013 7:56 am

Airmantharp wrote:Flatland, what's your opinion of the Blue Snowball? That's what I've been using for Ventrilo. Like everything about it except for the overall size and it's height, but it's sensitive enough to be put relatively out of the way.


Blue has a reputation for making good stuff. I don't have any experience with their products, since they tend to be on the expensive side, but I've heard good things about their products.

BIF wrote:As for room ambiance, your room may have too much "echo" in it, especially if you have a lot of hard surfaces (or worse yet, an empty room with only a few hard surfaces and no "soft" ones. A person mixing or mastering the audio can almost always add reverb, but it's difficult/impossible to reduce/remove it, hence Spider's mention of an isolation room. You may luck out and find a room in your house that already has a low and pleasant ambiance. I had some friends who recorded vocals for their CD in their living room because it was "just live enough" to have a good vibe for vocals.

In lieu of an isolation room, sometimes a fully stocked walk-in clothes closet will serve nicely to deaden the sound for a single performer. My master bedroom's walk-in closet is directly on the other side of one wall of my recording studio, and it's just big enough for a single person with a guitar, violin, or horn, music stand, barstool, and microphone boom. One of these days, I just may drill a small hole big enough to poke a microphone cable into there... :D


I've had a couple of living rooms are awesome for recording vocals, guitars, and bass. :) I happened to like recording drums in a garages better, but drums in the living room gave them a interesting staccato effect.

Rooms with carpet are a good starting spots for a makeshift isolation room. If you don't have carpet, put some thick rugs down.

Plush furniture is also good. The angles of the furniture break up the sound waves, and the plushness absorbs sound as well.

To take care of the walls, hang some rugs or put up some egg crate foam. Mattresses also work well. Put a mattress in front of a window or just against a wall.

Think of sound waves as rubber superballs bouncing around, and you'll get a good idea about what your trying to do.

Bensam123 wrote:I have a NADY SMP phantom power adapter


How is that working for you? I saw that, and I saw the one person on Amazon that reviewed it wasn't very happy with it.

Bensam123 wrote:Mixer to USB, also includes phantompower for the microphone (condenser mics need phantom power unless they're self powered):

http://www.amazon.com/Behringer-302USB- ... B005EHILV4


How many tracks is that, two, and do they show up separately?

CityEater wrote:No point in limiting it to usb, who knows maybe having a XLR mic might come in handy in the future.


The XLR probably won't come in handy unless the OP gets really serious about recording. The USB will be more handy since there is less equipment to deal with, and most people can handle plugging something into a USB port.

Even then, the OP will probably want to get a recoding interface to record multiple tracks, and it will probably be USB like the Alesis one below.

Alesis iO4 4-Channel 24-Bit Recording Interface
http://www.wwbw.com/Alesis-iO4-4-Channe ... 28024.wwbw

Captain Ned wrote:If you're going to go pro, get a pro mike. For pure vocal work the best starting point is a Shure SM58. You'll need an XLR mic preamp as well.

It helps that the things are indestructible (ask Roger Daltrey).


Dynamic mics like the SM58 are good live mics. They can handle high sound levels, and they are super durable. However, condensers are going to be much more sensitive, which makes more sense in this setting.
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Re: Looking for a good but inexpensive mic

Postposted on Tue Jul 16, 2013 8:18 am

If he's not in a acoustically treated room (and in some use cases, even if he is), I think the SM58 is a great choice. It won't pick up all the natural sound of the room, and room noise is what makes a recording sound cheap. I've got an Audix i5 that I use for certain things particularly at home because my home isn't treated. A lot of the sound gets absorbed by my furniture, but if my mic placement isn't perfect I still get that room ring.

If you're going to go condenser and you're not going to treat your room, make sure the farthest wall is behind you to help mitigate as much of the room sound as possible.

You could do a whole lot worse than a Focusrite 2i2 interface and an i5 or SM58. There's even a USB version of the SM58, which is just the XLR version with an XLR cable and a USB mic preamp, and that by itself might be sufficient. Just be sure to screen it somehow, because you're going to be right up close to it. I have a screw-on pop filter that attaches right to my mic stand and it does a great job.
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Re: Looking for a good but inexpensive mic

Postposted on Tue Jul 16, 2013 8:26 am

Good and inexpensive? You might just start by heading to a music store and see if they have any used ones, and especially if they do, someone there is likely to give you some advice as well.

The other thoughts I am seeing is sound supression in the room, and this is something you should consider regardless of what mic you end up with. A simple solution might be to set yourself up with curtains around you and your mic. That's a pretty cheap way to supress external sounds and eliminate reverb.
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Re: Looking for a good but inexpensive mic

Postposted on Tue Jul 16, 2013 10:15 am

I'll pitch the Zoom H1:
For US$99 you get a portable stereo recorder that runs on one AA battery,
includes a 2 GB card,
has a standard 1/4" - 20 thread mount fixture,
plus a headphone / line out jack for live monitoring,
a very natural sound (go check YouTube for any of the mics mentioned in this thread),
and, with a simple drag-and-drop firmware update file, can be used as a USB microphone.

I haven't personally experienced the H1, but I do use their R16 mixer / recorder which has built in, purportedly, the same electret pick-ups as the H1. In my opinion, the R16's built-in mics are clear and more than serviceable for impromptu vocal or instrumental recording. Perhaps I should do a direct comparison between the electrets and an XLR microphone.
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Re: Looking for a good but inexpensive mic

Postposted on Tue Jul 16, 2013 12:40 pm

A Blue Snowball will probably be fine unless you want to be serious ... if you DO want to be serious, you will look to start with a SM57 (a SM58 is a SM57 with an integrated windscreen popfilter, but unfortunately this changes the audio in a way that most recording people do not like. These are the #1 and #2 selling pro Mics, though I believe the 57 probably commands a considerable lead)

Once you have the mic, you will also need a pre-amp and probably a USB one, since even though the OUTPUT from the onboard is probably fine, the inputs are still often a bit too noisy. Oddly the Blue Icicle is the cheapest reasonable solution that I'm aware of. I have one and the quality is plenty acceptable.

Just the step up from cheap crap to a Blue Snowball is going to be like going from VHS to DVD. Going to a real mic like a SM57 is going to be like DVD to Blu-Ray, some people it will seem like a crazy awesome step and many others will hardly notice the difference.
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Re: Looking for a good but inexpensive mic

Postposted on Tue Jul 16, 2013 12:45 pm

Experience: I have a degree in audio engineering. And it is my passion. =]

These guys are absolutely correct, a large diaphragm condenser is the way to go. Get a large diaphragm condenser with an XLR output, not USB or 1/8th inch or anything like that. And, as others have said, you'll need something to provide phantom power to the microphone, and something to act as an interface to your computer.

Microphones heavily fall into the area of diminishing returns. A $50 large diaphragm condenser is significantly better than a headset or lapel mic. A $200 large diaphragm condenser mic is better, but not "4x" better. An $800 version is better still, but the difference is subtle. And a $2,000 version is better still, but again, the difference is subtle.

Behringer, Nady, and MXL are all bargain basement brands. But they can get the job done. I'd say avoid Nady, but if you're on a budget, Behringer or MXL should work fine for your needs. If you have a bit bigger budget, the R0de NT1-A is a great mic for ~$230. Or one of the cheaper options from ADK could be great too.

By "isolation room", don't go crazy. You need a quiet environment, but closets don't sound good. And anyone who tells you to the contrary is misinformed (unless the only other option is a bathroom, for example). Closets can be a necessary evil if you are recording in a less than quiet environment, but large rooms sound better. If you live in a quiet house or apartment, for the love of donuts, don't record in the closet, and please don't start hanging egg-cartons or blankets on the walls (too thin to be effective, an eye-sore, and a fire hazard to boot). Turn off your AC, keep the microphone in a different room than your computer or anything with fans, and record when no one else is around to make noise.

If you're mildly serious about sounding good/professional, buy the Portable Vocal Booth made by Real Traps. It costs $300, and it provides 80% of the benefit of a a room fully treated with absorption. (Watch demonstrations on Youtube if you don't believe me, the effectiveness is startling.) Placing a large diaphragm condenser in the middle and speaking into it sounds surprisingly good (and much better than the competing brands of these type of products). If you're handy, you could build a product like this for less than $100 using Owens Corning 703 rigid fiberglass, a frame, some hinges, and some breathable cloth. A poor man's version of this would be to position some pillows or couch cushions as if they are the Portable Vocal Booth's walls. Thick pillows and and couch cushions that are fabric covered (not leather) are definitely the best. (And, of course, a rich man's version of the Portable Vocal Booth is to build a room without parallel surfaces with triple-thick sheetrock walls, and to cover >75% of the walls and ceiling with absorption and diffusion deep enough to be effective to low frequencies. If you spend more than $20,000 to go this route, I sincerely hope your fellow Skyrim modders appreciate it. :D )

Something I don't believe the others mentioned (unless I missed it) is headphones for recording. You need something isolating, so the microphone doesn't pick up what you're hearing in your headphones. Earbuds and most over-the-ear headphones won't work well for this at all. If you have in-ear monitor headphones (that have dual or triple rubber flanges and look like ear plugs), that could work well. Or some large headphones that are closed-back or sealed, as you often see in studios. Most large headphones seem to be semi-closed-back and don't provide great isolation, so whatever you hear in your headphones while recording will be somewhat picked up by your microphone. Most of the world's best sounding headphones are open-backed and leak a substantial amount of noise. But you need closed-back headphones for recording. I've seen lots of people use the Sony MDR7506 for $80, and the Sennheiser HD 280 for $100 is popular too. Or, if you're on a budget like me, order the MoreMe headphones. They're butt-ugly and don't sound the best, but they are durable, very isolating, and dirt cheap ($22). Perfect for recording. Mine came in the mail yesterday. :D

Good luck. Drop me a line if you need any help picking out products or building absorption. And let us know when the mod is ready!
Last edited by LukeCWM on Tue Jul 16, 2013 12:54 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Looking for a good but inexpensive mic

Postposted on Tue Jul 16, 2013 12:50 pm

I don't recommend the SM57/SM58 mics others have mentioned. They are dynamic mics, not condensers: they won't pick up the subtleties as well, and they won't sound as naturally crisp. Dynamic mics are durable and a great choice for live bands. And the SM57 is a wonderfully versatile mic for guitar cabs, snare drums, kick drums, and many less-than-delicate instruments. But you want something more precise for voice-acting, so go with a large diaphragm condenser.
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Re: Looking for a good but inexpensive mic

Postposted on Tue Jul 16, 2013 5:15 pm

In a dead room with no noise, a large diaphragm condenser like an AKG C214 or Audio Technica AT4040 is great, but in a home studio with lots of noise, they pickup ALL the noise ... they pick up the fans in your PC, the water gurgling through the pipes in your wall, the noise of the dimmer switch on the wall, the noise of the cat next door, the noise of the cars on your street, and every other noise inbetween.

Very honestly for a home recording environment, I don't think you will beat a SM57 - for male voices specifically, there's been a few comparisons that actually found that the dynamics did the best job: http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jul10/a ... almics.htm - the RE20 and the U47 are actually my main go-to mics professional for recording male voices.
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Re: Looking for a good but inexpensive mic

Postposted on Tue Jul 16, 2013 5:25 pm

It just so happens that Monoprice is running a deal of the day on a Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone with xlr output for $70, shipping not included. I'm not sre how log it's running, but I'd guess until midnight PST.

http://www.monoprice.com/products/produ ... largeimage
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Re: Looking for a good but inexpensive mic

Postposted on Tue Jul 16, 2013 5:43 pm

How much are you willing to spend? How much hassle are you willing to put up with?

To me these are the most important questions. All in one mics aren't pro but if you're not getting paid, unless this is a really serious hobby for you, the idea of spending a few hundred bucks might not make sense.

You don't need a treated room for doing voice work. There are various ways of cutting unwanted sound for a hundred bucks or less (I'll post some when I get more time).

Sure, if money is no object then get a u87 and a prism lyra (or orpheus) and an isobooth - I don't think that's what we're talking about here though. :)
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Re: Looking for a good but inexpensive mic

Postposted on Tue Jul 16, 2013 7:00 pm

Thanks for all the replies. At this point its pretty much a test to see how my voice works in different story line settings. The people I am going to be working with do Skyrim, Fallout, and a few other games mods. Some people that work well with Skyrim scripts fall flat on Fallout because of the different genre of the games.

We tried my old mic and it just picks up too much noise, hence the question I asked about mics. At this point the modders will do the editing and noise reduction filtering. All I need to do is record the scripts they send me. If it goes well I might consider getting better equipement and setting up a dedicated recording area.

Due to health reasons I am stuck at home 90% of the time and this might be something I can do besides read and sit at the computer day in and day out.
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Re: Looking for a good but inexpensive mic

Postposted on Tue Jul 16, 2013 7:25 pm

Khali wrote:Thanks for all the replies. At this point its pretty much a test to see how my voice works in different story line settings. The people I am going to be working with do Skyrim, Fallout, and a few other games mods. Some people that work well with Skyrim scripts fall flat on Fallout because of the different genre of the games.

We tried my old mic and it just picks up too much noise, hence the question I asked about mics. At this point the modders will do the editing and noise reduction filtering. All I need to do is record the scripts they send me. If it goes well I might consider getting better equipement and setting up a dedicated recording area.

Due to health reasons I am stuck at home 90% of the time and this might be something I can do besides read and sit at the computer day in and day out.


It sounds like you could use a better system than the Snowball I'm using, but I'm really replying just to say that what you're doing is badass, and I'd like to see what the results look like :).
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Re: Looking for a good but inexpensive mic

Postposted on Wed Jul 17, 2013 5:14 am

I'd buy a baffle first and see if that will solve your problem. Here's a range (not that I have never shopped this vendor and do not in any way endorse them or have any opinion of them- I generally buy in person) http://www.fullcompass.com/product/419581.html , http://www.fullcompass.com/product/418368.html , http://www.fullcompass.com/product/383744.html , http://www.fullcompass.com/product/341422.html . This may also be a consideration:
http://www.seelectronics.com/greatRFgiveaway

As long as it's relatively angled and cuts reflections you should be ok. A cardioid, super cardioid or hyper cardioid will also help cut down on unwanted noise.

Edited to add: I can speak well of JRRshop.com who I've had several transactions with and are great.
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Re: Looking for a good but inexpensive mic

Postposted on Wed Jul 17, 2013 7:53 am

Khali wrote:Due to health reasons I am stuck at home 90% of the time and this might be something I can do besides read and sit at the computer day in and day out.


Good luck! :)

I hope this works out for you. Recording and sound production is a lot of fun. At least I had a lot of fun recording the band I was in and some others.
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