I’d like to buy a microphone, I’d like to buy only one microphone.
Basically I’m looking for something to use at home in less than ideal conditions (it’s very noisy where I live due to being able to see most of the city of Bath out the window). The primary purpose of the microphone is ‘mischief making’, e.g. recording sounds around the house (or out the window) and then messing them up on the computer / modular. It would be nice to be able to use it for spoken and a bit of singing too.
I did (very briefly) have an SM58 in the house, when I recorded my voice there were a lot of pops (possibly user error). At the moment I’m thinking an SM57 plus an A81WS windshield would give me decent options for fun things to do. I’m led to believe that a dynamic mic is less sensitive and thus better in noisy environments.
Dynamic mics are easy certainly. Personally, I DETEST SM57s, and I don’t care what any old grizzled rock and roll recording veteran has to say about how it plus a Marshall is THE sound of rock and roll, but if it works for you, cool.
Consider an SM7 instead, although you’ll need a lot of gain in your preamp. The Beyer TG88 is better than both probably; also M201 I think, IIRC.
For detailed pickup of found sound, I’d really point you towards a condenser, but that introduces other factors such as phantom power, and moisture induced crackling if you’re using this in a less than ideal environment.
EDIT: if you’re recording in really noisy places, you might also consider looking at a mic with a hypercardioid pattern, to help get yourself a little more rejection of background noise.
why not buy a handheld recorder instead? They come with powered condenser mics and will give you very decent quality recordings these days.
I’ve had success with pencil mics of the rode nt5 kind, cardioid so don’t pick up much noise from behind, but they do require phantom power. I quite like miniature omnis for spot recording, getting really close to source, or going outside and recording discreet binaural ambiences, more often they take plug-in-power - far lower voltage. Microphone Madness seem to have built a business on those, their quieter special editions are nice (sennheiser mke-2 capsules in the ones I got) and work great with a handheld recorder.
Condensers have less pronounced proximity effect. Large diaphragm condensers sound full and deep, but are a bit of a hassle to mount and power. The small diaphragm ones deal with transients better though sound a bit thin.
Senheiser make a nice dynamic - md421 - which gets many mentions for being versatile and sounding good. Shure sm57 too. I’d try an ElectroVoice RE in any case, and keep Beyerdynamic and Audio-Technica in mind at all times.
I have a MOTU 828mk3, SPL Crimson and an Alesis Multimix 12R. They can all supply phantom power.
The SM7 is too expensive for something that I’m only really looking to fool around with a bit. I’ll add the others to the list.
I have thought about it, but I think I’d like the flexibility of a more traditional mic. Also, an XLR seems like it will have more longevity (e.g buy it now, use it for the next 20 years). I’ll add your suggestions to the list.
Do condenser mics need more babying? I really only want to buy one mic, and preferably something that I don’t feel the need to look after too much (either because it needs careful setup, or it’s too expensive).
Sam, you’ve got the mic amps covered then. For the record, not all phantom power is created equal, but what you’ve got is fine.
Condensers don’t necessarily need babying per se, although I wouldn’t go lobbing a C12 at anyone any time soon…
…just the SM 57.
If the SM7 is out of your budget, then you probably ought to skip looking at condensers–they tend to be more expensive at any given level of quality. The Sennheiser MD421 was a good suggestion too, as was the EV RE20. All of these larger capsule dynamics being mentioned tend to be staples of studio broadcast work, and are well appreciated. I just don’t know if they’re going to have the sensitivity and detail you might be wanting for what you want.
Ach…then again…you know what? Who cares? Get what you can afford and have fun. No rules. You can get a 57 for under a hundred bucks. Do that!
My first microphone was a Sony F25 with a mini jack. That thing was obtained with an half broken reel to reel of the same brand.
I used it with a mini disc walkman as my only recording device for years. Did some “noise collecting” around the house, some hidden concert, a few interviews, my singing voice, and a few field recordings. Of course the quality was sub-optimal, but the results were “useable” somehow, not that they ended in any professional production, but they existed.
The greatest aspect of that rig was that it was mobile.
All that to say, if you want to experiment the fun of collecting sounds, i would go with @eesn suggestion to buy a handheld recorder. Even a cheap one. If you enjoy using it, you will be bitten by that variation of the modular-synth-virus and will end up with quality gear and dozens of mics eventually.
My first microphone was an SM58… Purchased it when I was a teenager and screaming in a punk band for about a hundred bucks twelve years ago. I have recorded with it so many times I can’t even begin to count (though I’ve probably dropped it more times) and still use it for live-sampling instruments. This year, I’ve even recorded vocals on it for acoustic musician-friends with satisfactory results even though it’s diaphragm’s all crushed-in and partially coated with paint. I’ve got other microphone’s now, but I really don’t think you can go wrong with one SM Fifty-Something in your collection.
They do, I’m afraid, though not that much. Broadcast condenser mics for instance can take a beating, but their cost is somewhat higher. In any case, you can’t hammer nails with a condenser mic the same way you can with an SM58.
You cannot go wrong with an SM57. I think all microphones are limited in their application, a bit like camera lenses.
Sensitivity/output level is quite different on dynamic vs condenser (md421 = 2mV/Pa, ev-re320 = 2.5mV/Pa, condenser mic chart here). My first mic was a seriously noisy and low quality electret, I won’t even name it (1mV/Pa); used it with a minidisc and still took a fair number of inspiring recordings that ended up on finished tracks. Out in the street a beaten SM58 makes speech recordings decent enough to air on radio. In any case, the sensitivity / output level will probably determine your choice. I’ve settled on Sony PCM-M10 - a fantastic handheld recorder, great sensitive built-in mics, and I also use it with a variety of external mics directly (Sennheiser MKE-2, Røde NTG-2, any dynamic), or it takes a preamp via line-in when the quality demands are higher (e.g. BP4025 for ambiences). Condensers in the field absolutely need windshields of the shell+fur type.
A good mic will last you a long time. Have a think about what kind of sounds you might be after at first. Loud sounds work well with dynamic mics; for everything else dynamics require quiet preamps, and delicate sounds tend to be out of reach. Ambiences need 2+ channels, usually condenser capsules, and the pattern ends up colouring the recording, especially with moving sources.
I would definitely check out the Electrovoice 635ND and Beyerdynamic M59 - EV have a wonderful comparison on youtube, and you might also like this blind test (answers here). TIL SM57 and SM58 share the same capsule.
This is a bit of an oddball suggestion:
Electro-Voice 635a. It’s an omni dynamic that I’ve used on a wide variety of sources to great effect. Sax, voice, flute, drum room and more! You can get them new or used for not too much money. I’ve got 2 pretty battered ones from what looks like the good old days that still work great.
I just went through a microphone selection process here after being out of the microphone game for a long time. unequivocally: RE20. the SM7, I was informed, is just the same capsule as the 57 and yeah, in my use (pres were Syteks) the SM7 is fine, good even, maybe even better than the 57. but the RE20 is just magic. no exaggerated proximity effect and with the roll off engaged, a flawless vocal mic for just about anybody. with the roll off unengaged, the low end is kind of incredible. present but not booming. I got an AT 3035 at the same time and have a borrowed M88 that I didn’t even take out, the RE20 was immediately the winner. the 3035 is peaky and sheeny, I like it but it’s specific. I do want to try a 4050, to see what AT’s top tier starts to get into.
at the same price as a sm57/58, the audix i5 is an interesting option. It’s smoother in the high end, has a bit more high frequency extension altogether, and has less of that gnarly sm57 bite (I’m not a fan of 57s at all tho they’re beloved on guitar cabs cos folks often want that bite specifically). If I were recording everything “and the kitchen sink” (and everything that can be thrown in the kitchen sink etc) on the cheap it’d be a definitely-consider option. As @soysos said, eq’s yer friend when approaching dynamics