#1 Posted by RonGalaxy (3165 posts) -

So I'm in the market for a microphone. I'll be using this for recording vocals and acoustic instruments (guitar, ukulele, violin, etc), and other sounds for musical purposes. I know a condenser mic is the way to go, but my main question is whether I should get a usb mic or an xlr mic. I have an m audio m track, which has xlr inputs and 48v phantom power. I'm just curious if there are any benefits to having xlr over usb, or vice versa.

Some actual microphone recommendations would be appreciated as well! Im willing to spend around $100, but if there's a mic that's great for less that would be cool. Most importantly, I'd like it to be flexible for what it can accomplish musically. I know they sell mics for specific situations, but I only have the money to spend on 1 mic.

I'm currently looking at the blue yeti and the audio technica at2020. There's a usb and xlr version for that last mic, and the xlr version is vastly cheaper. Is there a reason for this?

Also, tell me about pop filters! I know what they're for, but Im not sure how much I should be spending on one.

Thanks in advance!!

#2 Posted by jkz (4025 posts) -

If you're looking for a well rounded mic at the price you're talking the MXL V67G is among the most well thought of w/ audio people (I work in music / mixing). I generally would choose an xlr mic since you already have an interface because it'll let you leverage quality preamps to improve noise threshold / clarity and such without the crapshoot that are USB mics (which are generally great for more casual use, such as podcasting, because they're so plug and play).

And get a pop filter, but get a cheap one, and make sure only to use it when needed since it can affect mic tone. By the time you start recognizing the difference in clarity btw a cheap filter and a pricier one, you'll be needing a better mic. Sorry for the short response, I'm on my phone so if you needed more info ill reply when I'm home

#3 Edited by Stonyman65 (2703 posts) -

Sure SM57 for instruments, SM58 for vocals. It's the industry standard. Always go XLR. USB mics suck.

#4 Posted by diz (918 posts) -

I'd get a Rode NT1A - 2nd-hand on eBay or somewhere like that. It would be within your budget and they are great all round recording mics.

USB is for people without decent mic preamps (and phantom power), but you have one of those in your m-audio already. USB mics may be more pricey (when compared to similar XLR budget mics) since the makers would also need to create drivers for them and allow for additional pre-amp circuitry within the USB mic.

Some tights stretched over a metal coat hanger can make a perfectly good pop shield, so don't go over-board on getting anything too fancy. The main function of a pop shield is to reduce breath from affecting the capsule but to allow the sound through. Mesh grilles or foam can also be used since they are relatively acoustically transparent.

#5 Posted by RonGalaxy (3165 posts) -

@jkz: You answered all the questions I had and that mic you recommended looks really sexy. Gonna look into it a bit more. Thanks!

Sure SM57 for instruments, SM58 for vocals. It's the industry standard. Always go XLR. USB mics suck.

I've heard that's the most ideal setup, but I dont have the money to buy 2 100 dollar mics, sadly. I might still consider the SM57 because I've heard it's not terrible for recording vocals and its great for everything else.

#6 Edited by Zelyre (1193 posts) -

I have a Rode NT1A. I love that thing. It's very versatile and sounds wonderful.

@diz said:

I'd get a Rode NT1A - 2nd-hand on eBay or somewhere like that. It would be within your budget and they are great all round recording mics.

#7 Edited by jkz (4025 posts) -

@narujoe93: Bueno. And having used both, I find the Rode NT1A a bit hyped in the high-mids/highs, where the MXL is flatter, but can occasionally come across as a bit dark / warm with a slight scoop in the mids. But the distinction is really minor. They're both really good, affordable, "all-round" mics (as much as any mic can be that). I prefer the flatter sound of the V67g, but that hype in the highs can come across as sharpness / clarity (in a positive way) to some people, and I know a good number who swear by the NT1A when it comes to budget mics, if not quite as many as the MXL.

*Edited because Damodar's totally right. I'd never used an sm58 but apparently they're totally identical aside from the screen. I feel educated. Also, worth noting that at the end of the day, ANY of these mics will serve you well. People do a lot of hemming and hawing over microphones, but at the end of the day a good $100 mic (which all of those listed are), used by someone who learns proper mic technique and knows what to do with the recording they get, will stand up to anyone with a $6000 german mic who relies on the microphone itself to make all the difference. In other words, you'll do good with any of these

#8 Edited by Damodar (1386 posts) -

My understanding is that the SM-57 and SM-58 are exactly the same microphone with a different windscreen. They are dynamic mics though. They can do a fine enough job with the purposes you're after, but the things you specify and the vocal styles that would normally be associated with those instruments would benefit from the extra transient detail of a condenser, so I think you're on the right path there.

The NT1A is quite a good option for something on the cheaper side.

Having said that, if you're going to end up having a bunch of this sort of gear, having an SM-57 in your kit is really good. They're total workhorses, really very versatile. They excel at guitar amps, rock vocalists etc but you can put one to just about anything.

All my own personal opinion, obviously.

As far as a pop filter goes, stretching pantyhose over a wire coathanger is a good way to make one on the cheap.

#9 Edited by diz (918 posts) -

The Shure is a good mic without a doubt - industry standard (for live) and all; but condensers like the Rode and MXL do give better results for recording - especially acoustic instruments as requested. The reasons are because of increased sensitivity, lower noise threshold and wider and flatter frequency response.

The Shure is obviously better in live applications though, being less sensitive (for reduced feedback), sturdier and of a cardoid design that does not require phantom power. They are different microphone concepts to condensers though, and they excel in different areas.

I have a Rode NT1A and also a Sontronics STC-2 that I got quite cheap in a deal (where they threw in an STC-80 cardoid for free). I was doubtful that the deal was too good to be true, but both Sontronics mics are very good indeed. Another really cheap (electret) condenser mic (I also have) is the Behringer ECM8000 - which is really a room EQ measurement mic, but has a wide frequency response that is as flat as a pancake, is cheap as chips and also good for recording things.

#10 Posted by RonGalaxy (3165 posts) -

So I've decided to go with the shure sm57, but I have a question. Does it come with an XLR cable, or will I need to buy one separately?

#11 Posted by Sinusoidal (1474 posts) -

The SM57 will not come with an XLR cable unless the place you get it from gives you one for free or something.

You'll be OK with an SM57, but you really would be better off with a condenser microphone for the instruments you mentioned. Especially ukulele and violin since they are both fairly quiet instruments. The AT2020 you talked about is decent. The reason the non-usb version is so much cheaper is that it doesn't contain the hardware that the usb version does. USB condenser mics are basically microphones with a sound card built in.

#12 Posted by RonGalaxy (3165 posts) -

The SM57 will not come with an XLR cable unless the place you get it from gives you one for free or something.

You'll be OK with an SM57, but you really would be better off with a condenser microphone for the instruments you mentioned. Especially ukulele and violin since they are both fairly quiet instruments. The AT2020 you talked about is decent. The reason the non-usb version is so much cheaper is that it doesn't contain the hardware that the usb version does. USB condenser mics are basically microphones with a sound card built in.

I've heard condenser mics are affected more by outside noise/vibrations, so I decided to go with a dynamic mic, and the sm57 seems like the most widely used and highly regarded one.