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Dec 28, 2022 - 10:39:02 AM
364 posts since 6/3/2016

I'm trying to improve my modest recording setup at home. Part of that is getting a higher gain audio interface. I have a Presonus Audiobox USB 96, which has been great, especially for the price. But it only has 35 dB of mic gain, which is not enough for the dynamic microphone I've been using. So I ordered a Steinberg UR22C, which has a max gain of 60 dB for the mic inputs (54 dB for the high impedance input).

The other thing I want to do is buy a small-diameter condenser mic. There are good discussions on condenser mics in the archives (for example this one: https://www.fiddlehangout.com/archive/27774). But my question is really what can you buy in late December 2022 for a budget of $200.

I care about low frequency response more than most people would as I'm about to own two octave fiddles, so I want a flat response down to 98 Hz.

Without doing a lot of research, two options that I am considering are the Rode M3 and the Audio-Technica PRO 37, and I am leaning towards the AT PRO 37. That said, both of those have a lower response around 100 Hz. The Rode M3 has an 80 Hz filter, presumably for line noise.

Is there anything else I should consider in this price range?

Dec 28, 2022 - 11:21:34 AM
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6135 posts since 9/26/2008

I have the pro 37 and it was good in a live setting. Weve since switched to a single large diaphragm mic for live shows but the 37 served me well for over a decade.

Dec 28, 2022 - 1:53:25 PM
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Swing

USA

2264 posts since 6/26/2007

Look at this company, you can talk directly with the designer on the products.... myerspickups.com/pickups/the-f...er-series

Play Happy

Swing

Dec 28, 2022 - 2:43:38 PM
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DougD

USA

11095 posts since 12/2/2007
Online Now

I think the two microphones you mentioned are good choices, but I'd also consider the NT5 from Rode, just a little more expensive, and the NT3, a little more yet. Also, similarly priced options from Shure, AKG, and maybe Sennheiser are worth a look.
I've used the PRO37 and thought it was pretty good, although maybe a little bright. I have no experience with Rode, but an engineer whose opinion I respected told me he was pleased with their stereo mic (but then I know another engineer who likes the $50/pair Behringer mics!).
I don't think you need to worry about the low end of any of these mics. The PRO37 and M3 both have response down to 30Hz or so. The problem is more in the upper mids. Many mics today have a "presence peak" around 3 to 5 KHz, which is exactly what you don't need. This is especially true for large diaphragm condensers. But I have a pair of AT3035's, made in Japan in champagne finish that I bought when they were being discontinued, that are quite flat. The current version is the Chinese made, black 2035, and I don't know how they are.
Look at the frequency response and try the mic would be my advice.

Dec 28, 2022 - 4:05:39 PM
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3251 posts since 9/13/2009

Seems lke lot's of reasonable good options under $200, even might get matched pair or can find LDC/SDC bundle.

AKG P170 Project Studio Condenser Microphone | Guitar Center Caught my eye ar $69.

This one looks interesting as well, at $149, but as modeling mic and few more features. Antelope Audio Edge Note Small-Diaphragm Condenser Modeling Microphone | Guitar Center

I have been using some Sterling Audio matched pair SL230; which I got for about $120. (they also have a LDC and SDC package for about same price)

Two mics lot of my friends really like, and I like the sound they got;  
Lewitt LCT 040. ($199 for matched pair, or can buy single $99); 
sE Electronics sE7 (which are just slightly more expensive, $215 for matched pair).

--------------

FWIW, for other folks on budget, might also consider AT2020. It's under $100; and as many YT channels point out it's maybe one of the best bang for buck. Despite it's looks, it's not a LDC; it's only got a 16mm diameter; not quite a SDC. (there are other mics that fall in this somewhat middle). As well it can be later modded/upgraded AT2020 Microphone Mod Kit – Microphone-Parts.com

Dec 28, 2022 - 4:34:10 PM
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DougD

USA

11095 posts since 12/2/2007
Online Now

Probably some good options there. I have an AT 2020 which came as a "freebie" with a Presonus interface. I didn't think I needed another condenser microphone (and I didn't) but I was very impressed with it. Surprisingly good build quality, and I think very good sound for vocals and guitar. Not sure about fiddle, but if I were a singer/songwriter this would deserve a close listen.
I would say that I think if you buy something from a well known company, it might have a better resale value if you tire of it. Which is not to say there aren't others out on the cutting edge - you just need to know where that is!

Dec 28, 2022 - 5:48:48 PM

364 posts since 6/3/2016

Thanks for all the good information! I think the final decision is largely going to depend on how much I'm willing to spend.

Regarding the AT 2020, I didn't mention it, but it is also on my list because a friend has used one for over a decade he said. He lent me his old one, which is the AT 2020 USB version. The mount won't fit in my stand, but I was able to record something with it. I definitely like the price. The nice thing about something like that is it's easier to justify as a general household expense as opposed to an Ernie fiddle expense.

Dec 28, 2022 - 5:54:32 PM
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JonD

USA

134 posts since 2/12/2021

Have you checked out the used market? Some risks there of course, but I've generally had good luck getting more mic for less $ that way. Some examples that might be your price range would be the Shure SM-81 (a classic) or an Crown CM-700 (if you can find one) or an Octava MK-12.

Since stereo pairs were mentioned, a used Rode NT4 can be had for well under $400 right now. That may not be what you're looking for / out of your price range, but it has some advantages including ability to use as a location mic plugged into a Zoom recorder (see m.youtube.com/watch?v=Vynl0AXPqiw). I really like the NT4 sound, not crispy crunchy at all (the trio that I posted here earlier was recorded on one of these as an overhead).

Edited by - JonD on 12/28/2022 18:05:41

Dec 28, 2022 - 6:11:50 PM
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Jeff Y

USA

4 posts since 7/25/2021

you might check out mics from Remic and Meyer. both are around 200.

Dec 28, 2022 - 6:34:57 PM

3251 posts since 9/13/2009

quote:
Originally posted by RinconMtnErnie

I'm trying to improve my modest recording setup at home. Part of that is getting a higher gain audio interface. I have a Presonus Audiobox USB 96, which has been great, especially for the price. But it only has 35 dB of mic gain, which is not enough for the dynamic microphone I've been using. So I ordered a Steinberg UR22C, which has a max gain of 60 dB for the mic inputs (54 dB for the high impedance input).
 


A few other comments

Not sure if I'm quite following the specs you give. That said, a lot of USB 2 powered devices don't provide a lot of power to preamp. Some of the issues can be from ground issues, or too long of cable length, impedance issues... good to check those first. Dynamic mics, have weaker signal, make the issues more of problem. Many should still work fine, and have heard good results from folks using SM57s, SM58s. But if weak/quieter source, and/or some esp very low output mics like SM7b or RE20, might need to use something like in-line Cloudlifter or FETHead type device; or just an outboard preamp or mixer.

Just to mention with regard to which affordable mics under $200... the SM57 is still a really good utilitarian mic for a lot of sources, including fiddle.

--------------------

The Rode M3 has an 80 Hz filter, presumably for line noise.

The 80Hz is a HPF, (high pass filter) is it's a pretty common feature, but it's not about line noise, rather for rolling off (as slope, not a shelf) the unwanted/unneeded low end energy; a lot can exist in the room environment; which can build up in mix, create mud. Generally desirable for instruments that don't really contain any low frequency information, just keep it out. HPF are also on mixer or in DAW, and can play with this on DAW plug-ins to get an idea of effect.  There are some good resources that can explain this better.

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 12/28/2022 18:39:08

Dec 28, 2022 - 9:46:30 PM
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364 posts since 6/3/2016

Thanks for the additional good ideas!

Regarding the suggestion to consider used gear, that is a good idea. I hadn't really considered that too seriously. I've had good luck so far with used electronic gear.

#alaskafiddler, my dynamic mic is a Shure Beta 57a. Another option I am considering is indeed getting a CloudLifter or FetHead. I didn't mention that to avoid over-complicating the original question.

Dec 29, 2022 - 6:41:54 PM

3251 posts since 9/13/2009

Kind of surprised would have issue with Beta SM57a? It is ~ 4dB more gain, (2.8 mV/Pa vs 1.9 mV/Pa) than regular SM57. Should work reasonably fine without CL or other preamp. Makes me suspect might be another issue?

------------

As far as used gear, that's where I got my AT2020, as well as most of my mics. found for under $100. Covid, lock down, staying at home... lot's of folks bought gear thinking they would get into home recording. Never really did, and now willing to get rid of those, almost new condition. As well, lot older mics 10-20 years ago... (some sold for $300-$600), comparable new mics have come way down, many less than half. My AKG Perception 420, (I got used for under $100)... originally sold for $579 (2008). AKG now calls P420 and is only $199 new.


FWIW, there are bundle of LDC and SDC that might be worth considering for flexibility, like AT2041SP Studio Microphone Pack; (speaking of the AT2020. includes the AT2021). Of course there are other similar bundles (some might be better suited specs for your need?).

Thought should also mention many SDC have matched pair, creating a stereo image, which might be worth considering.

Dec 29, 2022 - 7:41:21 PM
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JonD

USA

134 posts since 2/12/2021

I can see where the beta57 or similar dynamic mic might not be ideal on fiddle where you don’t want to get in too close (too much bow noise and other issues).

The other issue not really mentioned above is off axis response— especially for condensers, if uneven, the room reflections and/or other instruments won’t contribute in a good way to the sound. Some mics are better off-axis than others and good off-axis response often goes with a higher price tag. Not as much of an issue if you only play one instrument at a time of course.

Good luck in your great microphone hunt, it’s a lifetime of fun once you get started! :-)

Dec 30, 2022 - 9:42:53 AM
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364 posts since 6/3/2016

I decided to post my quick recording with the AT 2020 USB, which is really a test of the AT 2020 and the built-in preamp of the UBS version. I didn't have a thread adapter for my stand, so the mic was just sitting precariously on the desk, propped against some things. I don't do any serious recording, so I just need reasonable quality. I'm attaching the recording to this post, though I probably won't leave it up long.

I'm kind of liking the idea of the AT 4040 with the side address medium-diameter AT 2020 and the small-diameter AT 2021. I have some incentive to buy both now, because right now it is a "computer upgrade expense", whereas if I wait it becomes an "Ernie fiddle expense", and those have different budgets. What I would do is leave the AT 2020 on the desk all the time on some small desktop mount.


Dec 30, 2022 - 11:08:39 AM
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2158 posts since 4/6/2014

SE electronics SE1A. Needs Phantom power though

Edited by - pete_fiddle on 12/30/2022 11:09:49

Dec 30, 2022 - 8:35:31 PM
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3251 posts since 9/13/2009

Phantom power shouldn't be an issue, as pretty standard on pre-amps, mixers, or AD converter/interfaces.

I think the sE1a might be hard to find, has been replaced with various version, I think now the sE8. The sE1a could swap capsules. I mentioned the sE7 as bit more affordable option. sE Electronics seems to make pretty decent affordable mics; but then there are a lot of companies also producing amazingly good affordable products these days. (compared to even 20 years ago).

Dec 31, 2022 - 10:12 AM
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2158 posts since 4/6/2014

sE1a was the best fiddle mic i ever used you can pick em up in UK for around £60-80. Mine got dropped 1 too many times (it was 2nd hand wen i got it) and the transformer came loose, i think i might open it up and tak e a look how to fix it.

i think you are definitely on the right track with a SDC mic... (needs phantom power, and has a transformer output), or a tailored electret mic, (they call these condenser mics as well nowadays), like the DPA mics for fiddle. Good luck.

Dec 31, 2022 - 4:29:01 PM
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3251 posts since 9/13/2009

quote:
Originally posted by JonD

I can see where the beta57 or similar dynamic mic might not be ideal on fiddle where you don’t want to get in too close (too much bow noise and other issues).

The other issue not really mentioned above is off axis response— especially for condensers, if uneven, the room reflections and/or other instruments won’t contribute in a good way to the sound. Some mics are better off-axis than others and good off-axis response often goes with a higher price tag. Not as much of an issue if you only play one instrument at a time of course.

Good luck in your great microphone hunt, it’s a lifetime of fun once you get started! :-)


Not sure that I agree with correlation of better more expensive mics, and off-axis response, tighter polar pattern, dealing with poor room reflections better.

But points to another consideration (often overlooked), when folks ask about "what mic to get?" (or other gear), when comes to home recording, expectations; esp starting out. 

It's easy to get wrapped up in gear forum talk and YT videos (myself included)... and what pro studio's use and focus on "it's the expensive mic". But can ignore the other factors, the role of the "room", reflections, noise, set-up, mic placement and other engineering skills. As well as other gear and mixing... (preamp, compression, EQ,reverb). Especially the experience (and ear) play in knowing how to make those all work together; and as pointed out about single instrument vs when start adding lot's of tracks... and how sits in the mix; and other even more subtle details.

Ernie's recording sounded reasonably good, crisp and fairly detailed... despite set up.  The quality of these inexpensive mics is pretty good, satisfactory to many folks purpose. Probably good enough to start learning the art of recording?

How good of mic do you really need? At what point ask if need a better mic? That the main deficiencies of recording would be solved simply by a more expensive mic?

A related consideration for budget, and learning; rather than a slightly better version of very similar single mic (to do everything); might be better to have another mic that significantly different. For example, I noticed GC has sale on AKG P420 for $150. It's multi-pattern, with pad and HPF. That combined with a $100 SDC or dynamic (like SM57), gives lot's of versatility. A $250 LDC cardioid, might be slightly better than the P420, but perhaps not that noticeably much.

Dec 31, 2022 - 5:24:04 PM
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JonD

USA

134 posts since 2/12/2021

I don't think I said anything controversial about off-axis. Just trying to lay out some of the factors to consider in choosing a mic when the goal is improving one's recordings. The P420 does look good.

Jan 1, 2023 - 3:46:11 PM
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364 posts since 6/3/2016

I went ahead and ordered a used AT2041 SP Studio Pack including the MDC AT2020 and the SDC AT2021. The new price is only $179, but there was a used one for $120. At that price I don't think I'm risking much, especially given that I got to test the USB version of the AT2020.

I also got an On-Stage adjustable desktop stand and a good ten-foot XLR cable. I'll keep the AT2020 on the desktop all the time, and use the AT2021 with my  tripod boom stand.

Thanks again for all the input!

Edited by - RinconMtnErnie on 01/01/2023 15:47:59

Jan 1, 2023 - 3:56:38 PM

364 posts since 6/3/2016

There's one more thing I meant to add regarding the AT2021 as compared to the PRO37. When you compare specifications, they are very similar and if anything the AT2021 specs look better. For example, SNR (signal to noise ratio) at 1 Pascal pressure is 75 dB for the AT2021 vs 65 dB for the PRO37.

One big difference is that the PRO37 takes a range of 11--52V phantom power, whereas the AT2021 requires 48V. My audio interface supplies 48V so I don't need a wider range. Also, the PRO37 includes a stand thread adapter and a windscreen as accessories.

Jan 1, 2023 - 8:02:52 PM
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JonD

USA

134 posts since 2/12/2021

Congrats Ernie! Now your next job will be figuring out the mic placement that gets the best sound out of your fiddle.

Jan 2, 2023 - 8:29:59 AM
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DougD

USA

11095 posts since 12/2/2007
Online Now

JonD - Your comment about off axis response went unnoticed and possibly misunderstood, but it makes perfect sense to me (and many others). Around 1980, with some help from my Dad, I bought a pair of Neumann KM84's. In addition to being the first microphone designed to use phantom power, it was widely considered to be the most perfect cardiod mic made - meaning that its cardiod pattern was uniform with frequency, all the way to about 135° off axis. Neumann called this "linear admittance" and its easy to hear in the studio if you have one open and listen to people talking or playing in the room. This not only helps with lthe sound of leakage from other instruments but it really gives a sense of realism - of "being there." Even in a home recording where there may be unplanned reflections and reverberation, they will still likely sound more natural.
I don't know how this quality relates to price, or what other microphones might have it today. Frequency response graphs sometimes used to include another curve 180° off axis, but I don't see that these days. You can possibly infer it from a polar pattern too, although it has nothing to do with the "tightness" of the pattern.
Just wanted to provide a little historical reference - these are really great microphones, and still highly prized.

Jan 2, 2023 - 1:21:15 PM

JonD

USA

134 posts since 2/12/2021

Hi Doug,

Back when I used to record more, I coveted that microphone but never managed to find one (at least not at a price I could afford)! Its successor the KM-184 doesn't quite have the same mojo according to many, although it uses the same backplate design that made it so lifelike as you describe it.

Also, I had no idea about the KM-84 being the first 48 v phantom powered mic! I found this little bit of history about that here: recordinghacks.com/pdf/neumann...chure.pdf

Quite a few modern mics do publish their response curves over range of Hz, but it's a bit esoteric and I guess I shouldn't really have brought it up here.... I do think it's one of those factors that makes some directional mics sound better than others under the same conditions, and I don't think it's an accident but rather something carefully engineered into the capsule design...or not.

I have a couple old Soviet-era ribbon mics that came with a frequency response graph torn right off the drum recorder!

Jan 7, 2023 - 12:52:21 PM

3251 posts since 9/13/2009

quote:
Originally posted by JonD

I don't think I said anything controversial about off-axis. Just trying to lay out some of the factors to consider in choosing a mic when the goal is improving one's recordings. The P420 does look good.


Might have been misunderstanding. 

I was referring to direct correlation; and misconceptions folks often have. Not denying there are reasons that some mics are better and reason they are more expensive... in different ways for different applications. A lot of expensive vocal mics I've used do not have the qualities stated, as in KM84s; but I didn't really want to go into that discussion... 

Mostly what was pointing out goal of improving one's recording, esp starting out and on limited budget... dealing with some issues.... that a more expensive mic might not be your best option; or make as significant noticeable difference as other aspects. To clarify, not trying to tell anyone that U67 or Km84s aren't worth the money.

Not if can explain, but say a typical home studio... using an under $300 mics... and how to make them better. More money on mic, or perhaps something else. 

Maybe as example is an interesting YT provider podcastage that besides good beginner tips; does a lot of mic reviews and shootout comparisons; different types and price ranges. (often ends with a U87, just for comparison). He goes over lot of tests for polar pattern/axis, proximity, frequency response, distance, plosives, sibilance, noise. Though seems mostly about podcast... covers music as well. 

But speaking of room reflections, off axis, rejection... he often does a clap test; in treated room vs untreated room. The interesting part might notice is that difference in mics is generally less significant than difference in room. Suggesting if have an okay sounding mic; perhaps might be better to invest in better room treatment than next bump in microphone price. IOW, going from $200 mic to $600 mic make as noticeable difference vs spending that $400 on room.

Similar, there is an aspect of learning how to use the gear you have to best of ability. A better mic might not be much improvement if poor technique.

The other aspect consideration, about price is diminishing returns, how gets exponentially more expensive for little improvement. 

Finally, valid point to think about in listening to those mic shootouts, can you really notice much difference. and kind brings up in this video, https://youtu.be/Z7-tnf0j0vs  how good does it need to be for what you are doing, or potential listeners?  Maybe not worry much about it, relax and just have fun with process? There might come a point as learn, that you do start to notice, know what to listen for (and what specifically needs to be improved)

Again, not saying more expensive mic isn't worth the money... I'm just point to some considerations, to decide for themselves whether needed.

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