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Affordable mics for recording acoustic instruments

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Chris Fitzgerald, Apr 19, 2001.


  1. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I've been in the process of putting together some recording gear in my music room for the purpose of recording all of the sessions that go on in there, and possibly making some (I hope) reasonably good quality duo recordings. The duo formats I'll be recording are DB/Piano and DB/Archtop guitar. Right now I'm using a minidisc 4 track, and I'm happy with that part....but I know that mics are the most important part of the signal chain, and I can't seem to find very many resources that I can trust on the issue, since acoustic instrument recording seems to be a lost art these days. Online, I've visited SOS in the UK and a couple of other recording sites, but it seems that most of those guys are recording mostly electronic based music.

    The suggestions I've gotten so far that are in my price range (roughly $500 for a pair) are for the following mics: RODE NT1, RODE NT3, and AKG C1000. I know that large diaphragm mikes are best for vocals, but I have no idea what would be best for DB and piano in this price range. Any suggestions about equipment and/or resources to research this issue would be greatly appreciated.

    BTW, I'm getting a great sound direct into the board with my Trinity mic for the DB, but would like to double mic in some cases.
     
  2. Chris,

    I can't help you with the electronics issues. My question is about music rooms. I am having an addition and full remodeling of my house this year. I am turning a 10'x12' room into a dedicated music room. Do you have any suggestions as to wall and floor treatments for best accoustics.

    Thanks
    Mark
     
  3. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    AL/GA
    Wow...I actually have meaningful input in the DB forum....

    Chris, I have a small home studio (ADAT-n-Mackie), but we've done several full-length cd projects, some commercial stuff, and some soundtrack/effects out there. I used a variety of mics for different applications and all were mid-level in price (none pricier than $500), including an AKG C1000. I got ok results with the small-diaphragm C1000, but got MUCH better results with the large-diaphragm AKG C3000, which can be had for only a bit more than the C1000. I've seen them anywhere from $250-$299 new and even less used.

    We've since used the C3000s for everything you can think of: vocals, voice-overs, all manner of acoustic instruments including DB, even drums. They get a good natural sound with warm lows and pleasing highs without a lot of work at all. I'm pretty sold on 'em. I've not used a Rode, but I have friend who has an NT1 and he likes my AKGs better because he says they sound more natural. BTW, you'd need phantom power for these mics.
     
  4. As much as I love my el cheapo C1000s and its ability to make just about anything sound good (from pianos to vocals to my friend's B-3 through a 31H Leslie [mic'd in a pair]), I heard a friend's db mic'd with a c3000, and wow... what a nice sound.

    -a
     
  5. The C3000 is a good mic. It's very similar to the C4000B I use. I went with the C4000B because it has cardioid and hyper-card patterns and I wanted the hyper-card for live stage use.

    When shopping for mikes, the most important thing, IMO, is frequency response. Most of the mikes I saw had a frequency response only down to around 60hz. A low E on the bass about 42 hz, a low C (C-extension) is around 36 hz. So you see, if the mic responds only to 60 hz, it really won't accurately reproduce the sound, even if playing a note that is above 60 hz because there are sympathetic vibrations at lower frequencies. The C4000B responds down to 20 hz and is virtually flat across its entire range. Flat response is also important for true reproduction. Many mikes are hotter in higher frequency ranges and drop off significantly below 120 or 100 hz. Mikes like that are great for some applications, but would sound poor in others.

    Polar pattern is an important consideration also. Again, you want the right pattern for the application. Cardioid will be good for the doublebass in a studio, omnidirectional mikes serve other purposes. And even omnidirectionals have different patterns. Shure SM 57's and 58's are both considered omni but have different polar patterns. You want to limit your use of omnidirectional mics, especially in a studio, to keep bleed from other sources to a minimum.

    Check out www.akg-acoustics.com All of the mics have a viewable specs sheet. That will give you an idea of how mics differ. Once you understand how mics differ, you can determine what you want in a mic for each application.
     
  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Wow, thanks for the detailed replies everyone...I have to admit that when it comes to the technical aspect of these things, I'm lost. All I know is, "this one sounds good, this one sounds less good, etc". Okay, so the AKG C3000 is great for DB. Has anyone tried it on a piano or an archtop? The piano seems to be the toughest nut to crack so far. A couple of folks on a recording forum have recommended the Octava 012 highly, and also mentioned the AT 4033. Has anyone tried either of these?

    Bleed through is a consideration, but not a huge one, since all of the recordings will be live jazz stuff with no overdubs. The recording philosophy is basically this: record every week for a couple of hours, get the best sound you can, and don't try to be perfect....My experience is that when you do this, by the end of 6 months to a year you'll end up with a couple of hours of absolutely wonderful stuff, about 30 hours of okay stuff, and then a bunch of stuff that isn't worth listening to except for educational purposes.

    Oldsaw - I have a response to your question, but time is short since I have to go teach again (sigh...), so I'll reply later tonight.

    Thanks again.
     
  7. It will be great for guitar. It'll probably be decent for piano if you can figure out how to place it.
     
  8. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    It depends on what you consider "best acoustics" and what you're going to be doing in there. I totally played it by ear in my room: when we first moved into the house, the room was carpeted and completely dead. It killed all the sound from any instrument played in it. So....I pulled out the carpet and got the wood floor looking ok, and then it was way too live. At the moment I've got several area rugs to sort of split the difference. Thick curtains have helped as well.

    The bottom line is, what's the room for? For recording, you want it as dry and "neutral" as possible, so you're not coloring the sound. For practicing or anything without drums, it's nice to have a little warmth to the sound to fill it out a little. Wood floors + plaster is really boomy; wood floors + drywall is a little less so; I find the wood floors with area rugs a good compromise. I'm planning to mount some acoustical "egg foam" into some cheap picture frames so that I can deaden the room a bit for recording and then remove them to liven it up. Unless you want a really dry, dead sound, I'd avoid carpet.
     
  9. Chris,

    Thanks for the advise.

    Mark
     
  10. I recorded Thursday night and was thrilled with the sound the engineer got. As you recall, Ed Fuqua (where the hell has he been, anyway?) dubbed me "Donosaurus" for good reason. We're recording again Saturday, and I'll ask questions and take notes.
     
  11. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Please do, and give the full report. I'm at the end of my BG career soon ( insert a blazingly loud excerpt from "HOORAY FOR THE RED, WHITE, AND BLUUUUUE...." here) and I'll have some gear to sell, and by the time that happens, I hope to have my mics picked out so I can burn one bridge and open a door in one fell swoop.
     
  12. FWIW, the engineer on the Bassrespanse thing published an article about the date in EQ Magazine. There's a link to the article, describing mikes and techniques, at the www.bassrespanse.com
     
  13. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    David - interesting article. I'm on my wife's computer and I don't want to screw it up, but when she gets back I'll see if she has REALPLAYER and check out a couple of those tracks.

    By the way, a guy I play with has a couple of 414's, and said I could borrow them from time to time if I wanted. I'm almost afraid to, since they're way out of my price range, but....maybe in the future.

    Thanks.
     
  14. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    AL/GA
    Chris...now that I think about it, it'd be easy for me to record some stuff with the AKG C3000s that I have and email it to you. Let me know if it'd help. I don't have a piano lying around, but I do have upright bass, acoustic guitar, electric bass, vocals, drums, etc....
     
  15. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    That'd be great if you have time. I'm not in a HUGE hurry, and I only really care about acoustic instruments, so even a small sample would be cool. Don't go to too much trouble, though.

    Oh, one other thing....I'm pretty much a cyber dummy, so you might need to tell me how to work with whatever you might send. Like I said, my wife is the one with the online computer (my Mac upstairs is only for music notation/word processing), so I'm pretty dense with PC based sound files.

    Also - at a prorecording site I've been checking out, a couple of people were recommending Oktava MC012 mics, as they have interchangeable capules which add flexibility by offering different patterns (is that the right term?) such as cardioid, hypercardioid, and omni. Do you have any experience with this brand or type of mic?
     
  16. Chris: I printed this thread and showed it to the engineer at today's recording session. I think his setup is over budget. For double bass, his notes say Neuman FET 47 vintage mic into Telefunken V72 tube mic pre (no eq) into ProTools. It's about $3,500 just for the bass mic and the V72. I didn't think to ask about the piano mic; I can call him if you want to know.
    ProTools is fabulous. I hit one clam ("only one?" you say?) (5 key changes, dammit) and he simply brought it up to pitch from the computer.
    Man, I LOVE playing without a pickup.