Home Recording Mics3 Home Recording Mics

You Should Have

I am often asked, "Which home recording mics are needed for the home music studio?"  My purpose in this post is to answer that question. I am going to focus more on the types of mics I believe every home studio should have. If you would like some specific microphone recommendations please check out the Tool Box page. I will also mention a few mics that I often use myself.

As we begin it is important to realize that my perspective here is based on affordability and performance. I've said this before but it's worth repeating. There is no magic bullet when it comes to home recording mics. Every room, singer, performance, and setup could certainly benefit from the best mic selection.

The truth is though, many home music studio enthusiast are working within limited budgets. For this reason you may not have 10 home recording mics to choose from when laying down your tracks. With this in mind I do believe there are 3 types of home recording mics that will prove to be the workhorses in almost every project you record.

Large Diaphragm Studio Condensers

Large diaphragm studio condensers have never been more affordable. Now days you can get your hands on some really great mics for under that $100 mark. Large diaphragm condensers tend to be more precise in their pickup. To capture that articulate and smooth vocal line, this type of mic often works best.

When it comes to home recording mics, the large diaphragm studio condenser is one of the most versatile as well. These mics work great for most vocals but also on many instruments. I've used my ADK A-51 on vocals, percussion, acoustic guitar, and even as a drum overhead. A good Large diaphragm studio condenser is 1 of the 3 home recording mics you should most certainly have.

Small Diaphragm Condensers

This type of mic is also extremely versatile. Having a good home recording mic in this category will also give you several options to cut your tracks. Many small diaphragm condensers work well on cymbals, acoustic instruments, and even guitar cabinets.

This type of mic tends to handle a bit more sound pressure before clipping than its larger cousin. However, both the large and small diaphragm condensers have many similar uses but each with its own unique sound. I personally use my Shure Sm137 for acoustic, cymbals, drums overheads, and even recording the podcast.

Dynamic Microphones

The last type of home recording mics is a dynamic microphone. In this class the top 2 I personally reach for are my Shure Sm58 and the Sm57. I tend to use dynamic mics for more aggressive applications. Acoustic drums with snare, toms, and kick are all great applications for a good dynamic mic.

Dynamic microphones tend to pick up much less background noise from their surroundings. This can come in very handy for many applications in the home studio. In reality there are many types of dynamic mics tailored for different applications.

I would note here that having a dynamic mic with a low frequency response is best for kick drum and micing bass guitar cabinets. One that comes to mind is the Shure Pg52 which sells for around $115. The PG52 Certainly would be a great buy if you're looking for an affordable mic to handle the low-end.

Every home music studio should have a least 1 good dynamic mic, in my opinion. Adding another with a low frequency response may also be best suited, depending on your needs.

 

Lastly,  let me say that I'm not suggesting that there aren't other great affordable mics out there. For this reason I'd love to hear your thoughts. It would be great to hear what types of mics you are currently recording with.  Please add your comments to the section below.

 

    8 replies to "3 Home Recording Mics You Should Have"

    • Nant

      Hi Dave,

      Been listening and reading some of your posts for while, cool website.I’m just a hobbyist recording some guitar riffs and sometimes voice over for storytelling in my ESL classes. I own a Samson Cu1O usb mic and a laptop, i can’t hear myself when recording the audio, i just listen to it after recording the whole thing.Is there a way to change change the usb end or buy anadaptor to conert to the regular cable?

      Thanks,

      Nant

      • David

        Hey Nant,

        Thanks for the question. Glad to have you part of the community. On a USB to XLR adapter, I’ve never seen a device that can do that personally. USB is a digital signal that requires some type of digital processing to make sense of the signal. This is one draw back of these types of USB mics is that many of them will only work with their internal analog to digital converters and the USB out. An XLR signal is actually analog and with out that digital conversion done through some type of audio interface, it simply would not work.

        On hearing what your recording, what recording software are you using? Most recording programs have a “monitor source” option in the track menu so you can hear what you are recording. Depending on your audio interface and computer setup, the audio may be slightly delayed when your monitoring the input signal but it may still work for you just fine. Let me know a bit more about your software and I may be able to point you in the right direction.

        Keep in touch,

        Dave

        • Nant

          I’m using Adobe Audition running on Windows 7. I was able to use that monitor source but I’m not very comfortable with the slight delay.

          However, I want to share what I did lately. This might help those who have the same limited device.

          My wife bought an iPad a few months ago. I was curious if Samson would work and did some googling. Installed Garageband and used iRig for recording my guitar riffs. The Samson Cu1O did work when I found a very affordable adapter that connects to the dock ( saw it here –> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42to6UDToQA) . When we went to Bangkok, I saw a 300 baht option (about $10-12) and now I can hear myself in real time using Garageband with the Samson USB mic.

          I know the recording cannot compete with the pros. But I am happy that I can use it for teaching ESL.

          And, I just want to let you know that your website inspired me a lot to do all the research. I am very grateful, you rock and you should continue this endeavor man.All the best!

          • David

            That’s great Nant, thanks for sharing your update.

    • Dan Updegraff

      Just starting out, and all I have is a Shure SM58. Would buying an SM57 or a condensor mic make a big difference for recording acoustic guitar, or does an SM58 do a decent job at it? (Trying to prioritize my purchases.)

      • David

        Hey Dan, between the SM58 and the SM57, there would be a difference but I’m not sure that it would be a big one. The 57 would sound a bit brighter and may be a better fit for the acoustic. However, compared to your 58, I’m not sure it would be a huge improvement. One that you could probably match with a bit of EQ in post, when recording with the 58.

        That said, if you have the SM58 the next priority depends on what your after. If your happy with your SM58 on vocals then look into getting a decent small diaphragm condenser that will add a better sound for your acoustic.

        If you’d like to improve the quality of your vocals and give you a better sound on the acoustic then look into a large diaphragm condenser. You may get a more versatile use here as it will sound great with both vocals and the acoustic. One consideration with a large diaphragm is the pickup pattern is typically wider. Meaning it will sound great but me much more sensitive to room noise.

        One consideration would be the MXL 990/991 Recording Microphone Package
        .
        Pretty affordable and would give both these types of mics to work with. Here is a quick youtube search I found demoing this package. Not the best guitar player ever but still gives you an idea of what you could get with this package. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wno3ZFddGjw

        Let me know if you have any more questions.

        Dave,

        • Dan Updegraff

          Thanks for taking the time to find those links. They were very helpful. I’ve been thinking about the MXL 990 since the last time you answered my questions about mics. The 990/991 package is very tempting for the price. I will probably buy those instead of more acoustic foam this month. (Buy foam is very boring.)

          • David

            Ha ha, ya foam is boring ;) and your very welcome. The MXL 990 line is a great affordable starter package hands down. They’ll give you a great sound for the money and give you the time to learn more about mic placement and tweaking hands on. Really hard to go wrong there.

            Keep in touch!

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