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Old May 14th, 2011, 05:49 AM   #1
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good budget large diaphragm condenser for voice over/singing?

Hi. I record/write songs as a hobby and have done some animated short films as less of a hobby. Both of these require vocals to be recorded, and I've used first an SM57, then a 58 for both of these types of recording. These mics sound okay, but I'm wondering if the grass is greener and curious about large diaphragm condenser mics.

I'm looking for something in the lower price range, say under $300 (that could be new or used).

Now, if I search for "cheap condenser mic", well, holy crap, you get 10,000 opinions on 10,000 mics. A few seem to pop again and again, like the Rode nt1a, that is both affordable and generally well reviewed, though there are some that say it's harsh/brittle/has too much high end/sizzle. There's a modded version available from Octavamod.com that's supposed to fix this issue, but they charge almost $400 for the modded mic (it's around $200 new).

Saw the thread on here about the shootout between four lower-cost mics (rode nt2000, at 4050, and several others). Only one of those was in my range and was described as being too "bright."

I realize it's generally said that the "best" mic depends on a) the voice being miked, b) the preamp (in my case, an Apogee duet), c) other stuff.

I would be using this for my crappy singing, different actors, and maybe, if possible mic'ing an acoustic guitar now and again (though they say small diaphragm condensers are generally better for this), so it needs to be more general purpose than just fitting my voice or any one voice, inasmuch as this is possible.

Recommendations?

Thanks.
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Old May 14th, 2011, 06:35 AM   #2
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Re: good budget large diaphragm condenser for voice over/singing?

We're NOT the right forum for this one - whenever we talk about this the most odd stuff surfaces. I would use a forum specifically for those involved in recording - here in the UK, the most popular one is www.soundonsound,com - but the content will really help you - there's a forum and plenty of reviews of microphones that won't break the bank, but sound really good. The recording magazines and forums for sound people have very good advice. The niceties of the recording world are quite different from the video world, where cost is King - All Hail the Dollar/Pound.

Brand snobbery is rife in the video world, where it's what you have that proves how good it is - and people slag off products they've never used, have very closed minds to anything new, and are not willing to even consider products that deviate from the established norm. The audio world are far less polarised, and nobody worries too much about products. Over here, we had a new artiste - a female singer - Rumour. Sold bucket loads of CDs and everyone praised her silky smooth voice and the quality of the recordings. Turned out it was recorded on an SM58!

The first time you hear ANY of the large diaphragm microphones you'll hear a big difference. You'll either like what you hear, or not. The small microphones all have a brighter, more technically accurate sound - large ones all sound different - good different/bad different. Some flatter one voice and don't work on another - some do most voices averagely. You never know until you try them. A $1000 dollar is not necessarily 'better' than a $100 one - it will be different. Only your ears will tell you if the $900 was money well spent.

Many people have the common mics for recording - up to a few years ago, certain mics were very popular, now others have taken over - it's just the way things are.

Go to a real store if you can, and try a few - the music stores often have these in stock. Use a pair of headphones and keep the same ones on so you can hear the differences.
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Old May 14th, 2011, 06:47 AM   #3
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Re: good budget large diaphragm condenser for voice over/singing?

I know this is generally a video forum, but it has so many members that a few are pros/specialists in this area, so I was hoping they'd chime in.

As for the going to the store and trying out different mics, I'm all for it, but here's the problem--as I said, it wouldn't just be for my voice, so unless I bring everyone with me, I'm only going to know how these mics sound on me. Kinda hoping I find something that, while it may not make everyone sound GREAT, it would at least be "safe" for a range/variety of voice types and still better than the sm58.
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Old May 14th, 2011, 07:07 AM   #4
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Re: good budget large diaphragm condenser for voice over/singing?

Hi Josh. I've got a good bit of experience recording music and VO for animation as well. A few suggestions, in the $300 range, which I've used pretty regularly would be the Audio-Technica AT-4040 ( LDC, $300 with shockmouont), Electro-Voice RE-20 (a dynamic mic, but awesome, new about $430, but you could go used), and another dynamic, the Sennheiser MD-421 ($380 new, but again, plenty of used ones out there).

I love the AT-4040 for voice recording, but you need to have a well treated room, as it will pick up more room ambiance than the dynamic mics I mentioned. The RE-20 is pretty much the standard broadcast mic for voice, and also great on kick drums and saxes, guitar amps, etc. The MD-421 is not used as much for voice as it is for instrument micing, but I've always thought it sounded good on my crappy voice, and I like it for voice-overs as well. Hope this helps!
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Old May 14th, 2011, 07:28 AM   #5
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Re: good budget large diaphragm condenser for voice over/singing?

I'm so sorry gents. I should have mentioned I don't have a studio or anything, just my small crappy apartment. I've had good results (in my opinion) with recording in my poor man's sound booth made of furniture blankets/moving blankets hanging off c-stand arms to form a v shape/90 degree angle (mic goes in the apex of the v), but the room is certainly not treated. . .hard walls, carpeted floor.

So, I understand some of the LDCs are switchable between polar patterns, and some are omni, and some are cardioid. Pretty sure I'm looking for either something switchable to cardioid or fixed cardioid. Don't really see a need for an omni pattern for the stuff I'm doing, and we definitely don't want anything picked up that doesn't need to be, so a more directional pattern is probably the way to go.
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Old May 14th, 2011, 07:55 AM   #6
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Re: good budget large diaphragm condenser for voice over/singing?

No worries! My "studio" is a bedroom and closet, but I have treated it for acoustics to a degree. First, you definitely want a cardioid pattern. I wouldn't worry about switchable patterns. It would add to the cost, and you'd rarely use other patterns, probably.

Your moving blanket/ c-stand vocal booth should work pretty well, as long as you (or whoever is singing or speaking) is standing inside the "booth" at the apex of the "V". Put the mic in front of them, facing into the "V". This way, reflections from the walls will hit the back of the cardioid pattern where rejection is higher, and any reflections that go into the "V" get tamed by the blankets and not bounced back into the front of the mic. Also think about positioning the mic so it is above the mouth and angled down instead of straight at the mouth. This can help reject any ceiling reflections.
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Old May 14th, 2011, 07:59 AM   #7
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Re: good budget large diaphragm condenser for voice over/singing?

I thought about getting two 4x8 foamcore pieces and gluing real acoustic foam to them, and making the right angle/v out of that, but the cost of that much tile is pretty expensive for no budget setup.

As for mic placement, it sounds like you're recommending the exact opposite of the way I have it now?

The mic is in the V, but pointed OUT toward the open air, so the actor faces INTO the v. You're saying it should be the opposite? Wouldn't that mean that the voice is projecting out toward a bunch of hard surfaces instead of into the blankets?
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Old May 14th, 2011, 08:05 AM   #8
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Re: good budget large diaphragm condenser for voice over/singing?

Opposite, yes! Put the talent in the "V", put the mic in front of them, then you can hang another blanket behind the mic. The way you're doing it, the mic is facing all those hard surfaces and collecting reflections from them. The person in front of the mic will block some of them, I suppose. Try it both ways and see which works better in your particular room.
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Old May 14th, 2011, 08:20 AM   #9
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Re: good budget large diaphragm condenser for voice over/singing?

Another "no budget" voice recording method I've used in the past. If you have a tall bookshelf, put the mic in front of it, facing out. Pull some books out more than others to create a random pattern which will scatter the sound. Have the talent singing into the bookshelf, and again, best to hang something behind them.
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Old May 14th, 2011, 08:55 AM   #10
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Re: good budget large diaphragm condenser for voice over/singing?

Something like an AT4033 would be a good low cost Mic.

That being said, I have been doing professional voice work for over 30 years now and have used everything from a 635a on a coat hanger to a re-capsuled U47. In all honesty nobody is going to know what microphone you used to record a VO with once it hits the air.

All the Best!

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Old May 14th, 2011, 11:17 AM   #11
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Re: good budget large diaphragm condenser for voice over/singing?

The NT-1A is my recommendation. Yes, it can be a bit brittle, but so can a budget preamp that's driven too hard. Keep the gain on the low side into a good 24-bit soundcard and the NT-1A will do the trick. Pops? They aren't a problem. Use a pop shield. Angle the mic so it doesn't point right at the mouth. (I usually put it about eight inches from the forehead, angled at the nose. If the voice is harsh, I angle it down toward the chest.) The pop problem people are claiming for this mic is a problem with technique, not hardware.

Regarding the high end, if it's too hot, that's what EQ is for. :) Looking for a mic that delivers the perfect sound without EQ is like looking for the perfect camera or lens that looks delivers a Hollywood film without grading.

The NT-1A is solid and has as low a noise footprint as you will find. It's a great foley mic for subtle sounds.

Regarding the EV RE20 - this thing sounds amazing for voiceover. I wouldn't use it for signing though. It's too aggressive. There is also the new, less expensive RE320. It has two contours - one for the RE20 sound (which is darn close) and the other for music recording. I tried both back to back at NAB. One could slightly EQ down the high end above 5kHz, balance the 2-300 Hz range to taste and get a total RE20 sound. If one of your goals is the big announcer voice, and the other is music, and you have a limited budget, you are precisely the target market customer for the RE320. With both the RE20 and RE320, pops are not a problem. They're made for speaking directly into the end-address, built-in pop shield. They also have little proximity effect. Technique-wise, using an RE20 or RE320 is nearly foolproof - that's part of what makes the RE20 the perfect radio announcer mic. ;)
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Old May 14th, 2011, 11:46 AM   #12
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Re: good budget large diaphragm condenser for voice over/singing?

I also recommend the rode NT-1A although if you can go for a little more cash the NT2000 will give you more flexibility and enable multi polar patterns as omni can be quite useful for close up work with voice over or singing. It's what I now use as my stock mic for V/O and singing in my music studio.
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Old May 14th, 2011, 02:09 PM   #13
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Re: good budget large diaphragm condenser for voice over/singing?

Yep. Moving up the scale on the Rode mics brings higher quality and more flexibility. Although, I wouldn't recommend going for a tube mic (NTK, K2) as your first purchase. Not that I have anything against tube mics, but they're often purchased for a warmer, more colored tone. I'd go with the more neutral solid state sound for a baseline purchase and not spend the extra cash for a tube, especially based on your use case. That said, if your main goal was to record violas, clarinets, and steamy female jazz vocals, a tube mic could be the right choice.
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Old May 14th, 2011, 04:13 PM   #14
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Re: good budget large diaphragm condenser for voice over/singing?

Thanks guys. . . regarding preamps. . .I already have an apogee duet, which is supposedly top end gear, which can provide phantom power. You're all saying this isn't good enough?

Thinking maybe I'll just wander down to guitar center and see if I can hook up and record samples from different mics into my Tascam audio recorder for later examination.

with mic placement, I guess my thinking was that if the reflections were absorbed by the apex of the V in the first place (the way I've been setting up), then there wouldn't be anything to hit the mic. I have done it with a four walled booth built the same way (blankets hung off c stands, and even a piece of egg crate/mattress topper laying over the top as a "ceiling"), so maybe I'll just go back to that. I thought maybe it was overkill since I really can't tell the difference between the two when I listen to the recorded audio.
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Old May 14th, 2011, 07:00 PM   #15
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Re: good budget large diaphragm condenser for voice over/singing?

My large "workhorse" mics are AT-2020's, used for bar-band shoots and for dialog and singing. They might not be the most glamorous or technically-advanced mics around, but they give a solid, reliable recording that's fairly flat across the board. I bought a pair of them and have never even considered replacing them for something better. They currently go for $99 USD at most suppliers. Even without the reasonable price, I consider them a bargain.

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