Cheaper microphones and quality levels at

Go Back   DV Info Net > The Tools of DV and HD Production > All Things Audio

All Things Audio
Everything Audio, from acquisition to postproduction.

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old April 18th, 2013, 07:25 AM   #1
Inner Circle
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: LOWESTOFT - UK
Posts: 2,125
Cheaper microphones and quality levels

We often have questions about cheap microphones and the usual responses are that anything cheap is bad and anything expensive good (which I've never actually subscribed to myself), but as I sell a few Chinese sourced mics at the beginner/cost effective end of the price range, I got a question from a customer a week or two ago - basically he asked which of 4 microphones I sell would be best for steel strung acoustic guitar. I knew which one I'd normally suggest, but decided to take the 4 mics he asked about, and actually record them. The results were quite interesting, so I thought I'd share the video.

It's pretty much self-explanatory, but as the first bit is me explaining what's happening, it occurred to me that the audio, when attached to a video does explain a little the real world kinds of differences that people often ask about here with spoken word, not the music bit which follows. The 4 microphones range from twenty to fifty quid each, so are not expensive. If you listen on a computer, like this Macbook laptop, the differences are very small - on proper monitors, you can hear differences. I cut up the audio in the timeline so it switches between the mics as I speak - then the same clip is repeated, each one with a continuous mic track.

My point is that the differences are quite small. The 960 seems to be popular as a drum overhead, the 510 as an instrument mic because the XLR plug is the same size as the mic, the EM1 is a hypercardioid really, not cardioid - and people like them for vocals and the MC10 - is similar in concept to the old AKG 451 - in that it has hyper, cardioid and omni screw on capsules. My own preference, purely on sound is this mic - the MC10, but none of them would be on the reject list. So when people mention cheap voice over mics, we always suggest large diaphragm mics and kind of assert that nothing else will do. It would be interesting to see if people hate the sound of any of them - or have any comments about the differences. I'd bet some people cannot hear any differences at all, and others will hear them easily.
Paul R Johnson is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 19th, 2013, 12:42 PM   #2
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Cornsay Durham UK
Posts: 1,941
Re: Cheaper microphones and quality levels

I had to sell some of my friends akg 451's recently and did a side by side with the £30 CM60/61Takstar chinese mics I use for location work, I have to admit that I actually preferred the Takstar's as they had a fuller sound and made my acoustic guitar sing so I have to agree with Paul that these days you can get some very good low cost capacitor mics!

That set with the interchangeable capsules is very good value and would be a useful addition to anyones kit bag.
Over 15 minutes in Broadcast Film and TV production:
Gary Nattrass is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 19th, 2013, 02:23 PM   #3
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: New York
Posts: 1,844
Re: Cheaper microphones and quality levels

In my casual listing environment and monitors, I didn't think any of them sound particularly 'bad'. Definite variations. Notably, I did find the EM1 was comparably thin.
The preamp would have an affect, as would the engineer's skills and environment
I assume Paul used decent mic pres and he's far from a noob, so other folks mileage may vary.
Rick Reineke is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 19th, 2013, 04:09 PM   #4
Inner Circle
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: LOWESTOFT - UK
Posts: 2,125
Re: Cheaper microphones and quality levels

The X32 has nice preamps, but I'm not certain they're any better in real world usage than my Soundcraft and Yamaha. The odd thing was that the EM1 sounds thinner - but is quite popular, with people buying them in preference to the others, often buying an extra one for stereo recording. They're warmer close in, of course and I think many people use proximity effect to their advantage. I've got a Tasacam DA and also a Lexicon Omega, and they all sound so similar, I don't really have any sonic preference at all. The preamps in the X32 are a little unusual - they don't have quite so much absolute gain as the Soundcraft, for example, and even at maximum gain, they're not really noisy, BUT maximum gain is just not as potent as the Souncraft - which gets a bit hissy on the last 5% of the pot. This last 5% is just missing on the X32. I often wonder if many of the video problems we hear so often are really down to aiming - or rather poor aiming that then needs extra gain to 'recover'
Paul R Johnson is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 22nd, 2013, 06:54 AM   #5
Major Player
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Oxfordshire, UK
Posts: 974
Re: Cheaper microphones and quality levels

You *do* get what you pay for....

Yes, inexpensive microphones can give good quality for their price range.

With a good microphone from an established company - the top ones being: DPA, Microtech Gefell, Neumann, Schoeps and Sennheiser - you get high quality manufacture, consistency between samples (eg: you can often take two samples at random manufactured at different times, and they are likely to be pair matched closer than any "matched pair" of inexpensive microphones), excellent back-up and repair service (Neumann and Gefell can often repair microphones that are decades old) and, mostly, increase with value over time (eg: a Neumann U47 bought for £100 in the 1960s can be sold for £7-8,000 today). I have some microphones that I bought in the 1980s when the retail price was about £350 - they are still made today, but are about £2,000 each and the s/h price of mine is double what they were when I bought them.

Cheap Chinese microphones can give very acceptable results for the price, but two samples of the same microphone can be very different from each other, often unrepairable and value goes down over time.

Personally, with microphones, I always advise getting the very best you can afford.
John Willett - Sound-Link ProAudio and Circle Sound Services
President: Fédération Internationale des Chasseurs de Sons
John Willett is offline   Reply

DV Info Net refers all where-to-buy and where-to-rent questions exclusively to these trusted full line dealers and rental houses...

Professional Video
(800) 833-4801
Portland, OR

B&H Photo Video
(866) 521-7381
New York, NY

(973) 335-4460
Mountain Lakes, NJ

Abel Cine Tech
(888) 700-4416
N.Y. NY & L.A. CA

Precision Camera
(800) 677-1023
Austin, TX

DV Info Net also encourages you to support local businesses and buy from an authorized dealer in your neighborhood.
  You are here: DV Info Net > The Tools of DV and HD Production > All Things Audio

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search



All times are GMT -6. The time now is 03:22 PM.

DV Info Net -- Real Names, Real People, Real Info!
1998-2017 The Digital Video Information Network