Helpful ReplyDecent USB Microphones for recording Guitar and Vocals

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burgerproduction
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2018/11/10 18:27:50 (permalink)

Decent USB Microphones for recording Guitar and Vocals

I'm sure this has been covered before but I can't seem to find anything in the search.
I've been using an M-Audio condenser mic with an Edirol FA101 preamp for years, but recently I've been getting buzzing and hissing artifacts in the recording. I figure it could be the FA101 unit or the mic (I get the same problem with an AKG C1000s, but not with an entry level Shure), so I thought it might be a good time to take a dive into the USB mic market instead of changing the FA101.
I quite like the idea of NOT having to plug in a firewire device everytime I get the urge to record a quick idea, so I thought a USB mic might do the trick. I must admit, I always thought USB mics would be substandard, but I see all the big names like Shure and Rodes are doing them now.
I'd love some advice. Would a low-budget USB mic be about the same quality as an M-Audio Nova that is now 15 years old.
Thanks for any help.

Cakewalk by Bandlab, Sonar Platinum Lifetimer, Windows 10, HP Laptop, CPU i5, RAM 8GB, Edirol FA-101 Firewire interface with moded drivers, Digital piano, more guitars than I should have:
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fireberd
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Re: Decent USB Microphones for recording Guitar and Vocals 2018/11/10 19:18:19 (permalink)
I haven't looked at all USB connected mic's. But what I have seen is designed for Podcasting and speech, not singing.  Based on that I wouldn't think a low end/inexpensive one would suit you.
 

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JonD
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Re: Decent USB Microphones for recording Guitar and Vocals 2018/11/10 20:27:59 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby burgerproduction 2018/11/11 21:47:31
burgerproduction
..I've been using an M-Audio condenser mic....I've been getting buzzing and hissing artifacts... I get the same problem with an AKG C1000s, but not with an entry level Shure)...



"Entry-level Shure" suggests a dynamic mic, so if that's working fine but the two condensers are noisy, then it sounds like your interface's phantom power circuit could be going out.
 
If you want to test this theory, you can get a phantom power supply (single channel) for as low as $25:
 
https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/PS400--behringer-micropower-ps400
 
Alternatively (and even better IMO) you could use a standalone Mic pre, connected to your interface's line input.  If you don't already have one, something cheap like this would do just fine:
 
https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/TubeMP--art-tube-mp
 

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msmcleod
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Re: Decent USB Microphones for recording Guitar and Vocals 2018/11/11 13:00:05 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby burgerproduction 2018/11/11 21:47:25
Bear in mind also, that with a USB mic, the mic is also your interface and your mic pre.
 
So you've got absolutely no flexibility as far as using another interface (if you're using ASIO, you're going to have to disable your Edirol as an ASIO input device), and you've no choice in using different mic pres.
 
Also many USB interfaces (especially laptops) cannot deliver the power required to power these mics. I tried out the Behringer C1U, and apart from being a pretty naff mic, it required a powered USB hub to even get a decent signal.
 
JonD's suggestion of the ART Tube is a good one.
 
PreSonus also a similar offering.
 
Alternatively, take a look at replacing your Edirol with something like a Focusrite Scarlett. The mic pres on the Scarletts are great.
 
I've got a Yamaha 01X, i88X, DS2416, a Behringer ADA8000, and 3 Focusrite scarletts and the Focusrite's blow the other ones away in the Mic pre department.  I've also got 2 x GA Pre-73 neve clones (one upgraded with Carnhill transformers), and the difference between the Scarlett and the Pre-73 is negligible (unless I'm purposely pushing the Pre-73 to get that Neve type distortion).
 

Mark McLeod
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burgerproduction
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Re: Decent USB Microphones for recording Guitar and Vocals 2018/11/12 13:13:18 (permalink)
Thanks everyone,I'll keep a look out for Focusrite soundcards offers (I'd been thinking along that route anyhow),
and I'll test out the mic with a tube pre-amp (
BEHRINGER MIC100) I bought ages ago.
I've owned an Art Tube pre-Amp before, but I kept getting recording artifacts and background noise.
The whole unit packed up pretty quickly; seemed a bit delicate.

Thanks everyone for your help.


Cakewalk by Bandlab, Sonar Platinum Lifetimer, Windows 10, HP Laptop, CPU i5, RAM 8GB, Edirol FA-101 Firewire interface with moded drivers, Digital piano, more guitars than I should have:
Check out my music :
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Jim Roseberry
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Re: Decent USB Microphones for recording Guitar and Vocals 2018/11/12 14:06:53 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby burgerproduction 2018/11/12 17:57:57
USB mics are made more for "PodCast" recording than more traditional instrument/vocal recording.
The USB mic (as has been mentioned) is also the audio interface.
That's the weakest part.  The quality of the audio interface and its driver.
 
If you're wanting to minimize noise, that starts will avoiding ground issues, using balanced cables, proper gain-staging, etc.  You can carefully go thru your entire setup... looking for sources of additional noise. 
ie: A poor quality USB cable can cause noise issues.
Even with higher end gear, you still need to be mindful of ground issues... and sources of noise.
Electrical appliances, dimmers, fluorescent lights, electric blankets, fans... can all cause noise.
You can minimize the potential for ground issues by powering your entire setup from a single outlet. 

Best Regards,

Jim Roseberry
jim@studiocat.com
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burgerproduction
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Re: Decent USB Microphones for recording Guitar and Vocals 2018/11/12 17:12:27 (permalink)
I've just had a thought. Could I be getting noise issues due to bad grounding?
My laptop has a 2-pin power cable and so does the Edirol.
Is there any way to ground them?

Cakewalk by Bandlab, Sonar Platinum Lifetimer, Windows 10, HP Laptop, CPU i5, RAM 8GB, Edirol FA-101 Firewire interface with moded drivers, Digital piano, more guitars than I should have:
Check out my music :
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Jim Roseberry
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Re: Decent USB Microphones for recording Guitar and Vocals 2018/11/12 17:25:46 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby burgerproduction 2018/11/12 17:57:54
You could absolutely be experiencing a ground issue.
Try running the laptop off battery.
If the noise goes away, you've got a ground loop issue.
There are numerous solutions/workarounds
 

Best Regards,

Jim Roseberry
jim@studiocat.com
www.studiocat.com
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burgerproduction
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Re: Decent USB Microphones for recording Guitar and Vocals 2018/11/12 17:59:38 (permalink)

Cakewalk by Bandlab, Sonar Platinum Lifetimer, Windows 10, HP Laptop, CPU i5, RAM 8GB, Edirol FA-101 Firewire interface with moded drivers, Digital piano, more guitars than I should have:
Check out my music :
https://53mph.bandcamp.com/album/like-water-to-the-sand
 
#9
burgerproduction
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Re: Decent USB Microphones for recording Guitar and Vocals 2018/11/14 10:03:49 (permalink)
Little update.
It is the M-Audio Mic. I did some tests with my tube pre-amp and the M-Audio Nova, then my AKG C1000S and found the Nova to be giving off noise. Should I even bother trying to fix it?
I've got some backup mics (AKG C1000s, AKG PS5) but I'd like a large diaphram mic to replace the Nova.
I've seen that there is a Behringer C-1 for as low as €26 or Audio Technica AT2020 for as low as €79
Any suggestions?
post edited by burgerproduction - 2018/11/14 10:37:04

Cakewalk by Bandlab, Sonar Platinum Lifetimer, Windows 10, HP Laptop, CPU i5, RAM 8GB, Edirol FA-101 Firewire interface with moded drivers, Digital piano, more guitars than I should have:
Check out my music :
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msmcleod
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Re: Decent USB Microphones for recording Guitar and Vocals 2018/11/14 11:12:18 (permalink) ☄ Helpfulby burgerproduction 2018/11/14 11:34:02
I've got the Behringer C1, and wouldn't recommend it. It claims to be a large diaphragm, but in actual fact it's an electret condenser. The Samson C1 is a better choice at this price range.
 
A lot of the cheap mics are pretty hit & miss. Sometimes you get a good one, but more often than not you get a dud.
 
Personally though, I'd look at the Rode NT1A (for a bright top end) or Rode NT1 (flatter response), or if they're not within your budget maybe the AKG P120.
 
In saying that, don't write off a good dynamic mic. On Peter Gabriel's 4th album, he recorded all of his vocals on a Shure SM57. For my own vocals, I still find I get best results from a Shure SM58 (though I suspect a SM7B would be even better).
 
As a general rule, I'd say you should be looking to pay no less than €100 - €120. Anything lower than that could be a gamble, unless it's a reputable brand.
 

Mark McLeod
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burgerproduction
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Re: Decent USB Microphones for recording Guitar and Vocals 2018/11/14 11:34:27 (permalink)
Thank you very much for your help.
What do you think of the Audio Technica AT2020? It usually retails at just under €100

Cakewalk by Bandlab, Sonar Platinum Lifetimer, Windows 10, HP Laptop, CPU i5, RAM 8GB, Edirol FA-101 Firewire interface with moded drivers, Digital piano, more guitars than I should have:
Check out my music :
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msmcleod
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Re: Decent USB Microphones for recording Guitar and Vocals 2018/11/14 12:38:42 (permalink)
burgerproduction
Thank you very much for your help.
What do you think of the Audio Technica AT2020? It usually retails at just under €100


The reviews look pretty good.
 
To be honest, try and see if there's a local music shop that will let you try some mics out first, and take notes about what you like / don't like. Even try out some mics way out of your price range so you've got a good idea of what is out there, and what sound suits you best.
 
Failing that, you could try hiring some to try them out with your own rig.
 
After trying some out, I'd take a look at the frequency responses for mics you're considering at http://recordinghacks.com/microphones , and compare it to a mic you already have and/or one you liked when trying it out. Whilst this isn't a perfect way of comparing mics, it will at least give you some idea as to what type of mic you're getting - i.e. is the top end emphasised, does it have a high-mid presence boost etc.
 

Mark McLeod
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Jim Roseberry
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Re: Decent USB Microphones for recording Guitar and Vocals 2018/11/14 14:11:04 (permalink)
I'd highly recommend going to a local music store and trying out several large diaphragm condenser mics.
That way... you can compare side-by-side... and know what you're getting.
 
"Classic" mics (C414, SM57, RE20, MD421, SM7b, etc) are easier to buy "unseen" because they're so well known.
"Classics" are classic for a reason... they're proven performers.

Best Regards,

Jim Roseberry
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burgerproduction
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Re: Decent USB Microphones for recording Guitar and Vocals 2018/11/15 09:42:58 (permalink)
msmcleod
In saying that, don't write off a good dynamic mic. ... I still find I get best results from a Shure SM58 (though I suspect a SM7B would be even better).
 



I totally agree. In fact I've just dug out an old AKG D770 that I bought years ago as a gigging mic/back up mic, and I have to say I'm enjoying it for vocals.  It's pretty balanced and distortion free, and you can do pretty much anything you want with the sound post production. I'd never really given it a chance before...
I'd still like a large diaphram mic though for those intimate husky tracks.

Cakewalk by Bandlab, Sonar Platinum Lifetimer, Windows 10, HP Laptop, CPU i5, RAM 8GB, Edirol FA-101 Firewire interface with moded drivers, Digital piano, more guitars than I should have:
Check out my music :
https://53mph.bandcamp.com/album/like-water-to-the-sand
 
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burgerproduction
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Re: Decent USB Microphones for recording Guitar and Vocals 2018/12/11 14:18:12 (permalink)
A little update to an old thread.
In a fit of folly, I bought the Behringer C1, because it only cost €26, and I have to say, I'm quite favourably impressed with the quality for the price. It's quiet - I didn't realize till I started using it just how noisy my old Nova had been getting. I was editing my tracks around the noise level of the mic. The C1 is very 'bright' but I find that favours my vocals, so I'm sure I'll find a place for it somewhere in my music.
 
On a stranger note: I had been waiting for an AT2020 mic to go on offer as I'd heard favourable things from people about Audio Technica and negative things about Rodes NT1. I wasn't able to try any mics out (our local store only stocks Samson mic and they don't let you test them...huh!) so I decided that if I was an AT2020 going cheap, I'd take the plunge. It came up on Amazon Warehouse deals for €60. That's cheap I though for something that retails at €100 usually, so I decided to get it on an impulse and send it back if it was too damaged.
 
Well! This morning a battered AT2020 box was delivered by Amazon ( I was ready to refuse the package. Looked like it had been sat on by an elephant ) opened the box and found....the AT2020 USB+ instead.  That's €60 for a €150 mic....ok, so the usb lead was missing (I've got a ton of them) but all the rest was there, and I can't hook it up to me Edirol or preamp...but €60 was pretty good right? Then I started reading the internet posts about incompatibility with Windows 10.  Low sound / high noise....discontinued...oh ****! I thought. I've been had.
Got home, plugged it in, loaded up Bandlab....works a treat.  If I want to monitor while recording, I have to use the mic headphone out, but if I'm happy to record without hearing my voice over the mix (such as I am) I can use WASAPI drivers (no ASIO unfortunately).  At this point, I'm going to test drive this sucker for the next week and decide if I need to send it back or not, but for now I'd say I lucked out.  €60, I repeat.
Now, hopefully I can pick up a Behringer B2 for cheap after Christmas....I want it just for the metal box.

Cakewalk by Bandlab, Sonar Platinum Lifetimer, Windows 10, HP Laptop, CPU i5, RAM 8GB, Edirol FA-101 Firewire interface with moded drivers, Digital piano, more guitars than I should have:
Check out my music :
https://53mph.bandcamp.com/album/like-water-to-the-sand
 
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