Alright, so I'm just starting home recording and I have a question about getting a good sound with Condenser microphones...

I have an MXL 770 and was told it is a good microphone for vocals by many reviews and a few friends at the local music store. Right now I'm plugging it into my Zoom R16 recorder as an Audio Interface and putting it into Cubase LE4.

My problem is that, when I'm plugged into the channels with phantom power, the sound quality of the mic is not very full. Vocals sound dead and slightly out of tune. Now, when I use the other input without phantom power, the vocals sound half decent and (although not 100%) a lot closer to the real life sound. The problem with this is that it is recorded at such a low volume it is hard to really bring it into a mix while doing my music.

I have no idea what to do as I can't get a good sound out of it due to this. I'm just asking if there is something wrong with my mic or if i can actually get a good sound out of it?
As it's a condenser microphone, it requires phantom power to operate. I'm not sure about this particularly microphone's quality levels, but unless you've got some kind of battery system going then I don't see how you could be recording without using phantom power. Are you sure that when you're not plugged into phantom that it's not the Zoom's onboard mics that are picking up the signal, hence the change in quality?

Couple of quick questions - what are your settings for recording? (Input gain, what's going on in Cubase, etc.) General rule of microphone recording is that you want the signal to come in hot enough to pick up detail, but not clip at the peaks. This is partly trial and error, but you can aid the situation by using a compressor/limiter (not too heavily though) to just curb the extremes.

What are you doing about mic positioning? Basically - have you got it close enough, checked it's the right way around (the polar pattern appears to be super/hyper-cardioid which means that when facing the wrong way it will still pick up sound, just not as well as if pointed in the right direction.)

Your problem might be that you're trying to record at too low a volume, simply just not picking up enough signal. It's hard to say without being in your recording environment.

Without meaning to cause offence, are you sure the vocals don't sound dead because the singer just isn't performing that well when the mic is pointed at them? A lot of recording artists when beginning suffer from red light syndrome - when that little blinky light tells them that their performance is going to be captured forever, something kicks in that just adds that extra layer of nerves and makes everything sound less than perfect. Just a thought.


Quick Edit: are you using XLR cables rather than jacks? That makes a big difference - XLRs have a much better quality.
Last edited by TommyRack at Aug 29, 2010,
I have no idea whether or not it's the Zooms mic's being used then. If it were then I'd have to say that they are better quality then that of my condenser mic, but that seems unlikely.

I have it on my Input 5 with the phantom power on. The gain was at 12 oclock and I'm going to try fiddling around with that a bit more.

In cubase I had it going Mono-in for Input 5.

Mic positioning, I have the little heart shaped diagram facing towards me as the manual told me to and I'm usually within 5-6 inches of the mic when singing. I even have a pop filter to cut out the plosive sounds.

I'm doing all the instruments myself. Including singing. I understand I may sound different when listening to myself but I've had my singing and screaming recorded on many different things, all telling me that my singing is decent but my screaming is spot on. The problem is that when I scream into this mic there are no dynamics and it just sounds like a rasp.

Plus, I haven't even started recording tracks yet, I've just been fooling around to get a good sound. There are no nerves behind it, I just haven't been able to get the sound out of it that I desire.

And yes, XLR cables are being used

If you could help me out that'd be amazing
one quick tip. make very sure you're not plugging your mic in when phantom power is on. always turn it on after the mic is plugged in and turn it off before unplugging. you can fry your mic by doing that.

i'd check mic positioning. see if getting closer helps. i'm sure you know what you're doing on levels but just in case, make sure they're hot without clipping and adjust them for singing/screaming.

compare the condenser mic to singing into the recorders mic. if something is wrong with your MXL it should sound a lot worse by comparison, but give it a fair test and actually sing into the recorder.

maybe even record some clips of the dead vocals and screams so we can get a better idea of what you're talking about.

if at all possible, borrow a friend's mic and compare them. that will give you a better idea if it's actually the mic or something else that's not right.
I know that some condensers need a minute to warm up with the phantom power, how long did you leave it plugged in with power on before you sang? You may want to also try an outboard preamp before the zoom for better quality and more phantom power (mics need 48v and most all-in-one interfaces, especially usb powered, don't provide a full 48v).
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Friends don't have mic's unfortunately. I tried it compared to a random dynamic mic and it sounded basically the same. Thing came with a mic stand. Dunno what that has to say about my MXL.

I've gotten it to sound better but it's still not what I'm looking for. I just made my first "track" in cubase, even though I don't yet have everything I really need for this shit, and it's about the best sound I could get. Guitar sounds like shit cause I had it quiet so I didn't wake anyone.


Sounds like shit, yeah, but I'm doing my best. Just a little Trivium thing.
Are you pointing the microphone directly at your mouth?

I've got a condenser (With onboard battery power), and I used to point it right at my mouth. Great volume, the only problem is that it was so muddy that I thought the microphone was terrible. I moved back about a foot, same problem. I then turned the microphone up so that the middle of the mic is pointed more to my nose, and I'm singing into the side (Almost) of the mic. Better sound IMO, and I got rid of the pop filter.