#1
I searched a bit and I couldn't find a thread with good answers, (I'm kinda surprised there isn't a microphone sticky) but anyway, I'm looking to buy a condenser microphone for vocals, and I'm wondering if you guys have any suggestions? I would like to get professional (or at least close) quality sound, so I'm willing to spend as much as necessary to achieve that, but if I can spend less while getting a very close sound, that would be preferred. Ideally my price range would be $400-$700, but if theres nothing in that price range that sounds good I'll just save up for something better.

I already own a Shure SM-B7, which I thought might be good for vocals, but I think I really need a condenser to get the sound that I want. (I also feel like I'm doing something wrong with that mic because there are lots of great sounding professional recordings with it). One of my friends is keen on a Blue Bird mic, but I'm a little skeptical that it will do what I want for that low a price.

I'm currently recording through a Focusrite Scarlet 2i2, which I am willing to upgrade if necessary.
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#2
I have been using a Shure 87A mic for vocals for a number of years and am very happy with it.
#3
Blue is stupidly overpriced if you're not getting a USB mic (which hopefully you aren't if you're doing vocal recording). I personally use either an AKG 214 or a CAD E100S. I don't use either for dedicated vocals either, I have a pair of E100S and have access to a pair of 214s and they're both very versatile mics, and both pairs should be under $700.

For that kind of price range, you can start looking into some Neumann mics as well, which I like. Really though, every microphone is worth something to somebody, and there's no way you're going to find a mic that's 100% perfect. Especially without knowing what kind of genre you're trying to record, it's hard for us to give you a suggestion. I'd suggest going on Sweetwater.com and looking around for a few days before you spend anything.
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#4
I'll second the Sweetwater recommendation--in fact give them a call and they can help match you with a mic for what you want to do and your budget. You can get some great stuff for under $400 so you might not need to spend so much. You can use the leftover cash for accoustic treatments for your recording space and make a much bigger difference in your final product than the difference you'll get between a $300 mic and a $700 mic.
#5
The 2i2 pre's suck, and that's problem number one.
Then, the SM7B needs at least 60dB of gain to get you a sound strong enough.

As for what mic you may get, why do you think you need a condenser?
Any particular reason apart from "pro studios use them for vocals!"?

What mic to get exactly depends on what kinda voice you have and what result you wanna achieve.

Since you have an SM7B already, if you wanna stick to that 'cause reasons then get a good interface and possibly a good outboard pre.
If you don't want to stick to that then sell it and get a different mic + a good sounding interface.
Name's Luca.

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#6
Agreed with spambot here. The SM7 is a nice mic, and yes, many great recordings have been done with one of them.

If you have a budget of $400-$700, look into a nice preamp. I picked up a Universal Audio 710 on the used market for a little over $500, and the difference between that and the preamps on my interface is really quite remarkable.

That said... mics are like wines. A great wine with one meal is not necessarily going to be a great wine with the next meal, so just because an SM7 matched Michael Jackson's voice really well doesn't necessarily mean it will match yours. Hell, I recorded a singer once (yes, only once...) where the magic bullet was an SM58. Go figure.

It'd be nice to have the luxury of trying different mics with your voice to see what goes well. This is why pro studios have a collection. :-)

Another great vocal mic (Stevie Nicks, Stevie Wonder, Van Morrison, Elton John, etc.) is a Sennheiser MD-441. I picked one up used for a little over $500 as well. It's also a dynamic, but is described as having condenser-like qualities. Of course, just because it matches Elton John's voice doesn't mean it will match yours.

And then of course is the myriad of actual condensers....

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
#7
I suspected the pre-amps in my 2i2 might be the problem. I'm plenty happy with the guitar recordings I've gotten (which is one reason I don't intend to sell the SM7 either way, the other reason being the fact that used gear sells for such a reduced price that its worth more to me to have an extra mic than it would be selling it).

As far as external pre-amps, how exactly does it work having an external pre-amp when my audio interface has built in pre-amps? Won't it foul up the sound either way if the last step in the chain is a lower quality pre-amp? (What I mean is, would it be more worth my money to get an external pre-amp, or just upgrade my audio interface?)

I will admit that my reasoning behind wanting a condenser is basically is that they're a thing people use, but its hard to go by anything but that until you actually try things out, at least in my experience. The SM-7 to me so far has just sounded sort of flat and maybe a little "dead", on vocals anyway. Like I said I've liked it for guitar (acoustic and amps). So I would like something with a little more color, and "warmth" (though I know that word is used to death to describe anything better than what you currently have). I've heard these words used in conjunction with condensers before, which is why I'm leaning that direction.

I don't really have a permanent living situation, because college, so is there any way I can come up with acoustic treatment thats portable?

As far as vocal style.... I'm just going to link some stuff rather than trying to describe it. All of these are with the SM-7. (I'm not trying to self promote or asking for a critique of my mix, unless you have tips about generally improving my vocals.)

https://soundcloud.com/dt_forrest/good-riddance-time-of-your-life-cover
This one is actually as good as I could get. I'm fairly happy, but the vocals just seem like they could be... better.

https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0BwGtSpUdOvc2QThPUTVob1NXTFE&usp=sharing
These are all unmixed demos.


Thank you guys for your advice so far.
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#8
Don't get an external pre alone - the line in's on the 2i2 don't actually bypass the pre's, so the result you'd be getting would be hella better but still not ideal.

Hence, imo, you'd be better off with a good audio interface.

And a warm audio WA 12 with it maybe.
I'm not fan of the 690 and 710.
They sound to me like they're designed to color your sound when they use the tube pre, but they really don't do much to it, and when set to the transistor pre they sound pretty dull for the money.

I'd still go for an audio interface with good transparent pre's though, possibly with a cloudlifter, considering the SM7B already sounds pretty warm compared to your everyday vocal mic.
Name's Luca.

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Clue: amplifiers amplify so don't turn it on if you need quiet.
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#9
Yeah, thats what I figured. Do you have a recommendation as far as audio interfaces, since the interface thread only has the Scarlett 2i4 (which I believe has the same preamps as the 2i2), and then a couple of higher input ones, which is not really what I need. Obviously I can go dig through guitar center's website or whatever myself, but if you have some that you have personal experience with that would be helpful.
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#10
Only a couple inputs?
An apogee duet duo, or an audient id22/SPL crimson if you're not on a mac.

All of the scarlett's have the same pre's, but from the 6i6 they have dedicated line inputs without pre's.
Name's Luca.

Quote by OliOsbourne
I don't know anything about this topic, but I just clicked on this thread because of your username :O
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Clue: amplifiers amplify so don't turn it on if you need quiet.
Quote by chrismendiola
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#11
Yeah, I mean I'm not opposed to having more inputs, but I don't really need them if they're gonna cost more. Thanks, that Audient id22 looks pretty sweet. I'll probably deliberate about it for a couple months before I actually go out and make a purchase, but you've given me some good things to think about.
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what specs is your pc? like how much ram?


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#12
The D-Pres found in the Steinberg interfaces are very good.

They're not SSL, Neve, UA quality, but as long as you're not expecting $1000/channel quality for a couple hundred dollars or so, you'll be pleased.

@spambot re 710:
Yes, the tube side colours the sound. If you have otherwise clinical sounding pres, it adds a nice alternative. I wouldn't describe the transistor side as "dull" as much as I would describe it as very smooth and clean.

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
#13
There's nothing inherently bad about the pres in the Scarlett or Saffire line of interfaces. Plenty of people use them with great results.

The issue is that you're trying to plug an SM7b into them, which they are not capable of adequately powering. You either need a new preamp with more gain, or you need something like a the FetHead or CloudLifter to boost the signal of your preamps that you already have. The preamp will likely give you a better sound (depending on what you go for), but it'll also be significantly more expensive.

Quote by Spambot_2
Don't get an external pre alone - the line in's on the 2i2 don't actually bypass the pre's, so the result you'd be getting would be hella better but still not ideal.


I'm pretty sure none of the Scarletts line inputs bypass the preamps. They didn't in the Saffire Pro range and the only thing they changed in the Scarlett series is the protocol it uses to talk to your computer (USB). Either way, the Focusrite pres are very transparent, so setting the gain to ~4 gives you unity gain and a nearly uncolored sound.


P.S. That Audient interface doesn't have enough gain for an SM7b, either.

Really, the only interfaces out there under $1000 that can power an SM7b well enough is the Apogee Duet and the Focusrite Forte.
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#14
Quote by MatrixClaw
There's nothing inherently bad about the pres in the Scarlett or Saffire line of interfaces. Plenty of people use them with great results.
Also plenty of people have used silvertone amps and FIAT Duna's with great results.

That does really not make any of them good.
Quote by MatrixClaw
I'm pretty sure none of the Scarletts line inputs bypass the preamps.
There are line only inputs on the back of the interfaces of the scarlett line from the 6i6 up to the 18i20, and there are no pre's there, only line drivers.
Quote by MatrixClaw
P.S. That Audient interface doesn't have enough gain for an SM7b, either.
While the possibility of having more is always better, 60dB are enough for me.

That is, recording relatively loud stuff, but I won't see anybody recording really quiet stuff with an SM7B, really.
Name's Luca.

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Clue: amplifiers amplify so don't turn it on if you need quiet.
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#15
Quote by Spambot_2
That is, recording relatively loud stuff, but I won't see anybody recording really quiet stuff with an SM7B, really.

Umm vocals? Sure they can be loud, but if you've gotta keep them that way just because the mic pres can't keep up then you're gonna have some pretty lame and un-dynamic sounding music...
#16
Quote by Spambot_2
Also plenty of people have used silvertone amps and FIAT Duna's with great results.

That does really not make any of them good.

The Scarlett pres are just as good as anything else in their class Unless you're willing to sacrifice features/inputs or are willing to spend 3 times more, there's nothing out there that's significantly better in any way. Not worth upgrading unless you have a high budget.

Honestly, the preamps in the Audient aren't that much better than the pres that were in my Pro 40. I used an ASP008 via ADAT with mine and the only major difference between the two came from clocking the Pro 40 to the ASP. HUGE difference in response there, but I found the preamps on the Audient unit to be clean, sterile and wildly unremarkable sounding. For the price the units sell for, I was expecting a lot more.

People in the audio business get far to hung up on the small fidelity differences between units that it honestly blows my mind. At this price range, the focus should be on stability and features, because they're all, more or less, the same, as far as sound is concerned. There are plenty of records being made on Scarlett/Saffire pres, just like there were tons of major-label records being cut on Mackie 8-bus boards. The preamps are honestly one of the least important things in the end result, especially with modern technology.

Quote by Spambot_2
There are line only inputs on the back of the interfaces of the scarlett line from the 6i6 up to the 18i20, and there are no pre's there, only line drivers.

Gotcha.

Quote by Spambot_2
While the possibility of having more is always better, 60dB are enough for me.

That is, recording relatively loud stuff, but I won't see anybody recording really quiet stuff with an SM7B, really.

I'm a very loud vocalist when I do my screams and I would not feel comfortable using a preamp with only 60dB of gain with an SM7b, unless I was purposely pushing the preamps into distortion (and the distortion it produced was pleasant).

The reason you want more gain is for headroom. Most preamps (especially at this level) start significantly amplify noise on the last 20-25% of their range, which means those 60dB preamps actually only have ~45-48dB of clean gain in them. No bueno for a clean vocalists, who are usually no where near as loud as a screamer. Forget using that preamp with most screamers who use fry vocal techniques or a dynamic singer who uses a lot of falsetto - you'll get more background noise than their actual vocal performance
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#17
I don't really know why you guys are saying I need more power for the SM7b. I may be understanding you incorrectly, but if you say it needs more power then the signal I should be getting should be weak/quiet, right? But it isn't. The signal I get from the SM7b is only slightly quieter than the signal I get from my Beta 57A. Like maybe 1-2dB difference. It would probably be too quiet to use as a room mic several feet away from me, but I've never been under the impression that you're supposed to do that with dynamic mics anyway.

I don't know if you listened to any of the stuff I linked further up, but all of those are done with the SM7b. Unless you mean there needs to be more power in some way that affects the sound but not the volume, I don't think thats really the case.
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#18
Quote by Danjo's Guitar
I don't really know why you guys are saying I need more power for the SM7b. I may be understanding you incorrectly, but if you say it needs more power then the signal I should be getting should be weak/quiet, right? But it isn't. The signal I get from the SM7b is only slightly quieter than the signal I get from my Beta 57A. Like maybe 1-2dB difference. It would probably be too quiet to use as a room mic several feet away from me, but I've never been under the impression that you're supposed to do that with dynamic mics anyway.

I don't know if you listened to any of the stuff I linked further up, but all of those are done with the SM7b. Unless you mean there needs to be more power in some way that affects the sound but not the volume, I don't think thats really the case.

I bought an SM7b when I was using my Saffire Pro 40, thinking that I was going to get an awesome sound out of it... and it didn't really sound any better than an SM58. I sold it, not understanding the hype.

A year or so later, I made some huge upgrades to my system, which included high-end mic preamps. I found an SM7b online for cheap and decided I'd give it a shot, knowing I could sell it for more than I paid later, if I still hated it.

I was blown away.

The difference was huge. The better preamps brought the mic to life. I didn't really need the extra gain myself, but there's something magically that happens to that mic when it's driven properly I now like my SM7b so much that it gets chosen 90% of the time over my condensers that are 3+ times more expensive.


That being said - a condenser mic still might be best for the sound you're going for. The SM7b works very well for me on singing, but not so well on others. I'd say a good condenser is a safer bet if you're intending to record mostly singing - plus it can double as an acoustic guitar mic. Most condensers are not nearly as picky when it comes to preamps. You could use a Neumann U87 through your Scarlett preamps and it'd still sound great.
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#19
If it's for your voice, I think really what you want is the mic in your price range that best suits your voice. So, ideally you could try a bunch out.

I'm not an expert on how a number of mics sound, and how they are different and what is best for what, in a very precise way, but if you have a recording of your voice, other people might have good suggestions.

Try DAW forums as well, or KVR I'm sure there are lots of guys in those forums that know. Lots of people will say "this is the best" or what have you, but imo, you don't necessarily want "better" or more expensive, but rather a mic with a character that suits your voice and style.

I think a good room, or vocals booth, if you don't already have one, would go a long way as well.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Oct 1, 2014,
#20
it all depends on your voice when it comes to the microphone. I use a perception 120 with a 2i2 interface( 250$) all together. Some people complain about the clarity of the mic but it works perfect for me. I get great quality recording but some people don't with it
#21
MatrixClaw, are you saying I should stick with my current interface, and get a nicer pre-amp to run in front of it, or upgrade to an interface with better built in pre-amps? Any suggestion on pre-amps that will power the SMB7 properly and sound good in your opinion? I guess I'd rather not go for a cloudlifter or whatever, because a pre-amp will be useful in general, but if the cloudlifter doesn't do what I want for the SM7B, I might not end up using it at all.
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#22
IMO you would want a fairly clean pre to power an SM7B.

The FMR RNP is very nice and transparent and the best thing I can think of in its category - cheap and transparent pre's.
Or the Warm Audio WA12.

Then if you want even more color there's the GAP pre73 (mkII or DLX).

Still though I'd say you wouldn't want to run a pre through that audio interface.
Name's Luca.

Quote by OliOsbourne
I don't know anything about this topic, but I just clicked on this thread because of your username :O
Quote by Cajundaddy
Clue: amplifiers amplify so don't turn it on if you need quiet.
Quote by chrismendiola
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#23
I agree with the above post about the "magic" of a good mic pre. I used my Rode NT1 (original modal) for many years just using just the pre-amp in my Tascam 2488 and I thought it was very good. One day I borrowed an inexpensive Alesis mic tube pre-amp to try on the Rode. What a difference. The mic came alive better than ever. I bought two of them for my pair of Rode NT1 mics. I plan on getting better preamps some day but till then I am pretty happy with them. It's not for gains sake, it actually warms up the overal tone (in my opimion anyway).
#24
Quote by Danjo's Guitar
MatrixClaw, are you saying I should stick with my current interface, and get a nicer pre-amp to run in front of it, or upgrade to an interface with better built in pre-amps? Any suggestion on pre-amps that will power the SMB7 properly and sound good in your opinion? I guess I'd rather not go for a cloudlifter or whatever, because a pre-amp will be useful in general, but if the cloudlifter doesn't do what I want for the SM7B, I might not end up using it at all.

I'd say it'd be more economical to buy a better interface, with preamps that will do the mic justice, because you'll at least be upgrading other aspects of the chain, like the conversion and DI inputs, if you decide you still don't like the SM7b afterwards.

Personally, I'd maybe consider buying a less expensive condenser mic first, that can be used for other purposes if you don't end up using it for your voice. This is just to make sure that it's not going to give you the sound you're looking for, before you spend more money on an upgrade just for the SM7b, which we're still not sure if you'll like on your voice after using better preamps.

I think the condenser mic is less of a gamble in this case, as you'll still likely use the condenser on other things, if you decide it's not right for your vocals. You can pick up something like the MXL V67G or CAD M179 for less than $150 and at least have another nice mic in your arsenal, before spending $500 more on an upgrade to the interface (Focusrite Forte for Mac/PC or the Apogee Duet for Mac). Just a thought.
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