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  #1  
Old 05.14.10, 11:00 AM
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Which is better? Low-end condenser mic or high-end dynamic mic?

I have been doing some home recording, mostly electric guitar, and am never satisfied the recorded sound quality. To give you an idea of how I record, it is basically this:

guitar amp-->Shure SM57--->mixer--->M-Audio Audiophile 192 sound card (I think that's right)--->Ableton Live 7

It just seems the sound I hear from the amp isn't the same sound I hear when I play it back. I am also not naÔve to the fact there are a lot of variables to recording. However, I was wondering if I should change microphones. I know that a lot of people stand by the Shure SM57 for recording, but is there a better option? I canít spend a lot of money, but would a condenser mic be better? This leads me to my thread question. Which is better, a low-cost condenser microphone or an industry-standard dynamic mic?
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  #2  
Old 05.14.10, 5:06 PM
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High-end dynamic is much better than low-end condenser. A Beyerdynamic M88/Shure SM7b will kick the **** out of any $300 condenser I can think of. Shure SM7b is the industry standard to look at, with the Beyerdynamic M88 and ElectroVoice RE20 being other similar options; those three mics are commonly used on guitar, kick drum, bass, snare, and vocals, even in studios with mics worth many times that (the SM7 most famously was the vocal mic on Thriller).

However: what kind of mixer are you using? You didn't mention that. There's a good chance that it's your mic preamp that's the problem, not the mic. I'm not a massive fan of 57's at all, but they typically sound OK. If you're using a cheap mixing board, that's probably your problem.
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Old 05.14.10, 6:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wren View Post

However: what kind of mixer are you using? You didn't mention that. There's a good chance that it's your mic preamp that's the problem, not the mic. I'm not a massive fan of 57's at all, but they typically sound OK. If you're using a cheap mixing board, that's probably your problem.
It is a Tapco by Mackie Blend 6. Strangely, I never gave consideration to my mixer being the problem. Would I necessarily NEED a mixer? Could I use some kind of pre-amp? I'm open to suggestions of any kind.
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Old 05.15.10, 3:48 AM
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It depends on what kind of sound you're going for, but an SM57 should sound pretty good for most guitar recordings. The mistake you seem to be making is that you're expecting the sound you've recorded to sound like the amp does in the room.

Surely you've noticed that your amp sounds different depending on where you're standing in relation to the cab. A step or two off to one direction can alter the tone you hear, often quite dramatically. The sound you hear standing several feet from the front of the cab is a lot different from what you'd hear if you got on your knees and put your ear up to the grille cloth. Moving the mic, even just slightly, to point at a different part of the speaker can also drastically change the sound.

Mics generally color the sound a bit, too. The SM57, for instance, has a bit more presence in the high mids, which is what makes it work so well for a variety of guitar applications, as well as snares, and sometimes cymbals or vocals. Cardoid mics (like the SM57) also add color with their proximity effect, which is where the lower frequencies get louder the closer the mic is to the source. There's yet more slight coloration that can come from the cables and preamp you're using.

In short, when you're recording, you need to set up your amp's sound for what's going into your recording software and not for what you hear in the room.
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Old 05.15.10, 2:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MassacredHatred View Post
It depends on what kind of sound you're going for, but an SM57 should sound pretty good for most guitar recordings. The mistake you seem to be making is that you're expecting the sound you've recorded to sound like the amp does in the room.

Surely you've noticed that your amp sounds different depending on where you're standing in relation to the cab. A step or two off to one direction can alter the tone you hear, often quite dramatically. The sound you hear standing several feet from the front of the cab is a lot different from what you'd hear if you got on your knees and put your ear up to the grille cloth. Moving the mic, even just slightly, to point at a different part of the speaker can also drastically change the sound.

Mics generally color the sound a bit, too. The SM57, for instance, has a bit more presence in the high mids, which is what makes it work so well for a variety of guitar applications, as well as snares, and sometimes cymbals or vocals. Cardoid mics (like the SM57) also add color with their proximity effect, which is where the lower frequencies get louder the closer the mic is to the source. There's yet more slight coloration that can come from the cables and preamp you're using.

In short, when you're recording, you need to set up your amp's sound for what's going into your recording software and not for what you hear in the room.
Good stuff.

I guess I just haven't taken the time to experiment with different mic locations and that kind of thing. What I have tried, that yielded good results, is using an SM57 together with a SM58 (which I originally bought for vocals). I use them together, each with different locations on the speaker. This does a good job at making the sound seem more dimensional, if that makes sense. I've even gone as far as panning the SM57 hard left and the SM58 hard right on my mixer. I don't know if this breaks any recording rules, but I liked the results of that too.
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Old 05.15.10, 6:00 PM
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It is a Tapco by Mackie Blend 6. Strangely, I never gave consideration to my mixer being the problem. Would I necessarily NEED a mixer? Could I use some kind of pre-amp? I'm open to suggestions of any kind.
You could very easily just buy a single-channel preamp rather than a whole separate mixer.
The problem is that recording gear is even more of a money pit than guitar gear, believe it or not, and you do need to spend a good deal of money to get a good preamp. That said, there are a few that are on the cheaper side that would probably still be a significant improvement over your Tapco: M-Audio DMP3, Studio Projects VTB1, etc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MassacredHatred
...The mistake you seem to be making is that you're expecting the sound you've recorded to sound like the amp does in the room.
...
Mics generally color the sound a bit, too. The SM57, for instance, has a bit more presence in the high mids, which is what makes it work so well for a variety of guitar applications, as well as snares, and sometimes cymbals or vocals. Cardoid mics (like the SM57) also add color with their proximity effect, which is where the lower frequencies get louder the closer the mic is to the source. There's yet more slight coloration that can come from the cables and preamp you're using.

In short, when you're recording, you need to set up your amp's sound for what's going into your recording software and not for what you hear in the room.
This is worth repeating. Mic placement is important too, but the fact that no mic (especially not a 57) sounds like what you're actually hearing in the room is a very important point to consider.

And I have a question: when you record your guitar, are you just recording your guitar or are you recording it alongside other things too? I ask because what can sound like a thin, crappy, overly midrange-y guitar tone (which is exactly what a 57 gives you) on its own can sound fantastic in a full-band recorded situation. Just food for thought.

And yes, mic placement does make a massive difference in sound.
Read this, if you haven't already: http://www.badmuckingfastard.com/sound/slipperman.html. It's incredibly long, and although it's pretty much specifically about recording heavy-sounding guitars, I feel that it applies pretty well to recording guitars in general.
Quote:
Originally Posted by 3rdDay
What I have tried, that yielded good results, is using an SM57 together with a SM58 (which I originally bought for vocals). I use them together, each with different locations on the speaker. This does a good job at making the sound seem more dimensional, if that makes sense. I've even gone as far as panning the SM57 hard left and the SM58 hard right on my mixer. I don't know if this breaks any recording rules, but I liked the results of that too.
You'll want to be careful with this technique; while there really aren't any "rules" as far as recording goes other than "if it sounds good it is good," this is as close to breaking a rule as you're likely to get. If it sounded good, then awesome, but you were lucky: when mic'ing one speaker with 2 mics (or one anything with 2 mics) there is a spectacular potential for phasing issues. Phasing problems occur when a single sound is recorded from 2 different sources at 2 different distances; it manifests by the 2 recorded sound waves, which are nearly identical but are in slightly different places in the time domain, being added together, which causes cancellations at certain frequencies.

Google the "3 to 1 rule" and "phasing" if that made absolutely no sense to you.
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Old 05.15.10, 11:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MassacredHatred View Post
There's yet more slight coloration that can come from the cables and preamp you're using.
Lol. Seriously lol.

If it is an actual XLR cable then they are specifically designed to subtract the effects of both the environment and the cable from the output. Unless it is totally broken or made out of substandard Mexican recycled tin foil (see totally broken) the cable will have no discernable effect (colouration) this is in no way true of the preamp. The difference in preamps can be night and day.

Cables however? lol.
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Old 05.16.10, 12:47 AM
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Lol. Seriously lol.

If it is an actual XLR cable then they are specifically designed to subtract the effects of both the environment and the cable from the output. Unless it is totally broken or made out of substandard Mexican recycled tin foil (see totally broken) the cable will have no discernable effect (colouration) this is in no way true of the preamp. The difference in preamps can be night and day.

Cables however? lol.
Ugh. Not this again. I like you most of the time, but the attitude with which you talk about cables whenever it comes up really irritates me. You sound like a "LOL, n00b" spouting fourteen-year-old.

I guess I haven't worked with enough different XLR cables to be able to tell if there's much difference between different quality cable, so I suppose I can't comment too much on that.
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  #9  
Old 05.16.10, 1:56 AM
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Ugh. Not this again. I like you most of the time, but the attitude with which you talk about cables whenever it comes up really irritates me. You sound like a "LOL, n00b" spouting fourteen-year-old
+1.

I'm one of those people who swears they can hear the difference between cables. I know that "scientifically" it's bogus, but I trust my ears. And I know of people who have done some fairly unscientific but very practical tests that showed quite conclusively that, in fact, a lot of people can tell the difference between cables. Not everyone, but a lot of people. The interesting thing that they found was that, despite the fact that people could fairly consistently tell one cable from another, they weren't consistent at all as to which cable they preferred the sound of.

As to the science of it: I believe that the sonic difference between a 15-foot CBI XLR cable with Neutrik connectors and a 10-foot Canare XLR cable with Neutrik connectors is totally negligible. The more real-world variables you add, though (long runs, number of different connections between points A and B, running cables alongside AC lines, rf interference, and so forth), the more better cable makes a sonic difference. This is based on my real-world experience, and the real-world experience of many other engineers that I know, most of whom are more qualified than myself. When you're getting a massive rf/AC/WTF? hum from a Hosa snake, and you swap it out for a different, "better" snake that is identical in every other way and the hum goes away, you realize that cable makes a difference. And what if that hum was really quiet? Like, quiet enough to not feel like a problem you had to track down but just a little noisy, enough to wonder "do I really have the mic pre gain cranked that much? No, guess not. Huh..." that changes the sound too. Poorly shielded cables make a difference to the sound in a real-world situation based on that alone.

In a controlled environment, I believe that there's no sonic difference between a coathanger and a Monster speaker cable. In the real world, though, everyone knows that a coathanger wouldn't actually work as speaker cable.

Yes, cables do in fact make a difference to the sound.


EDIT: and I apologize in advance to 3rdDay if this turns into an absurd, off-topic pissing match (which it definitely has a massive potential for doing).
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Old 05.16.10, 2:06 AM
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Cables are probably the least relevant thing that has been mentioned in respect to the actual thread topic, so hopefully there won't be many more posts about it. The OP has much better things to focus his energy on at this point than which cables he's using. I'm actually kind of sorry I even said anything about them.
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  #11  
Old 05.16.10, 3:19 AM
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Originally Posted by MassacredHatred View Post
Cables are probably the least relevant thing that has been mentioned in respect to the actual thread topic, so hopefully there won't be many more posts about it. The OP has much better things to focus his energy on at this point than which cables he's using. I'm actually kind of sorry I even said anything about them.
Totally. This is very true. I think we can all agree that if you can't get a good recording, 999 times out of 1000 it ain't the fault of your cables.
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Old 05.16.10, 6:23 PM
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Originally Posted by MassacredHatred View Post
Ugh. Not this again. I like you most of the time, but the attitude with which you talk about cables whenever it comes up really irritates me. You sound like a "LOL, n00b" spouting fourteen-year-old.

I guess I haven't worked with enough different XLR cables to be able to tell if there's much difference between different quality cable, so I suppose I can't comment too much on that.
Dropping it right now. Go and do the research (like I have) on double blind trials (that I have posted repeatedly). I have over thirty years in the field and teritary qualifications in a relevant spe******ation. Plenty of people see UFOs too. Also please respond with actual evidence/arguement and cut out the childish personal insults. Replacing an obviously malfunctioning unit with another that works isn't evidence of anything except one was malfunctioning.
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Old 05.16.10, 7:16 PM
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the 57 should do a good job. however that being said I hate the sm57 when i record at home. it does a good job but i just don't love it in a home situation. if you can afford an sm7b get one. it's one microphone that can do everything well.

however if youre doing home recording on a budget and are looking for a guitar mic that sounds exactly the same as what comes off your amp effortlessly try a sennheiser e609. not too expensive new, even cheaper used. but my main microphones are exactly that, sm57/58 e609 and an sm7b.

and before you consider buying a crappy 150ish dollar condensor mic, just think for the price of 2 crappy mics you could be an sm7 and michael jackson chose to use that mic when he could have used any microphone in the world. billy corgan used it on siamese dream, anthony keidis used it for every vocal track he's done on every peppers album, bradford cox from atlas sound / deerhunter uses them on pretty much most of his stuff.


it's just a plainly amazing mic
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Old 05.16.10, 9:04 PM
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Quote:
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EDIT: and I apologize in advance to 3rdDay if this turns into an absurd, off-topic pissing match (which it definitely has a massive potential for doing).
No problem. This may surprise you, but I actually like the back and forth discussion. It helps hearing both sides. I will agree that cables are one of the last items I was concerned about. I've never really studied the diffences in cables. I'll be honest, I've never noticed any tonal differences between the cables I use at home and the cables I use at my church (where I normally play). It ones of those thing where there COULD be a difference, but not enough of a difference for me to be concerned. I know the subject has been dropped, so hopefully my statements are okay.

Would we all agree that a pre-amp would be a significant improvement over my Tapco mixer?
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  #15  
Old 05.17.10, 4:08 PM
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Would we all agree that a pre-amp would be a significant improvement over my Tapco mixer?
That's what gets my vote; it seems like your weakest link to me.
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