recommend a microphone?

tyllwyd Forumite Posts: 5,496 Forumite
My teenage DD has asked for a microphone but I'd really appreciate some advice on what to buy.

She sings and plays acoustic guitar (also piano sometimes) and she wants to be able to record herself and edit the music on her laptop. My budget is about £50 - up to £100 if necessary.

Should she be looking for a studio microphone, or is it possible to buy one which would be OK on stage and for home recording?


  • bingo_bango
    bingo_bango Forumite Posts: 2,594 Forumite
    Is it just her voice she wants to capture through the mic, or does she want something to capture the whole musical ensemble on one channel?

    I'd be pointing towards a Shure (SM58) for the vocal, or an SM57 if she wants to record the guitar as well. That should do what she wants. Please don't buy them from eBay though because most of them are cheap carp. I've heard some of the fakes in practice and they are abysmal.

    The real Shure will last for years as long as it doen't get kicked about the stage.

    Bear in mind though that it will have an XLR connection, so might be worth looking for a DI box if she wants to connect it to her computer, or you could try something like this (I haven't used the converter cables, so can't comment on them!).

    Expect to pay ~£95, but worth that for the peace of mind that it will not have to be replaced in 3 days when DD realises how bad the sound is!
  • baxie
    baxie Forumite Posts: 204
    Part of the Furniture 100 Posts Combo Breaker
    Really it depends on what your DD wants to do, if she just wants something basic or something a bit better.

    If you look on several of the music instrument shop websites they have deals and packages for sale, microphone and interface sort of thing. Try DV247, Dawsons etc

    You could try a USB microphone which would plug straight into the laptop, just search on Amazon to get an idea of what is available.

    Apart from that what bingobango says is good advice.
  • spacey2012
    spacey2012 Forumite Posts: 5,836
    Tenth Anniversary 1,000 Posts Combo Breaker
    A USB condenser mic and a PC with Audacity which is free and she can record each track separately and mix them all.
    Unlike expensive recording software, Audacity is plug and play, finds everything and just works.

    Unless you want to go down the Apple route, then its time to get some very deep pockets, you are going to be putting your hand in them.
    Be happy...;)
  • tyllwyd
    tyllwyd Forumite Posts: 5,496 Forumite
    Thanks everyone! She's not done it before, but I think she probably wants to have the capacity to record the vocal and guitar separately. I was looking at the Shure SM58, but that's pushing the limits of the budget so I think by the time we've added in the other stuff that would be needed to make it work with the laptop it will be too expensive. Looks like it would be a good investment in the future if she starts playing on stage.

    We don't have Apple stuff so I think a USB condenser mic and Audacity will probably be the most practical solution, and the easiest for her to get up and running.
  • Another_username_2
    Another_username_2 Forumite Posts: 9 Forumite
    Shure mics are great workhorse tools - I have one SM57 that I keep for mic'ing our drummer's snare and it has taken so much bashing - he can get a bit over-enthusiastic! - that half the paint is gone. However, I don't think robustness is top of the OP's priorities. For what it's worth, Shure also have a cheaper "PG" series that match the "SM" series mics at about half the price, competitive with the fakes and entirely suitable for light use.

    Since daughter wants to mic guitar and voice separately (very sensible), consider using a piezo contact mic for the guitar. These are remarkably good, and having a mic on the guitar body eliminates both external noises and coloration due to the recording room. You can adjust the recorded tone significantly by attaching the mic to different parts of the soundboard. The "Bizzy Bee" brand, for example, goes for about £25 and comes with a lump of wax so that the mic can be attached to the guitar temporarily and without harming the finish at whatever turns out to be the best position.

    An electret condenser mic will be very suitable for voice, but be aware that the USB types have received mixed reviews in the hobbyist recording community - check those at sites such as Sound on Sound. I don't know whether any have the possibility to accept a second input for the guitar mic, or to synchronize properly for mixing with a pre-recorded track (needed, for example, if daughter wants to record guitar and voice at separate times). As many of them are designed and marketed for podcast applications - a speaking voice close to the mic - they may be less suitable for capturing a natural singing voice at a distance, or a guitar.

    Quite decent battery-powered Chinese-made electret mics are available from about £30, so personally, I would be inclined to get one of those and a small mixer with USB interface, which would offer much greater flexibility and functionality. Behringer, for example, offers one for under £40, so the whole kit could come in within your £100 maximum. The Lexicon Alpha, currently being widely discounted to about £50, looks a significant step up from the Behringer and may not stretch it too much further.

    I concur with the recommendation for Audacity, which is my go-to tool for simple recording tasks.
  • tyllwyd
    tyllwyd Forumite Posts: 5,496 Forumite
    I really appreciate all the advice - I spent most of the afternoon yesterday looking at different options and reading the forums at sound on sound, so this is really helping me to get an idea of what is possible.

    I'm torn at the moment - if I get a USB studio condenser microphone, I can see it would be really easy for my DD to just plug it into her laptop and get started doing something. But I can see that a set up with a mixer would probably be more flexible and easier to upgrade if she wanted to improve what she was doing.

    I looked at the mixers but it's all very new to me. I'm wondering how much of a learning curve would it be to get started using one? My OH is a software engineer so he's quite confident hooking bits of kit up together, but the actual sound recording side of it is all new to us.
  • baxie
    baxie Forumite Posts: 204
    Part of the Furniture 100 Posts Combo Breaker
    At the moment Dawsons has this -

    It's a package that has the microphone, the interface and some headphones. This package also comes with software needed for recording to the laptop.

    The learning curve is almost non existent in this case. Just plug the microphone into the interface, then plug the interface into the computer by USB, and you're ready.

    You may find that as your DD gets more and more into recording an interest in other gear with develop, and to me, that is where most of the leaning is done.

    Good Luck to you, and I hope you post some of the recordings!
  • Another_username_2
    Another_username_2 Forumite Posts: 9 Forumite
    tyllwyd - mixers are fundamentally very, very simple - they "mix" two or more signals so that they can be heard together, with separate volume controls for the various input "channels" and the combined output. The enormous mixers used in recording studios and at big venues have lots of subsidiary capabilities, but that's their main function.

    Small mixers of the sort we are talking about here don't have much additional functionality. Usually, one or two main channels have the ability to accept a microphone - that means, an XLR socket and a good quality input amplifier with more "gain" (amplification) than standard. The main channels often have some simple tone controls, just like those on a stereo system, or a "balance" control so that you can adjust the tonality and apparent position of the guitar and voice separately. Some have a headphone amplifier and socket as well as an output for a stereo system. You don't have to use what you don't need to use, but you will probably find all of these useful.

    The computer interfaces all have some sort of mixer facility inside. Many of them (even relatively modest ones such as the EMU 1616m on my home recording system) have very substantial mixing and related capabilities, which can be driven by special software. These can be rather complex, so daunting as a starting point, which is why I am suggesting you begin with a simple external mixer and a simple soundcard separately. Unlike computer hardware, small mixers always seem to find a use for themselves whether you are recording or performing, and they hold a reasonable second-hand value even if daughter decide music is not for her.

    While I'm here, a couple of comments on the previous input (with which I generally agree!):

    The Focusrite system suggested by baxie looks a super deal. Focusrite is pretty much the top dog when it comes to recording electronics and a large-diaphragm condenser would be really nice for both guitar and voice. Trouble is, the price is twice your maximum budget. There are similar outfits even within your price range, although the mics tend to be cheaper dynamic ones and the electronics are from more budget-oriented companies. The Focusrite would be great if you can run to it.

    As Danny says, Shure was, for donkeys' years, the "must-have" name for performance mics, primarily for their robustness - it's no accident that you see the likes of Roger Daltrey whirling SM58s around their heads - but they were not especially known for their studio offerings. I suspect real recording engineers dream of Neumanns! Sennheiser is indeed good, but the market leader in quality low-price mics over the last few years has surely been Rode. If you are offered a Rode condenser as part of your kit, just go for it. Not that Shures or Sennheisers are poor.
  • tyllwyd
    tyllwyd Forumite Posts: 5,496 Forumite
    Thank you to everyone! The budget is my biggest problem - if I showed my DD the video that goes with that Focusrite system, that's exactly the kind of thing she's hoping to do, and she'd be jumping up and down asking to go and buy it.

    The trouble is that £200 is a lot of money, and we need the microphone stand and pop filter as well, so that's more on top. I'm still trying to work out what is the best compromise between budget and performance!
  • Another_username_2
    Another_username_2 Forumite Posts: 9 Forumite
    I should have said before and didn't - I agree with Danny, the best place to get advice is your local music shop. Most of them will match the online prices (or at least get close) and will provide lots of support.

    Some of these mics come with a desktop stand which is fine for making a start, and a pop shield is nothing special - you can easily make one yourself from a wire coathanger and an old pair of tights. That's the way it used to be done even in some professional studios.

    In terms of budget, in the £50-100 range, you are definitely in the area where a small additional spend can buy a good bit of extra quality, but it's possible - although not always easy - to find decent kit in this range if you buy very carefully.

    Danny - I have a soft spot for AKGs, too. I know several professional vocalists who use C1000s in live situations, and I have a couple myself (although I am more likely to use one of my NT1s for recording).
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