In this episode we’re showing you what to look for in a vocal mic and how to find the right mic for your room and voice.
Picking the right mic is crucial because if you choose the wrong one, it’s very hard (if not impossible) to make it sound great in the mix. We’re explaining the reasons for this and give you examples of the most common problems.
Things we cover in the episode:
- Make sure the mic is not too sibilant/bright. When in doubt, darker is better.
- Know your room and avoid condensers if you’re in an untreated or bad sounding room (most rooms).
- Learn about pickup patterns and choose a mic with the right pattern for your situation. In most cases: Cardiod.
- Know your genre and think about the sound you’re going for. Bright? Dark? Polished? Airy? Gritty? Distorted? Modern? Vintage? Do some research on classic mics and popular choices for certain styles.
- You’ll find that a lot of the classic options are super expensive. Resist the temptation to by a cheap knock-off or cheap condensers in general, with only a few exceptions. If you can afford the high-end mics, perfect! If not, save up or get a good dynamic mic. There are some good affordable condensers, but you really have to do some research and pick one that matches your voice. So be careful.
- For many people using a dynamic vocal mic is actually a really great idea! Especially in heavier genres and in a DIY recording setup at home.
- If you can, try a few options before you buy one. Every voice is different. And every room, too.
Here are 3 reason why we often recommend a good dynamic vocal mic to self-recording bands:
- Value for money. Good dynamic mics, like a Shure SM7B, a Røde Procaster, an Aston Stealth, an Electro Voice RE20, etc. typically sound better than condensers in the same price range. If you go with a condenser, you’ll probably have to invest a little more.
- Most rooms are problematic, especially if you record at home or in the jam space, you'll probably have to make the most out of a less-than-ideal acoustic situation. Dynamics are much better for this, as they are far less sensitive and don’t capture as much of the room sound and noise as condensers do.
- Aggressive vocals are typically a good fit for dynamics because of the "gritty" midrange character and smooth top end of those mics. Condensers can sound a little too detailed for this, sometimes a little harsh, sibilant or brittle and some lack the punch and grit in the mids. Not true for every vocalist and every mic, but for many of them, especially with budget condensers.
At the end of the day, you'll have to try and find out what works best with your voice, your style of music and in your room. Just don't think you have to use a condenser, even if that's what you see in most studio pictures.
Just google "records made with an SM7" and you'll probably feel a lot more comfortable about using a dynamic mic. 😉
Related Episodes & Articles:
86: Unlock Your Voice’s Full Potential And Record Better Vocals – With Matt Ramsey
80: What We Use In Our Vocal Chains (And Why We Use It)
Why You Don’t Need A Vocal Booth
Dynamic Vocal Mic Or Condenser?
#31: Make Your Chorus POP With These 5 Vocal Arrangement And Production Tricks
#17: Vocal Tuning Isn’t Just For T-Pain
#11: 5 Essential Steps To A Pro Vocal Recording
Different Parts, Different Mics
117: Mic Placement Quick Start Guide
#49: Home Studio Acoustics And Room Treatment – With Jesco Lohan
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This episode was edited by Thomas Krottenthaler.
Benedikt's voice on this episode has been recorded with the Antelope Axino Synergy Core.
TSRB Podcast 125 - Automatic Episode Transcript — Please excuse any errors, not reviewed for accuracy
Benedikt: and I don't know if, if it's the same for you, Malcolm, but you can fix a lot of things, but the wrong mic and the wrong room for the wrong voice is a, a real problem often.
Benedikt: Hello, and welcome to the self recording band podcast. I'm your host Benedictine, and I'm here with my friend and co-host Malcolm Owen flood. How are you? Malcolm?
Malcom: Hey, Benny. I'm great, man. How are you?
Benedikt: Great. Thank you. So we're not gonna lie. Both of us are tired, but we're just gonna pretend as if things are good.
Malcom: But things are good.
Benedikt: no, they're good. Definitely good.
Malcom: And, and for me, it's just early, so I'm just like just waking up tired, but it's, uh, it's normal tired. My, by the time I finish this cup of coffee, people will hear me being reborn as this episode goes on. they'll be fine.
Benedikt: Awesome. Looking forward to it. No,
Malcom: we are gonna talk about vocal choosing the right vocal mic for your voice and for your environment slash room. That is our topic. But in musical news and banter, I am going to jam with some friends tonight. It's probably my first time jamming with somebody in like two years. How crazy is that? Like, other than like a random, like there happens to be guitar in the room. Play for 30 seconds with somebody. This is like, actually, like what's gonna be, you know, Trump's little PA system and we're having to jam and that's the purpose and I'm pretty excited. It's gonna be weird.
Benedikt: Wow. Awesome. So, but it's like a, a real jam. So there's nothing like, um, prepared or is it,
Malcom: yeah, nothing prepared. It's, it's two old bandmates of mine here. I'm gonna expose, expose myself and be vulnerable here. Um, I was in a band called sound and science in high school, and that music does exist online for those people that want to go dig in. It was like, I think I've talked about it. It was like technical Coldplay um, and, uh, and, uh, you know, I, I. I don't even have to say that because the, the, the, the only app, the like stuff, we, the only stuff we recorded wasn't wasn't that technical, but by the end, it was like full on Prague. Um, but , uh, so getting back, like some of those guys have just stayed some of my best friends through my, through my life. So, uh, gonna go meet up with them and jam away through the night. It'll be super fun, just for fun.
Benedikt: That that's so cool. Yeah. Um, I don't know about you Malcolm, that that's just, I have just one, one thought here and that is, do you. Still feel like making music yourself, like when you're working on music of other people all the time, because I've, I've definitely struggled with that. And I'm just getting back into like enjoying making my own music, like with my band and everything. And I'm not contributing much to the writing except for a couple of backing vocals, but I start to enjoy the practicing again and looking forward to the band practices and looking forward to playing live and all that. And that hasn't been the case the last couple of years, just because. Creative sort of energy and bandwidth and all that was already spent each night,
Malcom: Right, right. It, it has been, I don't know. It's hard to answer that cause I don't think I know yet, but I found that with all of the television work I'm doing for, for listeners who aren't aware, I, I do a lot of, um, like reality and documentary sound on set. Uh, For, for TV. And for that stuff, like that's taken me away from music where opposed like before that I would spend every waking hour in, in the room I'm in right now, just mixing a master in music. And, and before that, producing it and engineering it. So all of a sudden I've had this like increased distance from, from music. And I, I went like a month without working on music right. Where I, I came home and started mixing again. But in that month I found myself like listening to music and just having like a totally different emotional reaction to it. Um, and like, and getting so into it. And, uh, so I'm like falling back in love with music. But as to your question, like, do I have like the, the urge to create it? Um, I, I, I think I still enjoy helping somebody else's song more than trying to come up with my own. Like right now I, I get like a creative fix out, out of mixing it and coming up with some special effect I idea or something like that.
And, uh, yeah, I really like, like the, I find like I'm inspired by the idea that I get sent.
Benedikt: Yeah, totally. And and just, just, uh, so that people know, um, you, you said like, You you're, um, you sort of falling in love with music again, and I think you mean like with making music, right. I think music in general is something we always loved and, and still enjoy and stuff, but, but like making your own music is a different thing. Just so people don't misunderstand this here. Like we, we're still very passionate obviously about music and it's all we do. All the time, but like making your own music is a different story. And I agree. I, the most, it's fun to me to be able to work on so many different songs all the time, but it's at the same time, it's very draining. Also. Like I have to put a lot of creativity in thought and all of that into all these projects. And that just means that at the end of the day, I don't have much left for my own stuff. And, uh, So, but recently that starts to change a little bit. Maybe it's because I do more. No, maybe not. I mean, with coaching, I still work on a lot of songs. It's the same thing. I don't, I don't actually know what it has to do with, but like, um, maybe it's just, maybe it's just one of those things where you have to do it in order to enjoy it again. So you just have to force yourself a little while for a while, and then it starts becoming fun again. I don't know, but at the moment I really enjoy making my own music again. And, uh, but it's, it's interesting how that changes.
Malcom: Yeah. Well, I mean I've, as you become, uh, like a mixing engineer, your, your circle of friends starts to become other mixing engineers.
Malcom: is this the type of people that wanna talk about the stuff you like talking about? Um, right. So, and a lot of those people listen to a lot of audio books and podcasts and it, it's not just because they like to listen to somebody talk it's because that. Too tired to listen to more music at the end of the day. Um, so that like goes back to, yeah, I totally love it, but I, I didn't have like the space to let more music into my life kind of thing. Like, like listening to music for fun. Wasn't something I really did a lot of for, for years now. But over that last month, being away from music. I was just like, oh, I want to hear that song, pull it up, just listen to it. So it's a totally different relationship. Um, and, and it's like, even though I'm less involved with the music in that period, I'm, I'm taking more out of it. It's kind of interesting. I don't know stuff to
Benedikt: Yeah. Yeah, exactly, exactly. It actually, we, we made a whole episode on that, like that if you get away from it for a while you come back and are more excited about it, probably. And it's the same thing just in the big picture of it. I think so. Anyway. Interesting. Back to today's topic today is obviously again about music and recording, which we love just for the record. But like, um, today it's about choosing the right vocal mic for your VO voice and or room. Like both of the things, those things are important. And, um, the, the vocal is with most genres, the. The most important part, the most important element of your mix of your song. And so it has, it just has to be right. And we're gonna show you what to look for in a vocal mic and how to find the right mic for your room and your voice. And this is important because again, the vocal is typically the most important thing in any, in a song and picking the right mic is crucial because. If you choose the wrong one, it's very hard. If not impossible to make it sound great in the mix. And we're gonna explain the reasons for this and give you examples of the most common problems. So this is really one of those things where if I get, if people send me stuff to mix and I look forward to hearing the song and I, um, listen to a couple of things, and then I bring in the vocal and I like, when it's the wrong mic, I immediately know like, oh, oh man, like, this is gonna be a long day because it just, you know, When it's not right. It's very hard to get it right. And when it's like, when it has one of these common problems that we're gonna talk about this is really challenging to mix, and it's a bummer because we want the vocal to shine and we wanna be able to, to bring the best out of every song. And, and if the vocal is sort of yeah. Challenging to work with then, uh, we, we have a problem and, and we don't want that to happen. So that's why we, we, we do this episode and I don't know if, if it's the same for you, Malcolm, but I, you can fix a lot of things, but the wrong mic and the wrong room for the wrong voice is a, a real problem often.
Malcom: Totally. Yeah, the, the whole reason we're doing this episode is actually because I got sent a song to mix and the vocal, uh, was like cool vocal, but the, the, I could hear like the reflection of the room around it, like, and, and, and it was kind of noisy, the, the noise floor of the mic. It was just like, okay, this is a, a great book performance that was just captured the wrong way. So. A couple quick tweaks and this would be an entirely another level. So whenever this happens, Benny and are like, well, if we just make an podcast episode about it, that's just gonna solve that problem before it even gets sent to us for the next time. So I can just send this episode whenever this happens.
Benedikt: Yeah. totally. Exactly. All right. So let's dive in, I'd say one of the most common things, and I always, I'm always curious to hear your thoughts. Maybe you, you, your perspective is different, but to me, one of the most common things and most common problems is that the vocal is just too bright, but not in a good way. So. Many cheap con condenser microphones have these like overly bright, harsh, brittle sounding highs the top end. And, uh, it, to me, it's much easier to boost. Good sounding top end into a darker mic or a darker source than to have to deal with this, this harsh, weird sounding. Annoying top end. So when in doubt, darker is better to me. And that's one of those things where it is just sometimes it's just too synt and it's the SS and stuff that annoys me, but sometimes it's like an overall bright quality to it that I can't really get rid of. That is not pleasing.
Malcom: Agreed agreed. The, yeah, there seems to be a thing among kind of Mo or consumer level, uh, condensor mics, where they are purposely making them bright to kind of like try and make them sound expensive, but it, it doesn't really work. And when you plug it in, you're like, oh, that's seems shiny, but it's it's again, without the context of knowing. What, uh, a great vocal mic sounds like, like in to compare that it's kind of hard to know. Um, so you can really just pretty much go on the assumption that cheaper con condenser mics are gonna be kind of artificially brighter. That's what it sounds like. Really. It sounds like it's being boosted. Um, and it it's kind, it's kind of weird sounding compared to a really nice. Microphone that that might be bright. Like I U 80 sevens are, are kind of somewhat bright, I think. And, but it's a super smooth top end to me, comparatively to, um, like a, a road condenser mic. Um, and, and don't get me wrong. Road is great. Bang for buck pretty much across the entire line, I think. But it's like a, it's a different league altogether and we're talking thousands of dollars. So of course it. but there's, there's things you can do. Uh, I mean, there, there's gonna be other options we're gonna talk about in this, where you don't have to spend thousands of dollars and you're still gonna get a totally professional result.
Benedikt: Yes. Agreed. I think it's a rule of thumb that cheap condenser mics are something you have to be very careful with, but there are, there's always the exception. There are a couple of options that actually don't sound. And it's always, it's also, it gotta, um, they have to fit your voice. It has to match your voice. And for some singers, the, the problem, the problem with the brightness is worse than for others. But, um, so I'm not saying that none of the affordable mics are, are good, but you gotta be really careful. And when in doubt, I would go for a darker mic or a different option that we're gonna talk about. Uh, one, one thing that I always like to mention is because I don't see a lot of people who use it for some reason. It it's a, a very well selling microphone. If I look at the, the online reviews and everything, but I don't see it often in tutorials or when, when producers talk about it or stuff, uh, and stuff, but there is a mic by sender, the MK four that is pretty affordable. It's below 300 euros. And it's, to me still, I think the most pleasing sounding of the cheap condensers. I just love how that mic sounds. It's very. And that, that's why I wanted to mention it. That's one of those rare mics that really, really sound good, that I can really recommend because it's, it can take a lot of level. It's pretty flat sounding. It's a pretty flexible mic. It doesn't sound really exciting, but that's the good thing about it. It's pretty flat and high quality mic. And, and that is one of the, yeah. One of those condensers that I can actually recommend, although it's affordable, but that's really an except.
Malcom: Right now I gotta say, I don't understand why nobody associates San Heiser with high quality gear. I mean, some the film industry does, but I feel like the music industry doesn't, but all their stuff's great in my opinion. Yeah. Like they're, they're really incredibly well built stuff. yeah. I don't know. check out, check out that stuff. It is good.
Benedikt: yeah. Uh, Sanhaiser Norman I think is one company or was, or is I think, but there's like the same,
you know, it's
Malcom: Yeah related somehow, for
Benedikt: Yeah. And, and it's like a certain, there is a certain level of quality that you can expect from their products. Definitely. Yeah.
Malcom: Yeah. Well it's German made right. Sound Heiser.
Malcom: Yeah. Um, and everything German Germany makes is fantastic, including Benny
Benedikt: yeah, yeah, yeah. Thank you for that. no, um, yeah, but like, uh, it's the exception and, uh, and, and when in doubt, use something else, maybe your tech goes for something Okay. So another con with condensers, like another thing you have to be careful with is the problems you gotta get in an untreated room. So. If you're in an untreated or really bad sounding room, which is to be honest, most rooms then like most not, um, non purpose built rooms, basically for recording. Um, then you are likely better off avoiding condensers. So it doesn't mean you have to have a fully built out professional studio room, but if you, if you haven't at least like. I don't know, like a well-treated part of the room or corner of the room or something that, that makes, that keeps the early reflections out of the mic and keeps the overall Reve reverb in the room under control and all of that, unless you have at least that, I think you should be very careful with con condensers because they're just so sensitive that even quiet reflections and reverb and all of the other things that are in the room are gonna be pretty audible in the mic because it's just SENSIT. Mics. And they pick up the quiet stuff too, including all the reflections. So in most rooms, untreated rooms, especially, but even like treated, but like still bad sounding rooms like champ spaces often are, um, you gotta be careful with avoid, but with, with con condensers, I think
Malcom: Yeah. Yeah, totally agree. The, the room's gonna be something that comes up a lot in this episode. Um, and, and like you said, one of the, the, probably the main takeaway of this episode is most rooms are bad. There it's just a reality is that you probably don't have a room that's gonna be as dead as. We would recommend. And you know, you don't have to your room, doesn't have to be like floor to ceiling sound panels to make it a good vocal room, but it does take quite a bit. And the dimensions of the room, what else is in that room? Play a, a large role as well. If it's like a lot of hard, a lot of hard. Like surfaces, like desks and stuff like that. And often self recording vocalists are right in front of a desk, you know? Um, because they've got their little, little recording set up. There's like that stuff kind of does play into it. Um, and it plays into it more with condenser than a dynamic, which is, yeah, we'll get it into that though. So up next, we've got, learn about pickup patterns and choose a mic with the right pattern for your situation. So we're talking polar patterns, um, Most common. And the one we're gonna recommend, I would say is a cardio and that like the polar pattern. I think we've actually talked about this. I dunno if we had an episode about it, but it's definitely come up, but essentially it's it's where does your microphone hear from, right. So if you've got an Omni microphone and there's little symbols on your microphone saying what the, the polar pattern is If it's a cardio, it hears all around it. So that, I mean, if you're in a, like going back to a, a bad with not any sound treatment, that's gonna be extra problematic, right. Because it's, it's hearing in the fridge behind you or behind the microphone, it's hearing you, it's hearing your laptop fan kick into the right of it. And, um, that's all creating this noise floor that when somebody like Benny or I gets it to mix it and we compress it and do whatever we need to do. All of that stuff just gets louder and louder and is just getting in the way of your vocal. So cardio is yeah. Cardios. What I would recommend. Cause it, it hears from the front of the microphone rejects the back. Benny, what do you think
Benedikt: Cardio. Um, they are some mics have like SuperCard or HyperCard some of those things that they can work. They are a little narrower. They are, but they also pick up a little more from the back of the mic, less from the sides, but a little bit from the back of the narrow it gets, but that could be okay. But I guess with most vocal mics, like most mics that have to have been designed to be vocal mics, they usually are cardio, or they have like switchable, polar patterns where you can go to Omni or figure of eight and there's. Use cases for those, but if you are recording one singer in front of the mic and you want to dry clean recording, that you can that just, yeah. You can treat well in the mix and makes it well in the mix. Then I think cardio is, is your go to in, in almost every situation.
Malcom: Totally. Yeah, it's gonna be great. And the differences between like a hyper and a SuperCard aren't as apparent in that situation with just one vocalist in front of them with proper technique it it's, those are almost more useful in like a live situation. I think where like feedback rejection might be the goal, stuff like that.
Benedikt: It still pays. I think it's, it's just important here that, and that's why I included it in the outline. It's just, I think, important to learn about those things so that you are not confused when you read this, when you like checking mics and you read about polar patterns. So you know what those are, and then there are situations where a different pattern can. Be the right choice for you. So I'm just thinking about like sing singer songwriters. For example, if you record a guitar and a vocal at the same time, if that's what you do, acoustic guitar, then maybe a figure of eight is a good choice for you because it will reject what's below the mic and what's above the guitar. So you can have more separation between the guitar and mic. And we're not gonna get into details about polar pattern here, but I I'm just saying that. Do your research it's, it's easy to look up and. Maybe takes a little bit to, to really understand, but, uh, you can do it. And it's just important to know those things. When, when picking the right mic for most people, if you're just a vocalist standing in front of a mic that's on the stand, or even if you have it in your hand, cardio will be absolutely fine. But there is the exception. Uh, and, and, and if, if that is you, if you are doing something different than, than that, then maybe you should, uh, do some research and learn about polar pattern. Yeah.
Malcom: Yeah. And okay. Here's actually something though, but knowing. Polar patterns means that you know, that there is a direction that your mic is listening from. And that is actually something that does occasionally get missed. Uh, people aren't aware that one side is the back of their microphone on one side is the front. And if you sing into the wrong side, it sounds pretty dreadful. Um, and, and it's happened. I'm just just saying. That could be your problem. Um
Benedikt: Yeah. Yep.
Malcom: um, and, and it's not always clear, like that clearly marked sent Heiser another nice thing they do on some of their microphones is literally says front love that.
Benedikt: Exactly. Exactly. And I still, and I've still seen pictures where people put it, like the other way around on a guitar,
know, where you can read the you're stand in front of the cabin and you can read the front, you know?
Malcom: That's funny.
Benedikt: uh, but yeah. Uh, and, and then, you know, we've all seen the funny, I don't know. Pictures on the internet where people sing into the top of the condenser mic or something instead of the sides or, you know,
Malcom: that, yeah. That's actually another super common one. You're right. You're right. Where, yeah, there, the, the, where you address the microphone might not be as clear as you
Benedikt: Yeah. For example, if I look at your mic right now, the road dynamic one that you have that could be, could be, if you don't know, like that could be a sided dress mic, you know,
Malcom: Yeah, totally. I, I was
Benedikt: like a grill on the sides
Malcom: cuz it almost looks the same as your microphone in a way it's the same kind of cylinder. Um, so knowing that is totally, totally vital. You, you have to get that right. If you don't get that right. It's all, all for not
Benedikt: Yeah, totally. All right. Now the next point here is, um, that's a little more difficult and if you, because it's about being able to, to choose the right mic based on the sound you're going for, and this takes some experience, this, this is probably not too easy to do for people starting out. Uh, but what I mean is. You have to know your genre, your genre, and you, the, your style of music that you're making. And you gotta think about the sound you're going for. Uh, which means is it, do you want a bright vocal sound? Do you want a dark vocal sound? Does it have to be very polished? Does it have to have this expensive, like radio sheen, the, the pop vocal sheen sort of thing. Does it have to be really airy with a lot of like the breathy breathiness airy sound that you have in, in pop ballots, for example, does it have to be very gritty with an aggressive mid-range? Will it be distorted anyways? And do you have to, like, will you do any, any sort of crazy effects and, and mango it in, in a, in a way, or does it have to sound modern and bright? Does it have to sound vintage? You know, and, and, and again, darker and maybe saturated all of these things and, um, I mean, maybe you can get a, a basic idea of those. I understand that it's not too easy to know that already or to know what to listen for when you're just starting out, but maybe you can have a, a vague idea of what you're going for. You can listen to some references and then compare different styles of music, and then maybe you find what you want. then you can do some research on classic mics and popular choices for certain styles. And when you do. You're gonna find what Malcolm said in the beginning that a lot of those classic options are super expensive, that the mics you're gonna find when you do research of like popular records and what they've used in those records, a lot of them will be like the standard studio classics, which are pretty expensive. So, um, If you can afford those. Awesome. And if you know what you're going for, you can afford such a mic. That's always a good thing to have. If not re I would say resist the temptation to buy a cheap knockoff or any cheap con condenser mic in general. As we said, with only a few exceptions. Um, but if you can't afford the high end mics, then, then perfect. But it, it still, I think it pays off to do a little bit of research and at least know about the microphone type. So is it, is that sound coming typically coming from ribbon mics? When we talk about vintage things, is it typically coming from condenser mics because you want that bright, airy pop vocal sheen. This is typically you can only achieve that with a, with a Coner mic or like maybe you can get close, but that's the typical choice then? Um, is it gonna. To Mike or, you know, it, it just, I think it just pays off to, to do some research here. And if you find yourself seeing the same models of mics on all the, the records that you like a lot, then you have a direction that you can look into. I think
Malcom: Yeah. And I do just want to add like, yeah, if you could afford the high end mic. Perfect. But only if you've dealt with your room, because like often these expensive classic mics are condensers. So an expensive mic in a bedroom is just gonna hear that bad rooms and all those issues like reflections and fridges and laptop fans and road noise and stuff more clearly. it's a now a more detailed problem. Right. Um, so in, in ways it could be worse. So, so just keep that in mind. Now, so our next point was that for many people using a dynamic vocal mic can be a totally great idea. Um, and I really think that in the case of being a self recording musician or band, this is totally like usually true. Um, because you probably don't have that treated vocal space and, and an environment, or, or even. Well, yeah, it is just probably a great idea. they? They generally sound great. Um, and you just talked about Benny, about how, you know, like, is it gonna be distorted, um, and like a more like vibey gritty thing like that vocal dynamic vocal mics are often darker. And when you think about what's gonna happen to him after it's tracked. Like, you know, baking in distortion and tons of compression, it's gonna respond to that really well. That's kind of hard to know without the experience of mixing stuff like that. Um, but you know, it's, uh, actually you can always bounce that off whoever your mixed engineer is and, and just get their thoughts before you record the vocal too.
Benedikt: Yes, totally. And, and maybe if you like certain bands and the certain, if you're, you are, um, Yeah. If you like a certain style of music, maybe then it's, it's actually clear that you want some kind of distortion or saturation. Maybe you already know that without knowing how to mix it. But if all the bands you like have distorted vocals, or if that's what you're going for with your own record, then you already know it. Right. So. In that case, you don't really, it's gonna be lofi in a way anyway, so you don't necessarily need the extended top end at bottom end of the expensive mics. It's gonna be mostly mid range and maybe it's, it often even sounds better. So case in point, like a lot of high end recordings have been made in million dollar studios with all the mic options in, in the world and they still. SM seven or some dynamic mic for certain records, just because they, they sound better for certain things. And that is oftentimes the gritty mid-range the distortion, the upfront, um, aggressive sound that, that those mics have the, the, the, the synt, that's more under control and all of these things. So it's not that they are just an option for, for home recording, uh, people, but it's like, they are, they've been used on Michael Jackson records and tons of other,
Malcom: tons of other, stuff.
Benedikt: records. So, okay. Dynamic mics. Yeah. That's our recommendation for most people, to be honest. And I'd say before we explain to you why exactly dynamic mics are, are better. We've explained a couple of these things already, but we're gonna dive into this a little more, but before we do that, I'd say that you should, if you can try a couple of options on your own voice, in your own environment, and then listen on headphones, like in a quiet space on closed headphones, ideally, so that you can really hear what's going on in the background and what's going on with the room reflections and all those things, because every voice is different. And same as with like choosing studio speakers, where I also believe that it's important to hear those in your environment before you make a decision. It's the same with Mike's. I think if you can. Grab a few different mics, make it, do it, um, like a, a quick shootout record a couple of things through those, with your voice in your room. And I'm pretty sure you'll find one that you like, and you, you have, you'll have a couple that you don't like. And I think that's, that's always a good idea because how, how would you know? Right. Like you order one and you probably think it sounds great because like, yeah, it sounds, you know, clean and all that, but you don't really know what the problems are until you compare it to like two or three other mics and, and hear the difference.
Malcom: Totally. Totally. Um, yeah. Yeah, we did, uh, episode on guitars, just like our last episode or one, one or two back. And we, we talked about the importance of shooting other guitars equally as important shooting out your vocal options. On the plus you're probably gonna quickly learn like what Mike is right for your voice. So it's just kind of something that now you've got your match, you know, and you can keep trying other ones as you go on. And occasionally you might have a song where it just seems like. You need to switch it up, but in general, once you kind of find a good match, it's like, all right, this is like kind of a tried and true chain. Now this is, uh, part of my sound and, and that's pretty cool. Just kind of hang onto that mic.
Benedikt: And the most important thing to listen for when you do this, when it comes to matching it to your voice, at least to me is the Lance. Every voice has a different, every, every person has a different way of pronouncing YESS and the Ts and Theif and all of that, but mostly the Lance. And if you pick the wrong mic that has high frequency boost exactly where your SS are, basically. And it just doesn't match. Then it's very hard to tame that in the mix, like all the yeses in the world can't really tame that, or you, maybe you can, but then it starts introducing a lisp or something. It's really hard to deal with that sort of stuff. So really pay attention to the, the Lance. And when in doubt, pick the darker one. You're gonna find when you compare two, a three, you're gonna find that one of, or two are gonna sound a little smoother and then there's gonna be one or two that, that sound just harsh and annoying and maybe throw a compressor on it and see what happens if you really exaggerate that if it gets worse, but like that's the first thing I would listen for is the sibilance, everything else. If there's like a everything, every other, um, problem in the frequency response, basically you can sort of correct with EQ, but it's really hard to do with the
Malcom: Mm-hmm . Yeah, I, I . Agree. That's the, that top end could just go really wrong, so you just gotta watch for it. Um, and, and you'll like, for, for those interested in being really profession engineers, you'll kind of start to learn what top end works with what Mike phone you'll start getting kind of gut instincts on like, oh, that didn't, that's not, I hear a problem. This, this next mic is gonna be the right one. And, um, so that comes with
Benedikt: Oh, yeah. Yeah. So, sorry. Yeah, but by the way, one really great, great way of learning that and also a good mic option. Actually, if you can afford it, it's not super crazy expensive, but I, at least I think so. Um, is the, the slate ML one modeling mic. I have one of those and I really, really like it. It's does it sound the same? Like the expensive real classic mics? Probably not, but I don't really care. I had an ointment. I had a U 87. I borrowed a U 67 at one, some at, at some point, which was my favorite mic. Um, I had a, I've heard a couple of U 40 U 40 sevens, which is also classic. And honestly I've sold my 87 and I've never borrowed another, um, expensive mic since I got the slate one, because. It just sounds great. And I don't care if it sounds exactly the same, but it's great. And the cool thing about it is you have all these mic models in the software and you can do a shootout really quickly and you can learn what the different models sound like, like the broad characteristics. And, um, to me, that is a honestly, really, um, and we're not sponsored by later anything, but like, to me, that's really a mic locker. Full of great mics that you can just cycle through and, and that flexibility and the overall like sound quality of that mic is just very cool to me. I have to be honest, I had to send it back once. So I, they have, I don't know, maybe they've fixed it now, but they had some quality control issues with the mic. But if you have, if you get a working one it's really, really great and I've had to send it back once and now I've, I have it for like four or five years and without a single problem.
Malcom: Yeah. Yeah. I I've got the same microphone. It's the, the only large diaphragm condenser I own right now because it, yeah, it just checks those boxes for me. No, no problem. Um, so it, it get pretty great bang for the buck, honestly. Um,
Benedikt: Okay. But now into the, the whole dynamic mic conversation, by the way, one, one final thing, because I have to say it's, so people will, will ask me, like, what do we have to listen for? And how do I know? And all these things you can book a call with me and ask me these questions directly. You can go to the sub recording band.com/call and you can send me. A clip of you singing into a couple of mics or into your mic that you have. And I can tell you exactly what to listen for. I can tell you if that's gonna be a problem or not, we can talk about your, your style and what you're going for and whether or not that mic will work with that. So if you go to the surf recording, band.com/call and book a free call, I'm happy to help you with this. And, uh, I'm yeah, just, just do it basically. I'm offering, still offering these free calls and if you're interested in leveling up your production skills, And, uh, we wanna start with, with me helping you with the local mic. Sure. Do.
Malcom: Yeah, that that's a great option, cuz it, it is hard to know what a problem is. People. When I, when I discover like a, a vocal track, I'm like, okay, we, we need to do something about this. So it's better. Next time. They generally don't know. They, they weren't aware that there was an issue. Um, so unless you're listening for it, you might not pick up on it. So. I think just like quick things to, to try and tune your ear in on would be, yeah, the like echoes like kind of quick reflections off other surfaces in the room. Those are only gonna get louder as you mix a vocal, um, much louder, in fact. So, so those quickly become problematic and they almost create. If it's bad, it can create like a, a reverb almost because that, that echo gets so loud that it sounds like it's a delay or a reverb on the vocal as it's been compressed. And then, you know, the mix note comes in. Can we not have reverb as well? No, you can't because it's, it's in there. um, it's natural Reve at this point. Um, and then, uh, Like other yeah. Appliances, you know, I used to have a one room tiny home and my fridge would click on and be like, all right, we gotta stop recording for a bit. wait for the fridge to shut up. um, but, and you know, that's not ideal, but the, you know, at the end of the day, the best mic and best room for the job is what you have. Um, so you, you kind of have to make it work if that's what you got kind of thing. Um, if you only have one and you only have one room to do it, and you gotta use that, but. If you can avoid these things or at least start planning to, to correct them. Or, or maybe there's some easy fixes, like building some easy sound panels that kind of stuff it's totally worth doing, but I don't want people to just stop recording because they think that there's like a little bit of an echo in their room. Like you gotta, you gotta just work with what you have at the end of the day.
Benedikt: Absolutely. Absolutely. There's always a way to make it work, but my precisioning and treatment of the room and all of that is a whole different conversation. Um, and I, if, if we have podcast episodes on that, I'm gonna just put it in the show notes. I can't remember from the top of my head, we, we would definitely have something about that. I'm gonna put related episodes in the show notes. So if you go to the surf recording, band.com and then slash the number of this episode, I'm not sure yet which one it's gonna be, but like the surf recording band.com/. 1 25 or whatever the, the number is go there. And, uh, you're gonna find the show notes and related episodes are gonna be in there. Uh, this one is about mic selection, but you're totally right. Malcolm. You can definitely make almost any room work. Our opinion is that a dynamic mic is, is good in a lot of cases, but that whatever you have or whatever you end up buying don't let all of that hold you back. Uh, from, from recording in your room, there's always a way.
Malcom: Mm-hmm . Agreed agreed. So value for money. Good dynamic mics. Be sure. SM seven B is the one that you've probably all heard us mention or heard somebody mention probably the most famous large diaphragm. Dynamic Mike. And it it's just great. It like there's really, that's that's money well spent. They're, they're pretty darn affordable, I think. And they're pretty great. Another one would be the road protester, which I'm using right now. That's what you're hearing me talking to. Yeah, both, both good options now. There's a thing called like a cloud lifter, uh, and, and other companies make similar things. And these are just like little inline game boosters because these mics are generally pretty quiet. So you have to turn up your Preem a lot. If you're finding that a problem on whatever interface you have, you might have to get one of these things, but they're, they're like anywhere from like 30 to a couple hundred bucks, pretty much. Right. Um, And, and so you don't have to spend a lot of money to get that solved, but just know that that could be a thing that's like the one catch with some large diaphragm condensers Aston stealth is incredible. Mike, super versatile, uh, has the kind of cloud lifter thing built into it. I'm pretty sure it's the little active circuit. Um, and a electro voice R 20 is probably the coolest looking of all of them. I think they're super rad and yeah, great Mike actually for, for drums and stuff too.
Benedikt: And it doesn't have the proximity effect. That's a very rare case of a mic without that. Like, it's a, it's a cardio mic and it's dynamic, which typically means proximity effect, but you can get really close to an R 20 without maybe it is a little bit of, but like, not really. So, um, it's pretty flat, even if you're really close to it. That's uh, special thing about that mic.
Malcom: All right. I didn't know that. That's very interesting. Yeah. And you know what, like, as we we're I wanna say that this is a better investment than a large diaphragm condenser, probably because it's probably more versatile. It's probably a mic you're gonna use on a lot of stuff. Like the RA 20 is a great guitar cab microphone. It's great on base cabs actually, too. It's fantastic on kick drums. Um, I'm sure you could use it on a scenario. No problem. Uh, SM seven B is the most popular high hat mic I've ever heard of. Um, people use it on other parts of the drum kit all the time. It's just a good sounding mic. It's gonna do a good job on most things really , um,
Malcom: loud things. It's great on loud things. Um, so, and ASIN stealth I've used that on guitars. It was great. Uh, used it on percussion. It was great. Um, These are, these are really versatile mics. And while they're fantastic for vocals are also fantastic for other things. So if you look at it that way, it's an even better bang for buck.
Benedikt: Yes, totally. So, yeah, there's three reasons for basically for why we, why we recommend those. The first one is the value for money. Um, the, the, the dynamic mics typically sound. In the con condenser ones in the same price range. Uh, so if you go con condenser, you have to invest a little more. The second reason is what we've said about the rooms. Uh, most rooms are problematic, so, uh, a dynamic will handle that better. And it's not just the room deflection. It's like you said, knock appliances, like, um, you know, street noise, what road, noise, whatever laptop fans, that sort of stuff. It's just less sensitive than condensers. So. That also means you have to be, you have to get really close to the dynamic mic. Um, you immediately know this, that if you've ever recorded or if you've ever played live with an SM 58 and you, then, you know what happens if you step back like a few inches from the F SM 58, basically nothing like the voice goes away. Basically you have to be really close. And, and that's the good thing about them, because that means everything that's far away, noise reflections, all of that is gonna be quiet. So there's that, and then the third reason is, as we said, the, the, the character of it, the sound character, the, the gritty sort of mid-range, um, that's probably, as we said, a little difficult to hear for, for some of you, but I, I really think that there's a, yeah, there's of course there's a different character to those mics because they work entirely differently and. And con condensers often have often are a little too detailed for some things, you know, that's also the reason why we like dynamic mics on guitar caps, and you can use condensers on guitar caps, but the more common choice, our dynamic mics, because a con condenser is just too detailed and has too much top end. And we wanna have the, the, the midrange and we don't want all the details all the time. And so for some vocals for screams for more aggressive vocals, but like basically for. For any modern vocal that just has to cut through the midrange of such of a dynamic mic of a good dynamic mic will just work, but without the annoying Lance, and you can still boost a lot of top end into those mics. So you can make a dynamic mic sound more expensive and brighter. Will it have the same, like pop sheen, like as a con answer? Probably not, but you can still make it bright. And I think making such a mic brighter will always sound better than trying to make a cheap con condenser sound darker. And if it's like, if it worked for Michael checks, then you know, then probably good enough. So at the end of the day, I think you you'll have to try and figure out what works best with your voice and your style of music and your room. Uh, but just don't think you have to use a condenser just because that's what you see in most pictures of recording studios. Right? So if I look at like one, maybe, maybe that proves my point. If I look at the Toman, Toman is like the biggest, um, European music. Um, you know, store online
Malcom: the equivalent of sweet
Benedikt: yeah. Yeah, exactly. And if I look at their top sellers, not in the recording category, but overall, like of all the items that they sell, number one is the SM 58. Number two is a focus, right? Scholar number three is some might stand. And then number four is the SM seven. So it's so popular for a reason. And they have all guitars in the world and all the drums and bases and all the other stuff. But the SM seven is the number four most sold piece of gear that they have in the entire store.
and for a
Malcom: for good reason,
Yeah. And you know, probably the most common podcasting mic there as well.
Malcom: yeah, but very versatile.
Benedikt: Yeah, totally, totally. So, yeah. And if you, if you're still like still skeptical, just Google, I don't know, records made with an SM seven and you probably find a couple of really great records and that might make you feel more comfortable about using a dynamic mic. Once you see that.
Malcom: Yeah, totally, totally. Yeah, take Grannie up on, on that coaching call. If you're unsure, if, if your vocals are making the cut, he can have a listen and, and tell ya. Um, and, and, you know, Uh, I, I encourage everyone to treat their vocal space, however they can, you know, we, we've got a whole episode on acoustic treatment with yes. Go Lohan. And it's like one of my favorite episodes ever. And I think it's one of the most valuable lessons as for what people need to know about. The recording space. And it's really affordable to, to treat, to do enough treatment for a vocal setup. Um, and, but if you can't do that, you know, mattresses, blankets, everything you can pile in there is gonna be helpful probably. Um, but it just has to be done. So do whatever it takes.
Benedikt: Yeah. Agreed. All right, perfect. So that's it for the day. I think, um, that covers it. Go to the show notes page for related episodes on the acoustic stuff and all of that. And, uh, we'll see you next week.
Thank you for
Malcom: Take care. Bye.
Benedikt: Take care.
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[…] 125: How To Find The Right Vocal Mic […]
[…] 125: How To Find The Right Vocal Mic […]