New(ish) mics on the market!

February 27, 2010

ARE YOU GUYS EXCITED? Y’all should be, cuz Blue came out with their new “live” line of mics, the enCORE series! Now, anybody that’s read my previous posts should know that I am particularly fond of dynamic, broadcast mics for home studio recording. Why? Because it’s the best possible way to record in an untreated/loud room. So…on to more information about these new mics. There are, currently, two enCORE mics (100 & 200) on the market and two more (300 & 100i) on their way. The two available for purchase are (link to website):

I’m looking forward to trying out the 100 more than the 2oo because of it’s price, purpose, and design aimed at toppling THE Shure SM58 (SM57 as well, because the SM58 is basically a 57 with a windshield ball screwed on top). But I’m betting that these will be better than the 58 because it’s from Blue. My previous experiences with Blue microphones give me confidence that these mics are going to be absolutely top notch. Because I haven’t personally tried these yet, I won’t be able to say anything, but from what I can gather, the 100 will be a purely traditional dynamic microphone tailored for vocals and the 200 will be an “active dynamic” which needs phantom power to run with great sound properties. The 300 will be basically a condensor made specifically for live performances (doesn’t mean it won’t work in a studio, does it? *evil grin) and the 100i will be an instrumental version of the 100 (targeting the SM57…a bit too blatantly, but that’s aight.) Blue once again brings their focus on combining traditional high quality sounds with modern designs into play here, and, as usual, they’ve hit the jackpot. I’m expecting these mics to be great for both live and studio recording, especially for rap/hip hop vocals. I’ve heard that the 100 is better for male vocals and the 200 better for female vocals. Here’s a list comparing the mics:

Proprietary Dynamic Capsule: 100, 200, 100i

Fully-reinforced Construction: 100, 200, 300, 100i

Self-lined Carrying Pouch: 100, 200, 300, 100i 

Self-grip Mic Grip: 100, 200, 300, 100i

Active Dynamic Circuit: 200, 300

Transformed Output: 200

Proprietary Condensor Capsule: 300

Phantom Power Circuit: 200, 300

Custom-tuned Acoustic Circuit w/Transformer & High-pass Filter: 100i

and here are the pictures:


Microphones for Hip Hop and Rap

February 18, 2010

Microphones for hip hop and rap remain mainly in the range of vocal microphones, because artists in these genres don’t usually record with a full band. Because they’re recording over pre-recorded instrumentals, they require microphones that highlight their voices. There are many, many, MANY mics that do this, but in the realm of budget recording, there aren’t that many worth mentioning. Although good mic pre-amps, EQs, Compressors, and interfaces/sound cards might have beneficial effects on the final sound (actually, they do have a significant affect), the object that first recieves the sound is the microphone itself. The current rage in the rap/hip hop industry is the Sony c800g, which is considered the best microphone on the market right now. But these babies cost over $7000.  Let’s step it down a notch then…actually, several notches. Here, we get the Neumann U87ai, which costs well over $3000. Step it down again- we get the Neumann TLM103. This baby is around a $1000, and is well worth every penny. But not all of us can even afford that! (Interesting thing to note here: many claim that the Rode K2 is pretty good too, but at $700, it’s not worth it, especially with the kind of sound you get from it.) Now you ask, “Are there even any microphones left that I can use that has at least DECENT sound quality?” The answer is YES! There are numerous microphones out there that are budget priced that can produce good sounds as well. Here are several priced from highest to lowest: (* = Recommended)

Neumann TLM102: $699

Electro Voice EV RE20: $429

Audio Technica AT4033: $399

Sennheiser MD421: $379

Shure SM7b: $349 *

Audio Technica AT4040: $299

Kel HM-2D: $199 *

Shure SM57/SM58: $99 *

MXL 770: $89

These microphones are real standouts in the budget recording fields because of their price vs performance ratio. Although there are a couple mics that I don’t especially recommend, such as the RE20(pure bias…long story), AT4040(very selective in its usefulness), and 770(might as well shell out 10 more bucks and get the SM57), they do work wonders for certain people. It really depends on the person’s voice. Which brings me to another point: try to rent or borrow a mic and test it out to see if it fits your or the recording artist’s voice. You’ll also notice that there are a real mix of mics here: ranging from dynamic to condensor mics. It really doesn’t matter, because the end result is what you want to sound good. Happy recording everyone!

PS: A little guide for your very first mic:

Sound on Sound



Shure SM7b Review

February 13, 2010

Ghostface Killah(and others from Wu-Tang Clan), John Mayer, Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and other such notables have used the Shure SM7 to record masterpiece after masterpiece after masterpiece. This thing is just pure gold when it comes to vocals. Purists will disagree and say that any condensor or ribbon mic will outperform the SM7 in every department, but I (plus a whole lot of other people including the late King of Pop) would disagree. Although it’s a dynamic mic (generally considered worse than condensors and ribbons) like it’s cousin, the SM57, the sound quality is in a totally different league. This thing (with the right amount of good gain) is a MONSTER(in a good way). It can hold its own against most condensor mics in the thousands of dollars range, so if you can get the chance to, buy this. As usual, here are some reviews:


The Tape Op

Microphone Reviews



Recording Microphones.com

My review: I haven’t had the chance to buy this beauty yet, but I did get a chance to record with it. And I was in love. This is just sooooo good. It does everything well, especially vocals. I paired it with a Golden Age Pre-73 preamp (I’ll do a review on that soon) and the results were amazing. I cranked the gain up to 65dB, and I was good to go. I am, by no means, a good rapper. It’s an outlet for me to relieve stress and have fun. But when I recorded with this, I knew why Ghostface records his albums with this. I knew why Michael Jackson recorded Thriller with this. It’s got a magically quality to it that not too many microphones have, and it sounds, looks, feels, and does everything wonderfully. The SM7b made my vocals a LOT more smoother and added a punchiness to it that I enjoyed. At around $349 street price, it’s not as cheap as many other “budget” mics, but for the performance that it delivers, you just CANNOT skip on this deal. Honestly, don’t.

Little video of course:


Shure SM57 Review

February 11, 2010

Ah…the Shure SM57. At a street price of only $99, it’s something most beginners think is not worth their money. THAT IS A BIG MISTAKE!!!! This wonderful, beautiful piece of equipment has been used by Presidents, AC/DC, prominent underground rappers, and other such distinguished people. Just because it is a dynamic mic, and not a condensor or a ribbon, both of which are generally considered made of higher quality, does not mean that it is something to be skipped on. It is, in one word, EPIC.



MWN gear reviews

Mojo Pie Review

MIX online

and a lil somthin special: a SHOOT OUT vs a condensor mic

My Review: It’s something that all studios, even the really really REALLY high class and world famous 0nes, have. Basically, this thing is a legend. It’s like the Grandmaster Flash of microphones. It’s old. But it’s good. Right, there are people, like the guys at electrical audio studio, who might say it’s not worth their time, but these are also the guys that can afford $10,000 ribbon mics and even more expensive custom mics. Besides, if Maroon 5, AC/DC, and Young Moe (an LA based rapper. He’s got some nice tracks) record and do live shows with it, it’s gotta be doing something right, right? One thing that budget recorders might need to be wary of is the gain needed to run this thing. You need AT LEAST 60db of good CLEAN gain. No fuzziness or anything like that. But regardless of whether you’re recording snare, bass, guitar, screaming, yelling, and other such variations of vocals and instruments, the SM57 gets the job done, and it gets it done well. So if you’re looking for a good mic that does just about EVERYTHING well, then buy the Shure SM57….besides, it looks fresh.

A lil sample as usual… You just might recognize the man:


Review of the Rode NT1a

February 11, 2010

The Rode NT1a… It claims to be the world’s quietest microphone, and I have to say, it lives up to it (at least in the world of budget condensor microphones). Numerous reviews of it have been done, but these are the most trustworthy:

Sound on Sound Magazine

The Tape Op Review


My review: This was the first mic that I ever had, so it’s natural for me to be a little biased against this thing. But it is a superb microphone for vocals. It’s great for any noob because all you need for it to work is an audio interface that provide 48v phantom power and a stand. It comes with an XLR cable, a shock mount, and a pop filter. Makes life easy, doesn’t it? Rode mics tend to be a little bit on the bright side, but that’s aight, cuz female singers and club-styled hip-hoppers  might need that little extra brightness. All in all, it’s a great mic, and I still use it as a standard against other microphones.

Check out Good Buddha, an Aussie rap crew, “take off” with their Rode NT1a’s. These guys are fantastic, and this mic just helps their high-energy rapping come to life with its bright sheen. (BTW…this song gets addicting, so if you find yourself mouthing “it’s the take off, the take off, the take off….” the whole day, I’m sorry.)


Got Mics?

February 11, 2010

I’m going to make this site into something of a compliation of all the different aspects of a budget studio. Yes, this is for the college dorm room rappers, the basement/garage bands, and other such talents. pce