Microphone recommendations for speech

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raboof
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Microphone recommendations for speech

Postby raboof » Thu Jul 04, 2019 1:20 pm

I'm on the market for a nice microphone for speech - think webcast/podcast material, but I want it to sound professional.

I already have a UA-25EX interface, so either an XLR or a USB mic would work. Budget is, say, up to EUR 100 - though I'd be interested to learn what the quality differences are between various price ranges.

What would you recommend?

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bluebell
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Re: Microphone recommendations for speech

Postby bluebell » Thu Jul 04, 2019 4:23 pm

raboof wrote:I'm on the market for a nice microphone for speech - think webcast/podcast material, but I want it to sound professional.

I already have a UA-25EX interface, so either an XLR or a USB mic would work. Budget is, say, up to EUR 100 - though I'd be interested to learn what the quality differences are between various price ranges.

What would you recommend?


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Death
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Re: Microphone recommendations for speech

Postby Death » Thu Jul 04, 2019 9:52 pm

A lot of people will recommend condenser mics for this. I bought the Rode NT1 for this purpose, and while it sounds very 'true to life' and has the proximity effect, I found it to be wayyyy too sensitive for use at home. You need a decent room and a very quiet location to use a condenser. You can get a little isolation booth to clamp onto it, but do you really want one of those in front of your face? It'll only help blocking sounds in front of you and to the sides anyway, so everything behind will still get picked up. If that's not an issue for you, then that mic is a good budget choice. But just be warned, condensers are really sensitive and will pick up everything around you and far away!

Me, I just use my Shure SM57 with a cheap pop shield in front of it. I like the sound of it better as it has a character that I like where it kinda gives a darker sound. And because it's a dynamic mic, there's not a lot of background interferance. Although it doesn't have the proximity effect of a condenser, but I don't care about that anyway.

There's also the SM58 which is designed to be a vocal mic so won't need a pop shield. Still cheap and might be a better choice.

I'm no mic expert, but that's my experience. If you want a really good dynamic mic which costs a lot more then you might want to look in the Shure SM7B.

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Re: Microphone recommendations for speech

Postby j_e_f_f_g » Fri Jul 05, 2019 2:33 am

I've worked in recording studios, and I've used mics by Neumann, AKG, Beyer, Senheisser, Shure, Electrovoice (EV), and others. I always recommend that people pick up a few Shure SM57 or SM58. (The 58 is essentially a 57 with a built-in wind shield. But you can also buy external foam windshields for the 57 for a few dollars.) These mics are about the cheapest pro mics, they sound quite good, and are durable as hell. I've got a box of SM57/SM58, and every single one of them has dents in the metal shield from bring dropped or trod upon. And they all still work. One afternoon, I decided to do some A/B comparisons with a Neumann U87, AKG 414E, Beyer ribbon (can't remember the model), Shure SM57, and EV RE15. On vocals, the U87 and SM57 were the best, and pretty much indistinguishable (despite the U87 being a condensor priced at several times the SM57). For toms and snare, the U87, SM57, and RE15 were all pretty much the same. (Drum overheads/hihat/cymbals are where the AKG condensors excel.) The U87 was best on kick (but I got a chance to use a Beyer MD421 once and it rocks on kick). The U87 also did best on bass/guitar cabinets. But overall, the 57 was good at everything I threw at it.

That being said, for vocals, I do like a few EV mics better than the 57/58. I use an EV dynamic mic (don't remember the model offhand --- it's out in my gig bag in the car, and it's too dark to dig it out now) instead of my SM58. It was the same price, but had a bit hotter output, and a slight boost in the 5K to 8K range which I like for vocals in a mix.

But you can never go wrong with a SM58, especially for vocals.

I do have an SM7b, and it sounds great on vocals. But mine wasn't as roadworthy as the SM58 or EV, and it's now dead. But it wasn't significantly better on vocals than the 58, and the EV was just a little better.

I perused the aforementioned article, and its recommendations seem solid. It mentions a mic that has 1, 2, and more "pickup responses". What he's referring to are a mic's "polar patterns". Most mics (such as all those I mention) are hard-wired to a "cardiod" polar pattern. That means the loudest signal, and widest freq response, is gotten when you stand directly in front of the capsule. If you stand off to the side, or behind the mic, your sound will be softer/muffled. These is useful to avoid feedback from live monitor speakers, or minimize room ambience. (This would be the "1 person mode" mentioned in the article). A few mics are "bipolar", meaning you get the same sound both in front of, and behind the capsule. But off to the side is like a cardiod. So person 1 stands in front, and person 2 stands behind, and both are recorded with the same fidelity. (2 person mode). Some mics are "omnidirectional" meaning that the sound is the same in every direction. So a group of people can stand in a circle around that mic, and all be recorded the same. Some mics support all 3 polar patterns with a switch to select among. My experience with switchable mics is none of their modes sound as good as a mic designed for a particular pattern.

Wrt condensor versus dynamic. The dynamic (volume) and freq range of human voice is not demanding (as opposed to, for example, a Spinal Tap bass stack on "11"). The attributes of a condensor aren't needed for vocals. It's not bad/wrong to use a condensor here. Just not necessary. btw, there's a 3rd type of pro mic -- a ribbon. (Beyer is most noted for them.) Some singers swear by their "warm sound". But ribbons are delicate internally. The first feedback loop will probably break it.

Conclusion: Get a Shure Sm58. You don't need a shockmount.

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Linuxmusician01
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Re: Microphone recommendations for speech

Postby Linuxmusician01 » Fri Jul 05, 2019 11:01 am

@j_e_f_f_g: Thank you for that clarifying post: I learned a lot from it. Lot's of professionals recommend the Shure 58, you being one of them. It's only $100.

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Re: Microphone recommendations for speech

Postby Death » Fri Jul 05, 2019 11:33 am

Cool post, j_e_f_f_g. I enjoyed reading that. Seems that no one is afraid to recommend the SM58, budget choice or not. That's why I had to mention it. I've used one on my setup before and I felt it might've had slightly more top than my SM57. I didn't do a proper test though, just felt that way.. Anyway, you sure it wouldn't need a shock mount? I have my 57 on a Blue mic boom without a shock mount and it could definitely benefit from one, although not as much as my Rode NT1 condenser. That thing was a real problem without one!

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Re: Microphone recommendations for speech

Postby sadko4u » Sat Jul 06, 2019 1:05 pm

Shure Beta 58 or Shure Beta 57 are the greatest dynamic microphones for speech.
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Re: Microphone recommendations for speech

Postby rghvdberg » Sun Jul 07, 2019 5:35 am

Sm58 is like the Nokia 3310 of mics ;-)

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bhilmers
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Re: Microphone recommendations for speech

Postby bhilmers » Sun Jul 07, 2019 9:30 am

I've been doing pro voiceover work with a Samson C01U for over a decade (USB condenser). I mentioned in another post it has a "low noise floor with a little harshness in the upper mids". It suits the work I do and is part of "my sound". I actually have a smoother sounding condenser for vocals (Apex, XLR) but it's a little noisier and only I use it when my voice will be mixed with other material.

I agree with everyone else that you can't go wrong with a SM57/SM58, and j_e_f_f_g has a great point about condensers picking up background noise. I have a vocal booth, not everyone does...

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Re: Microphone recommendations for speech

Postby j_e_f_f_g » Mon Jul 08, 2019 12:40 am

Actually, it was someone else who mentioned about condensers being "more sensitive" to noise. In fact, they aren't per se. They simply tend to be "hotter" than dynamic mics. That is to say, they record everything at a louder volume, and so it just seems as if the noise is louder whenever you're not talking (ie, your voice isn't masking out the background noise). Also, condensers tend to have a flatter freq response below 100 Hz and above 10 KHz. (ie, They record very high/low freqs louder than dynamic mics.) And mic "rumble" and "thumps" typically have a lot of content below 100 Hz.

First of all, since spoken voice has no significant content below 80 Hz (or above 10KHz), I'd set an EQ to roll off (ie reduce) those freqs. Less than 80 Hz should kill any mic rumble/thumps. This will likely be more effective than a shockmount. (Note: Some mics have a built-in switchable 80 Hz roll-off filter, since that's not an uncommon need for live sound). Greater than 10 KHz will kill any mic preamp hiss. You can do this post-production. (ie, You don't haVe to do it during recording). Also, eliminating these unneeded freq ranges may reduce the size of your podcast file, if using a compressed file format (such as mp3).

For other, prolonged background noise (mechanical fan noise, bird chirping, traffic, etc), there are 2 solutions. First, if the noise is noticable only when your're not talking, the solution is easy. Use a noise gate. This will automatically mute the mic when you're not talking.

If you can stil hear the noise while talking, a noise gate could make things worse, because of the nature of the human brain. The human brain tends to ignore prolonged noise that doesn't change (this is a psyco-acoustics principle known as "brain masking"), and instead focus upon any sudden sound changes. The noise gate will make the background noise constantly cut in and out, thus drawing attention to it. To solve this, record a short excerpt of only the background noise, and use it with a noise reduction algorithm. Adobe Audition has a good noise reduction algorithm. Audacity has a bad one. (ie, It makes your recording sound like you added a phase shift effect).

Finally, for a podcast, I'd apply a good amount of compression to "even out" the volume, which helps boost intelligibility. Like 8:1 compression ratio. Use slower attack and release times to avoid "pumping". Adjust threshold by ear. Literally. Don't use your fingers/mouse to adjust the compressor controls. Use a touchscreen, turn your head to the side, and move the knobs with your ear lobe. It sounds better that way. Hey, as long as people are blindly following my advice, I may as well have some fun.

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Re: Microphone recommendations for speech

Postby bhilmers » Mon Jul 08, 2019 2:23 am

Thanks for the correction, j_e_f_f_g. I would also like to add I am a big fan of the LSP "Gate" plugin. It takes a lot of training to breathe correctly and minimize breaths and mouth noise, and this plugin gives you amazing control over the "not speech" part of your track. I know this is off track from microphones, but in my opinion any mic that isn't a total piece of garbage is good enough for speech, especially with a little EQ and compression. The bigger challenge is mic placement and training yourself to stay on-axis.

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Re: Microphone recommendations for speech

Postby j_e_f_f_g » Mon Jul 08, 2019 2:44 am

bhilmers wrote:training yourself to stay on-axis.


The best way to achieve this is to not drink so much that you blackout.

See? Some of my advice is actually useful.

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Re: Microphone recommendations for speech

Postby VennStone » Tue Jul 09, 2019 6:43 pm

Picked up a Golden Age Project D2 for out of curiosity last year and I'm quite happy with it. Even has a bass roll off filter to keep some of the boom out of my voice.

It does require a significant about of gain to get up to level. Might not be able to drive it without an external preamp.


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