OK. So I seem to be at the point where I think I need a microphone. I would like to record the sound from my amp and it doesn't sound so good going from the amp output into the computer. I think the best bet is to use a microphone placed in front of the speaker. The ideal would be a mic I could be used with both the computer and my camera, and both have a mini jack connection, so I assume that would be no problem.

So, to the question. I really don't want to spend more than I need, but I don't know how much I do need to spend to get something that will give quite realistic sound. I also don't know what to look out for and what to avoid. Can I get a second hand one on eBay and if so what should I be searching for? Any help would be very welcome, bearing in mind my financially challenged state at the moment.

Thanks in advance.

John

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I went through this a while back, when my wife got me a Shure SM57 (classic, quality mic) for my birthday. Others will probably correct me, but in my experience, you need additional stuff just to make the mic work, like an "interface" for one ($). I kept finding that I had to buy more and more things ($$), and never did get the quality of sound that I was able to get with a simple, cheap cassette recorder mic that plugged right into the 1/8" mic input on the computer. I recently found a mic at Dollar Tree (sorry, not in UK; everything costs $1) that works as well as the one I've used for all my recording.

Okay, rant over... I'm technologically challenged, see? Now let the pros give you the right answer. Don't forget to look here, too: http://www.cigarboxnation.com/group/cbnationrecordingcollective

To add to Bear's rant (and perhaps soften it a bit?):

 

Mics basically come in two flavors: dynamic and condenser. Dynamic mics like the SM58

 

As usual with human hearing, it depends on what sound you want to hear, as well as what you actually hear. And while the mic is a significant part of that, recorded sound quality has a lot to do with interfaces, impedances, latency, dynamics, the "live" or "dead" quality of the room in which the recording is made, sound baffling, carpet, human bodies, air temperature, blah, blah blah. I own two of the best performance mics ever made: the SM58 for vocals, and the SM57 for just about everything, but which is typically used for close miking instruments and amps. I have performed on large and small stages, indoors and out, with these over the last 15 years, with never a failure.The Shures both retail in the States for right around $100, as they have for at lezast the last 20 years. Yes, if you end up with one of these classic mics, you need an interface box to hook the mic up to the computer. That is why people developed USB condenser mics. The Blue mics are some of the best out there for recoding direct to computer; I keep thinking I oughta pick up one every time I walk into Guitar Center (sorry, what comparable big box music store do y'all have in the UK?) , but they keep coming out wiht new models, so am waiting to see what happens. Unfortunately, they ain't cheap, although their Snowflake can be had for $60. AKG also make excellent dynamic and condenser mics.

 

If you want that lo-fi sound, then a good mic won't give that to you (without a lot of work).

 

Perhaps best woudl eb for you to spend a lot of time reading through this excellent article and the associated links before making a purchase:

http://www.tweakheadz.com/microphones_for_the_home_studio.htm

 

Hi John, i use the full setup of  mike-mixer-interface-pc(audacity), this works best for sound-only but you might be able to use a Shure SM57 mike you can plug in to your camera, most buy new ones for vocals but you might be able to find a bargain used one for instruments only, they use a three pin XLR you should be able to adapt the jack end to a mini jack, though you might need a mike booster amp. (-:

John ( and Steve),

Sorry if my former reply comes off gruff; I had people in my office bugging me for things.

Steve's set up is a good one. He's also right about a pre amp; the SM57 needs a fair amount of gain to cover the bases it does so well. Most recording sites, including the zZounds-sponsored one I gave you above, would recommend that if you could only afford 1 mic for serious recording, then the SM57 would be the best all-around workhorse. Many of those sites also describe even better results by running the SM57 through a mic pre amp, either standalone (meaning a pre amp box before running the signal into your PC / Mac), or a mixing board pre amp.

You could try finding a used SM57 on eBay, but most people tend to hang onto them with religious fervor. I rarely see them, used, for anything less than their current new retail price of 100 USD. That's how much people like 'em.

Somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-60 USD might get you one of the original Blue USB ball mics on eBay. You can get decent, not great, new AKG dynamic and condenser mics for 25-35 USD.

I think in your case, given your musical experience, ears, and precision craftsmanship, you may find yourself quickly dissatisfied with a cheapo mic. Here's a thought: see if there's a recording studio or decent musical equipment shop near you (there should be, in London!) , and see if they will let you A / B a range of mics from extremely cheap to the high end, price wise; I bet if you brought a couple of your builds along and told them what you were wanting to do, they might be so interested they'd even help you record 'em, and give you a local steer on what would best fit your budget.

Hey John,

This may be one of those good news/bad news situations. The worst problem is that for every answer there are more questions. The good news is that an investment in the right equipment will last a long time and be adaptable to future scenarios. I dont have any hard answers, just some guidlines to consider.

The common cheap computer mics are generally pretty bad, not hard to upgrade from there.

The advise given so far is good, but I am not sure it addresses what you really want. But I am not sure what your really want is really the way to go either, ultimately its up to you.

The Shure 57 condensor mic is an industrial standard for its combination of value, sound and durability. One thing to keep in mind is that on top of the price mentioned, you will also need to get a cable and stand at minimum. And that there are more things to decide there! I am pretty sure you could round up the adapters to plug the thing into your computer and camera, but it might not be the ideal way to go for both. Plugged in directly to either without a preamp may not be ideal. And you will soon discover the need/desire for some form of hardware compression. Trust me. But more on that another time! You also need to study up on the issue of powered/"phantom powered", and the "patterns" which various models are designed to pick up. I am not going to get into that much here either. 

Going another direction lets look at the camera issues. The problem with video camera mics are often quality, noise and flexibility. Many companys make upgrades to address these issues. Being able to get the mic closer to the source in the shot is worth considering alone! Of course prices range from modest to ubsurd, but you might want to take a look at something in the range from an Audio Technica Pro-25 or a "shotgun mic, (Starting at bout $50 to $70 US I think) to Something from Rode (Starting at about $150 I think.) That Audio Technica might work as a temporary solution with what you want to do with the computer as well.

With the computer it is also very easy to upgrade from the crap marketed to gamers, skypers and so forth. Pretty quickly however you find your limitation is the on-board sound card. And as I have been preaching over at the recording group, if you want to record along with other peoples music tracks the on board sound card becomes a big problem! The delay of latency just makes it impossibly frustrating to record that way. But! I have just discovered something! (Did I mention that already? LOL!)

When I get time I am going to take some pictures and post a tutorial over in the recording group thread. Right now I have to go back to work, but I will give you more information on it shortly as well.

Mark

 

 

Many thanks to all of you.

I'm not sure yet, but you may just have cured me of my misconception that I needed a microphone. I have woken the moths inside my wallet and they are certainly of the opinion that I really don't need one and that I was just being very silly in thinking it might be useful.

Seriously I think this is more expense and complexity than I need at this stage. In comparison with some other things like improving my making and playing, recording is really not as important. It is likely to be something that I tackle in a year or three. I will probably shelve the idea for the moment. Sorry to get you all going like that and I do appreciate the effort you have made in giving advice.

All the best and thanks again.

John

John,

No worries. I've been where you are. It took me about 15 years to be able to afford the one SM58 I do own and use, and another 10 before I decided to pick up an SM57. I went through the whole dynamic / condenser, powered versus phantom powered, etc., thing, numerous times over those years; sometimes the issue was financial, but more often it was "do I really need this, or do I just want it?" and the answer, ultimately, was that I only made the purchase after I recognized an actual need, and I had the wherewithal to satisfy it.

That said, Mark's points are also well taken. And there's nothing wrong with learning about a subject, especially one as technically deep as this one, in preparation for the day when you actually need the info.

Also also wik, your current video recordings ably capture your tone and technique; very very few of us are possessed, like my friend 3 blocks away who is a geophysical guru by day and a pro-level sound and recording engineer by night, of $50 K of premium equipment, who has converted 1/4 of his house into a studio! It may be useful to remember that, as technically sophisticated with our computers, cameras, etc., as we are, we're still listening to scratchy old recordings of relatively simple music in an attempt to have that mojo rub off on us, and trying to play similarly on pretty darn simple instruments.

All of which is merely to say, your vid recordings are just fine, because most of your tone is in your heart and fingers, anyway. YOU will shine through whatever media separate us physically from you, and hi or lo fi won't matter nearly so much as whether your musical efforts touch the hearts of your listeners.

Hi Oily.

Thanks for this reply and the very flattering comments. The question really came about for two reasons. I have used my Canon EOS 5D MkII for recording videos. It is often stated that the recording quality of the built-in mic isn't that good and it has been my intention to look for an upgrade, but it hasn't been a priority.

The more immediate impetus came when I tried to record sound to the computer from the latest guitar. Previously I have felt that I got the best results by playing into my MicroCube and attaching that to the Mac and recording to Garage Band. For some reason this guitar doesn't like the MicroCube, and the MicroCube seems to feel much the same about the guitar. With the amp plugged into the computer the result isn't great. Going directly to the computer isn't great either. I really like the sound of the guitar through my Kustom amp on the clean channel, but it the external speaker output doesn't do well with the 'puter. And that was where the idea came that I should mic from the amp to the computer. Probably what I will do it use the camera and just convert the video to audio only for the moment.

Thanks again.

John

Ah. I see your problem, now.

Sell that guitar, and build another one that likes the Cube ;-)

But seriously, don't Pyno or Brick have a mic setup you could borrow as a test?

"Can no one help this po' man?"

Hi Oily.

I hope to see them in March for the soirée, but I think they may be a bit busy when I am there. I will just put this on hold for the moment. I think learning more about making and playing has to be the priority and I will return to this when time and the wallet moths allow.

Thanks again to you and everyone else for the help.

John

Well Oily kind of put a lot in perspective with his dead on point that your videos have been very good, no major need to break a tight budget improving anything there!

As I said I do have something interesting on the computer mic side though, I will post it as soon as I have time to put a presentation of sorts together.

Mark

John,  and all who are here.I think we need a  seperate group. -----{What are you using)--  Some king of group to share  recording gear with others. I am new to recording and need to spend money that would rather keep..I have 5 mikes ,one is  an AKG comparable with an Sm58, two midpriced and one cheap, all work well with my amp but I never put them into my PC. My stepson is a musician and his drummer uses one of the same midpriced mikes I have , It is an Audio Tecnica  I bought 4 of these from Musicians Friend and gave him 2.  It is not a instrument mike but works well. I had to buy adaptors to plug into my amp for all of my mikes because I still use an old tube amp with 1/4 inch jacks. So you have to keep that stuff in mind when buying something. Also you need an interface to record to your computer and have it sound right . I was told the best starter  interface for the money is something like the  ALPHA made by Lexicon. $69 at most places.

  I am in the same boat as you when it comes to spending money , If I buy something I want to get something that will do more than one job.if possible. If you start a group we might learn what works and what to avoid.

 I read the other replies and they know what they are talking about so the only advice I can offer is if you find something that works, buy 2 of them because if it is any good at all they will stop making them.

 

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