Coming into the studio our clients can choose from some of the best microphones available, from vintage Neumann's through to some of the latest high end tube microphones on the market. But if you are starting from home, how do you know what microphone is right for you?
Well there is no one size fits all and there is no substitute for having a great selection of microphones to choose from for every situation, but there are a few industry standard microphones that don't break the budget. Here are some simple steps to buying the right microphone for you.
Firstly never buy a bad mic. Yes thats sounds stupid but its true. You can get microphones around the $300-500 mark that you will find in any professional studio that you will use for the rest of your life and you can spend the same amount on a mic that you will use for a few weeks and want to upgrade.
The first mic I would suggest for any vocalist is an SM7B by shure. If its good enough for Michael Jackson then its good enough for most of us. Millions of record have been cut with this mic. Its a superb, robust and forgiving microphone. It takes eq really well and being a dynamic is very versatile and easy to use. If your lucky you can pick one up for around $400-500 second hand. It does a stella job on a guitar cab and also a superb kick drum mic. Other mic's in this category would be a Senhnheiser 421 or a EV 320. Both also great mic's that do a similar job.
For singer songwriters choosing a dedicated vocal mic is very important and as I said before the sm7b is a great choice, but to get the warmth that most people in that genre are going for a tube mic is really what you need. Living in Australia we have a microphone manufacture call "Beesneez" the make great high end tube mic's. We have a "Mahalia" in the studio and love it to pieces. This is not really a home studio mic as the price doesn't fit into that category but it's well worth looking around for a second hand mic from this company. You never know what you might find. Apart from that I think the best budget end mic in this category is the Rode NTK. These do a great job on vocals and acoustic guitar. So many people go for the NT2a as there first mic. I don't know why. The NTK for a singer songwriter will make it look silly. So much warmer. You might have to pay an extra $100 but its well worth it.
For someone recording acoustic guitar and vocals those microphones aren't really considered a dedicated acoustic guitar microphone. If you want a microphone to record acoustic guitar the an AKG 451 is a great choice and can't really be beaten at its price range. It's also an industry standard for hi hats and used often on overheads as well. I picked mine up for $200, thats a steal but pay a little more and you should be able to pick one up. Its a very bright microphone and thats what its built to do.
I think the best general purpose microphone that you can pretty much use on anything under $500 is the 4050 from Audio Technica. Its very natural and neutral sounding, its hard to find something that it can't record. Fantastic on vocals, room mic, guitars, drum overheads, pretty much anything you throw at it and its around $400-500 second hand. It simply sounds a little more classy than other condenser microphones in its category.
Finally if you do want to spend a little more and are a bit more serious about recording from home. One principle I also go by is buy vintage. If you do you have two benefits. The first is the resale value increases as soon as you get it, you by it for $2K you can sell it for that as well straight away. Hang on to it for a year or two and you will most probably sell it for more. And because of that you have a little more freedom to buy something, learn what it does and if it suits you and if you don't like it you simple move it on, theres no harm done to your bank balance. With buying a new microphone as soon as you buy it you going to loose %30 of its value by opening the box so you need to know you are going to use it for years.
There is much more to discuss but this is a good start fro those starting off. Keep it up....