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olgoat52
11-18-2010, 09:21 AM
I have own a couple of SM57s that I have used for decades for both live and recorded sessions. Haven't done anything in a long long time.

Recently I had an opportunity to record a friends band and used an overhead condenser for the drum kit. In getting the levels set, I found the condenser sound for acoustic performance to be very open and more natural than what the SM57/58s were picking up.

So for home recording uke and vocals, what types of condensers do you all recommend?

I'll start a separate thread for mixers with phantom power but if you want to comment here that's cool. Not sure if a USB versus analog output mixer is the best way to go for this setup.

Thanks

knadles
11-18-2010, 09:59 AM
Tim,

I'm actually planning to look into this very soon. Since I have a half-dozen condensers sitting around my house already, the only thing that's been holding me back is time.

I suspect that the Oktava 012 is going to be a nice choice for uke. It has a wide pickup and tends to be relatively smooth. Unfortunately, the days of GC blowing them out for 50 bucks each are long gone. They're selling for $273 at oktava.com. The upside is the Sound Room folks have done a lot to address Oktava's notorious quality control issues.

I haven't used this one myself, but someone who I trust has recommended the MXL 603S for acoustic guitar, and it should work well on uke. It's a Chinese mic that can be found for less than $100, or in pairs I see for about $125.

There are some more expensive choices sitting around here as well...Josephson C42, Shure SM81, etc. I don't expect to be able to recommend them to anyone other than half-crazed recording geeks like me, but it'll be interesting to see how they pan out. Maybe I'll have some time the day after Thanksgiving.

If you need an immediate and cheap recommendation, give the MXL a try. The person who talked it up knows his stuff, so I feel comfortable recommending it.

For vocals...a lot depends on the singer's voice. My fave bang-for-the-buck condenser was the AT 3035, but they stopped making the dang thing. They have a Chinese 2035 now, but I don't know if that has much in common with the old mic beyond a similarity in look and model number. You can hear the 3035 on my (non-uke) podcasts at http://bignoisybug.com.

-Pete

PS- Oh yeah. Mixers. Allen & Heath!!!

spots
11-18-2010, 12:30 PM
...I'll start a separate thread for mixers with phantom power but if you want to comment here that's cool. Not sure if a USB versus analog output mixer is the best way to go for this setup.

Thanks

I have had to take a more modest approach in terms of equipment costs for home recording (for me it's a small hobby within a hobby). It can be done. You may not get road worthy professional quality products, but you can still get good quality products that will last in a home/hobby environment.

In my limited experience, USB outputs aren't always a clear winner. Much of it depends upon how your computer hardware (mother board, sound card, etc.) was built. Sometimes the sound card beats the USB in terms of audio quality. You have to be willing to go either route (USB or sound card) depending on the results you get with any given computer.

I have an ART Tube MP USB mic preamp (XLR, TRS, and USB outputs), and also a Behringer Xenyx 1202FX mixer (TRS and RCA outputs, no USB output). Both can supply 48 volts of phantom power.

While I like both the preamp and mixer, I should have gone the mixer route in the beginning. Better bang for the buck in terms of scalability and control. For my needs the sound and build quality of the Behringer Xenyx line has been fine. I'm still glad I have both a mixer and a separate mic preamp.

I didn't get a mixer with USB outs because, as I shared above, I've had mixed experiences with USB. Also the USB audio specs will change over time. An analog mixer itself won't get outdated.

Right now a lot of reasonably priced USB devices will only output at a maximum of either 16 bit 48 kHz, or 24 bit 48 kHz. To get higher rates costs more money (if you can find higher rates).

USB can also have latency issues if you record a lot of stuff at once. Depending on how many channels you record at once, sound cards with breakout cables or breakout boxes, or even Firewire, may be a better choice.

Getting an analog mixer without USB kept the cost of the mixer down. Because I found I had a computer with a poorly shielded sound card, I purchased an inexpensive Behringer UCA-202 USB Audio Interface (16 bit 48 kHz output max) for $30. It's audio CD quality, and the whole setup still ended up costing me less than a mixer with built in USB. When the USB technology advances I can purchase another audio interface if needed.

Most times I find USB devices output the audio signal at a lower volume than a standard analog output. With USB I've usually had to crank up the output volume from the device as it heads into the computer.

I have also found that some computer motherboards shield USB ports better than other ones. I have one computer where the USB port picks up electrical interference when adjacent USB ports are in use. When I input audio via USB on this particular computer, the recording gets a low volume high pitched hum. It ruins the recording. But on this particular computer the sound card produces outstanding quality recordings. So I input both the mic preamp and mixer (depending on which I am using) through the sound card's "Line-In" and love the results.

On another computer the sound card picks up electrical interference from things like moving the mouse. USB on this computer provides a noise free input. Go figure. If I use the mixer on this computer I pipe it into the computer using the Behringer UCA-202 USB Audio Interface. I have found this device is noise free and works well. The audio is still a bit lower in volume and the output from the mixer has to be turned up more.

ricdoug
11-18-2010, 05:46 PM
The large diaphram MXL990 is the best superior bargain microphone for acoustic music I've found. It reproduces sounds in their natural form and has a very wide pickup pattern:

http://pro-audio.musiciansfriend.com/product/MXL-MXL-990-USB-Powered-Condenser-Microphone?sku=271009

http://img3.musiciansfriend.com/dbase/pics/products/7/5/2/501752.jpg

http://img3.musiciansfriend.com/dbase/pics/products/9/1/8/482918.jpg

http://img3.musiciansfriend.com/dbase/pics/products/9/2/1/482921.jpg

http://img3.musiciansfriend.com/dbase/pics/products/9/2/2/482922.jpg

ricdoug
11-18-2010, 05:49 PM
http://img3.musiciansfriend.com/dbase/pics/products/9/1/9/482919.jpg

http://img3.musiciansfriend.com/dbase/pics/products/9/1/6/482916.jpg

http://img3.musiciansfriend.com/dbase/pics/products/8/4/7/622847.jpg

http://img3.musiciansfriend.com/dbase/pics/products/8/4/8/622848.jpg

farmerboy
11-18-2010, 08:00 PM
It's probably gone out of fashion, but I've seen whole studios run on nothing but SM57, SM58 and the fantastic (for the price) AKG C1000S. This mic is so versatile and easy to use I couldn't recommend it highly enough.

knadles
11-19-2010, 05:28 AM
ricdoug,

Do you work for Marshall? :)

-Pete

olgoat52
11-19-2010, 10:05 AM
Tim,

I'm actually planning to look into this very soon. Since I have a half-dozen condensers sitting around my house already, the only thing that's been holding me back is time.

I suspect that the Oktava 012 is going to be a nice choice for uke. It has a wide pickup and tends to be relatively smooth. Unfortunately, the days of GC blowing them out for 50 bucks each are long gone. They're selling for $273 at oktava.com. The upside is the Sound Room folks have done a lot to address Oktava's notorious quality control issues.

I haven't used this one myself, but someone who I trust has recommended the MXL 603S for acoustic guitar, and it should work well on uke. It's a Chinese mic that can be found for less than $100, or in pairs I see for about $125.

There are some more expensive choices sitting around here as well...Josephson C42, Shure SM81, etc. I don't expect to be able to recommend them to anyone other than half-crazed recording geeks like me, but it'll be interesting to see how they pan out. Maybe I'll have some time the day after Thanksgiving.

If you need an immediate and cheap recommendation, give the MXL a try. The person who talked it up knows his stuff, so I feel comfortable recommending it.

For vocals...a lot depends on the singer's voice. My fave bang-for-the-buck condenser was the AT 3035, but they stopped making the dang thing. They have a Chinese 2035 now, but I don't know if that has much in common with the old mic beyond a similarity in look and model number. You can hear the 3035 on my (non-uke) podcasts at http://bignoisybug.com.

-Pete

PS- Oh yeah. Mixers. Allen & Heath!!!

Thanks for the suggestions. I am hoping to try a single mike solution and work on regulating the uke and vocal volume to match. We'll see though. Haven't thought about double tracking but maybe.

olgoat52
11-19-2010, 10:10 AM
I have had to take a more modest approach in terms of equipment costs for home recording (for me it's a small hobby within a hobby). It can be done. You may not get road worthy professional quality products, but you can still get good quality products that will last in a home/hobby environment.

In my limited experience, USB outputs aren't always a clear winner. Much of it depends upon how your computer hardware (mother board, sound card, etc.) was built. Sometimes the sound card beats the USB in terms of audio quality. You have to be willing to go either route (USB or sound card) depending on the results you get with any given computer.

I have an ART Tube MP USB mic preamp (XLR, TRS, and USB outputs), and also a Behringer Xenyx 1202FX mixer (TRS and RCA outputs, no USB output). Both can supply 48 volts of phantom power.

While I like both the preamp and mixer, I should have gone the mixer route in the beginning. Better bang for the buck in terms of scalability and control. For my needs the sound and build quality of the Behringer Xenyx line has been fine. I'm still glad I have both a mixer and a separate mic preamp.

I didn't get a mixer with USB outs because, as I shared above, I've had mixed experiences with USB. Also the USB audio specs will change over time. An analog mixer itself won't get outdated.

Right now a lot of reasonably priced USB devices will only output at a maximum of either 16 bit 48 kHz, or 24 bit 48 kHz. To get higher rates costs more money (if you can find higher rates).

USB can also have latency issues if you record a lot of stuff at once. Depending on how many channels you record at once, sound cards with breakout cables or breakout boxes, or even Firewire, may be a better choice.

Getting an analog mixer without USB kept the cost of the mixer down. Because I found I had a computer with a poorly shielded sound card, I purchased an inexpensive Behringer UCA-202 USB Audio Interface (16 bit 48 kHz output max) for $30. It's audio CD quality, and the whole setup still ended up costing me less than a mixer with built in USB. When the USB technology advances I can purchase another audio interface if needed.

Most times I find USB devices output the audio signal at a lower volume than a standard analog output. With USB I've usually had to crank up the output volume from the device as it heads into the computer.

I have also found that some computer motherboards shield USB ports better than other ones. I have one computer where the USB port picks up electrical interference when adjacent USB ports are in use. When I input audio via USB on this particular computer, the recording gets a low volume high pitched hum. It ruins the recording. But on this particular computer the sound card produces outstanding quality recordings. So I input both the mic preamp and mixer (depending on which I am using) through the sound card's "Line-In" and love the results.

On another computer the sound card picks up electrical interference from things like moving the mouse. USB on this computer provides a noise free input. Go figure. If I use the mixer on this computer I pipe it into the computer using the Behringer UCA-202 USB Audio Interface. I have found this device is noise free and works well. The audio is still a bit lower in volume and the output from the mixer has to be turned up more.

I was trying to remember the name of the ART USB preamp the other day but could not. I don't think that make that puppy anymore. The new PC I build (ASUS MB) has integrated audio so it will be interesting to hear if it is any good or not. Lots of lots left for an off board setup. Just trying to keep the noise down.

olgoat52
11-19-2010, 10:13 AM
ricdoug,

Do you work for Marshall? :)

-Pete

I don't get it.. Is marshall the importer? Was looking at the Snow condensers. I don't know how they sound but I love the retro look. Very cool. My first through was a Neumann (sp?). How silly was that!!

spots
11-19-2010, 01:56 PM
I was trying to remember the name of the ART USB preamp the other day but could not. I don't think that make that puppy anymore. The new PC I build (ASUS MB) has integrated audio so it will be interesting to hear if it is any good or not. Lots of lots left for an off board setup. Just trying to keep the noise down.


M-Audio has some nice PCI card, USB, and Firewire input devices.

Presonus has some nice USB and Firewire input devices.

ART Audio still makes the Tube MP line. There are several models and all are single input. They also have a "USB Dual Pre Project Series" with two mic/instrument inputs and USB out.

Tube MP Studio = $30-$40
http://www.artproaudio.com/images/products/tubemp.png


Tube MP Project Series = $60
http://www.artproaudio.com/images/products/tubempps.png

Tube MP Project Series with USB = ~$70
http://www.artproaudio.com/images/products/tubempps_usb.png


Tube MP Studio V3 = ~$70
http://www.artproaudio.com/images/products/tubemp_studiov3.png

ricdoug
11-19-2010, 03:31 PM
LOL, Pete!

I'm a retired Marine and am currently in Ford Commercial Fleet sales. My wife and I co-owned a music store in 29 Palms for 12 years while I was on active duty in the USMC. When we sold the store, the buyer did not want all the stock (funny, since he did not balk at our selling price). I have more gear than many small music stores in my living room. Ric

olgoat52
11-19-2010, 06:30 PM
I love tube preamps. My full size audio system has Bat tube preamp and it is fantastic. I'll check them out. That with a good condenser would be awesome. Should capture every nuance of all my missed notes and botched chords. I can't wait!! :D

spots
11-19-2010, 06:46 PM
I love tube preamps. My full size audio system has Bat tube preamp and it is fantastic. I'll check them out. That with a good condenser would be awesome. Should capture every nuance of all my missed notes and botched chords. I can't wait!! :D

The ART Tube MP are what they call a "starved plate" design. It means the tube doesn't get enough voltage to really do tube type things. Rather than use a transistor, they put a tube in and run a lower voltage through it.

I have no complaints about the design, and how it works and sounds. They are affordable and meet my needs.

olgoat52
11-21-2010, 05:48 AM
The ART Tube MP are what they call a "starved plate" design. It means the tube doesn't get enough voltage to really do tube type things. Rather than use a transistor, they put a tube in and run a lower voltage through it.

I have no complaints about the design, and how it works and sounds. They are affordable and meet my needs.

By "tube type things" do you mean that it does not really pick up that tube type sound? The warmth? Seems like an expensive solution compared to a transistor.

Do you shop anywhere in particular for pre-amps or just the lowest cost provider on the internet? Thanks

spots
11-21-2010, 10:15 AM
By "tube type things" do you mean that it does not really pick up that tube type sound? The warmth? Seems like an expensive solution compared to a transistor.

Do you shop anywhere in particular for pre-amps or just the lowest cost provider on the internet? Thanks

I have never used high end tube preamps/amps, so I can't compare the sound of the ART project level stuff to professional gear.

I can share some audio samples I made with the ART if you like.

I like the sound of the ART when using a dynamic mic. To my ears the output does have a sense of thickness/warmth to it. But it can also get a bit hissy when both the input gain, and the output level, are cranked. When using a dynamic I haven't heard any distortion or grittiness to the recording. I tried a sub $100 condenser mic with it that required +48v phantom. I was not pleased with the sound. There was too much background hiss/white noise. The instrument still came through clearly, but to me it wasn't as clean and quiet as when using a dynamic mic.

I think my setup is pretty clean sounding given the fact that it's a typical room in a normal house without any recording studio baffling, etc.

From what I've read... Because the voltage going into the tube is about 50 volts, the starved plate project level preamps saturate earlier and at lower levels than the professional grade stuff. The project level stuff isn't designed to deliver the same type of clean sound as the higher priced stuff.

It seems that people either find that these things work for them, or they hate them. There doesn't seem to be a middle ground.

Shopping:
I've had good luck buying on-line from Musician's Friend, B&H Photo Video, and Amazon (actually sold by Amazon itself). Customer service, and the ability to return items, is very important to me so I price shop between a few on-line places.

B&H's shipping is fast, but you pay for shipping. Musician's Friend has free shipping, but their orders seem to take a day or two to leave the facility.

For some things I will shop the local Guitar Center. They have an easy return policy if you aren't satisfied.

knadles
11-21-2010, 10:33 AM
Tubes need a certain (high) plate voltage in order to pass audio in a linear fashion. Running that high voltage generally requires a more expensive power supply, so less expensive tube devices "starve" the tube's plate by running it at a lower than optimal voltage. Most such devices aren't really tube devices at all (i.e. the tube is not integral to the amplification); they're solid state devices using the tube as an effect (or to the more cynical, a marketing device).

Most of the warmth people associate with the "tube sound" in studio-type preamplifiers is actually due to the "iron" or transformers in older studio gear. The older gear (or the very expensive newer stuff) has both the tubes and the iron. (This is different from what people expect out of guitar amps, which usually run the tubes into distortion.)

The long and short is buy the device that gives you the sound you want, but if you're looking for the classic tube sound, it's going to cost a lot more than the TubeMP. :cool:

knadles
11-21-2010, 10:38 AM
Full Compass (http://fullcompass.com) is an excellent reseller for audio gear. Hint: you can purchase from the website, but you'll generally get a better deal if you call them on the phone, as they aren't bound by the minimum advertised price rules.

Sorry to be all over this thread, but audio is kind of my thing.

olgoat52
11-21-2010, 03:08 PM
Full Compass (http://fullcompass.com) is an excellent reseller for audio gear. Hint: you can purchase from the website, but you'll generally get a better deal if you call them on the phone, as they aren't bound by the minimum advertised price rules.

Sorry to be all over this thread, but audio is kind of my thing.

Comments appreciate Pete. I like tubes in my high end listening system and have been looking at going back to tube amps for the guitar. Just kind of a "gut" thing. Can't really explain it.

knadles
11-21-2010, 07:39 PM
I've heard great tube and great solid state home stereo amps. For guitars, I've heard good solid state amps, but great tube ones. Personally, I love tubes. I have a hybrid bass amp right now, but nothing beat my old Mesa all-tube bass head. That thing was a monster, and I could get it to growl like no other amp I've ever heard before or since.

The Fender Blues Jr. is a nice little tube amp that won't break the bank. That's what the guy from Boulder Acoustic Society was using the night they opened for Jake.