Good all around mic

Good all around mic

I’m looking for a good all purpose mic to record guitar and vocals. My first thought is an SM 7B based on reviews and the fact it pops up a lot in articles about engineers and producers I like.
An SM7B would be as much as I’d spend, but I’m open to suggestions.

That best all around… I’d go for either the Rode NT1 (or whatever version of it is around now) or an AKG C414 if you are willing to spend a little more. Looking back on everything I’ve recorded over the last 10 years, those are probably the two most versatile mic’s for acoustic, electric, and vocals.

On the higher end, I still have my Blue Bottle mics. But if I didn’t, and had to go buy one, I could bet by pretty easily with a U87. I do very little recording these days, but those would be my choices. I’m a little out of the loop on bang-for-the-buck gear and new stuff coming out.


Hi Bob - disclaimer: I don’t own an SM7b…

However, having mixed a lot of stuff that you have recorded, I’m kind of familiar with your style and sound… I think, based on that, and what the SM7b might be a good choice for your vocals, particularly because you have a very dynamic and powerful voice.

If you are working in a fairly average lively domestic room with some reflections a dynamic mic with good rejection of those things would be an important priority.

A condenser might be more versatile, but if you go for a condenser mic, the higher sensitivity to the surrounding environment would likely require damping down the room reflections to get a more useable result, IMO.

One thing worth trying is the good old SM57 (if you have one). I’ve used it for a tonne of my stuff. It works on vocals, acoustic guitar, and of course, guitar amps. Essential to use a pop filter with it for vocals, though.

Here’s an interesting analysis of the SM7b and some less expensive alternatives - the RE320 looks promising…

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hey Bob I could send you my 414 to use for a few weeks. I have lost interest lately of making new songs. Let me know. It does have some kinda boost built in. I use it for acoustic and vocals. Very sensitive. You can rub your thumb and index finger together six inches away and watch the meter go up. I am too lazy to go up and check out the real numbers. haha

Thanks, Paul, but you might not get it back. Honestly, I just record once in a while too, when I get the urge, so sometimes a song takes months, sometimes a day or two.
I currently have an MXL V57, which is a cheap condenser, a Sony mic, which a friend gave me that’s a nice small condenser that would be a good room mic, and a $50 Shure mic that is good mostly for knocking the top off.
I want to own one good mic and leave it set up and ready. That might guilt me into getting more done.

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Thanks, as always. Is an SM7B overkill, and do you think it would give my stuff sufficient improvement, or would an SM57 be enough? I’ve used SM57s a lot, and you can do a lot with it, and the leftover $300 buys lots of strings.

As I said, I’m don’t actually own an SM7B, so I’m not qualified to comment on whether or how it compares to an SM57.

I’ve been thinking about getting an SM7 myself, but I’m torn, because I’m not really dissatisfied with the results I get from my various cheap condensers and my 57s etc. At present, I don’t think I can justify the extra expense, as I’m almost certain the quality difference would not be that huge. (SM7Bs are around $800 Australian dollars, and SM57s are about $160 AUD. That would buy me a whole lotta strings, and possibly even a guitar amp!).

About 10 years ago I did a shootout of 10 ….or maybe 11 moderately priced/ lower priced condenser mic’s. Everything was sub $400.

Rode NT1a
Studio Projects B1 and SP C-3 (I think it’s called)
Red Cardinal

………and a bunch of others (I’ll need to check which others I used because I don’t recall all the names but there were many of the usual suspects).

The shootout was done using acoustics guitars.For the life of me I really couldn’t discern any appreciable difference between the sound quality of any of the mic’s. Some mic’s had different features that you might want. Things like a 10 db cut, omni, or figure 8. I think there’s a whole lotta bull crap involved in the hype of most mic’s, recording gear and music equipment. You could use a $60 mic and produce great sounding stuff and nobody will know the difference. Having said that, I’ve always wanted to try an SM7 too. :thinking::smiley:


Just be aware that an SM7 probably requires a strong preamp signal to get decent levels. If I recall correctly, it doesn’t have phantom power and I’ve heard that it requires a good bit of preamp power. Read up on that before purchasing. I like phantom powered large condenser mic’s because they provide plenty of power and even the cheap ones are extremely sensitive (great for acoustic guitars and they’re flexible enough to be used for quiet, sensitive vocals or powerful, loud vocals) (with loud vocals you just need to not get too close to the mic and use vocal control so that you don’t distort the mic capsule).


You are probably right; I send Andrew tracks recorded with my cheap mics and he makes them sound pretty good. The way I sing, distorting the mic might be a good thing.

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I think as long as the mic isn’t too overloaded the vocal is usually fine. Some mic’s tend to be more forgiving than others when they’re overloaded with SPL. Supposedly dynamic mic’s are better able to handle the loud sound pressure levels, though I guess that ability tends to be dependent on the specific mic that is used. Your vocals always sound good from what I’ve heard. What kind/ brand and model of mic are you using for your vocals and guitars (electric & acoustic) currently?

I have an MXL V57 ( cheap condenser, sort of brittle sounding) and a small Sony condenser mic that is pretty good. That’s all I use. I move away from the mics to control input and turn away on plosives. I do also have a really cheap Shure I used to record talk box with that I wouldn’t use for anything else.

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I used 2 or 3 different MXL mic’s in the shootout that I mentioned above. The MXL V57 was one of them I believe. The other MXL mic I used was the 990, which I think was a mic that would sell for approximately $70 or $80 at the time. The V57 was very inexpensive too but it seemed to have a much better reputation than the 990. In the acoustic guitar recording shootout I couldn’t discern any appreciable difference between the two. I should take my V57 out and try comparing it to the AT4040 that I usually use for vocals and acoustic guitar. I suspect there won’t be much of a difference, but who knows. It’s been a long time since I compared the two.

I really like the Heil PR40. It’s a cardioid dynamic that’s a great all around mic for around $350. Good for vocal work, guitars and can handle a high spl level for micing a cab.

Okay, let me ask the question differently : can I get enough out of an sm57 to get by if I use it correctly? My room is bad, but all I’m tracking is guitar and voice, both close mic’ed. I don’t need to buy something just to say I own it, or to record someone else. I’m not going to spend Neuman money, so if I’m really splitting hairs in the middle range, there’s no point to it, since I won’t buy the ancillary preamp any time soon. This is sounding like an old RR discussion now, I apologize.

I think you can but I’m a little sceptical about the SM7 being any better than other cheaper mic’s. I do wonder if the SM7 can produce a fuller bottom end though, because you often hear that deep, brassy sound that radio announcers get when using either that mic or the Electrovoice RE20, ……but maybe that’s just the proximity effect.

I think your best bet would be to rent a Shure SM7 and some other well respected mic that’s in the price range you’re looking at. Rent for a day or two and test them out thoroughly on all the sources that you would need them for….Make sure to try loud, powerful vocals and soft, sensitive vocals to see if the mic’s have the flexibility to handle each adequately.


Oh damn! I thought you wrote SM7 ! :eyes::flushed: Sorry bout that :zipper_mouth_face:

The SM57 should be ok for vocals and definitely for guitar cabs. I think it won’t be quite as good as a condenser mic is when used on acoustic guitars. Condensers tend to pick up the details a bit more, especially in the end. You can probably rectify that with optimal mic placement and eq to a degree though and nobody will be the wiser.

Yes. I have no hesitation in putting one on just about anything.


That’s good to know! I borrowed a mic from a buddy of mine… and I’ve had it for a few years! I keep asking him if he wants it back and he keeps saying ‘nope, I don’t need it.’ Meanwhile I feel like I should at least own one decent mic for myself… and the SM57 is certainly affordable, so it’s nice to know it versatile enough to get me by.


Yeah, I agree with Adrian. Especially if you’re just planning on recording electric guitar and rock vocals, I believe a 57 is more than up to task. Sometimes I like to use my Audio Technica AT2020 for finger-picking acoustic guitar and an alternative vocal mic, just to mix things up a bit, but my 57 is my go-to mic.


Thanks, I always like your recordings. A 57 for live is bulletproof and consistent. With careful placement I’m sure it will work fine.

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