Survey: What are your top 3 vocal mics for recording?

Survey: What are your top 3 vocal mics for recording?
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#41

I have a very low budget setup, and I started out using a Creative Labs mic that was basically a headset mic without the headphones. It was almost as bad as my singing!

But then I bought an ATR30 and went way upscale! I always felt it was a solid mic for a $100 thereabouts. Then I thought it broke so I bought a Shure SM58, hoping that would be a minor upgrade. Then I figured out that my ATR30 was fine, only the cable was bad. So since then I have always recorded vocals on both in mono. My theory was I would get a richer, fuller tone that way possibly. Is this a good idea? I can’t say, but the two do sound slightly different. I used to pan them left and right and had some cheesy stereo effect going on, but lately I am panning them both to center and basically mixing them.

I’m pretty sure no mic is going to make my voice or singing sound much better, but I am certain that most cheaper mics would make me sound noticeably worse.

I used to run the mics through a Behringer 12-track mixer, but lately I’m just plugging in directly to my Scarlet 2i2, and that seems to be cleaner, and I’m not recording two things at once anyway. I need to keep things fairly static and predictable, maybe make small incremental adjustments over time.


#42

always love these threads, so many different experiences that lead to specific choices.

My top three are:
Stage - Neumann KMS105. I have been using these since they came out and always get consistent results no matter the singer. The integral triple pop filter works very well and they can handle a ton of SPLs.
I should note that the majority of the live work I do is with sound companies providing vocal mics based off of artists riders, which almost all are SM58s. Some singers bring in their own mics so I see Heil’s, Sennheiser’s, and Beta series Shure’s to as well as my beloved Neumanns.

Studio - RE20 with Mojave MA200. This combo is my go to vocal chain in the studio. Usually the RE20 sits directly in front of the singer with the MA200 upside down above it. One of the two always has an edge but it isn’t always the same one. Some times the MA200, sometimes the RE20. I don’t do a whole lot of studio work these days but when I do that is the setup.


#43

Shure KSM-27
Shure SM27
MXL 910

Honorable mention:
Rode NT1A
Kel HM-1

My KSM-27 (lg diaphragm condenser) cost me around $400 10 years ago. Last year I decided I should have a 2nd one, but when I went to order it I learned they are no longer made. The SM27 ($270) is nearly identical. A bit hotter, maybe a tiny bit “darker”. I use these for vocals almost exclusively. My only complaint is that the shock mount (same on both) is very poorly constructed, I literally have to keep a screwdriver on hand to adjust it

The MXL910 is a very decent-sounding large diaphragm condenser for ony $170 (plus $25 for a decent shock mount). It’s next in line after the 2 Shure’s, in case I have occasion to use more than 2 mics and once.

The Rode NT1A (about $200) has great clarity, and produces a much hotter signal compared to my other mics. Plus it comes with a really nice shock mount. Definitely the coolest-looking mic in my arsenal, if looks matter to anyone. But I found it rather “unforgiving”, as it picked up and amplified all kinds of sounds that were inaudible in the room (birds outside, a plane high overhead, a dog barking a block away). I guess in many circumstances that would be a GOOD thing, but for my purposes it turned out to be more trouble than it was worth, so I rarely use it anymore.

I don’t use the Kel HM-1 that much anymore, as I just like the Shures that much better, but it’s a very impressive performer for less than $100 (I think I got it on sale for $50 or $60). When my studio was just getting started, and money was really tight, Brandon Drury recommended it as a decent low-cost vocal mic. I recorded vocals for a couple albums with it. It’s actually a small-diaphragm side-address condenser. No shock mount, comes with a thick black foam windscreen. It has a very flat frequency response, overall a bit “darker” sounding than the other mics. Once in a blue moon I still use it if I have a singer with i thin squeaky voice.

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.


#44

I still haven’t tried one of those KSM27’s. How well does it work on acoustic guitars? Just curious


#45

I know some people have used it on acoustic guitar. I tried it a couple times, but didn’t like it as well as the pair of small diaphragm condensers I usually use. I think I could’ve gotten good results if I’d experimented more with placement, and especially if I could have tried 2 of them at once. Now that I have the SM27 as well, I may try micing an acoustic with the pair sometime.

I almost always record acoustic guitar in stereo. Most often I use a pair of Superlux S241s, one at the 12th fret, the other just behind the bridge, both angled in toward the soundhole.


#46

I went with Shure to try vocal mics and compare…I almost chose Sennheiser for no other reason than trying to reduce confusion of a billion mics.

so Shure… SM57…58. sm7b…KSM27, 32, 44…(the ribbon was waaaaay out of my price range)

Sm7b was for the noisy room and I was lazy.
After getting a room a little quieter…LDC…KSM27…then after pondering the raves about the 44 then a 44 and 27…
they were extremely similar but the 27 had plosives, until adding the foam cap as SOS article mentioned.

I liked the 44 maybe a little better but then it was invisible difference once the compressor and drum tracks were going. MiXOnline dude even mentioned his standard is U87 and the 27 maybe more like it in the hi-end.

There is a difference in build but I ended up keeping the KSM27 after buying and selling and buying back the 44 then sold it…KSM27 was considerably cheaper in the poverty section of the room and sounded really as good imo.

KSM27 is built a bit tougher in the metal grill making it intentionally designed to go from studio to stage (Dixie chics…etc…)… its cardiod only and the capsule is similar to the 44 but not a dual diagphram (where the plosives come from ) the dual has a “blocker” on the back right? so the plosive and air is lessened as Shure has mentioned.

I got this KSM27 for like $80…it was so pro built I bought another in a meth excitement moment…but I only need one vocal mic these days. I do like 2 half finshed recordings a year, so take anything with a grain of salt.

the KSM27 is only 14mv/pa sensitivity vs 28 for the U87 and KSM44…so its also a nice Home Studio mic… though its way more senstive than the SM7b which is kind of King in that world…I dont see that ever changing.

Im trying to rent a U87 for $170 month just to hear one here, store some tracks etc… isnt it kind of the King of HR LDC? maybe only second to the AKG 414 which is a lot cheaper.

it boggles my mind how name and models become so huge? is it real or just a popularity thing? I mean even AKG puts out hundreds of other mics but the 414 is still the one, or the cv12 no one can afford…

shure makes a lot of mics…but do they get tired of customers just asking for SM57 or a 58 and SM7b over and over?

The KSM27 was kind of written off because the 44 didnt have the plosives pop…right? but with the foam its like another mic.

My answer then is Top 3:

SM58 (will swap out with the SM7b again in the future)
KSM27
Todays new visitor AKG C2000B (which has the closest spec chart to U87 over any other mic spec chart… I could find)…if you know of others Im curious to hear it…


#47

If someone is bored and wants to help, I’d love to make a list of the mics that have been suggested so far as well as any others that come to mind. I’m going to set up a polled list of the mics that everyone can vote on so that we have a list of what is most popular among all of us.
This should be a handy resource for beginners and people that visit here


#48

Shure sm58
Rode NT2a
Blue Bottle
Neumann M149
Sanken COS-11D lapel mic
Sennheiser MKH
Shure BETA 58A
AKG 414
Heil PR35
AKG 414EB
Blue condensers
Heil pr30
Cad m179
Akg perception
Wunder cm7
U-87
RE-20
RE-20 (again)
Coles 4038
C12
Heil PR35
Rode K2
Audio Technica 2020
Beta 58A
Audix OM5
Shure SM7b
Lauten Audio Clarion 357
Shure Beta 58A
Shure Beta 87A
Lewitt LCT 940
Telefunken ELAM 251
AT 4040
ATR30
Neumann KMS105
RE20 with Mojave MA200
Shure KSM-27
Shure SM27
MXL 910
Rode NT1A
Kel HM-1
SM58
KSM27
AKG C2000B


#49

For condenser mics, the first one I grab off the shelf is usually an AKG 214 (similar to a 414, but without all the bells and whistles). I also use a pair of 214s for overheads, with a 3rd for room mic when recording drums.

For dynamic, a beta 58 - which will probably give way to an SM7b, fairly soon as the scope and type of my upcoming projects is a little different.

For my 3rd option, it’s my ancient, reliable AT2020. Its more colored than the AKG. Its built like a tank and I’ve used it for so many hundreds (thousands?) Of hours using it in all kinds of situations. Like the AKG214, it’s consistent (and probably more durable than the 214, though less versatile). I always know what I’m going to get.

I guess thats why one of those three mics is almost always where I start. I know what they SHOULD sound like in almost any situation. On the rare occasion that one of those mics doesn’t cut it, I can try something else from the mic closet.