Tips For A Home Recording Studio

Published: 12th July 2011
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Putting together your first home recording studio? The possible array of brands and types of microphones can be daunting. There are a couple of things to take into account when making a choice. Basically there are two kinds - dynamic and condenser. One of the big mistakes that one makes is in thinking that the condenser microphones are better than the dynamic ones or that condenser mics are used only for vocals and dynamics for instrumentalists. Anybody who dispenses such advice doesn't know what they're saying; you should stop right there and run away. :=)

Here's a look at vocal mics for instance. Some novices say that you will need a condenser for vocals. Wrong! Hear are some of the many recording artists that don't follow that rule: Red Hot Chili Peppers, U2, Bonnie Raitt, Metallica, Incubus, Bjork and many others. It's obvious they can choose whatever they want, but they've chosen a dynamic mic for their vocals.

In terms of power and character there are some wonderful dynamic mics and some highly disappointing dynamic ones. In the same way there are really good condenser mics and horrendously bad ones. It's so important to distinguish each mic on its own benefits.

So far as advocating a dynamic microphone, there is one that stands out from all others. That's the Shure SM57. In my humble opinion, it's one of the most worthy pieces of recording equipment ever designed. If you've ever listened to a CD there's a really good chance that there's an SM57 involved. You could almost put money on it. It's one of the most used microphones and can be used for snare drums, electric guitars, violins, percussion and much more, but it's also often used on vocals. (I've often said that I'd bet on making an entire recording using only the 57 and it wouldn't suffer enough for the average listener to know). New they're extremely cheap. If you're still recording in 20 years, chances are you'll still be reaching for this mic.

If you are going to to get a condenser mic, one of the main reasons for doing so is that they capture more detail on the low end and a bit more of the finer elements on the highs. That being said, there are still great sounding condensers and horrible sounding ones.

If you are interested in a condenser, I advise you to get one that will do a reasonably good job rather than the 1st inexpensive one that you one that you think looks cool. The majority of these cheap-o microphones are that they sound terrible; that's because they more often than not have a harsh and biting sound. It might sound really good at first as people are drawn to seemingly more brilliant sounds, but If you're recording more than a few tracks and you try to compress them, that harshness will come out and zap you in a less than pleasant way. Conversely, many tracks recorded with a good condenser mic are actually going to sound nice and very easy on the ears.

Here's one more I would recommend. A fairly reasonable and relatively inexpensive condenser mic is the MXL-V67. With a fairly good mic preamplifier, this mic will outperform many condensers that are much more expensive.

To wrap this article up, if you don't have much money, these recommendations are good investments if you'er a first time buyer BUT one thing to bear in mind is to do some more research; converse with experienced engineers and find out what they might recommend to you.


Howard Fine has contributed a lifetime of producing and engineering at his recording studio, Excello, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He is also a mic expert with an extensive knowledge of vocal, instrument, wireless, USB microphones and much more.

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