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December 28, 2013 11:22 AM   Subscribe

Please advise me on the best microphone to buy in order to record vocals at home.

I would like to be able to record myself singing using my laptop in order to possibly share the files with others for remote collaboration. This would basically be for a very small-scale audience, but I would still like the recordings to be of the best quality possible relative to my budget. Having done a little reading I'm planning on downloading Reaper but I'm not sure what mic to get. Is it better to get one that connects directly to my laptop? If not, what additional cables, equipment etc do I need in order to record it on computer? It's mostly folky-type stuff so it doesn't need to be able to handle a lot of volume. My budget is small - around £30-60 max ($50-$100ish) although if that seems totally unrealistic I could consider revising it. Personal recommendations appreciated, I've no frame of reference for the different brand names. Thanks!
posted by billiebee to Shopping (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I can't say much about what would be best, but I think within your budget a microphone that connects directory to USB will be best. I went looking for the cheapest way to hook up a microphone to a computer and they were around $12 on eBay, which would eat a decent chunk of the budget, and I don't even know if those are any good! Maybe the Snowball? It's pretty highly rated overall and within your budget--has lots of decent reviews from people who do what you are planning with it.
posted by foxfirefey at 11:48 AM on December 28, 2013

I have a Yeti mic (made by the same folks as the Snowball, mentioned above), and I'm pretty happy with the quality.

I'd imagine that once you get above bargain-basement mics, your quality gains will be largely accomplished by controlling your recording environment, rather than paying $50 or $100 more for a mic.
posted by brentajones at 12:06 PM on December 28, 2013

Thirding the Yeti! I love the hell out of it and used it for podcast recordings. I sounded awesome! :) IIRC, it's right around the upper part of your budget, but worth every penny. (IMHO)
posted by juliebug at 7:35 PM on December 28, 2013

While there are well-reviewed clear winners near your price range, there are also tons of usable quasi-generic mics out there. I would make the USB/analog connection decision based on what your machine has. AFAIK USB doesn't offer any inherent benefit.

As long as it doesn't sound like a tin can, or have an abysmal signal to noise ratio, I think you're best off getting it in your hands, and climbing the recording learning curve asap. That said, a lot of cheap mics *do* sound like tin cans. I had a ~$50 Audio Technica desktop USB mic that made everything sound like a WWII re-broadcast. Look for a good return policy.

Main considerations: Environmental noise - fans, computers, sirens, neighbors, dogs, creaky chairs.
Appropriate post-processing: Become familiar with your EQ and dynamics options (compression, et al)

Reaper and Ardour are both perfectly adequate, but I find them to be distractingly complex for simple work. Audacity can be annoying but also does what it says on the tin. My personal favorite for just a few tracks is Adobe Audition.

Transom is a good place to start for learning about the basics.
Oh, and save a couple bucks for a pair of pantyhose.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 12:40 AM on December 29, 2013

I have a Blue Snowball, mentioned above, for podcasting and I like it a lot. The Yeti is technically better, but I think also probably out of your budget.
posted by jess at 7:14 PM on December 29, 2013

Thanks for the suggestions. Unfortunately the Yeti is out of my price range - it's 90 in the UK. But it turns out that I can borrow a non-USB one, so I'll figure out how to connect that instead and, as suggested, learn more about the actual recording aspect of things first.
posted by billiebee at 3:21 AM on January 7, 2014

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