Prosumer Vox Microphone Primarily for Spoken Word
August 2, 2018 8:17 AM   Subscribe

I want to reward myself with a nice XLR microphone. Which?

I have numerous mics (dual M-audio cardioid), some lav mics (I forget the brand), and a Shure vocal mic. I'm only really happy with the M-audios). I want to record mostly spoken word style recording (poetry, prose, radio play-style podcasting, VO work). There is no need for portability or concerns for weight.

I don't like having to practically swallow vocal mics, the lavs are fine, but would like something that gets a bit higher quality sound.

My budget is sub $500.

I feel like I have the low end covered, so would like to step up a bit. I've done the google searches, but am looking for experience and informed opinions.
posted by cjorgensen to Technology (10 answers total)
You want a Shure SM58.

Even if you don't need one, everyone should own a SM58, they're that good.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:12 AM on August 2, 2018

I don't have firsthand knowledge of any of this, but Marco Arment's Podcasting Microphones Mega Review might be useful.
posted by kpmcguire at 9:35 AM on August 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

"Shure vocal mic" covers a lot of territory, so humbolt32 has a point - if it's not an actual SM58 or Beta 58 you should certainly consider one of those.

Generally speaking, the next step up for you would be a "large-diaphragm" mic, many of which are condenser mics requiring an external power source, either stand-alone or from a mixer or audio interface.

Some examples (some of which will be pushing your budget unless you buy used/B-stock/on sale):

ElectroVoice RE20

beyerdynamic M88TG

Shure KSM32

Shure SM7B

Audio Technica 4033
posted by soundguy99 at 9:50 AM on August 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

The RE20 mentioned above is extremely common in voice recording because it does not have proximity effect (which affects the low end of the frequency spectrum by making it more pronounced as you get closer to the mic). It might be a good choice for that reason - it lets you work the mic without big changes in your sound.

The Shure SM-7B also mentioned by soundguy99 is another very common voice mic (and a generally great mic).

Either of them will give you a good spoken word "sound" that will remind listeners of radio hosts and audio books and are durable workhorses that should easily last you 10-20 years if not longer.

If you don't have one already, get yourself a good pop shield too, they'll help a lot with the plosives that an energetic poetry performance will have.

For your next reward to yourself, great dynamic mics benefit from a good, clean mic preamp so if you're using something inexpensive, keep that in mind for your next stretch goal.
posted by Candleman at 10:13 AM on August 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

Bear in mind that the RE20 and SM7b both need a fair amount of preamp gain to sound their best. If your preamp won't deliver more than 60dB of clean gain, you'll want to consider one of the condensers that soundguy99 lists instead.
posted by uncleozzy at 10:30 AM on August 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

Incidentally, in your price range I'd stick with a high quality dynamic mic. The quality control and frequency response on the cheap Chinese mics that make the majority of that market can be varied enough that you can get an amazing deal or a dud. The AudioTechnica stuff is very good for the money though.
posted by Candleman at 10:30 AM on August 2, 2018

I was in a similar position recently and ended up with an Audio Technica AT4040 that I’m happy with. If I’d had a bit more to spend I probably would have gone with the AT4033 recommended above.
posted by doctord at 4:24 PM on August 2, 2018

I know one podcasting company that has made Marco's pick of the Shure 87A their standard for home recording, and they love it. So that should definitely be a contender.

Condensers sound awesome, and I'd bet both the KSM32 and AT4033a are wonderful mics. But consider your recording space: condensers are sensitive, and I've seen people have trouble both with noise (kids, pets, street) and echo (no carpets/drapes). Best scenario is to make sure you can return it if it doesn't work for your room.

One point in favor of a condenser mic is that you can back off it a bit, since you've said you don't like swallowing it.

The normal advice for crappy home offices is a dynamic mic. As Candleman says, the good ones (SM7B/RE20) need a big preamp, even if you do practically swallow it. They are however, the last mic for this you'll ever need. You could try my current solution -- adding a Cloudlifter ($150) to your current preamp -- that works if everything is cranked almost to the max. And then save up for the powerful mic preamp later.
posted by troyer at 6:16 PM on August 2, 2018

I have the first generation of the Focusrite-Scarlett 2i2, but have been thinking of upgrading to something that supports more microphones at a time. I go directly from that into a Mac Pro (trashcan). It's quiet as hell. I limit anything that makes noise to another room (for example my NAS is in a utility room). I have a fairly isolated basement room with little ambient or outside noise. I plan to add more sound dampening to the walls and such, but right now its fairly dead on the acoustics regardless (it's carpeted, one wall is covered in photo/video backdrops, the other walls have things on them to help break up the sound fairly well, so echo hasn't been a problem). I do use a pop screen.

Thanks for the recommendations. I'm still going through them. I don't mind pushing my budget; that would just require me to wait longer, and mean delaying other studio purchases I want to make.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:18 AM on August 3, 2018

I've noticed on audio forums that many small semipro studios really love the SM7b, so it's a logical next step up, but maybe stretching your budget a bit.

Also note, the SM58 has been king of budget vocal mics for like forever, but lately I've seen the Sennhieser 835 promoted as a fairly decent sounding alternative.
posted by ovvl at 9:11 AM on August 3, 2018

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