Microphone to use with a computer, a guitar, and djembe; budget $50
May 5, 2004 9:00 PM   Subscribe

I've $50 to spend on a microphone. What's a decent choice for a girl with a computer and a guitar--and occasionally, a djembe?

I have this silver dollar-sized Labtec that is really just crap, and an extra fifty dollars (not including shipping and handling, for which I can eke out a little more cash) to get something better for home recording purposes.

I know I need a unidirectional condenser mic, but that is where my experience falters.

I've done some research (also, there was another kickass or two thread about home studio set-up), but there are so many to choose from within this price range... and a few more just outside of it that make me weep with wanting-- i.e. the Shure SM57.

Please bless me with your collective experience here. Thank you!
posted by precocious to Computers & Internet (15 answers total)
The Audio Technica 2000L is claimed to be comparable to the SM57; I found an eBay auction for one for $40 + $6 shipping.

I didn't find any reviews on the Web, but pretty much any mic you get is going to be better than what you've got.
posted by kindall at 9:24 PM on May 5, 2004

Scour ebay for an SM57 (or even a 58). There's one going, with a "Buy It Now" option for $65.
posted by cheaily at 9:37 PM on May 5, 2004

An SM58 is more appropriate for vocals. If you want one of those, I've got the Radio Shack version (same mic, it just says Realistic on it), and I'll let it go cheap.
posted by kindall at 10:13 PM on May 5, 2004

Another vote for the SM58. Alternatively, check out Carvin Mics at carvinguitars.com. They are factory direct, very good sound quality, and pretty cheap.

I actually miked a djembe once with a 58, and it sounded pretty good.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:21 PM on May 5, 2004

Shure has a low-end line called "Performance Gear." I'd go for a PG57 for guitar (especially if it's an electric guitar), or a PG58 for vocals. You can get 'em on eBay for $40-50.
posted by Vidiot at 10:24 PM on May 5, 2004

If you're into really Lo-Fi stuff (and have a budget of $0), you can take a headset - preferrably the ear-plug kind - and tape it to your instrument, and then plug it into the mic slot on your computer, and then play REALLY LOUD, and see what comes out.

It makes a good science experiment while you wait for your new microphone to arrive. It may also make you (slightly) appreciate your Logitech.
posted by kaibutsu at 10:43 PM on May 5, 2004

the shure sm57/58 are dynamic mics, as are most of the pg series. if you're looking for a cheap, directional condenser mic, musician's friend (here) currently has an MXL 990 cardioid condenser mic on sale for $59 plus shipping. better prices on condenser mics are hard to come by, but i've never tried this particular mic, so you might want to look up some reviews on this model before springing for it. the Tape Op message boards can be a good place for getting candid reviews from people who have experience with the gear in studio situations.
posted by cathodeheart at 11:00 PM on May 5, 2004

The information I've found on condenser mics and dynamic mics actually isn't very conclusive. I understand the differences on how they work, as well as the differences between omni and cardioid, and some other tech stuff.

What I can't figure out now is if I need a condenser mic (and whether or not the phantom power will come from my sound card, I'm not sure-- I can't afford something else that eats through batteries) or a dynamic mic. From what I've read (here and elsewhere), dynamic mics are -also- good for vocals, and the cardioid ones help minimize outside sounds. My "studio" isn't exactly soundproofed (though I'm working on it.)

I guess my main consideration is brightness of sound, and compatibility with a PC. As kindall said, anything's better than what I've got.

Except, perhaps, using an earplug as a mic.
posted by precocious at 11:27 PM on May 5, 2004

p.s. this is all good stuff, keep it coming, thank you! Much love to anyone who can explain to me why I might want to go with dynamic over condenser or vice versa.
posted by precocious at 11:28 PM on May 5, 2004

The thing about a condenser mic is, you'll need a preamp of some sort (or a mixer that provides this feature) to use it - so it may stretch your budget another $100 or so.

A dynamic mic will be easier to feed into whatever you're recording with, although you may need an adapter or converter to hook it up.

I'll leave the qualitative difference between dynamic and condenser to someone who knows better than me.
posted by mmoncur at 12:41 AM on May 6, 2004

The Shure SM58 is pretty much the Swiss Army knife of inexpensive MICs, they can be used to record instruments decently, and are especially good with vocals.

Odds are, if you use it instead of a condenser Mic, you probably won't notice the difference if you're recording to your computer.

Also, if you're playing an accoustic guitar, you can put a pair of headphones on the body of the guitar and use that as a microphone.
posted by drezdn at 9:29 AM on May 6, 2004

I agree with the recommendations for the Shure SM58, however you won't find it new for anywhere near your price range. Maybe you can get a deal on eBay.

If you're going to pick something up new, I would try Carvin, where you can pick up good quality stuff for significantly less than anywhere else. Their CM50 sells for $49.99 and is probably better than any other mike you can get new for that price. If you manage to save up a bit more money, you can go for their CM68 or CM90E. I've used the CM90E and can testify that it's a great product for the price.
posted by tdismukes at 10:07 AM on May 6, 2004

If you haven't got a preamp or anything, you are going to need to get either a condenser with battery power or a dynamic mic. In either case, you're going to need a special cable or a transformer to hook it into your sound card (neither of which is terribly cheap). You might want to save up an additional $50 or so and go whole-hog. The MXL 990 (mentioned above) is a fantastic mic for the price. Crisp, clear, mostly-neutral sound with nice, bright highs. Definitely recommended if you can get your hands on a phantom power source (there are some very inexpensive Behringer mixers that will do the job admirably and both together shouldn't set you back more than $110 or so).
posted by uncleozzy at 10:23 AM on May 6, 2004

I know it's 20$ more but I have used this Sony ECMMS907 for a whole range of stuff and it has never failed me. (and it's battery lasts for about 6 months of my normal / light usage)

It may be more of a general purpose mic than a dedicated vocal or instrument mic, but it sure sounds good. (and those other mics seem to require that 3-pin phantom power connector which is going to cost extra unless you do have it on one of your devices)

These are two of those good microphone threads on ask.me.
posted by milovoo at 10:40 AM on May 6, 2004

Although I don't own one of their mics, I can vouch for the quality of Carvin. I have bought a guitar, guitar amp, patch bay and a pair of their powered studio monitors, and the quality of each is much greater than anything else you can find in the respective price ranges.

Also, carvin.com has its own discussion board and the members are very friendly and helpful. Although we are all Carvin fanatics there (and somewhat biased), Carvin is fairly lenient about our posting objective opinions. Post your question there and chances are good that someone who owns a CM50 will give you a full rundown.

(Just don't mention Raul and his catsuit; otherwise your thread will degenerate quickly. ;-P )
posted by mischief at 6:14 PM on May 6, 2004

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