Adam Savage brings together bargains that could save vocalists a tidy sum
With many of us suffering from fewer funds to spend on instrumental luxuries than we’d like, the idea of splashing out on a pricey mic is less appealing than ever. Thankfully, there are plenty of low-priced, yet high-quality models out there, as Adam Savage discovers…
One of the misconceptions that stem from the minds of many musicians is that in order to get hold of a decent microphone, you’d better be willing to break the bank for it.
Many of those who adopt this belief will either do just that – and fork out for a mic that is intended for entirely different applications – or do the exact opposite and settle for a knackered old second hand model.
The reality is that in today’s market – as with many other areas of MI – you can actually pick up a surprisingly high quality microphone for a two-figure sum, making live vocal performances or home recording more achievable than ever before. Here’s a look at a few examples.
Audio-Technica’s AT2020 cardioid condenser offers high SPL handling and a wide dynamic range for enhanced versatility. Its custom engineered low-mass diaphragm helps extend the frequency response and it’s ideal for either home or project studios.
The AT2010 was designed to bring the studio-quality articulation of the manufacturer’s 20 Series to the stage, creating crystal-clear vocal reproduction. It includes the AT2020’s 16 mm low-mass diaphragm and a multi-stage grille design, which eliminates plosives and sibilance without affecting clarity.
The Japanese giant has also released the Pro 61, a dynamic vocal mic that can produce vast quantities of gain before feedback and improved isolation of the sound source, thanks to its hypercardioid polar pattern.
Beyerdynamic launched its Touring Gear series at Frankfurt this year, which is comprised of microphone models from all across the sector, including some great entry-level options.
The TG V30ds provides a supercardioid polar pattern and produces a natural sound that is ideal for karaoke, rehearsal room singing and stage use. With a noiseless on/off switch, XLR cable, clamp and storage bag, the TG V30ds is great for those not wanting to get too technical.
Also offering a supercardioid polar pattern, the TG V35s does a similar job to the above, but also includes high feedback rejection and thanks to its high output level, only requires a simple pre-amplifier to deliver an impressive sound.
Slightly further up the scale, the TG V50d live mic has a powerful, yet natural sound and features high levels of handling, durability, appearance and touch.
The D1057 from LD Systems is a dynamic cardioid instrument microphone that was created with professional sound reinforcement and project studio recording in mind. Just sneaking into the budget category is the D1012C multi-purpose condenser mic. This small diaphragm microphone offers a wide frequency range and can be used for a plethora of studio and live applications, such as micing acoustic guitars, percussion instruments and choirs.
LD’s Pro Series is another option, which consists of the D1007, a dynamic supercardioid mic for bass drums and other bass instruments, the D1008, a short body model for snare, toms and guitar backline and the D1009, a condenser mic for overheads, hi-hats and percussion.
From Audix, there’s the I5, a multi-purpose dynamic instrument microphone that can be used for stage, studio and broadcast applications. This rugged, compact mic has a frequency response of 50 Hz to 16 kHz.
One notable Audix vocal mic is the OM2 – at home either on stage or in the studio, which delivers clear and accurate sound reproduction and feedback resistance.
Ideal for lead and backup vocals, Shure’s PG58 offers professional quality reproduction, along with rugged durability and it can cope with very high volume levels without the threat of distortion.
For instruments, the PG57 would be an ideal recording tool. Armed with an internal shock mount for reduced noise handling, this microphone delivers a tailored frequency response tuned specifically for instruments. It can also handle extreme volume levels and includes an on/off switch for onstage control.
The PG56 was designed for close-mic drum and percussion applications. Featuring an integrated stand mount and A50D drum mount, the PG56 can withstand a lot of abuse, due to the inclusion of a steel mesh tapered grille.
JTS’ NX-8.8 vocal condenser microphone was designed to offer studio quality reproduction for live vocals. A high level of durability is ensured thanks to its metallic enamel-painted die cast body with a hardened, matte-finished grille.
The Taiwanese manufacturer has also introduced the CX-500, which produces a clean, detailed and natural sound quality from its subminiture condenser capsule. A tailed response curve makes it more suited to violins and guitars, but it can be attached to various other instruments.
Based on its highly successful STC-1, Sontronics’ STC-10 is a pencil-style cardioid condenser microphone that has proven to be especially effective when used on drums and percussion instruments. Features include a built-in attenuation switch, low-cut filter, mic clip and foam windshield.
Similarly based on an older model (the STC-2), the company’s STC-20 is a large-diaphragm condenser with a cardioid condenser pattern and a one-inch, gold-sputtered capsule, contained behind a large open grille.
Although originally engineered for vocals and speech, the STC-80 will impress with its home guitar cab, snare drum and tom micing capabilities as well.
For those on an even tighter budget, the KM range from Studiomaster is perfect. These remarkably high performers are designed to withstand rough handling and can pick up vocals with real clarity, but are less sensitive to any unwanted sounds in the vicinity.
Supplied in a soft zipper bag, the KM mics are also bundled with a five-metre professional XLR to XLR balanced cable and stand clip.
Lighting brand Kam also offers a selection of highly affordable microphones and its KDM series is made up of various traditional stage and studio vocal mics, which deliver a balance of performance and price.
There are four models in the range: the KDM580S, a vocal mic with on/off switching and anti-roll rubber collars, the KDM550B, a dynamic model that does a similar job to the former, the chrome-finished KDM500 and the KDM200, which, like all the other KDMs, features an XLR to ¼ inch jack cable.
The Mark 6 is a great value mic from VocoPro, one of the big names in the global karaoke market. Featuring a robust metal body, it is more than capable of coping with the demands of a stage environment and is bundled with a 4-metre XLR to quarter inch jack audio cable.
New from Samson is the Meteor Mic. A perfect studio solution, this smart looking product features a large condenser with chrome-plated body and a fold-back leg design, which allows for optimal positioning.
The Korg UK brand’s Go Mic is a portable recording microphone that can clip straight to a laptop. Users can switch between a cardioid or omni polar pattern, with the former being especially useful for recording acoustic guitars or vocals. This handy little gadget has a frequency response of 20Hx – 18kHz and features plug and play operation.
The GYC GS67 from JHS is equipped with a high performance Neodymium cartridge within a new trapezoidal head cage design and for less than £20, you get an impressive level of vocal detailing and response.
Also from GYC is the MUD637, a uni-directional cardioid polar pattern mic, which includes a hard steel mesh with built-in foam screen and pop filter. The MUD637 comes with a riveted joint ring and a 4.5-metre cable. One other high value option from GYC is the MUD500 JHS Microphone, which can be used in broadcasting, recording and stage situations.
As it does with so many other MI sectors, Stagg offers a great budget mic in the form of the MD-1500. This surprisingly high quality dynamic model provides excellent dynamic response for the price, rugged construction and it comes with a hard carry case and six-metre XLR/Phone Plug cable.
The new DM-series of dynamic vocal microphones (supplied by AVSL) is available in cardioid (DM-01 – £9.99) or hyper cardioid (DM-02 – £15.99) versions and offers a Presence Boost, wide bandwidth and dynamic range, XLRM connector and a maximum sound pressure level of 144dB.
A second recent addition to the AVSL catalogue is the CM05, which features a studio quality gold diaphragm condenser capsule for use with vocals and acoustic instruments.
From M-Audio, there’s the Nova, a great looking large capsule cardioid mic that resembles a much more expensive model. With an evaporated gold diaphragm mounted in a solid brass capsule, as well as Class A solid state electronics to ensure low levels of noise, distortion and colouration, you’ll be surprised at just how much you get for your money if you go with one of these.
For any situation where a low-noise, wide response cardioid condenser is required, Røde has the answer with the M3. With a heavy-duty metal body, this piece of kit offers an internal capsule shock mount, three step PAD (0, -10dB and -20dB) and battery status indicator.
Although well known for its higher end offerings, Sennheiser’s e835 falls nicely into this category. Capable of performing under great pressure, this model gives the user impressive feedback rejection and its cardioid pick-up pattern effectively isolates other on-stage signals.
Designed to work on even the noisiest of stages, the AKG D5 uses a Laminated Varimotion diaphragm deep-drawing process, which allows for the fine-tuning of the diaphragm without the need for extra tuning resonators. The dual shock mount prevents any sort of mechanical noise and its supercardioid polar pattern means maximum gain can be reached before any feedback occurs.
Representing the entry level of sE Electronics’ mic range, the saucily named sEX1 has a large hand made diaphragm, 10dB pad, bass cut and black rubber paint finish. sE feels the sEX1 poses a real threat to other mics in this price point and there’s no doubt that those investing in one of these are getting a very good deal indeed.
CM05 – £44.99
This microphone delivers 48V phantom power with pure class A FET preamp for accurate and noise-free audio delivery.
Audio-Technica AT2020 – £99
Comes with a pivoting, threaded stand mount, which allows the user to easily place the microphone in the desired position.
GYC GS56S – £18.99
The robust and reliable GS56S features traditional styling, a frequency response of 50-15,000Hz and a sensitivity rating of -72 dB.
Beyerdynamic TG V50d – £98.88
The TG V50d is very easy to use – just plug in, switch on the high-pass filter and you’re away.
JTS NX-8.8 – £74.99
Its smooth and tailored frequency response gives vocals vividness, accuracy and warmth and its filters help reduce breath pop and handling noise.
Audix i5 – £96
Will cope with sound pressure levels above 140 dB without distortion and can be hooked up to a variety of instruments, as well as guitar cabs and vocals.
Samson Meteor Mic – £99.99
Features include a stereo 1/8-inch headphone jack for no latency monitoring, headphone volume control and a microphone mute switch, which is especially useful for video conferencing.
LD Systems D1057 – £52
This device is equipped with high-quality neodymium magnets and dual membrane dome diaphragms, resulting in high sensitivity and an extended frequency response.
Shure PG58 – £65.52
Comes with a steel mesh ball grille with internal pop filter, which reduces any harsh breath sounds or wind noise.
Sontronics STC-80 – £85
Offering low handling noise, sturdy construction and anti-slip body grooves, the STC-80 also comes with a mic clip and aluminium flightcase.
VocoPro Mark 6 – £15
A true bargain indeed, this mic provides a sensitivity of -78 dB, a frequency response of 60Hz – 14,000Hz and 600 Ohms of impedance.
Stagg MD-1500 – £29.20
Provides excellent dynamic response for its price, rugged construction and is supplied with a hard carry case and six-metre XLR/Phone Plug cable.
M-Audio Nova – £81.88
A large capsule cardioid condenser, offering a frequency response of 20Hz-18kHz and a body and capsule made from solid brass.
Studiomaster KM92 – £29
This uni-directional mic is made from die-cast zinc alloy and features a 50Hz-16kHz frequency response and dark grey satin finish.