Baffled over the enormous range and variety of microphones for home recording? Here’s a guide to some of the best
Over the past 10 years, the number of microphones available for home recording use has expanded exponentially. And, rather more importantly, the more affordable end of the market has vastly increased in quality, whilst falling in cost. It’s not often that happens…
For those recording in bedroom studios, or bands producing their own releases, this is very good news, as these days, even those with very modest budgets can get themselves a mic of good quality to capture their work.
But, with so many available, which should you buy?
Here, we present a guide to some excellent first choices to begin making great recordings with.
Rode NT-1A Recording Pack
If you’re only going to buy one microphone initially, then a large diaphragm condenser mic is a good bet. This is particularly true if vocals will be one of the sources you intend to record.
Put simply, condenser microphones are very sensitive and detailed, particularly when recording sources with lots of sparkly, high frequencies. So, vocals, acoustic guitar, and indeed anything with lots of top-end should sound great when recorded with a condenser.
Australian brand, Rode, were one of the pioneers who made high quality condenser microphones far more affordable. The NT-1a recording pack is the most affordable large diaphragm condenser it makes. Built to astonishing standards, and with a 10yr warranty, it belies its low cost.
And with a wide dynamic range, super low self-noise and superb smooth sound, it doesn’t disappoint when recorded either. Comes complete with a shock mount, pop-shield and cable.
Note, however, that as a condenser microphone, you’ll need a preamp capable of supplying phantom power.
Great for: Vocals, acoustic guitar, drum overheads.
The Shure SM57 is a bona-fide icon in the music world. Available since 1965, this dynamic mic was designed as a live sound reinforcement and studio-recording microphone.
Since then, it has built a reputation as a ‘Swiss army knife’ of microphones, turning its hand to most things.
In particular, the ’57 is well known as a great mic for recording guitar amps, in part due to its bright tone and pronounced mids. This has also made it well suited to recording snare drums, too.
However, the SM57 is, with some judicious placement, capable of good results on most sound sources, from acoustic guitars, to brass, to world percussion, to, well… you name it.
Great for: guitar amps, percussion, snare drums, acoustic guitars, brass, the kitchen sink…
The M3 is another microphone billed as an ultra-versatile option. This small diaphragm microphone is a condenser microphone, but unlike those above, it can be powered either via phantom power, or via a 9v battery. This makes it incredibly versatile.
The mic itself is a condenser microphone with an end-mounted, ½” diaphragm. Like all Rode microphones, it is incredibly robustly constructed. However, in this case, it reflects Rode’s intent for this mic to be used in live scenarios, as well as in the studio.
An internal pad switch allows the sensitivity to be reduced by either –10dB or –20dB, whilst a high pass filter set at 80Hz (which removes very low frequencies) is switchable via the power switch.
Smooth, detailed, versatile and a veritable bargain, the
M3 is also covered by Rode’s 10 year warranty.
The above are all great ‘first microphone’ options. Despite this, they all stand up as great mics (i.e. they’re not just ‘beginner’ mics). As a result, if you add or upgrade to your microphones for home recording, you’re still likely to find uses for any the above.
Great for: Acoustic guitar, guitar amps, percussion, overheads, vocals, presenting, field recording.
Joe is a contributor for the Dawsons Music blog. Specialising in product reviews and crafting content to help and inspire musicians of all musical backgrounds.