Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Microphones

While the SM58 is a solid, durable, dynamic microphone, it's primary application is live sound, not studio recoding.  For the professional studio application, vocal recording should be done on a large diaphragm condensor mic.  You can find plenty of good mics on the cheap at ebay:

http://search.ebay.com/search/search.dll?query=condenser+mic&newu=1

Some low-priced studio vocal condeners include the Rhode NT1, Behringer B2, Marshall MCA SP1, ADK Generis, and Samson CO1.

These mics would be better suited than the SM58 for doing things like presentation VOs.  Because condenser mics have a larger response pattern be sure and pick up a shock-mount and a gooseneck pop-filter.

If you are really serious about your input signal quality, use a high end consumer sound card, or a prosumer digital line input device.  You can often find stuff like the Event Layla or Event Gina on Ebay at reasonable prices.  These devices, beside supporting multiple inputs, will have a quieter signal than a line-in 1/8th jack on a traditional sound card.

Granted, this all might seem like overkill, but if you buy it used or on sale, you'll spend the same amount of money but get better sound. 

fdwhitlark
Friday, February 14, 2003

Agreed -- I'd hardly call the 58 "studio quality". While I use both the 57s and the 58s on stage, I *never* use them for recording.

I've had good luck in the studio with the mid-range EV (Electrovoice) models. Starving musicians can't afford the ReallyGoodStuff(tm) and EV does a good job for the price The EV RE20 would be a good choice for something like Joel's voice-over. It lists for about 700.00, but if you shop around you can find them new for about 400.00 and used (ebay/pawnshops/etc) in the range of 150-250. A bit more than the 58s, but well worth it.

BTW Joel, most people note the fact that a large(ish) percentage of us "geeks" are involved in music and recording. I didn't note any questions from you to your loyal readers asking about recording gear. Any reason for this?

Anonymous Coward
Friday, February 14, 2003

Also note that large diaphram condensor mics tend to pick up room noise quite easily, so they may not always be the best option for a workplace environment where the machine is humming away in the corner.  They also pick up room reverb, which can sound quite bad, too.  They are also fragile.

The main reason for the popularity of SM58s is that they do an OK job at most things you'd throw at them, they are durable, and everybody's used them.  There are better mics than the SM58 for the same price, but because Shure SM58's are a known good mic, people still buy them.

So I'd say that while a good large diaphram condensor mic will do you well for excellent quality, an SM58 is a safe bet for people who aren't expected to have to deal with the intracate details of really good quality audio.

flamebait sr.
Friday, February 14, 2003

Good point about envrionmental ambience, flamebait sr.

But it only takes a weekend so sound proof a coat closet and install a window, right?  Right?  Yeah.

Really though, having a condenser mic on low gain and having the performer near the element will effectively reduce the capture of envionmental noises.

I listened to the samples Joel provided and he did get a ginormous improvement in quality.  The real issue here is that the difference between good and great is actually quite subtle (and you can spend a lot of time and money on that last 5% quality improvement).  Greatness is achieved in in the finer details that only the real enthusists and professionals will cognisant of.  Of course this principal goes for any discipline, not just for audio production.

Joel's recoding is much improved, and in my book, his new setup is sufficient.  I just wanted to point out that in the real professional audio world, the SM58 does not cut it as a
"real studio quality microphone" for vocal audio production.  Sorry, I know that sounds a little snobbish.  Joel lists his setup as example for others to follow, and I just want people to know that they can actually get better gear at a comporable price, but they'll have to look a little harder and will likely have to invest some time into learning a bit about the recording discipline (ie  the difference between a condenser and a dynamic mic).

FDWhitlark
Friday, February 14, 2003

What's wrong with the Shure 57 for recording? I thought that was supposed to be every rock guitarist's dream mic..?

runtime
Friday, February 14, 2003

I can tell there's an improvement in Joel's new sample with the Shure microphone.  It might be worth $50 or $100 or so for me to get that sort of improvement.

But all this talk about whether we're getting "studio quality" seems misplaced to me when the intended use is to compress the hell out of the audio into a stream that transmits at, say, 6 kbps to 30 or so kbps. 

This is the "Joel on Software" site, after all, where the intended use is going to be for software videos, and very often software videos intended for consumption over the internet.  The listeners aren't likely to be very discriminating, and the audio is likely to be highly compressed.  I don't need the last 5% or 10% improvement in quality, and it's not worth paying a premium to get it.  (Though of course, I recognize it might be worth the premium for some intended uses.)

Herbert Sitz
Friday, February 14, 2003

the Shure looks good enough to get the job done, why go fo something extravagant?

Prakash S
Friday, February 14, 2003

This is offtopic, but better than beating a dead horse.. ;)

A SM57 is the standard starting mic for recording electric guitars, yes.  Sometimes they use other ones, however.

However, this does NOT at all mean that it's inherently better.  Far from it.  Starting at the magnetic pickups, going through the guitar effects, going to the amp, and finally passing through the mic to the board, is designed to distort the signal.  Harsh sounds are cut off.  Things like that.

In fact, if you were to run an electric guitar straight into the mixing board, you would find that it sounds quite strange.  When you add the distortion to make it sound grungy, like Metallica or something and you don't have an amp and a mic between the effects and the mixing board, it will sound harsh and probably hurt your ears in entirely the wrong way.

Guitar amps are modern approximations of ancient tube amps with limited response -- amps that are all mostly midrange.  Distortion, which makes it sound all grungy like Metallica, is what happens when you crank an amp up too high.  Many chicken-pickin country guitar parts are what happens when you take a vintage stratocaster and jimmy one of the switches inbetween positions.

Oh yeah, and the flanger?  This is the swoopy sound like in the middle of "Life in the fast lane" by the Eagles, among other songs?  That was invented by two drunks in a studio who ran two tape machines at the same time so it could be louder, and then one of them leaned against one of the tapes.

The best that can be said about the rest of the music community is that they are marginally less nuts than guitarists. ;)

flamebait sr.
Friday, February 14, 2003

SM58 and 57 are no doubt the two most used mics in the world. Not for voice overs, but never the less. I have never been in a studio that diddnt have atleast  couple of each lying around.

Or as one engineer told me about recording drums. "We usually try all the expensive mics first but mostly we end up useing the SM57s"

Not so common for spoken voice recoring though....

/score -1 redundant

Eric DeBois
Friday, February 14, 2003

AC, Joel did, in fact, ask about the quality of the presentation when he originally uploaded it, and I recommended the SM-58 for the voiceovers because it is inexpensive, indestructible, and perfect for noisy computer rooms with it's lower pickup range. I don't know that it was my advice he remembered, but I definitely suggested the SM-58, because I use it myself for voiceover on demos. Who the hell wants to sound-proof a closet to do quick voiceover work for LQ demos?

All you snobs better think about what kind of work he's doing and how the mic is likely to be treated between voiceovers. The SM-58 is perfect for this stuff, because you just know it's going to be dropped a few times, banged into a wall, borrowed for a weekend by employees, and so on. There are undoubtedly clearer mics out there, but the SM-58 is just perfect for what he's doing, and you know it.

Troy King
Friday, February 14, 2003

Joel....next time you need audio stuff call Sweetwater www2.sweetwater.com. The experience will be the opposite of what you got at Sam Ash.

doobius
Friday, February 14, 2003

I recently bought a Shure 57M for some home recording of my electric guitar. The packaging claims that, surprisingly, the Shure 57M (not 58M) is used as the vocal mic for Presidential speeches!

runtime
Saturday, February 15, 2003

I've used an SM-58 for recording vocals (with a home made coathanger & tights pop shield) and it's turned out okay. I can't afford anything else.

Better than being unemployed...
Monday, February 17, 2003

Some additional points (related)

Having a table-top in front of you while recording means that the sound gets reflected off the table and up to the mic. Unless the mic is a hypercardioid (i.e. very directional - not sure about your Shure) the direct and reflected sound waves can interfere, giving a 'boominess' to the sound, and emphasising head movements. If you must have a table you can get round this by making the top from wire mesh or perforated hardboard

If you are leaning on the table top, then the table top stand will transmit fidgeting noises to the mic unless you are absolutely still. Better use a floor stand (on a concrete floor, if possible) even if you are using table. You will get even better results if you stand up, as you are further away from any wall or floor that can give an early reflection of the sound into the mic.

Finally, look out for a 'shock cord' type microphone mount: these are excellent at decoupling the mic from structural noise.

Max Hadley
Monday, February 17, 2003

One uses the best gear the budget allows.

This is the same kindof pointless quality discussion I have with a friend that is recording TV. They use all this studio quality gear, Beta cameras, best-of-breed recorders and very high quality monitors for the calibration and production. I have a 28" misscalibrated TV.

Likewise I have $20 computer speakers. Like everybody else - Buying an SM58 is overkill even :-)

Patrik
Thursday, February 20, 2003

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home