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robfloresrobflores Pro Posts: 18
Hey guys, I currently have a MXL 990 microphone(I'll be upgrading soon). I feel like it is a really bad mic. I feel like it really compresses the sound of my voice and it can't handle volume. Can microphones make you sound worse than you are? I like the way I sound through my Voice Recorder on my phone better than through the 990. It is the cheapest mic you can buy. What do you guys think?


  • ragnarragnar Pro Posts: 410

    Slightly off-topic, but as someone personally who's still just "performing" for friends/family, the whole topic of the soundman makes me nervous in terms of when I actually get on a stage. I've been to so so many small-stage gigs, as an audience member, with a rock-band where the mix just sounds absolutely awful. Typically everything will be too loud in general, and the vocals will be drowned out by the battering of cymbals.
    Other than finding a drummer capable of restraint, I'm curious as to how the process with the soundman works. Do you talk to him/give him instructions beforehand - maybe arrange some sort of hand signals to communicate with mid-gig if needed - or do you just get on with it and hope for the best?
  • robfloresrobflores Pro Posts: 18
    I'm speaking about my mic in particular, into an audio interface. It seems to really squeeze the sound. It doesn't sound open. I sing REALLY loud lol and it seems to pic up zero resonance. I'm not talking about being in key or any technical singing stuff. Just that my mic seems to not capture any resonance or natural reverb. it sounds like its deadening or dulling the sound of my voice. It could just be me. I'll let you guys know when I pickup a Rode nt1a.
  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,255
  • robfloresrobflores Pro Posts: 18
    It's an MXL 990 condenser mic(super cheap came with the monitor package) into a Focusrite saffire 6 USB interface into my laptop running audacity or studio one then out to 2 rokit 6 monitors. The mic is literally the cheapest mic ever. It comes with every beginner studio package lol.
  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,255
    edited February 2014


    I have never tried any of the MXL mics.  Mics today are fairly high-tech compared to days gone by, but if you think the mic stinks, you may very well be right. 

    The microphone needs to sound good.

    With recording, you are definitely in a situation of Garbage in, Garbage out. 

    Ken has a vintage Neumann mic that he takes with him to the studio for all of his recordings.  That should tell you something about the importance of a good mic.  It's the first element in the recording chain.  Each mic has its own characteristic sound.

    I've corresponded with a number of recording engineers that are fairly happy with the Rode line of mics.  That said, their cheaper versions are probably cheaper for a reason.  I would advise you to go to a big music store or audio store and do side-by-side comparisons, with the preamp or mixer settings set the same as you try different mics and listen through good headphones. 

    You may have to spend several hundred dollars to get what you're looking for.  There are some mics I'd like to get my paws on that cost several thousand dollars.  I think Ken's mic is in that category.

    You get what you pay for in a mic, and if you want your voice to record sounding like a million bucks it's going to cost you a bit. 

    Then there's the preamp that the mic plugs into.  Again, quality preamps are the next important thing in the signal chain, and they really do matter. You can get some that sound good, and you can get some that sound great.  Affordability can range from a few hundred, to again into the thousands. 

    All that taken into consideration, I think you could shop around a bit and make a significant upgrade over an entry-level MXL without breaking the bank. 

    In the end, you can put an expensive mic on a voice that doesn't sound good, and it still won't sound good.  Once we get our voices sounding really good, we want to find recording equipment that helps our voice to sound its best on recordings.


  • huberthubert Pro Posts: 125
    I recommend picking up Rode NT1 (this year's new edition) if you want cheap but good mic because of natural sounding mids. If you got more money I suggest you Neumann TLM 102 -> it's AWESOME on pretty much every male voice. I have Avantone CV-12 too and it's really great sounding mic when you sing with low/medium volume (soul or pop ballads), when you sing loud or scream at this mic it compresses the sound and makes it thin and tiny, so then you sound like you have no power in your voice. As a vocalist with very loud and dynamic voice (the gain knob is always around 7-9 o'clock when 6 is silence) the neumann tlm 102 was really the choice for me -> it really opens up the sound, the sound is crystal clear, true sounding,  and its max spl level is very high (144dB). I tried many other mics at the local music store (a couple of Rode's, Shure, Audio Technica, sE Electronics, even Neumann TLM 103 ( which sounded a little too bright and agressive) and I record other vocalists daily so I know what I'm talking about...  :) Cheers
  • tolchockstolchocks Pro Posts: 16
    Rode Nt1 for recording and SM58 for live performance. Period. Cheap and quality mics. When you see 15kUS mics its because they got something special, more character, etc, not because of the quality itself.

  • billthebaldguybillthebaldguy Pro, 2.0 PRO Posts: 54
    Sennheiser 935/945 for live performance. Beautiful sound...
  • epheph Pro Posts: 1
    I use a wireless Sennheiser 835 but I am considering upgrading. I recently tried the Sennheiser 945 (as billthebaldguy mentioned), and I LOVED it!! Seemed to cut through the mix better than my 835.
  • tjdeetjdee Pro, 2.0 PRO Posts: 9
    Anyone running a DAW or recording into a computer capable of using VST or AU plugins.

    I have been using an extremely flat mic which can be morphed to mimic very expensive, top level studio mics. For recording basics for benchmarking your progress, the flat mic is perfect reference. If you are recording in a small studio and want "that sound", it does that as well! Check out the VMS-1 from Slate Digital. It does what it says it will do! I love it!

  • Furious_PhilFurious_Phil Moderator, Pro, 2.0 PRO, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 1,421

    Sennheiser 935/945 for live performance. Beautiful sound...

    Awesome Bill, I'm currently saving up for a Sennheiser E945! I've heard so much about it, that I think it'll be the perfect match for what I need. The Neumann TLM102 just isn't in the same bang-for-the-buck bracket.
  • KaiEllisKaiEllis Pro, 2.0 PRO Posts: 215
    This thread is gold. Can anyone comment on the differences between mics for recording versus mics for performing? Is there a good way to split the difference in a single mic, or are they apples and oranges?
  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,255
    Recording mics can tend to be more expensive, because they are very sensitive and have expensive components in them. They are designed to be used a little further away. Many studio mics are "condenser mics" and require "phantom power" to charge an electrostatically-charged capacitive diaphragm. Condenser mics often go both lower and higher than other mics, with a frequency response of 20 to 20,000 hz. Condenser mics often are classified as "large diaphragm" mics, because the diaphragm that is the sensor for the mic is about an inch in diameter, or possibly a little larger. The larger the diaphragm, usually means the lower-frequencies it will be sensitive to.

    Studio mics are designed to be used at a small distance from the singer. They aren't good for rejecting feedback, and won't work very well in a live situation because of that.

    Live mics are designed to reject off-axis sound, so they are better at rejecting feedback while picking up the voice of the performer in a loud environment.

    Live mics are generally designed to be hand-held, and used at close proximity. They will normally have a pop filter built-in to the end of the mic. You sing directly into them, with a small gap away or with the lips nearly in contact with the mic. Most hand-held mics are "dynamic" mics, so they don't require phantom power. Their frequency response is typically more like about 90 - 15,000 hz. So they don't pick up as low or as high sound as a condenser.

    Live mics are typically more rugged for handling, and have shock-mounting built-in so that they won't pick up as much noise from handling the mic, or jostling it around. They survive being dropped better than studio mics.

    Generally speaking, a really good sounding live mic will sound pretty good on non-critical recording applications and also do really well on stage.

    A studio mic will have a cleaner sound, clearer on the ultra highs and lows, but poor performance regarding feedback in the monitors. A studio mic is generally going to get a better sound for recordings.

    Each mic has its own characteristic sound. You really have to try them on your own voice to decide whether you like it more than or less than another microphone. I like to hear them through headphones AND through monitor systems, as well as sound systems, to judge them.
  • KaiEllisKaiEllis Pro, 2.0 PRO Posts: 215
    @highmtn This is incredibly helpful. Thank you! Do you happen to have a mic you'd recommend for someone getting started with home recordings? I've got a friend who does industrial design that's going to help me build a soundproof booth, too!
  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,255
    I've heard a lot of people rave about the Rode mics, although I've never tried one. I think they have some that are around the 2 hundred dollar mark. You're going to have to spend a little bit of money on one, or you'll be using junk. Sennheizer has some nice mics, and I really like the sound of the E945, but they're around $225. That's a hand-held, dynamic mic, that sounds almost as clear on the highs as a condenser.

    My favorite mic that I own to record with is an older mic that I bought used on eBay. It's a "groove tubes" GT66 Large-diaphragm condenser mic. Sterling audio has bought out the company now and I think they may still make them. This one actually has a vacuum tube inside it to give a really warm, mellow sound, as well as a crisp high end. I paid about $350 for it, used. I think they were about $600 new, originally.

    Audio Technica and AKG make some mid-price affordable mics, as well as a lot of other companies.

    The high-end studio mics can get really spendy, up in the $5,000 dollar range or higher.

    For starters, plan on investing around $200 if you want something that you'll like for a long time. If you're going to be in a band, think about a good dynamic mic for about $250. You'll probably be able to get decent recordings with something like that, as well.
  • KaiEllisKaiEllis Pro, 2.0 PRO Posts: 215
    @highmtn This is incredibly helpful. Thank you! I've been looking at a Rode mic pack that's got a shock mount, pop filter, all that for about $250. Also looking at that Sennheizer! Choices choices...
  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,255
    What you didn't ask about and I probably should have mentioned, is that a good mic needs to be plugged into a good preamp to get the sound onto tape or into a recording.

    With digital recording, your preamp needs to be converted from analog audio into digital, to be compatible with digital recording programs.

    Studio-grade preamps can be as outrageously-priced as studio mics.

    There are some interfaces being sold these days that can be used with a smartphone or computer (digital output) as well as having analog outputs for other outboard analog equipment processing.

    The reason for a preamp, is that microphones have very low-level electrical signals that need to be amplified before going to your recording program or machine. You can get interfaces that will preamplify your mic for around a hundred dollars, but these won't be super high-quality. They'll get the job done, though, unless this is for a critical recording.

    Some preamps are of the variety of a "channel strip" that essentially has all of the controls on it that a single channel on a big studio mixing console would have, but it's just One single channel of a board that would possibly have 32 or more channels on a big studio console. So it might have gain, compression, tone equalization, de-essing, noise gate, and other features. These are pretty handy, especially if the preamp section of the unit is of a high-quality.

    The Preamp takes the tiny signal of a microphone and inflates it to larger proportions. Good preamps will have high gain and low noise characteristics. They will take that tiny signal from the best mic you can afford and multiply it to a signal suitable for a recorder to make a great recording of your voice.

    Bottom line, you need some kind of preamp to boost the signal of the mic and maintain its integrity. It can be a simple mic mixer, or a boutique super preamp, or somewhere in-between. But all mics need a preamp stage on the way into the recording system or live sound system.
  • KaiEllisKaiEllis Pro, 2.0 PRO Posts: 215
    @highmtn Oh shoot! You're right, Bob. Thank you for helping explain the preamp stage too!

    Does this qualify as a preamp? Saw it in a related mic thread.

    Steinberg UR22MKII 2-Channel USB Interface https://www.amazon.com/dp/B017MVUAHM/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_sWDnzb81JZET5
  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,255
    Yes. This will accept the mic-level signal from a Microphone and boost it to line-level, which is what a preamp is for. It's also a USB interface, so it seems to have a digital output, which you need to interface with computer audio programs. It's a reasonable price. It won't have all of the mojo of a thousand dollar studio preamp, but it will get the job done for almost a thousand dollars less. Steinberg is a reputable company that has been making basses and guitars for some time.
  • KaiEllisKaiEllis Pro, 2.0 PRO Posts: 215
    Excellent!!! Thank you for your help, Bob. Think I'm about to purchase my first gear! :smiley:
  • AlyonaAlyona Member, Moderator, Pro, 2.0 PRO Posts: 288
    Yes I think bad mics can make you sound much worse then in reality.
    My fav is Shire 58 - for live performances. Always makes my voice deeper and tastier.
  • NathJ_2018NathJ_2018 2.0 PRO Posts: 237
    well I cannot speak for anyone else than my own personal experience..... hubby first got the "Sure SV100" regular looking mic for me and I loved it until he got me the "Shure 55SH series II" which is the one in my avatar pic.... it's crazy heavy but I love it to death..... BUT still haven't figured out how to record properly with neither of them.... I prefer the second one which I call the "crooner" one for when we practice live, dunno just love it's sound and it's weight.... BUT at my level I cant really tell the difference between both, maybe i'm just a spoiled wife......

    just saying what I know..... note that there is a huge difference in price from one to the other.....others here can probably tell you more about them

  • JoyceJoyce Pro Posts: 131
    I'm so thankful I found this conversation. :)

    I am now singing in a jazz band and I am looking for a good quality live microphone. I find that the Shure SM58 sounds cheap and is not good for my voice, I need a micro that also takes low notes, I was thinking to buy the Sennheiser E865 but now I read that it might not be so good for live performances. Many thanks for your feed back.
  • mmmguitarmanmmmguitarman 2.0 ENROLLED Posts: 2
    Lots of great ideas here! I have been 'Live' performing with a Rock/Blues Band for over 30 years. Used many microphones of varying quality (mostly because I'm not rich). Some have been good, some ended up in the trashcan! I have been using the Shure Beta 58A 'Beta Blue Series' Microphone for the last 12 years. It takes the standard Shure 58 up a notch as I don't have to be 'right up on the windscreen' during live performances with the stage volumes that I play at. I can 'relax' my voice and can stay back off the windscreen as much and the sound to me becomes almost three-dimensional. I am not straining my voice as much during a 3-4 hour cumulative set. And the price is much more reasonable for me as well. IMHO though..... Thanks to everyone for the great ideas!!
  • DogMeatDogMeat 2.0 PRO Posts: 437
    Anyone have experience from PGA series of Shure? They are cheaper than SM, but i cannot find any explaining difference on specs. Looking for a 2nd mic to home, and already have a Rode NT1. Live mics are so different ball game, that would be good to know how to use it well.
  • DonniDeVilleDonniDeVille 2.0 PRO Posts: 25
    I love my Shure Beta... It keeps my sound real...
  • sjonrokz4usjonrokz4u 2.0 PRO Posts: 1,284
    So as to the sound man thing. I’m your guy. Been a foh engineer for 20 years. Just like anything else in life, some guys are good some guys suck and there’s a bunch of guys in between. Some guys care some guys don’t some guys have pride in their craft and some are just useless pieces of wasted airspace. Most wont except advice from a musician on how to do their jobs. Especially a good one. However, a good one will at least listen to you about what you need The small club scenario you mentioned, the Soundman is at the mercy of the band a lot of times. The Gtr is too loud so he’s not in the mix and in turn causes the vox mics to be really gainy and hot to compensate and the drums are usually relatively close to the vox mics so your getting a ton of cymbal wash in them. The people to talk to in most cases in a small club is the band. As far as playing. Yes. You kind of just have to get up there and give him a fair sample of how loud you perform and hope for the best but a good mix(especially in a small club) begins on the stage with the band
  • Furious_PhilFurious_Phil Moderator, Pro, 2.0 PRO, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 1,421
    edited January 2020
    @sjonrokz4u , that's pretty useful info!
    I've tried time and time again to help my lead singer expand his range into the 4th octave, but he just won't listen, even when they hear me kill everything from Smokey Robinson, to Glenn Frey to Chris Cornell during vocal soundcheck. My favourite thing is when they take jabs at my Sennheiser E945 that doesn't need gain boost or much EQ'ing to cut through the mix... while they rock their Line6 wireless mics :wink:
    ~ C'est la vie.

    I always work very closely with our dedicated soundman to give him the best signal to work with, and in turn he goes the extra mile for me. This is composed of me keeping my out-of-cab guitar volume close to his 85Db stage limit, and really taking the time beforehand to EQ my tone at the source to really get my dual SM57's placed in an optimal Fredman technique pattern.
    I also painstakingly EQ my tone to what the mic is hearing as opposed to what I hear in the room. Most people don't understand how widely that differs.
    I know you'll get it though!
  • Klaus_TKlaus_T Moderator, 2.0 PRO Posts: 2,065
    @Furious_Phil when you say EQ, do you mean the guitar amp EQ?
  • sjonrokz4usjonrokz4u 2.0 PRO Posts: 1,284
    I absolutely get it lol.
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