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Microphones & Pickups

Shure SM57

$99 ($146) at zzounds.com
Free shipping
Dynamic and Condenser

As discussed on the the GarageDoor | Live Recording | using microphones pages, it is important to buy the best microphone you can afford. Cheaper microphones will give you an unclear, distorted result that no amount of EQ or other effects can fix. They also lack the warmth and subtle colouring that many good mics provide.
There are many types, but the two you are most likely to use are the
  • dynamic mic - used for vocals but also for instruments that you can mike close-up. Classic mics that have stood the test of time are the Shure SM58 or SM57. Other good yet affordable mics are the Sennheiser A835 and microphones by Electrovoice and AKG.
    Vocal mics work best within a one foot range. Any further away and there is a big drop off, especially at the bass end.

The best known, and most widely used instrument microphone is the Shure SM57, which I have used on stage and in the studio for many years. To quote the manufacturer:
"It is a tool found in the workbench of every sound engineer, both for live and studio applications. There's simply no question: it's a "must-have" mic. The SM57 is a cardiod (unidirectional) dynamic microphone with a contoured frequency response of 40 to 15,000 Hz, perfect for clean reproduction of vocals and instruments. But the SM57 is most renowned in the music industry as the standard microphone of choice for snare drums and guitar amplifiers. Go to any stage or studio and you're likely to find SM57s pointing at the amps and snare. By the way, the '57 has been proudly standing on the podium of the US President for over 30 years. This mic is also known to take a beating and come back for more, so tell your roadie Rocco to have a ball! Its outstanding performance, legendary reliability, and diversity of application make this "workhorse" the choice of performers, producers, and sound engineers the world over. "

Condenser Mics

  • Condensor mics are more sensitive and pick up *everything*. Condenser microphones are usually stand-mounted and require "phantom power" in order to operate. You can mike from further away, and a good condenser mic will give fine detail.
    It is used in a whole variety of situations; for piano, acoustic groups, stage, choir, etc.
Prices of condenser microphones have come down in recent years, and you can now pick up a good mic from around $100 (the Behringer comes to mind). At the top of the range are the legendary Neumann studio microphones, up to $2000. For a selection of over 70 condenser mics, see the zZounds Condenser Microphones page.

For more descriptions of microphones, see zZounds.com:

pickup Pickups

Acoustic Guitar pickups

Sometimes in live or studio settings, a direct line from the guitar is preferable to a miked guitar sound. An acoustic pickup is the answer. There is usually less "spill", it is much smaller and inobtrusive than a mic & stand, and the sound can have very attractive colouring if you use a good one. Some engineers like to combine the mic and line output to achieve enough control to produce a great guitar sound.

See also zZounds.com: Guitar Accessories ( tuners, straps, strings, capos, stands, chord finders, etc.)

Additional Resources:

Featured microphone:

M-Audio Luna professional condenser microphone. ( $249 $199.95 on zzounds.com)
Rated 8.7/10
Getting the lead vocal track right is the key to a song's success, and the quality of the microphone has a lot to do with that. The MAudio Luna received a positive review in the March issue of Sound-on-Sound magazine:
"It suits most vocal types and delivers a well balanced combination of warmth and clarity, with minimal noise and more than enough sensitivity for all normal studio applications"

From the manufacturer:
Who says beauty is only skin deep? The new M-Audio Luna professional condenser microphone is truly a work of art inside and out. Luna delivers vintage look and sound combined with modern electronics for the best of both worlds. The large diaphragm cardioid design is perfect for professionally capturing vocals, guitar, piano and just about anything else. Simply put, Luna eclipses the competition. Whether you're looking for a great all-purpose first mic or a fresh new sound for your microphone locker, Luna is the right microphone at the right price.

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