If you have a home studio, odds are that you’re often looking for ways to improve your sound. Today we’re going to take a look at five microphones that every home studio owner should consider adding to their arsenal. Keep in mind – mic preference is subject to individual tastes, and some mics are better suited for specific purposes than others. For the purposes of this article, the focus will be on microphones that are suited for rock and roll (stick with what ya know!).
We all start our home studios on a tight budget. Last week I mentioned the importance of spending your money on gear that will last; the Shure SM-57 dynamic microphone is the place to start. While not a flashy mic, the 57 has been a go-to microphone in both live and studio settings since it first hit the market in the 1965. When I bought my first 57 years ago, I vividly remember how the salesman described it to me: “this thing will sound great on just about anything – plus, you can use it as a hammer to put a stage together, and it’ll still work after you drop it in a beer!” Bottom line – an SM57 is handy to have around, and in 10 years it will still be a reliable, versatile microphone.
Another great dynamic microphone to have handy is the Shure SM-7B. Typically used as a vocal microphone (and commonly referred to as “the Thriller mic”), this uniquely-designed mic also sounds great on a kick drum or bass cabinet. A great alternative in a similar price range is the Sennheiser MD-421, which is most often seen used on toms or bass cabinets.
It’s also important to have a nice condenser mic handy. There are tons of budget-friendly options out there, but will they stand the test of time? Will they still have value and sound good in 10 years? For just under $700, the Neumann TLM 102 and the Mojave Audio MA-201 FET are both versatile, reliable options that will be useful for years to come.
I recommend that every home studio owner eventually equip themselves with a quality ribbon microphone. While the Royer 121 is the most typically seen in studios, the AEA N22 and N8 are personal favorites. These mics look very similar in design but are actually quite different – the N22 has a thicker membrane around the ribbon and is best suited for close-mic situations (vocals, guitar amps), and is considerably more affordable. The N8 has a very thin membrane and, therefore, picks up more sound, making it useful as a drum overhead or room microphone.
Lastly, being that it’s 2016, we now live in the era of mic-emulation. Slate’s new Virtual Mic System, VMS for short, emulates several historic (and much more expensive) microphones, and Slate promises that more mic emulations are on the way. If you’re looking for an iconic sounding microphone, this is certainly worth consideration.
These are just places to start; don’t take this as gospel! There are tons of microphone options out there, and what’s right for one person, budget, or situation may not be right for the next. Determine your needs, do your homework, and pick the microphones that appeal to you.
About the Author:
Rob Dobson is an LA-based musician, composer, and engineer, as well as Press & Content Coordinator at Westlake Pro. He earned a BA in Music from Virginia Commonwealth University, where he spent his spare time experimenting with recording techniques and obsessing over liner notes to his favorite records. In addition to several years working as a recording engineer, Rob has experience with sound design, voiceover work, and live sound. Rob spends as much of his time in the studio as possible, composes music for film and television, plays guitar and bass as a session musician, and leads a rock band called Big Air.