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Basic DIY microphones
Basic DIY microphones
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Old 29th August 2019, 08:50 AM   #1
Stanphink is offline Stanphink  Wales
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Default Basic DIY microphones

I am putting together a DAW based on a Steinberg UR242 and Cubase 10. I've built a nice little PC and my DIY active 2 way monitors are coming along nicely but I want to get some microphones to start recording instruments and vocals.
I've got a lot of learning to do about microphones and their placement but I'm keen to experiment with different types. They will only ever be used in a home studio environment and always connected to the UR242 which has built in pre-amps and 48v phantom power over a balanced XLR connection.
Microphone modules seem to be cheap enough and I'm sure I can put together a case, but I'm getting confused about how to connect them to the UR242. A lot of DIY designs seem to include their own phantom power and pre-amp circuits, but if the UR242 already has these, do I still need to build them into a DIY mic?
Hopefully someone can help me clear the fog.
Many thanks.
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Old 29th August 2019, 01:50 PM   #2
Gnobuddy is offline Gnobuddy  Canada
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Originally Posted by Stanphink View Post
A lot of DIY designs seem to include their own phantom power and pre-amp circuits, but if the UR242 already has these, do I still need to build them into a DIY mic?
It depends on the type of microphone capsule you intend to use.

Dynamic mic capsules (such as the Shure SM57/SM58 widely used for loud, low-quality acoustic sources such as electric guitar) don't need either phantom power or a built-in preamp. The output signal is at a low impedance because of the way the mic capsule works, so it's fine to run several feet or a few metres of cable to an external preamp.

Condenser mic capsules are an entirely different thing. The "condenser" is only a few tens of pico farads, and this means the microphone has to work into an absolutely enormous load impedance - so high that it is absolutely essential to buffer it with an on-board mic preamp before running cables any distance to an external preamp.

That onboard preamp is also going to need DC power to work, and that's why condenser mic capsules always have electronics built-in, and usually need phantom power.

(I have a condenser mic that works off a 1.5V AA cell and doesn't accept phantom power, but this is the exception rather than the rule.)

Condenser mics, as I'm sure you know, are much more sensitive and much higher quality than dynamic mics, so they tend to be used whenever a source has subtle details to capture, or lots of high-frequency energy. In other words, you're going to need at least one of these in your studio!


-Gnobuddy
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Old 29th August 2019, 05:03 PM   #3
guavatone is offline guavatone  United States
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You could always get one of these mics if you plan for future DIY mods:

Mic Mods – Microphone-Parts.com

It seems you are at the beginning of building a mic collection. Start with a good dynamic and a good LDC. THE importing thing is to start, read, and experiment. Maybe search gearslutz for the answers you seek
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Old 29th August 2019, 05:46 PM   #4
chris661 is online now chris661  United Kingdom
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gnobuddy View Post
Condenser mics, as I'm sure you know, are much more sensitive and much higher quality than dynamic mics, so they tend to be used whenever a source has subtle details to capture, or lots of high-frequency energy. In other words, you're going to need at least one of these in your studio!


-Gnobuddy
I'm with you for most of your post, except this.

High-quality dynamic mics exist, and they sound really good. The Beyerdynamic M201TG, for example, sounds excellent. The AKG D224E is another example.

There are also lots of ribbon mics (which are a form of dynamic mic) which sound good.


Stanphink, I'd recommend taking a look on eBay or similar - you can buy dynamic mic capsules for a couple of pounds each. You can, if you like, connect those directly to an XLR connector and see what you get. Results will be variable, of course, but you'll be learning.


Chris
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Old 30th August 2019, 01:03 AM   #5
Gnobuddy is offline Gnobuddy  Canada
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Originally Posted by chris661 View Post
High-quality dynamic mics exist...
Let me start by saying that there is plenty of room for different opinions on this big planet.

That said, very expensive dynamic mics certainly exist, but they always have a moving mass (diaphragm + coil former + coil) that is absolutely enormous compared to condenser microphones. This is unavoidable because copper wire is incredibly heavy compared to a wisp-thin film of Mylar, which is what the condenser mic usually uses.

You can't beat the laws of physics, and this (relatively) enormous moving mass of the dynamic mic leads to reduced sensitivity, and difficulty maintaining a flat frequency response out to the highest audio frequencies.

I looked up the technical data sheet for the Beyerdynamic M201TG, and it doesn't actually state the moving mass. Instead we get the claim "Low-mass moving coil transducer", which means absolutely nothing at all without the actual mass being provided. I would go so far as to say that the marketing department most probably left out the actual number, precisely so that people wouldn't realize how huge it is compared to any condenser mic diaphragm.

The datasheet also shows the manufacturers frequency response. While it is smooth compared to such horrors as the old SM58, it shows a resonance at about 12 kHz, with treble drooping above that. IMO, for three hundred bucks, that is a disappointing high frequency response, particularly when it is bettered by a Panasonic WM-61A electret condenser mic capsule, which used to cost less than a buck until Panasonic stopped making them (they now cost a whopping $2.33 Canadian each at Digikey!)

I know frequency response is not everything - the two-buck Panasonic will probably have higher self-noise because of its small diaphragm, and will overload at relatively low SPL). Still, a wide frequency response sells mics, so the fact that the $300 moving-coil mic falls an octave short of the full 20 Hz - 20 kHz audio range tells us something. (What it tells us is "copper is heavy!" )

Moving coil mics are good at taking abuse from loud sources, so they make perfect sense for micing kick-drums and guitar amps, which generate no high frequency content anyway.

Mix engineers often have their idiosyncratic personal preferences. I knew (second-hand) one who used dynamic mics for his cymbals and high-hats, and a condenser mic on the kick-drum. Yeah, I don't know why, either!
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Originally Posted by chris661 View Post
eBay...dynamic mic capsules for a couple of pounds each...directly to an XLR connector...
Guitar Center (and other music gear retailers) sell cheap dynamic mics that invariably look like an SM58 on the outside, but inside, they omit the step-up transformer to save a few bucks, instead using an overwound (and therefore even heavier) moving coil wired directly to the XLR connector.

I have given a few of these as presents to friends for karaoke and living-room singing, and they are just usable for that sort of thing. But they are really insensitive, and have a very limited frequency range.

I don't know anything about the Ebay capsules, though.

(But if you have an old pair of Sony Walkman earphones, they make quite good dynamic microphones, and don't cost $300 - in fact, Sony did the reverse when they engineered their Walkman, starting with one of their existing dynamic mics, and turning it into their then-revolutionary lightweight, high-quality, supra-aural (over-the-ear) headphones.


-Gnobuddy
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Old 31st August 2019, 12:02 AM   #6
PRR is offline PRR  United States
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> get some microphones to start recording instruments and vocals.

Shure SM58.

Not the last mike you will ever use. And comes from a line of fairly nasty mikes. But if you can't record it "clear" with an SM58, then change the player/singer. There's a reason SM58s are EVERYWHERE in pop music. The '58 is the SM57 with a pop filter. The SM57 (with foam filter) was THE microphone (in multiples) for the president of the USA from Nixon through Obama (the current incumbent seems to do it different). Politics aside, and ignoring extended range, the 57/58 are reasonably flat with a tailored presence peak, "bite", which may be over-familiar but does work.

-Then- buy/build other mikes for variety.
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Old 31st August 2019, 07:12 PM   #7
Gnobuddy is offline Gnobuddy  Canada
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...comes from a line of fairly nasty mikes.
I have no trouble at all believing that. And IMO, it respects its heritage and continues the family tradition..."fairly nasty" is a very good description of the SM58!

Quote:
Originally Posted by PRR View Post
...if you can't record it "clear" with an SM58, then change the player/singer...
I have heard similar sentiments quite a few times before, and this widespread love for the SM58 truly leaves me scratching my head in puzzlement. This is one of those Twilight Zone experiences for me, because I have rarely heard a worse-sounding microphone, except in an intercom or a child's toy.

The factory frequency response looks to have been heavily smoothed to hide the worst of the microphone's sins, but even so, it shows multiple poorly controlled resonances (I can see at least four) between 3 kHz and 10 kHz. Peaks are up to 5 dB tall (!!). Above 10 kHz, the response falls like a rock. No wonder sibilants and "air" are destroyed by this mic.

In my experience, audio equipment with multiple closely spaced mechanical resonances in the midrange often sound "shrieky". The popular Bose linear array speakers and the SM58 both suffer from this "shrieky" sound quality.

The SM58 factory frequency response doesn't show the enormous bass boost that occurs due to the proximity effect - the microphone is so insensitive that singers are taught to "eat the mic". Directional microphones like the SM58 experience tremendous bass boost when closely spaced from the sound source, and this is why singers have that "singing from the bottom of a barrel" sound when they use an SM58; the sound guy/gal will routinely apply up to 15 dB of bass cut the moment he/she spots an SM58 on stage.

Among the singers I know, I have only heard one single one who sounded good through an SM58. That one singer is a woman with a high alto / mezzo soprano voice with a limited vocal range and no "air"; like many pop and folk singers and most amateur singers, she has had no vocal training and doesn't know how to use her head-voice, only her chest voice. She sounds fine through an SM58.

Every other singer I know has their voice badly mangled by this most popular of popular microphones. Basses, baritones, tenors, and contraltos all sound as though they are singing from the bottom of a barrel with a blanket draped over their heads. The bass is boomy and the treble simultaneously screechy in the midrange and muffled at the high end, with sibilance and "air" stripped away.

The muffled treble destroys the vocal quality of all singers who have a light airy voice. They sound as though they're singing through a pillow.
Quote:
Originally Posted by PRR View Post
There's a reason SM58s are EVERYWHERE in pop music.
I have been very curious as to what that reason is, because, clearly, it's not good sound quality.

I have found a lot of anecdotal stories about the ruggedness and durability of the SM58 (hammering nails into the stage, burying it underground in a Ziplock bag during winter, etc). I suspect, though, that the real reason for the mic's popularity is simply that it has been around since 1966, and because it was used by many famous singers in the 1960s.

It's quite possible the SM58 was indeed the best live mic choice in 1966. Back then, PA systems rarely reproduced deep bass, so the boomy bass of the SM58 would not have been a problem (and might have helped boost the flagging bass response of the PA). PA speakers were also unlikely to have treble response above 10 kHz, so the SM58's lack of extended treble would not be heard.

Fifty-three years is a long, long time in the world of pro-audio, though. Electronics has improved dramatically. Speakers have improved dramatically too. There are far better-sounding mics for live use these days, some at much lower price-points than the antideluvian SM58. Live sound today doesn't have to be as low quality as it was in the 1960's.

The SM58 may still be the mic to use when your singer is an impassioned "belter" who shrieks, screams, grunts, and roars his/her way through every song. It is definitely the mic to use if your singer is an untamed savage who is prone to throw the microphone to the floor or blow into it to see if it's live. And if your stage sound has to be murderously loud, the poor sensitivity of the SM58 might save your bacon.

But if your singers and sound person have some subtlety, you can get much better results with just about anything other than an SM58. I give you the Milk Carton Kids live (look at the microphones - condenser mics designed for live use): YouTube

And here is Della Mae performing live ( YouTube ). These ladies not only sing, they are virtuosos on their acoustic instruments, and they chose mics for live work that are good enough to reveal the sound quality of both their vocals and their vintage acoustic instruments. They happen to have chosen the same live-sound condenser mic that the Milk Carton Kids did...and for the same reasons.

This particular condenser mic isn't an inexpensive one, but the difference in sound quality between it and the SM58 is stunningly obvious - we've all heard the sound of SM58s in live music.

I should add that neither the Milk Carton Kids nor Della Mae is "my kind of music", but I do appreciate good live sound quality.


-Gnobuddy
Attached Images
File Type: gif Shure_SM58_FR_02.gif (55.5 KB, 197 views)
File Type: jpg Milk_Carton_Kids2.jpg (161.7 KB, 203 views)
File Type: jpg Della_Mae_Live.jpg (240.4 KB, 203 views)
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Old 1st September 2019, 02:57 AM   #8
thoglette is offline thoglette  Australia
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I'm going to be a little bit controversial, but before DIY'ing anything you should triangulate your understanding of the world with the following
a) Shure SM58
b) something based on the Panasonic WM-61A
c) a decent entry level microphone, e.g. Rode Nt-1a (1" cartoid)
beg, buy, borrow the above and live with them (as in use them daily) and then work out where you need to go from there.
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Old 1st September 2019, 04:19 AM   #9
dotneck335 is offline dotneck335  United States
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gnobuddy View Post
...It's quite possible the SM58 was indeed the best live mic choice in 1966....... There are far better-sounding mics for live use these days, some at much lower price-points than the antideluvian SM58.
And here is Della Mae performing live............they are virtuosos on their acoustic instruments, and they chose mics for live work that are good enough to reveal the sound quality of both their vocals and their vintage acoustic instruments. They happen to have chosen the same live-sound condenser mic that the Milk Carton Kids did...and for the same reasons. -Gnobuddy
Would you PLEASE spell out exactly WHICH microphone you are touting? I really don't want to listen to Della or the Kids at the moment, and I'm dying to know what mic KILLS the ~$60 (used) Shure SM-57/58. Thanks!
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Old 1st September 2019, 05:40 AM   #10
Gnobuddy is offline Gnobuddy  Canada
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Originally Posted by dotneck335 View Post
Would you PLEASE spell out exactly WHICH microphone you are touting?
I prefer not to, precisely because I'm not touting any one mic. I included links to recordings of live performances so that you can decide for yourself - I'm not trying to sell you my opinions, only to give you the opportunity to reconsider your own.

In fact, I've forgotten what that particular mic actually is. The point is that IMO the SM58 sounds vile for vocals (with rare exceptions.) My ears kept telling me so, long before I ever found this mic's frequency response online. It's not hard to improve on vile, so you don't need one particular magic mic to do so.

The SM58 frequency response simply confirms what my ears had been saying, except for the enormously boomy and boosted bass - that doesn't show in Shure's official frequency response. But plug in an SM58 into a mixer set flat, and connected to a reasonably accurate speaker, and there is no doubt about it. People who deal with live sound have become so used to dialling in an enormous 10 - 15 dB bass cut as soon as they see an SM58 on the far end of the cable that they no longer even question why they need to do so.

Keep in mind, even that horrid SM58 frequency response is the one published by the manufacturer, smoothed and prettied-up in an attempt to put lipstick on the pig. I expect an independent frequency response measurement by an unbiased third party would reveal even worse.

Since you asked, I will mention one very affordable live-sound condenser mic I am quite familiar with, which IMO sounds so much better than an SM58 that a side-by-side comparison with a few singers (and a decent-quality P.A., or better, studio monitor) is a real eye-opener. It's the Nady SPC-25 ( SPC-25 Professional Performance Microphone – Nady Systems, Inc. ).

Fair warning: the SM58 has a diaphragm apparently made of shoe-leather, which explains both it's durability, and its poor frequency response. The SPC-25 uses a wisp of very thin gold-sputtered Mylar film, and will not survive abuse, though it is quite rugged and durable if handled with reasonable care - I have one that's at least ten years old now, and which has been used for live singing approximately once a week for most of that time.

I'm attaching the frequency response Nady provides for the SPC-25. You can see for yourself that Nady has attempted to engineer in a similar "presence peak" to that found in the SM58, but it is a single smooth and well controlled resonance rather than a ragged cluster of at least four separate high-Q (poorly damped) resonances. The SPC-25's bass response is also much better controlled, and the treble response extends to higher frequencies than the SM58's does.

Just to be clear, I am not "touting" the SPC-25 either. Simply mentioning one example of an inexpensive mic intended for live sound that IMO produces much better-quality sound than an SM58.


-Gnobuddy
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File Type: gif SPC-25_FR_01.gif (31.2 KB, 186 views)
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