Paul Diamond Blow's Rock Musician Resources

The Best Inexpensive Microphones for Your Home Recording Studio
Putting Together a Home Recording Studio? These Are the Microphones You Need to Have!

by Paul Diamond Blow

If you want to do some quality home recording, then you need decent microphones. Forget about those cheapo Radio Shack mics, you need pro quality mics! Here I am listing the top three high quality yet inexpensive microphones that will give you the most bang for your studio buck. I personally own all these microphones and have used them for many years in my own home recording studio. Without further ado, here are the must-have microphones for your home recording studio that will give you a high quality recording without breaking the bank...

The Shure SM-57
These dynamic mics are high quality, rugged, extremely durable, inexpensive ($89), and are all purpose mics with great rejection (good for controlling leakage when recording). I would describe the "sound" of an SM-57 as full, meaty, tight, with very low noise and no distortion when recording loud instruments.

If you've ever played live at a nightclub with a full PA, you may have noticed that most of the mics used on the instruments are SM-57s. This mic is a real work horse, it can take a licking and keep on ticking -- that's why they are favorites with soundmen everywhere and is probably the most "famous" microphone in the world! The SM-57 is also used in recording studios, even the high end ones -- in fact, it's long been the general consensus among recording engineers and producers that the best way to get a slamming snare drum sound is to close mic it with an SM-57.

The SM-57 has a cardiod polar pattern (it won't pick up sound coming from behind it), and has a frequency response form 40 hz to 15 khz, with a high SPL (sound pressure level) making it a natural for close micing loud instruments -- drums, guitar amps, and even vocals. I own four of these puppies and I've gotten some great drum and guitar sounds using just SM-57s. I've used SM-57s to record to 16 track half-inch tape recorders, ADATs, straight to DAT, straight to my computer's multi-track recording programs, and even on my trusty old 4-track cassette portastudio. And when I'm in a pro studio, yes, you better BELIEVE that's an SM-57 on my Marshall cabinet.

I would recommend getting four SM-57 microphones for your project studio, especially if you are going to record a drum set. If you plan on recording a whole band at the same time, of course you'll need plenty more. If all you can afford is one or two mics, make 'em SM-57s.

The Shure SM-58
The Shure SM-58 is about the same as an SM-57 except that it is more of a vocal microphone. It has a bigger capsule than the SM-57 and gives a boost at the 4k range to boost presence when recording vocals. If you've ever played at clubs you may have noticed that the SM-58 is the microphone used for vocals more often than not. Like the SM-57, the SM-58 is also a very durable workhorse mic, and it costs only $10 more than the SM-57. While it is intended more for recording vocals, the SM-58 can also be used on instruments such as guitar amps, acoustic guitars, and even drums. I've gotten some great kick drum sounds with the SM-58 placed inside the kick drum near the beater. I would recommend having at least one SM-58 microphone for your home recording studio.

Nady SCM 900 condensor mic
Now that you've got a good assortment of dynamic mics (the SM-57 and SM-58), all you really need for your home studio is a nice large diaphragm condensor microphone, and you DON'T have to spend $1000 on a Neuman! The Nady SCM 900condensor microphone is one incredible deal, you can get one of these bad boys for only $59.99. Don't let the low price fool you, these are high-quality sounding and not cheaply made at all. The SCM 900 is a cardioid pattern large diaphragm microphone made for recording studio vocals and acoustic instruments. The mic features a one-inch gold-sputtered diaphragm, has a frequency range of 30-20,000 Hz, and comes in a nice carrying case.

I bought mine a many years ago because I already had a slew of SM-57's and SM-58's in my mic arsenal but I wanted to add a condensor mic to my collection for recording acoustic guitar and vocals, and the Nady SCM fit right into my tightwad budget. That's right -- I actually ordered this mic because it looked cool and was the cheapest studio condensor mic in the catalog on sale! I do all my home recording digitally either on my ADAT or straight into my computer's multi-track programs, and I must say, I was SUPER impressed the first time I used it to record some vocal tracks. The sound is so much fuller, crisper and cleaner--plus it gets a hotter signal--than the SM-58 I used to use for vocals. Not a big difference, either, a HUGE difference. And for recording voice overs, yeah... it has that "FM radio" sound. For recording acoustic guitar the results were the same: AWESOME sounding, full, crisp and clear, with very little eq'ing necessary at all. A huge improvement over the SM57 I used to use to record acoustic guitar. I've also used this mic for drum overheads, and the cymbals came through shimmering and clear, very nice sounding, again a big improvement over the SM-57s I had always used before. I haven't tried this on a grand piano yet, but I imagine with two of these mics spread out the results would be beautiful. The SCM 900 is a very full-sounding mic with fantastic lows, shimmering highs, a lot of depth and clarity. I've also tried recording my Marshall half-stack with this mic, but it sounded very boxy, so I'm sticking with the SM-57 for electric instruments. But for acoustic instruments and vocals/voiceovers this mic really delivers the goods.

The SCM 900 is 48V phantom powered, so you will to have to have a soundboard with phantom power. This mic is also super-sensitive so you will definitely need a shock mount for it... without a shock mount this mic will pick up any little sound or vibration -- if you tap your foot on the floor it will pick it up, if someone shuts a door in the next room it will pick it up. A pop filter for recording vocals is also highly recommended. With the pop filter and shock mount you'll be set for high-quality studio recording.

There are many other large diaphragm condensor microphones on the market for under $100. I also own a Marshall V57M large diaphragm condensor mic which was more expensive than the Nady SCM, but the Marshall mic sounds boxy compared to Nady. I very highly recommend the Nady mic for anyone with a home recording studio who does vocals or acoustic instrument recording and is on a budget.

There you have it... three high quality yet inexpensive microphones that you need for your home recording studio. Microphones that sound great, are very durable, and won't break your bank account. Now get out there and record something!