Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

608
Banjo Lovers Online


 All Forums
 Other Banjo-Related Topics
 Live Sound, Recording and Electronics
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: surprising low cost mic results


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/314529

drbakker - Posted - 02/02/2016:  15:08:36


I just thought I would share this experience.



I've been working on several banjo studio recording projects - banjo is definitely tricky to record.



I've been trying all kinds of expensive mics, and based on reading an article about the Shure SM7B being the mic that Michael Jackson preferred for his vocals, I thought I would give my SM57 (very similar shure unidyne III cartridge) a try.



Wow was I surprised. The sm57 sounds great on banjo. I plan to order an sm7b which is supposed to have superior, flatter-wider, range. 



So before you spend many K $'s on expensive mics, try an $100 sm57 first.



If you already have an expensive mic collection, try the 57 as a main mic and a large diaphragm as ambience. Sounds great!!



I can post some audio samples if anyone wants.


xnavyguy - Posted - 02/02/2016:  15:15:06


Dave, I've been using Chinese SM-57 knock-offs because I'm too cheap to buy Shure.  I've used them for recording and for live gigs and they work just fine.  Guitar Center has them on sale, buy 1, get 2 free.guitarcenter.com/Digital-Refer...o-Free.gc


rickhayes - Posted - 02/02/2016:  15:49:14


Question from a clueless person.  What does the mic plug into to make the recording?


mdthib - Posted - 02/02/2016:  18:28:40


The SM58 (and 58) are absolutely fantastic microphones, particularly when paired with a good preamp and someone who knows how to explore microphone positioning. They are also nearly indestructible. Trivia: a pair of SM57s, for decades, has been used to broadcast the US President. Google images for your favorite Republican or Democrat and you'll see a pair (with windscreens) in front of them. Every Presidential announcement you have heard has been through a 57. 



I would caution against the knock-offs. I would also caution against getting a 57 through Ebay as counterfeit mics are also abundant. It's $100, and you can pass it down to your grandkids—get the real thing from a reputable store. 


Crusty - Posted - 02/02/2016:  19:34:35


Rick, I bought a mic cable on eBay with an A to D converter and USB interface built into the other end that plugs right into my computer to make recordings using Audacity.  It was pretty cheap.  Otherwise you'll likely want a mixer to connect it to and feed whatever from there.



I also bought a GLS SM57 knockoff for around $30 bucks that's the same as a Shure, but I've heard those mics that Jerry mentioned above and they sound just as good and they're really inexpensive.


j2buttonsw - Posted - 02/03/2016:  03:47:23


Hey Dave,

Thanks for the info. Could you give us a short setup guide you used to get your best recording? Mic placement/pre-amp/eq/compression/room dampening ? Thanks again.

rudy - Posted - 02/03/2016:  04:52:16


quote:

Originally posted by drbakker

I just thought I would share this experience.




I've been working on several banjo studio recording projects - banjo is definitely tricky to record.




I've been trying all kinds of expensive mics, and based on reading an article about the Shure SM7B being the mic that Michael Jackson preferred for his vocals, I thought I would give my SM57 (very similar shure unidyne III cartridge) a try.




Wow was I surprised. The sm57 sounds great on banjo. I plan to order an sm7b which is supposed to have superior, flatter-wider, range. 




So before you spend many K $'s on expensive mics, try an $100 sm57 first.




If you already have an expensive mic collection, try the 57 as a main mic and a large diaphragm as ambience. Sounds great!!




I can post some audio samples if anyone wants.







I've been contemplating some banjo-centric studio projects as well, so any thoughts you have on the process are appreciated, successes as well as failures!



There's a world of difference between the SM7B and a SM57 obviously, both price and sound-wise, but it's good to hear you've had relative success with a SM57.  I've seen many examples of SM57s taped or tie-wrapped to the dowel stick of open backs for live sound use over the years, and that works pretty well if high volume isn't needed.



The SM57 is even used as the basis of the built-in mics used by many Cajun accordion players.  The mic is disassembled and the element is mounted internally to a reed block and fed to the outside by way of a sealed 1/4" jack.  There must be a few banjo players who have gutted a 57 and used them similarly.



I haven't got down to the nitty-gritty of figuring out the best placement, but I've had the best overall results so far with X-Y configuration and a pair of small diaphragm condensers.  I have a pretty good selection of mics to choose from, though.  If you have any other thoughts on the recording setup please feel free to post away!


cnoe - Posted - 02/03/2016:  22:45:32


Hi Dave



Thank you for the information. I am experimenting with different mics to record my banjo, but have not found the perfect solution yet. I'll give the SM57 a try. 



I'd love to hear some audio samples. Maybe in an uncompressed format like WAV or AIFF? I also would like to know where you put the ambience mic that you where mentioned. Also a comparison SM57 vs SM7B would be great. 



Thanks, Caspar


drbakker - Posted - 02/05/2016:  18:50:10


Hi Everyone, I was busy at work a couple days, didn't see all the replies. This weekend I will post some audio files and set up notes! Thanks for the interest.

drbakker - Posted - 02/10/2016:  22:06:54


Sorry, took a little longer than I thought. Worth waiting for though.



I'm lucky to have a some nice microphones that I've hung on to from a studio I ran in the 90's. The surprising thing to me is that I like the inexpensive sm57 better than 2 mics that cost 10x and 20x the price.



To test this out, I put 3 mics together in a pattern pointing at the intersection of the neck and the banjo head at about 45 degree angle - very typical studio positioning. A couple feet away from the instrument. The 3 mics I tried were an AKG414, a BLUE Kiwi and the sm57. The AKG and BLUE are over $1K and $2K respectively.



I'm learning how to use the attachment manager - I'll attach two photos of the mic positioning here first then do another post.





drbakker - Posted - 02/10/2016:  22:35:14


OK, now I'll try to attach the recordings. I find that I can only upload mp3's but in my opinion, you can hear the character of the mic just as well in an mp3 than the original 96KHz files. 



To make this more fun, I've just labeled the files 1, 2, 3. The mics are pretty much $100, $1000 and $2000. To me, I like the $100 mic the best, I'm curious what others think. 



What I like about the $100 mic (the sm57) is 2 things, it is very intimate, it feels like you are right there in front of the player and you can hear all the nuance, good or bad. Secondly, it has much less room noise.



I did a little research on the capsules. It turns out the sm57 capsule has a few characteristics that I think make it really good for basic banjo recordings - 1 is that it is very directional ("super" cardioid) so there is less room noise, 2 is that it not as sensitive to proximity effect so you can get it really close to the instrument, and 3 it is pretty flat, with a bit of roll off towards the low end (also helping proximity).



For a long time I have been using much more sensitive mics for banjo, and they are very "tweaky". And of course expensive. My initial surprise is that the low cost sm57 just sounds great and is easy to position, i.e., very forgiving.



Can I make another comment, I see a few people liking knock offs made in China. I'm sure that's a way to save some money, but you know Shure is an American company, founded in New York in the early 1900's. I'd rather give them the business than save a few bucks. They pioneered audio recording. As some others have noted, their mics are first class, really great audio equipment. What got me started on this test was hearing that Michael Jackson used the lowly Shure sm7b, basically a $300 mic for his vocals. He could afford anything, and of course has golden ears. The 57 is very much a similar mic. I had been using the 57 for guitar cabs at like 110dBm for years, and never fully appreciated the sensitivity of the capsule. First time I put it in front of the banjo, it sounded amazing, with no fuss.




mic test 1


mic test 2


mic test 3

drbakker - Posted - 02/10/2016:  22:51:49


quote:

Originally posted by rickhayes

 

Question from a clueless person.  What does the mic plug into to make the recording?







Haha I think I have been clueless on so many things my whole life, I can really sympathize. You need a pre-amplifier for mics, but you're in luck, these days there are so many good choices. If you have a computer that is really the best way to do this. It will completely depend on your budget, but there are recording interfaces that usually connect by something like USB to your computer. Even for a couple hundred $'s you can get a pretty good one.



The basic version of the technology I'm using by UA is $700, but I can tell you it is as good as a $20,000 digital deck from the 80's and 90's.



There are also good portable digital recorders for about $100 or less from companies like TASCAM.



The technology has advanced so much in the past few years, that something like this: bit.ly/1Qa2FE6 sounds almost as good as the best decks you could get in the 90's, at any price.



I think a lot of guys and gals on this forum record and would be happy to give you ideas better than mine. It starts with your budget I think.


drbakker - Posted - 02/10/2016:  22:53:52


quote:

Originally posted by mdthib

 

The SM58 (and 58) are absolutely fantastic microphones, particularly when paired with a good preamp and someone who knows how to explore microphone positioning. They are also nearly indestructible. Trivia: a pair of SM57s, for decades, has been used to broadcast the US President. Google images for your favorite Republican or Democrat and you'll see a pair (with windscreens) in front of them. Every Presidential announcement you have heard has been through a 57. 




I would caution against the knock-offs. I would also caution against getting a 57 through Ebay as counterfeit mics are also abundant. It's $100, and you can pass it down to your grandkids—get the real thing from a reputable store. 







I agree, an sm57 is $99 mail order from a reputable dealer. I have a set of them that is more than 30 years old. They are all dented, but sound great.


drbakker - Posted - 02/10/2016:  23:05:17


quote:

Originally posted by j2buttonsw

 

Hey Dave,



Thanks for the info. Could you give us a short setup guide you used to get your best recording? Mic placement/pre-amp/eq/compression/room dampening ? Thanks again.







Yes, great question.



I've tried so many mics on banjo at this point, that's why I was surprised when I found the sm57 works so well and is so cheap.



I can take some pictures if you need, but here's what I found: an sm57 pointed at the place where the neck attaches to the body is the best. Have the mic sitting closer to the headstock end of the banjo so it is at an angle, maybe about 45 degrees.



If you see any videos of great players in studios (like Bela Feck for example) one mic will almost always be in this position, and then another mic if you have it on the other end of the instrument facing towards the head and right hand. 



Here's what I found, the sm57 is good at rejecting ambience from the room, so you can put it pretty close (about 1 to 2 feet) away. Even in a bad room, this will sound ok. If you listen to the files I posted, this is a treated room, but even so, you can hear some room noise in the "more expensive" mic. I think that is because the pattern of the sm57 is very directional - it just ignores the sound coming in from the reflections.



I was pretty happy with the posted files, the sm57, in my opinion doesn't need much eq, and will sit in any mix and be very focused and present. See if you like it. The other mics, I would feel the need to eq them. See what you think though. That's why I was so excited about the sm57.



I will try to post one more file in a couple days when I have some more time, and that is a stereo file of the 57 with another mic for ambience. Let me work on that a bit and see if there is an easy way to do it.  



I was thinking of buying an sm7b and trying this out. I had one from the studio and sold it like an idiot. How good could it be if it was only worth 200 bucks?


drbakker - Posted - 02/10/2016:  23:43:42


quote:

Originally posted by rudy

 
quote:


Originally posted by drbakker

I just thought I would share this experience.




I've been working on several banjo studio recording projects - banjo is definitely tricky to record.




I've been trying all kinds of expensive mics, and based on reading an article about the Shure SM7B being the mic that Michael Jackson preferred for his vocals, I thought I would give my SM57 (very similar shure unidyne III cartridge) a try.




Wow was I surprised. The sm57 sounds great on banjo. I plan to order an sm7b which is supposed to have superior, flatter-wider, range. 




So before you spend many K $'s on expensive mics, try an $100 sm57 first.




If you already have an expensive mic collection, try the 57 as a main mic and a large diaphragm as ambience. Sounds great!!




I can post some audio samples if anyone wants.








I've been contemplating some banjo-centric studio projects as well, so any thoughts you have on the process are appreciated, successes as well as failures!




There's a world of difference between the SM7B and a SM57 obviously, both price and sound-wise, but it's good to hear you've had relative success with a SM57.  I've seen many examples of SM57s taped or tie-wrapped to the dowel stick of open backs for live sound use over the years, and that works pretty well if high volume isn't needed.




The SM57 is even used as the basis of the built-in mics used by many Cajun accordion players.  The mic is disassembled and the element is mounted internally to a reed block and fed to the outside by way of a sealed 1/4" jack.  There must be a few banjo players who have gutted a 57 and used them similarly.




I haven't got down to the nitty-gritty of figuring out the best placement, but I've had the best overall results so far with X-Y configuration and a pair of small diaphragm condensers.  I have a pretty good selection of mics to choose from, though.  If you have any other thoughts on the recording setup please feel free to post away!







Thanks for the background on uses of the 57 capsule, very interesting.



I have a set of matched Neumann KM184s, which would be your small diaphragm condensers. I have tried them in x-y on banjo many times, and I gotta say it depends at that point on the room. If you have a great room, they will sound great. However, in the typical home recording environment, not really. They pick up everything, you'll hear your breathing and shuffling of clothes. Again, that's why I was surprised how well the 57 works and how forgiving it is. I have a pretty well treated mid-size room, so I will try the km184's again and compare to the 57 and put some files here. Bang for the buck though, it's still a couple grand for the km184's vs $100 for an sm57. 


Jim Yates - Posted - 02/11/2016:  06:50:17


I was surprised to learn that so many folks were unaware of the SM57.  We have been using SM58s for vocals and SM57s for instrument mics for decades.  Most of the venues I've played where the venue supplies the sound also use 57s and 58s.  These seem to be the music industry standards.

 


cnoe - Posted - 02/12/2016:  08:56:42


Hi Dave



Thank you for your recordings. My Favourite is mic-1 (or is it mic-3; I cannot really make up my mind). Is number 1 the SM57?I just made a little recording myself. One mic is the SM57 (99$) the other one a modified Oktava MK012 ($512). Which one do you like best? Any thoughts?



I like this thread. I always used SM57 for playing live, but never thought that it makes such a good mic for banjo recording.



Edited by - cnoe on 02/12/2016 08:57:44



recording_1


recording_2

drbakker - Posted - 02/12/2016:  15:15:05


quote:

Originally posted by cnoe

 

Hi Dave




Thank you for your recordings. My Favourite is mic-1 (or is it mic-3; I cannot really make up my mind). Is number 1 the SM57?I just made a little recording myself. One mic is the SM57 (99$) the other one a modified Oktava MK012 ($512). Which one do you like best? Any thoughts?




I like this thread. I always used SM57 for playing live, but never thought that it makes such a good mic for banjo recording.







Wow, lovely playing - I had to go back and try to listen for the microphones, I just enjoyed the playing so much.



I like recording 1 better -  to my ears, recording 2 has a mid-range bump which I think comes from being close to the micronphone. The sm57 has less of this effect from design, which is nice to have.



On my recordings, you're right mic 1 is the sm57. Mic 3 is a BLUE kiwi mic, which is pretty pricey - it sounds really nice, but I don't think it sounds "better" than the $99 sm57. "Better" is subjective of course, but I think most people would be happy to go with the $99 mic.


h - Posted - 02/12/2016:  21:34:58


 The Shure SM 57 and 58 have been the industry standards for decades.  All the sound people know them and trust them.  A condenser mic might sound better for studio recording, but for live shows many of the biggest names in all types of music use these two models.



 But beware, they both have been counterfeited. Check out the videos on Youtube for lookalike mic's that are poor quality imitations.



 On the other hand, the Pyle PDMIC78 sells for a small fraction of the 57's price, and has been shown to have essentially the same hardware.  I'm using one when I play live and it seems essentially equal to the Shure.  Your mileage may vary of course.


cnoe - Posted - 02/13/2016:  02:32:26


Thank you for your comments. Maybe both microphones were a bit too close. Recording 1 is the Oktava MK012 and Recording 2 is the SM57.



 



 



 


pdbanjo - Posted - 02/13/2016:  08:46:54


Without reservation, I say the Oktava is the best of the two. More clarity, great separation and better depth of sound than the SM57. The 57 seems a bit brittle on the high notes.



I have a couple of original German made Okatava MK 012s that I paid $110 ea for used. There were some made later by the Chinese that were pretty lousy IMO. Our mando player and I both were able to buy 4 originals from a studio that went out of business. We use them for our instrument stage mics when we need them otherwise we use a single AT4033  large frame condenser mic on stage for the entire quartet. Sometimes we add the Oktavas as side fill mics to compliment the AT4033 especially when we have others sitting in that haven't danced around the single mic setup. The Octavas seem to do the best job for us and are pretty rugged. We've had them for over 20 yrs.



Edited by - pdbanjo on 02/13/2016 08:49:51

banjopogo - Posted - 02/13/2016:  09:49:48


It's not really surprising.  When I was researching mics, the SM57 got to be a standard because you could stick it in front of almost any instrument, and it would work, and some of those "instruments" were high SPL sources like electric guitar speak cabinets and drums.  Some of your other mic attempts may have had the mic too close to the head to work, but they'd work farther back.



Since the SM57 is used as a drum mic, and the banjo is basically a drum, it's probably far less sensitive to being too close to the head.



That being said. the SM57 has fallen out of favor with recording engineers because while it WILL work, it's usually not the best choice for the job.



It needs to be viewed as a kind of "Swiss Army Knife" mic- it's virtue is it's versatility. The above mentioned recording engineers usually DO have an SM57 or two in their mic locker, and hardly ever use them.... until they get to a "nothing else works situation", then the SM57 saves the day.  I have also read of a recording engineer running an SM57 through a high end mic preamp, and getting excellent results.



One of the things that it doesn't have much competition for is mic'ing those electric guitar speaker cabinets.  I do play electric guitar, and one place I played mic'd me with an SM57.... I let another guitarist play through my rig, went back to the sound booth to listen, and I was floored- an absolutely classic electric guitar sound... very SMOOTH.



In mic "shootouts" on YouTube, it's pitted against Sennheiser e604s and e609s... the competition is usually CLEARER... the SM57 SMOOTHER.



That says to me that the SM57 isn't just picking up the sound, it's smoothing it out by being somewhat inaccurate in a pleasant way.  If the resulting sound is pleasing to you, great... but if you want more accuracy of clarity, you'd probably best use the SM57 as a stopgap measure and keep experimenting.



The last time I recorded banjo, I used a pair of Naiant small diaphragm condensers about 5 feet away.  When I played them back through the studio monitors, I surprised my wife, because she thought I was playing the banjo, and when she turned to face me, I was just sitting there listening to the recording!  She said "That's EXACTLY what you sound like when you play the banjo!"



I suspect the SM57 won't quite get you THERE, but hey, if it sounds good, that's really all that matters.



BTW, the Naiant mics I used are X-Q models.  They are not the current model.



You can e-mail John on the Naiant site, and you could ask him to recommend his current preference for mic-ing banjos.   He's a recording engineer, and makes the mics as a sideline.  He uses off the shelf housings to keep the cost down low.



Edited by - banjopogo on 02/13/2016 09:58:20

calden - Posted - 02/13/2016:  16:48:03


This will help any shure or any other dynamic mic. It's a preamp that runs off phantom power, designed for dynamic mics.



sweetwater.com/store/detail/CL1Cloud



carlos


pearcemusic - Posted - 02/15/2016:  12:23:32


If you can find an old Shure PE588 laying around (old cheap hiZ shure mic) you can remove the capsule and mount it on the inside of ur banjo, and hook it up to a 3 conductor XLR male ... Cheap, light, good sounding banjo mic ... Better than any internal pickup I've tried. 


drbakker - Posted - 02/15/2016:  20:28:15


quote:

Originally posted by calden

 

This will help any shure or any other dynamic mic. It's a preamp that runs off phantom power, designed for dynamic mics.




sweetwater.com/store/detail/CL1Cloud




carlos







This is a really cool device!! Thanks for the tip.


drbakker - Posted - 02/15/2016:  20:35:51


quote:

Originally posted by banjopogo

<edited>



In mic "shootouts" on YouTube, it's pitted against Sennheiser e604s and e609s... the competition is usually CLEARER... the SM57 SMOOTHER.




<edited>




The last time I recorded banjo, I used a pair of Naiant small diaphragm condensers about 5 feet away.  When I played them back through the studio monitors, I surprised my wife, because she thought I was playing the banjo, and when she turned to face me, I was just sitting there listening to the recording!  She said "That's EXACTLY what you sound like when you play the banjo!"







Thanks, I think what surprised me is the smoothness - you're right, the sm57 is very smooth.



I've found the banjo is not the easiest instrument to mic, so 'smooth' helps a lot if you just want to get good enough quickly.



Regarding the condensers, I agree, but... there will be a lot of room noise. Especially the further back from the banjos. In a well treated studio this is no problem. In the basic "office" where a lot of home enthusiasts record, it will sound pretty bad with all the reflections and comb filtering. Most of us don't have a treated room, that's why I was so excited to put the sm57 right up near the banjo head and get a decent, smooth (as you mention) sound right off the bat. And for a hundred bucks.



Hey this was a fun discussion, thanks for all the comments, I learned a lot from the collective knowledge here.


Paulf - Posted - 03/04/2016:  23:45:42


​Just purchased two items today, a Focusrite scarlett solo interface and a Shure PGA 57 (cheaper version of the SM57)  They are more expensive overhere with the SM57 being around the $200 mark and the PGA 57 was $85 and the Focusrite $139.





Have been using a cheap condenser mic so looking forward to the sound improvement.  Thanks to all who posted here as it gained me the info needed to upgrade.






Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.15625