Choosing the right Microphones for your home studio is one of the most important decisions you are going to make. The quality of your microphone will determine the quality of the sound that you capture. Some of the high end microphones can run you into the thousands, but fortunately there are some really good alternatives on the market that will give you great sound for a good price. Here are are a list of what I believe are 10 essential mics that should be part of your Microphone collection. This is not just an arbitrary list, I actually own and use all of the mics I have listed.
Ribbon microphones have long been revered for their creamy smooth sound. They are great for Guitar Cabinets (about 6 to 9 inches away from the grill), Vocals (with a pop Filter), Room Microphone, Acoustic Guitars, etc. The one drawback is the fact that they are fragile by design! If you apply Phantom power to the line it is on, you will blow it out. If you expose it to a large burst of air pressure you will blow it out. If you don’t store it vertical, the ribbon can sag and clank when you go to use it. But, if you take care when you use it, this will be one of the best investments you can make for capturing that guitar tone!
Yes, you saw right, this is an “Active Ribbon” mic that requires you use phantom power. One of the problems with Ribbon mics is the low output they produce. Usually you need a really good preamp to boost the signal of a ribbon, but with the ST170 that problem has been solved with an active preamp circuit built into the Mic. You still get that great smooth creamy sound that is a hallmark of a ribbon mic. I was so impressed with this mic, I actually own 4 of them.
When you want that classic vocal sound nothing can compare to the classic Neumann U-87 Microphone. The problem is they can run $3,000 plus with no guarantee that you get a good one. The New Neumann U-87ai is a bit more bright and harsh in the high end then the classic sound of the late 60’s/Early 70’s version of the U-87. The Warm Audio Wa-87 has come the closest I have heard to that classic U-87 sound for a fraction of the cost. If you are going to invest in a vocal mic I would highly recommend this one.
Blue Microphones have earned a place in most professional studios. Their Bluebird microphone stands toe to toe with their more expensive offerings. This mic is great on Vocals, Guitar Cabs, Drum Overheads, Wind and brass instruments, acoustic guitars, etc. This is a Large Diaphragm Condenser mic that requires phantom power to operate. This is one of those really good versatile microphones that you need in your Mic cab. I actually have 4 of them myself.
Rode is an Australian company that just makes GREAT mics! Their customer support is, in my opinion, the best in the business. The NT1A is a great mic for Vocals, Guitar Cabs, Drum Overheads, Acoustic Guitars, you name it. This is another really versatile well rounded microphone that should be in your home studio mic arsenal. I have 4 NT1a’s and one NT1.
When it comes to low end recording mics everyone has their favorites. The AKG D112 is one of mine when it comes to recording Bass Drums. It has a really nice rounded low end boom with just enough pop to get the attack of the beater. Adding this to your drum mic setup will not do you wrong. In addition this is also great for micing up Bass Cabs as well.
OK, if you don’t know of or have a couple of these, I can only assume you have been living under an audio rock! This is the workhorse mic that is in every mic bag, cab, car truck, glove compartment, guitar case and back pocket of every musician I have ever known. They are great for Guitar Cabs, Drums, Vocals (live), horns and just about anything else you put in front of it. They also come in handy if you can’t find a hammer when you need one.
This is much like the SM57 in that it is a great versatile instrument mic. I actually like the i5 over the Sm57 on the snare drum and it’s a toss up when it comes to guitar cabs. This is just one of those mics you should have in your collection because you can. Audix makes some great Drum Mics I have a couple of D1, D2, D3, D4 and D6 Mics From them for my drum mic setup.
This is another one of those great “Instrument” mics that just shines on guitar cabs. If you are looking to keep bleed from getting into your guitar track, this is the mic for you! Place this up against the grill off the center of the speaker and boom, perfect guitar tone. They are also great on a Sax, Horns and drums. They really shine on a live sound gig! I own about 6 of these and would not leave home without them.
Don’t you just envy those great Tom Tones you hear on recordings? Can’t afford a bunch of Sennheiser 421’s? Well this is the next best thing! These are great mics to use on your toms, snare, conga’s, Timbales, etc. They come with their own rim clips and are really low profile. Don’t let the small size fool you, these give you really big full sound for any drum you put them on. They are great LIVE or in the studio and they are rugged and can take a beating and live on to tell the story.