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Microphone Month

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Mic: Instrument vs Vocal

nrogers64

I'm trying to find out what the difference between instrument mics and vocal mics are (for example, Shure SM57 vs Shure PG58). I have two Shure PG58s and I'd like to record my acoustic guitar. I'm wondering what would be so bad about using these vocal mics rather than buying two Shure SM57s. Does it really make much of a difference? Sorry, I'm new!
-Nick
August 30, 2006 @05:10pm
130dB

When it comes to mics, there are no rules, only guidelines. If it sounds good, go for it. The 57 and 58 capsules are quite similar. I've used a 58 with the grille removed when I ran out of 57's.
August 30, 2006 @05:49pm
vidrazor

Just use your existing mics, don't worry about what is a vocal versus instrument mic. A better perspective on mics is that all mics can be looked upon as "brushes", by which you "paint" an aural "image". Different mics will have different "strokes", but in the end you still "paint the picture" dependent upon your musical talent.
I'm not familiar with the PG58, but it looks like an SM58 variant. The SM57 and SM58 are EXACTLY the same mics save for the grill, which create slightly different acoustic "signatures". The SM58 head has more foam padding making it better suited for up close vocal work, although it's always a good idea to put a foam cover on top of any vocal mic regardless, especially so if you're the type of vocalist who "eats" your mic.
That said, there are certainly reasons why some mics will be better at recording sound than others, whether it be vocals or instruments that you're recording. A good mic transcends being one or the other, it is just a mic to be used for a given occasion.
Fortunately today there is a multitude of really great mics to be had for peanuts from the likes of CAD, audio-technica, Studio Projects, et al that will do the job and do it VERY well. Back in the day you had to shell out big bucks for the likes of an AKG, Neumann, DPA, BeyerDynamic, Sheops, et al, all great mics, but all obnoxiously overpriced. This is a great age to be in if you need a great mic! :)
Someting else that significantly affects the sound of any mic is the preamp it's going through. What preamp are you using? Again today you are relieved of having to spend obnoxious money for high-quality preamps, but there are some that will stand out more than others, and they can do incredible things to even mics such as SM57/58s and their ilk. The John Hardy M1 & M2 come immediately to mind, but they don't come cheap.
If you'd like to learn more about mics and mic preamps and how to use them, there are a multitude of links online to look through if you Google something like "microphone primer". Companies like Shure, Electro-Voice, and others usually have info on using mics. Although they are of course tailored to the use of their brand of products, with few exceptions the techniques apply to any similar-style mic.
As I said in the beginning, don't worry too much about all this unless you plan on getting serious into recording. Just use your existing mics and, more importantly, use your ears and your brain and use them critically. They are ultimately the most important instruments you will be using to "paint your canvas".
Well, hope this helps, and have fun recording! :)
August 31, 2006 @01:00am
nrogers64

Thanks for your responses!
I have my mics going into an Edirol UA-25. It sounded pretty good to me, but I don't have any monitors yet, so I'm just using cheap Philips headphones. I plan on getting some studio headphones soon.
I also have a Spirit Folio Notepad. I'm thinking about running the mics through that and then into the Edirol UA-25 so that I can adjust my panning for the actual recording so I don't have to deal with the panning later. My only concern there is it may lose quality by going through two devices instead of just one.
As of now, recording is just a hobby of mine. I'm getting better at it all the time, so who knows what'll happen down the road. Thanks again for your help! Any other tips would be greatly appreciated!
-Nick
August 31, 2006 @03:38am
vidrazor

>>I plan on getting some studio headphones soon.<<
I just bought a beyerdynamic DT770 Pro headphone set, and I highly recommend it. They're $168 at http://www.bhphoto.com. They're full range, closed designs that not only keep the sound from bleeding out, they attenuate external sounds by 18dBs to keep them from coming in. They have soft velour pads that breathe and will remain comfortable for extended periods of time. Definitely the ultimate tracking headphones.
Mixing through headphones is another issue, however. Not that it can't be done, but ultimately you want to mix down through speakers. Once again we're blessed with a multitude of good-quality and very affordable near-field monitors in this day and age, so it's a matter of finding a pair that has a sound you're happy with and going for it (it's a great age to set up a home studio!).
Lacking a monitor pair, using your home stereo speakers isn't the end of the world, and many modern home stereo speakers are not that far removed from near-fields, and certainly hold advantages over mixing down solely by headphones. You can always do an initial mix through your cans and then fine-tune it through your stereo speakers.
My friend just picked up a UA-25, it's a good-quality unit, although I felt the preamps didn't have a lot of gain. You probably CAN set up a better signal gain from your dynamic mics with good signal-to-noise ratio on your mic gains by stepping through your Notepad and feeding into the UA-25 through the line-ins. Just setup the units for unity gain and use your notepad's mic preamps to boost your signal.
Make sure you record enough "silence" on each track so you can run a mild 3-6dB digital noise reduction if necessary (which should be the worst-case scenario of added noise). A small amount of DNR like this won't cut into your signal's spectral content too deeply (creating nasty noise-level garbling). Chances are you won't even have to worry about this if your set your signal gains right.
Have fun! :)
August 31, 2006 @05:11am
87PRS

Hi Nick, welcome to the audioforums. Good advice given here so far, I'd just like to say that there is another kind of microphone to consider for recording acoustic guitars not mentioned here yet, and that is a condenser type mic, which requires usually a 48v phantom power. Most large studios use these types of mics for recording acoustic instruments as well as vocal takes, being that they are very sensitive to sound transmission. Your Notepad probably has this phantom power on the mic channel as a push button. Condenser type mics can be bought relatively cheap nowadays, and most like AKG, MXL, and Samson for examples, are under a hundred dollars starting price.
You can use you SM57, and the PG to record, but they are not as sensitive as a consdenser mic would be. Good headphones are great, reference monitors are better. Glad to have ya hear!
August 31, 2006 @09:57am
andari

it could be worse homie...u could be using my mics... lol....ive got the radio shack 99.99 dynamic ..... lol
September 13, 2006 @01:15pm
sabianq




the pg58 would be fine and might even give some neat color to your guitar.
the differences between the pg58 and the sm58 are negligible,
there is more sensitivity to lower frequencies with the sm57 and the sm58.
being that the sm57 is sensitive to frequencies as low as 40 hz,
the sm58 is sensitive to frequencies as low as 50 hz and the pg58 is sensitive to frequencies as low as only 60 hz.
your guitar wont go that low.
also the pg58 has an on/off switch.
the other two don't.
welcome to audioforums.com
September 13, 2006 @06:45pm
laulik_snowman




the pg58 would be fine and might even give some neat color to your guitar.
Sorry for being off-topic, but I just wanna ask wht does the term ''color'' mean?
September 18, 2006 @11:09am
sabianq

Not being "off topic" at all.
when color is referred in audio, it means frequency sensitivity and response as compared to the origional sample.
for instance,
white noise is called white noise because the noise contains all of the frequencies in the audio spectrum (like light) from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz.
White noise is special because all of those frequencies represented are EXACTLY the same loudness making what is in essence a flat graph of the audio spectrum, this white noise sounds like static or noise. But don't be fooled, only "white noise" can be called "white noise".
Now you have heard about pink noise, if you listen to pink noise, it also sounds like white noise but it may have a lower overall pitch. Pink noise is "A" weighted. Designed to represent the frequencies most "hear-able" to the human ear, "pink noise" being pink in color will have louder lower frequencies in it.
The human ear is more sensitive to higher frequencies and is not as sensitive to lower frequencies.
So we "A" weight a white noise sample, meaning we bring up the loudness of the lower frequencies (the ones our ears have trouble hearing) and bring down the loudness of the high frequencies (the ones we can hear easily).
This makes it sound "flat" to our ears. you can use an EQ to do the same thing to control a rooms and equipments response, but that actions gets to become very complicated.
The "A" weighted sample is no longer considered white noise as the lower end of the spectrum is louder and just like light, the lower frequencies represent the red end of the spectrum.
Imagine a white light (light with all of the frequencies at the same level) now in essence raise the "volume" of the lower (red) frequencies. notice how the white light becomes pink in color by the addition of more of the red frequencies?
Same thing happens in sound.
There is also blue noise where the higher frequencies are louder.
You can have any color of noise you would like.
Now, getting back to your question, a microphone is sensitive to frequencies as you can see in the graphs presented above.
If you use a microphone that has a flat response curve like a "calabrated" microphone, the recorded sample will sound "almost EXACTLY" like the sample is heard.
as you change microphones, you change the frequency response sensitivity and you "color" the sample being recorded.
an example would be if you have a microphone that is sensitive to higher frequencies then the higher frequencies would be accentuated and the sample will be colored "blue" as compared to the original sample.
same as with using a microphone that can pick up lower frequencies better than than the higher frequencies.
see how this works now?
now you can even extend this to speakers also, as a speaker (or monitor) plays back an audio sample the speakers construction will "color" the sample in relation to its frequency response.
in the recording industry, the object is to find equipment that does not color the sample in any way. this is almost impossible and can end up costing many thousands of dollars.
so when you hear of people who talk about how their equipment colors sound, you will now know how that works.
I hope this helps.
September 18, 2006 @12:45pm
oldfriend

to continue where sabian left off.. colors by amps / plugs etc do get a little more complicated... noisy analog amps colour sound in many ways... its not like you hear a hiss/noise from the amp.. its more like how the noise from the amp has interacted with the signal from the mic... by phasing out a few frequences and highlighted a few... it feels like u put the signal through an eq with a million points...!!... with some critical listening you will be able to detect the way how different amps/gear color the sound from your microphone... and how diferent mics drives on ur preamp/gear... how the drive/distortion/clip from the amp highlights/creates new harmonics, odd or even,... warmth, etc.....!!..
so, as you go through this process of recording, reading and experimenting it all does get very interesting...( if you intend to get into audio engineering in depth).... however if you are a musician recording a demo at home, then this could be absolutely pointless...
one thing to note is... if you are a musican and you are looking for a 'tone' , then it is important for you to get it sounding just right on the amp-speaker/at source, itself...!! noobs end up wasting huge amount of time and money trying to get 'their sound' with recording equipment.. which is stupid and a total waste of time (opinion ;) ) but then you can give it a shot if u want.. who knows you could get your sound by eqing the hell out on your mixer... ;) so, like 130db said ... whatever works... :D
cheers and welcome to AF...
September 18, 2006 @01:56pm
sabianq

YEA, 100% agreed, like 130db and Vulcan,
whatever works... :)
and remember to have fun
September 18, 2006 @02:15pm
vidrazor

There's a basic overview of noise "colors" over at Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colors_of_noise
Not really of great importance, but a nice overview.
Sound coloration is seldom related to an actual color, however. It's merely implying an uneveness in the spectral response somewhere. Decisions are made whether it is desireable or not, and if not what steps need to be taken to neutralize it.
Othertimes a deliberate colorization is implied for the purposes of tone, as exemplified with guitars and tube amps (and tube amps in general, as some people believe these circuits improve the sound by making it "warm", a misnomer belief based on the physical aspects of the circuit ).
Suffice it to say that sound coloration merely implies the way the recording or live performance is sounding, and whether it is a good thing or not, as per personal prefences.:)
September 20, 2006 @12:33am
sabianq

There's a basic overview of noise "colors" over at Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colors_of_noise
Not really of great importance, but a nice overview.
Sound coloration is seldom related to an actual color, however. It's merely implying an uneveness [sic] in the spectral response somewhere. Decisions are made whether it is desireable [sic] or not, and if not what steps need to be taken to neutralize it.

Umm..
Sound color is related to spectrum color.
It gives a person a visible relation to what is happening with the sample.
By reading the link provided, a person can see how the relationship plays out.
RED light represents Low tones, because of the longer wavelength inherent in the red light can also be expressed as a longer wavelength in an audio frequency.
BLUE or VIOLET light represents High audio frequencies up to 20 KHz.
and ULTRAVIOLET light or Black light represents ULTRA-HIGH frequencies like tones above 20 KHz appropiatly called "BLACK NOISE" (above the threshold of human hearing.)
by mixing the frequencies, you can represent any combination of tones by the corresponding color of light.
Othertimes [sic] a deliberate colorization is implied for the purposes of tone, as exemplified with guitars and tube amps (and tube amps in general, as some people believe these circuits improve the sound by making it "warm", a misnomer belief based on the physical aspects of the circuit ).

a "warm" sound is considered "warm" because of its emphasis on the addition of lower tones, Lower tones are synonymous with the RED end of the visible light spectrum and the RED end of the spectrum is considered "warm" so a piece of equipment that "warms" a tone will add Lower end noise to the tone, "warming" the overall sample.
where as you could say that a piece of equipment that adds high end noise or BLUE noise would be said to "cool" the sample.
Suffice it to say that sound coloration merely implies the way the recording or live performance is sounding, and whether it is a good thing or not, as per personal prefences [sic].:)

True, it is up to the individual to say whether a sample sounds good "colored", however, when a sample is considered colored, it is because of the equipment that is being used to process and amplify the sound. an instrument by nature, does not have added tonal color, but a whole room full of instruments playing will produce a noise that is colored. Coloring a sample, means exactly that, coloring a sample. When some one says that a given sample is warm, they will always means that the lows are emphasized.
September 20, 2006 @11:30am