Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mic Week - Part 7: Cheap Large Diaphragm Condenser

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Continuing along with mic week this time around we're covering mics that are still pretty garden variety but a little more expensive than the most basic stuff you see around. We've also moved the focus a little bit to cover mics that can do double duty both on stage and in the studio.

Today we're looking at large diaphragm condensers, LDCs and specifically those that are inexpensive. Generally LDCs are expensive, sometimes hand crafted pieces that studios invest thousands in. Some are true flagship pieces that a studio will build their whole reputation around.

But on the other hand there are a lot of companies making much more affordable models. For a couple hundred bucks you can have most of the benefits of an LDC with only a small penalty in build quiality. When the price point is low you don't have to worry so much about putting an LDC in harm's way. You can track subtle vocals in your bedroom on Thursday night and drag it off to the festival on Saturday.

Specifically I'm going to talk about my MXL 4000. MXL has been making what basically amounts to knock offs of classy studio mics for years. Lucky for us consumers they've slowly worked their way out of having a reputation for building cheap mics and into being known for building inexpensive ones. In fact their knock off of the venerable Neumann U87 is 80% as good and at a mere fraction of the price.

At any rate I picked up the 4000 at work so we could have a multi-pattern LDC on hand. We do a fair amount of voice over work for video as well as demo recordings. But we actually find a good deal of use for this mic out on stage. A small vocal group will sound great gathered around it in cardioid mode. I've used it in figure eight mode with a second, omni mic to do mid-side recording both on and off stage and as an omni mic for field recording and location video work.

Because it only set us back $250 I don't have any worries about putting it out on stage or even taking it out in the elements. Sure, it has its limitations and shortcomings but I just chalk that up as part of the flavor and move on.  For an even better entry level option you can find a pair of MXL condensers for under $100. The 990/991 package will give you a cardioid LDC as well as a pencil mic. They're practically disposable at that price! There's no reason not to own a couple and do what you will with them.

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