‘Decent’ cheap gear guides?

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‘Decent’ cheap gear guides?

Post by gizo » Thu Oct 24, 2019 6:38 pm

I’m skipping right to the end - I need microphones for voices and guitars, and a way to get analogue sounds (like electric guitars and weird old microphones) out of their 6mm or 3.5mm (or 1/4” and 1/8”, if you please) plugs into a USB port so I can record them.

So, apart from the Pyle that Ken posted (thanks, Ken!), are there any other usable cheap mixes that anyone recommends? For reference, that Pyle goes for around $20 here which pleases me.

And as far as analogue->digital, I can get a $6 thing from eBay or whatever, but is there anything that anyone would recommend? Again, cheap is good for me.

Thanks, and apologies if I’ve missed another thread that covers this already.
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Re: ‘Decent’ cheap gear guides?

Post by ken » Fri Oct 25, 2019 8:15 am

I'm not really sure what you are asking. Are you looking for an audio interface - something to go between your mics and your computer? Are you looking for more microphones? All of the above?
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Re: ‘Decent’ cheap gear guides?

Post by ujnhunter » Fri Oct 25, 2019 8:21 am

So I take it you don't own an Audio Interface? A Behringer UMC202HD will get you a cheap 2 input XLR/1/4" instrument up to 24bit/192k with Phantom Power (but make sure your system's USB ports will provide enough juice that the Phantom Power will work... my Laptop won't for instance...), for some cheap Mics besides the Pyle that Ken posted about... look into an MXL Condenser mic for Vocals... they go on sale all the time in the $30-60 range here in the States... not sure exactly where you're located.
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Re: ‘Decent’ cheap gear guides?

Post by crumpart » Fri Oct 25, 2019 9:07 am

To answer you two above, Gizo is in Australia.

As far as audio interfaces are concerned, Toshiro was going to get me one of these Scarlett Focusrite thingos for Christmas. I think it will do what you need it to do? Check Cash Converters, because I reckon they might have one or two around.

Here's some on gumtree: https://www.gumtree.com.au/s-scarlett+a ... ected=true

And here's some at JB: https://www.jbhifi.com.au/?q=scarlett%2 ... tt%20audio

I think the Black Friday sales are coming up soon, right? Keep an eye on those too.
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Re: ‘Decent’ cheap gear guides?

Post by ken » Fri Oct 25, 2019 9:14 am

Thanks for the clarification. There is tons of cheap gear out there, but I'd suggest buying fewer nicer things than amassing a crazy collection of okay. (I know this from experience.)

Ujn's suggestion of MXL gear is a good one. I'm not much of a fan of Behringer, but it certainly is cheap and some of it is surprisingly good and useful. I suggest staying away from Tascam as their interfaces seem to go obsolete more often than others, though I've been using an old Tascam US-122 for quite some time now and while it feels cheap, it gets the job done. I like M-Audio gear if you want cheap. I know others have had bad experiences with them, but I've also had really good experiences with their customer support when I've had issues.

One consideration is how many things you'd like to record at once. I would think you'd want two inputs, but honestly, I'm usually only recording one thing at a time at home. For example, the Steinberg UR12 is only $99. The Steinberg UR22mkII is $150. There are a lot of good options under $200. I was looking at the Steinberg UR242 yesterday because it has 4 inputs (2 mic/instrument - 2 line) and can work with iOS. (Hence the Steinberg recommendation today.)

Here are some microphones/brands to consider:

Large Diaphragm Condenser Mics
sE Electronics X1 A Large-diaphragm Condenser Microphone
Studio Projects B1 Large-diaphragm Condenser Microphone
Golden Age Project FC1 MKII Large-diaphragm Condenser Microphone

Small Diaphragm Condenser Mics
Golden Age Project FC4 MC
Avantone Pro CK-1 Small-diaphragm Condenser Microphone
Audio-Technica Pro 37 Small-diaphragm Condenser Microphone

Dynamic Microphones
Shure 545SD
Audix i5
Sennheiser e 609
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Re: ‘Decent’ cheap gear guides?

Post by owl » Fri Oct 25, 2019 10:53 am

My time to shine, I mainly own cheap but serviceable crap! I've carved out a nice compromise between Ken's two options by having fewer, merely okay things. ;)

I have the Behringer U-Phoria UM2 audio interface, the cheapest one on that page, I bought it used for maybe $25 or $30. I generally only ever record one track at a time so this works fine for me. In theory it can record 2 lines at once but I've never gotten that working or put that much effort into solving it (seems like I'm not the only one to have this problem). Prior to buying this (I think a couple of years ago?) I was either recording with a line straight out of my modeling amp or trying to mic everything, always ending in a big chaotic pile of stuff piled around me, and bad resulting sounds. Anyway, I'm happy with the Behringer, except now something is messed up with the output jack so I only get sound in one ear a lot of the time (this might actually be an issue with my headphone adapter, not sure), and sometimes the gain level adjustment seems really finicky, but generally it's fine.

For years, I recorded using only this USB Samson GoMic, a cheap little condenser ($30 new). It's super easy to use, just one thing to plug in and you can go, I would just prop it up on something on a table or clip it to my laptop screen before I broke the clippy part. It doesn't seem to peak as easily as the mic I upgraded to, and honestly I find monitoring a bit easier with this too. I still use it all the time for recording song ideas/scratch tracks, or sometimes backing vocals if I don't want to dig out and set up my interface and mic and test out the levels and all that. I think it sounds great on vocals for the price, pretty warm and clear.

I upgraded this year to the MXL V250 after someone here (Lunkhead?) posted it in the deals thread--it was $200 new but I got it for about $60 on sale. It's good, but does it sound 2-6 times better than the Samson? I don't really think so, personally...? If you want to compare, the Vowl Sounds tracks at the beginning of this year's Nur Ein had my vocals recorded with the Samson, the ones at the end were done with the MXL. (I don't remember at exactly what point I switched over.) I know Vom changed some production stuff along the way as well, but it should give you a general idea at least.

In any case, either way, I prefer condensers over dynamic mics for recording (my) vocals, but I tend to be a quiet singer, and maybe a more aggressive vocalist would do better with a dynamic mic.

Nobody is heaping praises on my guitar sound, so for this bit, you should probably take advice from someone who knows what they're doing, but just for your reference, for electric guitar I generally run a line straight into the Behringer and use an ampsim (right now, Guitar Rig 5) and for acoustic I record with the MXL in the room a foot or two away, it does have a pickup but doing it direct sounds like shit. You can hear both of those setups on this week's song. If I had an actual nice amp that I was committed to capturing the sound of, I'd probably mic up the amp with an SM57 (or clone).

I have a keyboard I like but I generally just use VSTs for recordings, too, hauling it out and setting it up for recording is a pain.

Honestly, I think the stuff that has had the biggest bang for the buck for me, aside from the audio interface, has actually mainly been software... various instrument VSTs, Ozone for mastering, ampsim, drum plugins. Nothing I record sounds particularly great still, but I think now my issues are more with mixing or performance/arrangement than recording quality, so I know I'm leaps and bounds ahead of where I was a few years ago just on that front...

Oh and I've heard good things about monoprice.com for affordable gear but I don't have first-hand experience. I think they ship to Australia.
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Re: ‘Decent’ cheap gear guides?

Post by ken » Fri Oct 25, 2019 11:11 am

owl wrote:
Fri Oct 25, 2019 10:53 am
for acoustic I record with the MXL in the room a foot or two away,
Yikes, and also YES! I tend to mic acoustic about 6 inches away with the mic pointed where the neck meets the body. I'd expect a mic a foot or two away to bring in a ton of the room sound, which could be totally awesome, or not - depending on your room. How heavily do you compress the acoustic track?
owl wrote:
Fri Oct 25, 2019 10:53 am
Oh and I've heard good things about monoprice.com for affordable gear but I don't have first-hand experience. I think they ship to Australia.
Great recommendation! I have a friend who bought the monoprice monitors and loves them. I think their gear is the same as any other cheap audio product, so MXL, Behringer, or whatever branded Chinese product. I check their website all the time, but rarely pull the trigger. Again, I'm trying to buy less nicer stuff these days.
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Re: ‘Decent’ cheap gear guides?

Post by vowlvom » Fri Oct 25, 2019 12:05 pm

owl wrote:
Fri Oct 25, 2019 10:53 am
For years, I recorded using only this USB Samson GoMic
Ha, did I already know that you used one of these and then subsequently forgot? Because I have one too. I used it when I guested on the Jerks podcast!
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Re: ‘Decent’ cheap gear guides?

Post by owl » Fri Oct 25, 2019 12:13 pm

ken wrote:
Fri Oct 25, 2019 11:11 am
owl wrote:
Fri Oct 25, 2019 10:53 am
for acoustic I record with the MXL in the room a foot or two away,
Yikes, and also YES! I tend to mic acoustic about 6 inches away with the mic pointed where the neck meets the body. I'd expect a mic a foot or two away to bring in a ton of the room sound, which could be totally awesome, or not - depending on your room. How heavily do you compress the acoustic track?
I didn't know this was weird, this page (from MXL!) suggests 12-16 inches away!

Last time I experimented with micing closer, I got more string noises and squeaks than I wanted. I record in my living room or dining room, usually, I doubt they are particularly good-sounding rooms (medium-sized, squarish, wood floors, furniture, curtains... no baffling or other specific prep.) If I remember to later, I'll go back to my recording for The Supper Club, which was recorded in this exact way at my dining room table, and turn off any effects and see how it sounds with the natural room noise...

I usually put whatever the default Acoustic Guitar compression is in ReaComp and adjust the level up or down a little (can't find the ratios and I'm not at the computer where I have Reaper installed) although I think my most recent entry is far more squashed than average since I applied compression on the whole track and it gets loud later.
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Re: ‘Decent’ cheap gear guides?

Post by owl » Fri Oct 25, 2019 12:14 pm

vowlvom wrote:
Fri Oct 25, 2019 12:05 pm
owl wrote:
Fri Oct 25, 2019 10:53 am
For years, I recorded using only this USB Samson GoMic
Ha, did I already know that you used one of these and then subsequently forgot? Because I have one too. I used it when I guested on the Jerks podcast!
I know I mentioned I had one when I bought the MXL, but I didn't know you had one! Funnily enough I did NOT use mine when I guested on the Jerks podcast (although I should have. But the sound test we did the night before came out fine without).
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Re: ‘Decent’ cheap gear guides?

Post by jast » Fri Oct 25, 2019 3:33 pm

FWIW the cheapest mic that is worth considering is Behringer's XM8500 at ~$20. Thomann has audio samples: https://www.thomann.de/gb/behringer_xm8500.htm

Obviously you can't expect a large diaphragm condenser sound from it, but it's a surprisingly decent dynamic mic.
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Re: ‘Decent’ cheap gear guides?

Post by fluffy » Sun Oct 27, 2019 5:45 pm

Another thing to consider if you just want to Get Started with audio is to get a Zoom H1 field recorder, as they will also work as a serviceable 2x2 audio interface and have a pretty decent condenser mic built in. You'll be very limited by it and there won't be any real expansion opportunity but it's a great little device for just getting started and when you outgrow it as an interface you'll still have a decent field recorder. So it's basically the beginnings of a studio for around US$100.

One caveat is that it can be a bit weird about sample rates, as I learned the hard way from the Song Fight! Madison day 1 stream.
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Re: ‘Decent’ cheap gear guides?

Post by gizo » Sun Oct 27, 2019 5:55 pm

Thanks everyone - especially Crumpart for stepping in to explain me a little more for everyone.

I guess the driver of this whole thing was when I went to record a bassline for Personal Space, and realised I had no way of getting that signal into my laptop. So yeah, an audio interface looks like the right question, and I've got some good guidance here, thanks.

The other thing was that I was hanging enormous trouble getting a decent vocal from my Samson Meteor as well, so I was wondering if there were better options - again, I've got some great thoughts and advice.

I also need to work on technique everywhere too - but that's another story for another day.

Hugs.
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Re: ‘Decent’ cheap gear guides?

Post by irwin » Thu Oct 31, 2019 8:59 am

owl wrote:
Fri Oct 25, 2019 12:13 pm
ken wrote:
Fri Oct 25, 2019 11:11 am
owl wrote:
Fri Oct 25, 2019 10:53 am
for acoustic I record with the MXL in the room a foot or two away,
Yikes, and also YES! I tend to mic acoustic about 6 inches away with the mic pointed where the neck meets the body. I'd expect a mic a foot or two away to bring in a ton of the room sound, which could be totally awesome, or not - depending on your room. How heavily do you compress the acoustic track?
I didn't know this was weird, this page (from MXL!) suggests 12-16 inches away!

Last time I experimented with micing closer, I got more string noises and squeaks than I wanted. I record in my living room or dining room, usually, I doubt they are particularly good-sounding rooms (medium-sized, squarish, wood floors, furniture, curtains... no baffling or other specific prep.) If I remember to later, I'll go back to my recording for The Supper Club, which was recorded in this exact way at my dining room table, and turn off any effects and see how it sounds with the natural room noise...
One thing I picked up a while back (probably from the Tape Op Message Board— a great resource if you haven’t seen it) is to mic the acoustic guitar in front of the couch, sitting on or standing in front of the sofa, with the mic(s) pointed toward the couch. A quick, easy way to get a little bit of live-end-dead-end mojo and cut a little bit of the room out.
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Re: ‘Decent’ cheap gear guides?

Post by owl » Thu Oct 31, 2019 9:12 am

irwin wrote:
Thu Oct 31, 2019 8:59 am
owl wrote:
Fri Oct 25, 2019 12:13 pm
ken wrote:
Fri Oct 25, 2019 11:11 am


Yikes, and also YES! I tend to mic acoustic about 6 inches away with the mic pointed where the neck meets the body. I'd expect a mic a foot or two away to bring in a ton of the room sound, which could be totally awesome, or not - depending on your room. How heavily do you compress the acoustic track?
I didn't know this was weird, this page (from MXL!) suggests 12-16 inches away!

Last time I experimented with micing closer, I got more string noises and squeaks than I wanted. I record in my living room or dining room, usually, I doubt they are particularly good-sounding rooms (medium-sized, squarish, wood floors, furniture, curtains... no baffling or other specific prep.) If I remember to later, I'll go back to my recording for The Supper Club, which was recorded in this exact way at my dining room table, and turn off any effects and see how it sounds with the natural room noise...
One thing I picked up a while back (probably from the Tape Op Message Board— a great resource if you haven’t seen it) is to mic the acoustic guitar in front of the couch, sitting on or standing in front of the sofa, with the mic(s) pointed toward the couch. A quick, easy way to get a little bit of live-end-dead-end mojo and cut a little bit of the room out.
Already doing this in my living room, by accident :)
We have a subscription to Tape Op but I've never looked at their forums!
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Re: ‘Decent’ cheap gear guides?

Post by crumpart » Sat Nov 02, 2019 2:34 am

Just found this video which includes a lot of excellent advice, as well as a constantly updated list of budget friendly gear alternatives in the doobly-do.

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