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Owning an entry-level or cheap microphone does not necessarily mean your audio recordings will turn out subpar. Some certain tips and practices will help you record vocals with quality sound despite using a cheap mic. Read on further to find out how you can make your cheap microphone sound good!
Cheap mics tend to sound a bit muddy and boxy, and at times produce a shrill sound given that they often make use of lower-quality parts and technology to compensate for the price. Fret not though, as there are many ways how you can make your cheap microphone sound good!
One of the best and sure ways to get the best mic recording sound, whether you are using a cheap mic or an expensive microphone, is to set the room acoustics. We recommend that you properly treat the room acoustics regardless of the microphone type you are using so you can cut down the audio reflections or echo in the room. This is also useful when you are setting up a home recording studio.
As is, cheap microphones may have more reverb or audio reflections than expensive mics would. If you can set the room acoustics, we can cut down on the echo by placing acoustic foams on the walls of the room. If this is too expensive for you, then you can design the room interior with items and furniture that will absorb sound. Make use of soft furniture and materials such as blankets, pillows, and couch cushions to help make a room sound more “flat” for a cleaner recording.
Too much room noise can ruin a recording – may you be using a cheap mic or a professional microphone. If you find that your microphone is picking up more noise than it should, then you probably need to assess the room you are recording in and find out if there is any unwanted noise in the area.
Turn off any nearby appliance that’s making noise. The electric fan may be producing wind noise, the hum of the air conditioner may be picked up, or even the buzz of the PC’s CPU may be too loud. Another source of noise may be coming from outside. It’s best to close windows and doors, especially if you live in a pretty busy and noisy neighborhood.
Even after soundproofing and turning off appliances, your microphone may still be able to pick up background noises or unwanted sound sources. This can be because of the mic placement and polar pattern it has.
Find out the address of your microphone to see where the front and back should be directed. There are microphones with a side-address or a front and back address, so you will have to place them according to where the sound sources are.
It’s common for microphones to have a cardioid polar pattern. If this is the case, then that means your mic can only pick up sound on one side in a heart-shaped pattern. With that said, find out the polar pattern of your microphone so you would know its proper placement as each mic can have a different one.
Whether it’s a vocal recording or a vocal performance, you will need to practice proper distance and minimize your movements so your microphone can pick up a clear and steady sound.
If you are using a cardioid condenser mic, then you will need to place a distance of 6 to 12 inches between you and the microphone. The louder your recording is, the farther the distance should be. If you are using a dynamic mic, then get as close as possible to the mic. Be mindful of the distance as a cheap mic will be more sensitive when it comes to sound clipping and muddy feedback.
Unless you are using a lavalier microphone, then refrain from making big movements or moving the microphone around. Too much movement can affect the volume consistency of your recording and can also create shaky audio.
For great audio resolution and pro-quality sound recording, adjust the gain setting levels accordingly. This will help prevent sound clippings, too-quiet recordings, and a loss of audio resolution.
When it comes to recording vocals, a gain level of -18dB for a 24-bit resolution is best. If you are planning on doing loud recordings, then the peak should be at -10dB, and adjust it down to -24dB during its lowest.
Using microphone accessories can make cheaper mics sound better. We also recommend that you purchase mic accessories if you plan on creating a home studio as these are essential pieces of equipment for elevating recordings.
Cheaper mics tend to have a reverb sound and one accessory to help cut this down is a microphone isolation filter. This accessory will hug the entire microphone and take the whole room out of the recording making it quieter.
If you plan on placing your mic near the desk or you would like to keep your hands free, then purchase a mic stand. This will help stabilize your mic and prevent any bumping or vibrating sounds that can be picked up in the recording. Another option is a boom arm, which often comes with a microphone shock mount to also absorb any vibrations.
To reduce plosives, then use a pop filter. This accessory will minimize the “P” and “B” sounds that are highlighted in recordings whenever there is excess air being exhaled by the person. Similarly, you can use a foam screen to reduce wind noise.
To make your home recording sound like a studio recording, you can opt to go the extra mile and do a bit of post-production and processing. You can equalize your microphone, install plugins to help with denoising the recording, and do a bit of sound mixing. This step is a bit more technical and depending on the model of your microphone – you may need to purchase plugins if it doesn’t come with a free one.
Generally speaking, expensive microphones will have an upper hand when it comes to producing higher-quality vocal recordings. Due to the parts and technology used by expensive mics, they can create pro-level sound recordings.
However, nowadays, a lot of cheap microphones sound good relative to their price because of the higher demand and standards of the market. Furthermore, it’s the way a person would use the microphone that will ultimately affect how the recording would sound. Knowing how to properly use a microphone and maximize it will make a cheap microphone sound good.
To achieve great sound and vocal recordings, an expensive microphone is not necessarily needed. With a few simple tips and practices, a cheap microphone can already do the job. Remember that the best way to produce pro-level sound recordings is to know how to fully maximize and use your microphone.
While the best microphone for vocals can be subjective per user, one microphone that has been hailed as the best budget vocal microphone by many is the Audio-Technica AT2020. It’s one of the best vocal microphones under $200 and a favorite amongst beginners and professionals.
The Audio-Technica AT2020 is a cardioid condenser vocal mic that has an extended frequency response so it can take on small home studios and professional recording studios. It’s an all-arounder microphone that can capture any sound source from vocals, drum overheads, and even a guitar amp. With that, said artists such as Mac DeMarco and Billie Eilish have been reported to use this specific model.
Condenser mics are versatile microphones that are favored by many for recording applications. May it be in a professional recording studio or a humble home studio, condenser mics can record instruments and vocals.
A large-diaphragm condenser is preferred for recording deep and low-end sounds while a small-diaphragm condenser is better at recording high-frequency sounds. Regardless of the two, these condenser mics have a wide-frequency response so they can capture varying decibels while still picking up subtle sounds accurately.
They also have a superior transient response so they can capture crisp and high-frequency sounds without distorting them. Lastly, they have an omnidirectional polar pattern so they can capture from multiple directions.
If you are recording in a studio and intend to use it for vocal or acoustic instruments, then use condenser mics. On the other hand, dynamic microphones are better for live recording applications and loud sound sources.