Recording Vocals Without a Large Diaphragm Condenser in Sight
Vocals are the focal point of pop music. This is obviously not the case with instrumental classical pieces. But when was the last time you heard an epic instrumental composition on the radio? Yeah, I did not think so. Recording vocals requires special attention during tracking and mixing. The microphone setup is a crucial factor. Generally, very expensive, large diaphragm condenser (LDC) microphones are preferred for tracking vocals. Why large diaphragm condensers, you might ask? They seem to be much warmer and more round when recording vocals. A good, crisp, full sound is preferred over thin and tinny. Two of the most popular LDC condenser mikes are the Neumann U87 and the AKG C414. But take a look at the price tags. These are not logical for a home audio recording studio. There are much cheaper LDC microphones produced by companies such as CAD, MXL, Audio Technica, Shure, etc. Many of these are also completely adequate for recording vocals.
Another solution which is frowned upon by many audiophiles is the Shure SM57 dynamic microphone. And while typically a stage microphone, its versatility makes it also a useful option. But it will need a good bit of effects processing in your computer recording program to get the sound just right. I have used an SM57 dynamic microphone on rock recordings with very acceptable results. Bono from U2 has also been known to use the Shure SM57 for recording vocals. So do not ignore this workhouse as a solution for capturing vocals in your audio recordings. Check out the SM57 alternatives page.
My recent solution for a vocal microphone setup is to use two microphones together with the capsules very close to each other. This reduces the chance of phase cancellation. The microphones I use are the Electo-Voice handheld condenser mic and the Radio Shack 33-1070 omnidirectional dynamic mic. The PL84 I purchased on closeout from music store for $39.99, and the 33-1070 I purchased on an internet auction site for around $20. And after discovering the two-microphone technique on YouTube, I decided to try it. And I’m glad I did. The gives me a nice, warm sound and a wide frequency ranges that is expected from a quality condenser microphone. And the 33-1070 gives me a fuller sound than I would get from a single unidirectional microphone. Because it is omnidirectional, it picks up sound from all directions. This lessens the boominess that I have encountered due to the proximity effect created by recording close-up vocals from a single unidirectional dynamic microphone. Together, the two microphones give me a really warm, full, round sound that seems to work for a variety of styles of music. And by recording the and the 33-1070 to two separate tracks in my digital audio workstation, I am able to blend the microphones together in the mix. This allows me to attain the right level of each microphone. And I use the Izotope RX3 computer audio repair plugin to clean up any excessive noise that has been picked up due to the omnidirectional pattern of the Radio Shack 33-1070.
Now, I am not saying this two microphone setup is a replacement for a quality LDC. But it has given me options for recording vocals. I have been extremely satisfied with the results. I plan on posting some sound samples soon.