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When it comes to recording, we can do a lot more with our money than we could in years past. Technological advances have put high quality tools in the hands of regular folk like you and I.

However, an investment is still required and we don’t all have thousands of dollars of disposable income to play around with.

What if you only had $200 to work with? What should you buy? That is the topic of todays Quick Tip.

Recording On A Budget

Transcript »

Hello again! Dezz Asante here from the TechMuzeAcademy with another video quick tip. This one comes from a member of the who goes by the name Harman90.  And Harman writes in and he says,

“I want to start recording as a freelancer. So, anyway I need some gear for home recording. For now I have a computer with Sound Forge10 and Adobe Audition. My budget is nearly 200 hundred dollars so can you suggest for me the options to get the best quality for 200 bucks. Should I go with a USB mic or would it be better to purchase an interface and mic separately? I don’t need different channels just noise-free, good-quality recording.”

Ah, it’s a good question and I know a lot of us are in a similar situation where we want to get started but we’re on a very strict budget and this is the type of scenario I deal with quite often working at the music store at Long & McQuade in the city that I live in. And I’d say that my best advice for you would be to first consider… the things I would I asked you first are you recording voiceovers or podcasts? Or are you looking to record music? Now, I believe Harmon had to actually wrote a follow up to this post in the thread that says that he’s looking to do primarily voiceover recording. So, if that’s the case then you can get away with using a USB mic. However, it’s still not my top recommedation. One reason is is because with the usb mic, first of all  your options in terms of selection are quiet limited. There are way more microphones on the market and especially as time goes on and your budget permits you might be in a position to upgrade the quality of your microphone. And you cant’really do that so easily with a usb mic. So, that’s one thing to consider. There is an advantage to going with a usb mic and that is you only have to buy one piece and so the cost can be a little bit lower.

However, my recommendation to you would be to get a small audio interface and a separate microphone as you sort of implied in your question. Part of the reason for this is is that now with your audio interface you’re free in your choices. You can choose any microphone, you can rent a microphone, borrow a microphone. You can also connect other things other than a microphone. So, if your recording efforts sort of evolved and you end up working with clients who do want to record a little bit of music, maybe a guitar or keyboard or something of that nature then you can simply connect this things to your audio interface and off you go. You’re able to implement those in your recording. So, that’s definitely an advantage.

So, working with the budget that you’re working with I would suggest there’s a number of low cost audio interfaces – MAudio has a few, like the Fasttrack for example, TaskScan  has the US 122 and the 144 and I believe they have a new one on the horizon as well in the low-price category. One that I had some great success with is from the Steinburg and it’s called the CS1. They sell for about 99 bucks and they also come with some basic recording software although you did mentioned you have Adobe Auditon which is totally fine for doing the kind of work you want to do. So, a CI1 one for 99 dollars and perhaps a AT20-20 from AudioTechnica  is also for 99 dollars would probably get the job done. The 20-20 is a large diaphram condenser microphone. So, it’ going to have the sonic characteristic of a condenser meaning a very hot output and a very full frequency response. I found the 20-20 to be a little bit on the bright side.

So, if you feel that would be appropriate for your voice or the voices, the sound sources that you’re going to record then that’s something to be aware of.  It has bit of a bright sound to it. The downside with condenser mics is that because they are very sensitive, they pick up everything in your space. So, if you’ve got a nice, controlled, quiet environment to record in it’s going to give you a great result because its going to give you a full frequency response. You’re going to get all that breathy aspects of the voice, those high frequency shimmer and those type of things are going through come loud and clear on a condenser mic but at the expense of the fact that you will pick up ambient noise.

So, if you are working on a less than ideal accoustic environment which is often the case with a lot of us getting started then you might consider a dynamic mic. Something like the good old SM58 from Shure might do the job just fine. It is going to be less susceptible to ambient noise. However, it is a lower output so you’re going to need to turn up your mic pre-amps up a little more. And if your mic pre-amps have a little bit of noise to them, it’s at that point that you’re going to hear the quality of your mic pre at the upper end of its gain stage. Thats where you really hear the quality of a mic pre-amp. So, that’s one thing to consider.

The other thing is a dynamic mic is a little bit warmer, a little bit less sensitive to those high frequencies. So, that might not give you the clarity of sound that you’re looking for. In both cases however, you’re going to get a reasonably good result. So, it’s a question of analyzing your own situation – the room, the space in which you’re going to be recording to determine if you should go with the condenser mic such as the 20-20 or the ART-M1, that’s another one. That’s also inexpensive and or with a dynamic mic like the SM58 or the Beta 58 if the budget can be stretch just a little bit further. The Beta 58 is going to sound a little closer to what you’re going to get from a condenser microphone but with the benefits of the dynamic mic.

So, there’s a few points to consider. The last thing I’ll leave you with is don’t forget in your budget to add in the little miscelleneous items that a lot of times people forget to budget for. If you have a mic, you’re going to need a mic cable. Chances are you’re going to want a mic stand and you’re going to want ideally a pop filter if you’re doing a vocals as well whether it be singing or spoken word, a pop filter is an important thing to have in your arsenal. So, I hope that helps and I  hope that helps with some other folks out there who are in a similar situation and I will  see you on the next quick tip.


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