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SM81 really the best condenser for $350? Condenser Microphones
Old 27th August 2007
  #1
Gear Head
 

SM81 really the best condenser for $350?

Hello,

I am looking at condenser mics for drum overhead/acoustic guitar applications in the $350 price range. I am wondering if the sm81 is really worth all the hype, or if there are other condensers in this range that would do a better job.

I dont have a chance to try different mics because I will mainly be buying online. I am looking for a versatile mic that I cant go wrong with... something that is suitable for a variety of applications and as a general consensus is a good choice. I have also looked at AT4041 and Oktava MK012. If anyone has used these mics and can compare them to sm81, that would be very useful.
Old 27th August 2007
  #2
Lives for gear
 
Tom Hakala's Avatar
 

I have used SM81 a few times and it's ok. But lately I've found myself using MXL 603. You can get a pair for under 100 bucks. There's just something that I love about 603.

But if you are looking for a versatile mic then, imo, a LCD is a better option. I always recommend the AT 40XX line. Best bang for the buck mics can be found here.
Old 27th August 2007
  #3
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Protools Guy's Avatar
 

AKG-451B
Old 27th August 2007
  #4
Gear Head
 

the akg mic is out of my budget... i'm looking at something in the same price range as the sm81...

tom, i understand that an LDC would be more versatile, but isnt an sdc better for drum overhead/acoustic guitar applications? these are the two main applications i am looking for
Old 27th August 2007
  #5
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Protools Guy's Avatar
 

This one's $369. It worth the extra $$ imho.

AKG C451B studio mic C 451 C451 NEW - (eBay item 170143080261 end time Sep-03-07 15:42:17 PDT)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Amr Kadry View Post
the akg mic is out of my budget... i'm looking at something in the same price range as the sm81...

tom, i understand that an LDC would be more versatile, but isnt an sdc better for drum overhead/acoustic guitar applications? these are the two main applications i am looking for
Old 27th August 2007
  #6
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Tom Hakala's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Amr Kadry View Post
tom, i understand that an LDC would be more versatile, but isnt an sdc better for drum overhead/acoustic guitar applications? these are the two main applications i am looking for
If I would have to choose between LDC and SDC for guitar and OH I would definitely go for LDC. But I also like to have a pair of SDC around when I record.
Old 27th August 2007
  #7
the josephson c42 is in the same price range. I'm aware of another sdc about to hit the market but as I havwent seen it leaked yet I'm not going to be the one to leak it.
Old 27th August 2007
  #8
Gear Nut
 
Grasshopper's Avatar
 

ksm 137 is better than the 81 imo. the 81 is still a good mic though. i just got a 451 but i have not tried it on drum overheads yet cause i only have one... so far.
Old 27th August 2007
  #9
The SM81s do a great job; I actually bought a pair of 451s and ended up returning them for the 81s. The 451s just seemed to sounded excessively bright compared to the SM81s. There are surely nicer overhead mics out there but I have a hard time thinking the SM81 would ever truly disappoint. I also like them on acoustic guitar, blended with a Royer 121 using an IBP for a bit more body.

I mixed a song in which overheads were tracked with the Josephson C42 through a Tube Tech pre and they sounded truly fantastic.
Old 27th August 2007
  #10


The SM81 is a standard for a reason. They do a fairly good job on everything.

That said, I don't like them so much as overheads.

If you can get the Josephsons, you should jump on them. The few times I have used them they were accurate and didn't have any trouble with transients - not a "color" mic, but a really good realistic mic.

The Oktavas are nice too, but just a little bright and "airy"




-tINY

Old 27th August 2007
  #11
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lowfreq33's Avatar
 

IMHO the KSM137 is every bit as good as the c451. $300 street, if you've got a guy at GC or whatever you can get them a little lower. I have a pair of these and I use them all the time for OH, hat, acoustic guitar, bottom snare, percussion. If you want to go a little cheaper there's the KSM109 ($179 street), but it doesn't quite have the depth of the 137.
Old 27th August 2007
  #12
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GYMusic's Avatar
The ones you mention are inexpensive mics... buy them all... compare them and sell the ones YOU don't like. It's YOUR decision. It's simple. You're going to get 50 thousand different answers here. Some of them right... some of them wrong. Figuring out which answers are right and which ones are wrong will take more time and possibly money than doing what I suggest. Ask me how I know.
Old 27th August 2007
  #13
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espen askelad's Avatar
I don't like 81s. I'd take a 451 for a "bright" SDC (paid $250 shipped for mine with AT shockmount, there are tons of these mics around used) or a KSM141 (or the less expensive single-pattern model) for something that's less hyped up top but still pretty up-front. Never tried the c42s though I'm aware they're pretty universally loved.

Don't rule out LDCs, though personally I'm not aware of many in that price range I'd be crazy about. The 4047 is a good mic, but has definite character and though sometimes it's great, it's just as often the absolute wrong mic for the job - I think it's a good "second" LDC once you have one that can cover a little more ground and want some color. The KSM27 and 4033 are both mics that I think are of high enough quality to exceed their respective prices. Neither are items that are going to make you freak out with happiness at how great they sound, but at the same time, both are solid enough that if it sounds bad... it's definitely not the mic's fault. Worth checking out.
Old 28th August 2007
  #14
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by GYMusic View Post
The ones you mention are inexpensive mics... buy them all... compare them and sell the ones YOU don't like. It's YOUR decision. It's simple. You're going to get 50 thousand different answers here. Some of them right... some of them wrong. Figuring out which answers are right and which ones are wrong will take more time and possibly money than doing what I suggest. Ask me how I know.
I would like to be able to do that, but unfortunately i cant really afford to do that... so I need to make a choice and stick to it... I hope I had the luxury to try them out first...

Ok so far the recommendations are: KSM 141/137, AKG 451 and Josephson C42. Has anyone tried the AT4041? I would like your opinions on this mic and how it compares to SM81 for drum overheads and acoustics... and in general...
Old 28th August 2007
  #15
Deleted bd1be4f
Guest
Given the price range you're looking for and the applications you mentioned, I have to throw the Rode NT4 into the ring. It's a stereo mic, but it rules for acoustic guitar, overheads and pretty much anything you want to record in stereo. Not that you can't use it for mono use, just use one of the two x/y capsules.
Old 28th August 2007
  #16
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thermos's Avatar
For all the stuff you want to do, I would look at a Shure KSM 32. You can get them for less than $375 used, and it makes a pretty fine vocal mic as well. I LOVE mine for overheads, and they used to be my only mics.

The sm 81 I feel is way more limited, I never really cared for them.
Old 28th August 2007
  #17
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Empire Prod's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tINY View Post


The SM81 is a standard for a reason.

Are SM81's really a standard? I would have thought 451's
Old 28th August 2007
  #18
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thermos's Avatar
Oh, and the (russian, not chinese) Oktava MK-012 is nice, but I'd say about 1 in 3 are usable. Not a safe bet.
Old 28th August 2007
  #19


The 451s are a standard too - but I see more SM81s.




-tINY

Old 28th August 2007
  #20
Jai guru deva om
 
warhead's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by thermos View Post
Oh, and the (russian, not chinese) Oktava MK-012 is nice, but I'd say about 1 in 3 are usable. Not a safe bet.
Those days are over for a couple of years now, Oktava is in full swing with great quality control, new product development, and all mics are further tested by the importer (Oktava USA). We've never received an Oktava mic that didn't work properly and have been a dealer for maybe a year. The times you refer to were when Oktava was just hammering out mics to please one of the big box stores who demanded (A) more mics and (B) lower prices (no request for quality...and bad decision, Oktava followed them down this road for a couple of years).

Rock on.

War
Old 28th August 2007
  #21
Here for the gear
Rode NT5

I'm surprised no one has mentioned this mic already but the Rode NT5 is one of the best sounding small diaphragm mics on the market today. I have been able to A/B this mic against most other big name small diaphragm condensers such as an original 451, a neuman, and SM 81. While the Rode lacks the distinctive neuman sound, it is extremely smooth and is more accurate than the nueman. The 451 beats it out slightly but in my opinion isn't worth the difference in money, and the SM 81 doesn't even get close. The 81, especially in overhead situation, is extremely brittle sounding. Go for the NT 5s with a little work you can get a pair for about the same price as a single SM 81 retails for.

David
Old 28th August 2007
  #22
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666666's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by BLUElightCory View Post
The SM81s do a great job; I actually bought a pair of 451s and ended up returning them for the 81s. The 451s just seemed to sounded excessively bright compared to the SM81s...
Yes. The SM81s are NOT hyped... they sound a lot more natural than many other mics in that price range. At first one might be more impressed by a brighter mic as it seemingly cuts better and has seemingly greater detail. But, the more experience you get, the more you come to appreciate mics that simply sound natural... and the SM81 is one of those mics. Quite honestly, looking across the spectrum, I'd say the SM81s are slightly related to ribbon mics (like a Royer 121 for instance)... they have a slight "grain" and a very realistic dynamic reproduction. It's the type of thing that may not sound "hi-fi" at first, but it indeed has a beauty all its own. I'd say you cannot go wrong with a pair of SM81s... these are the types of mics you can keep and use forever, even if you do win the lottery and wind up buying every great mic there ever was.
Old 28th August 2007
  #23
Gear Head
 

ok, so do some of the mics that you have all mentioned work better in certain situations? in terms of miking drums for example, i want a mic that will capture a full drum sound, not only cymbals for example. i will probably not close mic the drums, im looking to use 3/4 mics. so i dont want a mic that for example captures less low end than mid/hi, hence not capturing enough toms/bass drum low end... or something that hypes the cymbals too much. basically a full and neutral image of the sound. i dont mind if the mic is 'bright' per se, as long as it captures a full detailed image of the sound at all frequencies.

i hope this makes sense.

the josephsons look nice but they seem to have a hi end boost so i'm not sure if i should look into something more flat...

also would the hi end boost not make them good for acoustic guitar, for example?
Old 28th August 2007
  #24
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subspace's Avatar
SM81s are pretty flat for a cardioid at one meter, with a bump at about 12k followed by a roll-off that's down by about 4dB by the time you hit 20k. The ten or so I use regularly all share this response curve. They've been making these a long time and seem to have figured out how to repeat it consistently. Their curve may not be to your taste, but their consistincy is something a lot of other SDC should aspire to.
Old 28th August 2007
  #25
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thermos's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by warhead View Post
Those days are over for a couple of years now, Oktava is in full swing with great quality control, new product development, and all mics are further tested by the importer (Oktava USA). We've never received an Oktava mic that didn't work properly and have been a dealer for maybe a year. The times you refer to were when Oktava was just hammering out mics to please one of the big box stores who demanded (A) more mics and (B) lower prices (no request for quality...and bad decision, Oktava followed them down this road for a couple of years).

Rock on.

War
Great to know, thanks for the info War.
Old 28th August 2007
  #26
Lives for gear
 
thermos's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Amr Kadry View Post
ok, so do some of the mics that you have all mentioned work better in certain situations? in terms of miking drums for example, i want a mic that will capture a full drum sound, not only cymbals for example. i will probably not close mic the drums, im looking to use 3/4 mics. so i dont want a mic that for example captures less low end than mid/hi, hence not capturing enough toms/bass drum low end... or something that hypes the cymbals too much. basically a full and neutral image of the sound. i dont mind if the mic is 'bright' per se, as long as it captures a full detailed image of the sound at all frequencies.

i hope this makes sense.

the josephsons look nice but they seem to have a hi end boost so i'm not sure if i should look into something more flat...

also would the hi end boost not make them good for acoustic guitar, for example?
The KSM 32 sounds like your mic. (I think). It captures the whole kit very nicely. Not a bright mic (a little dull) but takes eq great.
Old 28th August 2007
  #27
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by thermos View Post
The KSM 32 sounds like your mic. (I think). It captures the whole kit very nicely. Not a bright mic (a little dull) but takes eq great.
This mic is really out of my budget. I'm looking at same price as the SM81. Can anyone suggest options other than the SM81 at the same price range? I havent had any responses about the audio technica sdc's, like AT4041? Again has anyone tried this mic? How does it compare to SM81?

I will give the large condensers a look since you have all recommended that I look into them. AT4047 seems out of my budget, so does KSM32, but I think AT4040 is in my budget. Any thoughts about that one?
Old 28th August 2007
  #28
Gear Maniac
 

I've been using my Sm81 for a while on acoustic guitar (combined with another mic) and it's ok. I have a pair of NT5's which are also ok. I'm just nuts about the pair of Josephson C42's that I just got. Beautiful detail, enough top to cut a mix, and enough body to still sound like my dreadnaughts!

They are my new favorites... especially in that price range! I have not tried them separately so I can't attest to that... but the pair of 'em... yummy!
Old 28th August 2007
  #29


The Josephsons work well on ensembles mic'd a bit fatrher out too.


-tINY

Old 28th August 2007
  #30
Lives for gear
 
Jeff16years's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Amr Kadry View Post
Hello,

I am looking at condenser mics for drum overhead/acoustic guitar applications in the $350 price range. I am wondering if the sm81 is really worth all the hype, or if there are other condensers in this range that would do a better job.

I dont have a chance to try different mics because I will mainly be buying online. I am looking for a versatile mic that I cant go wrong with... something that is suitable for a variety of applications and as a general consensus is a good choice. I have also looked at AT4041 and Oktava MK012. If anyone has used these mics and can compare them to sm81, that would be very useful.
no, i think the sm81 would be a good mic if it sold for $99.

the KSM137 is much better OH and Acoustic gtr (along with many others)
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