Microphones: An Audible Difference?

As a followup to my post about strings, I would like to do a quick mic shootout between my old Zoom H4 handy recorder in MP3 format and a pair of DPA omni-directional mics. Both recordings were made at the Cleveland Institute of Music Kulas Hall. I suggest using good quality speakers/headphones to listen. Click on the links below to listen.

Zoom H4

DPA omnis

If you are looking for a recorder to use for practicing and good quality archive recordings, Zoom H-series (2n, 4n, 5) is a great choice. I suggest placing the recorder 4-6 feet away, pointing at your F holes, if you decide to use it for archive recording purposes. I will provide links to all the products I mention at the bottom of this post.

If you are on a budget and want to do a step up from the Zoom H-series, I recommend purchasing a decent mic (or pair) and plug them into the inputs of the Zoom H4n or H5. You will be able to record up to 96khz and 24-bit The results are pretty good. You will be able to get a more honest picture of your playing. If you plan to record at a high sample rate, it would be wise to get an SD card with more storage. When you buy mics, don't forget to get a mic stand, XLR cable (25 feet should do), and a stereo bar if you buy a pair of mics. The ORTF technique for a matched pair of cardioid mics works great on cello. If recording with a pair of omnis on a stereo bar, remember to hard pan (left and right) to avoid phasing issues.

The next step up is to purchase a good mic pair and a field recorder, either Zoom F-series or Sound Devices MixPre series. If you like to punch in directly into your laptop, Universal Audio Apollo Twin interface is also a great choice. There are lots of great DAWs for punching in and editing. Always check if there is a student/educator discount. Steinberg has a great student/educator discount for Cubase and Nuendo.

If you are new at recording or just want to make something that sounds better than your compressed and clipped phone/tablet recordings, then the Zoom H-series is perfect. If you are looking to make good sounding audition recordings, whether for college or orchestra pre-screening, I highly recommend setting yourself up with at lead one good small diaphragm condenser mic with a cardioid pattern and recording yourself into something like a Zoom F-series or Sound Devices. Your career depends on a solid pre-screening take.

Here are links to products I mentioned in case you are looking to buy.

Zoom H2n
Zoom H4n
Zoom H5
Zoom F4
Sound Device MixPre 3m

Studio One 4 (including a free version)
Cubase and Nuendo
Sony Acid

Microphones (cardioid pattern):
Telefunken M60 or Stereo Set
Neumann KM 184 or Stereo Set
Schoeps MK4 or Stereo Set

Microphones (figure 8 pattern):
Royer R-122

Microphones (omni-directional):
Telefunken M61
Schoeps MK2s
DPA 4006a

Westone UM Pro 10
Westone UM Pro 50
3.5mm to 1/4 inch adapter for headphones

Mic Stands:
K&M 210/2

Stereo Bar:

XLR Cables:
Mogami CorePlus

SD Card:

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