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-   -   Shure SM81 vs Rode NT5 (https://www.acousticguitarforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=369878)

HighAndDry 01-01-2015 10:18 AM

Shure SM81 vs Rode NT5
 
I am shopping for a mic for recording acoustic guitar. I have used Rode NTK and Rode NT1-A with pretty decent results. But I am interested in a small diaphragm mic. The SM81 is about 350 new. A pair of NT5s go for about 400.
Any feedback would be appreciatied. Or other suggestions in that price range. I can't afford Schoeps or really expensive mics

Glennwillow 01-01-2015 10:50 AM

Hi HighAndDry,

I recorded many years ago (44? I think) with a shure SM81 mic and at that stage of my life and experience, I thought it was an amazing small diaphragm condenser mic. But also at that stage of my life, I didn't know very much about expensive mics at all. The mic belonged to a recording studio.

In recent years after four and a half decades of working on recording, I bought a pair of Rode NT5 mics. They brought a very nice sparkle to the sound of an acoustic guitar, but I found with experience that I didn't like the character of cardioid mics for instrumental recording. I am referring to the "proximity effect" of cardioid mics, where the mics provide a bass boost when the mics are closer than about 2 ft away from the sound source.

I talked to the folks as Sweetwater, and found that I could buy a pair of omni capsules for my NT5 mics for another $230. In the end, that made the pair of NT5 mics rather expensive. However, the sound from these mics is much improved, much smoother, less hyped, more realistic, I think. My oldest son runs an Internet music business and he has borrowed these mics and used them with both the cardioid and omni capsules, and he also thinks the sound with the omni capsules is much improved.

The Shure SM81 is also a cardioid mic, so I would probably have the same complaint about the problems of the proximity effect with that mic. But not having used one in such a long time, I really have no good perspective to compare the two.

I did consider investing in some Earthworks QTC30 mics http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/QTC30MP but at $1700 for a pair, I thought I would try to the NT5 mics with the omni capsules to see if that brought the sound closer to what I was hoping to hear. And so far, I have been happy with the NT5 mics with omni capsules.

I don't know if you can buy the NT5 mics with omni capsules right from the beginning to save the cost of buying the cardioid capsules. It might be worth asking Sweetwater such a question. For recording in a studio environment, one or tracks at a time, I see no advantages of using a cardioid mic pattern.

Best of luck to you. :)

- Glenn

HighAndDry 01-01-2015 11:18 AM

Very interesting. I am not quite up to speed on what a cardioid mic vs condensor is. or is there a difference? Sweetwater has these mics listed under the condensor category. I thought proximity meant closer than 2 feet. Like right on the source.
Thanks for your input

Dr.Agave 01-01-2015 11:51 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by HighAndDry (Post 4292551)
I am shopping for a mic for recording acoustic guitar. I have used Rode NTK and Rode NT1-A with pretty decent results. But I am interested in a small diaphragm mic. The SM81 is about 350 new. A pair of NT5s go for about 400.
Any feedback would be appreciatied. Or other suggestions in that price range. I can't afford Schoeps or really expensive mics

I've owned and/or used a number of SDC's over the years, but never really warmed up to the SM81. My last SDC purchase was a pair of Audio-Technica AT4041's.

They're durable, and good sounding mics though they are noisier than the SM81 or the A-T 4051. I haven't found the noise to be an issue when recording acoustic guitar, piano or winds.

I consider them a bargain at $300 street.

handers 01-01-2015 11:55 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by HighAndDry (Post 4292663)
Very interesting. I am not quite up to speed on what a cardioid mic vs condensor is. or is there a difference? Sweetwater has these mics listed under the condensor category. I thought proximity meant closer than 2 feet. Like right on the source.
Thanks for your input

I recommend u go read a bit about mics at homerecording.com

Dr.Agave 01-01-2015 12:01 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by HighAndDry (Post 4292663)
Very interesting. I am not quite up to speed on what a cardioid mic vs condensor is. or is there a difference?
Thanks for your input

The terms "cardioid, hyper-cardioid, super-cardioid, figure of eight, and omni" all describe the polar pattern of the microphone capsule.

http://http://www.shure.co.uk/suppor...polar_patterns

The term "condensor" describes the operation of the transducer, which is the means to convert sound waves to an electrical energy.

Other types of acoustical transducers are ribbon and dynamic microphone elements.

http://http://www.shure.co.uk/suppor...ansducer_types

HighAndDry 01-01-2015 12:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Glennwillow (Post 4292605)
Hi HighAndDry,

I recorded many years ago (44? I think) with a shure SM81 mic and at that stage of my life and experience, I thought it was an amazing small diaphragm condenser mic. But also at that stage of my life, I didn't know very much about expensive mics at all. The mic belonged to a recording studio.

In recent years after four and a half decades of working on recording, I bought a pair of Rode NT5 mics. They brought a very nice sparkle to the sound of an acoustic guitar, but I found with experience that I didn't like the character of cardioid mics for instrumental recording. I am referring to the "proximity effect" of cardioid mics, where the mics provide a bass boost when the mics are closer than about 2 ft away from the sound source.

I talked to the folks as Sweetwater, and found that I could buy a pair of omni capsules for my NT5 mics for another $230. In the end, that made the pair of NT5 mics rather expensive. However, the sound from these mics is much improved, much smoother, less hyped, more realistic, I think. My oldest son runs an Internet music business and he has borrowed these mics and used them with both the cardioid and omni capsules, and he also thinks the sound with the omni capsules is much improved.

The Shure SM81 is also a cardioid mic, so I would probably have the same complaint about the problems of the proximity effect with that mic. But not having used one in such a long time, I really have no good perspective to compare the two.

I did consider investing in some Earthworks QTC30 mics http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/QTC30MP but at $1700 for a pair, I thought I would try to the NT5 mics with the omni capsules to see if that brought the sound closer to what I was hoping to hear. And so far, I have been happy with the NT5 mics with omni capsules.

I don't know if you can buy the NT5 mics with omni capsules right from the beginning to save the cost of buying the cardioid capsules. It might be worth asking Sweetwater such a question. For recording in a studio environment, one or tracks at a time, I see no advantages of using a cardioid mic pattern.

Best of luck to you. :)

- Glenn

the omni capsules are available for about 90 bucks. Thanks Glenn.

HighAndDry 01-01-2015 12:39 PM

thanks for the info on patterns Doc. I didn't know that cardioid described a pattern. I thought it was some type of element or something.
While on topic of pattern. doesn't conventional wisdom, if there is such a thing, say that using a small condensor/pattern on an acoustic is desirable. It seems to be used a lot

anton 01-01-2015 04:44 PM

I borrowed a pair of NT5's for a while, ended up not liking their sound that much. But that is just me, they are certainly worth checking out. I would suggest buying from a place with a good return policy, just in case you don't like them.

Small diaphram mics are often used on acoustic guitar, but so are medium and large diaphram mics. There is no hard and fast rule.

I might suggest checking out Audio Technica as well. They make a wide range of mics at different price ranges. Doug Young gets great results here with a pair of AT2020's ($100 each) straight into a Zoom H6 recorder.

https://soundcloud.com/doug-young/at2020-noodle

If I have learned anything over the past few months of experimenting with home recording your playing, room, and mic placement matter more than specific mic choice.


Anton

KevWind 01-01-2015 04:56 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by HighAndDry (Post 4292788)
thanks for the info on patterns Doc. I didn't know that cardioid described a pattern. I thought it was some type of element or something.
While on topic of pattern. doesn't conventional wisdom, if there is such a thing, say that using a small condensor/pattern on an acoustic is desirable. It seems to be used a lot

To clarify again the term condenser has nothing to do with pattern. ie there is no such thing as a "small condenser/pattern" mic.

I think you are meaning a Small Diaphragm Condenser mic or SDC and yes SDC mics are widely used for acoustic guitar but are not necessarily intrinsically superior to say a Large Diaphragm Condenser or LDC of equal quality. BUT in general (given equal quality) an SDC is usually somewhat less expensive than an LDC.
Also with all else being equal, an SDC tends to be a bit less sensitive to off axis room noise ect. and usually a bit less sensitive to proximity effect (or Boom) in the low frequencies.

jomaynor 01-01-2015 09:59 PM

The Studio Projects C4 is another good value small diaphragm condenser pair to consider. Versatile, too, with its interchangeable capsules and high pass filters.
http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/C4mic


Although, regarding the Shure SM 81: IMO, the proximity effect for miking acoustic guitar in the studio from several inches away with an SM81 is negligible, at least in terms of the boominess we think of as proximity effect when a vocalist is "eating" or cupping a vocal mic.
In fact, a SM81 or other good small single diaphragm cardioid condenser can exhibit a pleasing warmth and fullness - acoustic compression, as it were - when placed in a sweet spot a foot or so up and away from the guitar.

HighAndDry 01-02-2015 01:24 PM

Thanks everyone
 
Thanks everyone. And it is so easy to forget that the sound comes from the player and the instrument. And hopefully the mic will reproduce that. I did listen to doug's recordings of the AT2020 and I thought they sounded great.
Come to think of it I have stuck a beta 58 in front of my guitar and been pleased with the results.
I will let ya know what I decide. Part of the appeal of the Shure I guess is it's reputation. Kind of a studio standard I guess. One shouldn't let that have too much of an influence but it must mean something. Another forum has a thread where Bruce Swedien says his go to acoustic mic is now a rode nt4. I believe that is a stereo mic.

janmulder 01-03-2015 06:14 PM

A few years I was recording guitar and violin and my mic of choice then was the SM81. I find the response quite flat ... no hype and the reproduction very accurate and predicable. Mic sounds are a matter of taste but I happen to still like the good ol SM81 ... even if there are 'better' options out there.

However, there were a few NT5 in the studio that day so we decided to test them since we had heard they were supposedly almost as good as SM81s.

We recorded the violinist with an SM81 & NT5 and also the guitar.

On listening to the NT5 afterwards we were pleasantly surprised ... nice clear sound and very sparkly/airy but a little fatiguing to our ears.

We compared them to the SM81 and the differences were immediately very apparent ... the NT5, in comparison, sounded harder more fatiguing to the ear with a load of treble hype. But the thing that really got us, especially with the violin, was that the NT5 had a lot less instrument detail than the SM81. The violin is one of those instruments that is unforgiving, in its playing, in its recording, in just about everything. When you have a good violin you know it ... and you want the sweetness of it to come through in any recording which is very difficult. The SM81 succeeds to our ears. The NT5 was miles off ... and the violinist absolutely hated the NT5 rendition of her beloved.

Of course, these are just our opinions ... mics are personal, and maybe you'd have prefered it the other way round. But one thing is for sure, they do not sound the same.

Larpy 01-03-2015 08:46 PM

Here's the SM81's frequency response, according to recordinghacks.com:

[IMG]http://i.imgur.com/mMMd3x1.png[/IMG]

That's pretty flat.

Too flat maybe? Seems like the SM81 is respected more than it's loved. As someone just starting out buying decent microphones for recording acoustic guitars, I'd love to know what $300-400 SDC people with discerning ears prefer, of not the Rode NT5. I've had a pair of Peluso CMC6s for about a year now, and at long last I'm hearing why some folks find them too bright. But what's a better alternative for the same money?

Doug Young 01-03-2015 10:07 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Larpy (Post 4296383)
Here's the SM81's frequency response, according to recordinghacks.com:

[IMG]http://i.imgur.com/mMMd3x1.png[/IMG]

That's pretty flat.

Too flat maybe? Seems like the SM81 is respected more than it's loved. As someone just starting out buying decent microphones for recording acoustic guitars, I'd love to know what $300-400 SDC people with discerning ears prefer, of not the Rode NT5. I've had a pair of Peluso CMC6s for about a year now, and at long last I'm hearing why some folks find them too bright. But what's a better alternative for the same money?

I dont think a mic can be too flat. Im always a bit suspicious of perfectly flat spec curves, tho. That may or may not be "real".

For $400 each, I've seen some good studios, and know of several pro acoustic players use the audio tecnica 4033. Its a LD, but its a solid workhorse mic. For a tad more, you could probably find a pair of Km184s for maybe $1000 used. If there's any mic that the "standard" for acoustic guitar, thats probably it. The SM81 might have been a "standard" 20 years ago, but the km184 is far more prevalent now. Someones sure to say something bad about them, its one of those mics thats so popular no one wants to admit to using it, at least on the internet :-). I was in two different studios recently, where the engineers proudly told me he had a secret weapon mic. I waited with baited breath, until they pulled out km184s.

I struggle a bit over the Rode mics. Fran Guidry's done some A/B tests with a Rode, and i couldnt tell any difference blind. But in my own use, they have always sounded a bit thin, with a sizzly high end. Could be my imagination, since I cant pick them out blind.

All these differences are subtle, tho, in my experience. You should be able to make good recordings with any of these mics.


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