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USB microphone recommendations for recording piano/use during online lessons (Read 846 times)

Offline dreampianist

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Hello everyone!
Would like to hear your recommendations for a usb microphone. My budget is $200 or less. I was also wondering if it would be better to buy a microphone that has to be used with an audio box. I would prefer a USB mic though, since it's obviously simpler and more straightforward to use.

Thank you in advance.  :)

Offline quantum

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For recording lessons or practice sessions, I would recommend a portable recorder over a USB mic.  With a USB mic you are tethered to your computer with a cable, a portable recorder can be battery powered and easily moved around.  In music recording, the position of the microphone has a large bearing on the recorded sound.  Having that ability to easily position the recorder will give you a better chance for a good sound.

If you are looking to get the best potential for a quality sound, or eventually build a home recording studio, then a dedicated mic + audio interface with preamp is the way to go.  Some portable recorders have XLR inputs and can also be used as an interface for dedicated mics.  You could get a lot of value from one of those, with the option to upgrade in the future to dedicated mics. 

You could start by looking at these:

Zoom H2n
Tascam DR-40x
Zoom H4n pro
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Online j_tour

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I'd go with what quantum said.

I was just reading a review from the Jun/Jul issue of Tape Op TechZone Audio Products "Stellar X2 Vintage" microphone, which the reviewer claims to have demoed for a podcast setup among other things.  In some ways it's a bit of an inexpensive clone of a Neumann U47.

If it were me, I'd be more inclined to go for one of the "all-in-one" boxes, unless one is really interested in setting up a proper recording DAW. 

However, if you already have an audio interface and know how to do the basics in your DAW software of choice, and can deal with plugging things in and out all the time if in a mobile situation, then I'd be inclined to a proper microphone, or at least an SM58 with a proper stand.  Or whatever that can handle both vocals and the instrument.

But, piano's not easy to record, much less mixed with vocals.

I think a little box is better for your use, and even if you upgrade later on, you can still use it for around town jamming or whatever.

I think it's really more the world is your oyster, a bit:  depends on your other gear and how mobile you want to be.  For example, I still use a Mackie 1202 mixer, which is a terrific tank of a mixer for live use, and can (and has been!) dropped on its face from respectable heights, but isn't probably the quietest mixer around.  But then, its only purpose is for live use and just around the house to route sound various places, and I don't do podcasts or much recording at home at all, so any distortion when applying gain isn't a problem.
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Offline quantum

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Noticed you put online lessons in the title.  Do you want to use this for live communication interacting between teacher and student?  Then you will need to be tethered to a computer.  I was thinking one-on-one lessons where the student brings a recorder to the lesson. 

I would still recommend portable recorders in this case, as long as they can also function as a USB interface.  They can be more versatile than a USB mic, as you have the option of going portable.  When we are allowed to have in person lessons again, you could continue to use it.  I believe all the recorders I suggested above can function as a USB interface.

Going with studio gear can get more technically involved, as j_tour mentions above.  Although, if you are after the best quality and want to do serious recording it will allow you to do that. 
Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Online j_tour

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I would still recommend portable recorders in this case, as long as they can also function as a USB interface.  They can be more versatile than a USB mic, as you have the option of going portable.

I missed this the first time around.

Indeed, if a device with an omni mic can double as an audio interface, then that's no question.

I don't know if I'd spend a lot extra for XLR interfaces and the associated preamps:  you can add that later, if wanted, even with a little Behringer mixer or whatever.

That sounds like the only way to go, to me.

I don't follow the trade papers on current USB mics, but I doubt there's much if any difference in price.  So, I'd go for the more versatile piece of equipment, especially since it can, I'm hearing, double as an adequate preamp stage for your soundcard.

My rough impression is that it's a buyer's market for equipment like this.  Various adapters and connectors aside, more people want this kind of stuff (can I say "prosumer" without offending?) than the suppliers can keep up with.

You'll surely get a decent sound under your budget, and perhaps some to spare for a pair of decent cans or a down payment on some nearfield monitors.

ETA Yeah, the Zoom products are what everybody seems to use and talk about.  That's not a very good endorsement, but they seem to have captured the market.  If nothing else, like using Ubuntu vs. whatever, you can probably get a bunch of enthusiasts eager to talk about their room tones and placement and all that.  I suspect most of the units are about the same, so, I'd just try it out and go for it.  I'm pretty sure that under 200 USD will get you there.

EETA And if not, I was kind of inspired by the product review of the mic I mentioned in my first post.  No, I don't work for the magazine much less the manufacturer of the microphone, but it sounded like a solid buy for a real microphone.  But, then again, I only have an SM57 and some junk lying around, since I don't record or broadcast.
My name is Nellie, and I take pride in helping protect the children of my community through active leadership roles in my local church and in the Boy Scouts of America.  Bad word make me sad.

Offline akthe47

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Blue Yeti is solid. Itís definitely simpler than using usb interface with xlr , and for online stuff, I donít know that there is a huge difference.

It gets trickier though if your keyboard can plug into a usb interface , too. That gives you a clean line thatís better than using a mic.

Offline outin

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For online piano/cello lessons I use Audio Technica AT2020 USB mic. It cost about 140 EUR and I am very pleased with it.

For recordings I have not used it much yet since I also have a couple of recorders, but the little I have tried seems good for that too.

Offline quantum

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For online piano/cello lessons I use Audio Technica AT2020 USB mic. It cost about 140 EUR and I am very pleased with it.

Good budget mic if it is anything like the standard AT2020 with XLR plug. 

It does look like it is mono.  Probably not that much of an issue for online communication, but might get limiting if wanting to use it for studio piano recordings.
Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Offline dreampianist

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Thanks everyone for your replies. They are very helpful.

Sorry I wasn't specific enough; the mic would mainly be for online lessons above all else, that's why I was asking about a usb mic, since it would be plugged into my computer.