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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Question about live mics and recording mics.

I had an audio technica bell mic for about 15 years. It got the job done. I didn’t need the best sounding bell mic in the world. It died recently and ended up getting it fixed just to have it die again a year later. Would it be worth getting a similar replacement or just a shure 57?

I recently bought a focusrite scarlet to do a little recording. The condenser mic it came with does not get the best saxophone sound I would say. I have heard ribbon mics are the best for recording an acoustic instrument. Is that correct? Can anyone recommend one not too expensive?
 

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I believe higher end condenser mics are very good for recording saxophone. There are some recommendations near the end of this thread: Microphone for recording. But they may be beyond the budget you have in mind.

I have a Cascade Fathead (a ribbon) that I’ve had good results with, but I’ve also gotten really good results with an SM58 style dynamic mic.
 

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If you can find a Keen clamp, you can use a regular SM57 or 58, or whatever floats your boat.
 

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For recording, you have to have some distance between the mic and the horn - 18" to 30" . Aim the mic at the pinky table, pointing downwards. That is, the mic is about the level of the palm keys, and pointing down toward pinky table. Even a cheap condenser mic will get an OK sound in that arrangement. This is true of dynamic mics too.

When playing live, sound quality is usually not so much an issue - if you need a mic to be heard, you need to be close to it. That's why the SM 57/58 is so well regarded for this work. But for recording, you want some distance between the horn and the mic so the sound can bloom.
 

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Recorded saxophone can sound great on almost any type of mic. Everything from vintage RCA ribbons to the humble SM58 have been used on many hit recordings. There are a ton of threads hereto reference. I recommend reading a bunch of reviews and listening to recordings. Then buy a few and demo them yourself. Return your least favorites. Preamps and room acoustics play a big role in the recorded results. FX too….
 

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The condenser mic it came with does not get the best saxophone sound I would say. I have heard ribbon mics are the best for recording an acoustic instrument. Is that correct? Can anyone recommend one not too expensive?
I agree with the other posters that saxophone can be recorded well with condensers, ribbons, or dynamic mics. However, I would avoid bell-mounted mics for non-live recordings.

That said, if you're really interested in a very good but inexpensive ribbon mic, I'd suggest taking a look at this one (i.e., the NoHype LRM-2b). The AT 3035 that I test it against in the linked review is also a very good mic for recording, but it's no longer made so you'd have to get it second-hand.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I notice a lot of people want to put a little bit of reverb on saxophone and it ends up sounding fake when the goal is achieving the best quality sound with no effects. Maybe a compresser? I think that has to be achieved by the microphone and the room. Maybe wood floors instead of carpet?
 

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I notice a lot of people want to put a little bit of reverb on saxophone and it ends up sounding fake when the goal is achieving the best quality sound with no effects. Maybe a compresser? I think that has to be achieved by the microphone and the room. Maybe wood floors instead of carpet?
For recording, eq’ing the reverb makes a tremendous difference. One common method is to high and low pass the reverb.
 

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For recording, eq’ing the reverb makes a tremendous difference. One common method is to high and low pass the reverb.
Ehhh....I'm going to throw a caution flag here. Yes, EQing reverb can do some really useful and interesting things. But until you understand what you're doing and why, it's best to leave the EQ on the reverb alone. You can mud up the whole mix by playing with the reverb too much.

The better method is to be judicious with the tracks that you're applying reverb to. I never use reverb on low end instruments. And rarely on anything that isn't a lead instrument or voice. Snare and over heads yes. Never the toms or kick drum, or bass unless I'm looking for a specific effect. Vocals, almost always. Guitars it depends on what their effects chain is and how much reverb they have baked in already. Too much and it just gets muddy. Horns can go either way depending on what their placement in the mix is. Piano yes, but usually only the mic on the high end of the piano (or both if it's receded as stereo rather than low-high).

For vocals I almost always reach for a hall verb first. For percussion and horns, I like plate reverbs. If I'm doing classical live concert recordings, then it's a convolution reverb rather than an algorithm reverb.

Knowing what reverbs to use when and how is one of the hardest parts of the mixing process. Younger engineers especially will usually use too much reverb. Scaling it back and working on the density and tails will produce better results over all.
 

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Ehhh....I'm going to throw a caution flag here. Yes, EQing reverb can do some really useful and interesting things. But until you understand what you're doing and why, it's best to leave the EQ on the reverb alone. You can mud up the whole mix by playing with the reverb too much.

The better method is to be judicious with the tracks that you're applying reverb to. I never use reverb on low end instruments. And rarely on anything that isn't a lead instrument or voice. Snare and over heads yes. Never the toms or kick drum, or bass unless I'm looking for a specific effect. Vocals, almost always. Guitars it depends on what their effects chain is and how much reverb they have baked in already. Too much and it just gets muddy. Horns can go either way depending on what their placement in the mix is. Piano yes, but usually only the mic on the high end of the piano (or both if it's receded as stereo rather than low-high).

For vocals I almost always reach for a hall verb first. For percussion and horns, I like plate reverbs. If I'm doing classical live concert recordings, then it's a convolution reverb rather than an algorithm reverb.

Knowing what reverbs to use when and how is one of the hardest parts of the mixing process. Younger engineers especially will usually use too much reverb. Scaling it back and working on the density and tails will produce better results over all.
Completely understand. The little bit of info I gave wasn't meant to be a lesson on how to do it, I just assumed if the OP was interested in learning more they'd probably seek out that info. But my experience with this method has done the opposite of muddying things. I definitely agree one shouldn't put reverb on everything, and the threshold for "too much" is lower than most people think!
 

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An SM57 is a good place to start. However, I don't like the Scarlett interfaces - I have one and the pre sounds "flutey", to me. An Audient or similar would be my recommendation. I mic very close so room acoustics don't bother me much...I've recorded in some terrible rooms and gotten decent results. Also, I have a Viking/Orpheum LDC that's dynamite on sax...$70, or so. I have a Cascade Fathead that's ok for alto but not my favorite for close micing tenor or soprano.
For live/budget wireless mics, I'd give the Nady some serious consideration. Bill Mecca, a member here, regularly uses one and likes it, a lot.
 

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Best thing to do is experimenting with compression, eq and then ambient effects.
On YouTubeyou can find tutorials for how place a microphone and how start to do tweaks on recordings to get a "neutral" sound.

Even $8k microphones in a $1k/day studios need dynamic management and eq'ing.

The easiest way to understand that is to think about the microphone as a musical instrument: it's something you can manage to make it works but it's also something you may like or not.
Best results you can get are with a microphone will allow you a good (recorded) sound with the least tweaks needed.
Room acoustics, microphone specs and microphone placement do the most but other than that you need a reliable audio systems (or at least a good monitor headphone) to understand where there's something to correct.

Most of cheap condenser microphones these are designed for vocals, to boost vocals.
Personally I've found out I could get best result with rather neutral sounding microphones with not presence boost (or even on the darker side).
... which is basically what people like on ribbon microphones: the slow transient response and the rolled off tone in the high frequencies.


Very expensive microphones need an expensive audio chain to make a difference... and they need a room with perfect acoustics.

If you like the Shure sound of their dynamic microphones, go for one of them.
If not, move on.
 

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Choose of microphone is very dependent on genre, your room and your sound. On youtube you can find many mic/preamp comparison videos. Personally, I wouldn’t go with dynamic mic without a decent powerful preamp or for live purposes. For this kind of audio interface/ preams I recommend to find condenser mic with sensitivity 10-20mV/Pa. If acoustic of your room is not very good, you can try more focused mics like sennhiser e614 or mkh8040, also oktava mk012 is nice for its coast. You can't go wrong with AT, Sennhiser, AKG, Shure, EV etc. after all music isn't in the microphone.
 

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Ehhh....I'm going to throw a caution flag here. Yes, EQing reverb can do some really useful and interesting things. But until you understand what you're doing and why, it's best to leave the EQ on the reverb alone. You can mud up the whole mix by playing with the reverb too much.

The better method is to be judicious with the tracks that you're applying reverb to. I never use reverb on low end instruments. And rarely on anything that isn't a lead instrument or voice. Snare and over heads yes. Never the toms or kick drum, or bass unless I'm looking for a specific effect. Vocals, almost always. Guitars it depends on what their effects chain is and how much reverb they have baked in already. Too much and it just gets muddy. Horns can go either way depending on what their placement in the mix is. Piano yes, but usually only the mic on the high end of the piano (or both if it's receded as stereo rather than low-high).

For vocals I almost always reach for a hall verb first. For percussion and horns, I like plate reverbs. If I'm doing classical live concert recordings, then it's a convolution reverb rather than an algorithm reverb.

Knowing what reverbs to use when and how is one of the hardest parts of the mixing process. Younger engineers especially will usually use too much reverb. Scaling it back and working on the density and tails will produce better results over all.
^Many good points here. Reverb could easily have several dedicated threads of its own. Depending on your goal, you can do anything and everything suggested above or use a single room reverb for everything then set it and forget it.
I usually do pretty much what’s suggested above then dial it all back about 25% and add a nice room or hall reverb to the entire mix in the mastering process. Headphones usually serve as a great reference to see if you’ve overdone the verb.

I should add that im also a big fan of modeled reverbs but they take some getting used to….
 

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Just want to say that I really appreciate the folks chiming in who are genuine audio engineers in addition to being saxophonists, like @JCBigler and @Fader – and that I've learned a ton from guys like these over the years. They've honestly helped my livelihood as I've done more and more remote session work over time, and that practice will only become increasingly more common as time goes on. Being able to record oneself at home is becoming an integral part of being a professional musician in the modern age.
 

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Lot's of great info and feedback in here! I mean, a trusty shure 58 or 57 will get a job done, and back in the day I did use a 58 for a kick in a pinch, but it really comes down to budget and application. I currently have a RME Fireface UFX with Focusrite ISA one preamp, FMR RNC compressor for my main vocal and sax channel outboard gear with quality cables, and the mic I use for my sax on albums or client recordings is usually my Neumann TLM 193, but I have used my Shure Beta 98H for some youtube videos or even sax section stuff on album recordings.

If you're wanting something for live and studio I highly recommend the Cloudvocal Isolo Prime, especially if you are just starting out. You can get some other gear from them to record straight into your phone, tablet or computer from them as well. The shure wind wireless system comes with the beta 98H mic which is another good option for both live and studio starting out, but that belt pack is a pain and I've accidentally pulled my horns off the stand more than once because of it, at a sound check, for big shows. I abhor beltpack mics for sax personally, but I often am also playing keyboards or singing so the horns go up and down alot in a normal performance for me.

Shure 98h will run you $200 new, Cloudvocal Isolo prime is $650, and you can go up from there. Another fantastic mic that works well for sax is the Sennheiser 421. I've been meaning to buy a pair for years! My 2 cents anyway :)
 

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The TLM193 has had me curious for a couple years now, seems to be a great mic, and somewhat affordable for a Neumann! Ditto the TLM107. Of their transformerless line, I've been most impressed by the sound of the TLM67, which honestly just sounds like a top-shelf mic to me. Not actually like a u67, but really quite lovely.

I love my u87ai because I actually really enjoy the midrange bite, and it works well with my particular sound, but I know it's not for everybody.
 

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I do this weird thing, taking the ball off my SM58 when I’m not using it for vocals. Mostly for miking my amp, but I’ve used it for sax often enough. However, I prefer an AT 2035. Obviously, I’m talking the budget end of things.
 
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