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What should I look for in a budget-level microphone if I'm going to use it primarily for capturing clean, guitar amp tones?

Can such a microphone capture both clean and distorted tones well?

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Shopping questions are hard to answer on SE sites. Prices change over time, "affordable" to one person might be a king's ransom to another person. Better would be to just ask for best bang-for-the-buck recommendations (like you did in the question body). But understand this still might be hard to get an acceptable answer for. –  Ian C. Feb 22 '11 at 16:35
    
Okay, that's a heavy edit I realize, but now it's not a straight up shopping question and the answers should persist in time well. Roll back my changes if you disagree with me, of course. Cheers. –  Ian C. Feb 22 '11 at 16:39
    
well im just looking for the best bang-for-the-buck microphone. i have been looking at the R0DE mics and they seem very trustworthy. my budget for a mic would be 200-400 roughly –  user514 Feb 23 '11 at 15:08
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1 Answer 1

Good directionality is important, so a cardioid or supercardioid pickup pattern - you don't want to be picking up spill or other instruments around the cab. Being a dynamic mic (as opposed to condenser) is a plus in some live scenarios, as you can hotswap should you have a problem with it or a cable without worrying about damaging any gear from phantom power spikes. Also, ensure it has an XLR connector - and check its sturdiness, you may encounter problems with the internal wiring if it's too weak. A Shure SM58, for example, when unscrewed has really solidly constructed internals; everything is literally either hot glued together or screwed and fitted as tightly as it can be to avoid loose connections developing from being thrown around both by artists and roadies.

What's your budget? You can get good value, you can get cheap and you can get DIRT cheap. The quality curve is inversely proportional. ;-)

Unless you've already heard a mic it may have an awful response with regards to transients, or its characteristics may be very uneven - the frequency response as stated on boxes of cheap equipment never quite matches up, so an evaluation (or no-penalty return agreement) is essential for mics. Ideally for easy stage placement, a side-facing diaphragm is preferable, as you can mount it in a mini-stand or (not always advisable!) hang it over the front of the guitar cab with an XLR lead. Not recommended, as it puts great stress on the cable and mic connectors, but sometimes when you need "that sound"...

Unfortunately you'll never get the best of both characteristics - build quality and sound quality - I've personally used SM58s, SM58 betas and both Sennheiser E609 and E906s on guitar and bass cabs, and my favourite so far has to be the E906. The tone I got from a bass cab turned up to 11 in a small venue with the 906 was outstanding, the plus being that both Sennies are specifically designed for easy guitar & bass cab placement. I also felt that I got a better, cleaner and more defined raw sound from the Sennheisers than even the more expensive Shure. Spill and directionality were vastly superior, and getting a raw good sound from a well-designed mic is three quarters of the battle won before you even start.

There's a very helpful YouTube video comparing both E609 & E906 side by side at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yrrVvoXJSQ&feature=related if you'd like to internet audition.

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my budget is about $200-400 maybe! i'm still saving my money for my Custom Snare Drum. which will cost me about $1200 so i will probably have about 300-400 left over from that –  user514 Feb 23 '11 at 15:10
    
oh and this is also for a studio scenario! i haven't had much live performance scenarios in a while. –  user514 Feb 23 '11 at 15:19
    
My comments re the specific mics I mentioned are still valid in studio situations - if you evaluate the E906 (or its little brother 609) I think you'll be amazed with how it sounds, particularly if you A/B in place with an SM58 or other 'sturdy' large diaphraghm mic designed for instrument micing. Happy shopping :D As always, check the usual venues - homerecording, recordingreview.com, and the budget forums on gearslutz :-) –  Christopher Woods Jun 22 '11 at 2:07
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