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I've bought Logic Studio and want to record some sounds in a very quiet environment. Those sounds are the basis for sound effects used in movies and software. It's so much fun to create them.

What I do is I take all kinds of stuff that makes a cool sound and try to record that sound. For example opening a can of Coke, or dropping something into a cup of water.

Right now I do that with the build-in mic of my MacBook Pro laptop with Solid State Drive (SSD). There is still a very silent noise in the recording probably coming from the built-in ventilation and the sounds are not recorded really loud. The mic is too far away.

Now the question is: What kind of microphone would be best for recording silent sound effects like these?

  • Button klicks
  • Clock mechanics
  • Stirring a cup of tea
  • Drawing with a pen on paper
  • etc.

Do I need a condenser microphone with a cardioid pattern like the one below?

source: Wikipedia

I was reading up on microphones on Wikipedia and realized it's a huge topic, so I hope for some advice from other sound designers.

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3 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Almost any professional microphone will give you much better results than the built-in one that your laptop has. One issue is that you will not be able to connect a studio microphone directly into your PC (they typically have XLR connectors on them).

Here are two basic options you could choose between:

  1. Buy a USB audio interface with microphone input and a budget studio microphone. It would need to support "phantom power" if you wanted to use a condensor microphone.
  2. Buy a USB microphone such as the Samson C01U
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I hadn't even thought about USB microphones. Are there USB condenser mics available now that have sound quality on par with what you can achieve with separate condenser mics? –  neilfein May 7 '11 at 19:55
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Well they tend to be a USB version of a non-USB microphone. They're great for podcasters who are only ever recording one microphone, but things can get complicated if you want to record from two at once. –  Mark Heath May 7 '11 at 19:57
    
I'm curious about this USB solution since the other ones need 48V Phantom power. USB has only 5 and very weak. But the Samson ones seem to have good reviews. I'll check it out. Thanks for the hint! –  Mikhalo Ivanokov May 7 '11 at 21:40
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Not all microphones need phantom power. Mostly only the condensers need it.. –  notthetup May 8 '11 at 19:51
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I'd suggest seeking out a more directional mic than one with the cardoid-style pattern you're looking at now, possibly even a shotgun mic. (My first guess woud be to check out Audio-Technica mics, but that's just a guess.)

You'll also need an audio interface, and almost certainly one that has phantom power to feed the condenser microphone. The good news is that a Firewire interface would be overkill, since the latency issues that typically come with USB interfaces won't be an issue with this application. Look for an interface that has a single XLR input with phantom power. Apogee is reputed to have good audio interfaces, but I can't speak to the quality of their microphone preamps. (MOTU preamps are top-notch, but most of their products would be overkill for your purposes.)

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+1 for shotgun mic –  Mark Heath May 7 '11 at 19:57
    
Thanks. Yes the shotgun pattern might be useful for most of my recordings. Are there other mic types (maybe like the one built-in to the mac, not exactly sure what kind of mic this is) which don't need the phantom power (think that's 48 V)? Or is the condenser the best mic for this kind of recording? –  Mikhalo Ivanokov May 7 '11 at 20:47
    
Any decent mic will need an audio interface in any case, unless it's a USB mic (which, essentially, has the interface built-in.) If you're concerned about portability, a field recorder and mic would be your best bet. All the Mac is doing is acting as a converter and field recorder anyway. (There are field recorders with built-in mics, but the audio quality isn't as good.) –  neilfein May 7 '11 at 21:02
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As a fellow foley enthusiast i would highly recommend looking into a field recorder when you budget allow.

For foley, the benefit of field recorders is their portability. If you can take it anywhere you will begin recording everything, and you will end up with a library of sounds far more eclectic than you could achieve if you had to lug a laptop around.

The zoom h1 would be my budget reccomendation. Here is a good, though slightly out dated comparison.

If you're recording in a dedicated enviroment, then I would suggest investing in a good shotgun. If you can't justify a grand for a decent interface + mic, try something like a rode videomic plugged into a video camera (assuming you have one), and record with that.

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