I'm looking to buy some microphones to record some outdoor atmospheres (traffic, park, outdoor crowd, etc.).

I have experience recording indoor sounds like vocals and foley but no outdoor recording experience. My budget is pretty low so I know my choice is limited but would love some help in choosing the right mics.

Any suggestions?


4 Answers 4


For microphones, the best bang for your buck with the added value of low self-noise...Rode mics are my "go to." I have a pair of NT55: small diaphragm condensors with exchangeable capsules (cardioid and omni) included. You can look a factory matched pair and their specs here

If you are recording ambiences it is nice to have a stereo pair and a stereo bar (or even dual stands if you aren't hiking too far out) vs an M/S pair or X/Y stereo mic in a single blimp. Using either ORTF or Spaced Pair is ideal for ambiences. Of course X/Y and M/S are fine, but the stereo image you get from ORTF or Spaced Pairs is much more defined. Granted if you are hiking out far into the wild or running all over the city, the lighter and less gear you have the better.

Also, self noise is the spec you want to check out the most in both your mics and your recorder. Schoeps mics are amazing microphones and quite expensive, but they have a fair amount of self noise and thus aren't the most ideal for quiet ambiences. People use them all the time, but Rode mics or, if you have a bit more money, Sennheiser MKH series are some of the quietest mics out there.

Finally, what recorder are you using? I don't have much experience with the Sony D50 mentioned above by Marco, but as far as I know it is a decent handheld but not ideal with external mics, supposedly it does have some of the better onboard mics for handhelds out there. Sound Device products are amazing...wonderful pres, compact, robust, the whole package, though quite expensive. I bit the bullet and bought one and have never been happier. You could look into a 702 here or a 704 and just see what you think. If it is something you are going to be doing more of, it is a great box and I think worth the investment, but obviously you know your budget and need to be comfortable with your purchases.

Good luck!!

  • Out of curiosity, what do you use for wind protection with your pair of 55's? Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 15:24
  • Cheers Ryan I'm using a Roland R26 for recording.
    – Sonny
    Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 16:54
  • I use 2 Baby Ball Gags from Rycote with the added Windjammer. They work beautifully.
    – Ryan
    Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 18:48
  • 4
    I think Ryan is spot on but as a guy who owns Schoeps and MKHs the noise performance of Schoeps are not really a concern. The MKHs have a hotter output for sure, but I always tended to prefer the sound of my Schoeps in the field to my MKHs. If you use a 7-series recorder, you'll reach the limitations of the pres long before you the mics self noise becomes an issue. There is a 3db difference in self-noise between the MK4 and an MKH40. In super quiet environment the performance of the 7-series recorders is far more of an issue.
    – sepulchra
    Commented Oct 7, 2012 at 18:08
  • @Ryan Thanks, I thought that might be the case. Good to know. Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 10:15

Myself, I'm pretty fond of the Line Audio CM3 and Oktava MK012 when if comes to lower budget microphones! I don't really like the...um, let's call it "grayness" of the Röde-line (a matter of taste though, mind you). Though also a colder mic than the CM3 and 012, I also like the old AKG CK1, which is sold as CK451 now. Allegedly the same mic (haven't tried the remake yet) a the CK1, but not modular. The CK1 was actually the capsule.

The CM3 has an extremely rich sound for a microphone that cheap, it's virtually flat, except a slight roll-off in the treble, making it a little dull raw, but including absolutely everything for easy enhancing of the treble and highest mid. Not an Earthworks, but for one tenth of the price, who cares? ;-)

The Oktava MK012 is a modular set, and I actually uses mine (a full 6 capsule stereo-matched set complete with two 10dB pads and un-damped holders in a beautiful wooden box) together with two Line Audio-shockmounts (the best I've seen, not counting Rycote, for these kinds of microphones) frequently to record ambiances! Sure, it's pretty far from an as detailed a sound as my Sennheiser MKH-series or DPA, but as it's quite frankly my only stereo-pair to date, I've found enough great use of it to actually use the characteristics when doing a more three-dimensional sound!

  • 1
    +1 for the CM3s. get a good pre and they're great ambient mics. very wide polar patterns adds to that.
    – Rene
    Commented Oct 10, 2012 at 0:12
  • Oh yeah :-) And I must say, one of the things impressing me most with this microphone is actually not only the flat response and exceptionally low distortion, it's actually that the mic keeps the characteristics and flatness pretty much all over the pickup-pattern! In stark contrast to the 416 (another big favorite) which is very phased and extremely colored in the sides and rear :-) Commented Oct 10, 2012 at 1:55
  • Another +1 for the CM3's. I bought them on Rene's recommendation and they are really fantastic. They are in the 'budget' range price wise but in the 'pro' range sound wise. I use them with my SD 744 / 552 and they sound awesome.
    – Si Charles
    Commented Oct 10, 2012 at 10:05
  • I am not familiar with the CM3, but look forward to checking them out. I am also wondering if you could expand on your "grayness" comment? Do they seem unfocused, dull? I am not a diehard RODE user, I was just recommending them as a relatively cheap and quiet option and have felt that recordings with them are well representative of the space.
    – Ryan
    Commented Oct 10, 2012 at 14:47
  • i have a pair of NT5s and I almost never break them out anymore. They sound kind of cheap compared to the CM3s, mainly because I don't think they track the midrange in a way that is as pleasing. They're very quiet and a little bright, but its the midrange that lacks with those mics IMO.
    – Rene
    Commented Oct 10, 2012 at 15:51

Sony PCM D50 if you're on a budget. Has a really low noise level for a handheld recorder although you'll need a wind cover if it's going to be of any use to you outside and the standard Sony one isn't much good.

  • Thanks very much for the quick response but I've actually already got a recorder (Roland R26). Its just the microphones I'm after.
    – Sonny
    Commented Oct 6, 2012 at 14:29

I like the Audio Technica 4025, as long as the source hasn't got an overwhelming spectrum (waves waterfalls and such get lots of phasing).. quiet especially when plugged into a mixpre.

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