Mic Setups


by

Any general microphone setup requires an:

  • amp
  • mic
  • stand
  • pop filter

Optional:

  • shock mount
  • wind screen

Setup 1.0

Amp

Focusrite Scarlett Solo amp.
Focusrite Scarlett Solo amp.
Frequency response 20 Hz to 20 kHz ±0.3 dB
Gain range -4 dB to +46 dB
Thd -97 dB (max SPL)
Noise -125 dB
Dynamic range 106 dB (A-weighted)
Max input level +4 dBu
Amp specs.

One thing I’d note is that the 48V Phantom Power button turns bright red, when you turn it on—and that’s next to the bright green power indicator at the top right—so keep this in mind if a dark setup matters.

Mic

Behringer XM8500 microphone.
Behringer XM8500 microphone.
Impedance 150 ohms
Sensitivity -70 dB
Bandwidth 50 Hz to 15 kHz
XM8500 mic specs.

Literally the cheapest XLR-based[^xlr] microphone I could find. Because it’s dynamic, it won’t catch a lot of ambient audio, which is great to cut down on noise, but requires microphone discipline and constant proximity during use.

Stand

Millenium MS-2006 stand.
Millenium (sic) MS-2006 stand.

Also literally the cheapest stand I could find with a decent reach and build. First shipment was wobbly and came with broken cable-holders, and the replacement had not wobble but the same flimsy cable-holders which broke.

No support for sideways mic orientation, so you’ll have to direct the boom directly at yourself.

Only a temporary solution.

Pop filter

Mudder pop filter.
Mudder pop filter.

Does the job, and nothing else. Can only be placed on the top of the stand, as it’s not rigid enough to counteract gravity when hanging down or on the side. When you use this in tandem with a boom stand, you can’t place it in front of you, because the pop filter obscures too much of your vision.

Since the mic is dynamic, you can’t just place it to the side of your face.

Setup 2.0

Pop filter “cage”

Mudder pop filter “cage”.
Mudder pop filter “cage”.

For desktop work with a keyboard, you rely on a non-stationary mic where a regular pop filter is too much of a pain to work with;

  1. You can’t get close to the microphone.
  2. It obscures your vision.
  3. You have to keep adjusting it.

With a “cage” pop filter, you don’t have deal with the hassle.

Update: I made two observations after applying this:

  1. The mic audio sounds like it has a metallic echo.
    • This was when listening in; maybe it sounds different to outsiders.
  2. It scratched my microphone, which now has some metallic discolouration.
    • This is not a big deal to people who aren’t perfectionists or who haven’t borrowed the microphone.

USB Pedal

A more unusuall addition to the setup is a USB pedal.

On one hand, this offers the convenience of a button you don’t have to assign to a mouse of keyboard, which can be complicated, if your hands are occupied.

On the other, it serves as a nice “panic button” that is easy to access, if you need to cut the mic or halt to whatever else you might be doing.

I ended up getting this [pedal][] for £9 on eBay—since it’s not available on Amazon in Europe:

PCsensor FS1_P
PCsensor foot pedal.

The photos fail to show that the device is about the size of a credit card; it’s tiny.

One thing that will also trip you up is that it ships with a CD with the requisite software to use the thing. Through some research, I found out that the device is actually named the [“PCsensor FS1_P”][pedal-site]: foot switch; 1 pedal; plastic build.

Scroll to the bottom of the page to the software page to download the FootSwitch software, current version 6.5.2.

The pedal basically works as a mouse or keyboard with one key; by default, the keymapping is set to b.

With this, you can assign a key, string or macro to pushing the button—but not to releasing it, which would have been great. One way to use it is as a “boss key”, which hides all open programs on Windows with Win + D. Pusing the pedal can be done with more calm and felicity than the usual panicked reflex to avert disaster.

It works pretty well, and I plan on using it for push-to-talk or as a “cough button” during recording.

Check out the [Dan’s Data review][pedal-review] of the switch for more info.

Future setup?

  • Arm stand: RØDE PSA-1
  • Condenser microphone: AT2020/35/50
  • Shock mount (comes with the AT mics)

Stand

RØDE PSA-1 arm stand.
RØDE PSA-1 arm stand.

Condenser microphone

The choice is between the AT2020, 2035, and 2050.

Spec 2020 2035 2050
Sensitivity (dB/mV) -37/14.1 -33/22.4 -42/7.9
Impedance (Ohm) 100 120 120
SPL (dB) 144 148/158 149/159
Noise (dB) 20 12 17
Dynamic Range (dB) 124 136 132
Signal/Noise (dB) 74 82 77
Case R7 R5 R5
Price (€) 115 169 279
Video Review [Yes][2020r] [Yes][2035r] -
Bass roll-off switch - Yes Yes
-10 dB pad switch - Yes Yes
Polar selection switch - - Yes

AT2050 also differs by having an externally polarized (DC bias) condenser element and omnidirectional and figure-of-eight patterns.

I plan on getting the 2035.

AT2020 mic.
AT2035 condenser mic.
Frequency response 20 Hz to 20 kHz
Low frequency rolloff 80 Hz, 12 dB/octave
Sensitivity -33 dB (22.4 mv)
Impedance 120 ohms
Max input level 148 db SPL and 158 with 10 dB pad
Noise 12 dB SPL
Dynamic range 136 dB
Signal noise ratio 82 dB
Phantom power req 11-52V DC, 3.8 mA typical
Swithes Flat, roll-off and 10 dB pad
Accessories AT8458 shock mount, protective pouch
AT2035 mic specs.

Shock mount

Will depend on the microphone; for instance, the AT2020 uses an R7 case, whereas the 2035 and 2050 use an R5.

2035 tends to ship with a shock mount.

Setup 3.0

Amp

Focusrite Scarlett Solo amp.
Focusrite Scarlett Solo amp.

I initially got the Scarlett Solo to boost my headphones. This is when I got curious and started looking into XLR microphones.

Without going into the science, the gain on the Scarlett Solo needs to be turned all the way up to properly power a microphone, which is something that confused and confounded me for a while, especially because testing your microphone is a complicated task. For now, using Skype’s test calls that are played back to you seem like one of the best options out there. That and asking people on calls and in voice chats how clear you sound.

You might get the wrong impression that people can hear you with the gain down, but it’s usually the software overcompensating and making your voice sound like a $3 microphone.

Stand

RØDE PSA-1 arm stand.
RØDE PSA-1 arm stand.

Fantastic product. I still can’t figure out how to tighten it completely around one axis, though. The box it’s packaged in also feels like it might scratch some components, so make sure to check that’s not the case for yours.

Mic

AT2020 mic.
AT2035 condenser mic.

Only thing I’ve noted so far is that the two switches (bass roll-off and dB padding) on the back are an absolute pain to both reach and switch. This isn’t something you do in a second, for what it’s worth. On the other hand, it’s impossible to flip one of the switches by accident.

Pop filter

Mudder pop filter “cage”.
Mudder pop filter “cage”.
Terrible fit for dynamic microphones, but pretty excellent for condenser microphones. It doesn't touch the microphone at all, so the only thing that risks scratching it is the metal on the elastic bands, but those can be moved safely out of the way. The AT2035 desperately needs a pop filter, as this video shows:
### Further Reading ### * [The Podcast Method][] [^xlr]: XLR, which plugs into your amp, as opposed to USB, which plugs into your computer. [pedal]: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/152060441326 [pedal-site]: http://pcsensor.com/pcsensor-foot-switch-usb-hid-fs1_p-plastic-case-ir-switch.html [pedal-review]: http://dansdata.com/footswitch.htm [2020r]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jp76qV9R1Fg [2035r]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nft79FMe9Eo [the podcast method]: http://www.podcastmethod.co