Audio Gear for the Cash-Strapped

Photo: thanks to Grooveland Designs on Unsplash!

I don’t pretend to be an authority on audio gear. Very far from it, I only began recording recently with a goal of good quality.

However, I did a whale of a lot of research before I was persuaded to buy a top-class field recorder, the Sound Designs MixPre-6 II. As I mentioned elsewhere, that’s because I was unimpressed by the Amazon user reviews for the lower-priced options. On the other hand, I was very impressed by Sound Designs’ long years of making audio gear for Hollywood feature films. It was only in the last handful of years that they decided to bring their audio tech savvy to the masses with the relatively affordable MixPre series.

And then I proceeded to look at mics. No long story here. Below, you’ll see the very brief list of what I have and why and what I paid for it used on Amazon or Ebay. I have four mics, which I guess makes me a total cliché audio gear slut. But they’re all cheap and they sound fine.

I’ve made the Amazon user reviews my go-to source for honest insights — with the caveat, of course, that you have to know how to spot the fake reviews and clueless reviewers; the bogus reviews generally are bland, one-line 5-star statements from users with suspicious names, intended to drive the score up.

I don’t shy away from products with four- or even three-star reviews, because I find that the one-star detractors can often be clueless, as for example when they panned the Shure VP64A for not including a cable (duh) or being too quiet — well, yes, dynamic mics need the gain turned up. I also don’t shy from cheap, if I hear someone with thirty years of audio recording or performance experience lavishly praising a $50 mic.

$84 CAD GXL3000 (big multi-pattern studio mic: cardioid, omni, figure-8; really nice sound for music and spoken word)

$50 Nady SPC-25 (cardioid – used it to record this long interview with a musician-singer-actor friend; beautiful presence to my ears)

$25 Behringer XM8500 (cardioid for mobility; it’s not a big studio mic like the CAD)

$50 Shure VP64AL (long-handled omni for interviews and general spoken word, maybe even impromptu vocal groups, though I would always choose the CAD for a formal recording session)

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