Microphones

An inexpensive Behringer XM8500 microphone. Goodenuf for most purposes. Photo: Behringer.

Clan MacDonald’s Detroit Representative, fashionista, melophile, nephew Brad (1981 – ) sent me a message, “Whenever I need a laugh or a trip back to 2001, I listen to Rock and Roll McDonald’s. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of this gent. Unorthodox lyrical style.” The gent was Wesley Willis (1963 – 2003).

I replied, “Thank you, Brad. That was a refreshing change, even if I did consider commenting about Wesley’s need for Autotune. I will come back to him when I start writing about musical content, rather than its outer form.”

Listen to Wesley’s music, and you will understand why most singers do not need to spend money on an expensive microphone, such as a Shure SM7B. Indeed, Julian Krause, my go-to specialist on audio equipment has compared this Shure microphone with a cheap Behringer XM8500.

At my favourite Norwegian online music store, the prices for the two microphones on 2023-06-19 were NOK 4 597 (Shure) and NOK 279 (Behringer). This makes the Shure more than 16 times more expensive.

The Behringer can deliver almost the same results as a Shure, provided that the microphone is suitably placed to compensate for a lack of a built-in pop filter, and a graphic equalizer (or equivalent) compensates frequency deviations, as shown in the following table. These adjustments could take about one minute.

10.4 kHz-6 dB5.0 Q
6.4 kHz-5 dB5.0 Q
2.7 kHz-3 dB1.3 Q
220 Hz-3.5 dB0.7 Q
80 Hz+3.5 dB2.0 Q
Frequency compensation table for a Behringer XM8500 microphone. Data provided by Julian Krause.

Of course, the cheapest microphone is one that has already been purchased. I have a Røde NT-1, that is more than adequate for my purposes. However, I may acquire a second microphone for backup. It is cheap insurance. It could be a Behringer. Another theoretical, but unlikely, approach is to allow myself to appear impressed by the equipment of some random acquaintance who has upgraded to a better microphone than s/ he can actually use. I will then offer to buy their old mic for NOK 100. Garage sales are another opportunity.

There are exceptions to buying cheap. Sometimes, weirdness is a good reason to buy something different, even if it is a bit more expensive. This is acceptable, if the reason one is buying it, is to have fun and not to impress others. People who have been economically deprived develop frugal habits, and are seldom tempted by wasteful consumption.

Conclusion: In most situations, people do not need to invest in the best or even good audio equipment. Impress family and friends with frugality. Make do with equipment that is good enough, but still fun.

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