Microphones - cheap vs expensive test

4 replies [Last post]
paulears's picture
Joined: Jul 8 2008

I've been reading lately on some other video forums some very conflicting stuff about choosing microphones for video. What really got me was the suggestion that cheap always means rubbish, and expensive always guarantees excellence. A few people had bought budget microphones and were treated pretty curtly for suggesting they thought they were good. Sometimes people had recorded a few examples of bad - middle and good, but after listening to the files, they didn't sit quite right with my own viewpoint. So I figured it would be useful to do the tests myself, and put the video up for viewing - and make the audio files themselves available. The project was far more time consuming than I first thought, and the finished video and files are by no means perfect. I've detailed all the errors and snags on the download page, so people can assess for themselves. Watching the video this morning on this laptop means I can't even hear some differences, so there's plenty of room for thought here. Have a look at microphones and you can view the video and download the files. The video is also available for download from vimeo so you can investigate a bit further.

Out of all the microphones I tested, only one cheap one stood out for being a bit 'unpleasant' - but it's not much different to some of the camera built in mics I have tried over the years.

My guess is that plenty of people will have different opinions - that's good. Others will moan about the technical flaws (I know most of them - but frankly only spotted them too late and re-rendering was the only option!). So comment is great, but don't shoot the messenger for trying to give people the chance to make their own minds up.

My own thoughts are pretty much that cheap mics can produce good results - but expensive ones don't automatically guarantee good results either.

Joined: Apr 2 2006

Paul, interesting post. It's a shame the video has the various glitches you mention.

As for your argument, I quite agree - 'better' is relative. I would always say that whatever equipment provides the result you or your client require is best for any job. To deride 'consumer' equipment simply because it is nominally that is pig-headed. With budgets getting tighter and tighter surely any equipment that gives acceptable results is worth considering?

All that said, I'm yet to find a microphone that gives clearer, cleaner and richer results than the 416!


sleepytom's picture
Joined: Sep 15 2000

it depends where your recording and what your recording more than anything else.

even the most expensive mics will still make a bad recording if your in a room with a load of background noise. An experienced sound guy will be able to make a decent recording with the majority of mics, by correctly positioning the mics and ensuring the causes of background noise are switched off where possible. A newbie will have a hard time getting even the best mic to make a nice recording as they will have it in the wrong place and won't of noticed how noisy the background is.

Its an interesting comparison for sure (pun not intended)

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tom hardwick
Joined: Apr 8 1999

I'm firmly of the opinion that a cheap mic used up close is a lot better than an expensive mic used further away. The little omni that feeds my Minidisc probably cost all of a fiver at Tandy many years ago, but for recording people speaking at the lectern it's streets ahead of my 550 quid K6/ME66 on camera shotgun from 5 metres away.


Don Clay
Joined: Jul 27 2006