budget (usb) mic for classical guitar recording needed


I’m new to this forum so I’m sorry if this is off-topic or have been discussed before (I searched but didn’t find any relevant thread)

I play classical guitar and I’d like to record me playing. Both my laptop’s built-in mic and my old cheap headset (jack plug) are fine for talking on skype, but quite crappy when it comes to recording the sound of the guitar.

I’m looking forward to buy a new mic for recording myself playing guitar, but after some time searching I still have many doubts. Where I live I can’t find a local store with any decent mic I can try so I’ll have to order online (within europe).

I’ll be using audacity for recording and possibly also some other live streaming software. I’ll be using it on both Linux (desktop pc) and MacOS-X (laptop macbook pro). Since I’m using it with the laptop it would be preferrable if it is a mic which doesn’t need phantom power. Therefore, from what I’ve been reading, USB mics are probably the best choice.

My budget is 50-100 euros, but can go up to 150 euros if it’s really worth it.

From all the reviews I’ve read I’m considering buying one of these:

  • Blue Snowball
  • Samson CO1U
  • Samson CO3U
  • Samson G Track USB
  • MXL USB.006
  • MXL USB.007
  • T.Bone SC440 USB
  • T.Bone SC450 USB

I’m having some trouble finding online shops in europe selling the MXL’s and I haven’t been able to find much info about the T.Bone’s.

I’ll be using it mostly for guitar recording, but I might also use it in some other situations in which the “omni” feature might be handy, so I’m including also mics such as the CO3U on my list. But my prority will be the guitar, so I only consider that option if it doesn’t compromise the quality of the guitar recording, nor has a considerable increase in price.

Any insight or personal experience on these mics would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance.

Best regards,
Bruno Gravato

Update (2010/03/22): this has turned out to be a quite long thread, but I have made my decisions by now, which turned out to be a bit different from what I initially had in mind. So if you don’t feel like going through 18 pages of comments you can skip to the shorter version here: http://forum.audacityteam.org/viewtopic.php?f=27&t=27862

Samson 01/03. One of them doesn’t support switching patterns. Switching can be handy.

I believe we have two Snowballs now and they seem to work very well. They have pattern switching and switchable, built-in attenuator for very loud passages.

If you have no microphone experience, you may find the major difference (above just sound quality) is omnidirectional versus directional or cardioid. If you have a dead quiet, echo-free room, then by far the best quality will be from an omni microphone. They color the sound least.

Most people are trying to record in a live, slappy, hard-walled room with air conditioning noises and MetroBus routes outside the window. There you have no choice but to use a cardioid or directional microphone to try and restrict the trash. Those patterns have to be hand tuned during the microphone design and they’re never prefect. Directional mics also have proximity effect. The closer you get the more bass they pick up. That’s the rock and roll club effect. The singer sounds great as long as their lips are touching the microphone.

The USB units tend to have low level because you can fix that easily in Audacity. High volume can cause overload and clipping which sounds awful and is immediately fatal to the show.


I’m a fan of the T-Bone mics. I have a couple of these and they’re great value for money. They get better as the price goes up. The only T-Bone mic that I’ve been disappointed with was a T-Bone MB85 - it looks and sounds like a cheap mic, which is not really surprising because it is a really cheap microphone. On the other hand the T-Bone MB85 beta is still quite inexpensive (but not quite as cheap as the MB85) and is a really good stage microphone (I use them in preference to my Sure SM58s).
I have the non-USB version of the SC450 and while it is clearly not a Neumann, it beats the socks off recording with an average dynamic mic. It’s primarily designed for vocals, but will also give good results with a classical guitar. You will want a really quiet room to record in so that you can have the microphone far enough away to pick up sound from the whole guitar (try around 50cm away in line with where the neck meets the body).

The Samson microphones are also very popular though I’ve not done a side-by-side comparison. I’d be a little bit wary of the Snowball microphones having read several poor reviews, not about the sound quality but about the USB connection causing problems. Of course that can happen with any USB microphone and is also dependent on your computers USB port, so it may be an unfair criticism. When buying a USB microphone I’d go for somewhere that has a helpful returns policy just in case.

And just a note that changing a microphone volume slightly during a performance with a mixer and microphone is no problem at all, it’s a Big Deal with a USB microphone. The first time you notice you have sound levels that could use work is the time you stop everything, adjust the levels and start the performance over again.

USB microphones assume you’re always going to be able to do that. This is also the magic time when you find that the sound levels on your Nine Inch Nails album and the levels on your live performance are radically different with yours probably being a good deal lower in volume. NIN went through multiple thousand dollars of post production to sound like that and it’s always a disappointment when you can’t record like that right out of the microphone on the first take.

We can get you there eventually with the Audacity post production tools. Get a good strong cup of coffee.

Whole different world.


Thanks for the replies!

Since I first saw the T.Bone’s that I had this feeling it should have a good quality/price ratio. The bad thing is it doesn’t have pattern switching. After reading your comments and thinking more about it I think I really should get a mic that allows switching patterns. Since it’s my first “serious” mic it would be better to have more options available, so I can figure out what suits my taste better.

That narrows my options to either Samson CO3U or Snowball. I think CO3U has Figure-8 pattern option while Snowball doesn’t. So that’s one more point in favour of the Samson… Both seem to work on Linux, so that shouldn’t be a problem either.

I’ll have to search for best prices for each but, unless I find a very good deal for the Snowball, I’ll probably go with the Samson CO3U.

A more versatile option would be to get a USB microphone pre-amp and a conventional (non-USB) microphone. Most USB pre-amps have 2 microphone inputs which can be very useful (for example, using a close up microphone and an “ambient” microphone further away, or one microphone to pick up body sound and one to pick up sound from the neck. Over time you can add additional microphones to your collection as needed. A separate mic/pre-amp will be a bit more money than a USB microphone, but is a lot more flexible. A USB pre-amp may also have a stereo line out, headphone socket, inputs switchable from mic to line, and the ability to record “Stereo Mix” (though this depends on both hardware and drivers). None of these other options are usually available on USB microphones, though they can be very useful. The ART pre-amps generally get good reviews.

I want to thank you for providing enough specific information to allow us to get right down to useful recommendations. We sometimes get postings from people who want to record “stuff” and with no more information than that and the type of computer, we get to choose from the millions of microphone types out there and try to be helpful.

USB microphones do have one other “problem” that conventional microphones don’t. You can’t ever get more than one USB away from the computer. The value of one USB is somewhere between 6’ and 10’. This kills you if you need to put the noisy computer in the next room. Sorry. Can’t do that. If you have a well-behaved conventional microphone and good quality cables, you can go hundreds of feet between the performer and the mixer.

The Figure Of Eight pattern isn’t as useful as omnidirectional and cardioid. Both ribbon and most condenser microphones naturally settle into a figure of eight pattern if you don’t do anything to them other than basic design and turn them on. If you then provide a design with baffles, breaks, electrical tricks, and tuned cavities, you can get the other patterns listed in the advertisements.

It can be argued the most overall useful is the cardioid or “kidney” pattern. One of the Samsons (01 or 03) only comes in that pattern. You aim the back of the microphone toward that buzzing refrigerator and the front toward the performer.

Figure of Eight is useful for Radio Drama and small instrument performances (three in front and three in back). Here’s Fibber McGee and Molly making use of an RCA BK-44 Figure of Eight front and back pattern. The sensitive portions of the microphone are the flat silver-grill areas. He’s in front, she’s in back.



Koz, no need to thank! I think I can say that I’m not the typical user… I often find myself in the position of having ppl asking me for advice and I know the the pain of giving advice to ppl who don’t have a clue on what they want/need, therefore I try to be as specific as I can when I ask for advice :wink:

My choice for USB was with the idea of keeping it as simple as possible and avoiding to worry about external power or whatever… Also when using it with the laptop, the less gear I have to carry around the better… Also I’m trying to keep the budget under 100 euros…

As for the Figure 8 pattern probably I won’t give much use to it anyway, but I think the omnidirections pattern might be useful.

PC fans noise can be a problem indeed… and usb cable length is limited true, but I don’t see myself putting the mic in a different room than the pc anyway… When using with the laptop, I shouldn’t have problem, since it’s very quiet.

As for using more than 1 mic, for stereo recording, well my budget now doesn’t allow me to get more than 1 at the moment, but in the future I might regret that hehe. Nonetheless the problem with connecting 2 usb mics seems to be more likely a windows problem (and I don’t use windows). I’m not sure about macos-x, but I’ve read some comments about ppl successfully using 2 usb mics on linux without any problem, and that will work for me :slight_smile:

I’ll definitely have to take a deeper thought at this and decide which way to go, but I’m not in a hurry, so I can take my time…

It shouldn’t be “too much” of a problem, but if I’m recording with my SC450 onto my laptop (in the same room) and the fan kicks in (not loud) I can hear it on the recording. It’s not loud, but it is definitely there. That’s the “problem” (read “benefit”) of large diaphragm microphones, they pick up all the details.

It’s something that I very rarely use. It can be useful for Mid/Side stereo, or Blumlein Pair stereo recording, but I generally prefer X/Y pairs with cardioid microphones, or A-B with omni microphones (A-B is always described as using omni’s but it also works with cardioid which is getting close to an ORTF configuration. I don’t find that the practice is ever as clear cut as the theory and depending on the sound source, the microphones and the room, all sorts of “hybrid” configurations can be used.X-Y is nice because it will virtually always give good results with a minimum amount of set-up). The other use is as Koz described, when recording a pair of (vocal) performers but you can also use an omni or a pair of cardioids in this situation. I think I’ve used figure of 8 in this way about twice in my recording career (I’m sure there are some sound engineers that favour this technique and use it regularly, but for me it has been very rare).

In the future, yes you might, and that’s why I suggested it now before you invest. The really good thing about a USB microphone is that you can set up a laptop with just one other piece of kit (the microphone) in about a minute and start recording. I use a little mixing desk, a line-level USB interface and conventional (not USB) microphones and setting up takes 10 minutes, but my microphone collection has grown over the years and it’s really advantageous to now be able to decide, “no, I think I’ll try the small diaphragm mic for this” and if I change my mind I can just unplug the microphone and use a different one.

I’ve heard that also (I use Linux), but it’s not at all straightforward. (it can also be done on Macs by creating an “aggregate device”). Even if you can get it to work, typical problems include phase-shift issues, the microphones gradually drifting out of sync, and clicks/bursts of noise/freezes due to the USB loosing connection. Also you have no option for monitoring the sound in headphones at the same time as recording (not without substantial delay/latency), no “stereo mix” and no line level input option. Going for a USB pre-amp + microphone is more expense, but leaves room for future expansion.

I guess usb related problems (such as loosing connection) will happen too when using usb preamp… Though when using 2 usb devices it should happen at least twice as often…

On the PC I have a fairly decent soundcard (Xonar Essence STX), I could use its mic/line in inputs for the mic, but then again, more gear would be required… (power supply for phantom power, xlr to jack adapter, etc…)

I’ve been searching thomann cyberstore, they have this ART preamp:
I guess it was probably one of those you were referring to… It costs as much as the Samson CO3U mic. So, unless I buy just the preamp, and use a mic made of air, that will blow my 100 euros budget away hehe.

There’s also this (much cheaper) t.bone micplug, but it only has 1 mic input:

I guess I need to take some more time to think better where to draw the line between quality and price :slight_smile:

tempting aren’t they :wink:

immediately followed by reality check :frowning:

I’ve not tried those - looks interesting, and being Thomann it’s likely to be great price:quality ratio, but whether its any good ? Let us know if you find any reviews, or if you end up getting one you’d be more than welcome to post your review here. A couple of good things I notice about it - it has a gain control (which most USB microphones do not) and it has a headphone socket (which again is not available on most USB microphones).

Trouble now is that you are gathering more options rather than narrowing down the choice :smiley:

True :slight_smile:

If I go for this T.Bone USB micplug that will give me a wider range of mics I can choose from, though not that wide if searching for mics under 100 euros with pattern switching…

One added option would be T-Bone SC600 which goes for the same price (77 euros) as the Samson CO3 (non-USB version of CO3U). I wonder how the SC600 compares to the CO3… I’ve been searching but reviews for T-Bone products seem to be very hard to find…

There’s also a B-stock version of the SC600 slightly cheaper (64 euros).

For almost twice the price (138 euros) I can get the T-Bone SC1100 for which I’ve read a couple of very positive comments. Might be worth the difference in price. Eventhough it goes over my estimated budget it’s still not too expensive. Once again I wonder how much it differs from the cheaper SC600…

The problem here with the T-Bone micplug is the fact that it only has 1 mic input, so it won’t solve the problem of connecting 2 mics…

<<<it won’t solve the problem of connecting 2 mics…>>>

No matter how you slice it, connecting two or more microphones puts you in mixer territory.

We have been very pleased with these Peavey mixers.


I haven’t gotten to it yet, but I think there is a way to jigger them so they can do sound on sound with the computer. But if all you want is multiple microphones or the ability to mix guitar or instruments and microphones, it’s hard to beat this thing. It has on-board headphone monitoring and phantom power. The microphone channel is amazingly quiet – even compared to my field mixer.

I need to tell you that I have Macs, so this mixer just plugs right in the side of the Mac and start recording. It won’t do that with most PCs. With them you need the USB stereo line adapter.


I’ve been busy with other things lately, but getting back again on the subject now… I’m seriously considering to get the T.Bone SC1100 and the T.Bone USB micplug.

I found a couple of reviews of the micplug, both in german (which I don’t speak) but, from what I could get from the google translator, one of the reviews seemed to say it was bad (although the person who posted about it was using a dynamic mic, someone else commented that the results with condenser mic were better). The other review was more detailed and I had more difficulty to understand what they said (again using google translator), at some parts it looked like they were saying it was good and at other parts it seemed they were saying it was bad… But at the end the veredict seemed to be something like good quality for the price.

I would post the links for the reviews but I forgot to bookmark it… :frowning:

I bought the T-Bone SC1100 and the T-Bone USB Micplug. It arrived today. I’ve only tested it briefly using the micplug and connecting it to my laptop through usb. Seems to be working fine. Now I need to explore it more thouroughly :slight_smile:

Tonight I’ll probably go to visit a friend who has more and better audio equipment than I and I’ll test the mic without the usb adaptor and see how differently it sounds…

I’ll post my findings, conclusions and some samples later.


or an outboard interface w/o a mixer
gotcha - it has to work with audacity type drivers no asio as i understand this approach

but ua202 gets mentioned a lot
should be decent enough for two mikes

Please read the full topic before posting. bgravato has already made his decision and bought his new hardware.

I expect that you will like the microphone - I’ve used one of these and made some really nice recordings - mostly vocal but also various acoustic instruments including classical guitar. The position of the microphone is particularly important for acoustic guitars and will make a huge difference to the tonal quality. A commonly favoured position is about 30cm directly out from where the guitar neck meets the body (usually about the 12th fret). This microphone has good bass response so if you have it too close to the sound hole it is likely to sound very boomy, particularly when the microphone is set to cardioid.

I look forward to hearing how you get on with the T-Bone USB Micplug as I’ve not used those.

Last night I went to my friend’s place and we were doing some tests.

First, we connected the T.Bone first to his audio usb interface, which I forgot to ask which brand/model was… (maybe an m-audio, but I’m just guessing here, I’ll ask him later) and tried different setups.

From all the different configurations we tried I think the pattern I liked most was cardioid.

I’m a noob on this kind of thing and I wasn’t sure what direction the mic should be pointing too… so we tried different setups in this matter too. Here the one I liked most I think it was with the top of the mic pointing to the guitar and the “front” (where lies the pattern switch) facing down.

Then, we connected the mic using the T.Bone USB micplug and run a few more tests.

First thing we noticed was that there was more background white noise in the recording. But that could be because we had to give it more gain when using the t.bone micplug. Still considering that his computer’s fans were a lot noisy I think the result was not that bad.

The setup we used for most tests was with the mic about 15-20cm in front of the sound hole of the guitar.

I uploaded some samples here: http://www.gravato.eu/mictests/

02-cardioid-front.flac - using my friend’s usb interface, mic’s top pointing up and about 15-20cm in front of the guitar’s sound hole; pattern cardioid

05-cardioid-top.flac - same as before, except mic’s top pointing to the guitar’s sound hole

15-micplug-cardioid-top.flac - same setup as above, but connecting the mic through the t.bone micplug

18-micplug-cardioid-front-30cm.flac - using t.bone micplug, mic’s top pointing up, about 30cm in front of the guitar’s 12th fret

On the last one we can hear more noise, but that’s probably because the mic was further away from the guitar and we had to increase the gain (and it was also a bit closer to the noise source).

Another thing we noticed about the t-bone micplug is that it’s preamp gain volume button seems to be a bit too sensitive (by this I mean that sometimes just a small turn on the button can give quite a gain boost) and it also feels a bit too fragile to the touch.

Finally I must add that I can hear the sound of some loose piece inside the micplug when I shake or move it around. Maybe something got broken inside during shipping (despite everything being well packed, I know how “gentle” the postmen can be sometimes…), not sure if this might be influencing its performance…

I’ll try to run some more tests later.


Just to add that my friend’s interface/preamp is a TC Electronic Konnekt
I think it’s firewire and not usb as I wrote in my previous post.


The Behringer ua202 is high-level stereo only. No microphones.