I had a studio nightmare. It happened many months ago, but often feels like it was yesterday. My 15-year favorite recording microphone crashed — complete with the rugged mic stand — to the floor. It immediately split in half. I had to do a studio microphone review.
After contacting the manufacturer and several local pro-audio repair shops, I realized that the microphone was a complete loss. Of course, this happened after I became a full-time musician. In the meantime, I got by with my R0de NT1a. It’s a decent microphone, but showing some age.
The Road to Sterling
I had almost given up on having another, more contemporary microphone when I came across a deal on a Sterling Audio microphone. I was skeptical that anything for this price point could be useful for recording even in a home studio. Still, every microphone review I read for this mic was mostly positive and the price (under $50) was definitely right.
So, I grabbed the SP150SMK and promptly re-recorded a vocal part that I had never been happy with. I was immediately surprised at the results, so I decided to share them with you. I’ll use the NT1a recordings (since that’s the only other large-diaphragm mic I currently own) for comparison.
First, the Bad News
The first downside of this microphone is that it has no rolloff or pad (attenuation) switches. What you see (and hear) is what you get. With the price point considered, there are very few cons for this microphone.
The mic comes with a plastic carry case, a hardmount (attaches the mic directly to a stand), and a spider-band shockmount (for stand isolation). It does not include a pop filter which you’ll need for nearly any vocalist.
I re-recorded the vocals on the track in question and was immediately surprisingly pleased. Though there’s not a lot of character to this mic, it captured the singing with ease. I did not have to tweak any EQ settings or boost the tracks in order to get a decent sound.
The NT1a is a fairly true recording microphone. It usually sells for about $225 (approximately $175 more than I paid for the SP150SMK). It’s a mic I’ve used many times for vocals. Here is the vocal track as recorded on the R0de mic.
And here it is again, recorded with the Sterling.
And finally, here’s a stereo version with the NT1a first in the left channel and the SP150SMK next in the right channel.
Just A Touch
Though the two recordings sound surprisingly similar, I could tell there was a tiny bit “missing” from the high end on the SP150SMK, so I pulled frequency response readouts. As you can see, some high frequencies are reduced by comparison. However, based on documentation, there is a built-in boost in the response of the NT1a which would account for this. I don’t think this is a deficiency of the Sterling microphone.
Knowing what I know from my first couple of recordings with this mic, I would buy it again — especially at this price. Though I still look forward to having better microphones in my studio again, don’t assume that a low price means it can’t make the recording.
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