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Author Topic: Can anyone recommend a USB mic for upright piano Zoom lessons?  (Read 299 times)

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Offline su6oxone

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Can anyone recommend a USB mic for upright piano Zoom lessons?
« on: October 24, 2020, 04:30:27 AM »
SSIA

Want to get a USB microphone to plug into an iMac for use in my kid's Zoom piano lessons (teacher requested the students use external mics), rather than for recording the audio for later.  It's an upright piano and I plan to have the iMac to the side of the piano with the microphone sitting on top of the upright, which should capture sound okay as well as my kid speaking.  Would prefer still to get something from a mic/audio brand than a generic mic.  Prefer to have the mic plug directly into the computer.  Budget preferably $200-300 but I could splurge a bit if it's "worth" it, up to $500 or so.  Thanks!
« Last Edit: October 24, 2020, 04:33:13 AM by su6oxone »

Offline voltronic

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Re: Can anyone recommend a USB mic for upright piano Zoom lessons?
« Reply #1 on: October 24, 2020, 08:28:34 AM »
Hello, pianist here.  I'm not generally a fan of USB mics, but I have heard really good things about the AKG Lyra.  It's a multi-pattern stereo mic, giving you a bunch of options. 

One big beef I have with most USB mics is they come with a permanently-attached desktop stand.  That's find for podcasting, but for upright piano you are going to want that mic on the soundboard side, somewhere near the center and 1-3 ft away (experiment with what sounds best).  You could clamp to a low stand, or set it on a coffee table with a blanket or something to avoid reflections from the hard surface.

I usually recommend to people that they buy a USB interface and a "real" mic instead, which gives you so many more options and won't cost a whole lot more.

My preferred interface right now is the MOTU M2 but it is very hard to find in stock.  The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is also a solid choice.

Then, you could get yourself a pair of decent cardioid condensers and have the freedom to place where you want.  Rode M5, Studio Projects C4, etc.
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Offline vanark

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Re: Can anyone recommend a USB mic for upright piano Zoom lessons?
« Reply #2 on: October 24, 2020, 08:58:37 AM »
I use my regular rig on a small tabletop stand for Zoom. I run line out to a Behringer UCA222 USB interface. Simple and works well. You can find the UCA222 for under $40.
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Offline mnm207

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Re: Can anyone recommend a USB mic for upright piano Zoom lessons?
« Reply #3 on: October 24, 2020, 01:49:15 PM »
I think the Studio Projects Little Square Mic sounds pretty good. I'm using mine for lectures, though, not music. They're discontinued, but you can find NOS of the pink version through a seller on Reverb for ~$120.
« Last Edit: October 26, 2020, 04:13:32 PM by mnm207 »
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Offline Niels

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Re: Can anyone recommend a USB mic for upright piano Zoom lessons?
« Reply #4 on: October 25, 2020, 06:20:53 AM »
If you already have a suitable xlr mic, another option could be the iRIG Pre HD:https://www.amazon.co.uk/IK-Multimedia-definition-microphone-interface/dp/B076T15QLW
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Offline su6oxone

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Re: Can anyone recommend a USB mic for upright piano Zoom lessons?
« Reply #5 on: October 27, 2020, 06:39:57 AM »
Hello, pianist here.  I'm not generally a fan of USB mics, but I have heard really good things about the AKG Lyra.  It's a multi-pattern stereo mic, giving you a bunch of options. 

One big beef I have with most USB mics is they come with a permanently-attached desktop stand.  That's find for podcasting, but for upright piano you are going to want that mic on the soundboard side, somewhere near the center and 1-3 ft away (experiment with what sounds best).  You could clamp to a low stand, or set it on a coffee table with a blanket or something to avoid reflections from the hard surface.

I usually recommend to people that they buy a USB interface and a "real" mic instead, which gives you so many more options and won't cost a whole lot more.

My preferred interface right now is the MOTU M2 but it is very hard to find in stock.  The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is also a solid choice.

Then, you could get yourself a pair of decent cardioid condensers and have the freedom to place where you want.  Rode M5, Studio Projects C4, etc.

Thanks for the detailed reply!  I forgot I posted here and just saw it now, literally 5 minutes after ordering a Lyra from Amazon!  It looks like a decent option, with the caveat of course that you mentioned which is that none will be very good options with a USB mic.  I bought a Marantz mic also, the MPM-2000U, which is a "professional" (lol) USB mic and while it does sound a bit better than the iMac 21.5" internal mics (which is worse than the 27" iMac) the gain was too low without any ability to increase it at the mic end.  It looks cool though and comes in a case fit for a power tool. 

It's challenging finding out what to use partly because we're not committed to investing in real recording gear as we were previously just using an iPad Air (first gen) for the Zoom meetings but the teacher recently told us how she's getting migraines and anxiety at least partly due to the poor quality of the tech students are using, which is why we decided to at least make some upgrades.  We want it to be better than the iPad on its own but not committed to buying a "real" rig just for this.  Now, if I had my old Schoeps and Sound Devices rig from a decade ago that would have been pretty sweet.  I'm almost tempted to use this as an excuse to get another rig again, but with the pandemic that would be a dumb idea and I would rather buy a drone than a rig... :P


Thanks vanark, mnm207 and Niels for the ideas and suggestions.  I think we'll see how these three USB mics (AKG Lyra, Marantz MPM-2000U, and Beyerdynamic Fox USB) do compared with the internal iMac mics and if any are at least an improvement and sound halfway decent for a Zoom remote piano lesson, then we'll probably just go with it.  Those USB interfaces do look interesting and I will definitely give them some thought if all three mics are no good.  So far the Marantz is just "meh" and I suspect the other two won't be dramatically different but I do want to keep things simple and cheaper and probably one of them is a reasonable compromise. 

Thanks again yo!

edit: I took a look at all the interfaces and they all look interesting, but the Motu M2 looks like maybe something I should consider.  XLR ins, Preamps, phantom power, and USB-C output... hmmm... just need to get a pair of mics then.  If this remote lesson keeps going for a while I'm going to be mighty tempted to get this and a couple mics...


« Last Edit: October 27, 2020, 06:47:28 AM by su6oxone »

Offline voltronic

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Re: Can anyone recommend a USB mic for upright piano Zoom lessons?
« Reply #6 on: October 27, 2020, 07:50:04 PM »

...but the teacher recently told us how she's getting migraines and anxiety at least partly due to the poor quality of the tech students are using...


Fair warning: Harsh response incoming.  I feel like my response is justified, as someone who teaches private piano, and is a public school music teacher who has been teaching entire classes of students remotely since March:


Your piano teacher is either making a very poor sarcastic joke, or she is an elitist asshole.  Private lessons are already a thing that not every family can afford, and the fact that she is being melodramatic and shaming people into spending more money is disgusting.  Would a better mic help students be heard?  Sure.  You can afford a new mic, but that may not be true for others.  Does that mean they care less about their children's music education, in her mind?

I hope she's an exceptional teacher and your kid loves her and is making great progress in proper technique and musicianship.  If not, I'd drop her like a bad habit.  This kind of thing makes my blood boil.  She would survive all of 10 seconds in public education, where we teach everyone.  There is a hotshot private violin teacher who teaches some students in my school district, and she didn't let them perform at a school orchestra concert because their weekly lesson was that evening which she wouldn't allow them to reschedule.  She's an asshole who thinks the world revolves around her, too.


<takes a breath>


edit: I took a look at all the interfaces and they all look interesting, but the Motu M2 looks like maybe something I should consider.  XLR ins, Preamps, phantom power, and USB-C output... hmmm... just need to get a pair of mics then.  If this remote lesson keeps going for a while I'm going to be mighty tempted to get this and a couple mics...

It's a fantastic unit, and the performance is hard to believe for the price.  If you are interested, can give you my contact at Sweetwater who has been able to get me some hard-to-find items that are advertised as out of stock.
DPA 4061 | Line Audio CM3 | Naiant X-Q | AT 853  //  Naiant PFAs | Shure FP24  //  Zoom F6 | Sony PCM-M10
MOTU M2 // KRK Rokit RP5 // Sennheiser HD 650

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