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Author Topic: Myth-Buster #1: "Realistic" vs. "Flattering"  (Read 2060 times)


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Myth-Buster #1: "Realistic" vs. "Flattering"
« on: July 13, 2011, 01:57:37 am »

Though on topic, this example is not (directly) microphone-related.

An artist recently asked me to supply several top notch mics (C12, M249, U67, U47) for a potential rental. He has booked time in a fine professional studio with a reputation for a very revealing control room. He will track and mix his project all analog to 2", then mix it down to 1/2". It features voice and vintage analog synths, with the material reminding me a bit of Talk Talk.  He also was curious to see whether the $3k boutique pre amp he had just bought would be holding up under the light of a professional facility (a Russ Berger design.)

After we spent several hours finding the right mic for the project, we put his pre, the vintage API board's pres and a side car with vintage pre clones to the test against a stock-original channel of Neve 1073 I had brought.

What followed was such a revelation, and it opened our ears to so much beyond, and away from, the silly (though in theory quite compelling) argument against "colored" or "flattering" processing of audio:

The Neve removed artefacts, pure and simple, where the others were either pointy or sluggish or harsh or whatever else kept us from wanting to listen any longer than we absolutely had to.  I don't know and really don't care how a device like this does it, but every single one of these vintage mics, even those mics the artist ended up not choosing- all in top shape, I might add- revealed their singular beauty to everyone in the room. (The tests of the pres were double-blind, by mistake: the tape operator had temporarily misplaced the sheet with the sequence of recorded samples, which were all done with the artist's voice of the same 30 second phrase recorded over a music bead.)

Listening to these different mics through the Neve did not make the final mic choice harder (in difference to going through the ordeal with a lower-res pre- I am sure you remember the strains and uncertainties and endless repetitions of tests, to the point of confusion and exhaustion, because only the minutest variations between what should be solid sonic differences could be heard!) Listening through this device made each mic's personality seem three-dimensional and each mic's sound arrived at the ears effortlessly.

My take on why we even need to discuss the obvious:
High quality recording gear  has become so damn expensive that very few involved in professional audio have any means to experience a marvel like a Neve 1060- or 1070-series firsthand anymore. So opinions about more affordable clones, copycats and "inspired bys" dominate the discussion boards.

And, because Neve as a brand one could purchase from GC Pro or Sweetwater is no more, and as professional sellers can not make any money with an obsolete product, alternatives are praised and allusions to quality are made unashamedly and undisputed. Hence the spread and acceptance in our business of the term "realistic": pres which look swell on paper, maybe even clean and clear to the ear, but lacking the ability to transport the connective tissue in the music that, when I finally can hear it, makes me stop looking for better pres or mics.
Klaus Heyne
German Masterworks®
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