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Author Topic: How Can A Mic Recommendation Be Really Helpful?  (Read 3093 times)

Mickeyrouse

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How Can A Mic Recommendation Be Really Helpful?
« on: June 16, 2014, 10:44:30 am »

Realizing how subjective and opinionated this can get, I am looking for a mic recommendation.

I want to add to the tools I am using to record voice. At any given time, I could be doing rock, R&B, country, gospel- you name it. Vocalists will run the gamut from adolescent, adult, mature, male, female, choirs. On any given day anything could come up.

Where I am, southeast Texas, no microphone rentals are possible to test-drive. There are no dealers of any equipment I would consider buying.  So I am pretty much restricted to taking a crap-shoot on internet mail-order. The market is fairly unsophisticated, and at best recognizes the shapes of classic mikes, but very few actually know what they're looking at. That means that hardly anyone recording has any preconceived gear notions, so that at least that lets me work towards the aural instead of the visual.

Still I want to do the best I can under the conditions. I have a few mikes that may be accepted as fairly decent: Neumann M147, M149, U89, TLM103, AKG C12A, C414 XLS. My first impulse is to buy a U87, on the premise that it would be the one all-around mike. (Don't ask why I didn't start with that- it's a long story.) But if I do that, would I be getting something too close to what's already in the barn? The present array of mikes gives an idea of budget. I have several smaller condensers of the same caliber or better used mostly for drums, acoustic guitar, amplifiers, etc, so I would not be concerned with those uses.
So with these goals in mind, what should I consider?

Mickey Rouse
Beaumont, Texas
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Jim Williams

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Re: Mic recommendation
« Reply #1 on: June 16, 2014, 11:46:18 am »

1. audition

2. listen

3. decide.

Not the other way around.
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Mickeyrouse

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Re: Mic recommendation
« Reply #2 on: June 16, 2014, 12:13:42 pm »

My problem is I don't have opportunities to audition, except trusting in return policies of vendors.  It could get expensive on frieight or re-stocking fees.
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Piedpiper

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Re: Mic recommendation
« Reply #3 on: June 16, 2014, 02:37:30 pm »

What qualities do you think you are missing in the lot you already have?
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Mickeyrouse

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Re: Mic recommendation
« Reply #4 on: June 16, 2014, 05:12:47 pm »

Can't put my finger on anything other than the U89 can sometimes sound like a kazoo when women are pushing it hard, and other times, depending on the vocalist, can be the best in the bunch. I just want to be satisfied that I can offer a reasonable palette of sound choices, and that while it is unlikely that any millenial sounds will be created or captured with my present array, I want to be sure that the more common aural effects are at least within reach. My first  and formost purpose is to make the vocalist sound like the vocalist. Even though Sinatra was photographed hundreds of times in front of a U47, that same mike is not going to make Justin Bieber sound like Sinatra.
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Nob Turner

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Re: Mic recommendation
« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2014, 02:45:37 am »

Well, I've gotta start by saying that this is all about taste and opinion. So you're likely to hear a lot of conflicting suggestions here. Whether those help or hinder is questionable. And what I like may not be what you like.

That said, you have a substantial number of Neumann mics, but none that has much mojo. The M149 is decent, but in my experience doesn't add much excitement to the source. Nor does the U89, and the M147 is kind of a faux-tube mic... it doesn't have any of the usual qualities that one would typically ascribe to that general design. Certainly it bears no relation to a U47.

I think you might find that a good U87 would be useful. You could even lose a couple of the above-mentioned mics in preference to it, and not be worse off. But emphasis has to be on "good." If you are looking at used 87's, they run the gamut of very nice to crap, depending on their previous care and feeding. And a new one lists at $3600, which is an awful lot for what you're getting. So it's caveat emptor time there. That said, I personally think a good 87 is a very versatile microphone. And I know some folks excoriate them.

There's no end of boutique tube mics that crowd the market these days. Some are very nice, many have limited application in my experience. The question is what hole you're trying to fill. You have a couple of relatively smooth mics (U89, C414XLS, and the M149 to a lesser degree). You have a crispy one (C12A, assuming it is in good shape). Do you want something "toob-y" with tons of bottom? Cathedral Pipes makes something like that, though the one I tried was SO bass-heavy that I couldn't imagine using it with any frequency.

Do you want something aggressive? The 87 does that to a degree, and then there are mics like the Beyer MC740 (apparently replaced by the MC840; I assume they are similar, but not sure) which definitely cuts in the upper midrange, and has 5 polar patterns. I think the Sony C48 bears some similarity to the U87, though it is brighter on top. I haven't used one in a long time, but early in my career, I thought it pretty usable.

I personally have found that the (long-discontinued) Soundelux E49 is a very versatile mic that sounds excellent on a variety of sources. When found used, they are in the same price range as a good used 87. I think they are flattering on a lot of singers, both male and female, as well as many instruments. That said, there weren't many made, so finding one isn't a slam-dunk.

This is a long-winded answer to your query, and Klaus may decide that he's not interested in having this kind of discussion on his board. I've tried not to discuss specific prices, as they vary and can be misleading out of context.

If you're set on purchasing a new mic, you may do best to establish a relationship with an online dealer, such as Sweetwater. A client of mine was looking for a vocal mic for use at home; she'd bought a few items from them and then got a couple of mics on approval. As it turned out, none of them suited her as well as what I'd recorded her with several years ago - a Neumann TLM193 (nor did any suggested by her salesman sound anything like that mic, which she had mentioned to them). Nonetheless, she returned the others to Sweetwater and nobody firebombed her home in response. We ended up finding her a 193 used on eBay in mint condition.

Good luck!...

klaus

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Re: Mic recommendation
« Reply #6 on: June 17, 2014, 04:56:44 am »

(...) This is a long-winded answer to your query, and Klaus may decide that he's not interested in having this kind of discussion on his board. I've tried not to discuss specific prices, as they vary and can be misleading out of context.

How could I possibly object to such a fine and well-written summary of a normally rather Gearslutzy subject!

I might add one factor, which, I keep stressing, should be considered when searching for the right mic:
We are lucky in our business that, unlike almost all other audio products, microphones that were carefully researched and chosen will typically not depreciate over time: If you buy smartly, your U87, for example, or many of the other big name mics, will hold their value, and may even appreciate. This gives you a unique opportunity to "trade up" as your ears, taste, and pocket book get more refined.

'Asking 'or 'list' prices these days are rather meaningless: recommended retail price for a new M149, for example, is $6,999. MAP (Minimum Advertised Price) is $5049.

A good method to establish the true market value of any mic is to first research the best new "street price", then make a "Completed Listings" search on eBay, and see how much buyers were willing to actually spend: several brand-new condition M149 recently changed hands on eBay for less than $3000.- That's a gap of more than 100% between "List" and "Real".

As a rule, I find that, the lower the differential between best new price and best used, "like new" price of a mic, the higher the true value of the mic: no mic that is highly desirable drops in value by a third or more, once it hits the street.
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Klaus Heyne
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Kai

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Re: Mic recommendation
« Reply #7 on: June 17, 2014, 12:51:00 pm »

U87 is a flavor that is certainly missing in your cabinet.
I prefer the older ones, pre "Ai".
I consider it indespensible for spoken word recording.
The Peluso 22 47 SE is one of my mic's that comes in place if I want a very destinctive, defined midrange, e.g. on male rock vocals.
The Rode Classic (version1, only available used) is another one of mine with a very special character, very present, very "realistic" sounding, can handle extremly close to the mouth usage without getting boomy.

Regards
Kai

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Jim Williams

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Re: How Can A Mic Recommendation Be Really Helpful?
« Reply #8 on: June 18, 2014, 11:27:33 am »

The Rode Classic 1 is a C-12 knock-off circuit fittted with a 32 mm Chi-com U-67 clone capsule, same as used in the NT-2 I designed for them. It does have some sharp peaks around 12k hz.

The circuit was done well with metal film resistors (early models used German Roedersteins) and Wima FKP-2 caps. Consider swapping the capsule to solve those issues it has. C-12 style capsules are a good fit for that design as is a k-67, if you add some top end attenuation to smooth it out.
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AusTex64

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Re: How Can A Mic Recommendation Be Really Helpful?
« Reply #9 on: June 27, 2014, 08:43:39 am »

Mickey,

Have you considered going to the mics to listen, instead of shipping them to you? I'm in Austin, and there are several VERY well equipped studios where you could hear many mics in direct comparison, right next to one another. Yellow Dog and Texas Treefort come to mind. Bring a singer, acoustic guitar and your favorite trusty studio monitors. And you get a fun day or so in Austin too. Or go to NOLA or Nashville.

I saw a Peluso 2247 with metal tube on the local CL for $2000-ish recently. I love my AMI U47 clone with Thiersch PVC M7 and EF802 tube. It has some of that "sexiness and intimacy" that Klaus speaks of here.

Robert Mokry
Austin, TX
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J. Mike Perkins

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Re: How Can A Mic Recommendation Be Really Helpful?
« Reply #10 on: June 30, 2014, 03:20:25 pm »

Mickey:

Houston is only an hour and half drive from Beaumont and Houston has a number of studios with excellent mic selections.  I am sure, for a nominal charge, you could rent an hour of their time and test every vocal mic they had to compare it to your M149, TLM 103, and C12A.  A couple of studios come to mind.  Sugar Hill is the oldest studio in Houston and they have nemerous old U87 mics and a nice U67.  Sound Arts studio is another one with various U87's and they also had a nice M49 last time I was there.  You could record some vocals in a controlled environment and that would be the next best thing to renting the mics. 

An old pre-1986 Neumann U87 would be an obvious choice as you don't have any Neumann mics with the K67 type capsule (used in the U67/U77/U87) and that capsule sounds different than anything in your current collection.  However, there is no "best" mic for every application and you should be able to get excellent sounds out of your current M149 and C12A assuming they are working properly.   
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