R/E/P > Klaus Heyne's Mic Lab

Why Most 'Mic Shootouts' Are Fundamentally Flawed

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Some mic companies have printed graphs showing the lower frequency responses at various source distances, due to proximity effect. Also sometimes stated in the user instructions is a recommended singing or speaking distance such as 2" from the pop grille for an SM58.

Some users are able to determine this distance subjectively but it should normally be consistent with the manufacturers' data.

Can you share which mic companies include graphs based on realistic operating conditions?

 I'm not sure if it was consistent even within one company but here's an example of the type of graph I was thinking of:


Paul Johnson:
I rather agree with the idea here, despite having produced quite a few mic comparison videos.

Most of my videos don't try to create winners and losers, mainly because my opinion really doesn't matter. I even did a few videos where I bought the cheapest Chinese copies of mics - some were called U87s, and there was no point sticking one next to my real one - there would be no point at all, we know what the result would be, so I concentrated on showing practical things people could listen to.

I got a few comments saying there was no point in just talking into three or four mics, but distance, placement and aiming all impact - but Youtube is now so fixated on style - so everyone speaks into an SM7B, or other easily identified mic - so I used an SM7B, not remotely my favourite, but I used it as the starting point on every video, and then when swapped for the mics in each video, people may or may not hear differences in tone, or sometimes noise.

Lots of the videos were comfort videos really for people who don't have an SM7B, 87, 414 etc and wanted to know how using an SM58 would actually make them sound worse. I get lots of emails and private messages from people unable to post their comments that they were grateful.

Very often, people comment that, for their ears, they preferred the cheaper alternative, but daren't say it in public. I make no attempt to treat or cure - I'm doing them in my video studio, not the sound studio and the edit suite monitors are small and lacking bass. Often I go home to the audio studio and discover I put a video out with boomy bass, or even a hum. Every video has noise - the desk mounted Blackmagic recorder has a fan - so my reviews are raw and practical.

Even weirder, when I bought the rubbish U87s - some, including postage from China were less than the price of a happy meal. I put them on ebay with accurate descriptions - terrible microphone ex-youtube review, and included the link. People bought them. I found one Chinese AKG 414 copy - sold now by a few suppliers under different brand names, and cardioid only. I thought it sounded pretty bright and piercing, but the guy who bought it loves it.

The concept of comparisons is fine as long as the viewer understands the context: Got a cheap guitar, not in a good space, then hearing mics doing this job gives you enough to NOT buy something - preventing an expensive mistake maybe?

Clearly, my review of a range of cheap mics/expensive mics does not guarantee X brand is best when you do the same thing, but I do think there is a place for these. I decided the SM7B, with its forgiving nature for not changing tone too much with distance, was a good 'constant'.

On the graph front, very few give plots at different frequencies on a polar pattern graph. I did a comparision of shotgun mics, and used simple plots - and the result seemed to explain the popularity of certain mics and seeing the plot at different degrees of a circle made more sense - here's a link to that one. https://youtu.be/PPvS39mS9xU


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