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Earthworks Mics vs. SM81 for Overhead drums
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gimmeshelter67
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#1
10th February 2010
Old 10th February 2010
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Earthworks Mics vs. SM81 for Overhead drums

Looking at getting a matched set of earthworks. Not sure, either TC20 or TC 30. Recording in a room with low ceilings (8'). Recording loud drums so I'm leaning on the earthworks which have a SPL of 145db

Currently I'm using SM81's and wanted to know if anyone has any comparison to the earthworks.

These would be purchased mainly for drum overheads so flexibility isn't an issue.

GS67
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10th February 2010
Old 10th February 2010
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I don't own them personally but have friends that do and there is definitely a noticeable difference. Really nice mics!
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11th February 2010
Old 11th February 2010
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Haven't tried Earthworks, but if you're looking for greater fidelity, I suspect they will be a huge step up from SM81s. I have used and tested SM81s, they work, they have a "color", they can be cool if they happen to compliment what you're doing, but in a flat out fidelity comparison, the SM81s are quite low on the scale... limited frequency response, a bit "cloudy", "grainy", etc... I might use them if I was going for a less accurate "lower-fidelity vintage" kind of sound, but wouldn't use them otherwise. If you're looking to improve the fidelity / accuracy of your overheads, stepping up from the SM81s is a good idea... and something like Earthworks is probably in the correct direction.
KAB
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11th February 2010
Old 11th February 2010
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^^^ I agree with 666666. I know many people still like the SM81, but I was never a fan of its sound. I've only used a pair of Earthworks QTC40 omnis. I much prefer the EW.
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11th February 2010
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In a room with 8' ceilings I'd take the SM81s.
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11th February 2010
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low ceilings and omni's as overheads don't usually play nice together
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11th February 2010
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Oh yeah... I'd agree with these guys... I didn't realize that the Earthworks mics you were looking at (TC20 / TC30) were both omnis. Omni's and small rooms indeed are a bad match. For a small room / low ceiling, given the choice between SM81s and some omnis (regardless of quality), I'd surely use the SM81s. Use cardioid or tighter. Any omni can potentially be flat out unusable in some small rooms.
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11th February 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by soundsundergroun View Post
low ceilings and omni's as overheads don't usually play nice together
Yep.
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11th February 2010
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While I am sure that all of the above posts are right, I to have an eight foot ceiling.

I have had better luck getting a good overhead sound with the earthworks.

They seemed to sound better than the pair of Kiwis, the pair of Coles 4038, & the pair of Beyer 160s that are up now.

Probably due to my lack of skill as a recording engineer . . .
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11th February 2010
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I worked out of a basement for a while recording drums, and the best luck I had was placing the mics at shoulder length height or so (play around with this) out front of the kit. There's always really nasty comb filtering effects when you place the overheads above the kit when your ceilings are only 8 feet high.
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11th February 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GoldenOne View Post

...There's always really nasty comb filtering effects when you place the overheads above the kit when your ceilings are only 8 feet high.
But did you treat the ceiling? Cover the whole ceiling with 4" of Owens Corner 703 or the like and you won't have those problems. If you record drums in any "small" room with no treatment, especially a 100% untreated ceiling, the results will be absolutely horrible. That shouldn't even be attempted, even with supercarioid overheads. Gotta get rid of that ceiling.
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11th February 2010
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i've used my qtc-50's in a basement, w/ an eight foot soft ceiling, and the results were spectacular.

mic placement, and awareness of reflections, are the key elements.
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11th February 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gimmeshelter67 View Post
Looking at getting a matched set of earthworks. Not sure, either TC20 or TC 30. Recording in a room with low ceilings (8'). Recording loud drums so I'm leaning on the earthworks which have a SPL of 145db

Currently I'm using SM81's and wanted to know if anyone has any comparison to the earthworks.

These would be purchased mainly for drum overheads so flexibility isn't an issue.

GS67
Low end response will be tighter and more accurate (may not matter, depending on what role your overheads play in the drum sound.)

Off-axis response will be more consistent.

Self-noise will be about 10 dB higher (but probably won't matter on loud playing, but might be an issue for drums played with brushes.)

So, probably a sound worth trying out.

In defense of the venerable SM81, I will say mine are quite useful. I have the pair that Scott Dorsey modded many years ago by removing the resonant disks in front of the diaphragms. For an on-axis source from 1 to 3 feet out, they are spookily natural sounding. Great for tracking most any good-sounding instrument and not at all colored or grainy-sounding.

Cheers,

Otto
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11th February 2010
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if you've got enough money to swing 'em, i've used some EW QTC1's in a room with 9' ceilings to great effect.

I *do* have a OC 703 "cloud" above my drum set up though, which i would emphatically suggest you do before bailing on yer sm81's!

While I had the EW's on loan for a few years, I passed on them when my friend wanted to sell them. I'd suggest you look into Avenson STO-2's as a significantly less expensive option. I do mostly rock, pop and alt-country stuff, and those were VERY close in sound to the EW's I had. Certainly enough to pass on them.

I see the Avenson's up for sale for $400/pair from time to time, and they're truly sweet mics. An inexpensive experiment!
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11th February 2010
Old 11th February 2010
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I'm actually not in the room, hence no treatment at all. I will be in the room in a few months.

Right now I'm recording in a 12 x 12 but with 10' celings. Downsized from my previous room which was 10 x 16 with 12' Celings. I have no choice at the moment but to be in this 14 x 20 room with 8' ceilings in a couple of months. While I will enjoy the extra floor space, I'm not happy about the ceiling height.

The information and insight you guys have is exactly what I was looking for.

I was hoping that the earthworks would give me a little more bottom and clarity.

With ceiling Treatment do you guys think I'll still be spinning my wheels getting the earthworks? I'm going to search gs for info on low ceilings and see what I can dig up.

Otto thanks for the info on the sm81's mod. I'll have to look into that.

gs
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11th February 2010
Old 11th February 2010
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Jon, thanks for the info on the mics.

I'll be building some Oc703 treatments for the ceiling. :-)
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11th February 2010
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my 2 cents

I have both the sm81 which I used for over heads about 6-7 years ago which happends to be the last time I used them, then switched to the earthworks tc-30 and then switched to the mercenary audio KM-69 about a year and a half a ago which I prefer to the latter. the omni earthworks are fast and will sound bad in a bad room (be honest about your room). I don't care for my room most of the time.
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11th February 2010
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i had posted a short clip of those qtc-50's in an untreated basement (not a optimal room), 8' soft ceiling.

the mics were positioned pretty much over the cymbals, i wasn't going for a full kit capture... but you can hear the detail, and some of the bottom end as well from the toms.

the example is #58.

What's the flattest response mic?

Last edited by Denny McNerney; 11th February 2010 at 07:34 PM.. Reason: posted # of example.
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11th February 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gimmeshelter67 View Post
Otto thanks for the info on the sm81's mod. I'll have to look into that.
You're welcome. FYI, Scott had an article on this mod published in Recording. I think it was about three years ago. I may have an email from Scott with a link or something. I think he sold me the mikes just before the article was actually published.

Funny thing, I bought those mikes solely to get a pair of bodies for use with my SM80 (omni) capsules, so I didn't mind that I was buying non-standard capsules. Now I find that his modded SM81 capsules are seeing at least an equal amount of action as are the SM80s and are more useful to me than stock SM81 capsules (cleaner sound and better transients).

Cheers,

Otto
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18th June 2010
Old 18th June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ofajen View Post
Funny thing, I bought those mikes solely to get a pair of bodies for use with my SM80 (omni) capsules, so I didn't mind that I was buying non-standard capsules. Now I find that his modded SM81 capsules are seeing at least an equal amount of action as are the SM80s and are more useful to me than stock SM81 capsules (cleaner sound and better transients).

Cheers,

Otto
+1 for the removal of the windcreeen disc in sm81 capsules. I did this mod myself in about one hour for a pair of 81's and I have never looked back. I have noticed increased clarity and more uniform response across the spectrum, especially as drum overheads and on acoustic guitar. Not for the faint of heart or the shaky handed, it is really easy to ruin a perfectly good mic by disassembling the capsule.

Also, I have the sm80 capsules as well. I use them equally as often as my modded 81's. They are quite nice, if you ever come across them, snatch them up! Most people that see me use them have never even heard of an SM80.... too bad!
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19th June 2010
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If you put an omni as close to the ceiling as possible would it act like a boundary layer mic?

I should try it.
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19th June 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eganmedia View Post
If you put an omni as close to the ceiling as possible would it act like a boundary layer mic?

I should try it.
I laid one of my sm80s on the wood floor about 8 feet in front of the drumset one time, it sounded great!
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19th June 2010
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What about the cardioid Earthworks SR30/SR77?

Have you considered a pair of Earthworks cardioid SR30/SR77 mics for overheads? I have a pair of those, they are awsome, and they would avoid the problems with using an omni mics in a small room. They are a step up from an SM81 for sure, more detailed, faster sounding. Great mics. When a Neumann does not work, the Earthworks almost always will.
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