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Best mic and setup for live vocals
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micmike
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#1
18th February 2010
Old 18th February 2010
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Best mic and setup for live vocals

Hey guys
Long time reader, first time writer.

I'm looking for the right gear for my band setup. I've always been in dynamic sort of rock bands.

I'm not into using two mics, nor do I like footswitches. I really want to be able to sing clean into my mic for the majority of the set, but when I sing hard or scream the sound can break up and distort a little->a lot.

I'm happy with just an SM58, it's a good all-rounder, but am open to suggestions.

I'm really keen on finding a suitable preamp, and possibly compressor to achieve this. The reality is, I'm playing small pubs with in-house PA systems, with the in-house sound guy (man I wish we could afford our own sound guy!), and I need my own solution.

All opinions and feedback welcome.

Thanks
#2
18th February 2010
Old 18th February 2010
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chances are if you are playing in clubs and stuff with their own house sound systems I'd probably scratch the idea of bringin your own pres and comps, simply because the average sound guy is barely able to use the equipment he/she has at their disposal and with live sound it's probably not the best idea to open a can of worms for your show (just my two cents).

I think investing in a better tailored mic for your voice however is a wise investment. A preamp or compressor might be valuable for your own use but I wouldn't expect most sound engineers to fancy the idea of you basically rebuilding their rig, and in some cases I don't think having uber nice gear will really help you because the rest of their live setup could limit your gear's performance. For example if you show up with an $800 mic pre, a $350 mic, and $xxx compressor and their house speakers are like a $400 pair of low end JBL's being powered by a low end Crown amp it's still gonna be less than stellar sound. Not to mention depending on the venues you perform at you could be risking some money letting people handle nicer gear like that. Most live sound guys (at least in my city at the average venues my bands perform at) really aren't all that great at it. Not trying to discourage you because there is some wisdom in your thinking. I just think you really wanna think about this, frankly since you don't have a sound guy I'd go with the setup that is most comfortable for the house sound guy to use which is almost always the house system.

As for mics currently my two favorite grabs for live sound are the Audio-Technica AE3300 and AE5400. Both are condensers (the 3300 uses the same capsule as the AT4033 and the 5400 is a cardioid only capsule from the AT4050). They both feature low freq roll off and -10dB switches. So they can cover a variety of styles and such and take any environment/situation you may throw their way in stride.

However there are lots of great mics available Heil PR-20UT, PR-22 (if you hold the mic), Heil PR-35, Sennheiser e945, Shure KSM9, Neumann KMS105, Shure Beta58a, Audix OM5, OM6, OM7, E/V N/D-767a, E/V RE-410 and RE-510, A/T AE6100, etc.

But basically I'd focus on getting your singing down (if it isn't already) then focus on selecting a mic that suits your voice.

Take it one step at a time straight down the signal chain. Because who knows you might get the results you want simply by upgrading the mic alone. But you won't know what actually improved your sound if you change everything at once. Again just my humble two cents.

If I were you I'd start auditioning mics until you find the one that sounds most pleasing and inspires you to sing your best. For me it was the A/T Artist Elite series. Who knows I would say it'd be a great starting point for everyone but everyone is also different.

In any event best of luck to you. It can be tough finding a perfect pairing.
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#3
18th February 2010
Old 18th February 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by micmike View Post
I'm not into using two mics, nor do I like footswitches. I really want to be able to sing clean into my mic for the majority of the set, but when I sing hard or scream the sound can break up and distort a little->a lot.
Cheap desks cant take the dynamic range amongst a dense mix (the untra cheap desk can't take the dynamic range period) and cheap comps (like the behringer crap in most venues) break up after a few db of gain reduction. Different pre amps on there own won't help you, you simply have to control those dynamics.

Vocal technique and mic technique should always be your first things anyway but if you have to deliver those dynamics to the desk then i would say; As long as the clubs your playing have a reasonable rig with at least A&H desks (and i mean at a minimum) then all you have to do add is a dbx 160a/x/xt. As long as the gain staging is reasonable no one can get a 160 wrong, it doesn't have the controls to mess with so you know what you will get. carry insert cables for any desk and you will be safe.

Any real sound guy will be happy to be given a real compressor if all they generally have cheap crap. However make sure you do it at the start of the night, if you wait till 5 minutes before you go on then no sound guy will bother with you. Take the time to talk to which ever sound guy is on, if you think of every sound guy is just an idiot and don't make an effort then they will think of you as a band of idiot and what you ultimately sound like is always going to be pot luck.

Something for any vocalist, make sure you carry your own SM58/Beta58A and that it is in good condition.

Anyone who is suggesting exotic mics does NOT understand the pub/club scene. If there are any mic problems then it is down to mic technique. While another mic may in-fact be better for you in a controlled environment, take that mic into a different environment every night and you will get something different every night. on top of that no sound guy is going to re eq a whole system for some band they don't even know let alone even getting the time to eq a system properly in the first place.
#4
18th February 2010
Old 18th February 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KeithMoonwannabe View Post
$xxx compressor and their house speakers are like a $400 pair of low end JBL's being powered by a low end Crown amp it's still gonna be less than stellar sound.
That way of thinking is completely backwards. Good compression will help you get the most out of low end underpowered systems. Of course it wont solve fundamental problems, but when you are stuck with a certain system you have to maximise what you can get out of it.

Ok you may still limited to being a less than setter sound, but thats still better than the distorted mess if there is no headroom in the system. The only quality that matters in such a case is that the vocals are loud, clear and consistent and that is the difference between poor or no comp and good comps.
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18th February 2010
Old 18th February 2010
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Stick with the SM58 and work on vocal / mic technique. If you really are too dynamic, maybe you do need some processors, but don't even think about handing off equipment to the house engineer. It should all be self contained on stage, so that whatever comes off the stage is a simple mic feed as if connected directly to a mic. It could be a mic pre / EQ / compressor into a direct box or something along those lines.
#6
18th February 2010
Old 18th February 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aussie_techie View Post
That way of thinking is completely backwards. Good compression will help you get the most out of low end underpowered systems. Of course it wont solve fundamental problems, but when you are stuck with a certain system you have to maximise what you can get out of it.

Ok you may still limited to being a less than setter sound, but thats still better than the distorted mess if there is no headroom in the system. The only quality that matters in such a case is that the vocals are loud, clear and consistent and that is the difference between poor or no comp and good comps.
maybe so but it's still true in most cases. I'm sorry that very few venues that most musicians actually play at have mid range to high end setups.

It's like hitting a gold mine when their house console is a decent A&H or Soundcraft.

and while I do like and use SM and Beta 58's most of the mics I suggested are not really boutique level mics. The AE5400 and AE3300 are imho as good as the $700 handheld mics and you can get them brand new in box under $300 (for the 5400) and under $200 (for the 3300). If you actually knew about the AE6100 you'd know it actually performs and handles better than an SM or Beta 58 in about every situation unless the characteristics of the SM or Beta are absolutely perfect for the singer which in my experience is pretty rare. Those Shure mics are using very dated technology and while it is tried, true, respected, etc there are undeniably products that have come along that are better from the ground up.

Ultimately if you want dynamics and quality it's going to have to come from the vocalist, then the mic, then the preamp, then the EQ, then any outboard dynamics processing, etc. And like I said I'm not trying to be discouraging I'm just trying to pose a realistic scenario because you are going to be dealing with unpredictable sound guys/gals, a different live rig in house every night, etc. I don't know if perhaps you are luckier than me but I know substantially more about running live sound than probably every house engineer I've ever encountered in my career as a semi-professional musician. Of course I have friends that have sound companies and he knows his shit but he's not the run of the mill house engineer at your average bar/club.

And until you actually try using the A/T AE series, Heil PR20 or P35, etc on stage don't judge my opinions. It's obvious you've never actually used them before or if you have you or your soundguy probably didn't know what you were doing. I won't even list the acts that are currently using these mics to save you from embarrassing yourself. I'm not trying to be mean or hostile I'm just being serious. An SM58 is an industry standard not the best mic ever made.

What gain did this guy honestly have by buying the same mic everyone of these clubs already has? If you are going to invest in something, invest in something that actually tailors to you and works. I've run sound before and I treat much like I would a recording I choose mics to compliment the sources at hand (at least when I have them at my disposal). A female jazz singer is going to likely get a different mic than a screamo male vocalist if I'm running sound. Yeah an SM58 will work on both sources but are you really playing on the mics strengths in order to best portray the picture of their performance? No you are just simply grabbing the tool you are familiar with to reproduce the sound of the performance.

But like I said it's all up to you, go ahead and buy a nice preamp and compressor to run in some dive that's going to have mediocre sound at best anyway. Or you can save some money by compensating on the performers end and just getting a decent stage mic that better suits your style of singing. Not to mention carting a bunch of stuff around you run the risk of theft, damage, etc etc and the risk that it will make absolutely no difference to your overall tone in the wrong hands.
micmike
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#7
18th February 2010
Old 18th February 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KeithMoonwannabe View Post
As for mics currently my two favorite grabs for live sound are the Audio-Technica AE3300 and AE5400.

However there are lots of great mics available Heil PR-20UT, PR-22 (if you hold the mic), Heil PR-35, Sennheiser e945, Shure KSM9, Neumann KMS105, Shure Beta58a, Audix OM5, OM6, OM7, E/V N/D-767a, E/V RE-410 and RE-510, A/T AE6100, etc.
Thanks for all the feedback guys. Actually, for some time I've been using my SM58 with a Beta57 grille. It feels nice, but when I scream I can actually smother it and distort the hell out of the mic. I want that muffled sound. I usually ask the sound guy to give me plenty of compression and tell him why.

I've always felt like the Beta58 just had too much clarity and top for me.

I want solid, sturdy & robust. I don't drop my mics but I jump around with them a lot.

Do any of these mics listed have a solid feel, and actually respond to a little pressure i.e. break up and distort when smothered?

I know that technique annoys a lot of sound guys but fact is, used as a dynamic, it has it's own sound, and I like it when used sparingly.
#8
19th February 2010
Old 19th February 2010
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I've thought a lot about having my own vocal rig for gigs for my new project, and I think it's a great idea, you just have to really plan it out well and consider the potential venues, sound systems, and sound guys you're dealing with.

It would probably be best to go with moderate settings that won't cause crazy feedback if they feed a poor system, no smashing vocals or adding high shelves and the like. These sound good on recordings where there's no bleed, but if your comp is set to a high ratio and low threshold and you have a high-shelf on, it probably won't take long to get nasty feedback at stage volumes. Poor settings could actually hurt your headroom before feedback and force the sound guy to turn you down.

You'd probably be best off with a dedicated floor box like the TC Voicelive, that would give you a lot of options.
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micmike
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19th February 2010
Old 19th February 2010
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Originally Posted by aclarson View Post
You'd probably be best off with a dedicated floor box like the TC Voicelive, that would give you a lot of options.
Yeah another forum suggested the same thing. I guess I'm just a little anti-pedal. And it's so much more than I need! And the Voice Create pedal is just a bit of a toy.
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19th February 2010
Old 19th February 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by micmike View Post
Yeah another forum suggested the same thing. I guess I'm just a little anti-pedal. And it's so much more than I need! And the Voice Create pedal is just a bit of a toy.
Yeah, I've noticed there's kind of a hole in the market there for a smaller, yet still rugged and high quality live vocal effects box, like a mini voicelive would be great. I don't need live autotune or harmonizer or the ability to run a guitar in and whatever else it has, but it would be nice to get a rugged box that's small and just has like a couple pedal buttons and high quality effects like TC.
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19th February 2010
Old 19th February 2010
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You could have someone make you a switchable inline pad in stompbox form. It'd be pretty easy to do. That way you could control the amount of signal going to the mixer.
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micmike
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#12
26th February 2010
Old 26th February 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KeithMoonwannabe View Post
However there are lots of great mics available Heil PR-20UT, PR-22 (if you hold the mic), Heil PR-35, Sennheiser e945, Shure KSM9, Neumann KMS105, Shure Beta58a, Audix OM5, OM6, OM7, E/V N/D-767a, E/V RE-410 and RE-510, A/T AE6100, etc.
Argh! I wish Australia had more stockists of all these items! So after a whole lot of forum-ing and some very OCD research I've established...

I'd rather not trouble the sound guy too much. I'd prefer to say "This is my mic, add a little this, reduce a little this, it should be sweet..." and focus on my singing and performance.

So I'm weighing up the following-

Beta 57 - This is what I currently use. So similar to the Beta 58, but I prefer the grille and feel. Plenty of presence. I just don't like the way my growls and screams break up, there ends up with too much presence ???

Audix OM7 - Great for it's proximity control, and plenty of gain before feedback. But maybe too tight for proxitimity and not ideal for when I sing and play guitar ??

Heil PR35 - I like the way this reads, but apparently it has sibilance and popping issues(??). Plus it seems kinda bulky.

Anyone mind putting in their opinion?? I'm almost there. Thanks
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26th February 2010
Old 26th February 2010
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I'd probably try the Heil PR-35 I doubt it'd be any more prone to handling noise or sibilance than any other handheld mic.

I've been using a PR-20 for my voice but that was singing and drumming (so it was on a stand) and I actually like it a bit better than my beta 57.
micmike
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#14
26th February 2010
Old 26th February 2010
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Originally Posted by KeithMoonwannabe View Post
I'd probably try the Heil PR-35 I doubt it'd be any more prone to handling noise or sibilance than any other handheld mic.
Thanks man
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26th February 2010
Old 26th February 2010
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Originally Posted by micmike View Post
Thanks man
Since picking up the PR-40 and PR-20 I've been very impressed with the Heil stuff, I've used the PR-30 in the past and remembered being wow'd but I just have a lingering appreciation for his products that I haven't really gotten from anything else on the market.

If I had the money I'd be picking up a pair of PR-30 now (for toms, guitar cabs, and vocals) but I just ordered a new snare drum (Yamaha 6.5x13" brass) and kit (6 pc Mapex Meridian Birch and hardware) so that was my GAS funds for most of the year.

Looks like the only mics I'll be getting anytime soon will likely be a matched pair of Karma K10 and an MXL V67G with shockmount.
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