mike1127
Thread Starter
#1
3rd December 2011
Old 3rd December 2011
  #1
Gear interested
 

Thread Starter
tube mics

To review, I'm interested in getting a mic (or stereo pair) to record other students playing my compositions. My A/D is an Apogee Mini-Me. My budget for the mic is, to start, a few hundred dollars.

At first I was looking at ribbons, because they are respected by several musicians/recording-engineers I know. However, I'm starting to think a ribbon is not going to work. My Mini-Me has 65 dB of gain and 1.2 KOhm input impedance, which, according to several people I've talked to, is not quite enough. Plus, I don't think I'll be doing much close miking, so the signal will be relatively small.

My next thought is a tube condenser mic. So I wanted to get your thoughts on those.
#2
3rd December 2011
Old 3rd December 2011
  #2
Why tube? What's your budget?

Cheap-ish tube microphones on the used market are the Chameleon Labs TS-1 and Groove Tubes GT44. Couldn't tell you if they are any good because I don't have first hand experience...
#3
3rd December 2011
Old 3rd December 2011
  #3
Lives for gear
tube condensors in the affordable range intentionally distort the sound somewhat. they are very likely NOT what you want.

what do your students do? play some specific instrument? sing? what style?

there are common popular choices that are selected for very good reasons depending on what you'er recording:

classical voice: akg c535eb or similar

violin or piano: a long motor ribbon or maybe an mxl 2003a or similar

rock vocal: arguably a dynamic like re-20, sm7b, heil pr-30 or maybe 20, or one of many decent sounding universal LDC mics (at 4040, cad m179, etc etc)

acoustic steel string guitar: imho many LDCs sound good, some like me enjoy the cheap at2020 MDC as well, others like sdcs but I only do if they're NOT mxl 603s or equivalent LoL (others will disagree)

classical guitar: something warmer but still with lots of definition - many LDCs will work well for this but I would go for a CAD m179 personally

horns: imho ribbons, long for brigner, short motor for darker/vintage sounding, are just amazing. I personally use long ribbon motor designs for this but I don't do a lot of horn recording (other than alto sax) but have heard that short ones sound cool tooo.

so many things to consider.
#4
3rd December 2011
Old 3rd December 2011
  #4
Lives for gear
 
kidvybes's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dkelley View Post
tube condensors in the affordable range intentionally distort the sound somewhat.
...not necessarily so...

...your best shot at a versatile, natural/neutral sounding tube mic with wonderful detail and clarity (in your price range) is the Stellar CM-6...while many will tell you that you have to spend much more for a 'quality' tube microphone, those who have used this mic have found it to be quite impressive (even when compared to much more costly options), especially at such a low pricepoint...

...there's quite a bit of info here on GS (search 'Stellar CM-6') and check out these shootouts for sound files and more info:

Hundreds$ to Thousands$ Female Mic Shootout

Stellar CM4 CM6 Review | recording hacks
mike1127
Thread Starter
#5
3rd December 2011
Old 3rd December 2011
  #5
Gear interested
 

Thread Starter
I mentioned my budget in the original post but it was kind of buried.

A few hundred dollars.

I'm hoping to record my own compositions. They will be "classical" or "concert music" style and could involve any acoustic instrument. Most likely will be small ensembles or soloists. No big ensembles.

I like tube amps and preamps, so I was wondering if I would like tube mics for this reason.
#6
3rd December 2011
Old 3rd December 2011
  #6
Lives for gear
 
kidvybes's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mike1127 View Post
I mentioned my budget in the original post but it was kind of buried.

A few hundred dollars.

I'm hoping to record my own compositions. They will be "classical" or "concert music" style and could involve any acoustic instrument. Most likely will be small ensembles or soloists. No big ensembles.
...CM-6 is $375..

...excellent on acoustic instruments (see shootouts above) and/or room micing...some relevant posts with sound files here:

Stellar cm6 clips!!

Stellar cm-6 : best budget tube mic!
#7
4th December 2011
Old 4th December 2011
  #7
Gear maniac
 
duff mcshark's Avatar
 

Consider getting a SDC to go with a multipattern tube mic. A stereo MS pair sounds great on ensembles and those two mics will each capture an important part of the mix.

Sent from my C771 using Gearslutz.com
#8
4th December 2011
Old 4th December 2011
  #8
Gear addict
 
Bater's Avatar
another vote for a pair of CAD M179's...best option for a very versatile stereo pair on a budget
#9
4th December 2011
Old 4th December 2011
  #9
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by kidvybes View Post
...not necessarily so...

...your best shot at a versatile, natural/neutral sounding tube mic with wonderful detail and clarity (in your price range) is the Stellar CM-6...while many will tell you that you have to spend much more for a 'quality' tube microphone, those who have used this mic have found it to be quite impressive (even when compared to much more costly options), especially at such a low pricepoint...

...there's quite a bit of info here on GS (search 'Stellar CM-6') and check out these shootouts for sound files and more info:

Hundreds$ to Thousands$ Female Mic Shootout

Stellar CM4 CM6 Review | recording hacks
yea, I meant stock mass produced chinese affordable tube mics LoL.

and by affordable I don't mean as much as the mxl v69me, cad m9, or stellar cm6 or cm5.

ok, basically I mean teh apex 460 and variants, the behringer tube-not-required tube mics (chuckle), and similar $150 types of products.

I have an apex 460 that I modded myself which is quite excellent and uses the stock capsules and stock transformer but has a lot of very simple and subtle circuit mods, removals, and additions (all of which are capacitors). oh and of course a lower output tube to work with the stock transformer/gain structure.

it's a truly excellent mic - but the biggest feature I added is a HF filter to make up for the stock capsule's HF peak. in other words, I modded the circuit to actually match the hardware.

amazing what proper design actually can do for a cheap microphone... :-)

anyhow - stellar mics are at a different level of quality, as are mxl v69me, cad m9 (one of my favorite mics at any price), and several other more pricey tube mics. they of course dont' use the mic as a distortion generator.

but I think we all can agree that the stock apex 460 DOES by design overdrive the circuit (ok, it's the transformer more than the tube that is overdriven, but still....) and that is part of it's sound, like it or not.

Since the 460 is the same as several cheap tube mics at similar price levels, more or less, that is where I got my generalization from.

never meant to make it sound like stellar mics etc were included in that segment.
#10
4th December 2011
Old 4th December 2011
  #10
Lives for gear
 
idylldon's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bater View Post
another vote for a pair of CAD M179's...best option for a very versatile stereo pair on a budget


Can't go wrong with these for what you're asking for, though the price for the pair might stretch your budget a bit.

One caveat: These aren't tube mics.

Cheers,
--
Don
#11
4th December 2011
Old 4th December 2011
  #11
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by mike1127 View Post
I mentioned my budget in the original post but it was kind of buried.

A few hundred dollars.

I'm hoping to record my own compositions. They will be "classical" or "concert music" style and could involve any acoustic instrument. Most likely will be small ensembles or soloists. No big ensembles.

I like tube amps and preamps, so I was wondering if I would like tube mics for this reason.
ok, your reasoning for liking tube mics doesn't follow based on your requirements. tube amps etc can sound oustanding (assuming you mean hifi amps) but only at a pretty high standard, in other words the pricey ones. or of course tube guitar amps which sound better with tubes because of how good tubes sound when driven into distortion which is a guitar effect - NOT a vocal or instrumental recording effect.

for what you want to record, a tube mic is completely not important to your equation. there is no inherent advantage to using a tube in a mic circuit if you are not going to push it into saturation or near saturation levels or if you are not using such a pristine and extremely amazing tube circuit that the tube actually can perform exceptionally well (in other words, either cheap and distorted tube mic or very very expensive tube mic).

now of course the cm5, cm6, etc are exceptions to this rule - but once you get into tube mics that are clean enough to soudn great on classical groups or small ensembles then you also will find you are at least as happy with solid state or dynamic mics that may in fact perform even better for your specific purpose.

I would open up your mind to non-tube mics. you don't need a tube mic. tthese days tube mics are typically sought after for lead vocals or other specific things.

anyone recording small ensembles doesnt' care if it's a tube mic or not - they care about low distortion, neutral frequency response, etc.

I would focus on mxl 2003a, cad m179, apex 205 ribbons, and some other very similar mics. there are quite a few that will suit your needs ideally, and I don't personally know if the stellar cm6 is as good as those but the simple fact that it is a tube mic is completely irrelevant to whether or not it happens to work well with your requirements. maybe it's another one to try out - but what if you could buy two cad m179s or two mxl 2003a or two apex 205s for the same price and get equal or better sound quality (possibly, based on many engineers' choice/recommendation to use these mics in these situations...), and have stereo miking as well (which is ABSOLUTELY REQUIRED for recording any acoustic ensemble properly)?

think about it. please get over your tube bias. tubes are not better when talking about linear, neutral, classical or non-rock type recording. they are just another way of accomplishing the same goal. no reason to search them out as the best way to go.

the best small ensemble recordings in the world, and the majority of them also I would think, don't use tube mics specifically - rather they use whatever mics have the most appropriate frequency response, polar pattern, dynamic range (s/n ratio) and noise specs.
#12
4th December 2011
Old 4th December 2011
  #12
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mike1127 View Post
I mentioned my budget in the original post but it was kind of buried.

A few hundred dollars.

I'm hoping to record my own compositions. They will be "classical" or "concert music" style and could involve any acoustic instrument. Most likely will be small ensembles or soloists. No big ensembles.

I like tube amps and preamps, so I was wondering if I would like tube mics for this reason.
I would want a pair of small diaphragm condensers for this task. Typically, AKG 451/460/480 would be about $350 used. Schoeps or DPAs would be much more expensive. The Neumann KM-84i is a good choice but also quite pricy. I have three C-28s, which is an AKG tube small diaphragm mic which has a slightly rounded warmer sound than the 451/460/480 series, but again probably out of your price range right now. The old Oktava MK-012 would be a budget solution... I'm not really familiar with other innexpensive SDs, the ones that I have heard don't impress me that much.
#13
4th December 2011
Old 4th December 2011
  #13
Lives for gear
 
Vintageidiot's Avatar
 

tube

I have heard good things from a friend using an ADK tube mic with NOS tubes.....
#14
5th December 2011
Old 5th December 2011
  #14
Lives for gear
 
aclarson's Avatar
I honestly wouldn't bother with any tube mic less than the Stellar, I have a CM-6 and an Apex 460 variant (GAP TC-1), and there is no comparison between the two, the Stellar beats it 100 times out of 100. I've never been very satisfied with the TC-1, I may have to mod it to see if I can get something nicer out of it. My cheap non-tube condensers usually come out better than the TC-1 on most things.

I'd have to agree with those who said to go with the SDC pair, seems more suited for your application, especially at the price point. Find a pair of Oktava MK-012 or something of the like.

The two CADs seems like a good option if you'll be using much percussive/low-end instrumentation. The variable patterns would give you a lot of options.
mike1127
Thread Starter
#15
5th December 2011
Old 5th December 2011
  #15
Gear interested
 

Thread Starter
Thanks for the advice everyone.. and I understand, a tube mic may not be suitable for me.

But let me address this question of how good tubes are.

First let me establish some background. As a composition student (and I'm a bit older, been doing this as a hobby for a while), I've spent thousands of hours listening to live music and deepening my perception of the facets of live music that matter most to me.

"What facets matter most to me" is part of my personality. Other people spend thousands of hours with live music, but make different choices about what is most important to listen for.

Since different people care about different facets of live music, their judgment of how accurately a microphone/amp/speaker/etc reproduces music is personal to their personality.

For me, a simple tube amp walks all over a simple solid-state amp. It's not even close. I'm talking about how accurately it reproduces live music.

To put it another way, all cheap amps distort the sound, but cheap solid-state distortions are much worse than tube distortions. A lot of people call tubes a euphonic coloration. I'm very clear on this, yes, some tube equipment has euphonic coloration but that is a separate issue from their accuracy.

I have heard very expensive solid-state amps that are wonderful. Only one brand however... actually it's not a "brand" per se, it's a guy who mods stuff. My main system amp is a solid-state amp modded by him.

Mike
#16
5th December 2011
Old 5th December 2011
  #16
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mike1127 View Post

"What facets matter most to me" .....

Mike

all of this begs the question when you throw a budget price limitation at the process. You want a great sounding tube mic? I think the C-28s that I have sound pretty darned nice, and they offer the advantages of the small diaphragm that I mentioned above. But they do not fit into your budget. Tracy Korby has made some nice small diaphragm tube mics that look about like Neuman KM84i's, which makes them tiny for a tube mic and easy to position. I have a pair of vintage Altec small diaphragm tube mics that are very sweet. But these are all out of your price range.

The solid state small diaphragm mic, coupled with your preferred tube preamp is likely to give you all the tube sound that you need. (I don't agree with you about preamps, and the most desirable preamps are mostly solid state. But I do mostly prefer tube amps for electric guitar.) The 'tube' sound that most people love so much in vintage gear mostly comes from the transformers. Either way, comparing budget gear of one type to high quality gear of another and trying to draw useful conclusions does not yield useful results.


So, for capturing various and sundry acoustic instruments I recommend a pair of small diaphragm condensers, of a decent quality. I suggest this for the sonic properties that an SD mic brings to the table. This will work for a wide variety of situation which you may face.
#17
5th December 2011
Old 5th December 2011
  #17
Lives for gear
cool descriptions of your reasoning.

It's just that the simple facts are this:
- it's easy, really really easy, to make solid state circuits that have virtually inaudible distortion in all practical sense. it's tougher to do that with a tube, but it can be done.

- typically tubes are used in simpler circuits with the intent of making the tube audible in some way. if the tube itself isn't particularly an audible part of the circuit (in other words if it's not being over-gained into saturation levels where it intentionally distorts, pleasantly or not), then in many (NOT ALL) tube mics the transformer is overdriven to the point of being saturated which can be a cool sound but is often incorrectly assumed to be a "Tube mic" thing, when in fact it's often just a marketing trick to make you think that tubes inherently sound different. fwiw, this is done in the cad m9 afaik and I happen to love the result even if the main thing I love about it is the transformer coloration, not the tube part at all.

- tubes can perform just as neutrally as solid state and vice versa. but it truly is more challenging to make a very low distortion tube preamp (or at least it's more expensive, physically larger and with fancier power supplies).

So.... most tube mics, even those I love like the cad m9, do by design have higher distortion than most solid state mics, at least when talking about relatively affordable mics (as I noted, there are obvious exceptions which are TYPICALLY but not always in much more pricey tube mics).

Tubes distort more pleasantly that transistors or op amps if there is enough voltage from the psu. but remember - an instrumental microphone should be designed to be neutral and to NOT run at saturation levels, ever. Based on this rule of thumb, your search for tube mics over solid state because of how much nicer tube distortion is seems flawed.

Fundamentally I disagree that all mic circuits cause audible distortion. in fact I would suggest that most don't generate any audible distortion at all. it's really quite true that most solid state preamps are virtually distortion free in the most obvious ways - certainly they should never be clipping or saturating which is the sort of distortion where a tube circuit will have superior sounding distortion (Again, like in a guitar amp that is being overdriven into saturation/distortion).

anyhow, it's clear you've opened your mind to other suggesitons and it will be cool to find out what you choose and how it works for you :-)
#18
5th December 2011
Old 5th December 2011
  #18
Lives for gear
 
kidvybes's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill@WelcomeHome View Post
I would want a pair of small diaphragm condensers for this task.
...I agree that a pair of mics, possibly SDC's might be more appropriate for the task at hand...

Quote:
Originally Posted by mike1127 View Post
For me, a simple tube amp walks all over a simple solid-state amp. It's not even close. I'm talking about how accurately it reproduces live music.
...if I may, I'd like to elaborate on that thought...the CM-6 utilizes a very simple and straight-forward single-stage plate-follower type circuit built around an EF86 pentode (single element) tube wired as a triode...unlike many other of the less expensive tube mics like the popular Apex 460 or Nady 1050 which incorporate a second-stage cathode-follower circuit...when that second stage is used to "drive" the mic's transformer (as in the CM-5's design) you introduce more character or "color" into the voicing equation...while that may be desireable in specific applications, it's the simpler plate-follower type design that will tend to deliver a truer, more accurate (clean & detailed) reproduction of the source being recorded...this, IMHO, is the CM-6's strong point...
#19
6th December 2011
Old 6th December 2011
  #19
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by mike1127 View Post
For me, a simple tube amp walks all over a simple solid-state amp. It's not even close. I'm talking about how accurately it reproduces live music.

To put it another way, all cheap amps distort the sound, but cheap solid-state distortions are much worse than tube distortions. A lot of people call tubes a euphonic coloration. I'm very clear on this, yes, some tube equipment has euphonic coloration but that is a separate issue from their accuracy.

I have heard very expensive solid-state amps that are wonderful. Only one brand however... actually it's not a "brand" per se, it's a guy who mods stuff. My main system amp is a solid-state amp modded by him.

Mike
by the way, I'm making the assumption here that you're talking about guitar amps, not hifi amps. because what you say is of course true of guitar amps - and again the reason for this is mostly because a tube that is driven to and past the point of saturation will distort much more pleasantly than a solid state device will. and why this is good is because a guitar amp is part of the tone generation - it's not reproducing the guitar faithfully or accurately at all. Rather a guitar amp is drastically distorting the sound of the guitar, and in the process improving it dramatically. even without being pushed into overdrive a guitar amp is so far from being accurate that you'd be shocked if you checked the measurements.

hifi amps are rather differnet however - so you could potentially be right there. but since tube mics are honestly more like tube guitar amps where they try to have their own signature sound - you would want to choose a very clean tube mic (liek the stellar mic being mentioned in thsi thread) or a solid state mic.
#20
6th December 2011
Old 6th December 2011
  #20
Given your budget, I would definitely stay away from tube mics, and, as a few others have said, I think your money would be better spent on a pair of mics rather than just one. In a room capture situation with a small acoustic ensemble, it really pays to have a stereo pair.

I have recently been recording the Argento Ensemble in a practice space at NYU, and have been using a pair of Sterling Audio ST59's running into an ART MPA preamp. I think this might be more like what you're looking for: FET condenser mics with a tube preamp. That way you get the clarity of the solid-state mics (at much lower cost than tubes) and then you can dial in some tube warmth and color, as much as you want depending on the situation.
#21
6th December 2011
Old 6th December 2011
  #21
Lives for gear
 
taturana's Avatar
i would look for an used oktava mkl-2500 for sale... i got a pair fairly cheap a couple of years ago and they sound very good.....
#22
6th December 2011
Old 6th December 2011
  #22
Gear Head
 

I've heard wonders about the AT4060 however it is a bit more then what you're looking to spend as well as being a fixed cardioid condenser. From what I've heard however, it sounds great on practically anything you put it on and is all around one of the best bang for your buck mics (especially for a tube mic) that you can get
#23
7th December 2011
Old 7th December 2011
  #23
Rocket Scientist
 
foldback's Avatar
A couple of my classical clients are, a female opera singer and an awesome organist that gives concerts on big pipe organs.

Personally I would not choose a tube mic. I don't think the tube matters much, especially in todays bargain priced LDC mics.

Dealing with carrying and hooking up a power supply for tube mics is another hassle of dubious benefit.

For classical my go-to mics are AKG 414B-ULS. I bought a pair new back in the early 90's and have collected several more used off ebay for under $500 each.

These microphones have very natural flat frequency response, they are low noise, multiple pickup patterns, reliable, low noise and they produce recordings that my customers have loved (which keeps them calling me).

I like very neutral uncolored preamps for classical recording. IMHO it's really a matter of getting the mic's into the right positions and capturing the performance rather than coloring it with a tube or something.

It has been a while since I've searched for used 414's because I've got 7 of them and don't need more. Ebay buyer protection makes the purchase pretty safe these day, that's where I'd shop if I was looking for a deal.

I would for-sure look for a used "great mic" before spending money on "POP" low priced Chinese models. Classic models and brands hold their value and have the best resale value so you're not throwing your money down the drain on fad models.

Wishing you all the best in your quest.
#24
7th December 2011
Old 7th December 2011
  #24
Gear nut
 

Rode ntv. U can probably get one second hand for about $350.
#25
8th December 2011
Old 8th December 2011
  #25
Lives for gear
while I like the 414 concept, there are a lot of different models of akg 414 and many are far far far from being flat, although they are all certainly very good mics that do hold their value.

if you want to spend more money OP, the akg c535eb is an exceptional small diaphram condensor mic designed for classical recording.

as a classical violinist and chamber musician myself I still prefer apex 205 ribbon mics to anything else remotely affordable though as a universal, solid, reliable, neutral yet warm and very musical sounding mic.

any relatively neutral mic is good though, like the stellars, mxl 2003a, cad m179. that mxl and that cad don't have the depth of apex 205 ribbon mics though in the lower mids.
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