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building a mic cabinet slowly; help me develop my plan
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martinkuki
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#1
26th December 2012
Old 26th December 2012
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building a mic cabinet slowly; help me develop my plan

Hi all,
About a year and a half ago I started purchasing and assembling a mobile rig for recording music. A thread here on GS helped a good bit with selecting some of the equipment... so thanks, community. I bought a pair of ultra budget mics to go with my one passable large-diaphragm condenser so I could afford to spend a little real money on every other part of my signal chain, figuring I'd start adding worthy mics when I could afford it.

Many sessions later, as expected, it's clear (from being able to borrow better ones from time to time) that my mics are by far the weakest part of my chain. I struggle and struggle to get good sounds compared to what I was able to do when I had access to a locker full of nice microphones running into comparable pre's and converters.

Now I have about $700 to spend on a mic or two. I'm not looking for suggestions, as I wouldn't drop that kind of money on a microphone I don't have personal experience with. But I can't decide which angle I want to start in on, since I can't buy a full kit of worthy mics at once. So here are my thoughts, and I would love any input as to what sounds like the most practical starting point to y'all. Typical sources: electric guitar cab, non-screaming vocals, acoustic guitar, stringed instruments, one to two performers at a time, in living rooms, bedrooms, garages. Obviously I can't record full drumkits yet without borrowing mics.

2x SM81s for a pair of clean, no-frills, no-complaints SDCs. I get 0 flavor, but I get a simple, high quality stereo miking solution that doesn't make me tear my hair out. The MXL pencils I have right now totally make me tear my hair out. This seems like the most practical but least attractive option to me. $700.

1x RE20 for a dynamic workhorse I know I love the sound of - plus, the only mic that's ever *not* given me hassle on a kick drum, and it doesn't even use up my whole budget. My interface ought to have enough gain to run one on quiet sources. $450.

1x TS-1 MKII for a seriously nice, very versatile tube mic. Switchable pattern large diaphragm capsule, omni and cardioid small diaphragm capsules, variable tube heater voltage. I've used TS-1 MKIs and TS-2s plenty and they are my favorite-sounding sub-$1000 microphones, hands down. The many downsides: fragile 7-pin cable, have to carry around a heavy power supply, more electronics means more possibility of breakage/failure, longest setup/breakdown time, most expensive option at $600 for just one (when I know what I'd really like is a pair of them )

What do you think? Thanks for any help you can give me!

Here's my current gearlist.

Steinberg MR816 interface
Adam A7 monitors
one GT55 large diaphragm condenser that I've had for many years
two MXL 604 SDCs that are not worth the chump change I paid for them
HP Elitebook laptop
assorted inappropriate headphones
a handful of cables, stands, accessories
#2
26th December 2012
Old 26th December 2012
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Fathead pair-$350- good for gtr cabs, strings, some vox, stereo room etc
Sm57 -$50-$100 each. Good on tons of stuff
Sm81-250-350

Would give you some tonal options. You could also replace the fatheads with an akg214 if you want an LDC
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26th December 2012
Old 26th December 2012
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Biggest suggestion, buy used. Your money will go further.

Other sdc's to consider, Bill Sitler modded Oktava 012's.

Get 2 sm57's.

Akg 414 b-uls. Used for between 5-600. Versatile and you will never "outgrow" it.
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27th December 2012
Old 27th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by j2dafo View Post
Biggest suggestion, buy used. Your money will go further.

Other sdc's to consider, Bill Sitler modded Oktava 012's.

Get 2 sm57's.

Akg 414 b-uls. Used for between 5-600. Versatile and you will never "outgrow" it.
Yup. I'd add MD 421 (x2) and +1 on the 57s (or Audix i5s).

Rugged, dependable dynamic mics that will be useful for a lifetime and will retain their resale value should it come to it.

Plus if you're doing location recording, you're going to want mics that exhibit good rejection and durability; LDCs or even SDCs will not always be useful.

You should hop on the location recording forum too.
martinkuki
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27th December 2012
Old 27th December 2012
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Should have put "not looking for other mic suggestions" in bold. I don't care for 421s (yes I know everyone else loves them, but I do not like their rising HF response and in practice find them hard to use), I can borrow 57s til the cows come home, I've never used oktava 012s and fatheads are nice but far from a priority, because they're fragile fig8s. Actually trying to decide between mics I already have experience with and know exactly how to use! But thanks for the suggestions.

Also, the kind of "location recording" I do is not very stressful for mics. Ribbons would be a concern but I have no problem driving condensers around in padded cases and carefully setting them up/breaking them down if they are the mics I want to use on a session.
#6
27th December 2012
Old 27th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by martinkuki View Post
Should have put "not looking for other mic suggestions" in bold. I don't care for 421s (yes I know everyone else loves them, but I do not like their rising HF response and in practice find them hard to use), I can borrow 57s til the cows come home, I've never used oktava 012s and fatheads are nice but far from a priority, because they're fragile fig8s. Actually trying to decide between mics I already have experience with and know exactly how to use! But thanks for the suggestions.

Also, the kind of "location recording" I do is not very stressful for mics. Ribbons would be a concern but I have no problem driving condensers around in padded cases and carefully setting them up/breaking them down if they are the mics I want to use on a session.
Folks are giving you suggestions because they would do things differently. maybe go with the tube condenser then, would be the most versatile of the mics you mentioned
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27th December 2012
Old 27th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by martinkuki View Post
Should have put "not looking for other mic suggestions" in bold. I don't care for 421s (yes I know everyone else loves them, but I do not like their rising HF response and in practice find them hard to use), I can borrow 57s til the cows come home, I've never used oktava 012s and fatheads are nice but far from a priority, because they're fragile fig8s. Actually trying to decide between mics I already have experience with and know exactly how to use! But thanks for the suggestions.

Also, the kind of "location recording" I do is not very stressful for mics. Ribbons would be a concern but I have no problem driving condensers around in padded cases and carefully setting them up/breaking them down if they are the mics I want to use on a session.
Kind of sounds like you already know what you want then. Just pull the trigger and stop sweatin' it.
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27th December 2012
Old 27th December 2012
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one option may be to send your 604 mics to michael jolly, i'm not sure if he mods them or not but he does the 603. then use the left over change for the re-20.
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27th December 2012
Old 27th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by martinkuki View Post
Thanks for any help you can give me!
You can ask people to tell you what to buy, or listen yourself and decide what suits your esthetic. These threads will point you in the right direction for what to listen to and may be helpful for you. Lots of listening and comments from others who listened. Always TRY to buy quality, but often, quality need not be uber-expensive. Here you go :

A $110 mic hangs with the big boys, and kicks some of their butts :
***Mic-Mod Madness!!!***

The king of SDC mics - The Neumann KM84. What can stand up to them - and what can't :
More Mic Madness - cHapTeR 4 - What's up with KM84's?

Ribbons - unsung hero's. Buy more ribbons and less Condensers.
Ribbon Madness....Some Comparisons

Drum Mics - always a fun listen....
Drum Mic Madness!!!!
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27th December 2012
Old 27th December 2012
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I think if you go the used route you can probably hit 2 out of 3 of your stated options, for maybe a bit over your $700 budget.

If you can only do one thing right now, think back to what's had you banging your head against a wall most in the recent past, and then kill that bird. Sounds from your post like those MXLs might be causing you the most grief...

(I know you're not looking for mic suggestions, but B and H has AT4041 pair for $500 right now.)
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27th December 2012
Old 27th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gravyface View Post
Kind of sounds like you already know what you want then. Just pull the trigger and stop sweatin' it.
Well I actually find myself totally torn between the three options I posted, which is why I turned to GS for advice!

My OP was probably poorly phrased. And my response, in retrospect, seems sort of curt - not my intention. I typed it from an ipod in an airport while I was supposed to be boarding so it came out kind of short 'n' blunt. Apologies.

More explicitly phrased: if you had a satisfactory signal chain but your only noteworthy microphone was one neutral, clean and unspectacular large diaphragm condenser, which of the two following kits would you buy, and in what order would you buy the mics, if you were going to be spending no more than $700 at a time, and making purchases no more often than two or three times a year? Assume unlimited access to SM57s for snare/tom mics that do not need to be budgeted for, and that after I've picked up these mics, I'll start picking up my less-favorite flavor mics, like fatheads, and exploring well-reviewed options that I've no experience with, like Joly Oktavas.

KIT A, costlier, slower to acquire, can't buy the stereo pair all at once, more flavor and versatility

2x TS-1 MKII, $600 each - stereo mics, drum overheads, vox, instruments, room mics
1x RE-20 $450 - kick, vox, instruments

KIT B, cheaper, faster to acquire, can buy the stereo pair all at once, less flavor and versatility

2x SM81 $350 each - same functions as above minus room miking
1x RE-20 $450 - same functions as above

@drBill - everything I've listed suits my aesthetic, but I can't have them all at once, which is why I'm asking for thoughts about what I ought to get first. TYVM for gathering those thread links for me. Tomorrow when I'm not exhausted I'll have a listening session.

@those advising me to buy used: I love the idea, but literally every piece of audio equipment I've bought so far has needed manufacturer service because of a technical problem or defect... this steers me away from used gear hardcore, unless I know the person I'm buying from and can try out the mic in person. I know mics are supposed to be the one thing it's okay to buy used but I'm still wary.

I don't mean to sound ungrateful for people's efforts, just trying to ask for a specific kind of help. Thanks for contributing everyone, I do appreciate the advice, whatever form it takes.
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27th December 2012
Old 27th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by martinkuki View Post
Well I actually find myself totally torn between the three options I posted, which is why I turned to GS for advice!

My OP was probably poorly phrased. And my response, in retrospect, seems sort of curt - not my intention. I typed it from an ipod in an airport while I was supposed to be boarding so it came out kind of short 'n' blunt. Apologies.

More explicitly phrased: if you had a satisfactory signal chain but your only noteworthy microphone was one neutral, clean and unspectacular large diaphragm condenser, which of the two following kits would you buy, and in what order would you buy the mics, if you were going to be spending no more than $700 at a time, and making purchases no more often than two or three times a year? Assume unlimited access to SM57s for snare/tom mics that do not need to be budgeted for, and that after I've picked up these mics, I'll start picking up my less-favorite flavor mics, like fatheads, and exploring well-reviewed options that I've no experience with, like Joly Oktavas.

KIT A, costlier, slower to acquire, can't buy the stereo pair all at once, more flavor and versatility

2x TS-1 MKII, $600 each - stereo mics, drum overheads, vox, instruments, room mics
1x RE-20 $450 - kick, vox, instruments

KIT B, cheaper, faster to acquire, can buy the stereo pair all at once, less flavor and versatility

2x SM81 $350 each - same functions as above minus room miking
1x RE-20 $450 - same functions as above

@drBill - everything I've listed suits my aesthetic, but I can't have them all at once, which is why I'm asking for thoughts about what I ought to get first. TYVM for gathering those thread links for me. Tomorrow when I'm not exhausted I'll have a listening session.

@those advising me to buy used: I love the idea, but literally every piece of audio equipment I've bought so far has needed manufacturer service because of a technical problem or defect... this steers me away from used gear hardcore, unless I know the person I'm buying from and can try out the mic in person. I know mics are supposed to be the one thing it's okay to buy used but I'm still wary.

I don't mean to sound ungrateful for people's efforts, just trying to ask for a specific kind of help. Thanks for contributing everyone, I do appreciate the advice, whatever form it takes.
Either one of those kits sound fine to me, but if you're planning on doing room miking, you'll probably want to add the additional LD capsule add-on to the TP1-Mkii; not sure if you factored that into your costs, but it'll certainly bump it up a bit.

I'd go with Kit A: it sounds like that's what you truly want anyways. If those MXLs are killing you, get them Joly modded, sell them when you're ready to get the TP-1s. They'll go for sure on GS.

As far as used gear goes, from trusted sources, buying microphones used (especially ones known for their dependability/quality manufacturing, etc.) is a no-brainer: guys look for different colour applications, studio's downsize/upgrade, and engineer's retire, etc.

Just have to be smart about it.
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27th December 2012
Old 27th December 2012
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Originally Posted by gravyface View Post
Either one of those kits sound fine to me, but if you're planning on doing room miking, you'll probably want to add the additional LD capsule add-on to the TP1-Mkii; not sure if you factored that into your costs, but it'll certainly bump it up a bit.
All the TS-1 kits I'm looking at include all the capsules for $600. Maybe that wasn't the case at one time but unless I'm mistaken they come standard now.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gravyface View Post
I'd go with Kit A: it sounds like that's what you truly want anyways. If those MXLs are killing you, get them Joly modded, sell them when you're ready to get the TP-1s. They'll go for sure on GS.
I didn't want to invest another penny in the MXLs but if there's a market for that particular mod when I move on then that is something to consider... thanks for the tip.

Yes, Kit A is the one anyone would prefer, I think; but there are implications to working without a legit stereo pair for a while. On the other hand there are implications to working with no real standout mics for a while. That was kind of what I was trying to raise discussion about all along.

I think maybe GS was the wrong place to ask this question, and I'm still asking it in an overcomplicated way. This forum likes to pick out mics! I've thought of a third, simpler way to say what I want to say, but I'm turning my own thread into a nightmare of self-revision.
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27th December 2012
Old 27th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by martinkuki View Post
All the TS-1 kits I'm looking at include all the capsules for $600. Maybe that wasn't the case at one time but unless I'm mistaken they come standard now.
Looked like they were sold separately from the red "fine print" on the product description page, but who knows.


Quote:
Originally Posted by martinkuki View Post

Yes, Kit A is the one anyone would prefer, I think; but there are implications to working without a legit stereo pair for a while. On the other hand there are implications to working with no real standout mics for a while. That was kind of what I was trying to raise discussion about all along.
I think you're sweating this way too much; just save up for the mics you want and be done with it. The MXLs can be modded within your budget now and you may even want to keep them. Options are a good thing some times.

Quote:
Originally Posted by martinkuki View Post
I think maybe GS was the wrong place to ask this question, and I'm still asking it in an overcomplicated way.
Yes, yes you are.

Quote:
Originally Posted by martinkuki View Post
This forum likes to pick out mics! I've thought of a third, simpler way to say what I want to say, but I'm turning my own thread into a nightmare of self-revision.
Pretty sure we all thought that's what you wanted us to do.
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28th December 2012
Old 28th December 2012
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The TS1 kit is the clear winner of those choices. Good for vocals, strings, amps, drums. Is that really the going rate for a pair with the LDC capsule included? If so, I might pick up some. I love my TS2. Very versatile and good-sounding mic.

Later on pick up some NOS tubes for an easy upgrade.
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28th December 2012
Old 28th December 2012
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I'll give the Low End response:

You're a little nuts for wanting fiddly, high-maintenance, slow to set up mics for location recording. I understand the inner geek wanting to have more to set up and more maintenance to worry about (how many hours on those tubes?). But, there's plenty to got wrong on location without extra hassle.

Besides, do you want to buy one golden mic and have to do most of your recording on those scratchy 603s until you can afford a second gold unit?

And, seriously, you do yourself a disservice being so picky about mics you've already worked with. There are good, less-expensive stereo solutions out there that you may like more than your workhorse 81 for less money... (though the TS-1 is a bit off the beaten path)



-tINY

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28th December 2012
Old 28th December 2012
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Oops. I mis-read, and thought you were getting a pair of TS-1's for the price. It is still a great and versatile option but..

...I also missed where you are doing location work. In that case, find a nice pair of FET SDC's. I agree there are probably better options for cheaper, but I understand wanting to go with what you know too.

RE-20's are great for certain things, but not versatile enough for the price - your budget being what it is.
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28th December 2012
Old 28th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tINY View Post

You're a little nuts for wanting fiddly, high-maintenance, slow to set up mics for location recording. I understand the inner geek wanting to have more to set up and more maintenance to worry about (how many hours on those tubes?). But, there's plenty to got wrong on location without extra hassle.

Besides, do you want to buy one golden mic and have to do most of your recording on those scratchy 603s until you can afford a second gold unit?

And, seriously, you do yourself a disservice being so picky about mics you've already worked with. There are good, less-expensive stereo solutions out there that you may like more than your workhorse 81 for less money... (though the TS-1 is a bit off the beaten path)
I appreciate being called out on that because it makes me think about it harder... let me play devil's advocate for a minute, just to finish out my chain of thought, before I acquiesce.

You're so right that there's plenty to go wrong in location recording without extra hassle. The problem is that that applies to both questions of practicality/ease AND questions of quality. And in practical terms, we're actually only talking about one to two extra minutes of attention per mic if I go with those tubes rather than FETs. Not a big deal for a several-hour session if there's an actual sound advantage to be had. My interface is not bus-powered so I already need a power strip to function as a home base for my laptop and interface, making the extra power-supplies not such a huge deal.

Insisting on picking mics I've already worked with isn't an attempt to get the best value so much as it's an attempt to gamble as little as possible, since I don't come by enough money to buy more gear all that often.

Lastly, those MXLs probably won't see use again unless for some reason I decide to get them modded. If I got one "golden" (everything here's low end anyways, ) mic right now, my intermediate stereo solution would be to use that mic with my GT55, which works just fine on many sources. I'd have to be creative about it but I've made that kind of configuration work before.

However, pretty clear answer, pair FET SDCs for convenience and price point, acknowledged. Thanks!
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28th December 2012
Old 28th December 2012
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The only other thing I would add it this:

What if you damage or lose a mic and need to get one quick for an upcoming session? I don't imagine you can count on a TS-1 being in stock locally, so you'll eventually need a third as a spare....

But, with something like a CAD m179, an SP B-3, or an AT4040, a spare mic is much less of a burden.



-tINY

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29th December 2012
Old 29th December 2012
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I've been offered a deal on a pair of new TS-1 MKII kits that I can't pass up, so decision made. I hadn't thought about the backup mic situation, tINY, and you're right, I need a backup. I think though that I'd rather buy a pair of one of those mics you listed, or something like them, the next time some money comes around, and use that pair as backup. Hopefully these new microphones won't fail before then.

I'll let you know how it goes

By the way, I'm a bit picky about mics. I've had the opportunity to use a few nice ones, and many of them I didn't like. While I know that just means I don't have enough experience with them to match them to a good source/performance/room/etc, I wouldn't want you to think I'm listing the only microphones I've ever worked with here... and though my experience is limited, I hear what I hear. I'd pay $500-600 for what I remember a good 414 sounding like, but I don't even remember what kind of probably vintage 414 it was, and all the talk of CK12 tensioning failure and teflon type capsules sounding inferior and choosing between neutrality or presence peaks and transformer coupled or transformerless gives me a headache.

I don't think I have the pres to make an SM-7B shine and fatheads are fragile and nothing but trouble on vocals to my ear. Tried some Shure, EV, Sennheiser and AKG dynamics and the RE20 was the only one that was ever memorable to me for its positive influence on anything besides the textbook 57 on snare. Of KSM137s, C 460Bs, KM84s, SM81s and TS-1s, the ones I went back for every time were predictably the KM84s, which I usually couldn't get, so I used the TS-1s. All the other SDCs sounded sort of boring and small, the 81s were the cleanest and fullest-sounding of the boring ones, and that's why I'd settle for 'em.

Didn't find any source a U87 was better than okay on. Maybe that was a subpar U87, maybe I placed it incorrectly every time, just sayin'. I had a chance to be selective when I could use a studio, now I can't use a studio. Oktavamods would be a shot in the dark and aren't as cheap as people make them out to be, unless you get lucky on a used pair of 012s and get the Sitler mod. Joly's version does sound good in clips I've heard.

I think I will just have to stockpile some tubes and make friends with people who are better at soldering & reading schematics than I am and try and keep this pair of mics alive for as long as I can.

Thank you for tolerating my short novel of a thread, it really helps to have other people audit your thoughts to some extent. Happy holidays

[edit in] one last word regarding mics being fiddly and high-maintenance - those MXLs are as plug and play as SDCs get and every session with them is extremely fiddly and high-maintenance because they sound awful and must therefore be placed perfectly! I find that nicer, more forgiving mics usually means less time spent moving the mic before you're happy and mic moves are a bigger time consumer for me than setup or breakdown.
#21
29th December 2012
Old 29th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by martinkuki View Post
Oktavamods would be a shot in the dark and aren't as cheap as people make them out to be, unless you get lucky on a used pair of 012s and get the Sitler mod. Joly's version does sound good in clips I've heard.
Not sure why Oktavamods would be a shot in the dark. Lots and lots of user experience with them, with almost universal approval. And yeah, they aren't "cheap," but do provide a great sounding alternative for half the cost of the usual suspects (KM84,184's).

I bought a pair off here for somewhere around $2-250 and had Sitler do the mods for them. Can't remember if it was premium or standard, but even if it was the premium, that's at most a total of $400 for an excellent pair of SDC's. I have used sm81's. I think the 012's are "classier", although if I really needed hi hat sizzle I MIGHT grab the sm81. Currently, my 012 pair live on snare top and bottom, with the -10db pads. I was always happy with 57 top, beta 57 bottom, but after trying the 012's there, I may never go back.
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29th December 2012
Old 29th December 2012
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As much as I like the RE-20, I think it's the wrong mic to go for on a budget. It's a purchase for when you have all bases covered and want to have options but it's almost never my first choice on anything, be it kick or vocal. For me, it's always an alternative for when I want to make things more interesting. By what I can gather from your posts, you're working on covering those bases right now, not on adding options.

General advice:
1. Replace what bothers you the most (ie. MXLs)
2. Replace it in a way that won't make you replace it again in a year or two...

Mic advice for REALLY GOOD stereo pairs at your budget (I know, but maybe someone else is reading this or you stumble upon them and get a chance to try them out):
1. AKG C214 - my favourite OH of all time. Happy to use it for tons of other things.
2. Beyerdynamic MC-930 - my favourite condenser of all time. Also very good as OH.
#23
29th December 2012
Old 29th December 2012
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If you get a chance to borrow or audition one, the PR-40 or the RE27nd may be interesting to you - I'd use the PR-40 on almost anything save strings. Not always the best, but always useable and not too fussy (even the proximity effect is gradual and even).

For SDC, the old Kel HM-1 were nice and far from boring. Detailed, but slightly warm. I don't know about the new HM-1. The HM-3c seems nice so far (but I haven't put the recent choral recording up on the good speakers yet). I think they are going to be very precise and unforgiving - which is good in some ways and perfect for excellent sources.

And you really owe it to yourself to find a pair of m179 to use. Try to get a beefy stand and a decent stereo bar. For larger spaces, these are really good mics for the money.



-tINY

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#24
29th December 2012
Old 29th December 2012
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Originally Posted by j2dafo View Post
Not sure why Oktavamods would be a shot in the dark. Lots and lots of user experience with them, with almost universal approval.
What I was trying to point to in my post about having gotten to play with a few vintage industry standard mics and sometimes straight up disliking them on all sources was that universal user approval, even among industry professionals, does not necessarily mean I'll think a mic is suitable for what I want to record, or that I'll be any good at using it, or that I'll have suitable preamps for it on my Steinberg interface, etc. The almost universal approval is what would make me consider a pair of modified 012s even though I've never had a chance to try one, that and the fact that they do sound in clips sort of like they're halfway between your stock workhorse SDC and a KM-84, but I call them a shot in the dark for ME because I don't know them personally. I appreciate your vote for the Sitler mod though, as that's the affordable one and I am curious how they hold up to Joly's now-famous mods. (Disclaimer, Michael Joly, JJ audio dudes, Bill Sitler, you're forbidden from taking over this thread to argue about which one of you is the best at modding. Is that still a risk around here? Disclaimer anyways.)

@dergit, I hope the TS-1 MKII kits I've decided on will serve as good long term replacements for the MXLs. I will, however, probably buy an RE-20 in the near future because for me it's a go-to kick mic and it happens to be an alternate flavor to try on lots of other sources. What's your go-to kick mic?

@tINY, it'd be cool to rent or borrow some Heil and Kel mics for a session sometime to try them out... they come up in discussions repeatedly and they sound interesting. And I hate the way 179s sound in audio clips but audio clips are audio clips and tons of people say they are very usable or even sound good in practice, so I will try to give them a shot too. Have you compared the RE27nd to the RE20?
#25
30th December 2012
Old 30th December 2012
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Haven't actually played with the RE-27 It seemed like a modern take on the RE20. I do like the EV 468 ND and 767 ND - so someone in the design group there likes things I do...

But the idea is to try some different mics. You may find some cheap ones you love (like an MXL v67g, or an ADK mic).



-tINY

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