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Shootout Neumann TLM 49, Shure KSM44, Octava 012, SM57 Condenser Microphones
Old 28th November 2009
  #1
Gear Head
 

Vocals added! Neumann TLM 49, Shure KSM44, Octava 012, AT4047

Notice: New vocal soundbites added in later post, including AT 4047!

I'm looking for an excellent vocal mic that will do some time recording other instruments as well, especially acoustic guitar.
Today I came home with a Neumann TLM 49, and a Shure KSM44. I'll be testing them on a singer tomorrow, but in the meantime I decided to do a guitar shootout with these 2 new mics, and also my Octava 012 and the SM57.

I used a Collings OM, and put the guitar through the paces fingerpicking, flatpicking and strumming. I placed the mic at a neutral distance, exactly 12" from the 17th fret on all soundbites. As much as possible, I played exactly the same for each mic. I made adjustments to the input gain to compensate for slight differences in level.
I plugged the mics into the Apogee Ensemble for mic pre's and conversion, and recorded into Logic with no compression, EQ, reverb or mastering. The soundbites are 320 MP3s, supposedly similar sound quality as wave files.

Although the placement may not have been ideal for each mic, the consistent placement gives the listener a good relative comparison between each microphone, as you will see.

You can draw your own conclusions as to what mic is best. Feel free to give your opinions.

My take is this:

Neumann TLM 49: This mic was the most classy and dimensional of the bunch. Excellent balance, although in retrospect I'd have moved all the mic placements a few frets toward the nut, as they all were a tad bassy. This mic was sweet in all types of playing. Made the guitar sound woody and expensive.

Shure KSM44: At half the price of the Neumann, it was darn close to sounding as present and dimensional. I recorded in cardiode only, but this mic was the only to have the versatility of 3 patterns. A great sounding mic in it's own right.

Octava MK 012. I've been pleasantly surprised by this mic on acoustic guitar over the years. It sits well in tracks and flatters the guitars. Against the other mics, it seemed a bit hazy. This placement was not optimum for the guitar, but it is a quality sounding mic, as you can hear. And it costs half of the KSm44.

Shure SM57: Focused, present and balanced. Against these other more hi fidelity mics, you can hear the low end roll off and its midrange personality. Nothing wrong with this mic for acoustic guitar, a bit of EQ and compression and it could slam in a track. Just not as complex and flattering for solo acoustic guitar.

Hope you enjoy the sounbites. The new vocal soundbites will be added in a following post.

Cheers, John
Attached Files

Mic TLM 49 Collings.mp3 (5.05 MB, 12037 views)

Mic Shure KSM 44.mp3 (5.44 MB, 9312 views)

Mic Octava 012.mp3 (5.20 MB, 7446 views)

Mic Shure SM57.mp3 (5.13 MB, 7691 views)


Last edited by Tonear; 29th November 2009 at 09:39 AM.. Reason: Additional sound bites added
Old 28th November 2009
  #2
Here for the gear
 

Hi m8

I like your recording with TLM, it's very clear acoustic guitar, I think.

I look very much forward to hearing a singer test those four microphones as I really look for a vocal mic.
Old 28th November 2009
  #3
Gear Head
 

What did you all think of the mics for guitar?
I hope to have a singer over today and do a similar shootout. Not sure if and when I'll have the time to post the soundbites.
Cheers, John
Old 29th November 2009
  #4
Gear Head
 

Vocal soundbites TLM 49, KSM44, AT 4047, SM57

These are the same recording techiniques and equipment as the original post. These are consecutive takes of the same section of a song, singing hard and then soft. I used a Sterling metal pop filter about 2" in front of each mic. The singer was about 9" from the diaphram and moved in slightly for the softer section.

Please feel free to give your opinions of the mics, etc. I can use all the feedback.

Here is my take:

First, she has a very bright voice when she kicks it. Softer and lower sections are warm. So there is an inherent problem getting the right EQ across all the range of notes and dynamics. Some mics were better up high, others down low.

TSL 49: Wonderfully detailed down low, but hard sounding when the singer went high and loud.
KSM 44: The most neutral of the bunch.
AT 4047: Did a good job smoothing out the harsh high notes with it's attenuated high end, but was dark and indistinct down low.
SM57: She just killed this mic, or something in the chain. It sounds to me like there is distortion, but I was watching the levels and it looks fine. But when it was good, it was very good.

Enjoy the comparison. Feel free to chime in.
John
Attached Files

Mic Voc TLM 49.mp3 (1.77 MB, 8284 views)

Mic Voc KSM44.mp3 (1.77 MB, 6642 views)

Mic Voc AT 4047.mp3 (1.77 MB, 5882 views)

Mic Voc SM57.mp3 (1.77 MB, 6097 views)

Old 29th November 2009
  #5
Gear Nut
 
Groff's Avatar
 

Nice shootout. Thanks.

On acoustic guitar I like mk012 the most.

Is it stock or modded model?
Old 30th November 2009
  #6
Gear Head
 

The 012 is stock. It does sound better on the strumming section, more even than the others, but less complex.
I wonder how the mod would improve it?
Old 30th November 2009
  #7
Gear Nut
 
Groff's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tonear View Post
I wonder how the mod would improve it?
One of the modes

OktavaMod - Affordable Boutique Microphones

OktavaMod - Shop
Old 30th November 2009
  #8
Lives for gear
 
badboymusic's Avatar
 

On the acoustic I like the Octava best. I did not get a chance to listen to the 2nd batch.
Old 30th November 2009
  #9
Gear Maniac
 
musicmatt's Avatar
 

First of all thanks for doing this shootout!

Without really knowing room acoustics, and mic positions it can be difficult to really ascertain which is really better.

Guitar:
I definitely like the TLM 49 on the finger picking guitar.. very nice. The oktava sounded good, the Shure was smooth but it sounded cheap. 57 - always a great blend mic, but not by itself.

Vocals:
TLM 49 really nailed that pop sound, was an alright mic pairing for the singer. 4047 was ok, some nice air.. not the best choice for the singer. KSM44, the obvious best sounding match for the vocalist, still very smooth. 57 actually really surprised me. I thought it sounded great (when there wasn't clipping), and very usable.

The oktava would do just fine in the acoustic realm, definitely on par with the 49, I didn't like the KSM44, and the 57 was a bit gritty.

The KSM44 was the right pairing for the voice, but unfortunately in my opinion; it sounds cheap - like a home recording. you would have to spend a lot of time vocal processing to get a great sound.

The verdict: The winner hands down to both IMO is the TLM 49. While just hearing those samples by themselves, it may have sounded harsh or in the instance of the vocals, not the right match for her voice. BUT, in the context in the mix; no doubt will the TLM 49 shine through in all the right ways - especially in the vocals. It just sounded more like something I'd hear on a record.
Old 30th November 2009
  #10
Gear Maniac
 
alvagoldbook's Avatar
 

On the guitar, the clear winner hands down was the TLM49. But on the vocalist it sounded harsh on the high end. The KSM44 was the clear winner with that vocalist.
Old 1st December 2009
  #11
Gear Head
 

She seemed to be harsh on all of them to me.
Old 4th December 2009
  #12
Gear Head
 

I just put the Pearman TM-1 through the exact same shootout conditions with very nice results. In both flat and the high end rolloff switch engaged.
Old 4th December 2009
  #13
Lives for gear
 
danbronson's Avatar
 

Just listened to the files in the first post. For the most part, I agree with what you said about each mic, but I didn't like the SM57 at all! Seemed painful to me. Overall, each clip seems a bit boomy (like you said, not the best position on the guitar) and unclear/hazy. Not sure what that is, seems like those mics into an Apogee Ensemble should sound excellent. So I'm thinking it's either the guitar, the room, the mp3 conversion or some combination of the three?

Maybe I'm alone on my opinion though?

K, listening to the next clips/reading the whole thread now...
Old 4th December 2009
  #14
Lives for gear
 
danbronson's Avatar
 

Listened to the vocals now too. I pretty much agree with you again.

The TLM sounds clearest but is not a good match for her when she's singing hard. For the quieter stuff it's quite nice though. KSM seems to go the same route as the Neumann but fails to deliver the midrange and there's something in the high end I'm not feeling. Overall just not as clear. The AT4047, I didn't like at all, it seems to color her voice in a really 'cheap' sounding way and generally just sounds cloudy to me. SM57 is thin and annoying and lacks detail, coupled with her voice it is a match made in hell! haha

I would like to hear an SM7 on this singer. It will probably lack the detail of the Neumann, but I think it could tame the singer's tendency to sound harsh when she's belting it out.

These clips sound a lot more clear than the guitar clips. Perhaps just better positioning on the guitar would do it?
Old 6th December 2009
  #15
Gear Head
 

I'm not concerned about the EQ on the guitar soundbites. I've used that guitar on hundreds of sessions and it leans toward bright. The bottomy character was the result of LDC and less than optimum mic placement. I just picked a spot that I thought would be neutral for all mics, and it wasn't. The usefulness of the test is the comparison between mics.

On the later posted vocal soundbites, the shootout is a good indication of the character and EQ of mics relative to one another. The source is a challenge. An experienced studio singer, she turns from a clarinet into a trumpet in a breath. I've yet to find a mic that tames her high end and dynamics when she opens up. But I found the comparison very informative in terms of the mics.
Although these 320 MP3s are raw, I later spent some time limiting, compressing and adding ambience to her sound along with a guitar track. All the mics liked that. But again, you can hear the personality of each.
The TLM 49 is by far the most clear and audiofile sounding. The best on softer sections in detail and dimension. Nothing in this group touches it.
I have not yet posted the audio results of the Pearman TM-1. That mic was less spectacular at the detail, but very strong on personality and rocked through the track in a very pleasing grainy sort of way. This singer admits she is not a rocker, yet with the Pearlman her loud sections were more ballsy and engaging than the other mics.
The validity of the comparison is that I now have a better understanding of the usefullness of different mics, even on the same singer on the same song.
Old 8th December 2009
  #16
Gear Maniac
 
musicmatt's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tonear View Post
I'm not concerned about the EQ on the guitar soundbites. I've used that guitar on hundreds of sessions and it leans toward bright. The bottomy character was the result of LDC and less than optimum mic placement. I just picked a spot that I thought would be neutral for all mics, and it wasn't. The usefulness of the test is the comparison between mics.

On the later posted vocal soundbites, the shootout is a good indication of the character and EQ of mics relative to one another. The source is a challenge. An experienced studio singer, she turns from a clarinet into a trumpet in a breath. I've yet to find a mic that tames her high end and dynamics when she opens up. But I found the comparison very informative in terms of the mics.
Although these 320 MP3s are raw, I later spent some time limiting, compressing and adding ambience to her sound along with a guitar track. All the mics liked that. But again, you can hear the personality of each.
The TLM 49 is by far the most clear and audiofile sounding. The best on softer sections in detail and dimension. Nothing in this group touches it.
I have not yet posted the audio results of the Pearman TM-1. That mic was less spectacular at the detail, but very strong on personality and rocked through the track in a very pleasing grainy sort of way. This singer admits she is not a rocker, yet with the Pearlman her loud sections were more ballsy and engaging than the other mics.
The validity of the comparison is that I now have a better understanding of the usefullness of different mics, even on the same singer on the same song.
Thanks for the follow-up Tonear. Its really great to get your conclusion on it after hearing it context of the mix. I own a TLM 49 and did months of research, listening to samples and comparing it to other mics in that price range.

The only other mic I was considering was the Pearlman TM-1! I chose the TLM49 because I felt like it was a solid contender that would stand out in a dense mix. It's really important that you posted this response because in my experience most people blame the mic for being harsh, or overly sibilant - which by itself is not pleasing. As soon as you throw it in a mix, and add some processing it just sounds beautiful!

PS. I'd love to hear the Pearlman vs the TLM49 in the mix
Old 9th December 2009
  #17
Lives for gear
 
The Listener's Avatar
AT4047 sounded the most pleasing among those shrill vocal sound examples, guitar sounded best to me with Neumann, followed by both Shures... With some EQ and reverb anyone could like SM57 on acoustic guitar...
Old 10th December 2009
  #18
Gear Head
 

Yes, probably anyone except the people on this site! Just kidding. You guys are great.
J
Old 10th December 2009
  #19
Lives for gear
 
chrisdee's Avatar
I'v got the TLM49 too. I found it sounds great on acoustic guitar for me. Very natural and clear. On vocals you really have to treat the area around and behind the mic to warm up vocals, or else it will sound thin and bright.

But if you try treating the area around the TLM49 to be as dead as possible it sounds great for vocals aswell as guitars.
Old 10th December 2009
  #20
Lives for gear
 
chrisdee's Avatar
Try experimenting with thick pillows or towls real close around and behind the TLM49. It warms up the sound.
Old 13th December 2009
  #21
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tonear View Post
Notice: New vocal soundbites added in later post, including AT 4047!

I'm looking for an excellent vocal mic that will do some time recording other instruments as well, especially acoustic guitar.
Today I came home with a Neumann TLM 49, and a Shure KSM44. I'll be testing them on a singer tomorrow, but in the meantime I decided to do a guitar shootout with these 2 new mics, and also my Octava 012 and the SM57.

I used a Collings OM, and put the guitar through the paces fingerpicking, flatpicking and strumming. I placed the mic at a neutral distance, exactly 12" from the 17th fret on all soundbites. As much as possible, I played exactly the same for each mic. I made adjustments to the input gain to compensate for slight differences in level.
I plugged the mics into the Apogee Ensemble for mic pre's and conversion, and recorded into Logic with no compression, EQ, reverb or mastering. The soundbites are 320 MP3s, supposedly similar sound quality as wave files.

Although the placement may not have been ideal for each mic, the consistent placement gives the listener a good relative comparison between each microphone, as you will see.

You can draw your own conclusions as to what mic is best. Feel free to give your opinions.

My take is this:

Neumann TLM 49: This mic was the most classy and dimensional of the bunch. Excellent balance, although in retrospect I'd have moved all the mic placements a few frets toward the nut, as they all were a tad bassy. This mic was sweet in all types of playing. Made the guitar sound woody and expensive.

Shure KSM44: At half the price of the Neumann, it was darn close to sounding as present and dimensional. I recorded in cardiode only, but this mic was the only to have the versatility of 3 patterns. A great sounding mic in it's own right.

Octava MK 012. I've been pleasantly surprised by this mic on acoustic guitar over the years. It sits well in tracks and flatters the guitars. Against the other mics, it seemed a bit hazy. This placement was not optimum for the guitar, but it is a quality sounding mic, as you can hear. And it costs half of the KSm44.

Shure SM57: Focused, present and balanced. Against these other more hi fidelity mics, you can hear the low end roll off and its midrange personality. Nothing wrong with this mic for acoustic guitar, a bit of EQ and compression and it could slam in a track. Just not as complex and flattering for solo acoustic guitar.

Hope you enjoy the sounbites. The new vocal soundbites will be added in a following post.

Cheers, John
The TLM brings out the richness of the guitar. I can hear more inner overtones with that clip than with any other. (nice playing)
Old 16th December 2009
  #22
Thanks for the files!

I think the tlm 49 would sound best for solo guitar, but I think the Octava would sound best in a mix. I liked the 57 best on the hard strummed parts, the bass rolloff really helps (this also seemed like good placement for the 57).

Nice job and great playing!
Old 16th December 2009
  #23
Gear Head
 

Guitar: Agree with you. TLM and KSM sound very similar, the TLM being slightly crisper and expensive sounding. Oktava sounded good but dull and heavy compared to other 2. Sm57 sounded boxy and middy: good but cheap. As you say, the 57 would work great in a track but sounds a little tinny for solo.

Vox: Grading each mic in terms of the singers upper and lower register: TLM good but harsh upper, clear lower. AT best overall i thought. Body and smoothness for the uppers, sounded good for the lowers. KSM was least favourite, sounded weirdly closed and congested in uppers but sounded ok for lowers. 57 sounded the worst of the bunch for uppers but best of the bunch for lowers.

I guess the TLM was the overall winner as it gave a slick, professional sound to both sources, although the 57 could have been the winner in slightly different situations (singer singing softer, guitar needing to sit in a busy track etc.)
Old 31st January 2010
  #24
Lives for gear
 
didier.brest's Avatar
 

I listened only to the guitar samples. TLM49 hands down for me. The KSM 44 is not as balanced as the Neumann, not bad anyway.I've got the Oktava's and recognized here something some lack of definition in their sound.
Old 1st May 2010
  #25
Gear Nut
 

Are you sure that neumann are in cardiod setting?
Old 1st May 2010
  #26
Lives for gear
 
didier.brest's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by BasspirO View Post
Are you sure that neumann are in cardiod setting?
TLM 49 is a single directivity mic.
Old 20th September 2010
  #27
Lives for gear
 
amost's Avatar
 

Thread resurrection.

Shootouts are weird, alot of times you want a certain piece of gear to sound the best(or the complete opposite).

I was hoping the TLM 49 sounded best on solo fingerpicked acoustic guitar & IMHO I thought it did.

Thanks for posting!
Old 27th November 2010
  #28
Here for the gear
 

great shootout tonear
tanx for putting up samples
imo the octava sounds best on guitar
neumann has too much detail... too stringy!!
Old 28th November 2010
  #29
Gear Head
 

A year later, and I just produced an acoustic guitar picking/male vocal track. This time I hired a trusted pro engineer and we tried 4 mics on the Collings OM1A. We tried the TLM49, a Neumann Km 84, an At 4050 and the Octava. I liked the TLM49 best, but my engineer thought the high end was nice but "artificial". We opted for the KM84 and the track turned out great.
J
Old 26th May 2011
  #30
Lives for gear
 
triton92's Avatar
Old thread but very very good info here! Thanks poster it's helping a lot in my buying decision, I am going for the TLM 49!, been eyeballing it for a while now!
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