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Classic vocal microphones: tube, solid state and ribbon
Old 14th April 2011
  #1
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Classic vocal microphones: tube, solid state and ribbon

The idea of this shootout is giving everyone the opportunity to hear and compare the character of the originals.

We recorded 11 classic microphones with both an experienced male and female singer: Mitchell Brunings and Shirma Rouse. The singers were not bound to a fixed distance from the microphones but were able to adapt to the circumstances. As we kept the recording level approximately the same, some preamp level alterations were necessary also to give the singers the same monitoring level (although they could make their own mix on the Avioms).
As you can see in footage James Lugo shot, the singers react to the different sounds of the different mics, which makes this shootout not scientific but very realistic.

As microphone preamp and AD-converter we choose to use a Digidesign PRE into a Digidesign 192i/o. The Digidesign preamp does not have much color from itself and the 192 is a decent converter. In "real live" we would probably use different preamps (with a different converter) for different microphones for different singers who sing different styles of music. For this shootout it would become too complicated and judging the different characters of the microphones could be quite difficult. The recordings were bounced with an Urei 1176 rev.H compressor (recapped), GR max.3dB, attack: 10 o'clock, fast release, as an insert in ProTools.

The files are 16b/44.1kHz. I left a little headroom for those who would like to experiment with the soundfiles.

list of microphones:

Neumann U47tube
Neumann U67
Neumann M49
AKG C12
Sony C37A

Neumann U87ai
Neumann U47fet
AKG 414 EB/CK12
Sony C47

RCA 44
RCA 77dx
Attached Files

U47tube female.wav (5.67 MB, 6675 views)

U67 female.wav (5.67 MB, 6764 views)

M49 female.wav (5.67 MB, 5975 views)

C12 female.wav (5.67 MB, 6463 views)

C37 female.wav (5.65 MB, 6530 views)

Old 14th April 2011
  #2
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solid state mics:
Attached Files

U87 female.wav (5.59 MB, 5989 views)

U87 female-alt.wav (5.17 MB, 5012 views)

C414EB-CK12 female-alt.wav (5.20 MB, 5571 views)

U47fet female-alt.wav (5.22 MB, 5090 views)

C47 female-alt.wav (5.16 MB, 4849 views)

Old 14th April 2011
  #3
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2 ribbon mics:
Attached Files

RCA44 female.wav (5.82 MB, 5637 views)

RCA77dx female.wav (6.01 MB, 4941 views)

Old 14th April 2011
  #4
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Male singer, 5 tube mics:
Attached Files

U47tube male.wav (6.82 MB, 5367 views)

U67 male.wav (6.82 MB, 4995 views)

M49 male.wav (6.82 MB, 4761 views)

C12 male.wav (6.82 MB, 4864 views)

Old 14th April 2011
  #5
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and here's the fifth:
Attached Files

C37 male.wav (6.82 MB, 4620 views)

Old 14th April 2011
  #6
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4 solid state mics:
Attached Files

U87 male.wav (6.82 MB, 4887 views)

C414eb-CK12 male.wav (6.82 MB, 4222 views)

U47fet male.wav (6.82 MB, 4340 views)

C47 male.wav (6.82 MB, 4186 views)

Old 14th April 2011
  #7
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2 ribbons:
Attached Files

RCA44 male.wav (6.82 MB, 4442 views)

RCA77dx male.wav (6.82 MB, 4310 views)

Old 15th April 2011
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GlenR View Post
I think it's less a shootout. More a which mic fits the certain singer best. But isn't it always about this matter?
Yes, indeed Glen. I am glad you judged the mics that way.

It is actually impossible to do a scientifically correct microphone shootout with singers or instrumentalist. I believe that it is most important a microphone fits the singer best. A microphone could both obstruct the singer's abilities or help him or her. When you listen to the files it's perfectly clear. Choosing the right microphone for a singer is not about fitting the sound in a track but about fitting the singer in a track.

Nevertheless I think this shootout is informative about the microphone characters. The tight sounding C47 is quite the opposite of the RCA44. The very natural M49 is also different from neutral U87 etc.
Old 15th April 2011
  #9
I only listed to the females files. She did a great job showing the dynamic's of each mic! I do not have golden ears, but here is my take Some sounded better in the lower register while others exceeded in the higher registers.

Overall I really enjoyed the m49, it was by far the most detailed and sounded great in all registers. The u47 also sounded better in the higher register than the lower. The u87 was also good but a little lifeless. I do like that Neumann sound on her.
Old 15th April 2011
  #10
Listened to them all. For the female it would be the M49 or U67. The male, like somebody already mentioned, might work best with the 87. Too bad the ribbons aren't working here, cause these are also awesome mic's!
Nice "shoot out"!
Old 16th April 2011
  #11
Gear Addict
 

cool test
Old 17th April 2011
  #12
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monkeyxx's Avatar
that was really cool.

I appreciate the top class tube mics, and the top class solid state mics, both, very much, for their separate qualities.

it's fun trying to learn the signature sound of classics like these

that's really a dream crop you had, there
Old 17th April 2011
  #13
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Great one!
Old 18th April 2011
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GlenR View Post
Joram,
However... I hope I'm not politically incorrect when I say that the male singer does have some frequencies in his voice which are not flattering. It's best tamed with the U67 but even better with the U87. IMO But the RCA's could work fine. Depends on the song and or mix.
I think you can hear a certain element of tiredness (huskiness, chokiness) coming in by the time we get to the ribbon mics. Which is understandable!

Course, maybe I'm just hearing that because I'm assuming they were recorded in the order they have been posted up.

Once tests get this long, it's funny, I end up coming back to that old adage about "it's not the gear, it's the performance". There are subtle and not-so-subtle differences, but frankly any one of those mics works and sounds good. I couldn't pick which one sounds best. It'd totally depend on the mix.

The sole exception being the ribbon mics, which sort of sound almost as if there's a filtered duplicate of his voice underneath it: they are the only ones that really don't work on his voice in my opinion.

(I only listened to the male vocals by the way.)
Old 18th April 2011
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by binarymilton View Post
I think you can hear a certain element of tiredness (huskiness, chokiness) coming in by the time we get to the ribbon mics. Which is understandable!

Course, maybe I'm just hearing that because I'm assuming they were recorded in the order they have been posted up.
The test is indeed recorded in the order as posted here. The singers succeeded each other after the tube round and the solid state round.
I am not sure if you hear tiredness. Both are professional singers who know when and how to spend their vocal energy. Nevertheless, a mic test organised with so many mics is tiring for the mind and it might have influenced their performance a little.

Quote:
Originally Posted by binarymilton View Post
Once tests get this long, it's funny, I end up coming back to that old adage about "it's not the gear, it's the performance". There are subtle and not-so-subtle differences, but frankly any one of those mics works and sounds good. I couldn't pick which one sounds best. It'd totally depend on the mix.
Exactly. This shootout is not meant to pick the "best" mic, which I believe doesn't exist.

Quote:
Originally Posted by binarymilton View Post
The sole exception being the ribbon mics, which sort of sound almost as if there's a filtered duplicate of his voice underneath it: they are the only ones that really don't work on his voice in my opinion.
Both singers were most enthousiastic about the ribbons. They had the idea that they heard their voice at his/her best. I could have to do with the mic patterns: figure of 8's pick up more room and you can definately hear that.
We have a fairly large room at Legacy Studio and I put a few gobo's behind the singers to have less room sound, but still..

At the end I thought the best mic for the male singer were the M49 and RCA77. The latter helped a bit with a Pultec-eq (+ a little @ 12kHz)
Old 19th April 2011
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joram View Post
Both singers were most enthousiastic about the ribbons. They had the idea that they heard their voice at his/her best. I could have to do with the mic patterns: figure of 8's pick up more room and you can definately hear that.
Ribbons sound really good on a capellas. I use my Coles 4038 when I record myself singing a capella folk songs.

I find them harder to use within mixes though, unless they're quite sparse arrangements. Ribbons have a similar warmth and roundness as old tube condensers, only they generally lack the forwardness of them.

I'd be interested to hear those vocals within mixes (I'm not suggesting you post them all up - you've done enough hard work already!!): personally I can't help but think the ribbons (on the male vocal) would need more EQ work to project a lead vocal. Especially for a male R&B production of 2011.

By the way, I didn't mean to diss your vocalist. I'm just saying you can hear a small element of raspiness, the catch at the back of the throat, on his final takes. (It's just indisputably there. Listen.) I mention it more by way of pointing out a certain limitation in these sorts of tests: on the first takes a vocalist might not have properly warmed up, by the last takes a vocalist might not be at their best. I don't mean your vocalists specifically, I mean any.
Old 20th April 2011
  #17
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Classic vocal microphones: tube, solid state and ribbon

Quote:
Originally Posted by monkeyxx
that's really a dream crop you had, there
We still have them, in our mic locker.
Old 20th April 2011
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joram View Post
We still have them, in our mic locker.
oh wow, good on you!
Old 20th April 2011
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by binarymilton View Post
By the way, I didn't mean to diss your vocalist.
I am sure you aren't.
Old 20th April 2011
  #20
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hbentley's Avatar
 

thanks for doing this. i liked the U67 on the female vocalist and the RCAs on the male.
Old 21st April 2011
  #21
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Pred80r's Avatar
 

Mic Shootout

I like using the files as a reference list for the quality of sound I am looking for to fit the song. I have opted for ribbons over tubes a couple of times now due to your informative "shootout" and I think it was the right choice.

Thanx!
Old 30th April 2011
  #22
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This is probably one of the most informative and educational threads I have ever seen on this forum.

First, these mics are clearly all high quality, and some worked better than others, depending on what you liked to hear from the source.

I've read so many threads where posters nastily battle it out on the attributes and qualities of this mic, or that, without any context of actually HEARING how they sound. Thank you for providing perspective!

It should be required reading before anyone posts a thread entitled "what mic should I buy" , and required reading before anyone can respond!

What would be REALLY interesting would be to expand this to include some of the newer, less expensive offerings that claim to be U47ish, C12ish, M49ish......the objecive wouldn't be to see how good they are as clones, but to hear how good they are at attaining the quality of sounds that we hear in these classics...

You know, someone could start a website with this idea: Take what you have done so far and post them as benchmarks and then invite all mic manufacturers to have their products used and the tracks posted.

Dont you think that the mic buying consumer would flock to a site like this? (and then the advertisers would follow!)
Old 3rd May 2011
  #23
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this is a great effort. i did not listen yet. but thanks!
Old 6th May 2011
  #24
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Delphino's Avatar
 

A BIG THANK YOU for doing this!
Old 10th May 2011
  #25
Gear Maniac
A lot of thanks for cool examples.
After first listening, as for me, I will prefere in next order

Female vocal with tube mics:
M49
C37
C12
U67
U47

Male and tube mics:
C37
U67
U47
C12
M49
Old 10th May 2011
  #26
Gear Maniac
Female vocal, SS mics:
C47
U87
U47Fet
C414EB-CK12

Male, SS mics:
U87
C47
U47Fet
C414EB-CK12

IMHO, IMHO, IMHO ....

In any cases,
all examples - perfect,
with these excellent mics

thanks
Old 28th May 2011
  #27
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Thanks for the comments. It was a pleasure to do the shootout.
Old 4th June 2011
  #28
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billyindonesia's Avatar
 

thanks for uploading the samples mate

for Male i like U47tube and U87

but all are nice result except RCA44 heh
Old 1st August 2011
  #29
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Classic vocal microphones: tube, solid state and ribbon

Bump
Old 2nd August 2011
  #30
Thanks Joram

heel erg bedankt
A.

Alex van den Broek
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