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Comparison of inexpensive main mics for classical Condenser Microphones
Old 21st November 2011
Gear interested

Thread Starter
Shootout: Oktava MK012 vs AudioTechnica AT4022 vs Wooden Blondie - Classical music

Some time ago I bought some inexpensive mics to use as support in an orchestral recording setup. Normally, especially when a job is well paid, I rent a matched pair of 4006s for € 45 and use them as mains, while using my own mics as supports.

Sometimes however, the job is, well, less paid, and less due to become the greatest recording of the year. Those are the jobs in which I really discover how little I know about my own stuff. Ever since I got my equipment, I wanted to get to know my mics better.
Yesterday, a small amateur baroque orchestra was giving a concert in a church, and they let me experiment with my microphones. I put three microphone pairs on a stand, and recorded the concert.

Due to the reverberation in the church, I chose for a hybrid system, so I went with cardioids (as far as I could). On each side, three SDCs were attached to each other with rubber bands. The microphone angle was 30º, and the distance between the microphones was 28 cm.

The recording was made using an M-Audio Profire 2626, using its own preamps, sampled at 44k1. Due to the little amount of preparation time, I accidentally recorded everything in 16 bits. For the excerpt I share with you, I gained all signals with +6dB. No other signal processing has taken place.

The mics I tested:

Audio Technica AT4022
Little Blondies - Wooden edition (Sahiaman's mics)
Oktava MK-012 (Original russian built) with cardioid capsules

(These are in alphabetical order, the audio files are in different order.)

It should be stated that the wooden Little Blondies aren't real cardioids, as you'll hear; although they are often called 'omnis', mine do seem to have some directionality, if you ask me.

I would like to get to know:

1. Which one do you like the best?
2. Which microphone belongs to which audio file? (I think this is not going to be very difficult )
3. Any comments on any audio file are welcome and appreciated!

You can find the audio files here:

As a side note: I must have miscalculated the operational viewing angle, as I find too many instruments having disappeared in one of the loudspeakers, 28cm was probably too much distance (resulting in a stereo recording angle of approximately 70º, which I thought was more than enough, but my according to what my monitors tell me, was probably too little.) It may although as well be my monitor setup, which is far from great at the moment due to my room acoustics.

Last edited by pelleke; 22nd November 2011 at 10:27 PM.. Reason: More catchy title
Old 21st November 2011
Gear Nut
Joekkel's Avatar

thanks for this shootout, very nice! here's my guess:

1 at4022
2 oktava mk-012
3 wooden blondies

i like 3 the most, owning the wooden blondies myself. the silky texture of file 3 reminds me of the sound i know from this mics. even if the lowend seems a little muddy (i experienced that too, recording acoustic guitar). however, i always thought, mine were quite noisy, and i'm surprised, how less noise i'm hearing from your files. thought i would recognize the blondies by their noise-level. both i have, have a very very hot output (even more than my akg c214, which has 20 mV/Pa) but very high noise-level too. my preamp has a high input-impedance (>10kohm ). it's a damn quiet preamp on all my other condensers and dynamics, so, is it the blondies, or the combination with my pres. do you think, your blondies are noisy too?

1 comes on second place, sounds similar to 2, with a nicer bass-response.

2 has a nice stereoimage in the higher freqs, but i'm missing bass here.

why did you angle the omnis? the ab-micing-setup is normaly done without an angle between the mics. omnis become directive in the upper frequencies. So if they're pointed on the outer sides of the orchestra, there's an exageration of the stereoimage in the higher freqs, am i right?

i really like the recordings, by the way!

i'm no expert in classical recordings, not even in studio-situations, i'm an interested listener/musician, so i might be totally wrong with everything i've written here.

Last edited by Joekkel; 21st November 2011 at 07:55 PM.. Reason: replenishments and spelling
Old 21st November 2011
Gear interested

Thread Starter
Thanks for your valuable comments!

Instead of spoiling the topic, I added a document to that link with the actual microphone - recording mapping, so you can see the results.

I am positively surprised of your preference for sample 3. There's something I like about the other two. I love the low-end in sample 1, but sample 2 has some crispiness that I like as well. I found the sound of 3 also a bit 'further away', which makes the recording in my opinion a bit less valuable, but as said before, I can't blame the mics for that.

Your remark about angling the omnis is completely right. The blondies were angled for no particular reason other than that I just tied them together with rubber bands. I expected more directionality (i.e. less reverb) in them. The reason I angled the cardioids was because then I could make the microphone distance a little smaller while still getting a 100% wide stereo image. The reason I want to keep the distance smaller is that the amount of musicians is limited here, and I wanted to prevent an excessive acoustical comb filter effect. (Which happens a lot with AB recording with few musicians.) I also like a bit more intensity-based stereo mixed with time-based stereo, although I have never really tested my findings on different systems on one recording.

As to the noise level, I am actually surprised. I had to push my Profire 2626 levels to very noisy heights. I don't know about the details on sensitivity of my preamps, or if it is just about whether it's to do with classical music being softer than a close mic'd snare drum, but on all mics I have, I need to put the input level above 80% to get a reasonable level, I have the feeling that that brings more noise from my preamps as well. Anyway, I don't find the blondies to be the most sensitive mics in my set...
Old 22nd November 2011
Gear Nut
Joekkel's Avatar

with my preamps (line audio 2mp) i heard for the first time the noise of my microphones, no preamp-noise. the wooden blondies have both a remarkeable high output and noise-level. might be, cause i read about low-level issues of the blondies before purchasing them, so i wrote to aman, that i don't want any low-level issues with my mics, perhaps he integrated some sort of gain-lifter in my blondies, don't know...

again, great shootout! makes me wanna record some orchestral music

seems like i prefer a darker sound than you. if i had to mix this files, i would try to blend in some of the detail of the oktavas to the mellow sound of the blondies :D no idea if this would work

do you have to push the blondies more or less than your at4022 to get same level? this would be a reference, cause this mic has the same sensitivity as my akg c214.
Old 22nd November 2011
Gear interested

Thread Starter
Due to the difference in directionality, the use of that comparison would still be debatable. I did however - as far as I can recall - gain the ATs more than the blondies. I think I just don't like my interface for the need to pump my preamps to 80% - 90% of their capacity. I can look at the levels this evening as I haven't changed them since the recording, unless I accidentally touched the gain buttons...
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