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Tube recommendations for warmer Manley Ref C?
Old 5th April 2018
  #1
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Tube recommendations for warmer Manley Ref C?

I've been rocking a Manley Ref C as my go-to "nice" condenser for vocals and other acoustic sources, and while I mostly love it, I find it occasionally gets slightly shrill in the 10-12khz range, and has a bit less richness in the midrange (~ 700 - 3khz) than I'd like.

A recent preamp upgrade to a BAE1073 from stock Apollos did help in this regard, but I'm wondering if a tube swap from the stock tubes could nudge it even further in the right direction. To use other mics as a reference, I suppose I'm looking to bring its (to my ears) C12-ish sound a bit closer to a U47 vibe.

Any ideas?

Thanks!

[I did see other threads on this issue, but they were quite old, so posting again in case there's anything newer on the market]

Last edited by jsbeeth; 5th April 2018 at 08:34 PM..
Old 6th April 2018
  #2
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tkaitkai's Avatar
 

Have you seen this tube comparison video? Link: YouTube

The Telefunken tube definitely tames the HF without making it feel dull. I was considering this swap before I sold my Ref C.
Old 6th April 2018
  #3
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Try an NOS RCA, Telefunken, Tung Sol, or Mullard tube. They tend to be on the dark but balanced side of things.
Old 6th April 2018
  #4
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No tube will kill the shrillness of that mic.
Old 6th April 2018
  #5
Quote:
Originally Posted by zohomoho View Post
No tube will kill the shrillness of that mic.
True.

Warmer Manley Ref C = Manley Ref Gold.
Old 6th April 2018
  #6
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tkaitkai's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by zohomoho View Post
No tube will kill the shrillness of that mic.
I’m not sure how you’re defining the term “shrill,” but in my experience, the Ref C is not shrill in the slightest.

“Shrill” would seem to denote a harsh or piercing upper midrange. The Manley has none of that.
When I think of “shrill,” I think of mics like the Bluebird or the Rode NT1-a or maybe even the TLM 103. Compared to those, the Manley is actually pretty relaxed.

The Manley has an airy/whispery top end that can border on being sibilant or “zingy” at times. This is presumably what OP is trying to address, and yes, a different tube would help (to an extent).
Old 6th April 2018
  #7
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You should really consider giving Manley a shout and see what they think! I bet they would have some thoughts to offer.

I don’t think that you can always generalize about valve brands because commonality can often have more to do with the factory something was manufactured in, as well as the years. That said a lot of the NOS tubes from classic brands are going to sound subjectively better than newer tubes. You aren’t going to turn a C12 sound into a 47 sound from tube rolling like this though IMO (not that a Manley Ref Card sounds like a C12 really)... you might be able to find something a wee bit smoother.

Ever try a foam windscreen? Throwing that out there.
Old 6th April 2018
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tkaitkai View Post
I’m not sure how you’re defining the term “shrill,” but in my experience, the Ref C is not shrill in the slightest.

“Shrill” would seem to denote a harsh or piercing upper midrange. The Manley has none of that.
When I think of “shrill,” I think of mics like the Bluebird or the Rode NT1-a or maybe even the TLM 103. Compared to those, the Manley is actually pretty relaxed.

The Manley has an airy/whispery top end that can border on being sibilant or “zingy” at times. This is presumably what OP is trying to address, and yes, a different tube would help (to an extent).
sibilant is a better term. If you pay 2700$ for a mic. I'd expect something better than a cheap Chinese capsule.
Old 6th April 2018
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by zohomoho View Post
sibilant is a better term. If you pay 2700$ for a mic. I'd expect something better than a cheap Chinese capsule.
Deep waters here but the key isn't where it's made, it's the rejection rate.

Anyway, the Ref C is a good mic for modern stuff, and its brightness has been embraced by some heavy hitters. Sounds like the OP wants a completely different flavor which....is a completely different mic.
Old 6th April 2018
  #10
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Search for Gearslutz member Bowie.

PROPS > BOWIE--The Audio Tube Guy and Gearslutz Member..

I contacted him to buy and for advice for a tube for my Rode NTV and he transformed the mic into a thing of beauty.

Really nice guy too, highly recommended.
Old 6th April 2018
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zohomoho View Post
sibilant is a better term. If you pay 2700$ for a mic. I'd expect something better than a cheap Chinese capsule.
It doesn't matter that the capsule is Chinese-made. It's manufactured by Feilo (a fairly reputable company) specifically for Manley and is thoroughly tested in the US. Any capsules that don't meet Manley's QC standards are discarded.

What matters is how it sounds, and IMO, it sounds pretty damn good.
Old 6th April 2018
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tkaitkai View Post
It doesn't matter that the capsule is Chinese-made. It's manufactured by Feilo (a fairly reputable company) specifically for Manley and is thoroughly tested in the US. Any capsules that don't meet Manley's QC standards are discarded.

What matters is how it sounds, and IMO, it sounds pretty damn good.
Sure if you are into fingernails on the chalkboard.
Old 7th April 2018
  #13
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Thanks for the replies, everyone! To clarify, I don't hate the mic at all, nor do I think I'm looking for a completely different character. I'm into the modern/bright sound with upfront presence and clarity etc, I'd just like a wee bit more midrange mojo and slight taming of the super highs (which I often have to eq out currently). Maybe a tube swap won't do the trick, but I like the mic enough to try it before ditching it. I'll contact Manley as well and see what they think.

Good suggestion on the foam windscreen too. I haven't tried it but I'll see if my SM7 screen fits to test it out.

Thanks again.
Old 7th April 2018
  #14
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Will The Weirdo's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by zohomoho View Post
sibilant is a better term. If you pay 2700$ for a mic. I'd expect something better than a cheap Chinese capsule.
There's nothing cheap about the Ref C IMHO, lol. I used one next to vintage U47's, 251's, C800G's nightly for years and the Ref C hangs with the best. It is a very modern bright sound and not for everybody, but it's earned its reputation over 20 plus years in thousands of studios the world over.
Old 7th April 2018
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Will The Weirdo View Post
There's nothing cheap about the Ref C IMHO, lol. I used one next to vintage U47's, 251's, C800G's nightly for years and the Ref C hangs with the best. It is a very modern bright sound and not for everybody, but it's earned its reputation over 20 plus years in thousands of studios the world over.
and great for low expectations.
Old 7th April 2018
  #16
Huh? You clearly haven't extensively used a ref c. On the right singer it sounds gorgeous, on the wrong singer it can sound a little sib. or fizzy.... but a u47 as great as it is, does not sound good on everyone. I've heard a u47 sound bad on occasion. Does that mean that the u47 sounds bad?

Anyways i've made amazing sounding records with the ref c. Do i always choose my Ref c, no. But i'll repeat it again. When it suites the voice, it's an amazing mic.


To get back on topic, I highly recommend you contact Bowie, as another poster mentioned. He sent me an amazing telefunken tube that really made my Ref c shine! It actually made a very big difference.
Cheers

Quote:
Originally Posted by zohomoho View Post
Sure if you are into fingernails on the chalkboard.

Last edited by vsthalion; 7th April 2018 at 06:04 PM.. Reason: Typo
Old 7th April 2018
  #17
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Cool, I'll give Bowie a shout as well, thanks!

And good to know that if the tube swap doesn't work out, I'll have an eager buyer in zohomoho
Old 7th April 2018
  #18
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SpeckledOwl's Avatar
 

Bowie is the guy
Old 7th April 2018
  #19
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Feel is an pretty much has been the premiere capsule maker in China for over 20 years. Those same capsules are in the CR3A,which has consistently beat out the U87 in every A/B test I've ever done over the years. It's by no means a shrill capsule, or cheap sounding.

For the OP, if ou are finding the mic bright or sibilant on a certain source, have you simply tried tilting the mic off axis by 20˚ or so? That's my first line of defense when using a 251 or C12 that's a little too piecing on a source.

Changing tubes in a mic for characteristic purposes can be tricky, because the impedance is so high, that it has to be a dead quiet tube. A tube that might be acceptable in a compressor, pre or amp might be too noisy for a mic.
Old 7th April 2018
  #20
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J J's tip is good as is the recommendation to discuss it with Bowie - he's a top bloke and keen to get the best result for you.
Cheers, Ross
Old 17th April 2018
  #21
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DougS's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by zohomoho View Post
If you pay 2700$ for a mic. I'd expect something better than a cheap Chinese capsule.
...That's what Etta James said. Or maybe not.

Old 17th April 2018
  #22
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If you find the Ref C shrill with some voices, have you also considered using OekSound Soothe to dynamically kill the shrill transients? Ran the demo myself and just pulled the trigger, one of the best "original" plugins I have ever encountered.

I was skeptical, but am amazed. Used conservatively it is incredible.
Old 12th June 2020
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tkaitkai View Post
Have you seen this tube comparison video? Link: YouTube

The Telefunken tube definitely tames the HF without making it feel dull. I was considering this swap before I sold my Ref C.
I keep listening to this video because Im talking to Bowie about a nos tube for my ref c. I ordered a new tube from manley and it was a ruby. Its fine but its also a bit harsh and has a weird peak at 1-4k that I dont like. Id like it a little fuller too.

The stock tube in the video is a GE and I think it sounds better than my Ruby. But its close. It does this harsh but hollow sound where the telefunken smooths everything out. Tames the top but keeps air.
Old 24th June 2020
  #24
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So I talked w Bowie and got a telefunken tube for the ref c. On paper the Mullard would have been my choice but I took his recommendation and went with the telefunken.

It made the 1-4k range smoother. No more harsh parts in the mic. It kept the top end there but tamed it some. I can add 10-12k in eq and get a nice sound. It also cleaned up the low end in a way that makes it tighter but bigger as well. I think this is all because the mids sound better so everything sounds better.

Anyways, I wanted to post here because I kept putting a nos tube swap off but it does make a huge difference. The stock tube is harsh which is good for some dull sounds but with the telefunken it can be used on a lot more sources.
Old 24th June 2020
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cap217 View Post
So I talked w Bowie and got a telefunken tube for the ref c. On paper the Mullard would have been my choice but I took his recommendation and went with the telefunken.

It made the 1-4k range smoother. No more harsh parts in the mic. It kept the top end there but tamed it some. I can add 10-12k in eq and get a nice sound. It also cleaned up the low end in a way that makes it tighter but bigger as well. I think this is all because the mids sound better so everything sounds better.

Anyways, I wanted to post here because I kept putting a nos tube swap off but it does make a huge difference. The stock tube is harsh which is good for some dull sounds but with the telefunken it can be used on a lot more sources.
The Tele 12at7 definitely makes a difference with the Ref C, good idea to get the tube swap for it, it extends the mics frequencies by a lot.
Old 24th June 2020
  #26
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Mine is a 12ax7. Manley told me that the at and ax are interchangeable and they send whatever they have in stock. My mic is hot and I think I’m going to start using the pad.
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Tube recommendations for warmer Manley Ref C?-d31a92b3-1e24-4b46-af31-89db9da5ede8.jpg  
Old 24th June 2020
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cap217 View Post
Mine is a 12ax7. Manley told me that the at and ax are interchangeable and they send whatever they have in stock. My mic is hot and I think I’m going to start using the pad.
Yeah they can definitely be used interchangeably but the 12AT7 is 60 gain while the 12ax7 is 100 gain. I don't know if something in the mic makes it compensate or not. All I know is that they've made the mic with different tubes over the years.

The info that I'm getting from their site:

All-Tube triode design 12AX7 (Previous versions used 12AT7 and 6072.)

You probably have a newer version of the mic, and it comes with a 12ax7.
Old 24th June 2020
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hellohead View Post
Yeah they can definitely be used interchangeably but the 12AT7 is 60 gain while the 12ax7 is 100 gain. I don't know if something in the mic makes it compensate or not. All I know is that they've made the mic with different tubes over the years.

The info that I'm getting from their site:

All-Tube triode design 12AX7 (Previous versions used 12AT7 and 6072.)

You probably have a newer version of the mic, and it comes with a 12ax7.
Yea, 2013+ this is the response:

This was shipped from the factory 1/2013. 12AT7/12AX7 are interchangeable in these, we ship or install whichever we have that is the quietest.
Old 29th June 2020
  #29
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So today I changed the tube on my Manley. I had a NOS 12AX7 Telefunken tube on it, and while it sounded really smooth, I felt that the mic lost alot of its transparency. I also noticed how hot of an output the mic had.

Somewhere I read that 12AT7 tubes had a lower output and wanted to test one to see what it did, just for the heck of it.
I didnt want to buy an expensive tube as it was just for testing purposes.
I bought a cheap reissue Mullard 12AT7 (These are new tubes made in Russia, supposedly they sound nothing like old Mullards)

Put the tube in and waited about 5 hours and recorded a few takes. WOW to my huge surprise the transparency of the mic is sooooooo much better now, while it sounds just a tad brighter now, comparing it to takes with the old tube, the mic almost sounded muddy with the Tele in comparison with this new one. How can this be? this is just a cheap $30 tube

Maybe I had a bad Tele, most likely not as noise was good, no pops or anything just had too much color for some reason. Im going to keep burning the new tube in for a few days and see how it changes, but now I want to buy two more of these as spare. You really never know what surprises you will get testing gear
Old 29th June 2020
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by etrella View Post
So today I changed the tube on my Manley. I had a NOS 12AX7 Telefunken tube on it, and while it sounded really smooth, I felt that the mic lost alot of its transparency. I also noticed how hot of an output the mic had.

Somewhere I read that 12AT7 tubes had a lower output and wanted to test one to see what it did, just for the heck of it.
I didnt want to buy an expensive tube as it was just for testing purposes.
I bought a cheap reissue Mullard 12AT7 (These are new tubes made in Russia, supposedly they sound nothing like old Mullards)

Put the tube in and waited about 5 hours and recorded a few takes. WOW to my huge surprise the transparency of the mic is sooooooo much better now, while it sounds just a tad brighter now, comparing it to takes with the old tube, the mic almost sounded muddy with the Tele in comparison with this new one. How can this be? this is just a cheap $30 tube

Maybe I had a bad Tele, most likely not as noise was good, no pops or anything just had too much color for some reason. Im going to keep burning the new tube in for a few days and see how it changes, but now I want to buy two more of these as spare. You really never know what surprises you will get testing gear


Maybe the 5 hour warm up helped?

I used a tube am doctor premium 12ax7 guitar preamp tube as a placeholder when I didn’t have a backup And it worked really well. I have some nice 12at7s around. I might try it because I agree that the ax7 is hot.
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