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Best Vocals Microphone Condenser Microphones
Old 3rd November 2014
  #1
Here for the gear
Best Vocals Microphone

Okay, so I know you guys must get this kind of thread all the time.. but I'm searching and searching and getting all these different preferences and I'm completely confused as of which one to buy at the minute.

I am looking for a mic for VOCALS such as singing, rapping etc.

The Pre-amp/Audio Interface I'm using is the RME Babyface...

So far, the suggestions I've gotten are

- AKG C414 XLII
- TLM 103
- Blue Baby Bottle


Any other suggestions?

I have roughly $1500 to spend on a new microphone...

Thanks again guys!
Old 3rd November 2014
  #2
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hasbeen's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by HacknayStudio View Post
Okay, so I know you guys must get this kind of thread all the time..

Yup, bout once a week.

heres a couple threads to get you started.

Whats your go to vocal mic?

What vocal mic did you use today
Old 3rd November 2014
  #3
Here for the gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by hasbeen View Post
Yup, bout once a week.
So.. what you're telling me is the last time you had one of these threads was

ABOUT A WEEK AGO, WEEK AGO?!
Old 3rd November 2014
  #4
Lives for gear
 
hasbeen's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by HacknayStudio View Post
So.. what you're telling me is the last time you had one of these threads was

ABOUT A WEEK AGO, WEEK AGO?!
Actually, 3 days ago. Did you click on any of the links?


Reminds me of a joke.

How long have you had a weak back?

Oh, about a week back!
Old 4th November 2014
  #5
Gear Nut
Eh. I really can't recommend the TLM 103, as IMO it's screechy and hyped in the upper-mids and highs, all the more so on female vocalists or high tenor males. The 414 is an excellent all-around microphone and a great large-diaphragm instrument mic, but it can be really hit or miss on vocals, with an inclination towards missing. I can't speak to the Baby Blue.

What I recommend is that you look around for somebody who is willing to let you audition some of these mics, potentially for a small fee. For myself and my suggestions, I would go for one of the following:

Mojave MA-300 - this is a multi-pattern tube LDC, and it's $1,295. The cardioid-only version named the MA-200 is $1,095, but for only two hundred bucks more I'd go for the multiple polar pattern version. I have used the 200 and have a matched pair of MA-100 small-diaphragm tube condensers. Mojave products are excellent for the value, rugged, and just plain useful on many instruments besides the vocals.

Telefunken CU-29 - This is a fixed-pattern tube mic with a cardioid polar pattern. I haven't worked with it as much because I don't own one and I've only been to a studio that has one once, but it produced silky-smooth sounds as far as frequency response - no hype, just present, pleasing realism. It costs the same as the MA-300 at $1,295.

I have heard excellent things about the Avantone BV-1, an art-deco looking multipattern tube mic, Avantone BV-12, Miktek CV-4, and so forth, but I have not used any of them.

If you're willing to go a bit above your price range, the Lauten Oceanus tube mic at $1,899 is pretty killer, but there's also the Cathedral Pipes Regensburg Dom for $1,650.

Do not be misled by the glowing headbasket and wacky bro-dude tribal tats on the side of the Regs; this is a world-class microphone. Charles makes them by hand out in California, and it was the first vocal-purposes mic I ever bought (mine glows blue - I actually like the glow a lot because in a dark iso-booth it gives the singer some reference point to keep them in the proper distance range). He pays attention to detail, the components are top-notch, the shockmount is the beefiest effing thing I've ever seen, and there's an ass-load of spare tubes in the case when he ships it to you.

It just sounds huge, massive, bigger than you think can be possible. It isn't hyped, it flatters ****ty singers, and it elevates singers with excellent studio technique to the stratosphere. It also handles instruments beautifully; standup bass and tambourine can bring weaker mics' flaws into clear focus, but my Regs performed spectacularly enough that the bassist - initially skeptical due to the.. mmm.. 'flashy' look of the mic - insisted we use it on the second album.

And he's not the only one - I have had two different vocalists come up to me to complement this mic. One said they had never heard their own voice sound the way through a microphone the way they hear it in their head: big, rich, pleasing. The other commented that it was the best mic they had ever heard during one of the mixing sessions.

Sure, the flashy looks will draw people's attention - and I would say possibly prejudice them against the mic. So it seems to me that it ought to have to be really good, because it not only overcomes that prejudice but goes further. I don't keep tools around that aren't useful, and I have yet to find a sound source where this mic sounds poor, so it stays on standby for whatever instruments or voices need that special treatment.

---

For non-tube vocal mics, the multipattern MA-301 and cardioid-only MA-201 are nice, but I would shoot for one of the following:

Bock 195 - this mic just gushes weighty presence. It has authority dammit, and you can hear it. It sounds larger than life without sounding in any way harsh or hyped; the sound is just big and toneful. At $1,200 it's a total steal. It has a pad switch, a high-pass switch, and a FAT switch.

The FAT switch is not just an EQ boost on the low end; it changes how negative feedback is applied across the frequency spectrum, actually changing the voice of the microphone's internal amplifier. It doesn't sound in any way artificial the way it sometimes can if you just take a low-shelf and crank it the eff up high.

This mic can be just as equally useful on instruments as well, so you get double the utility. This would be a fine mic without the pad, roll off and FAT switches, but with the inclusion of the switches - mostly I'm talking about the FAT switch - it becomes a truly great microphone.

Lauten Atlantis - this mic also has a variety of different tones. It has three 'voicings': forward, neutral, and gentle. Again it is not a simple EQ circuit; there is more going on here just as there is with the Bock, using various methods to alter how the capsule responds to audio in a natural fashion.

You might think that 'forward' could be too much because so many LDCs in this price range are hyped, strident garbage. But the mic sounds good in forward if the vocalist is a good fit because this isn't one of those hyped, piercing mics. It is designed for digital recording, where you don't have tape to reduce the high end and round things off.

With the three different voicings, this is not only useful on instruments, but also for when you have a vocalist where their tone seems to be clashing with the mic or where the mic is exaggerating some potentially-negative aspect of their particular vocal tone; simply try the two other voices and likely at least one will work! It sounds warm, pleasing, just all-around a nice mic for $1,499.

The cheaper Lauten Clarion also sounds good.

---

Really, only you can decide what mics you need / want / like, which is why these perennial 'what X do I need?' threads are perhaps a bit discouraged. But I figure this has a chance to help you out, because I sure wouldn't want to get convinced into buying a TLM 103 for my first and only vocal mic. As for the 414s, I'd love a pair of 414s for all-around versatility, and if funds allow it they're on the list of **** I'm gonna spring for next year. But they really are hit or miss on vocals, and the TLM is just... not my idea of good tone.

So try to hunt down any of the mics listed above to take a listen to them, because that's the best way to determine what you want. Failing that, research up on the mics listed above and try to find sound samples around the web; I think Charles has clips of vocals through a Regs Dom on his website, and I'd be surprised if it were hard to find clips for the less esoteric mics on the list.

Good luck, and godspeed (and if you do get a tube mic, know you're likely to get a serious addiction to that special raspy something that they add to vocals)!

Last edited by JonHollister; 4th November 2014 at 04:13 AM.. Reason: We replace the 'F-word' with ****s now? Oy vey...
Old 4th November 2014
  #6
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Motoxxx's Avatar
 

If you want to stick in the $1000 price range, pick up a used TLM 49 off of Ebay. I have a couple of these mics and they can be used with really consistent results on instruments and vocals.

I would also recommend the Bock 195. If you can find one used, so much the better. That mic is probably one of the best big sounding values I have worked with.

I used the Miktek CV4 and was not really wowed with it. Too many other mics in the same price range that sound better like the Telefunken AR-51.

The Lauten Oceanus is fantastic and I would put it in the same category as the SE Electronics Gemini ii.

The AKG 414 XLii is a great all around instrument mic as well as a vocal mic. Some of the other models (except for the much older ones using the CK12 capsule) do not do as well on vocals as the XLii does. The XLS models are not nearly as good for voice but better for reference type stuff. The 414 is a studio staple for a reason. I would not discount them!

The TLM 103....just pass on it. It is a great mic for people that have never used really high end mics and it is their first foray into the edge of PRO stuff. Most of the positive comments and reviews you will find on the 103 come from hobbyists whose point of reference is usually an SM57, or a AKG Perception series mic.
Old 4th November 2014
  #7
Gear Nut
By no means did I mean to say the 414 is anything but a studio staple of that's how it came across, just to clarify in case I spoke in a confusing fashion. It totally is a studio staple; versatile, compact, many variables as far as options (pad, rolloff, polar pattern), and so forth. And it can sound great on some vocalists.

The thing is though - at least in my experience - on some vocalists it just sounds lousy, flat, lifeless, dull, uninviting. So it's not that it will amplify a singer's vocal flaws like the TLM 103 which often sounds harsh and nails-on-chalkboard-like. Instead it just sounds lackluster on some vocalists. And frankly I've found that this happens more often than not.

So as an excellent all-around workhorse the 414 excels. And if you have one laying about I would say sure, throw it up on the singer and see how it sounds! But if you're looking specifically to buy a mic for vocals, best to look elsewhere for something that more consistently does well on the human voice.

Last edited by JonHollister; 4th November 2014 at 05:50 AM.. Reason: Better choice of words
Old 4th November 2014
  #8
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Motoxxx's Avatar
 

I would actually state the the 414XLii is much better on vocals than any of the other versions of this mic made in the past 13 years or so. The other models such as the 414 -ULS were not good on vocals at all in my experience. The XLii is a different animal entirely in my opinion.
Old 4th November 2014
  #9
If your preamp is a Baby Face the mic have to be a baby bottle to fit! logical answer!! :P
Old 4th November 2014
  #10
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Foxaudioresearch.com

Trust me!!!!!
Old 4th November 2014
  #11
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DougS's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Twenty Staxx View Post
Foxaudioresearch.com
Its Foxaudioresearch.ca

".ca" not ".com"
Old 4th November 2014
  #12
Gear Nut
 
Toppermost's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Motoxxx View Post
I would actually state the the 414XLii is much better on vocals than any of the other versions of this mic made in the past 13 years or so. The other models such as the 414 -ULS were not good on vocals at all in my experience. The XLii is a different animal entirely in my opinion.
Agreed. Better suited to vocals, and a more open sound.

Still (like most mics) won't work on every voice, but it's not a bad place to start.
Old 4th November 2014
  #13
Lives for gear
Damn...

Quote:
Originally Posted by DougS View Post
Its Foxaudioresearch.ca

".ca" not ".com"
I need to make this correction in a few other threads.
Old 4th November 2014
  #14
Gear Nut
Quote:
Originally Posted by Motoxxx View Post
I would actually state the the 414XLii is much better on vocals than any of the other versions of this mic made in the past 13 years or so. The other models such as the 414 -ULS were not good on vocals at all in my experience. The XLii is a different animal entirely in my opinion.
Interesting. I haven't played with one yet, just the XLS and prior models. I may need to track one down to see for myself, as that would be an excellent addition to the mic's already impressive capabilities!
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