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£1000 to upgrade vocal chain! Condenser Microphones
Old 31st December 2010
  #1
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dickiefunk's Avatar
£1000 to upgrade vocal chain!

Hi,

I'm currently looking to upgrade part or all of my vocal chain because I would like something that sounds even smoother, bigger and less harsh than what I already have.
My current mics are :-

Shure SM7b, SE 2200T, Oktava MK-319, Rode NT-1a, MXL v67g and Studio Projects B1

I've also tried the Blue Bluebird, Audio Technica 4040 and AKG C414 and Solidtube.

My current preamps are :-

Focusrite ISA One digital, GAP PRE73, Presonus Eureka and M-Audio DMP3

I've also tried an SPL Goldmike mkI, M-Audio Tampa and ART MPA Gold with upgraded NOS Telefunken tubes.

I am mainly using this mic for a mezzo soprano female gospel vocalist who has a massive voice! The problem I find when tracking her voice is when she is really belting it the tone gets thin and harsh! I've added some clips to illustrate her voice.
I've tried lots of different placements and at her loudest my converters are around -12dB but still can't seem to get a really smooth and thick creamy vocal sound.

What would you recommend?

Should I invest the £1000 in one higher end mic, in one high end preamp or should I split it?

Help please!!
Attached Files

amazing_grace_high.mp3.mp3 (9.08 MB, 346 views)

Silent Night.mp3 (9.00 MB, 240 views)

Old 31st December 2010
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dickiefunk View Post
Hi,

I'm currently looking to upgrade part or all of my vocal chain because I would like something that sounds even smoother, bigger and less harsh than what I already have.
My current mics are :-

Shure SM7b, SE 2200T, Oktava MK-319, Rode NT-1a, MXL v67g and Studio Projects B1

I've also tried the Blue Bluebird, Audio Technica 4040 and AKG Solidtube.

My current preamps are :-

Focusrite ISA One digital, GAP PRE73, Presonus Eureka and M-Audio DMP3

I am mainly using this mic for a mezzo soprano female gospel vocalist who has a massive voice! The problem I find when tracking her voice is when she is really belting it the tone gets thin and harsh! I've added some clips to illustrate her voice.
I've tried lots of different placements and at her loudest my converters are around -12dB but still can't seem to get a really smooth and thick creamy vocal sound.

What would you recommend?

Should I invest the £1000 in one higher end mic, in one high end preamp or should I split it?

Help please!!
If you're set on buying more gear, I would definitely be tempted by the 610 from UA, or the SP-737 from Avalon. They've both got a very smooth sound to them available, but can also be adjusted to find their own individual characters. I find the 610 very rock n roll on the whole with the 737 much 'fatter' and suited to funk / soul type genres - not so much for vocals but other instruments. I would also try the Blue Baby Bottle which has got much less boost in the top end than most condensor mics and I use it a lot for reducing sibilance.

You should also try the dual layer pop shield from sE, it's very effective for reducing breathing noise and sibilance in vocals if you use both layers together and can go a long way to help.

Additionally, what are you using in terms of recording acoustics? For the warmer sound I'd really try and isolate the vocalist, for this I would use a reflexion filter around the back of the mic, along with a corner of Auralex foam (fine for vocal purposes) to really ensure that the direct vocals are all that enter the mic. If you'd rather not do the foam thing, install some hooks on the ceiling, and buy a thick theatre curtain or drape to hang from the hooks, which will allow you to take it away when not doing vocals.

Genuinely I'd approach the acoustics first as the mic collection (particularly 2200T) and pre-amp collection (particularly GAP-73) you have are both pretty good and I would expect to find the result I was after with what you have, so it may not be your gear so much as either:
a) Your acoustics
b) Your performer(s)
c) Your technique

I would refrain from throwing more money at it until you've positively identified the problem.

I see you're using a Focusrite Interface for conversion - I would debate changing this element. Not so much for the conversion itself (Focusrite ADA is not bad at all), but more for the line amps. Just like mic pres, line amps have character too and this fact is often overlooked on this forum.

Oh and by the way I hope you're not trying to achieve a warm tone with ISA one. It is really not the pre-amp for the job.
Old 31st December 2010
  #3
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dickiefunk's Avatar
Hi,

Thanks for the reply.

Quote:
Originally Posted by therealbigd View Post

Additionally, what are you using in terms of recording acoustics? For the warmer sound I'd really try and isolate the vocalist, for this I would use a reflexion filter around the back of the mic, along with a corner of Auralex foam (fine for vocal purposes) to really ensure that the direct vocals are all that enter the mic. If you'd rather not do the foam thing, install some hooks on the ceiling, and buy a thick theatre curtain or drape to hang from the hooks, which will allow you to take it away when not doing vocals.

Genuinely I'd approach the acoustics first as the mic collection (particularly 2200T) and pre-amp collection (particularly GAP-73) you have are both pretty good and I would expect to find the result I was after with what you have, so it may not be your gear so much as either:
a) Your acoustics
b) Your performer(s)
c) Your technique
I built a small vocal booth earlier this year which to be honest sounds quite dead but I had to make the best of a bad situation (external noise issues).
I've since had a very experienced acoustician visit and he suggested various things to improve the acoustics of the booth by adding some reflections which I will be doing over the next few weeks.

Hopefully this acoustic treatment will help.

The vocalist I'm working with is quite an experienced session singer and has good mic technique.

Quote:
Originally Posted by therealbigd View Post
If you're set on buying more gear, I would definitely be tempted by the 610 from UA, or the SP-737 from Avalon. They've both got a very smooth sound to them available, but can also be adjusted to find their own individual characters. I find the 610 very rock n roll on the whole with the 737 much 'fatter' and suited to funk / soul type genres - not so much for vocals but other instruments. I would also try the Blue Baby Bottle which has got much less boost in the top end than most condensor mics and I use it a lot for reducing sibilance.
I am planning to upgrade my PRE73 to the upcoming mkII Pro version in the next few months when it's released.
I have been tempted to sell all my pres and get a Great River ME-1nv or something else? Maybe I could sell the Eureka and DMP3 and get something like a UA610, Blue Robbie UA610 Daking MP1, SSL Channel, Grace M101 etc?

Quote:
Originally Posted by therealbigd View Post

You should also try the dual layer pop shield from sE, it's very effective for reducing breathing noise and sibilance in vocals if you use both layers together and can go a long way to help.
I'm was thinking of picking up the new JZ Pop Filter :-

JZ Microphones JZ - Products

Will also have a look at the SE dual layer filter!
Old 31st December 2010
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dickiefunk View Post
I built a small vocal booth earlier this year which to be honest sounds quite dead but I had to make the best of a bad situation (external noise issues).
I've since had a very experienced acoustician visit and he suggested various things to improve the acoustics of the booth by adding some reflections which I will be doing over the next few weeks.

Hopefully this acoustic treatment will help.
Thing is, he will have tried to treat it for all eventualities. For a warm, intimate vocal sound, no reflections still tends to be the best way with all reflection and echo added afterwards.

Quote:
The vocalist I'm working with is quite an experienced session singer and has good mic technique.
Again, good mic technique does not necessarily mean they get the sound you are after.

Jenson Button is a good driver, but I could probably do the Camel Trophy much easier than him because my driving experience is all in Off Road where his is on the track. Point being - just because you're good at a trade it doesn't mean you're going to be able to do it exactly as wanted.

Quote:
I am planning to upgrade my PRE73 to the upcoming mkII Pro version in the next few months when it's released.
I have been tempted to sell all my pres and get a Great River ME-1nv or something else? Maybe I could sell the Eureka and DMP3 and get something like a UA610, Blue Robbie UA610 Daking MP1, SSL Channel, Grace M101 etc?
If you are looking for 'warmth' I would definitely not get the SSL Channel. SSLs are famous MIXING Consoles not RECORDING consoles. If you look at the worlds best studios, the tracking rooms always have Neves with the SSLs in the mix rooms.
Old 31st December 2010
  #5
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Right now, for value, you're just not going to beat this.

SE Electronics Tube Ribbon & LA610 mk2 plus FREE UAD2 Duo, Reflexion Filter and Pop Shield | DV247

1) sE Tube Ribbon mic - I love this mic, it's got a very warm and smooth response, and definitely dumbs down the harsher top end frequencies. I used one as a single overhead mixed with 2x AT4033s last year to get both sides of the cymbal sound - the 4033s getting the splashy fizz with the RT-1 getting the 'boshy' body of the sound.
2) UA LA610mkII channel strip - as mentioned above
3) UAD-2 card - which is well worth having if you don't already!
4) sE dual pop shield - as above

For LESS than £200 more than the cost of the 610 alone.

If you're going to go with the 610, this would be a silly opportunity to waste. If you don't fancy it, let me know and I'll give you the £200 extra for the mic and card
Old 31st December 2010
  #6
Gear Head
 
Lo-Fi's Avatar
 

Aside from treating the acoustics in your room, my vote would be for a better mic - all the ones you have are a similar sort of level - less expensive (quality) ldcs and the sm7b which doesn't suit a lot of voices. With a grand you could get a truly high end mic especially if you shop second-hand (wisely). I picked up a gefell um70s for £200 used not long ago, as well as a bargain akg c414-eb and sennheiser mkh40. You could get a u87 or similar level with that sort of cash. I'm in the school of thought that mics will alter the sound waaay more than the pre and the pres you have are more than adequate. ymmv
Old 31st December 2010
  #7
Gear Guru
 
Karloff70's Avatar
 

Get a decent mic. Nought wrong with yer pre's, ISA is sweet regardless of GS opinion.

Could also do with maybe some hardware comp? Some comps do fun things to tone at pressure. My LA-4 can be nice like that, if you set him right he'll take the loud, caned notes and the tone kind of swallows into 'rightness' not shrillness. Still mostly depends on the singers throat and where THAT takes caned notes, tone wise.....your girl doesn't sound harsh from here though.
On the cheap a dBx160xT does useful things to vocals!

Mainly I reckon buy a nice, sweet mic. What that is, and which to buy is a whole other thing.......homework time I reckon....good luck.

For (relatively) little money, check out an old Groove Tubes MD1 from the 90's. Not their new ones! That old thing has a very flattering vocal vibe indeed!
Old 31st December 2010
  #8
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dickiefunk's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by therealbigd View Post
Right now, for value, you're just not going to beat this.

SE Electronics Tube Ribbon & LA610 mk2 plus FREE UAD2 Duo, Reflexion Filter and Pop Shield | DV247

1) sE Tube Ribbon mic - I love this mic, it's got a very warm and smooth response, and definitely dumbs down the harsher top end frequencies. I used one as a single overhead mixed with 2x AT4033s last year to get both sides of the cymbal sound - the 4033s getting the splashy fizz with the RT-1 getting the 'boshy' body of the sound.
2) UA LA610mkII channel strip - as mentioned above
3) UAD-2 card - which is well worth having if you don't already!
4) sE dual pop shield - as above

For LESS than £200 more than the cost of the 610 alone.

If you're going to go with the 610, this would be a silly opportunity to waste. If you don't fancy it, let me know and I'll give you the £200 extra for the mic and card
That does look like good value but I would have to sell some stuff to look be able to afford this as the top of my budget is £1000!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lo-Fi View Post
Aside from treating the acoustics in your room, my vote would be for a better mic - all the ones you have are a similar sort of level - less expensive (quality) ldcs and the sm7b which doesn't suit a lot of voices. With a grand you could get a truly high end mic especially if you shop second-hand (wisely). I picked up a gefell um70s for £200 used not long ago, as well as a bargain akg c414-eb and sennheiser mkh40. You could get a u87 or similar level with that sort of cash. I'm in the school of thought that mics will alter the sound waaay more than the pre and the pres you have are more than adequate. ymmv
Forgot to mention I've also tried the AKG C414 aswell which also can suffer from this problem. I'm thinking maybe a ribbon mic may be the way to go?
Old 31st December 2010
  #9
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Audio Child's Avatar
 

Didn't know there was gonna be a pre73 mk2 so soon!

I reckon you should grab a Great River Me1nv and a solid Mic!

Brauner Pantherea or something of that class would be a great jump in quality!
Old 1st January 2011
  #10
Gear Head
 
Lo-Fi's Avatar
 

Quote:
Didn't know there was gonna be a pre73 mk2 so soon!

I reckon you should grab a Great River Me1nv and a solid Mic!

Brauner Pantherea or something of that class would be a great jump in quality!
That'd be great but here in the UK either of those purchases is £1000+ so I'd say go with the mic.

Quote:
Forgot to mention I've also tried the AKG C414 aswell which also can suffer from this problem. I'm thinking maybe a ribbon mic may be the way to go?
414 doesn't really shine on vocals imho. Ribbons on the other hand... You could get a great ribbon for £1000. Try and borrow one to try before you buy to see if it suits the voice of your artist as she's the main person you're recording.
Old 1st January 2011
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dickiefunk View Post
That does look like good value but I would have to sell some stuff to look be able to afford this as the top of my budget is £1000!
I'd sell something and go for it. You're getting:

•*A fantastic input channel strip for your desired vocal sound.
• An LA-2A compressor you can use with all your stuff - the legendary smooth vocal compressor.
•*A great tube ribbon mic, which I can confirm definitely has a warm and smooth tone.
• A UAD card which opens up a whole new world of plugin processing.
• And the dual-layer pop shield we spoke about

For £500 over budget. I definitely would buy it if I was in the market you're in.
Old 1st January 2011
  #12
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dickiefunk's Avatar
I preamp and pop filter does look interesting but I' not sure about the other stuff.
I'm not particularly interested in the UA card as I already have some excellent plugins and I've just been experimenting with a ribbon mic on a different vocalist and whilst it is very warm it is quite dull and lacks presence.

I may be interested in the preamp if one came up for a decent price secondhand.

My ISA One is quite a useful flexible preamp and I've just been experimenting a little more with my Presonus Eureka and am liking this the more I use it!

I think I will sell my PRE73 and MXL v67g mic. I may also sell my DMP3. I hope to get somewhere between £250-£300 for these.

NAMM is coming in the next couple of weeks so I'll hang on to see what new stuff is released then!
Old 1st January 2011
  #13
Gear Head
 

has your vocalist tried the SE rnr , when i ws demoing mics recently, that was really great on female voices?
Old 1st January 2011
  #14
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dickiefunk's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrcimple View Post
has your vocalist tried the SE rnr , when i ws demoing mics recently, that was really great on female voices?
I haven't tried this mic on her voice but know a local studio with one which I'll hopefully try out.

I'm also interested in the SE Gemini mk3 which they also own.
Old 1st January 2011
  #15
Gear Maniac
 

There's some good old-fashioned distortion on that Amazing Grace track, and it sounds to me as if it's been through a compressor, so it's hard to pinpoint what's up with your microphones, but it strikes me that your vocalist does in fact slightly squeeze the tone when she's up high. Sure, you can fix that after recording it (on a note-by-note basis) but betters mics won't make it go away.

I use a Royer SF-12 for vocals (well, for just about everything) and it's absolutely fine with loud voices. I've recorded what is possibly the loudest voice I've ever heard in my life (and I work in the opera world and have heard several of the world's great singers at point-blank range) at 4 feet with no trace of overload or distress.
Old 1st January 2011
  #16
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Yeh....i have the sm7b, its a pretty smooth mic, but i agree, its not for every voice, but thats what makes it so perfect on some voices...haha like what some other people on here have mentioned, maybe look at getting a ribbon mic like a coles, royer or AEA...they tend to be pretty natural sounding to the point where if her top register starts to sound thin and harsh, it's more because of her voice as opposed to a specific mic...
Old 1st January 2011
  #17
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dickiefunk's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Black View Post
There's some good old-fashioned distortion on that Amazing Grace track, and it sounds to me as if it's been through a compressor
This didn't go through a compressor on tracking. The chain used on this track was a cheapie Studio Projects B1 into an SPL Goldmike mkI.
Old 1st January 2011
  #18
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dickiefunk's Avatar
If I were to upgrade my preamps I would probably keep the ISA One and would quite like to keep the Eureka. I would be happy to sell my PRE73 and DMP3 but am unsure what I would upgrade to?
I'm also a little torn as to whether I should go for a preamp or channel strip?

Some products that have caught my eye are :-

Blue Robbie
Universal Audio Solo 610
SPL Channel One
Grace M101
Audient Mico
Great River ME-1NV
Universal Audio LA610
Universal Audio Twin Finity
Safe Sound P1
DAV BG1

As far as mics go I am interested in :-

Mojave MA-200
Brauner Phantom Classic
SE Electronics Gemini mkIII
SE Electronics RNR1
Rode K2
Shure KSM44
Old 1st January 2011
  #19
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Hire a bunch of mics to test them out.

Try a Coles 4038 ribbon with a DAV BG1.
Old 1st January 2011
  #20
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SE Electronics Gemini mk3 & LA610mk2 plus FREE UAD2 Duo, Reflexion Filter and Pop Shield | DV247

LA-610 with Gemini Mk3, UAD2 card, sE reflexion filter and sE pop shield.

If you don't like UAD2 it will get good money on eBay but it seems to be a favourite on here.
Old 1st January 2011
  #21
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i would get a great pre to start.
A Daking or a Neve or an Api.
With any of those the SM7b will be a great
mic.
Old 1st January 2011
  #22
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dickiefunk's Avatar
The Daking certainly has had some great reviews. Would it be a big step up in quality from my ISA One or would it simply offer a different tone?
I like the features that my ISA One and Eureka have and wouldn't want to iss those tone shaping options.

For me to get a new preamp it would have to be a completely different league to what I already have to justify it!
Old 1st January 2011
  #23
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themaidsroom's Avatar
 

the daking + sm7b is one of the sounds i use for vocal frequently. usually with
a elux 251 and an e-47, a c12b and an 87 as the other options. (while it is a subject that has been hammered to death on gearslutz, to me it is still amazing that this $400 mic competes with these condensers) I usually track with an la2a. the sm7b likes some eq in the upper mids, but with most mics, the sound of the daking pre is simply there and big and full and any "tone shaping" becomes redundant. the pre just delivers whatever tone a particular mic has to offer.




be well


- jack
Old 1st January 2011
  #24
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dickiefunk's Avatar
Any ideas on how my Eureka compares to the SPL Channel One?
Old 1st January 2011
  #25
Registered User
 

a leveling amp is what you need try a rnla and call it a day
Old 2nd January 2011
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doulos24 View Post
a leveling amp is what you need try a rnla and call it a day
thats why I said the LA610 as it has a built in LA-2A
Old 2nd January 2011
  #27
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dickiefunk's Avatar
The compressor in the Eureka is quite like a leveling amp. It is VERY clean and subtle to leveling out peaks so maybe I need to experiment a little more with this preamp!? It is also possible to run other preamps through the Eureka's compressor which looks handy!

I think I'm gonna have to give the UA LA610 a miss as it is beyond my budget.

Would any of the other preamps I've listed be a huge step up from my ISA One and Eureka?
I'm thinking I may wait to see what's been improved with the upcoming Pro version of the PRE73. This may be a good option and I could use it through the Eurekas compressor?

Are there any other mics apart from the ones I've listed that would be a better choice?
Old 2nd January 2011
  #28
Gear Guru
 
Karloff70's Avatar
 

Not sure about your list for vocals.....for your budget I'd look at Gefell, maybe Beesneez or maybe an old 87. Or that old Groove tubes MD1. Have you ever used a ribbon for vocals? If not, do so before you pin your vocal hopes on one, as it might not do what you need.

With the mics that you have already you can easily get (and obviously are) good results. To better that, to me you need a mic that just goes 'click' and settles into a more confident expression of sound that you can feel/sense as a difference. If it doesn't do that you might as well not bother and use what you have or send your Nt1a to Joly and be done.
Old 2nd January 2011
  #29
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dickiefunk View Post
I'm thinking I may wait to see what's been improved with the upcoming Pro version of the PRE73. This may be a good option and I could use it through the Eurekas compressor?

Are there any other mics apart from the ones I've listed that would be a better choice?

Dickiefunk, is there any info online about the pro version?

can you link me?

thanks.
Old 2nd January 2011
  #30
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dickiefunk's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrcimple View Post
Dickiefunk, is there any info online about the pro version?

can you link me?

thanks.
No not yet
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