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Microphones: Does it really matter that much which one we use?
Old 13th October 2013
Lives for gear
elambo's Avatar
Originally Posted by animal eater View Post
Still so much comes down to performance, placement and knowing your room.
In situations like this it's important to say, "with all other things being equal" because all other things WILL be equal.

In other words, if with a 57 you get the most out of a performance and a room you're going to get the most from those things, but you're still going to apply the same knowledge and techniques when using a 47, except you'll be using a 47 and that's a whole different beast.

So again we must consider "all other things being equal." Because they usually are so that cancels out of the equation.
Old 13th October 2013
Originally Posted by Scoox View Post
Those Schoeps microphones are bloody expensive, they are probably not that good.
Not only are they "that" good, they're even better.
The CMC 64s and 62s are one of the better investments in audio gear that I've made.

There are many factors that influence the way a microphone interacts with a sound source. Even the most detailed specification sheet (like those supplied by Schoeps, Sennheiser, Neumann, DPA and other manfacturers of quality mics) does not begin to quantify the way a mic interacts with a complex 4-dimensional sound field.

Published frequency response curves are typically 1/3rd or even 1/2 octave averaged, so they don't show all the narrow band head-shell and transducer resonances and nulls that some mics have in excess and others minimise.

Distortion specifications are typically only THD and are only listed at extreme SPLs. The THD and IM and especially TIM distortion at the actual SPLs that the mics are used at is never specified and it can vary dramatically from mic to mic. Distortion at usable SPLs has much more to do with how a mic sounds than the max SPL distortion limit 99% of the time.

Phase linearity is rarely specified, and if it is at all will often only be listed at one frequency.

Polar response is typically listed at only a few frequencies and only in the horizontal plane. Some mics have the same horizontal and vertical polar responses, and some are dramatically different. If you understand those differences, they can be put to good use. That's why I love the MiLab DC-196.

Those factors are just the tip of the iceberg when microphone function is being discussed by anyone who understands the physics of how transducers really work. The 6 or 8 "numbers" on a typical spec sheet and a couple of pretty graphs are there for the "unwashed masses" to argue about, and are fairly irrelevant when it comes down to the real "sound" of a mic on a particular instrument or voice.

Some mics do work much better and certainly do justify their cost. That's not at all to say that all expensive mics sound good. I've tried and heard many that are poorly designed, sound cheap, but are hyped by people who don't know any better. Strictly a case of "The Emperor's New Clothes". That's certainly the case with many of the "U47" boutique mics flooding the market. Just because a mic is hand-built, costs upwards of $1500, and has the number "47" in it's model name, has nothing to do with how it sounds. Some of these sound no better than a $200 MXL, but because they may sound different, they do find a limited market.

Fortunately, there are companies like Schoeps, Sennheiser, DPA and sometimes Neumann and even Shure (KSM44A), who actually have the expertise to back up their claims and make products that really deserve the hype.

The only problem with using fine mics, is like that when when drinking fine wine. Once you've tried it you can't go back. Thirty years ago I used to be satisfied with the sound of a SM80 or SM81. Today, I know better.

If you've never tried Romanee-Conti or La Tache, then you may be perfectly happy with a gallon jug of Taylor's Red.
Old 13th October 2013
Lives for gear
KevWind's Avatar
Originally Posted by Scoox View Post
Those Schoeps microphones are bloody expensive, they are probably not that good.
Of course "that good" once you move past quality of components and build is primarily subjective.

But even though there are always exceptions, in general the old adage "you get what you pay for" is still true.
That said as I advised before If "bloody expensive" is in fact beyond what can realistically pay or even just more that you are willing to pay, then how good they are ( other than an intellectual exercise) is in practical terms irrelevant.

If the cost is within your budget or willingness , then yes they are that good BUT may not be what you might prefer. For Example Elambo and I differ in our personal assessment about using the schoeps for acoustic guitar but both us agree that they are a great mic reflecting a reasonable cost. Of course in all honesty I do not have a 54 to compare my schoeps against so even though it may simply be a matter of personal preference, If It were me reading what both of us are saying I'd listen to him But both of us agree if you start with "budget" you'll be tracking lineally instead of circularly
Old 13th October 2013
Gear Guru
Karloff70's Avatar

Originally Posted by Scoox View Post
The microphone market is an absolute minefield, and I have a feeling that manufacturers are happy for it to stay that way.

Some of you guys have an impressive collection of microphones, so maybe you can answer the following questions:

Here are some thoughts and questions to get this discussion going:

1) What's the definition of a good microphone?

2) If you could specify an ideal, hypothetical microphone, how would it be?

3) What is the difference between a very expensive mic and a less expensive yet decent one?

4) Can an inexpensive microphone work better than an expensive one in certain situations?

5) When comparing microphones, is it possible that what sounds nice to me may not sound good to others?

6) I often hear "the right microphone for the job". What does this refer to? Does it mean that the microphone's measurable characteristics (sensitivity, SNR, dynamic range, etc) are all adequate for the job at hand, or does it also refer to the microphone's sonic qualities? Isn't it possible to achieve a suitable sonic profile by means of EQ or other processing?

7) I've read in several places that "you can't add frequencies that are not there in the first place". True, but I am pretty sure most half-decent condenser mics will pick up every frequency from 20Hz to 20kHz to some extent, so there are no frequencies that "are not there". What are the implications of "ironing out" the peaks and troughs with EQ?

NOTE: I am in the market for a new condenser microphone after my little cousin proved that it was possible to stick a needle through the grille of my NT1-a, so a bit of insight would be useful.
1) A really good microphone is one that it is almost impossible to make sound anything but gorgeous. It may sound wrong for the context with the wrong source, connotation wise and it may sound 'wrongly placed in the mix' with the wrong mic placement, but it will pretty much always 'sing'.

2) No such thing, as it is context dependent.

3) That difference is often that the decent one can be made to sound bad, putting it in the wrong place or on the wrong source. I mean bad, not just unsuitable. Any mic can sound unsuitable.

4) Most definitely!! It might be a 'one trick pony' or just perfect for the task. Likelyhood of 'perfect for the task' isn't related to price.

5) Most definitely. Two things happen here, one is taste, which will always differ, and one is experience in what to listen for. As in which parameters of the sound are of importance later in the context. So hence a Rode NT1 can sound totally amazing to one person because it sounds very clear and noise free and like an obstructive blade of glass in the mix to be to another. But then it could be perfect for that dull sounding acoustic.

6) The easiest way to think of this is Stav's way mentioned in his book "Mixing with your mind". Think of both mics and sources as on a hardness scale of 1-10, and try to match soft sources with hard sounding mics and the other way round. That's the simplest way to think to begin with. Then there is differing reach, the way off axis sounds get picked up, what pattern is suitable for a particular mic technique, all contributing to one mic being more suitable for a job than another. And no, you can't do with eq what you can do with mic selection. Doesn't work that way. Another thing is how well a mic takes eq. Touch a cheap condenser recording with even a little eq and it quickly falls apart. A U87 on the other hand you can bend into all sorts of shapes, and it will still sound good and natural (given reasonable quality eq of course).

7) See 6.

Basically try to get away from the thinking pattern of "a condenser will catch all the frequencies and then I can shape them into what I need it to sound like afterwards" and move towards "let me learn which mics will catch ready made shapes when put in the right positions and build the sound I am after from the beginning" and start assembling a little mic cupboard. Like tools for different jobs. And some very useful for loads of tasks. Like say a U87.

If you get a condenser, get a sweet sounding one or you will record yourself a load of 'hidden' problems to be dealt with after. Less sweet ones can be great in the right jobs/positions but bad in others, so take more learning what they are good for, as it will be less jobs. In any case, think of a mic as a personality you have to get to know intimately to make the best use of it. All of them. One at a time. Don't think lazily "It's a dynamic, it will act like this other dynamic I know..."....they are ALL different and need getting acquainted with.

Rant over.
Old 13th October 2013
Gear Guru

Originally Posted by Scoox View Post
Those Schoeps microphones are bloody expensive, they are probably not that good.
Diminishing returns are still returns!!

if you want a mic that is "10%" better than a really good mic you may very well have to spend TWICE as much money. This is true in almost any area of cutting edge technology. If you want a sports car that is a mere 20 MPH faster than an already really fast car, you may indeed have to spend twice as much money. When you are pushing the envelope it gets expensive but that does not mean the envelope has stopped being pushed.

'worth it' has so many contributing factors and the pure sonics is just one of them. Your budget, your application and of course the other stuff in your chain, from your talent, to your room, to your preamp and converters, all contribute to whether you can even hear and appreciate the superiority of a highest-quality microphone.

When you get to a certain level, yes these mics are 'worth it'. If you need to make compromises because of money, it is good to be as educated as possible about where you make those compromises. If I had no gear and a limited budget for everything, I would HEAVILY favor the microphone(s) in that budget.

please note that your thread, titled:
Microphones: Does it really matter that much which one we use?
Was more or less instantly moved to the "Newbie" section. That right there is the answer to your question! The microphone not only matters, it matters more than most things.

My conclusion is that if you take any number of microphones with similar specs, as long as they have low self-noise, a treated room and moderate EQ can get you pretty much any sound. Which is kind of comforting if you are on a tight budget like yours truly here
You are not the first person to comfort himself with rationalizations disguised as theories about how this or that 'doesn't matter'.

As you gain experience working with different microphones you will start to realize that your "conclusion" is not justified by reality. You will start to see that your comfort is a false comfort. The expression 'kidding yourself' comes to mind.

Defining a mic solely by its frequency response curve is the theory behind junk like the Antares Microphone Modeler which is so notorious for not working as advertised that it is the butt of 1000 jokes. There is so much more to a microphone than its frequency response curve.
Old 14th October 2013
The process of recording as well the skill of recording has as one of its important components the skill of listening. The recording process is, in my estimation, incomplete absent the listening portion. To determine the quality of any gear used in the recording process presupposes a listening skill that many people lack and thus questions such as what the OP posted arise.

Additionally, it always seems to me that the subjective issues involved in discussions such as the one here sparked by the OP are the result of a blurring of the lines between performance and sound quality. Any decent mic used properly to record a great performance will produce a great piece of music. A great performance with any mic improperly recorded or poorly recorded will diminish that performance or can diminish that performance.

So it is that whether one uses Schoeps most costly mics or SM57s the issue of sound quality is proportionally related to the skill of the listener.

This is why the OP could even ask such questions. He asks them because he apparently cannot hear the differences. That requires training ones ear to hear the subtle nuances. If he could hear the differences he would not ask such questions.

It all reminds me of the very first time I heard my voice recorded. I was about 10 years old and my parents bought me my first tape recorder. I remember it was a small Panasonic tape recorder. When I heard my voice I thought it was horrible. I thought I didn't sound like that but I must sound like that because I knew it was me. The truth was my voice did not really sound that way. It was a very cheap microphone through cheap electronics and it altered the sound of my voice significantly such that I could barely recognize my voice.

Years and years later when I purchased a Soundelux E 47 the recording sounded for all intents and purposes exactly like me. By the way I am not a singer, I am an instrumentalist however I have recorded my voice many times for the purpose of working on original compositions. Through a great mic my voice sounds, good, bad or indifferent, like me.

The fact is, more expensive mics are more accurate. Whether the listener can hear the accuracy is a complex matter and has as much to do with the perceived differences between mics and maybe more so than any other aspect of the process.

Whether an expensive mic works better than a cheap mic depends in large part on who is listening. After that comes all the issues set forth above such as ability to take EQ, sit in the mix, evenness over the frequency spectrum, smoothness and so forth.
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