The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
 All  This Thread  Reviews  Gear Database  Gear for sale     Latest  Trending
Microphones: Does it really matter that much which one we use?
Old 12th October 2013
  #1
Lives for gear
 
Scoox's Avatar
Microphones: Does it really matter that much which one we use?

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.
Old 12th October 2013
  #2
Lives for gear
 

In a word, yes. It matters a lot. If you're tracking a wide range of instruments and styles, you need a wide range of microphones.

If you're just tracking yourself playing guitar and singing, etc., you could get away with just buying the microphone that best suits your voice.

You've already listed a lot of good things to keep in mind while shopping. Keep those in mind, narrow down the field to things that appeal to you, read reviews, try to demo them at a dealer, then make music.
Old 12th October 2013
  #3
Lives for gear
 
Scoox's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by j2dafo View Post
In a word, yes. It matters a lot. If you're tracking a wide range of instruments and styles, you need a wide range of microphones.

If you're just tracking yourself playing guitar and singing, etc., you could get away with just buying the microphone that best suits your voice.

You've already listed a lot of good things to keep in mind while shopping. Keep those in mind, narrow down the field to things that appeal to you, read reviews, try to demo them at a dealer, then make music.
It's just that there are too many mics that sound similar or have similar specs. Unfortunately I can only test a very limited range of microphones where I live and I am a little OCD about my purchases... so I was hoping using EQ, parametric compression and whatever could pretty much get us any sound we wanted.
Old 12th October 2013
  #4
Lives for gear
 
taturana's Avatar
IMHO, microphones are some of the most important tools any engineer can use to make better recording, choosing the right microphone and positioning is a good part of what makes a good tracking session... i think the only way of getting a grasp on this is trying many different mics, and slowly building up your collection according to your needs and taste.
Old 12th October 2013
  #5
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scoox View Post
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?
4) Absolutely.

5) Yes, everyone has different tastes, but are all a means to an end.

6) Usually, "the right microphone for the job" is less about it's technical specs and more to do with it's sonic profile. Sticking a bright microphone on a bright vocalist for a vintage sounding tune is probably not the best choice. Yes you can EQ it to sound more vintage, but most people agree that the closer you can get to the finished product with the microphone (and placement), the better.
Old 12th October 2013
  #6
Quote:
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:
All of these have been answered many times over in slutland...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scoox View Post
1) What's the definition of a good microphone?
One that works "well" for the particular instrument, performance, environment, and track in the context of a mix.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scoox View Post
2) If you could specify an ideal, hypothetical microphone, how would it be?
One that would do the answer to number one, but for anything. It doesn't and will never exist.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scoox View Post
3) What is the difference between a very expensive mic and a less expensive yet decent one?
Its cost, but no two mics will reproduce the same result.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scoox View Post
4) Can an inexpensive microphone work better than an expensive one in certain situations?
Absolutely

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scoox View Post
5) When comparing microphones, is it possible that what sounds nice to me may not sound good to others?
Yes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scoox View Post
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?
Its measured response go hand in hand with its sonic qualities, but some like myself only use their ears and never look at specs. And by sonic qualities, that's relative to the job at hand like you said.

You generally can only get so far with EQ, as that's a small part of everything the mic is reproducing. Some may use a lot of EQ, and some may use none depending on the way they work. Personally, sometimes I don't EQ at all and other times I go nuts with it. But, if you don't know what you're doing, you can really mess things up.

As far as other processing, again you can only do so much and really can't recreate precisely what another mic would have sounded like.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scoox View Post
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?
Too much boosting can add noise and other distortions where you'd be much better off having them closer to where you wanted them in the first place.
Old 12th October 2013
  #7
Lives for gear
 
KevWind's Avatar
Quote:
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.
Honestly because there are so many mics and so many claims... Take it from some who sold mid to high end stereo equipment

The best thing you can do decide on a realistic budget range first with some play.

$500 to 800 $1k to $1500 2k to 3k etc this will eliminate 60 to 80 % of the problem of numbers.

Then begin to get advice
Old 12th October 2013
  #8
Lives for gear
 
elambo's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoSueMe View Post
Its cost, but no two mics will reproduce the same result.
Whaaa??? The only difference between a very expensive mic and a decent one is cost? First, that's merely restating the question but more importantly it's entirely false. If it were true why would we pay $6,000+ when we could get the same results with $2,000? The answer is that the $6,000K microphone brings something, via components or design, which the $2K mic does not and therefor they're "different." To answer one of his other questions, the cheaper mic will be better in some instances so cost doesn't equal caliber, BUT generally it does.

Of the U47, Wunder, Peluso and Studio Projects mics (all aiming for the U47 sound) that we've had through our studio at various times, the more valuable mics were better for more instruments more often, therefor you could get away with calling it "better" as a tool for capturing sound. But these mics differ not only in cost but, to a degree, in design and ESPECIALLY components. That's why one is a couple hundred dollars, another is $2K, another $6K and the first - the granddaddy - is $14,000.
Old 12th October 2013
  #9
Lives for gear
 
elambo's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by KevWind View Post
The best thing you can do decide on a realistic budget range first with some play.

$500 to 800 $1k to $1500 2k to 3k etc this will eliminate 60 to 80 % of the problem of numbers.

Then begin to get advice
That's good pre-advice.

OP - start with this question and the answers you receive will be more helpful.
Old 12th October 2013
  #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by elambo View Post
Whaaa??? The only difference between a very expensive mic and a decent one is cost? First, that's merely restating the question but more importantly it's entirely false. If it were true why would we pay $6,000+ when we could get the same results with $2,000? The answer is that the $6,000K microphone brings something, via components or design, which the $2K mic does not and therefor they're "different." To answer one of his other questions, the cheaper mic will be better in some instances so cost doesn't equal caliber, BUT generally it does.
I agree with your answer here, but you reworded his question. He didn't ask for the ONLY difference. In addition, my answer was two parts. I didn't say the only difference was cost. You're putting words in my mouth, as well as the OP.
Old 12th October 2013
  #11
Lives for gear
 
elambo's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scoox View Post
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?
I sure wish it were as simple as adjusting frequencies. We'd all have 10 SM57 and a good equalizer and the boutique stuff would be unnecessary.

Unfortunately the science isn't quite so simple. Yes, cheap mics probably capture information from 20-20K but is it accurate information? Is it the actual sound of the source or is it a poor guess? That's where pristine electronics shine: capture, transfer and reproduction of audio without altering it. An extremely difficult thing to do.

The reason I love my KM54 so much (and will be buried with it) is not because it extends deeper into high or low frequencies but because it captures more detail and sounds more 3 dimensional than anything else I've ever used. On a graph the sound might look similar to an SM57 in that there's sound throughout the spectrum, but under a microscope there's MORE information. Minute differences but those differences are the detail and why it sounds absolutely incredible on everything you put next to it.
Old 12th October 2013
  #12
Lives for gear
 
elambo's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoSueMe View Post
I agree with your answer here, but you reworded his question. He didn't ask for the ONLY difference. In addition, my answer was two parts. I didn't say the only difference was cost. You're putting words in my mouth, as well as the OP.
It's not really an issue of semantics so it's unnecessary to make it one. "The" difference, as his question stated, suggests one thing, and your answer, with one thing, suggested one thing.

I surmise that he's trying to decide if higher prices are justified. A VERY important question. Therefor, imo, the answer should probably dig a bit deeper because the answer does go deeper. To merely restate his question is like suggesting that it's irrelevant -- that he answered the question himself.
Old 12th October 2013
  #13
Quote:
Originally Posted by elambo View Post
It's not really an issue of semantics so it's unnecessary to make it one. "The" difference, as his question stated, suggests one thing, and your answer, with one thing, suggested one thing.

I surmise that he's trying to decide if higher prices are justified. A VERY important question. Therefor, imo, the answer should probably dig a bit deeper because the answer does go deeper. To merely restate his question is like suggesting that it's irrelevant -- that he answered the question himself.
Yes, obviously you get what you pay for but not always, but thankfully more often than not.
Old 12th October 2013
  #14
Lives for gear
 
Scoox's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoSueMe View Post
As far as other processing, again you can only do so much and really can't recreate precisely what another mic would have sounded like.
Of course! But I wasn't talking about recreating other mics, rather about achieving a sound suitable for a particular song. If you only have one mic they my assumption is that you can at least get close enough to what you have in mind, whether or not there exist mics that could do it with minimal processing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SoSueMe View Post
Too much boosting can add noise and other distortions where you'd be much better off having them closer to where you wanted them in the first place
I think this pretty much answers my question. There are some pretty good EQ plugins that take into account phase shift etc but the fact that both noise also gets amplified when boosting frequencies is unavoidable, so now I understand what the fuzz is all about.

However, you do say that some times you go nuts with EQ, which sort of kills the original character of the microphone and will boost noise too (if you are boosting), so I guess moderate EQ is definitely OK and can make up for the fact that it is impossible to own every microphone ever made.

On the other hand, attenuating frequency peaks is probably less of a problem, at least as far as noise amplification is concerned.

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
Old 12th October 2013
  #15
Lives for gear
 
RedTuxedo's Avatar
We have a really nice U67, and also a Stellar CM5. That's probably a cost difference of $6000 or more.

They both sound great. They both can do the job. I like what they do with the midrange on the sources we record.

What I find that makes the BIGGEST difference is playing around with mic placement.

We only record single instruments like vocals or sax... We are not a full recording facility, so we don't need a huge assortment of mics.

Shure, we have just a few other mics, like a more scooped Stellar CM6, which does not get used as often, but when the source has a lot of midrange, like a dobro, it can add that sparkle and warmth without sounding too harsh, so we like to keep it around.

If we had to sell a lot of stuff (due to finances most likely), I'd keep the Stellars. They can cover us for 95% of what WE do.

YMMV.
Old 12th October 2013
  #16
Gear Head
 
MrMojoRison's Avatar
 

Buy some SM57's and hit record baby.
Old 12th October 2013
  #17
Gear Guru
 
kafka's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrMojoRison View Post
Buy some Beyer M201's and hit record baby.
Fixed it for you. Actually, I had nothing but a handful of SM57's for years. I learned a lot, but I would have been happier if I had known what an M201 was.
Old 12th October 2013
  #18
Lives for gear
 
Scoox's Avatar
I just read the other replies. Yes, I sort of was trying to establish whether high prices were justified. The electronics inside a microphone should be relatively inexpensive even if very tight tolerance parts are used, and it is probably the manufacturing of the capsule that contributes heavily to cost because it's usually manufactured in-house, unlike the electronic components.

Market size is also a factor: I'd say it took more man hours to make the iPad possible than any microphone out there.
Old 12th October 2013
  #19
Lives for gear
 
RedTuxedo's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scoox View Post
...
Market size is also a factor: I'd say it took more man hours to make the iPad possible than any microphone out there.
Probably, but for comparison, I doubt that even as long as the Neumann U87 has been out, their total sales numbers have not even scratched the surface compared to the iPad.
Old 12th October 2013
  #20
Lives for gear
 

Recently I´m selling my whole condenser microphones and switch to
schoeps sdcs - there´s nothing which does not sound good on them - including vocals.

and - yes - small condensers are the better microphones -
took me about 20 years to notice - but it´s true.
Better transients, more accuracy, better handling -
we are talking about brands like dpa & schoeps only -
forget anything else.

Cheers.

P.S: oh I forgot to mention the excellent 38 Euro thomann chinese mic -
which I´m using for talkback - it´s a really good tool for the task.
Old 12th October 2013
  #21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaman View Post
Recently I´m selling my whole condenser microphones and switch to
schoeps sdcs - there´s nothing which does not sound good on them - including vocals.

and - yes - small condensers are the better microphones -
took me about 20 years to notice - but it´s true.
Better transients, more accuracy, better handling -
we are talking about brands like dpa & schoeps only -
forget anything else.

Cheers.

P.S: oh I forgot to mention the excellent 38 Euro thomann chinese mic -
which I´m using for talkback - it´s a really good tool for the task.
I own Schoeps and DPA, and my R84 ribbons do a transient thing for drums those condensers can't do. I use a combination of all (traditional dynamics, ribbons (which are dynamic, too), and condensers.
Old 12th October 2013
  #22
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SoSueMe View Post
I own Schoeps and DPA, and my R84 ribbons do a transient thing for drums those condensers can't do. I use a combination of all (traditional dynamics, ribbons (which are dynamic, too), and condensers.
YMMV funnily I had a matched pair of R84s as well for years.
Nice mics but very unflexible and the P48 problem is a real PITA.
With a touch of eq and/or dynamics I can get my schoeps into the same direction as the ribbon - not saying I match the sound.

To me a good sdc microphone like a cmc6/mk4 is the most versatile one.
It takes EQ like nothing else, build quality is stellar and the price to performance ratio still is reasonable.
Old 12th October 2013
  #23
Lives for gear
 
elambo's Avatar
I couldn't imagine being forced to work without condensers, or to stick with Schoeps, tough it depends on what you're recording. I'm a big fan of Schoeps/DPA -- no question. They have their bag and they're the best at that, but we have our hands in many different bags and those mics don't cover the gamut. Though I just said my favorite mic is a KM54, our least used type of mic is SDCs.
Old 12th October 2013
  #24
Lives for gear
 
Scoox's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by elambo View Post
I couldn't imagine being forced to work without condensers, or to stick with Schoeps, tough it depends on what you're recording. I'm a big fan of Schoeps/DPA -- no question. They have their bag and they're the best at that, but we have our hands in many different bags and those mics don't cover the gamut. Though I just said my favorite mic is a KM54, our least used type of mic is SDCs.
Those Schoeps microphones are bloody expensive, they are probably not that good.
Old 12th October 2013
  #25
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scoox View Post
Those Schoeps microphones are bloody expensive, they are probably not that good.
Probably not.
Eat, drink, sleep , mature.
See you in 20 years.
Old 12th October 2013
  #26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scoox View Post
Those Schoeps microphones are bloody expensive, they are probably not that good.
They are that good, however the benefit is not linear considering cost difference. If you have the dough though, then yes, they are completely worth it.

That said, something much, much less expensive like the Line Audio CM3 is at least 90% of the way there IMO (I own those, too). My choice? I'd reach for the Schoeps close to 100% of the time.
Old 12th October 2013
  #27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaman View Post
YMMV funnily I had a matched pair of R84s as well for years.
Nice mics but very unflexible and the P48 problem is a real PITA.
With a touch of eq and/or dynamics I can get my schoeps into the same direction as the ribbon - not saying I match the sound.

To me a good sdc microphone like a cmc6/mk4 is the most versatile one.
It takes EQ like nothing else, build quality is stellar and the price to performance ratio still is reasonable.
P48 problem? You mean lack of sensitivity due to not being phantom-powered? BTW, have you heard about the new N22 mic they have?

I agree about the Schoeps, but I think the MK2 is even more versatile in a good room. However, that makes it less versatile in most rooms. In MY room, I could use them on almost anything and get very satisfying results. However, I have very limited experience using them on vocals. Have you used them on a variety of vocalists?
Old 13th October 2013
  #28
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SoSueMe View Post
Have you used them on a variety of vocalists?
Yes and I A/Bd it next to my Voxorama 47 and the difference
certainly is not a 3.500 Euros one. Surprisingly small.
Old 13th October 2013
  #29
Gear Nut
 

Sure there are small nuances here and there with the pricey mics. Still so much comes down to performance, placement and knowing your room. I have worked with a guy who pretty much records 90% of his work with a 57, a CAD m179, a 250 $ Cascade fathead. Not one mic of these three costs much and I have never heard one of his recordings that didn't sound great. Point being there are other factors besides how much the mic costs.
Old 13th October 2013
  #30
Lives for gear
 
elambo's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scoox View Post
Those Schoeps microphones are bloody expensive, they are probably not that good.
They are that good, they're just not that diverse, but then few mics are. We have a matched pair of Schoeps and they get used for classical guitar and certain types of piano projects. Never for vocals or rock/pop guitar (electric or acoustic) but for flat-line purity they're worth the money. I'd lose no sleep, however, if they disappeared. Now if you were to take my 47, 251 or 54s I'd drive into a lake with the windows up (not really).
Topic:
Post Reply

Welcome to the Gearslutz Pro Audio Community!

Registration benefits include:
  • The ability to reply to and create new discussions
  • Access to members-only giveaways & competitions
  • Interact with VIP industry experts in our guest Q&As
  • Access to members-only sub forum discussions
  • Access to members-only Chat Room
  • Get INSTANT ACCESS to the world's best private pro audio Classifieds for only USD $20/year
  • Promote your eBay auctions and Reverb.com listings for free
  • Remove this message!
You need an account to post a reply. Create a username and password below and an account will be created and your post entered.


 
 
Slide to join now Processing…
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Forum Jump
Forum Jump