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421 / 57 Combo Dynamic Microphones
Old 14th July 2016
Lives for gear

Thread Starter
421 / 57 Combo

Hi Sylvia,

First off, big fan of your work. I have noticed in your last Q+A here as well as in interviews that you tend to favour the 421/ 57 combo on guitar amps and will normally sum them to a single track.

I was wondering if you can elaborate on this: do you tend to favour one over the other in the blend? Any 'go-to' mic placements as a starting point? And any speakers or amps you find just to jive with this setup (I see you do it a lot with older Marshall's)?

Also, do you sum to one track in order to make a commitment and keep things moving forward, or is there more madness to your methods?

Thanks so much!

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Old 21st July 2016
Radiant Being
SylviaMassy's Avatar
Big Rock Guitars by Sylvia

I've been recording aggressive rock guitars pretty much the same way since day one. It works darn good, so if it ain't broke, don't fix it!...

Below is a diagram I drew for the "Recording Unhinged" book, which shows the basic recording technique used for the System Of A Down debut album recorded for producer Rick Rubin. I used this set up while recording Daron's guitars at Sound City Studios and Rick's house in West Hollywood. It is essentially the same set up I use for most rock sessions, with the swapping out of different guitar heads and cabs to document each project's individual character, but the mics and techniques are usually very similar.

In my previous Gearslutz Q+A, I went into quite a bit of detail on the setup, including choices of guitar amps, speaker choices, microphone placement and blending. Here is the page:

I really like the summing of 57s and 421s on rock guitars because I get more edge from the 57s and more beef from the 421s. So from track to track on a song I will change the blend of mics on a cabinet, as well as adjust the blend of cabinets together. From console position I can control the guitar sounds without a lot of swapping out amps, cabinets or mics. A whole range of sounds are available just by moving a few faders! And from console position I can really find the sound that fits the song without guessing.

This brings up a point I find extremely important. Make mix decisions as you record! To do this I determine the placement of a part even before I begin recording it. Will this part be in the middle of the picture? Will it be panned wide for drama? Next I make track count decisions, for instance in a verse I may only want one track placed in the middle, but when the chorus hits I want the audio panorama to get wide and powerful. Well, then I will plan on recording four tracks (four separate performances) so I can place two on each side. That'll make for some tasty good guitar drama!

I use this approach in nearly everything I record: vocals, strings, keys, acoustic guitar and electrics... and when the tracking is done, all the panning and blends have already been finished and the tracks have been recorded in such a way that very little EQ or processing is needed. Maybe just adding some fun stuff with plug-ins and the overall stereo bus processing for a little pre-mastering EQ and compression. And there ya go!
Attached Thumbnails
421 / 57 Combo-fig07-24-copy-2.jpg  
Old 21st July 2016
Gear Maniac
CEG85's Avatar
Hi Sylvia,
Thanks a bunch for the detailed answer.
Love the diagram too.

I was wondering, is there any specific reason the 421 is mic'd on the top portion of the cab and the 57 is on the bottom portion?
Or is it all personal preference?
Old 21st July 2016
Lives for gear
stevelindsay's Avatar

I love your illustrations Sylvia, you have some great talent there too...

Old 21st July 2016
Lives for gear
bee's Avatar

What version of the 421s do you prefer? I know there's been several different changes to them over the years. Thanks for taking the time to do this Q&A.
Old 21st July 2016
Radiant Being
SylviaMassy's Avatar
421 Mic Positions, Versions and Clips

The System Of A Down guitar diagram above shows 421 mics in certain positions on the 4x12 cabinets. These mic positions can be changed around, however I prefer to give each mic it's own speaker.

I'm happy with both the older and newer versions of the Sennheiser 421, not hearing a radical difference between them. As long as they are switched to the "M" setting. Oh, and as long as the damn mic clip works! You'd think by now they would have fixed the chronic problem with the mic clip breaking. And the clips on the Sennheiser 441 mics were even worse, but I think now they are using a more robust plastic!
Old 21st July 2016
Gear Nut

What about say, a 57 and 421 on a Deluxe Reverb? Both mics dead center as close together as possible?
Old 22nd July 2016
Lives for gear

Thread Starter
I think everyone hear's ya on the clip situation. I can't even count how many toms got whacked by a falling 421 when adjusting the angle.

MD421 Clip – Wilkinson Audio

That little sucker has been awfully handy.
Old 25th July 2016
Radiant Being
SylviaMassy's Avatar
Deluxe 57 /421

Yes, absolutely, try the 57 / 421 combination on the Deluxe. Close together, facing the same way parallel. About an inch away from the grill cloth. Each mic place on the speaker at about the seam line. You'll get great results!
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