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Tube vs. FET Microphones Condenser Microphones
Old 22nd July 2016
  #1
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chrismeraz's Avatar
 

Thread Starter
Tube vs. FET Microphones

In general, what differences should I expect between a Tube and a FET version of the same mic? Mojave make some great microphones at a great price, but they have both Tube and FET versions of each.

The FET mics don't have an external power supply and they cost a lot less, so I generally expect them to not sound so full/round/warm/detailed as the Tube mics. Is that about right?

I'll be recording mostly acoustic instruments (sax, strings, piano, vocals, guitars).

Thanks for sharing your experiences!

Last edited by chrismeraz; 22nd July 2016 at 12:47 PM..
Old 22nd July 2016
  #2
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mics's Avatar
 

Hey, champ.

Good question!

Fet mic's and tube mics can and do in many cases sound almost identical, especially if attention is payed during manufacturing process.

In saying this though, in many cases, they can also sound very different.

Tube mics tend to have more 2nd and 3rd order harmonic content then their Fet counterparts due to the nature of tubes. This makes tube mics unique and desired by many

Fet mics also have their fans due to the faster sound and more defined nuance capture. What is warm and rich in a tube mic can often be clear and more defined in its Fet counterpart.

It's important to remember that 90% of a mics sound comes from the capsule! Even a cheap mic with a good capsule will beat hands down a decent mic with a cheap capsule!

Like any purchase, choose wisely and then don't second guess your choice, just use it and enjoy it.

Cheers and enjoy.
Old 22nd July 2016
  #3
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noah330's Avatar
Hi,

I wanted to respond because I have a pair of Mojave MA-200s and I also own a MA-201. These are, as you mentioned, the same mics aside from being tube or FET.

I bought a MA-200 a while back and I really like it for certain things - acoustic guitars, female vocals, overheads and nice old clean tube guitar maps of the smaller variety (late 40s Deluxe, early 50s Rickenbacker, etc...).

They sound absolutely fantastic through an old pair of Ampex 601 preamps that I reworked and they also work well through my ADL-600.

If I run the MA-200 through my Universal Audio 600 it tends to be too dark/tooby and it just is too mushy.

As far as the MA-201 it tends to not be as soft (read harmonics comment above). I love it through the ADL on male vocals, it works nice as a bass drum mic placed a little back and to the side blended with a Beta 52 and I like it a little back on louder guitar speakers.

It is a lot more preamp friendly and works great with my UA-600 - absorbing all the color without losing definition.

I sometimes wish I had a pair of 201s vs having a pair of 200s and one 201.

Like anything, YMMV.
Old 23rd July 2016
  #4
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Not all tube circuits are created equal. Neither are all FETs. I find that by and large, FET Mics are not biased properly, which adds distortion properties. If you ever put a 414-EB and a C12, or a U87 and U67 side by side on drum OH, it's extremely apparent. The cymbals are much less pleasant in the FET Mics. The tube Mics also tend to have higher quality output transformers, which helps them sound better. The transformer is certainly a shortcoming of the 414, 87 or 47fet. I don't know about the mojaves, but I am sure about the vintage mice. But I would be shocked if the were individually biasing the FETs with variable resistors, and fixing that issue. But there are plenty of tube Mics or hybrid Mics that either use a crappy tube, or have design issues.
Old 23rd July 2016
  #5
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I would think that an FET mic would capture more of the transient and therefore it would have more attack to it.
Old 23rd July 2016
  #6
My experience is that the sound of a mic has less to do with whether it has a tube or not, and more about the components and how all the parts affect the sound. And of course, what the source "demands".

For example, take a Sony c800gpac. It is a detailed and clear microphone that happens to have a tube. A Brauner Phanthera is an FET that sounds warm and harmonically rich... The balance is very even and the top isn't harsh.

Also: a good FET mic is cheaper to maintain.

That said, I own and love a few great tune mics and a few great FETs (and ribbons)... I wouldn't get too bogged down with the details. 90% of the professional studio LDCs will produce a totally adequate take. Just use your ears and choose the mic that you believe sounds best on the source in context.
Old 24th July 2016
  #7
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Jjblair wrote:
Quote:
I find that by and large, FET Mics are not biased properly, which adds distortion properties.
Yes, sir.
And this seems to get too little attention, especially in this section.



As for the difference between FET and tube mics, see earlier posts.
I'll add that FET mics tend to sound subtly more staccato and tube mics a little more ... legato.
Old 24th July 2016
  #8
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chrismeraz's Avatar
 

Thread Starter
Hey guys, thanks for all the great responses. I also got this from Dusty at Mojave Audio:

"Here are a few differences to consider:
Tube mics require an external power supply, solid-state mics do not.
Tubes sometimes wear out and have to be replaced.
FETs respond a bit more quickly to transients, which can result in more 'presence'. For this reason some of our Rock engineers prefer FETs for drum OHs and vocals. Also true with some voice-over artists who have to be heard over explosions, car crashes and music.
Our FET mics are less expensive than our tube mics.
100s vs 101s? Impossible to say one sounds better - just different."
Old 24th July 2016
  #9
Gear Addict
I find that tube and FET mics have some things in common with tube and FET guitar amps. Each have their respective use. Many players prefer tube amps in part due to their characteristic, built in, compression and smooth sounding harmonic distortion. Whereas FET and solid state amps tend to have more headroom and clarity they generally have a not so good sounding distortion. Generally, FET amps = clean and clinical sounding, tube amps = fat, compressed, more distorted at high gain settings.

FET and tube mics have similar analogies although to a lesser degree. But, as stated above, these are generalizations and there are exceptions. My 2 cents.


Tom
Old 25th July 2016
  #10
Gear Guru
 
John Willett's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mics View Post
It's important to remember that 90% of a mics sound comes from the capsule! Even a cheap mic with a good capsule will beat hands down a decent mic with a cheap capsule!
Agreed - but then a "decent mic with a cheap capsule" would not be a "decent" mic.
Old 25th July 2016
  #11
Gear Guru
 
John Willett's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chrismeraz View Post
In general, what differences should I expect between a Tube and a FET version of the same mic? Mojave make some great microphones at a great price, but they have both Tube and FET versions of each.

The FET mics don't have an external power supply and they cost a lot less, so I generally expect them to not sound so full/round/warm/detailed as the Tube mics. Is that about right?

I'll be recording mostly acoustic instruments (sax, strings, piano, vocals, guitars).

Thanks for sharing your experiences!
Ben Sneesby summed it all up pretty well.

The choice really comes down to what *you* prefer.

Personally, I tend to prefer FET or Transistor mics as I want clarity rather than colour (as I record classical music mainly).

But you choose the mic. that gives you the characteristics you want in your recording.
Old 25th July 2016
  #12
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toledo3's Avatar
 

There is probably just a little bit of a false dichotomy to suggest that all FET mics are clear and accurate, all tube mics have more color, etc.

I'm not saying anyone is saying that exactly, just that this could possibly be read into some of the statements.

I'm pretty sure that a handful of FET mics I own are less clear and accurate than my best tube mics, both subjectively, and via objective measurements as well. Not in all cases...and I'm not talking about the edge of operating condition/sound levels, just in normal operating range.

To clarify though, I'm just referencing popular solidstate FET mics vs upper end tube mics, not the same mic circuit with a tube vs a FET.
Old 26th July 2016
  #13
I thought some of the Brauner mics were some of the most transparent mics and most are tube based. Also the Manley gold is tube based as well and I have heard lots of classical type, woodwind, brass players use this mic.

Comparing a u87 to a new Brauner vm1 mic in regards to color/ transparency and sonic imprint, IMO it depends on what the mic was voiced for and what application it's used on instead of tube vs fet. For example, there are tube circuits that are built to pristine and hi fidelity and others that are meant to saturate, distort, and add harmonics. Likewise, you have solid state circuits (mics) that can be clean and transparent, like the earthworks mics and you can also have the opposite. But either way if the earthworks mics were tube/ fet they're designed to be clean and transparent mics.
Old 26th July 2016
  #14
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Old 26th July 2016
  #15
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GreenNeedle's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chrismeraz View Post
In general, what differences should I expect between a Tube and a FET version of the same mic? Mojave make some great microphones at a great price, but they have both Tube and FET versions of each.

The FET mics don't have an external power supply and they cost a lot less, so I generally expect them to not sound so full/round/warm/detailed as the Tube mics. Is that about right?

I'll be recording mostly acoustic instruments (sax, strings, piano, vocals, guitars).

Thanks for sharing your experiences!
If you get a chance to do a project with good tube mics, especially on acoustic instruments, after it's mixed and you sit down and listen to the final product, if you are relaxed and it was mixed well, you will hear that each sound that had a tube mic has a very inviting feeling to it, like a warm little fuzzy jacket.
The dynamics of the sounds will speak convincingly, but softly and invitingly. You will feel pleasure and satisfaction.
Does that help?
Old 26th July 2016
  #16
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by GreenNeedle View Post
If you get a chance to do a project with good tube mics, especially on acoustic instruments, after it's mixed and you sit down and listen to the final product, if you are relaxed and it was mixed well, you will hear that each sound that had a tube mic has a very inviting feeling to it, like a warm little fuzzy jacket.
The dynamics of the sounds will speak convincingly, but softly and invitingly. You will feel pleasure and satisfaction.
Does that help?
Strangely enough... yes?
Old 26th July 2016
  #17
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GreenNeedle's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chrismeraz View Post
Strangely enough... yes?
Remember the "good tube mics" part.
If you really want the best sound for acoustic stuff, sell what you have to to get a pair of KM56's or 54's.
Old 26th July 2016
  #18
I love how these threads always culminate in people telling the OP to just throw money at the problem.

What's the difference between an FET vs a Tube?

The obvious answer to his question is "take your net worth, triple it, go f*&^ yourself, you can't afford it."

lol...


There are great fets and tubes out there for a fair price. I'd buy an FET first, due to reliability and cost.

Pretty much any FET over $1000 will be fine for high-end recordings, and there are plenty that sound fantastic that are cheaper. AT-4047SV... every bigger studio I've been to owns at least one... and they are relatively inexpensive.
Old 26th July 2016
  #19
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GreenNeedle's Avatar
 

Priorities.
Have you used those mics i mentioned?
Old 26th July 2016
  #20
Gear Maniac
To get to the heart of the question, I also own and use both, but if I could only have one, I'd go for the FET. It's just a tad more versatile in my experience and works on more vocals than the 200. I'll be getting a second 201 to have a pair as soon as I can.
Old 27th July 2016
  #21
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Thread Starter
Now that I heard these sample recordings, the differences seem obvious.

Yes, ideally I'd just buy a stereo pair of every single Mojave microphone.
Old 30th July 2016
  #22
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Ukiah Bass's Avatar
 

I have both FET and tube. Good comments above, esp. about tube adding some warmth or inviting feeling to acoustic instruments, voice.

If you do location recording, especially gigs where things can be a bit chaotic, FET mics can be more convenient as the tube mics often have an external power supply, extra cabling, possibly higher fragility, etc.
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