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Good condenser microphones for a loud female singer
Old 2nd May 2018
  #1
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Good condenser microphones for a loud female singer

Hi,

I have a recording session coming up with a female singer. I need an immediate help for choosing a right microphone for this singer. I'd say genre is pop/pop R&B. Her songs and singing have a wide dynamic range and a lot of vocal acrobats.

First of all, my vocal recording chain is microphone - Neve 1073 (UAD) - Apollo Twin - DAW. So it's very simple - no compression or EQ on the way. I only monitor with a touch of LA2A but never track with it. I also have a well-treated professional recording room for this project (not a home studio-type recording). I've tried U87ai with her first but I wasn't a big fan of it. "Overly bright and harsh" was my impression on her voice (regardless of the gain staging on 1073).

Her voice has a lot of weight and power. I heard a lot of emphasis and harshness on upper-mid range (1-2k) with U87ai. She gets really loud on chorus part. Many people mention Adele and Amy Winehouse when they hear her raw voice. But I must say she is the most powerful singer I've ever seen (which is exactly why I'm struggling with mic choice). The budget is under 2k but I can push a bit more.

What condenser microphones would you go for this type of situation? There are so many to even try out, and I am kind of lost at this point. Some people say SM7B is good but I've never used dynamic mics for vocals.

Thank you for your help.
Old 2nd May 2018
  #2
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lematrix's Avatar
Hi.... I use AT 5040 or SM7 for that „problem“
But I know that the AT is not in your Budget. :-(
Old 2nd May 2018
  #3
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Can a mod move this to the correct sub-forum?
Old 2nd May 2018
  #4
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You've never used a dynamic Mic On vocals? So try it out then? Why haven't you already tried every Mic in your locker on her? If it were me I'd combine a ribbon Mic with a u47 or similar type LDC. Then blend the 2 together.
Old 2nd May 2018
  #5
I use a Beesneez Arabella into a Retro Sta-Level comp but that chain really softens those irritating mids (I think it is the compressor more than the mic but may just be the combination of the two), and multiband eq always helps also! I’ve had good success on strident female vocals with sm7b also
Old 2nd May 2018
  #6
I’ve tried the Blue Woodpecker which gives a more vintage dark sound to vocals but worked well for me! Plus the mic looks really cool so all singers are impressed by its looks and then give a great performance
Old 2nd May 2018
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Barnaby150 View Post
I’ve tried the Blue Woodpecker which gives a more vintage dark sound to vocals but worked well for me! Plus the mic looks really cool so all singers are impressed by its looks and then give a great performance
Thank you for your advice!!
I'll go ahead and do some research on them.
Old 2nd May 2018
  #8
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Aurora7,

I've been dealing with the same issue in the same range with a male singer and I've gone through a number of mic choices..I didn't find that the SM7b solved this problem at all..not even close

..A few days ago I tested a couple of new choices..my Peluso p12 which surprised me quite a bit..very articulate and smooth from 1k up..no hastiness, great low end on this mic, too..I still had to cut in EQ a little above 2k but much less than with the SM7b and previous mic choices...However..

..The winner though by a longshot over the SM7b was an EV RE20 I borrowed from a friend.

It smoked everything in taming the shrill upper mids in this guys voice when he cut loose. I would give it serious consideration over the SM7b..I think you'll be surprised...After spending a few days with it I'm thinking it's much better mic than the SM7b in this application..and maybe better overall..
Old 2nd May 2018
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pchicago View Post
Aurora7,

I've been dealing with the same issue in the same range with a male singer and I've gone through a number of mic choices..I didn't find that the SM7b solved this problem at all..not even close

..A few days ago I tested a couple of new choices..my Peluso p12 which surprised me quite a bit..very articulate and smooth from 1k up..no hastiness, great low end on this mic, too..I still had to cut in EQ a little above 2k but much less than with the SM7b and previous mic choices...However..

..The winner though by a longshot over the SM7b was an EV RE20 I borrowed from a friend.

It smoked everything in taming the shrill upper mids in this guys voice when he cut loose. I would give it serious consideration over the SM7b..I think you'll be surprised...After spending a few days with it I'm thinking it's much better mic than the SM7b in this application..and maybe better overall..
Wow thank you so much for the insight!
I'll go ahead and do some digging on those mics you mentioned.
It's interesting that SM7B didn't solve the "problem" in your situation...
But anyway I really appreciate your advice as I desperately need a pro advice on the topic.
Old 2nd May 2018
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nosajjao View Post
You've never used a dynamic Mic On vocals? So try it out then? Why haven't you already tried every Mic in your locker on her? If it were me I'd combine a ribbon Mic with a u47 or similar type LDC. Then blend the 2 together.
U87 was the only available mic at the studio at the moment. I’m an outside producer who started vocal production no so long ago. So I thought I might as well invest in some mic from here although this very dynamic singer will be a lot of challenge for me as a producer.

Which ribbon microphones would you suggest?

Thanks again.
Old 2nd May 2018
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lematrix View Post
Hi.... I use AT 5040 or SM7 for that „problem“
But I know that the AT is not in your Budget. :-(
Thank you so much for your advice!
Old 2nd May 2018
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aurora7 View Post
Which ribbon microphones would you suggest?
Cathedral Pipes Seville lined up with the U87
Old 2nd May 2018
  #13
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I've worked with at least a dozen female vocalists over the years. Some have voices which can be very difficult to capture properly.
Back in the 80's we used a Sennheiser 421 II and got exceptional results on the vocals.

In my Current band the Vocalist have a strong rock voice and she Prefers using hew Beta 87A for live and recording. Its got a nice linear top end without being overly harsh. Takes effects well too.

I've also use mediocre MXL mic and Ribbon mics with decent results too, though I did have to do quite a bit of EQing with the large diaphragm compared to the ribbon which was just plain nice sounding. I did Try a Neumann on her voice too but wasn't overly impressed with the results. Maybe if she had used it more I would have gotten better results but I only had that one for a day and its not like you can instantly adapt your style to any mic at will. Some mics require time to adapt to and get the best from them.

Even though that one was supposed to be one of the best I compare what I can get with a mic she's familiar with and the results were self evident. I find this to be true with my own vocals as well. It took a long time getting used to singing through a large diaphragm condenser, mainly because there wasn't any usable proximity effect. Guess you can blame part of it on singing through cheap mics and bad PA's for so many years. I had to retrain myself from the ground up to use that mic. Still in the end I do way better using a hand held condenser or a ribbon mic.
Old 3rd May 2018
  #14
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+1 RE20 & Sennie 421. 421 is more "assertive" in tone. Get both, it's Gearslutz here! Chris
Old 3rd May 2018
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wrgkmc View Post
I've worked with at least a dozen female vocalists over the years. Some have voices which can be very difficult to capture properly.
Back in the 80's we used a Sennheiser 421 II and got exceptional results on the vocals.

In my Current band the Vocalist have a strong rock voice and she Prefers using hew Beta 87A for live and recording. Its got a nice linear top end without being overly harsh. Takes effects well too.

I've also use mediocre MXL mic and Ribbon mics with decent results too, though I did have to do quite a bit of EQing with the large diaphragm compared to the ribbon which was just plain nice sounding. I did Try a Neumann on her voice too but wasn't overly impressed with the results. Maybe if she had used it more I would have gotten better results but I only had that one for a day and its not like you can instantly adapt your style to any mic at will. Some mics require time to adapt to and get the best from them.

Even though that one was supposed to be one of the best I compare what I can get with a mic she's familiar with and the results were self evident. I find this to be true with my own vocals as well. It took a long time getting used to singing through a large diaphragm condenser, mainly because there wasn't any usable proximity effect. Guess you can blame part of it on singing through cheap mics and bad PA's for so many years. I had to retrain myself from the ground up to use that mic. Still in the end I do way better using a hand held condenser or a ribbon mic.
Thank you very much for your suggestions and thoughts!
Also thank you for sharing your experiences, it really helps me to get some more insight.
I never knew working with a strong & unique singer can be such a challenge!
I guess this is where my vocal production journey starts...

Anyway thanks much!
Old 3rd May 2018
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chessparov2.0 View Post
+1 RE20 & Sennie 421. 421 is more "assertive" in tone. Get both, it's Gearslutz here! Chris
Thank you for your advice!
I am doing more research on those mics you mentioned.
I hope I'm gonna find a right one for this singer!
Old 3rd May 2018
  #17
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Does anyone think a tube condenser mic could be a good choice?
Old 3rd May 2018
  #18
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Sure! One tube LDC, among, many that usually sounds good on this type of singer is... The Studio Projects T3 (AKG C12-ish sound). Not tube, but a classic choice would be one of the AKG 414's. I prefer the flatter response ones, like a 414XLS. FWIW some of Whitney Houston's hits were on a 414. Chris
Old 3rd May 2018
  #19
Gear Guru
 

If this thread goes on for long enough, every microphone ever made will get mentioned at least once.

When I do a shootout for a new singer, I am often quite surprised at which mic works best, it's not always the one you thought it would be. I don't think anyone can tell you over the internet what mic is going to work on this singer, even with your verbal descriptions being quite clear and specific.

There are some microphones that "match" a wider range of singers than others. These usually tend to be known as the Classic Mics with the familiar model numbers, though there are certainly always some new up-and-comers. Workhorses. The reason commercial studios have 'those' mics is because there is always somebody different coming in.

You can't buy every mic in the world. As you assemble a mic locker, keep in mind a selection of complementary mics. I have 3 or 4 usual suspects for "vocal" mics that I feel cover a lot of "bases". If one doesn't work, the other one will, kind of thing.

Quote:
I have a recording session coming up with a female singer
Are you 'in a band' with this singer? If this is your only vocal client, then sure rent, borrow or purchase on approval a selection of mics to find a perfect fit for her.

Or do you have an "open to the public" kind of studio where you charge strangers by the hour? Are you intending to purchase a new microphone because this one female singer client is coming in to your studio?

If the latter, don't go overboard on buying a mic that fits her really well, but perhaps may see limited use down the line. Approach it from the point of view of adding "versatility" to your mic locker - instead of buying a mic to fit this one person.
Old 3rd May 2018
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nosajjao View Post
If it were me I'd combine a ribbon Mic with a u47 or similar type LDC. Then blend the 2 together.
If it were me I would not. I like the impact of a single mic on a point-source instrument. There is a price you pay for multi-miking. I struggle mightily to avoid this, even on things like electric guitar and kick, which are the Traditional "blend-to-taste" instruments.

At my place, lead vocalists get one mic.
Old 3rd May 2018
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
If this thread goes on for long enough, every microphone ever made will get mentioned at least once.

When I do a shootout for a new singer, I am often quite surprised at which mic works best, it's not always the one you thought it would be. I don't think anyone can tell you over the internet what mic is going to work on this singer, even with your verbal descriptions being quite clear and specific.

There are some microphones that "match" a wider range of singers than others. These usually tend to be known as the Classic Mics with the familiar model numbers, though there are certainly always some new up-and-comers. Workhorses. The reason commercial studios have 'those' mics is because there is always somebody different coming in.

You can't buy every mic in the world. As you assemble a mic locker, keep in mind a selection of complementary mics. I have 3 or 4 usual suspects for "vocal" mics that I feel cover a lot of "bases". If one doesn't work, the other one will, kind of thing.



Are you 'in a band' with this singer? If this is your only vocal client, then sure rent, borrow or purchase on approval a selection of mics to find a perfect fit for her.

Or do you have an "open to the public" kind of studio where you charge strangers by the hour? Are you intending to purchase a new microphone because this one female singer client is coming in to your studio?

If the latter, don't go overboard on buying a mic that fits her really well, but perhaps may see limited use down the line. Approach it from the point of view of adding "versatility" to your mic locker - instead of buying a mic to fit this one person.

I appreciate your advice. I think you made a valid point.

She is technically my first client as I started out vocal production not so long ago. Yes, we play gigs sometimes as well (more like her own project as an artist). I was privileged to try out U87ai with her at my friend's studio recently.

I just love doing vocal productions in general, so I decided to purchase one even before I started producing this singer. So this singer came along in a perfect timing.

However as you said, I think I have to get something more "versatile", work-horse type mic as I expect different type of singers down the way. As I am still lost in a flood of information, I decided to explore some rental mics for now to find out what suits the best for this singer.

Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts!
Old 3rd May 2018
  #22
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GeneHall's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by aurora7 View Post
Hi,

I have a recording session coming up with a female singer. I need an immediate help for choosing a right microphone for this singer. I'd say genre is pop/pop R&B. Her songs and singing have a wide dynamic range and a lot of vocal acrobats.

First of all, my vocal recording chain is microphone - Neve 1073 (UAD) - Apollo Twin - DAW. So it's very simple - no compression or EQ on the way. I only monitor with a touch of LA2A but never track with it. I also have a well-treated professional recording room for this project (not a home studio-type recording). I've tried U87ai with her first but I wasn't a big fan of it. "Overly bright and harsh" was my impression on her voice (regardless of the gain staging on 1073).

Her voice has a lot of weight and power. I heard a lot of emphasis and harshness on upper-mid range (1-2k) with U87ai. She gets really loud on chorus part. Many people mention Adele and Amy Winehouse when they hear her raw voice. But I must say she is the most powerful singer I've ever seen (which is exactly why I'm struggling with mic choice). The budget is under 2k but I can push a bit more.

What condenser microphones would you go for this type of situation? There are so many to even try out, and I am kind of lost at this point. Some people say SM7B is good but I've never used dynamic mics for vocals.

Thank you for your help.
If the singer is not going to use any kind of mic technique to control herself and "gets loud" or too loud in the chorus, your mic choice is going to be less important than the chain following it.

Just about anything and everything is harsh around 1-2k, plan for it, consider deploying a limiter or a couple of limiters in your vocal chain , and "perform" <ride the fader> with the singer.
Bad or no mic technique means you'll want to have your hand on a fader and control the capture before it hits the DAW.
TRULY great singers who could control their powerful voices like an Ann Wilson, for example, also had amazing microphone technique and could serve as their own compressor knowing when to get up on it and when to back right off.
I use Ann Wilson as an example because she is a great example of a gifted powerful mezzo to dramatic soprano who is renowned for being loud but in complete control of herself.
I would think any mic you use is going to be just fine, your tracking skills and the chain you choose will make or break the session regardless of what mic you use or how the singer responds while in front of it.
I would consider an SM7/RE20 or a FET 47, if the U87 isn't floating your boat but even that should be more than fine if it's set up well.
If you do go with an tube LDC try this -line the capsule up with the singers nose and then move the pop guard off to one side to trick her into singing to the side of the microphone capsule. Have her stand the length of her forearm away from the mic and see if she intuitively moves in and out for quiet and loud bits, if so, your day just got easier.
I've recorded plenty of "loud" male and female singers, all had dreadful microphone technique and for whatever reason most aren't interested in learning , the choices I made and the attentiveness I took while tracking made all the difference. With singers as you have described, there will be no " set it and forget it" chain, you are going to have to be on your A-game to get the results your'e after. I'm not saying mic choice doesn't matter, but it's not the end all, your participation and interaction in the process are everything and much more important in this regard.

YMMV.

Last edited by GeneHall; 3rd May 2018 at 09:02 AM.. Reason: typo's
Old 3rd May 2018
  #23
Gear Addict
Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
If it were me I would not. I like the impact of a single mic on a point-source instrument. There is a price you pay for multi-miking. I struggle mightily to avoid this, even on things like electric guitar and kick, which are the Traditional "blend-to-taste" instruments.

At my place, lead vocalists get one mic.
Wow, the underlining really sells it. You limit yourself but ask for unlimited results. you must be a joy to work with. Hope those rules and restrictions work out for you.
Old 3rd May 2018
  #24
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GeneHall is offering up solid advice..all good.

In my dealings with this, I usually try to go volume automation on the track if it's possible - riding the fader/coupled with modern automation is extremely powerful..can't say enough about that..

..Mic etiquette is extremely important..and doesn't matter what mic it is..Like GeneHall mentioned..No matter what mic you end up with it;s not going to solve all of your problems if the singer isn't tempering her location and distance when she's really ramping it up.

and LOL on the underlining..
Old 3rd May 2018
  #25
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I'd count myself lucky, if I had someone like joeq, recording me! Chris
Old 3rd May 2018
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GeneHall View Post
If the singer is not going to use any kind of mic technique to control herself and "gets loud" or too loud in the chorus, your mic choice is going to be less important than the chain following it.

Just about anything and everything is harsh around 1-2k, plan for it, consider deploying a limiter or a couple of limiters in your vocal chain , and "perform" <ride the fader> with the singer.
Bad or no mic technique means you'll want to have your hand on a fader and control the capture before it hits the DAW.
TRULY great singers who could control their powerful voices like an Ann Wilson, for example, also had amazing microphone technique and could serve as their own compressor knowing when to get up on it and when to back right off.
I use Ann Wilson as an example because she is a great example of a gifted powerful mezzo to dramatic soprano who is renowned for being loud but in complete control of herself.
I would think any mic you use is going to be just fine, your tracking skills and the chain you choose will make or break the session regardless of what mic you use or how the singer responds while in front of it.
I would consider an SM7/RE20 or a FET 47, if the U87 isn't floating your boat but even that should be more than fine if it's set up well.
If you do go with an tube LDC try this -line the capsule up with the singers nose and then move the pop guard off to one side to trick her into singing to the side of the microphone capsule. Have her stand the length of her forearm away from the mic and see if she intuitively moves in and out for quiet and loud bits, if so, your day just got easier.
I've recorded plenty of "loud" male and female singers, all had dreadful microphone technique and for whatever reason most aren't interested in learning , the choices I made and the attentiveness I took while tracking made all the difference. With singers as you have described, there will be no " set it and forget it" chain, you are going to have to be on your A-game to get the results your'e after. I'm not saying mic choice doesn't matter, but it's not the end all, your participation and interaction in the process are everything and much more important in this regard.

YMMV.
Thank you very much for your helpful advice!

At this point, I can totally agree with what you are saying.
Maybe I and singer were somewhat underestimating the importance of tracking technique during the session. I still think U87 wasn't a perfect match for her but I could have tracked her voice better.

Also thank you for referring some mics in your post. I'd go ahead and try them as much as I can. Lucky, my friends will be able to lend me some of the mics you guys mentioned.

I appreciate your detailed advice on tube mics as well.
You guys have been helping me a lot to shape up my game plan!
Old 3rd May 2018
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nosajjao View Post
Hope those rules and restrictions work out for you.
I am not doing it because it is a “rule”. I am doing it because it is my experience that lead vocals sound better with one mic. I will run a distant/ambient mic on vocals sometimes, but that is not at all the same thing as using a second close mic to fill in what the first mic is “missing” in terms of tone.

The cost of using two mics on a single source is phase. Overall, I dislike hearing phase more than I dislike the “limitations” of a single mic. Maybe I should be more 'relaxed' about phase, but I am not. One can somewhat address the phase issues of two mics on a guitar amp with very careful placement or later in software, but largely because the guitar speaker stays in the same place.

Most singers do not stand stock still. In fact, almost none of them do. Unless you are going for capturing them “dancing in stereo” (which I did do once) you are introducing even more phase anomalies as they will move closer to one mic and farther away from the other. No matter how closely you align the capsules or whatever, the singer's natural movement will exaggerate the differences. And it's a moving target for your correction efforts.

These phase things will be most apparent in the very high "air" frequencies, which IMO is a critical range of the lead vocal track.

In this thread, the OP is already being prompted to “overbuy” a new mic for this one singer. IMO, the last thing he needs at the beginning of his "vocal production journey” is suggestions for fancy two-mic techniques without any warnings about the potential pitfalls. I sincerely believe my counter-point is in order and on-topic. Again, IMO. YMMV, etc etc.

Quote:
you must be a joy to work with.
Most of my clients think I am a joy to work with. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they like my results.
Old 3rd May 2018
  #28
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GeneHall's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nosajjao View Post
Wow, the underlining really sells it. You limit yourself but ask for unlimited results. you must be a joy to work with. Hope those rules and restrictions work out for you.
There is another way you can look at this, rather than assuming @ joeq is somehow limiting himself from some enchanted possibility by using multiple microphones on a single source, consider that it is entirely possible that experience has enabled a tried and true focused approach that will render the desired returns for effort. I'm all but certain joeq's results are everything his clientele expect from him and I'm sure he is a pleasure to work with especially if a client comfortably knows what to the result of professional experience is going to provide them.
There are so many creative approaches that can be explored to achieve a result but there are also some very effective techniques that in their seemingly simplistic approach will achieve the desired result. It's complicated enough in other ways to grab a great capture, not much sense in adding any unnecessary complexity for the sake of attempting to be more "limitless" , it just says more about where you are at and does less to bring any profound creative mastery to the process. By all means have a go and try everything -if it's on your dime.
But if it is at the expense of a paying client, your first obligation should be making sure that the capture you are retained for is of it's highest and most usable quality. Just an opinion.
Much of this process is about simply making good decisions, try out some mics and pick one, and go for it!
Old 3rd May 2018
  #29
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GeneHall's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by aurora7 View Post
Thank you very much for your helpful advice!

At this point, I can totally agree with what you are saying.
Maybe I and singer were somewhat underestimating the importance of tracking technique during the session. I still think U87 wasn't a perfect match for her but I could have tracked her voice better.

Also thank you for referring some mics in your post. I'd go ahead and try them as much as I can. Lucky, my friends will be able to lend me some of the mics you guys mentioned.

I appreciate your detailed advice on tube mics as well.
You guys have been helping me a lot to shape up my game plan!
Your welcome, and if any of that can be of any help to you, I'm really glad to have helped in a very small way.
Honestly though, I would go back to that borrowed 87 and really play around with it. If you can get the singer in and experiment with a few different techniques , I think you'll do great with such a fine microphone. I'm blessed to own many really awesome microphones but a nice 87 is something I really want, it is one of those microphones that can be just about anything you need it to be. While I'm certain there will be an occasion where it's not the ideal microphone, if it is what you have access to and it's your best alternative, put the time in to get to know how to control it and I'm pretty sure you'll get a result you can be proud of. People will chime in and suggest every microphone under the sun, usually the one they themselves own. Take it all with a grain of salt to a large extent. Use this opportunity to expand your skillset!!
One thing I would definitely suggest you not try is dumping a bunch of money on a single mic for a single artist for a single session.

Try instead to use what you have, set up the vocal chain you have, maybe try-U87>
Preamp with a HP filter set around 50-100hz. With a female voice there is nothing down there that's gonna be of any real use to you in mix, get rid of what you can. Don't use eq to boost anything,be careful about making cuts too
>
1176 set with attack at 3ish and release at 7ish doing no more than 3-4db of GR
>
LA2A set to just gently knock any ultra fast peaks down a tiny bit .05-.1 db , make sure the LA2A is looking at the high freq's.
> Ride the fader, know the song as well as the singer. Don't stress about any loud peaks, so long as you don't blow out. You'll clip gain all those loud bits before you mix so it's really no drama no matter how high the peaks are, focus on capturing the energy, enthusiasm and emotion of the performance.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly is your headphone mix. Do not mess this up, it will define the singers experience and can go a very long way to ensuring you get a great performance and excellent capture from a singer who is really digging what is coming through the cans. This is not easy but if you have an Apollo, they are excellent for setting up a great headphone mix. Often I record the Aux send effects that is a big part of my headphone mix, just in case there is some magic bits I want to use in mix.
A lousy headphone mix will cost a singer's best, potentially fatigue them but will absolutely bore them and have an adverse effect on the capture. Headphones should be comfortable and allow the singer to get caught up in the headphone experience. If the singer takes the headphones off and holds only one side up to their ear, try hitting them with a stick to make them stop doing that ( I'm kidding of course).
Make the whole experience FUN, be encouraging and avoid any conversations about any challenges you are dealing with. Always be the solution, never be the problem.

Last edited by GeneHall; 4th May 2018 at 03:56 AM..
Old 4th May 2018
  #30
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FWIW with the OP's budget...

In a LDC, an AKG 414, would be a fine choice. A used one in excellent (or better) condition, would be a mild financial risk. Chris
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