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Catch-22 with Neumann Vocal Mics Dynamic Microphones
Old 5 days ago
  #1
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Catch-22 with Neumann Vocal Mics

Please excuse me if I'm totally lost here. I am trying to understand the reasons for Neumann's modification of the frequency curve on its vocal condensor KMS104 microphone with regard to bass response. I mean it's Neumann, these guys are supposedly the best!

KMS104 Frequency Graph is here:
NEUMANN

U87ai Frequency Graph is here:
NEUMANN

Ok, so the industry standard mic U87, is basically setting a pretty famous and accepted standard when it comes to their frequency graph. It's pretty flat with some sparkle on the top and roll-off on the bottom. I would assume this allows vocals in a recording to stand out nicely without having to EQ out the lows. From my understanding the lows in vocals make it sound a little distant.

If that is the case though, why would they add so much lower-end bass to the KMS104? I understand it's a live performance mic, but the vocal in the live performance has to sit well with the other instruments in the performance just like it would in a studio. To me it seems like a Catch-22: they are saying here look at this U87 graph this is the awesome way to record vocals, but with the KMS104 then again are saying vocals sound better when bass frequencies are boosted. I just don't understand!

Ultimately, I am looking to record just voice on top of acoustic guitar, that's it. Would I be better off recording the vocal in this instance with a mic that has a bass boosted frequency or a flat graph? I was thinking about using the Shure KSM9 instead of the KMS104 because its frequency graph resembles more of the U87 graph. Also, I can't use a large diaphragm mic to record because it's at home and I just don't have the right room for it. Thanks for your time, it's very much appreciated!
Old 5 days ago
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SorryImDumb View Post
I understand it's a live performance mic
But you don't understand that it is possible one would want something different for a live performance than for a studio recording?

Quote:
but the vocal in the live performance has to sit well with the other instruments in the performance just like it would in a studio.
if the mix coming out of a PA at a live show sounded exactly like a recording, you might be on to something here. But it doesn't.

Quote:
here look at this U87 graph this is the awesome way to record vocals, but with the KMS104...
no one is stopping you from using the KMS in the studio. For that matter, no one is stopping you from taking your U87 to the local saloon and putting it on a tippy mic stand next to the table full of drunks.

Quote:
Ultimately, I am looking to record just voice on top of acoustic guitar, that's it. Would I be better off recording the vocal in this instance with a mic that has a bass boosted frequency or a flat graph?
IMO, you would be better off recording the vocal with the mic that sounds best on your voice for a recording. It sure would be great if it was the cheaper mic. But it may not be. It's not Neumann's job to make a bunch of mics that all sound the same. That have the same graph.

In any case, there is more to how a mic sounds than the frequency graph. It sure would be great if we could know ahead of time how something sounds from the specs.

But I don't think there is a meaningful answer to your question that does not involve trying the mics out on your voice in your space.
Old 5 days ago
  #3
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Shannon Adkins's Avatar
 

I would assume it has something to do with attenuation of the proximity effect. In live settings, you're usually eating the mic.
Old 5 days ago
  #4
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Ok thanks. I was under the impression a bass heavy mic would sound distant and far away. Also, that it would muddle with the lower frequency register and cause the vocal and guitar to hang out around the same frequency range causing "listener fatigue." I've read in some forums the voice needs to be EQ'd to where it sits in a different frequency range, usually upper, to make it sound forward, airy and clear.

So I guess my assumption is not true as so many artists love the KMS104, so it must sit nicely with the other instruments when playing. I guess I'll just buy it. Ultimately, I'd love to buy a TLM102 or a U87, but I'm recording in a regular room in my house and I think small diaphragm is maybe the biggest I could reasonably use without too much room echo.
Old 5 days ago
  #5
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Shannon Adkins's Avatar
 

Small diaphragm will have no affect on how much room you pick up. How close you get to the mic will.
Old 5 days ago
  #6
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SorryImDumb View Post
... I'm recording in a regular room in my house and I think small diaphragm is maybe the biggest I could reasonably use without too much room echo.
Then the KSM would probably sound better than the U87, because it would hear less of your probably-bad-sounding room. But there's a good chance that a $100 Shure SM58 would sound better than either of them for the same reason.

Is your situation such that the "regular room in your house" has to stay regular, and you can't do any acoustic treatment to it?
Old 5 days ago
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SorryImDumb View Post
Ok thanks. I was under the impression a bass heavy mic would sound distant and far away. Also, that it would muddle with the lower frequency register and cause the vocal and guitar to hang out around the same frequency range causing "listener fatigue." I've read in some forums the voice needs to be EQ'd to where it sits in a different frequency range, usually upper, to make it sound forward, airy and clear.

So I guess my assumption is not true as so many artists love the KMS104, so it must sit nicely with the other instruments when playing. I guess I'll just buy it. Ultimately, I'd love to buy a TLM102 or a U87, but I'm recording in a regular room in my house and I think small diaphragm is maybe the biggest I could reasonably use without too much room echo.
Too many assumptions. People HP vocals for various reasons. Or not. It's circumstantial. Male voice bottoms out at about 80 cycles and female at about 160, so a general HP can be basic common sense. Prox complicates the issue, and some singers occasionally use prox in the studio to deepen their voices, and create intimacy (LF doesn't make voice sound distant) in sections where usable or needed. Often low freq in a voice clutters a mix and muddies the low end. (same with guitar, but there are varying schools of thought on that).

Any condenser mic will be more sensitive to low energy sounds in a room, such as room ambience. Not just LDC. Dynamics will generally be less sensitive to such, and therefore sound less ambient in a given situation. You might find it, in your room, to be less of a problem than anticipated... or more. Maybe there's a sweet spot in the room, or at least positions where it's far less a problem. Or maybe few mic stands and heavy blankets for an "ad hoc" vocal booth.

At 700 bones, I've no doubt that there are better solutions for you than a KMS104. Brent suggests SM58. Or maybe 57? Maybe SM7? Around that $700, maybe a 441? Not knowing what your voice is like, how each mic reacts to your natural tone, or your specific ambience issues, it's impossible to say.

TLM 102 is a long way from a U87 in price, sound and overall quality. IMO, $800 is too much; you're paying for that badge. I'd go $100 less with the ATM4050, but again... your voice? Your room?
Old 5 days ago
  #8
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kennybro View Post
At 700 bones, I've no doubt that there are better solutions for you than a KMS104. Brent suggests SM58.
With a $700 budget and an untouchable room, I'd spend $550 on a Gobo Cave and the rest on a 58, a stand, and a decent pop filter.
Old 5 days ago
  #9
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There really isn't a budget limitation. The goal is to achieve 90% studio quality sound, so whatever that costs. In order to get actual studio quality I need to build the sound room in my closet, but I didn't want to take it that seriously. I also would like to keep my closet! 90% studio quality sound is good enough and most can't tell a difference anyway. I was going to hire a professional to mix and master, but wanted to get good source tracks to start. I have a Shure Beta58a right now, and quite frankly it sounds distant, also I always eat the mic maybe that's why. The frequency curve is also biased to the bass side just like the KMS104. I was thinking the reason the Beta58a sounds distant and far away is because it's a dynamic mic with a bass tilted response. Note also I am using an Apogee Duet 2, Logic Pro and a MacBook Pro.

I was going to buy the KMS104, but was thinking it would have the same distant sound issue as the Shure Beta58a. So I was thinking I either need to just build the sound closet and buy a U87, OR, buy a Shure KSM9 and use that instead. All of this using the backbone of logic that the KSM9 has a frequency graph similar to a large condenser microphone and therefore wouldn't sound as distant as the bass tilted vocal mics may do. But ultimately, I'm novice and green so I don't know. Thanks.
Old 5 days ago
  #10
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SorryImDumb View Post
... I have a Shure Beta58a right now, and quite frankly it sounds distant...
Okay, listen to this THIS GUY. And THIS GUY. (Both vocals take a while to come in, sorry).

These live recordings were sung on SM58's. Not even the fancy kind like yours. Do you think they sound distant?

I won't get into whether they're 90% of studio quality or not. With me on the knobs, nothing ever tops 88. :-)

Last edited by Brent Hahn; 5 days ago at 06:46 PM..
Old 5 days ago
  #11
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I am not a SM58 fan for a lot of reasons however many of the 58's narrow capture range features are available with a SM7b and the sonic quality is exponentially better. I like the AT 4060 card pattern tube & transformer sonics much better than anything mentioned in this thread for any vocal performance. I use it for simultaneously capturing live performance of both Guitar & Vocals all the time: put it between the two sources about 8 - 10 inches away -- put on your head phones and figure it out as you play. In the event you need to close out lots of cluttered picking and/or other external noise use a pick-up and the SM7b.
Hugh
Old 5 days ago
  #12
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Dude that **** sounds awesome! I love that you didn't autotune the vocal, or did it minimally. Your vocal doesn't sound like it's going through an AD/DA converter like it does on my Apogee. Anyway, cool!

Hey your 2nd link doesn't work. Can I buy that artist on iTunes?
Old 5 days ago
  #13
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SorryImDumb View Post
Dude that **** sounds awesome! I love that you didn't autotune the vocal, or did it minimally. Your vocal doesn't sound like it's going through an AD/DA converter like it does on my Apogee. Anyway, cool!

Hey your 2nd link doesn't work. Can I buy that artist on iTunes?
Thanks -- and live-in-studio with instruments all around you = no tuning.

Fixed the second link, thanks for the heads up.

My point, though, was that the cheap dynamic mic sounds okay because the room sounds okay.
Old 5 days ago
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SorryImDumb View Post
There really isn't a budget limitation. The goal is to achieve 90% studio quality sound, so whatever that costs. In order to get actual studio quality I need to build the sound room in my closet, but I didn't want to take it that seriously. I also would like to keep my closet!
And you should keep your closet. I am not sure where this idea comes from that a good place to record one's vocals is in a closet. Probably Hollywood movies where a singer is shown singing in a booth because it is more photogenic. Because it says: "this is a studio".

We have a vocal booth at the studio where I work. I never put a singer in that booth unless they have to sing live while a loud rock band is playing. Booths just plain sound bad, even when they are heavily treated. They are used when they are the lesser of two evils - the other evil being bleed from other band members.

If there is no budget limitation, you should find a great mic that suits your voice, a great preamp, and do some room treatment. The U87 is an nice microphone for lead vocals, but it is hardly the only "great" mic in the world. I always recommend to people they book an hour or two at a commercial studio with a deep mic locker and spend their time auditioning the various options. Such experimenting may add a bit to your final cost, but it will almost certainly be cheaper than buying the wrong microphone.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn
Is your situation such that the "regular room in your house" has to stay regular, and you can't do any acoustic treatment to it?
IMO, that would be one hell of a situation. From what I have seen, 99% of the excuses people give for why they "can't" do any acoustic treatment are baloney.
Old 5 days ago
  #15
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Brent:
I am an instant Trevor Green fan! Did you master all the music on his website?!

Joeq:
How about this excuse for acoustic treatment: my wife!

I think I'm gonna order both the KSM9 and KMS104, turn the gain down and eat the mic. Hopefully that should remove any room noise, I have carpet which is good.
Old 4 days ago
  #16
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SorryImDumb View Post
Brent:
I am an instant Trevor Green fan! Did you master all the music on his website?!.
I recorded that one thing for a live internet radio show, but that's it.

His full-on live show is pretty amazing - 3 didgeridoos, loopers, usually a drummer and a violinist. I just got the Junior Version.

If you buy any of his records, please say hi for me.
Old 4 days ago
  #17
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Blaine Misner's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
Okay, listen to this THIS GUY. And THIS GUY. (Both vocals take a while to come in, sorry).

These live recordings were sung on SM58's. Not even the fancy kind like yours. Do you think they sound distant?

I won't get into whether they're 90% of studio quality or not. With me on the knobs, nothing ever tops 88. :-)
sounds really good, brent!
Old 4 days ago
  #18
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by hughshouse View Post
I am not a SM58 fan...
My point was about acoustics. That a bad mic in a good space is better than vice versa. Usually by a lot.
Old 4 days ago
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
My point was about acoustics. That a bad mic in a good space is better than vice versa. Usually by a lot.
If I have a good mic in a half way ok space, and I turn the gain down and eat the mic, wouldn't that remove most of the room noise?
Old 4 days ago
  #20
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kennybro's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by SorryImDumb View Post
If I have a good mic in a half way ok space, and I turn the gain down and eat the mic, wouldn't that remove most of the room noise?
Basic acoustic logic, yeah. The louder your voice is in relation to the room tone, the less room tone the mic is going to pass along at any given gain level.

Whether or not "eating the mic" is a quality vocal recording decision is another thing altogether. Maybe, maybe not.
Old 4 days ago
  #21
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kennybro View Post
Basic acoustic logic, yeah. The louder your voice is in relation to the room tone, the less room tone the mic is going to pass along at any given gain level.
"Room tone" and "acoustics" aren't the same thing. If we're talking about acoustics, I'm pretty sure that the louder a noise you make, the more it'll bounce around the room.
Old 4 days ago
  #22
ccg
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SorryImDumb View Post
There really isn't a budget limitation. The goal is to achieve 90% studio quality sound, so whatever that costs. In order to get actual studio quality I need to build the sound room in my closet, but I didn't want to take it that seriously. I also would like to keep my closet! 90% studio quality sound is good enough and most can't tell a difference anyway. I was going to hire a professional to mix and master, but wanted to get good source tracks to start. I have a Shure Beta58a right now, and quite frankly it sounds distant, also I always eat the mic maybe that's why. The frequency curve is also biased to the bass side just like the KMS104. I was thinking the reason the Beta58a sounds distant and far away is because it's a dynamic mic with a bass tilted response. Note also I am using an Apogee Duet 2, Logic Pro and a MacBook Pro.

I was going to buy the KMS104, but was thinking it would have the same distant sound issue as the Shure Beta58a. So I was thinking I either need to just build the sound closet and buy a U87, OR, buy a Shure KSM9 and use that instead. All of this using the backbone of logic that the KSM9 has a frequency graph similar to a large condenser microphone and therefore wouldn't sound as distant as the bass tilted vocal mics may do. But ultimately, I'm novice and green so I don't know. Thanks.
I try to keep my infrequent posts here positive, so please read this aloud using a friendly tone.

You need to just get a basic microphone and do some recording with it. To me, it sounds like you're saying a lot of things coming from a place of little to no experience. That's fine and everybody starts somewhere. It seems like you're pondering things that are beyond your current grasp because of a lack of time spent singing into a microphone, recording your music, recording your music at home.

Get a good dynamic mic to start. Sm58s are fine. Want to go up a step? Check out a Telefunken M80 or M81. Or spend a little more and get an RE20 or SM7. All will do the job for you.

Start recording when you get your mic. You need to spend time in front of it to really understand where to go next.
Old 4 days ago
  #23
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ccg has the most appropriate advice: after carefully reading the OP's comments the exact nature of the deficiencies with the subject recording space are a long way from being defined. It is possible, if you have a very small room with huge "standing wave problems", mic choices will be reduced to the "eat-ums" however most better quality vocal mics do not react well to "kissing the grill". That process is a one way road to plosive distortion with high quality mics that is a long way from "90% studio quality". Brent may be absolutely right: the SM58 may be the only mic that will do the job in your space. However based on your comments I am not certain the room's acoustical properties are that big of a problem and I doubt seriously whether or not you know the real limits of your space either. Put away the quantitative frequency graph info and borrow some mics and do a little bit of hands on experimentation. This is the type of empirical evidence that is generally the most informative.
Hugh
SM58s have been the ubiquitous vocal mic choice for 50 years when hot back lines (very loud amps and percussion) are in play: but they are seldom preferred for much else for sonic reasons.

Last edited by hughshouse; 4 days ago at 01:50 PM..
Old 4 days ago
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kennybro View Post
Basic acoustic logic, yeah. The louder your voice is in relation to the room tone, the less room tone the mic is going to pass along at any given gain level. ...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
"Room tone" and "acoustics" aren't the same thing. If we're talking about acoustics, I'm pretty sure that the louder a noise you make, the more it'll bounce around the room.
I'd presume that would be 'louder in relation to the the room return via working the mic closer. Otherwise yeah :>) ..'lowering playback level in the monitors doesn't help with the room effects for example.
Old 4 days ago
  #25
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By the way, since this started as 'KMS 104 vs U87's low response specs, does anyone happen to know what distance Neumann does use for their LDC response plots? (I bet if the 87 was done at 50cm it would look quite different.) Shame this isn't mentioned in most mic specs.
Old 4 days ago
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blaine Misner View Post
sounds really good, brent!
Thank you.
Old 4 days ago
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SorryImDumb View Post
Joeq:
How about this excuse for acoustic treatment: my wife!
I have my living room set up to be my tracking space. I did not knock a hole in the wall to put in a control room window, but I did put a french door with glass panels between the rooms. It is more attractive than the plain door that was previously there.

I have big drapes that frame the fireplace. An improvement in looks again, and the drapes can be closed to create a big soft space behind the singer. I have roll out rug, some moveable panels that can be set up in 10 minutes or gone and put away in 10 minutes.

If you walked into the room on a non-recording day, you would think it was a normal living room. But everything is "convertible". I live alone, but I would say my efforts to accentuate the ability of the space to convert back and forth to 'normality' has actually made my house have less of a 'bachelor pad' look.

Panels can be moved in and out. French cleats are fairly discreet. Drapes can be opened and closed and many people like having drapes. A few acoustic treatment places sell panels upon which they will print any image or design you want.

You could also use some room other than your living room as your tracking space. Just don't use the closet.
Old 4 days ago
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wayne View Post
By the way, since this started as 'KMS 104 vs U87's low response specs, does anyone happen to know what distance Neumann does use for their LDC response plots? (I bet if the 87 was done at 50cm it would look quite different.) Shame this isn't mentioned in most mic specs.
I was going to make a similar comment.

The two graphs are not directly comparable. The bass boost in 104 is for closer than 5cm. Its proximity effect. Some people like it and use it. Further away than 5cm the 104 has a flat response.

The response graph for the U87 however doesn't specify a distance and as such your can't really directly compare the two microphones responses.
Old 4 days ago
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
"Room tone" and "acoustics" aren't the same thing. If we're talking about acoustics, I'm pretty sure that the louder a noise you make, the more it'll bounce around the room.
Yeah, stand corrected, thanks. Misuse of the term "room tone." I do a lot of video, record room tone all the time, and you'd think I wouldn't do that kind of stuff, but alas... haha!

BTW... I'm enjoying that recording you posted. Very nice!
Old 4 days ago
  #30
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Some of the more recent Neil Young records are an older (discontinued) Neumann KMS (103?) for keeper vox live off the floor.
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