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The mother of all overhead shootouts
Old 8th December 2019
  #1
Gear Nut
 

The mother of all overhead shootouts

As I recently brought up in a another thread (with an embarrassing outcome), I've been on a quest to find the ideal overhead sound. After putting in a bunch of work, I decided to share my results of my testing here in case it's of value to anyone else.

The microphones used in this test include:

- AKG C 460 B with CK 61 Capsule - This is not a matched pair, but close
- KM184 matched pair
- KM84 pair - I just got my hands a pair of these. I don't think anything this old could really be considered matched, but these sound indistinguishable to my ears.
- Se4400a matched pair - Not really a serious contender, but it was the only matched pair of LDC microphones I have. As a workhorse mic, it does its job..
- AEA R88
- Coles 4038 matched pair

All mics were positioned in an X/Y or Blumlein configuration. Everything was tracked through API 1608 mic pres with no EQ or compression.

Obviously it would have been near impossible to track all of these at once, so the performance does vary from take to take. Still, I played the same part to a click in all takes, so I think it's close enough.

I will post the overhead-only tracks with this post and follow up with a post that includes other close mics on the rest of the kit. I have my opinions about what I like and don't like, but I'll keep them to myself for now. Curious to hear what others think.
Attached Thumbnails
The mother of all overhead shootouts-micpositions.jpg  
Attached Files

AKG_C_460_B_OH.mp3 (977.9 KB, 1734 views)

KM184_OH.mp3 (977.9 KB, 1689 views)

KM84_OH.mp3 (977.9 KB, 1728 views)

Se4400a_OH.mp3 (977.9 KB, 1683 views)

AEA_R88_OH.mp3 (977.9 KB, 1674 views)

Coles_OH.mp3 (977.9 KB, 1698 views)

Old 8th December 2019
  #2
Gear Nut
 

And the follow-up. Here are the same overhead recordings, but with close mics blended in.

I blended the close mics in at a constant level between takes, which is a bit disingenuous since the ribbon microphones already pick up an enormous amount of kick and toms. That said, anything else ends up being a subjective mix.

If anyone is interested, I'll follow up with a rough "mix" of each of them with varying EQs and close-mic levels to try to compensate for the differing mic styles. There's no way to do this scientifically. Open to suggestions.
Attached Files

AKG_C_460_B_Kit.mp3 (977.9 KB, 1668 views)

KM184_Kit.mp3 (977.9 KB, 1640 views)

KM84_Kit.mp3 (977.9 KB, 1638 views)

Se4400a_Kit.mp3 (977.9 KB, 1615 views)

AEA_R88_Kit.mp3 (977.9 KB, 1602 views)

Coles_Kit.mp3 (977.9 KB, 1639 views)

Old 8th December 2019
  #3
Gear Nut
 

BTW - Does anyone know how to rotate an image in a gearslutz post??
Old 9th December 2019
  #4
Here for the gear
 

thanks for this! Just bought a pair of 460s after your post heh.
Old 9th December 2019
  #5
Cool! I'll check it out!

My favorite is km84 (which i have 4 of) in conjunction with coles.
Old 9th December 2019
  #6
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nightchef's Avatar
 

Three thoughts:

1. I was expecting to like the KM84 more, and the KM184 less. To my ear the KM184 has a lovely, well-defined presence without harshness, while the KM84 is a little veiled. Maybe my ears are just getting old.
2. The SE is a "just no" for this application, but it did make me curious how that mic would work for guitar cabinet. The same touch of midrange "honk" that is a problem on these tracks could be awesome in front of a tube amp.
3. I have to remember not to click on Coles clips anymore. They just make me miserable and discontented with my lot.
Old 9th December 2019
  #7
Lives for gear
 
tymish's Avatar
 

KM84
C460
Coles

Depending on application. Thanks for posting. What mic placement were you using?
Old 9th December 2019
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by nightchef View Post
Three thoughts:

1. I was expecting to like the KM84 more, and the KM184 less. To my ear the KM184 has a lovely, well-defined presence without harshness, while the KM84 is a little veiled. Maybe my ears are just getting old.
Maybe it is your ears, but it's worth noting that the km184 is a far better mic than people here on GS are generally willing to give it credit for.
Old 9th December 2019
  #9
Gear Nut
 

These reactions are inline with my own feelings.

Regarding placement - Everything is either XY or Blumlein coming in at an angle across the kick and snare to try to center both. Mic location was about midway between kick beater and snare drum. I wouldn't necessarily track with them that way, but I went this way for the experiment partly to eliminate any colorations resulting from spaced-pair phase issues, and partly to keep it all relatively consistent with the R88, which is fixed to a Blumlein config. There's a picture on the original post of the KM84s.

Ultimately I've concluded that I will likely use either the KM84s or Coles, depending on the style of recording I'm working on.

My feelings on each of them:

C460 - I continue to think this mic is a huge bang-for-the-buck. I just picked up one of the two that was used in this test for $300 on reverb in near perfect condition, which makes it the cheapest option of the lot. I like the Neumann's more, but not *that* much more.

KM184/KM84 - I prefer the KM84, but honestly not enough to justify the price difference. If I knew now what I knew when I bought them, I might not have dropped the money. That said, they're a classic so I'm confident I will be able to sell them later for what I paid for them. Despite the criticism, the 184 is a really good microphone. My only issue with it is there is a bit of a harshness to the cymbal crashes that I think will only get worse with compression and overall mix EQ. Plus I like drums to sit back a bit. It doesn't make sense to have both of these, so I think the 184 pair will go up for sale.

se4400a - This was my second to least favorite, though I still think it's a solid microphone. I have a AKG 414 TLII that never gets used anymore because of these mics.

AEA R88 - My least favorite sadly. I really want to love this mic, but it's not fairing well on most of my tests. This might also go up for sale.

Coles - Fantastic. If I were going to use just two microphones to capture the entire kit, these would be it for sure.

I'm going to spend some time doing a simple mix of the drums applying EQ and moderate compression to see if my opinion changes. I can post the results if anyone is interested, though obviously those results are subject to my ears and my mixing ability, so I'm not sure have valuable they would be to anyone else.

Also, I ran another shootout yesterday using the same mics on piano, which I could also post if there is interest. I'm a competent drummer and decidedly incompetent piano player, so no mic in the world is going to make me sound good. Still, the results are interesting.

Glad that this was valuable to others..
Old 9th December 2019
  #10
Lives for gear
 
tymish's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mahler007 View Post
Maybe it is your ears, but it's worth noting that the km184 is a far better mic than people here on GS are generally willing to give it credit for.
I certainly wouldn't kick them out of my mic locker if they appeared there. But i find the top end a hair much for me. I've also used TLM103 as overheads and those while nice had even more of that. Too much cymbal sizzle for me. The 84s just have that classic never goes out of style sound. Maybe not the most accurate per se but they just sound good. And sadly they are way out of my justify the price range. I'm still waiting for a good WA-84 KM84 comparison. I've seen a couple youtube vids of the warm 84s and not bad at all.

Old 9th December 2019
  #11
The thing is that when you compare Km84 vs km184 in a more rock context aka cymbal bashers then the difference is HUGE.

When it's a bit more laid back style like in the clips most mic's sounds great, like this test clearly shows. Most mics sound good on soft music and most mics fall apart except the classics when they are under heavy SPL. That's my personal experience at least.
Old 10th December 2019
  #12
Gear Maniac
 
___GLM___'s Avatar
I liked the R88 pretty much, low end is tight but big, highs are tamed and will sound good eq´ed. Coles are very nice indeed, kick is super big but might be problematic in a busy mix. so as always, it depends.
Old 10th December 2019
  #13
Quote:
Originally Posted by crille_mannen View Post
The thing is that when you compare Km84 vs km184 in a more rock context aka cymbal bashers then the difference is HUGE.
Oh I totally believe it; the 184s would probably never be my first choice for drum OHs.

I was merely pointing out that for all the hate they get here on GS, they actually sound fantastic on some things: cello and double bass, for example.

Also—somewhat ironically—I love the way they sound on vibraphone and crotales, where they can really bring out the shimmering fairy dust in a beautiful kind of way.
Old 10th December 2019
  #14
Lives for gear
 
tymish's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by crille_mannen View Post
The thing is that when you compare Km84 vs km184 in a more rock context aka cymbal bashers then the difference is HUGE.

When it's a bit more laid back style like in the clips most mic's sounds great, like this test clearly shows. Most mics sound good on soft music and most mics fall apart except the classics when they are under heavy SPL. That's my personal experience at least.
I agree, the Oktava MK-012s are surprisingly good at it for the money. Just a little 'smeared' perhaps but at that price who can complain.
Old 10th December 2019
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by tymish View Post
I agree, the Oktava MK-012s are surprisingly good at it for the money. Just a little 'smeared' perhaps but at that price who can complain.
Yes! It was quite a few years since i owned mk 012s but I remember I liked them. I usually recommend people buying oktavas or go big and buy a pair of km84s. It's just waste with mid priced sdc's.

Coles are ofc more affordable and I wish i bought my pair way earlier. Could easily use 4 of them on drums.
Old 11th December 2019
  #16
Gear Maniac
 

The thing about drum overhead mics is that they are your primary source for cymbals. I prefer to get an overhead picture that is cymbal heavy but one that is still close to the overall drum picture, with the exception of the the kick drum...which you can only really get right from close mics, if you want a fat full kick sound anyway. Your overhead examples are so snare heavy already that you are already under representing the cymbals...Therefore, adding in snare/tom close mics would only serve to further uneven the balance when more cymbal energy is needed already. Try moving the mics farther to the back of the kit, less directly over the snare and toms, to pick up more cymbals so that you can bring in your snare/tom close mics for added fatness and presence.

As far as the recordings go, I can tell that all of the mics used in XY are very usable while the recordings in blumlein are a little too weird sounding, in my opinion. I think I like the 84 the best...but I would need to hear an OH track like I want to hear it to be able to tell which mic I liked best for that purpose.

Last edited by ToneAlive; 11th December 2019 at 07:12 PM..
Old 11th December 2019
  #17
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ToneAlive View Post
The thing about drum overhead mics is that they are your primary source for cymbals. I prefer to get an overhead picture that is cymbal heavy but one that is still close to the overall drum picture
Interesting. What kind of music do you typically record? I ask because I have the exact opposite perspective. I like to capture as much of the kit as possible with the overhead and room mics and augment only as needed with close mics.
But then I primarily record stuff in the americana realm, so I'm mostly going for the sound of the kit as a single instrument in a room kind of thing..
Old 12th December 2019
  #18
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Craft View Post
Interesting. What kind of music do you typically record? I ask because I have the exact opposite perspective. I like to capture as much of the kit as possible with the overhead and room mics and augment only as needed with close mics.
But then I primarily record stuff in the americana realm, so I'm mostly going for the sound of the kit as a single instrument in a room kind of thing..

Mostly modern gospel and ccm, acoustic guitar based music, and some rock. I still try to use the overheads for a big chunk of the sound.. but I find I’m usually going for a fat tight sound so I usually use a lot of close mic too. I just find that if I favor the cymbals a bit in the overheads, I can always get the right balance.
Old 12th December 2019
  #19
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roger's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jdier View Post
Just bought this mic and used in on a session this weekend on snare.

Loved the way it rejected the hats, and the snare sound was just out of the box solid.

I have also done some quick testing on vocals and found that it performed really well there too.

I also have the R92 and am finding that I like the R88 in more situations (may be due to my less than perfect recording rooms (on small side))
I just put up my new R88 today too. I’ve got a pair of 4038s, m160s & KM84s to compare it to but the R88 sounded absolutely perfect 2m from the kit. Glorious stereo capture! And so easy to chuck up and hit record. Big smiles!
I have the Coles stereo bar and it’s a bit of a PITA to set up. Can’t beat that thump in the chest Coles sound though. R88 might just get more work cos it’s so easy.....1st world probs eh.
Old 12th December 2019
  #20
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jdier's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by roger View Post
I just put up my new R88 today too. I’ve got a pair of 4038s, m160s & KM84s to compare it to but the R88 sounded absolutely perfect 2m from the kit. Glorious stereo capture! And so easy to chuck up and hit record. Big smiles!
I have the Coles stereo bar and it’s a bit of a PITA to set up. Can’t beat that thump in the chest Coles sound though. R88 might just get more work cos it’s so easy.....1st world probs eh.
Doh! I have the R84, not the R88! I will correct my original post!
Old 12th December 2019
  #21
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roger's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jdier View Post
Doh! I have the R84, not the R88! I will correct my original post!
I had a R84 (my cat chewed the lead, I repaired it and sold it!) - I liked it on drum room/OH but it was pretty tubby and weirdly sib on vox. This 88 sounds a bit flatter. Very smooth as you’d expect.
Old 13th December 2019
  #22
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bowzin's Avatar
Dang, two SR-2N's... with this cool stereo shockmount I dont think Ive seen before... $1,020 shipped. So tempting.

SR-2N Matched Pair with Stereo Shock Mount https://reverb.com/item/6825442-sr-2...eo-shock-mount
Old 13th December 2019
  #23
Gear Nut
 

I'm still trying to find the perfect use for my R88. I tested the same set of mics on a baby grand, and liked the Coles best, and the Se4400a's second best. The SDCs just didn't capture the low end, but again, the R88 just wasn't working for me.

Maybe acoustic. Or maybe it gets sold. I have a wonderful 70's U87, and if I sell the R88, I'm halfway to getting another. A stereo (albeit unmatched) pair of U87 LDCs would be a perfect compliment to the KM84s and Coles..
Old 13th December 2019
  #24
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tymish's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Craft View Post
I'm still trying to find the perfect use for my R88. I tested the same set of mics on a baby grand, and liked the Coles best, and the Se4400a's second best. The SDCs just didn't capture the low end, but again, the R88 just wasn't working for me.

Maybe acoustic. Or maybe it gets sold. I have a wonderful 70's U87, and if I sell the R88, I'm halfway to getting another. A stereo (albeit unmatched) pair of U87 LDCs would be a perfect compliment to the KM84s and Coles..
Seems the more experience I've gained the more I realized the classics everyone always mentions are that way for a reason. Once you've had a chance to use them you understand. First time I used a U87, an 1176 etc it was "Oh wow, that was easy. There it is." The clips made it pretty clear why the KM84s are up there. Alas for me my living is in broadcast audio hence fine music recording gear is more hobby for me and as such fairly low budget. But music is what got me into all this in the first place and still my passion.
Old 13th December 2019
  #25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Craft View Post
I'm still trying to find the perfect use for my R88. I tested the same set of mics on a baby grand, and liked the Coles best, and the Se4400a's second best. The SDCs just didn't capture the low end, but again, the R88 just wasn't working for me.

Maybe acoustic. Or maybe it gets sold. I have a wonderful 70's U87, and if I sell the R88, I'm halfway to getting another. A stereo (albeit unmatched) pair of U87 LDCs would be a perfect compliment to the KM84s and Coles..

I had a matched pair of 70s u87s which i sold. It did not do much for me on rooms. I also had a pair of u67s but for me coles and km84s are the ones i like the most on drums, rooms and OH.

I actually would like to have 4 coles so I could do stereo room plus one mono room and mono OH haha. Wish i got mine waaaay earlier they are really killer on drums and acoustic instruments in general.


In general i think most mics including u87, u67 sounds to bright on drms. But i record metal so its allot of bashing going on. On more laid back music u87s might be really good. They sound very big and you can get amazing lowend if the room is right.


I never really understood stereo mics. Used sm2, and ribbon stereo and sure its stereo but it's so narrow so it sound more like an XY position which im not a personal fan of. Rather have wide stereo. And two mics are always more fun then one haha!
Old 13th December 2019
  #26
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I'm puzzled as to why the R88 sounds so different from the Coles -- not tonally, but the stereo imaging is completely different. Were the Coles in Blumlein also?
Old 14th December 2019
  #27
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Peller View Post
I'm puzzled as to why the R88 sounds so different from the Coles -- not tonally, but the stereo imaging is completely different. Were the Coles in Blumlein also?

YES, I know! I can't figure it out. Both ribbons in Blumlein configuration in the exact same location through the exact same signal chain.

The weird thing is I used both of these mics on piano too and again the R88 had a much wider stereo image. Dunno
Old 14th December 2019
  #28
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by crille_mannen View Post
I had a matched pair of 70s u87s which i sold. It did not do much for me on rooms. I also had a pair of u67s but for me coles and km84s are the ones i like the most on drums, rooms and OH.

Oh I hear you. I think I've found my mics for drums. My only quandary is that I expect to typically use the KM84s as overheads and Coles as room mics, but I can easily see wanting to use the Coles as overheads when Norah Jones comes to record (ha). So barring buying another set of Coles, what do I use as room mics then?

As for U87, etc - My motivation there is other instrumentation, primarily piano. I tried all of the LDCs on piano and there's just not enough meat there. The Coles were good, and the relatively cheap Se4400a mics worked fine in a 414-ish kind of way, but I suspect a pair of 87s would win out..?

I'd trade my mother in for a pair of u67s. Kidding. Mostly.
Old 14th December 2019
  #29
Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Craft View Post
Oh I hear you. I think I've found my mics for drums. My only quandary is that I expect to typically use the KM84s as overheads and Coles as room mics, but I can easily see wanting to use the Coles as overheads when Norah Jones comes to record (ha). So barring buying another set of Coles, what do I use as room mics then?

As for U87, etc - My motivation there is other instrumentation, primarily piano. I tried all of the LDCs on piano and there's just not enough meat there. The Coles were good, and the relatively cheap Se4400a mics worked fine in a 414-ish kind of way, but I suspect a pair of 87s would win out..?

I'd trade my mother in for a pair of u67s. Kidding. Mostly.
Well u87 are very meaty so go for it. It might be king for you! Why i would like to do double mono like I said with coles is that i feel i cut away to much glorious lowend in stereo.

To be honest I was kind of disappointed with u67. To much lowmids and did not dig the lowpass. Sounds very vintage if that makes sense? Much prefer my m269c.


A very positive surprise was the old 414eb with brass capsule. Sounded very "sample" like in a good way on OH's. Unreal smack on the snare. Maybe snag b-uls and replace the capsule with Tim Campbells capsule?

Drums are the most fun to setup!
Old 14th December 2019
  #30
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by crille_mannen View Post
I never really understood stereo mics. Used sm2, and ribbon stereo and sure its stereo but it's so narrow so it sound more like an XY position which im not a personal fan of. Rather have wide stereo. And two mics are always more fun then one haha!
I felt the same until I started using a Josephson c700s as a stereo overhead, which is now my default OH mic. It’s MS, so you can go from mono to very wide, without the phase smear of other stereo setups. It’s also super fast to setup, and you can choose the width in post.
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