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Microphones I Have Known Condenser Microphones
Old 26th December 2010
  #1
Gear Nut
 

Microphones I Have Known

Microphones I Have Known
By Phil Darg

Benefit from my years of experience. If you are thinking about purchasing a microphone – beware the hype that is out there, even on forums like this one. There are good mic’s and bad, and in many cases it is a purely subjective issue. Having said that, let me share with you my experience with some of the mic’s that I have encountered.

AKG C414-BULS – this is a solid microphone with good sound definition, good gain, and good frequency response. I rate it as one of the best mics I have ever owned. Unfortunately, these are no longer produced. There is a reason that these mics often go for more on eBay than the latest used versions of the C414 [see below]. With the right preamp and a bit of high end EQ, this mic sounded very good – so good in fact, that I am sometimes tempted to purchase a used version along with the preamp I originally used with it (an SPL Track One).

AKG C414-XLII – I purchased/sold this mic several times, using it for comparisons and remembering the glory days of using my old BULS. Alas, the rumors on the gear forums are true: the newer versions do not sound as good as the latest versions. This mic has high gain, and fairly good sonic definition, however I would never use it for vocals (too "grainy") and there are better mic’s out there for recording acoustic instruments. Yes, it’s a "Swiss Army knife" mic – meaning that it records in many patterns and has different low-end roll-off switches, but this mic would be my second choice for most applications and sources.

AKG C451-B – there has been a lot of controversy in the AKG mic lovers community about the progression of versions of this mic. The C451-B is the latest. I like this mic, but mainly for close mic’ing of acoustic guitar and other similar instruments. Some critics have termed the mic as being too "bright"; I think that this criticism is off the mark, however, since the main purpose of this SDC mic is for acoustic instruments at close range. I would never recommend this mic for vocals, but for acoustic guitar at the right distance, this is a good SDC mic.

AKG Solid Tube – this tube mic is the darkest mic I have ever used. If you are looking for "warmth" (defined here as utterly lacking in highs/mid-highs), then this is the mic for you. Big, heavy, and impressive looking, it needs a substantial mount and/or stand. Recommended for voice only – and only for those voices/music pieces/genres which will really benefit from a dark vocal.

Audio Technical AT 4033 – this microphone has a lot of fans for mics in the mid-price range (ca. $500 or so). It’s easy to see why: the AT 4033 has a kind of low/mid-low filter/response that makes it sound a bit more airy than most mics in this range. This mic is recommended for those with modest budgets who want something better than the budget mics. My issue with this mic was its "metallic" sound; although it is hard to see how a mic can avoid the mushy low/mid-low without accentuating the high-mid – which is what I think that this mic did.

DPA 4011-TL – this was one of the most expensive mic’s I have ever purchased; it was also one of the most disappointing. The sound definition is definitely high caliber, however the frequency response was clinical and "mid" sounding, I found that I could not use this mic very effectively on most sources. It also needs a lot of gain – so expect to crank up your preamp for this one. Cold, clinical, "middy" sounding and low gain – bad characteristics in my opinion, and overpriced for what it does – although there are some who swear by its sonic purity.

Electro Voice RE-20 – this dynamic mic is a standard in the radio broadcast industry for DJ’s and on-air talent. It’s big and tough, and can take a lot of sonic (and other) abuse. In terms of its sound however, I would rate it only as fair, and not really a great choice for music recording.

Gefell M930 – I have compared this mic against more mic’s than any other in the past five years. It has great gain and definition. Its frequency response makes it attractive for voice and close to mid mic’ing of acoustic instruments. The sound is natural and pleasing. It has a pronounced low-mid/low proximity response however, which – to me – has always been its greatest drawback. But make no mistake, in my opinion this is the best sounding and easiest to use mic in its class/price range. It’s small size and lighter weight are additional plusses.

Gefell MT 71 S – This is a higher end LDC mic geared mostly towards recording vocals. It has a softer and warmer response than the Gefell M930, but also adds a bit more mid than may be desirable. In retrospect, I have to admit that I did not have the best preamp match for this mic, and was not able to give it a fair listen. Overall, the sound was good and balanced. In the end I went with the Gefell M930 instead since I thought that mic sounded a bit cleaner overall.

MXL V-67G – this is an inexpensive but weighty and impressive looking mic. Alas, all of the cost in making the mic was invested in its looks only. It’s a cheap mic, and it sounds like one. Don’t be fooled by the hype.

Neumann KMS-105 – this is an onstage mic, and the sound is pretty good overall. However, it is lacking quite a bit in the low end, and I would never use it for recording anything. If you are looking for an onstage mic, you might be better off going with a Shure SM58 Beta and just adding some high end instead [see below].

Neumann TLM-103 – good gain, pretty good sonic definition, and sufficient low end. This is indeed a higher end mic. However, this mic had an unpleasant "metallic" response that I never quite got over. Certainly better than comparable cheaper mics in this class, but I think that there are better LDC’s in this price range (or just above) which have a more pleasing sound.

Neumann TLM-193 – this mic was supposed to sound like either the Neumann U87 or U89 – depending on who you talk to – but limited to a cardioid pattern. This was definitely a better mic than many in the sub-$1,000 range in terms of sonic definition, but there was nothing about it that made me happy or excited about the sources that I recorded with it. It also sounded duller than the TLM-103 [see above].

Oktava 219 and 319 – these are two basic, lower end condenser mics (with corresponding low prices). Actually for the price, they are really not too bad. However, the sound of both is a bit lacking in comparison to more expensive choices. The 319 condenser is an especially good choice for those with budget limitations who want to experience the LDC approach, and there are modifications available for the 319 which some claim really improve its sound.

Rode NT-5 – I purchased a pair of these to use on acoustic guitar and stereo recordings of other acoustic instruments. I was not too impressed overall. The sound was dull and not very well defined. I recommend a pair of AKG C451-B’s for this approach instead [see above].

Shure SM58 Beta – if you are looking for performing dynamic mic, look no further. This mic is rugged, has pretty good sound for its price, and is used by more performers than just about any other. There are lots of other choices out there in this category, but this one is definitely an established warhorse. Not necessarily recommended for studio recording, however.

Shure SM-81 – I tried this SDC mic on acoustic guitar and other similar instruments. It’s okay . . . not as good as the AKG C451-B, and nothing really dramatic in its response or sound. It is inexpensive, however, and better suited for acoustic guitar than many other condensers out there.

Studio Projects B1 – It’s a cheap mic and it sounds like one. Don’t believe the hype.
 
Other mic’s I would love to try but have not had the chance yet:
Neumann U87-ai, Neumann U-89, Royer 121/122, Pearlman TM-1, BLUE Blueberry, and more.
Old 26th December 2010
  #2
Lives for gear
 
headspin's Avatar
 

good reading
Old 26th December 2010
  #3
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JonesH's Avatar
Microphones I Have Known

The Neumann KMS 105 is a condenser mic, not a dynamic.
Old 26th December 2010
  #4
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by JonesH View Post
The Neumann KMS 105 is a condenser mic, not a dynamic.
You are correct, and I have made the proper edit.
Old 26th December 2010
  #5
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MicDaddy's Avatar
 

Regarding the RE20, myself, Stevie Wonder and Jack Brokensha (countless others) would disagree with you.
Quote:
In terms of its sound however, I would rate it only as fair, and not really a great choice for music recording.
Old 26th December 2010
  #6
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Hey thanks for this, great share!

(ps: when I started recording I lucked into a B ULS model 414, and eventually picked up another on ebay as its mate - fantastic mics - great choice for beginners (good investment) and pros alike)

thumbsup
Old 26th December 2010
  #7
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evangelista's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilDarg View Post
Microphones I Have Known
By Phil Darg



Electro Voice RE-20 – this dynamic mic is a standard in the radio broadcast industry for DJ’s and on-air talent. It’s big and tough, and can take a lot of sonic (and other) abuse. In terms of its sound however, I would rate it only as fair, and not really a great choice for music recording.

It's hard to take your post seriously, considering this segment.
Old 26th December 2010
  #8
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uncle duncan's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilDarg View Post
Oktava 219 and 319 – these are two basic, lower end condenser mics (with corresponding low prices). Actually for the price, they are really not too bad. However, the sound of both is a bit lacking in comparison to more expensive choices. The 319 condenser is an especially good choice for those with budget limitations who want to experience the LDC approach, and there are modifications available for the 319 which some claim really improve its sound....
While interesting, the utter lack of specifics makes me question the usefulness of the posted information. For example, specific information about the 319 would tell the reader that this mic favors the midrange. It also has a dip at 6k, which can have the affect of softening the sound of a bright source, like a harsh, boomy acoustic guitar. The midrange push brings out the tone of the guitar that's being hidden by the boomy low end, and the 6k dip makes the harshness less noticeable.

I always encourage referencing the frequency response graphs that indicate the mic's response. Basically, a mic stamps the source with it's own EQ curve. Knowing what that EQ curve will be can help to determine when that mic would be appropriate. Of course, you won't know for sure until you put the mic on the source and move it around to find the sweet spot, but considering the EQ curve of the mic makes more sense than just taking a wild guess based on the cost of the mic. Expensive doesn't always mean better. Better quality, sure, but better for the source? Depends on the EQ curve of the mic. A $150 MXL 2003a might sound better than a $5,000 Sony C800g, depending on the source being recorded.

(On the shortcomings of the RE20, I guess Radiohead never got the news. It's their preferred vocal mic for recording.)
Old 26th December 2010
  #9
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by rcb4t2 View Post
Hey thanks for this, great share!

(ps: when I started recording I lucked into a B ULS model 414, and eventually picked up another on ebay as its mate - fantastic mics - great choice for beginners (good investment) and pros alike)

thumbsup
Agreed.
Old 26th December 2010
  #10
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suedesound's Avatar
 

no offense intended but the RE20 is one of my favorite dynamics possibly over the coveted SM7, but as you said everyone has their own taste.
Old 26th December 2010
  #11
Gear Nut
 

I seemed to have touched a nerve on the RE20. It's been a awhile since I've used one, but I stand by my opinion. Of course, diverse opinionating is what Gearslutz is all about, so I expected some of this. On the other hand, if the RE20 is all you've tried, you may want to look at what else is out there.

As to the post above regarding frequency charts, etc.: um . . . I am not disagreeing with that stand, nor am I asserting anything otherwise (that cost alone determines mic quality, or that frequency response is unimportant, etc.). Not quite sure what your point is on that. I was talking about a very cheap mic, and how some people (not me) have modded it and claimed good results.

As I stated before, I am just providing one set of opinions. Take 'em or leave 'em. However, I think that a measured, comparative view like the one I have provided is far more valuable than many of the typical "Yeah that mic is great!" comments that we often see posted in here. From my experience, some mic's are much better than others. Cost is one factor, but certainly not the only one.
Old 26th December 2010
  #12
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suedesound's Avatar
 

I'll just say that I love RE20 on kick, bass cab, floor tom (if I can fit it in), and some singers. I actually recorded acoustic with it once and it fit perfectly in the mix with minimal eq (program specific obviously). I've used SM7, M88, D12 and 112 in all of these applications and RE20 is my first choice. Also while I'm on this subject I love the bet52 on most applications I mentioned (vocals aside). Again everyone has different tastes.
Old 26th December 2010
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by suedesound View Post
no offense intended but the RE20 is one of my favorite dynamics possibly over the coveted SM7, but as you said everyone has their own taste.
ditto. same with the SM81. goes to show that talking about sound is often like "dancing about architecture."
Old 26th December 2010
  #14
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John Nonjohn's Avatar
 

I would disagree with many of the OP's observations and conclusions.

I would challenge the OP to try the SM-81 on close, spoken word vocals.

I would challenge the OP to A/B compare the Gefell MT71S to the Gefell UM70S.

I would challenge the OP to try the AKG C451b as an OH mic (better, if you have a matched pair), specifically for a heavy-metal band.

I would challenge the OP to A/B compare the Shure SM7B and Electro-voice RE20 on the following sources--Spoken vocals, sung vocals, kick drum, and bass cabinets.

I would challenge the OP to try the AT-4033 at a medium (12'-20') to long range (50'+) distance, especially on chainsaws!

I would challenge the OP to A/B compare the Gefell M930 with a vintage, AKG C414-EB--the version with the teflon capsule!

I would challege the OP to A/B compare the Neumann TLM-193 with the Neumann TLM-102; then compare the TLM-102 with the TLM-103! After that, compare the TLM-193 with the TLM-103 (but this is the least interesting comparison [to me, anyway])!

I would challege the OP to A/B compare a vintage U-87i with a current-made U-87ai.

I would challenge anyone to A/B compare the Neumann TLM-102 with a Neumann U-47 FET!

Before you diss or dismiss a mic, try it on different sources at different distances, by itself, in combination with other mics on the same source, and lastly, in the context of a mix. Even some of the lower priced mics sound great in the context of a dense mix. A/B compare similar mics. Draw, refine, and relish in your own observations and conclusions!
Old 26th December 2010
  #15
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suedesound's Avatar
 

haha, yes! not only one of my favorite quotes but i also must give props to the 81, not amazing on most sources but always does the job.
Old 27th December 2010
  #16
Registered User
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Nonjohn View Post
I would disagree with many of the OP's observations and conclusions.

I would challenge the OP to try the SM-81 on close, spoken word vocals.

I would challenge the OP to A/B compare the Gefell MT71S to the Gefell UM70S.

I would challenge the OP to try the AKG C451b as an OH mic (better, if you have a matched pair), specifically for a heavy-metal band.

I would challenge the OP to A/B compare the Shure SM7B and Electro-voice RE20 on the following sources--Spoken vocals, sung vocals, kick drum, and bass cabinets.

I would challenge the OP to try the AT-4033 at a medium (12'-20') to long range (50'+) distance, especially on chainsaws!

I would challenge the OP to A/B compare the Gefell M930 with a vintage, AKG C414-EB--the version with the teflon capsule!

I would challege the OP to A/B compare the Neumann TLM-193 with the Neumann TLM-102; then compare the TLM-102 with the TLM-103! After that, compare the TLM-193 with the TLM-103 (but this is the least interesting comparison [to me, anyway])!

I would challege the OP to A/B compare a vintage U-87i with a current-made U-87ai.

I would challenge anyone to A/B compare the Neumann TLM-102 with a Neumann U-47 FET!

Before you diss or dismiss a mic, try it on different sources at different distances, by itself, in combination with other mics on the same source, and lastly, in the context of a mix. Even some of the lower priced mics sound great in the context of a dense mix. A/B compare similar mics. Draw, refine, and relish in your own observations and conclusions!
I would challenge you to post your opinions of the aforementioned gear.
Old 27th December 2010
  #17
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uncle duncan's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilDarg View Post
...As to the post above regarding frequency charts, etc.: um . . . I am not disagreeing with that stand, nor am I asserting anything otherwise (that cost alone determines mic quality, or that frequency response is unimportant, etc.). Not quite sure what your point is on that. I was talking about a very cheap mic, and how some people (not me) have modded it and claimed good results.

As I stated before, I am just providing one set of opinions. Take 'em or leave 'em. However, I think that a measured, comparative view like the one I have provided is far more valuable than many of the typical "Yeah that mic is great!" comments that we often see posted in here. ...
My point is that your description of the first two mics, the 414uls and the 414xlII contains no reference whatsoever to the actual sound of the mic, other than "good frequency response". What does "good frequency response" mean? Good for what? "Good" is a generic term that can mean anything, depending on the POV of the reader. Your description of those two mics falls into the category of "yeah, that mic is great", the exact thing you're claiming your list avoids.

The biggest problem I see here at GS is the noobs not understanding the concept of a particular mic coming with an EQ curve that's going to change the sound of the source. Granted, by the time you got to your third mic, you did mention that it was considered "bright" by some people, but that leaves the reader totally in the dark about the actual sound of the first two mics on your list, and it leaves them guessing about the sound of the C-451b. Is it bright, or isn't it bright? If it is bright, where is the brightness located?

Don't get me wrong. Your list is appreciated. It's just that if it's going to be helpful, (as in going beyond the blurb you'd read on the Musician's Friend website) it needs to be more specific in regards to the way the EQ curve of the mic changes the sound of the source, something you did address in the descriptions of some of the mics.

Thanks for posting. My critique of your list was not aimed at you so much as aimed at the readers who would accept "good" as an adjective to describe a mic without finding out why that particular mic sounds "good" on a particular source.

(Your thread title brings to mind an old duet by Julio Eglesias and Willie Nelson called "To All the Girls I've Loved Before." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcfzj...eature=related )
Old 27th December 2010
  #18
Registered User
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by uncle duncan View Post
My point is that your description of the first two mics, the 414uls and the 414xlII contains no reference whatsoever to the actual sound of the mic, other than "good frequency response". What does "good frequency response" mean? Good for what? "Good" is a generic term that can mean anything, depending on the POV of the reader. Your description of those two mics falls into the category of "yeah, that mic is great", the exact thing you're claiming your list avoids.

The biggest problem I see here at GS is the noobs not understanding the concept of a particular mic coming with an EQ curve that's going to change the sound of the source. Granted, by the time you got to your third mic, you did mention that it was considered "bright" by some people, but that leaves the reader totally in the dark about the actual sound of the first two mics on your list, and it leaves them guessing about the sound of the C-451b. Is it bright, or isn't it bright? If it is bright, where is the brightness located?

Don't get me wrong. Your list is appreciated. It's just that if it's going to be helpful, (as in going beyond the blurb you'd read on the Musician's Friend website) it needs to be more specific in regards to the way the EQ curve of the mic changes the sound of the source, something you did address in the descriptions of some of the mics.

Thanks for posting. My critique of your list was not aimed at you so much as aimed at the readers who would accept "good" as an adjective to describe a mic without finding out why that particular mic sounds "good" on a particular source.
Well, then let's call out every instance of subjectivity. GS is a veritable verbal wank-fest when it comes to audio. So much gear, so little recordings to back up the hype. Especially in the 'high-end' section (and especially with certain dealers- the hyperbole is through the roof!).

The OP just want's to parlay his feelings. That's pretty much all that goes on here, so if we're setting new standards here of backing opinion up with more than opinion, I'm all for it. But...that means equal treatment for everyone.

ps- Have you ever heard the phrase 'Neumannesque?'
Old 27th December 2010
  #19
Lives for gear
I agree...but also disagree with you on the NT5s...i don't think they're so much dull...just not AS hyped in the top end. Comparatively they're probably darker sounding than a lot of other mics, but as a result they work great on drum overheads, and brighter acoustic guitars (Like my Maton).
Old 27th December 2010
  #20
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cdog's Avatar
Thanks for the post Phil, dont mind the haters and nutjobs.
Old 30th March 2011
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cdog View Post
Thanks for the post Phil, dont mind the haters and nutjobs.

I agree...great post, but as they say - "No good deed goes unpunished!" A lot of naysayers here......
Old 30th March 2011
  #22
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cyrano's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by cdog View Post
Thanks for the post Phil, dont mind the haters and nutjobs.
+1

Lots of criticism, no arguments.
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