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Which vocal mics for a shoot out on my voice? Condenser Microphones
Old 5th September 2011
  #1
Gear Nut
 

Which vocal mics for a shoot out on my voice?

I'm getting close to ordering a few mics to test on my voice. My plan is to order or rent 4 or at most 5 microphones (cant afford to float more than this on my credit cards) and do 2 takes per mic on 3 different song styles. I want to do all of the recording in the course of one day to minimize changes in my voice. Then I'll have it set up so that a few people and I can listen to all the takes (without knowing which mic is which) and pick a winner. The winning mic will stay and the losers will go back.

The hard part is figuring out which mics to test. My budget is $4000, but obviously cheaper is better. I don't have experience with high end mics, so I don't know what "style" I'm going for. I want the mics to be as different as possible. I have a fairly nasally voice (think Rufus wainwright) and I've always boosted above 10k with mics I've used in the past. My musical style is something like Ben folds, Wheezer, and the Smiths. I don't care for versatility because the mic will only be used on my voice.

Here are the mics currently on my radar just based on reading forums:
- Neumann U87
- Bock 241
- Manley Reference Cardioid
- Shure Sm7b

Do these seem like good choices? What mics would you add or subtract to the list?
Old 5th September 2011
  #2
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skybluerental's Avatar
 

dont worry about what you read on forums.

you have to hear microphones to understand them.

if you dont already know what any of these mics sound like, i would just get an SM7, save a ton of $$$ and call it a day.
Old 5th September 2011
  #3
Gear Addict
 
at4033's Avatar
Hi Thefife,

I regularly record a singer that has a nasal voice. I've found 2 mics that work for his voice: AEA R84 and Telefunken CU-29.
Old 5th September 2011
  #4
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by skybluerental View Post
dont worry about what you read on forums.

you have to hear microphones to understand them.

if you dont already know what any of these mics sound like, i would just get an SM7, save a ton of $$$ and call it a day.
I'm looking for suggestions of different sounding mics, specifically so I can try them. The goal is to find the mic that best matches my voice. It doesn't make any sense at all to simply select the cheapest option prior to hearing a numbr of options and call it a day. I assume your first point was intentionally self referential.
Old 5th September 2011
  #5
Here for the gear
 

Try the sterling audio st77 and let me know what you think!
Old 5th September 2011
  #6
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Derk View Post
Try the sterling audio st77 and let me know what you think!
Not that more money definitely equals better, but I'm guessing that with a budget 10 times the cost of that mic,'I'll probably find something better.
Old 5th September 2011
  #7
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Earcatcher's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Thefife View Post
The hard part is figuring out which mics to test. My budget is $4000, but obviously cheaper is better. I don't have experience with high end mics, so I don't know what "style" I'm going for. I want the mics to be as different as possible. I have a fairly nasally voice (think Rufus wainwright) and I've always boosted above 10k with mics I've used in the past. My musical style is something like Ben folds, Wheezer, and the Smiths. I don't care for versatility because the mic will only be used on my voice.

Here are the mics currently on my radar just based on reading forums:
- Neumann U87
- Bock 241
- Manley Reference Cardioid
- Shure Sm7b

Do these seem like good choices? What mics would you add or subtract to the list?
With what you're saying and the list already laid out I would certainly ad a Brauner Valvet-X. Very different from the U87 and often much nicer on most voices too. It brings voices very much forward and makes them sound dynamical, as if someone had put some magical processing to it.
Old 5th September 2011
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by Thefife View Post
I'm getting close to ordering a few mics to test on my voice. My plan is to order or rent 4 or at most 5 microphones (cant afford to float more than this on my credit cards) and do 2 takes per mic on 3 different song styles. I want to do all of the recording in the course of one day to minimize changes in my voice. Then I'll have it set up so that a few people and I can listen to all the takes (without knowing which mic is which) and pick a winner. The winning mic will stay and the losers will go back.
Are you any good at math? If so, you might want to run the following numbers:

A = cost of 4 hour block at a pro studio that has all the mics you could possibly want to evaluate
B = probability that engineer at said studio will pick the right mic for you the first time around
C = probability that said engineer will pick the right mic by the second round
D = probability that said engineer will pick the right mic by the third round
E = probability that said engineer will pick the right mic by the fourth round
F = chances that you'll save $4000 if said engineer cannot find a satisfying mic after four tries

G = cost of renting 4 mics you pick from Dreamhire or equivalent
H = probability that of the dozens of potential "best" mics for your voice, your list of four contains the one right mic for you
I = probability that, even if you do have the right mic in your choice list, you are able to objectively tell whether you are giving consistent performances, and if not, knowing how to correct yourself without input from an objective engineer
J = Chances that you and your friends will be able to make the right $4000 decision listening to playback in who-knows-what kind of listening environment to tracks with who-knows-what kind of initial validity

If you are good at math, you will see that both sets of numbers ultimately involve a $4000 bet. Which bet has better odds depends on how you estimate those probabilities.

This is not purely academic. We just did a shoot-out between 6 microphones at our studio. (You can see photos here). I can only imagine how meaningless the data would have been without a real engineer running the session, starting with the question "which microphones should we use?"
Old 5th September 2011
  #9
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toneguru's Avatar
If you boost 10k in the past rent a C12 and you might get there without EQ.

A U67 should be on the menu too for a completely dif sound than the C12. They tend to either destroy a nasal voice or make the nasal tone a magical tone. Its weird that way. Like no middle ground.

An M49 is never a bad vocal mic to A/B with. Especially for female vocals.

Then maybe a U47, 251... the usual suspects.

If you are in LA call up Platinum Audio Rentals. They have a good mic selection and they have the hard to find Lucas C1. That mic has a super clear pronounced high end and is highly regarded by many. Might be just the ticket for a nasal voice.

Yeh, try to get the Lucas in the mix, considering you are boosting highs.

- Cheers
Old 5th September 2011
  #10
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toneguru's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Clueless View Post
Are you any good at math? If so, you might want to run the following numbers:

A = cost of 4 hour block at a pro studio that has all the mics you could possibly want to evaluate
B = probability that engineer at said studio will pick the right mic for you the first time around
C = probability that said engineer will pick the right mic by the second round
D = probability that said engineer will pick the right mic by the third round
E = probability that said engineer will pick the right mic by the fourth round
F = chances that you'll save $4000 if said engineer cannot find a satisfying mic after four tries

G = cost of renting 4 mics you pick from Dreamhire or equivalent
H = probability that of the dozens of potential "best" mics for your voice, your list of four contains the one right mic for you
I = probability that, even if you do have the right mic in your choice list, you are able to objectively tell whether you are giving consistent performances, and if not, knowing how to correct yourself without input from an objective engineer
J = Chances that you and your friends will be able to make the right $4000 decision listening to playback in who-knows-what kind of listening environment to tracks with who-knows-what kind of initial validity

If you are good at math, you will see that both sets of numbers ultimately involve a $4000 bet. Which bet has better odds depends on how you estimate those probabilities.

This is not purely academic. We just did a shoot-out between 6 microphones at our studio. (You can see photos here). I can only imagine how meaningless the data would have been without a real engineer running the session, starting with the question "which microphones should we use?"
True enough.

But on the other hand...

Many a quick shootout has enlightened us mere mortals while using just our ears and with a little kismet we did indeed find the right mic. It can happen. It happens every day.

- Cheers
Old 5th September 2011
  #11
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Clueless View Post
Are you any good at math? If so, you might want to run the following numbers:

A = cost of 4 hour block at a pro studio that has all the mics you could possibly want to evaluate
B = probability that engineer at said studio will pick the right mic for you the first time around
C = probability that said engineer will pick the right mic by the second round
D = probability that said engineer will pick the right mic by the third round
E = probability that said engineer will pick the right mic by the fourth round
F = chances that you'll save $4000 if said engineer cannot find a satisfying mic after four tries

G = cost of renting 4 mics you pick from Dreamhire or equivalent
H = probability that of the dozens of potential "best" mics for your voice, your list of four contains the one right mic for you
I = probability that, even if you do have the right mic in your choice list, you are able to objectively tell whether you are giving consistent performances, and if not, knowing how to correct yourself without input from an objective engineer
J = Chances that you and your friends will be able to make the right $4000 decision listening to playback in who-knows-what kind of listening environment to tracks with who-knows-what kind of initial validity

If you are good at math, you will see that both sets of numbers ultimately involve a $4000 bet. Which bet has better odds depends on how you estimate those probabilities.

This is not purely academic. We just did a shoot-out between 6 microphones at our studio. (You can see photos here). I can only imagine how meaningless the data would have been without a real engineer running the session, starting with the question "which microphones should we use?"

I totally see what you are saying, but there are a number of reasons that isn't likely the best course of action for me.

- I live in Clive Iowa. Care to guess how many studios have a decent mic selection anywhere near me?
- I have a full time job, a part time job, I am a property manager, I have a 2 year old, and twin 4 month old boys. I don't have the time to travel out of state to spend a day testing mics. I record music a couple of hours at a time in my home studio.
- I'm pretty sure there are plenty of studios that have no more than 5 high end vocal mics and are still able to get a good match for most of their clients. The trick is, they don't have 5 mics that sound the same.
- Mics can be tested for nothing but the cost of shipping through places like musicians friend.
- I have a treated room (based on GK Acoustics best solution for my room).
- Just because I haven't had the opportunity to sing through good mics, doesn't mean I am too stupid to pick my preference after doing so.
Old 5th September 2011
  #12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Thefife View Post
I totally see what you are saying, but there are a number of reasons that isn't likely the best course of action for me.

- I live in Clive Iowa. Care to guess how many studios have a decent mic selection anywhere near me?
In that case, the probabilities favor your approach. Continue...
Old 9th September 2011
  #13
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skybluerental's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thefife View Post
I'm looking for suggestions of different sounding mics, specifically so I can try them. The goal is to find the mic that best matches my voice. It doesn't make any sense at all to simply select the cheapest option prior to hearing a numbr of options and call it a day. I assume your first point was intentionally self referential.
the thing is, it can be very confusing for someone who hasn’t used many microphones to properly discern what is actually going on when all of a sudden listening to 5 or more mics at once. having your friends in the room will complicate things even more.

when you say, “matches your voice,” what does that mean?
matches your voice in what context????
the thing about choosing mics is that it is ALL about context.
are you going to record your voice solo and make the decision based on that?
you might have a very different opinion in context of a dense rock track or sparse acoustic track.

what kind of voice do you have?
what kind of music do you record?
do you intend on recording other people too?
there is no way anyone can give you much meaningful advice without knowing these things.

there are SOOOOOO many mics out there.
for $4000 you can get a really great mic or several really great mics for that matter, but it really depends on the aesthetic you are trying to achieve.

if you could spend $6000, i would say get a U67 and call it a day.
that is a no brainer.
best all around mic EVER in my opinion.

for $4000, i would buy a few different mics.
Neumann KM 86, Shure SM7, AKG 414 B ULS and Coles 4038.
the KM 86 and SM7 for lead vox and the 414 and 4038 for backing vox.
those 4 mics will cover A LOT OF GROUND.
so will a U67.

good luck.
Old 9th September 2011
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thefife View Post
... I have a fairly nasally voice ... I don't care for versatility because the mic will only be used on my voice.

Here are the mics currently on my radar just based on reading forums:
- Neumann U87
- Bock 241
- Manley Reference Cardioid
- Shure Sm7b
It will all depend on what you TRY, what you HEAR & what you end up LIKING.
If the nasal factor is there, definitely the 87 will NOT help.
And of the 3 left (I've used them all - well the 251, but it's similar to the 241), the Manley would be it.
You might also want to try a FleA 47 (on the other spectrum of the Manley)! I think it is in your price range.
Old 9th September 2011
  #15
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toneguru's Avatar
There are a lot of statements on this thread that are simply nonsense.

Perhaps mic shootouts are so confusing for some of these posters that are advising you... perhaps it is because they have tin ears? Perhaps engineers but not musical? Apparently some of these engineers are paralyzed by their own over-analysis.

Mic shootouts are a piece o cake. If you have good ears and some good mics to shootout its a breeze. If you have shootouts with friends that also have good ears its all the better. When I have done shootouts in the past with a couple of other friends in the studio, 99% of the time we all came to the same conclusion.

Seriously, some of the advice and "warnings" on this site are a laugh.

Its not about experience, its not about applying scientific criteria, you don't need gloves nor an anechoic chamber. All you need are good ears and some good mics. Add a modicum of musicality and logic and you and your mics will co-exist in harmony and splendor.

- Peace Out
Old 9th September 2011
  #16
Here for the gear
 

I say pick what you think does the best for you. After all it's your music right? You know what you want it to sound like.

Also i'd say try the Blue Bottle if you can. I don't think it gets the love it deserves. On a good day you can get a huge discount on them, and if you ever want a different sound later...just buy a Cap instead of another $1000+ mic. The Caps really do give it a completely different character.

You can also find 3rd party caps, and cheaper prices on Ebay.
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