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So what's your favorite mic on these vocalists? Any surprises?
Old 13th May 2017
  #31
AT4040 surprised me.
Old 14th May 2017
  #32
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OhioAudioGuy's Avatar
 

On the male voice my personal favorite was the Bock 251 followed (very closely) by the Lauten Oceanus.

On the female voice I thought the Bock 251 again followed by the U87ai.

On a side note I was disappointed by both the Manley mics. I expected much more considering how much hype has surrounded both of these mics in the past. I know it's been a really long time since I worked with the Reference Cardioid but I don't remember it being that lifeless.

One big surprise (for me anyhow) was the Sure KSM 32, KSM44A, and even the Miktek CV4. WOW for the price!

Thanks Sweetwater!
Old 16th May 2017
  #33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NJlo View Post
Did anyone else like the Manley Ref non-Gold better than the Gold?
Completely agree Manley Ref non-Gold is better.
Old 16th May 2017
  #34
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funka's Avatar
 

Quote:
Completely agree Manley Ref non-Gold is better.
Maybe on that test with that singer etc...
But we all know the limitations of those kind of tests, they only give us a small picture of each microphone possibilities. Even if at the same time, those tests allow us to roughly get the character of each mic.

I had the opportunity to listen to those 2 mics in a show in Paris(Audio Days), and my impressions was exactly the opposite. The Gold has a better off-axis response and was way more sensitive/sparkly/detailed.

As always, it is a matter of taste. And everyone has different ones. Not better or worse, just different.
Old 18th May 2017
  #35
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I found the 251 and even the Manley Reference too essy and hard/thin around 8-10k. Different strokes. The REDD had the nicest midrange - probably the nicest all-around but I found the highs just a touch weird and hard, as well.

My next favs were both the U47's and the U87.

But... check out the KSM32 vs the U87AI, and the KSM44A vs. U47's. Shockingly close tonality. Maybe missing that last 2% of smooth magic... but still, that was a huge surprise to me. Think I might pick up a couple.

I suspect the differences would be more apparent in the lows/low-mids with some closer proximity and/or deeper voices.

The samples in a mix really confirm for me that the U87 is so popular for a reason. While it's not shockingly-good, and the solo sound is inferior to the REDD, the U87 just sits in the mix and the mic disappears and gives way to the performance in a way that nothing else does. A bit sibilant around 5K always but that can be good for enunciation in a dense mix.

Last edited by dasbin; 18th May 2017 at 06:23 PM..
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Old 21st May 2017
  #36
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Originally Posted by Lynn Fuston View Post
You're very fwelcome. It was ffun.

-Flynn Ffuston
fwhoops
Old 23rd May 2017
  #37
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I was very impressed for the price by the lauten clarion and I bought one ! Also better than I thought, very happy. (I find the 320 a little too bright and not the same spirit)
I was disappointed by the wa87. the one I liked the best was the U47 and the chandler Redd, but a little too expensive for me
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Old 23rd May 2017
  #38
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nightchef's Avatar
After a couple of listens to the 24/96 samples, two mics that have surprised me in terms of getting high marks on both F and M voices are the Miktek CV4 and MK300. Oddly (or perhaps not), I didn't like the CV3 at all, on either voice. But I liked the other two. The MK300 seems like a remarkable value; it was the cheapest solid-state multipattern mic in the group, and I thought it held its own quite well with its more expensive neighbors. This test has definitely put Miktek on my radar.
Old 24th May 2017
  #39
Quote:
Originally Posted by nightchef View Post
After a couple of listens to the 24/96 samples, two mics that have surprised me in terms of getting high marks on both F and M voices are the Miktek CV4 and MK300. Oddly (or perhaps not), I didn't like the CV3 at all, on either voice. But I liked the other two. The MK300 seems like a remarkable value; it was the cheapest solid-state multipattern mic in the group, and I thought it held its own quite well with its more expensive neighbors. This test has definitely put Miktek on my radar.
The MK300 was definitely a surprise for me too. As was the sE X1S. Both seemed to offer very impressive sound at very minimal cost.
Old 26th May 2017
  #40
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I just ran my second blind listen to the male 24/96 samples in context (with backing tracks plus slight compression and reverb/delay on vocal tracks) and I found it interesting to compare the results of the two listens.

There were mics that I liked both times (Shure KSM44, Rode NT1A(!), Miktek CV4 and MK300, Lauten LA320, Mojave MA300), mics I disliked both times (Warm WA-87, Mojave MA50, Miketk CV3, AT4033, AKGC214), and mics that I did a 180 on (Lauten LA220 and Oceanus, Chandler REDD, Telefunken AK47)

Most of the comments reflect roughly similar responses/perceptions on each listen, but there were some embarrassingly inconsistent responses to a few mics:
  • Bock iFET: from "Small, unexciting, not awful but meh" to "Wow! Love this."
  • Lauten LA220: from "Creamy but with nice air on top. Hard not to like" to "Great detail, but harsh w/o girth or clarity."
  • Neuman TLM103: from "Scooped, but in a nice way...maybe not quite smooth enough" to "Lovely mid clarity, smooth top"
  • Telefunken AK47: from "lovely depth/detail" to "Clangy; sounds like my old MK219"
  • And my favorite, the Chandler REDD: from "Big, rich, dimensional, very 'tubey'" to "Yuck--thin and harsh. Next!"
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Old 27th May 2017
  #41
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For the $299 price point, I'm finding the MK300 and the AT4040 incredibly close, almost too close to call, but I think I prefer the 4040 a little more, as it's just slightly less nasal sounding (not that either of them are particularly nasal). Given the 4040's been around for a long time and sounds almost identical to me, I find it hard to be all that "surprised" by the MK300.
Mind you, it's sort of hard to tell, because the vocalists' performances were both pretty different on the MK300 than on the 4040 take. While the very top might be a bit smoother on the MK300 for the male voice, I put that down to a more airy and legato performance than anything.

Lots of discussion about the MK300 here. A/B-ing the two, do others really think it has a significant edge on the 4040? Just curious.
Old 27th May 2017
  #42
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nightchef's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by dasbin View Post
For the $299 price point, I'm finding the MK300 and the AT4040 incredibly close, almost too close to call, but I think I prefer the 4040 a little more, as it's just slightly less nasal sounding (not that either of them are particularly nasal). Given the 4040's been around for a long time and sounds almost identical to me, I find it hard to be all that "surprised" by the MK300.
Mind you, it's sort of hard to tell, because the vocalists' performances were both pretty different on the MK300 than on the 4040 take. While the very top might be a bit smoother on the MK300 for the male voice, I put that down to a more airy and legato performance than anything.

Lots of discussion about the MK300 here. A/B-ing the two, do others really think it has a significant edge on the 4040? Just curious.
I've owned a pair of 4040s for over a decade, and I figured out pretty quickly that for me, anyway, this is not a lead vocal mic. I do use the 4040 for background vocals sometimes, and I do it precisely because its character, for me, naturally pushes vocals backward. It has a pretty smooth upper-mid lift, and a nice solid low end, but its low-mid response is so plain and understated it's downright Amish. It won't "ensmallen" stuff that's already big, but it won't embiggen anything either. It's my favorite drum OH mic, and it's also a great ambient mic for bands and orchestras (I do a lot of school concert recording). But it doesn't love voices, in my experience. And FWIW, on blind listens to the Sweetwater tracks so far, my comments about the 4040 have been so close to my experience of my own mics it's almost spooky.

I'm hearing the MK300 quite differently--it's not as open and 3D as the best mics in the bunch, but it's big and vibe-y and smooth. To my ear, it likes voices quite a lot.
Old 27th May 2017
  #43
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Dan Popp's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by funka View Post
I had the opportunity to listen to those 2 mics in a show in Paris(Audio Days), and my impressions was exactly the opposite. The Gold has a better off-axis response and was way more sensitive/sparkly/detailed.
There is another shootout available that Lynn Fuston did some time ago. In that test both Manleys sounded very unforgiving to sibilants, but after listening to the Gold, the Ref C sounded odd and almost broken. To me.
Old 27th May 2017
  #44
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antichef's Avatar
I also found it interesting that I could recognize the sound of the mics that I have, generally - that does a lot to validate the test, when you think about it. I'm a huge fan of the Ref C -I have two of them - and I will continue to use them a lot. Like most of us, I didn't particularly like the Ref C in the test, but I do recognize it. I think maybe it's not a good match for either vocalist, which is a rare occurrence in my experience. I guess I'm also not using the RefCs with transparent preamps.

I also have a 4040, and it sounded familiar as well. I'm using it for under-the-snare, and I really like it there.
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Old 29th May 2017
  #45
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nightchef's Avatar
I just finished a second blind listen to the F samples, and compiled all my notes and ratings from two blind listens to each set of samples. Here are some things I found:
  • As with the M samples, most of my reactions/ratings were similar on a second listen, though there were a few comically opposite ones.
  • There were some mics that I liked a lot better on the M voice/mix: Rode NTK, AKG C414XLII, Bock iFET, Neumann TLM103. And some I liked a lot better on the F: Neumann TLM49, AT4033, Chandler REDD, Mojave MA201.
  • There was one mic I rated exactly the same on both voices, the Lauten LA320, and that also happened to get the highest overall rating (averaged across the four listening sessions), a 2.75 out of 3. Others that got 2.5 or better ratings include the Shure KSM44, Miktek CV4 and MK300, and Mojave MA300. Evidently I have inexpensive tastes. Or maybe it’s just that more expensive mics tend to have pronounced characters that are perfect for some voices but very wrong on others, where less expensive mics tend to be more jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none.
  • Mics I was expecting to like, but didn’t: Avantone CV12, Neumann U87, Warm WA87. Mics I was not expecting to like, but did: Rode NT1A, Blue Baby Bottle, Behringer C1.
This has been super fun and illuminating, as always with your shootouts, Lynn. Thanks for doing it!
Old 30th May 2017
  #46
Did you change the order/sequence that you listened the second time compared to the first listen?

Quote:
Originally Posted by nightchef View Post
I just ran my second blind listen to the male 24/96 samples in context (with backing tracks plus slight compression and reverb/delay on vocal tracks) and I found it interesting to compare the results of the two listens.

There were mics that I liked both times (Shure KSM44, Rode NT1A(!), Miktek CV4 and MK300, Lauten LA320, Mojave MA300), mics I disliked both times (Warm WA-87, Mojave MA50, Miketk CV3, AT4033, AKGC214), and mics that I did a 180 on (Lauten LA220 and Oceanus, Chandler REDD, Telefunken AK47)

Most of the comments reflect roughly similar responses/perceptions on each listen, but there were some embarrassingly inconsistent responses to a few mics:
  • Bock iFET: from "Small, unexciting, not awful but meh" to "Wow! Love this."
  • Lauten LA220: from "Creamy but with nice air on top. Hard not to like" to "Great detail, but harsh w/o girth or clarity."
  • Neuman TLM103: from "Scooped, but in a nice way...maybe not quite smooth enough" to "Lovely mid clarity, smooth top"
  • Telefunken AK47: from "lovely depth/detail" to "Clangy; sounds like my old MK219"
  • And my favorite, the Chandler REDD: from "Big, rich, dimensional, very 'tubey'" to "Yuck--thin and harsh. Next!"
Old 30th May 2017
  #47
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nightchef's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lynn Fuston View Post
Did you change the order/sequence that you listened the second time compared to the first listen?
Yes, I shuffled the tracks around randomly each time, and I'm guessing that differences in sequence are responsible for some of the cases where my reaction to a mic varied widely from one session to the next. I'm kicking myself that I didn't keep track of the order for each session.
Old 30th May 2017
  #48
Quote:
Originally Posted by nightchef View Post
Yes, I shuffled the tracks around randomly each time, and I'm guessing that differences in sequence are responsible for some of the cases where my reaction to a mic varied widely from one session to the next. I'm kicking myself that I didn't keep track of the order for each session.
Listening order has a far greater impact than most people realize. One way around that is to pick a standard and then compare each one to that. For example:

A - B
A - C
A - D
A - E...
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Old 30th May 2017
  #49
I did a listening experiment once for a class of recording students and played them four consecutive versions of the same mix—the difference between them was just the A/D conversion. What I did NOT tell them was that they were hearing A-B-C-A. They thought it was A-B-C-D. The differences in their public comments about the first mix they heard versus the last mix they heard were fascinating. The only difference between first and last was that the first was heard "cold" with no music preceding it and the last mix was heard after they had listened to three other mixes. The preceding mixes biased what they heard.
Old 31st May 2017
  #50
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That's an interesting observation Lynn.

I notice personally that I need at least a few minutes, sometimes longer for my ears to "settle in" when I am listening (regardless of volume level, it's not a "threshold shift" effect). Within the first few minutes my perceptions are very unreliable, and things usually seem overly harsh.

I have also become increasingly aware of the differences in perception by my left vs right ear, not only in frequency response but in the perception of transients. This can also significantly change my initial impression of something, depending on where I am oriented relative to the source.

All of this can be managed pretty well, but I think most people underestimate just how inconsistent our hearing perception can be. The evidence of studies on this consistently confirms it, yet there are many folks out there who I think are too proud to admit that they don't have "golden ears".
Old 31st May 2017
  #51
Many people also don't realize that, when listening on speakers, how big a difference it makes when your head moves. I first noticed this when we were listening to preamps in one of my shootouts.

We went around the room and people were voicing their opinions of what they heard and I noticed how great a disparity there was in those opinions. Later in the day I walked around the room and some of the differences in what people were hearing were directly attributable to where they were sitting in the control room.

Try this experiment. (I did this recently with a group of college students in a mix room.) Put white or pink noise through the speakers and then slowly (very slowly) move your head left and right from the sweet spot. Not drastic changes of a foot or more, but just inches or fractions of inches. Listen to how the sound changes. Then move back and forth, closer and farther away from the monitors, and listen to how the sound changes. Now do the same thing in the vertical plane. Move up and down—this is better if you're standing and can bend your knees to get your head into where it would be in a normal seated position.

Do you hear drastic differences? I almost always do. And I'm not talking changes of 1, 2, or 4dB like you'd hear between mics. I'm talking changes of 5-10dB. So what you hear is far more dependent on where you put your head and the consistency of that positioning than it is on the differences between the mics.

The solution?

1) You can listen on headphones so the driver-to-ear relationship stays consistent, or
2) You can secure a catcher's mask in a fixed position at the front of the console so that your head never moves as you listen to all the different samples. (Thanks to Ethan Winer for coming up with that outlandish suggestion.)

The truth is that there are so many variables, from speakers to room to how many people are in the room to playback amp to speaker positioning, it all boils down to a matter of taste—what you like and what you think will do the best job on that singer, that song, that day, at that humidity, with that converter, on those cables, that etc....



Quote:
Originally Posted by bambamboom View Post
That's an interesting observation Lynn.

I notice personally that I need at least a few minutes, sometimes longer for my ears to "settle in" when I am listening (regardless of volume level, it's not a "threshold shift" effect). Within the first few minutes my perceptions are very unreliable, and things usually seem overly harsh.

I have also become increasingly aware of the differences in perception by my left vs right ear, not only in frequency response but in the perception of transients. This can also significantly change my initial impression of something, depending on where I am oriented relative to the source.

All of this can be managed pretty well, but I think most people underestimate just how inconsistent our hearing perception can be. The evidence of studies on this consistently confirms it, yet there are many folks out there who I think are too proud to admit that they don't have "golden ears".
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Old 1st June 2017
  #52
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Hey Guys, Hope you are having a good day.

I am planning to buy a new mic. I currently own a SM57 for recording Metal Singers.
I Wanted to go for the SM7B like most of the metal singers do ... but i am stuck in deciding.

I was wondering if the Lauten LA 220 or the LA 320 is a good microphone for recording metal vocalists or should i stick with the SM 7B ?

Please advise.
Old 1st June 2017
  #53
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Lynn, I'd love to see that catcher's mask in action. Brilliant.

Interestingly, in the field of live sound system design, especially theatre, the comb filtering you mention (as a result of both speakers playing the same material, but arriving at different times at your ears) is something that has been tackled for decades - I'm surprised there isn't more thought put into this in control room designs, considering, as you say, the massive differences it can make.

Perhaps one reason is that the distance differences involved in nearfield monitoring are small enough that those big 5-10dB dips you mention are actually extremely narrow in bandwidth - very noticeable with a constant pink noise source, but almost indiscernible in actual music because they are so narrow. This assumes simply moving your head a few inches around the sweet spot like you said, as opposed to physically moving to different places in the room, which would provide much wider-Q changes, and at lower frequencies - a much bigger problem. And room acoustic changes comes into play in a much bigger way with larger movements as well.

Still, if one wants to tackle this problem and provide truly consistent monitoring in their control room despite changes in position, the solution (to borrow from PA system design) is to add a centre channel speaker - and make your pan system LCR, so centre material is panned out of the L/R.
But you almost never see this outside of surround mixing setups for some reason.
If you spend some time tweaking your pan laws and calibrating levels, the mix should translate very well to regular stereo systems, with the added comfort that you haven't made any wrong decisions based on hearing comb filtering (which will never be the same comb filtering that the end listener will hear on their setup)

But there's yet another major problem - one that I've never seen discussed: panning an instrument (or voice) into the centre of a stereo mix actually significantly changes the perceived tonality of that instrument. This is because a listener sitting near centre will be "close enough to exactly centre" for the low frequencies (long wavelengths) arriving from both speakers to sum at their eardrums, but *not* precisely close for the very small wavelengths of (most) high frequencies to sum at their ears. Even if you're sitting exactly centre, both your eardrums are off to each side a bit. In fact, some mid-high frequencies can comb filter out, as you noticed. This small distance is largely irrelevant to big wavelengths but very relevant to very short ones.
So we all get quite a significant mid-bass buildup for anything panned centre in a stereo system, as opposed to its leaner tonality when panned into a single speaker (including a real centre channel).

The pan laws we are used to - in both DAW mixers and hardware mixers - to the best of my knowledge, all make the grave error of assumption that this summation is only a matter of overall level summing into centre. It is not. The changes are frequency-dependent - and that frequency curve depends on the positioning of your speakers and the position of you. Still, I would suggest that pan laws should actually have some basic EQ curve built in, such that mid-lows are cut gently as you pan into a phantom centre.

Stereo is really an incredibly compromised setup. At a minimum, we should all (consumers and engineers both) be listening on LCR systems as the standard, to drastically reduce all the major tonal shifts you get from positioning changes.

Last edited by dasbin; 1st June 2017 at 06:36 PM..
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Old 1st June 2017
  #54
Quote:
Originally Posted by dasbin View Post
Stereo is really an incredibly compromised setup. At a minimum, we should all (consumers and engineers both) be listening on LCR systems as the standard, to drastically reduce all the major tonal shifts you get from positioning changes.
A man after my own heart.

That makes exactly TWO of us that feel that way about LCR. ;-)
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Old 2nd June 2017
  #55
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If having two speakers creates phase issues, three speakers is better?

Seems like going to one speaker would eliminate the problem.
Old 2nd June 2017
  #56
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Popp View Post
If having two speakers creates phase issues, three speakers is better?
Well, the point is that you generally have so much more level of any one track coming out of only one speaker coherently that you're avoiding phase issues. Obviously a 50% pan will still cause issues, but almost all other pans, especially centre, will be way better.

Quote:
Seems like going to one speaker would eliminate the problem.
Point taken
More often that not when doing PA system design consulting work, I will end up recommending a mono system. They just work better in most venues where less than 30% of the audience is actually going to hear stereo anyway (because they are far enough off to either side, and/or close enough that the sound of one speaker will dominate, and the other only serves to offer phase interactions).
But of course most people insist on some kind of stereo, and hell if the audience can actually hear it, it's gotta be there. But at least we've established the need for a dedicated centre channel at that point.

To bring it back to the discussion at hand - if there's a couch at the back of your control room, or any other seats besides the one in the sweet spot, and you have an L/R monitoring setup without a centre channel, know that whomever is sitting around is hearing a very much comb-filtered version of your monitors, and therefore probably can't accurately make A/B judgement calls like picking a mic.
Old 1st August 2017
  #57
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Fantastic effort here, on both sides of the glass. Haven't had so much geeky fun since the late Walter Sear's mic shootouts in Manhattan, so long ago.

Many thanks to Lynn, the singers, and everyone else for this.
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Old 23rd October 2017
  #58
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My big surprise was that on the male vocal, the Avantone CV-12 was my second favorite of the lot, I'm really impressed with the sound of that thing! Detailed, 3 dimensional, warm... And it's $500?? Thank you for all the work on this project Lynn and Sweetwater!
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Old 24th October 2017
  #59
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Originally Posted by Thecmarus View Post
Goes to show that any mic can work great in the right hands and right context!

I'm surprised no dynamic mics were used in the shootout? Re-20 vs SM7b anybody?

I didn't like the Soundelux u195 as much as I thought I might. I couldn't find a reliable context for this mic before this shootout and it's one I've been eyeballing. Thank you Sweetwater, although it might have not been in your favor.
The U195 is an incredible instrument mic. Wails on mic twice its price and also known standards for acoustic guitar, guitar cabs, bass cabs, and especially accompaniment percussion instruments all need nothing but the U195 placed at the correct distance for the application. It has a nice smooth detailed character and a touch of color without smearing fast transients, but no male vocal mic characteristics like fancy presence tweaks, etc The FAT switch tries to make it a male vocal mic but I find it fairly useless. Female vocals are beautiful through it into a Neve 1272 style pre.
Old 29th October 2017
  #60
On the male vocal:

KSM44a impressed me the most. My ears tell me it would be easy to mix, and it doesn’t have the same high frequency capsule ringing I hear on most of the sub $1000 mics. It’s very balanced and smooth up top and the lower register is big without sounding flabby.

My KSM42 is similar. It will stack fine without creating that annoying nasal or ringing or harsh top or muddy lows.
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