The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
 Search This Thread  Search This Forum  Search Reviews  Search Gear Database  Search Gear for sale  Search Gearslutz Go Advanced
The psychology of microphone selection Condenser Microphones
Old 16th May 2017
  #1
The psychology of microphone selection

Have you ever noticed that there's a psychology to choosing microphones?

If you've had the luxury of working in big studios with big name artist clients, you may have heard the statement "I want to record on the mic that ______ used. I love the way her voice sounded on that record."

Dzb mentioned the "gold mic" and the "red mic." It's too true.

How many of you have rappers that want to sing on "that black mic with the thing sticking out the back"? The Sony C-800G.

Or want to use an SM7 because of the sound on Billie Jean. "If it was good enough for Michael Jackson, it's good enough for me."

I had an engineer ask me one time what mic we used on Amy Grant because he loved the way her vowels sounded, specifically the "oh" sound.

There are so many variables when selecting mics, and the psychology cannot be underestimated. Tell me I'm not the only one who has ever encountered this.


Quote:
Originally Posted by dzb View Post
Even the style or color of mic can influence a performer's 'vibe' before they even sing or play a note (as silly as that may seem - heck, look at stories related to the CV-12 {a useful & flexible mic in its own right} used by someone big - who knows if folklore of mic color {red} played a factor; certainly a gold grill on one mic or color on another or name badge (ug!) has at times been a factor with a couple clients we worked with, even though it might not have been the ideal mic for them).
1
Share
Old 16th May 2017
  #2
dzb
Gear Nut
 
dzb's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lynn Fuston View Post
There are so many variables when selecting mics, and the psychology cannot be underestimated. Tell me I'm not the only one who has ever encountered this.
Yep!! Gold (grill) Mic I thought about selling because it wasn't getting much use ended up nearly always set-up when there were newbies that came in for 1st time studio visit - that mic has a big footprint - the original CAD Equitek E-200. Can't remember the last time it was powered-up.

We had someone request a mic solely for a video shoot set-up as the vocal mic - Neumann U87 - one of my least favorite mics I have owned twice and sold twice. For that 10 song record we never used a U87 once, let alone use it for most recordings as other mic choices were better suited. Mileage will vary for use of mics. (Don't cringe about not liking the Neumann U87 - just simply glad to not have it collect dust - I found it overpriced and not logical to tie up $$ for its only occasional purpose. Not a bad mic, just a rarely used mic for us.) I remember having to have one in the 90's because that was one of the seemingly 'must have' mics to own for a studio (ug! almost always a wrong reason to own something - live and learn).

AEA Mics generally have an aesthetic allure, too. And, usually very useful, too. There are lots of examples of manufacturers mics that look cool as well as sound great.
Old 16th May 2017
  #3
Lives for gear
I imagine there's a a psychology to choosing microphones .... if you know nothing about microphones.
Old 16th May 2017
  #4
Quote:
Originally Posted by thehightenor View Post
I imagine there's a a psychology to choosing microphones .... if you know nothing about microphones.
Someone commented to me today, after looking down the page at the Mic Shootout files, and said "Why is it that all microphones look alike?"

This is the mic I usually point to when people ask that question: the Gefell UM900. Of course, it's not really as ubiquitous as a U87 or a C12 now is it?

1
Share
Old 16th May 2017
  #5
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

When MTV first got started, all of a sudden lots of people wanted to sing on 414's because they saw them in videos. Video directors liked 414's because they were small.
Old 17th May 2017
  #6
Lives for gear
 
AlexK's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lynn Fuston View Post
Someone commented to me today, after looking down the page at the Mic Shootout files, and said "Why is it that all microphones look alike?"

This is the mic I usually point to when people ask that question: the Gefell UM900. Of course, it's not really as ubiquitous as a U87 or a C12 now is it?

Can't say I find myself reaching for UM900s anywhere near as often as a 47 or some of the other classics, but really superb mic. Can slay dragons in front of an upright bass...
Old 17th May 2017
  #7
Lives for gear
With people like that use the FIN mic.

https://heilsound.com/products/the-fin/

I organize mic's into:
LDC Tube
LDC SS
MDC tube
MDC SS
SDC Tube
SDC
Large coil
Small coil
Long ribbon
Short ribbon
Tube ribbon
Large electrete
Small electrete

Out of that list, the only one I don't have have is a Large electrete, very rare. The only ones I know of were from Sony in the 70's that have lost the charge by now.

Then there are also brand issues and flavors.
Neumann, Sony, Electro voice, Shure, AKG, etc. each tend to share some. qualities.

And there are Era's of manufacturing. AKG from the 60's and 70's are great vs. current offerings.
Old 17th May 2017
  #8
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lynn Fuston View Post
Someone commented to me today, after looking down the page at the Mic Shootout files, and said "Why is it that all microphones look alike?"

This is the mic I usually point to when people ask that question: the Gefell UM900. Of course, it's not really as ubiquitous as a U87 or a C12 now is it?

Well, it's like asking why "most" doorways look alike - it's because of the shape of humans - a reference to the film Forbidden Planet as the Krell had triangular shaped doorways - sorry for the strange digression.

"Most" microphones like alike for practical reasons - then occasionally designers step outside that.

I went through a phase of buying Blues mics, I had a KIWI and a Bottle system and whilst they did look cool I ended up not caring for their sound and sold them, so looks aren't everything.

But sure, instruments should be inspiring and I think my Wunder CM7 looks very classy and iconic as well as sounding sublime.

I think the new Redd mic looks fab too, as does a Bock 251 - mics are pretty sexy looking items when you think about it!
Old 17th May 2017
  #9
Lives for gear
 
nightchef's Avatar
 

About a decade ago I was shopping for a new LDC in the $1000-ish range and my choices came down to a Soundelux U195 and a Gefell M930. Both great-sounding mics, and I could hear pluses and minuses in both. It really felt almost like a coin flip. I ended up choosing the U195, and I don't doubt that the scale was tipped at least slightly by the greater "shiny object factor" of the U195.

Another side of mic selection psychology is timing. I've found that if I ask a client to A/B two mics, they tend to prefer the second one. I think it's partly recency bias and partly just acclimating to the listening situation.
Old 17th May 2017
  #10
There are some pretty unique designs that have come out through the years. Most have not become iconic though.

I'm thinking about the Black Hole mic by JZ. I owned one. Wasn't crazy about it but it definitely has the most unique shockmount of any mic I've ever seen.

JZ Black Hole |

2
Share
Old 17th May 2017
  #11
I believe in the "press conference lmi line up"method is the only way to go when selecting a mic for a sing your havent worked with before.

Line up about 5 or 6 mic's

Your best guess mic's + some other possibles

Then shoot them out blind.

The real trick is speed and not wearing the signer out with take after take. Just a few warm up runs through is all you can expect.

You may also have to manage the artists expectation if the mic chosen as best isn't the coolest "pop video" looking one.

It may be that one mic for the verses and another (with totally different compression) for loud choruses is the best solution.

You can also audition mic pre's but again super fast patch bay changes make this go better.
1
Share
Old 17th May 2017
  #12
Lives for gear
 
Sharp11's Avatar
 

There's a "psychology" to choosing anything, it's called marketing, and it's why, when you bought the cheapest of the three version of most any automobile, you got black door handles, bumpers and poverty hub caps.
Old 17th May 2017
  #13
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jules View Post
IYou may also have to manage the artists expectation if the mic chosen as best isn't the coolest "pop video" looking one.
High likelihood the mic in the video isn't the one on the record anyway. Even Elvis didn't record with an Elvis mic.
3
Share
Old 17th May 2017
  #14
Lives for gear
 
gsilbers's Avatar
 

interesting topic for sure.

Pro audio it hink is a lot like music ins the sense that you don't want music that sounds too new and want something that sounds like X but with a little like X with maybe a marketing twist. remember trying to describe Korn back in the day? (man im old)
so with mics its similar I think since people most covet those u67 and u87 when many other mics sound similarly good.
ITs mainly because there have been so many hits done with u87 that people/engineers want that sounds. but can another brand at similar price point achieve this? for sure! would anyone notice if other mics would have been used? so now all this lines of never endless clones of those mics but people want the original. with all the advances on technologies, cant we figure out a better sounding mic that one from 60 years ago?!?

The above Is my theory when it comes to producers and engineers.. but this thread brings in a new twist; newbies go into the studios looking for mics that their heros use when they record because that's what they see on videos. and that's the whole world of youtube we have entered. those clients want to be seen with the same mics those big stars use.
1
Share
Old 17th May 2017
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by gsilbers View Post
newbies go into the studios looking for mics that their heros use when they record because that's what they see on videos. and that's the whole world of youtube we have entered. those clients want to be seen with the same mics those big stars use.
I had a friend with an SSL room in Hawaii. I asked how much it was used these days. "I still book it for music occasionally but we're doing more photoshoots." I looked puzzled. "Well, the rappers make their records at home on their Mbox but then want a photo with them sitting in front of a big console. It's all about cred. They don't want people thinking they made their record in a spare bedroom."

The same may be true with mics. You can make your record with a Behringer C1 but you definitely need a U47 for the video. Just for cred.
7
Share
Old 20th May 2017
  #16
Lives for gear
 
antichef's Avatar
Performance is king. If I can improve a singer's performance by determining the astrological signs of a few mics to get a good star-match, it's worth it. (that hasn't come up for me yet - haha, and the best singers I work with don't seem to care too much about which mic they're singing into, but you get it...)
Old 20th May 2017
  #17
Lives for gear
 
antichef's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lynn Fuston View Post
The same may be true with mics. You can make your record with a Behringer C1 but you definitely need a U47 for the video. Just for cred.
I recorded a guy recently with a Josephson C716 - came out beautifully and I sent him the audio. Next thing I know it's up in a video with him 'singing' into a Baby Bottle
1
Share
Old 20th May 2017
  #18
Lives for gear
 
robert82's Avatar
The industry early on seemed to have settled on 'phallic' as the primary shape for a mic.
How's that for psychology?
Old 20th May 2017
  #19
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by robert82 View Post
The industry early on seemed to have settled on 'phallic' as the primary shape for a mic.
How's that for psychology?
Yes, and some people think a bigger microphone MUST sound better.
Old 30th May 2017
  #20
Lives for gear
 
gsilbers's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by robert82 View Post
The industry early on seemed to have settled on 'phallic' as the primary shape for a mic.
How's that for psychology?
very Freudian of you
Old 30th May 2017
  #21
Lives for gear
 
ARIEL's Avatar
Out of the almost 2 decades of producing out of Vancouver I rarely ever encounter the pyschology issue or name brand or "famous artist" used this mic or amp so we must issue. They choose to work with me due to my previous works/rep so they trust my use of gear. Now I just recorded vocals and the singer suggested an SM7, I usually use my AT4050 so we A/B'd. I always default to my AT4050 for vocals as I know how to work that mic in mixing for rock and metal. He preferred the AT4050 as it seemed a bit more alive. But I would say that the SM7 had a nice flat response that would make mixing easier. So that is the extent of any stuff I deal with thankfully. It is usually more of a "can we try this" collaboration etc. Perhaps it's more of a west coast laid back Canadian thing that makes it easier for us to work up here Saying that, Sometimes there is the odd battle but that is not with gear or mics but the music itself. Now that is a boatload of psychological stuff !
Old 30th May 2017
  #22
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by robert82 View Post
The industry early on seemed to have settled on 'phallic' as the primary shape for a mic.
How's that for psychology?
With the Blue Bottle being on the "kinky" side of that psychology
Old 23rd July 2017
  #23
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lynn Fuston View Post
There are some pretty unique designs that have come out through the years. Most have not become iconic though.

I'm thinking about the Black Hole mic by JZ. I owned one. Wasn't crazy about it but it definitely has the most unique shockmount of any mic I've ever seen.

JZ Black Hole |

I love this mic. Modern yet not too sibilant. Great for pop vocals that need to cut.
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Forum Jump
Forum Jump