You are here

About to buy a Mic and a Preamp - Suggestions...

All about the tools and techniques involved in capturing sound, in the studio or on location.

About to buy a Mic and a Preamp - Suggestions...

Postby techKilla » Wed Aug 17, 2011 12:31 am

Hi all,
I'm about to get one or two "good" mics (mainly for vocals) and an accompanying preamp/strip channel for my low-budget studio. I'd appreciate your thoughts, if you know anything about these models...

MICS-
1st choice: Get the BLUE BLUEBERRY (I really like my BLUE BABY BOTTLE and the word around this one seems promising). Also get the BLUE WOODPECKER (I don't own a ribbon mic yet; this one seems promising too). Both for around 2000€ OR
2nd choice: Get the NEUMANN U87 AI (classic with "heavy" reputation) for around 2000€

PREAMPS-
1st choice: Get the AVALON VT-737SP SPECIAL EDITION (I think for many a dream machine). Cost 2000€.
2nd choice: Get the FOCUSRITE LIQUIDCHANNEL (almost a swiss-army knife, although hybrid and I'd like to keep my signal as analog as it can be prior to the recording). Cost: around 1800€
3rd choice: Get the UNIVERSAL AUDIO LA-610 MKII. Another classic for only 1500€, although it doesn't have an EQ section.

If anyone would want to share a thought or two, you would be of a great help!

Thanks in advance all...
User avatar
techKilla
New here
Posts: 5
Joined: Tue Aug 16, 2011 11:00 pm

Re: About to buy a Mic and a Preamp - Suggestions...

Postby MarcusH » Wed Aug 17, 2011 5:39 am

I did something similar a few years ago and chose a U87Ai and a Universal Audio LA610.

The LA610 is OK but I wouldn't buy it again - in my case, it was/is my only decent preamp - and so maybe I should have got one with less colouring - moreover I don't use the compressor and I scarcely use the shelving Eq.

I think if I could make that purchase again, I would want two channels and maximum clean transparency. After all, you can always introduce character, coloration and compression in the box. Ironically, part of the reason that I don't use the LA610's features to the full, is because the Universal Audio UAD plugins are so good.

So faced with the same choice again - personally, from the SOS reviews I've seen, I'd be looking at products like the MPA1 and the AEA RPQ - or even the Grace Design M201 (though that is out of your original budget).

Cheers

Marcus
MarcusH
Regular
Posts: 268
Joined: Sat Feb 02, 2008 12:00 am
Location: Tanzania
You live. You learn.

Re: About to buy a Mic and a Preamp - Suggestions...

Postby The Elf » Wed Aug 17, 2011 7:39 am

I can't speak for the UA, but I've had my Liquid Channels and VT-737 side by side in the studio. The LC sounded identical in the circumstances in which I was using it.

I never regretted buying my LCs and doubt I ever will. I just hope the gurus over at GS keep slagging it off so I can afford a rackful of them!

The U87Ai is a superb mic and another of those 'no regrets' puchases. The only time I take it down is when I have a high-pitched voice to record, when something a little more forgiving - often a dynamic - is called for.
User avatar
The Elf
Jedi Poster
Posts: 9936
Joined: Mon Aug 13, 2001 11:00 pm
Location: Sheffield, UK

An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.


Re: About to buy a Mic and a Preamp - Suggestions...

Postby Darren Lynch » Wed Aug 17, 2011 8:06 am

My initial thought was your choices were overkill for a budget studio. But then myself and others have often spent more than the purchase price of a U87 on a series of LDCs. If you have the cojones to shell out for a U87 that's you set for life. Period. One thing - high quality mics will be far more sensitive to issues in your recording environment.
Darren Lynch
Regular
Posts: 380
Joined: Tue Feb 25, 2003 12:00 am

Re: About to buy a Mic and a Preamp - Suggestions...

Postby James Perrett » Wed Aug 17, 2011 9:41 am

If someone wants to record a vocal at my place in my current temporary studio then I'll set up a U87 and probably just plug it into a Behringer ADA8000. In my opinion, mic choice and room acoustics are far more important than the preamp. The U87 works on just about any sound source.

James.
James Perrett
Moderator
Posts: 5764
Joined: Sun Sep 09, 2001 11:00 pm
Location: The wilds of Hampshire

JRP Music - Audio Mastering and Restoration.
http://www.jrpmusic.co.uk


Re: About to buy a Mic and a Preamp - Suggestions...

Postby techKilla » Wed Aug 17, 2011 11:54 am

Thanks to everyone for your quick answers!
Since my recording environment is good, I think I'll go for the U87 and the LIQUIDCHANNEL.

Apart from that:
Has anyone heard the BLUEBURRY? Is it really that nice for modern vocals (for its cost)?

And this one goes for "The Elf" (or anyone who wishes to participate):
Out of curiosity, which dynamic mic are you using? I'm always hesitant to use them for vocals (although I did for a couple of hip-hop productions), because they seem always "muddy" contrast to their capacitor "brothers". Is there a decent one out there for quality productions?
User avatar
techKilla
New here
Posts: 5
Joined: Tue Aug 16, 2011 11:00 pm

Re: About to buy a Mic and a Preamp - Suggestions...

Postby The Elf » Wed Aug 17, 2011 12:03 pm

techKilla wrote:And this one goes for "The Elf" (or anyone who wishes to participate):
Out of curiosity, which dynamic mic are you using? I'm always hesitant to use them for vocals (although I did for a couple of hip-hop productions), because they seem always "muddy" contrast to their capacitor "brothers". Is there a decent one out there for quality productions?
There are many. My personal favourite is the Sennheiser MD441. When I need to make a voice a little less peaky that'll do it for me 75% of the time. I'm not averse to putting an MD421 or an SM58 up too. These are all great mic's when the circumstances are right, but they might not have that whispery top and rich lows that are often associated with 'quality'.

If all else fails I'm often to be found planting an MXL V6 (tube-emulating capacitor mic) in front of a vocalist - that mic adores a couple of my regular artists, to the point where they justifably won't use much else.

HTH!
User avatar
The Elf
Jedi Poster
Posts: 9936
Joined: Mon Aug 13, 2001 11:00 pm
Location: Sheffield, UK

An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.


Re: About to buy a Mic and a Preamp - Suggestions...

Postby techKilla » Wed Aug 17, 2011 12:28 pm

Thank you Elf for the insight.
I have used the SM58. Its a real work-horse for live recordings but I rarely use it for overdubs for the "quality" reasons you mentioned.
The MD421 though seems quite qood for its price. Never thought about that; maybe for a future addition...

Thanks again
User avatar
techKilla
New here
Posts: 5
Joined: Tue Aug 16, 2011 11:00 pm

Re: About to buy a Mic and a Preamp - Suggestions...

Postby MarcusH » Wed Aug 17, 2011 3:27 pm

Darren Lynch wrote:My initial thought was your choices were overkill for a budget studio. But then myself and others have often spent more than the purchase price of a U87 on a series of LDCs. If you have the cojones to shell out for a U87 that's you set for life. Period.

Those are exactly the reasons that I bought my U87 and LA-610. It was pointless buying a series of mics and pre's I was unhappy with and 'upgrading them'. Besides, top quality gear keeps its second hand value better.

Marvellous mic it may be, but unfortunately, the U87 can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear - like my singing But apart from that I'm happy.
MarcusH
Regular
Posts: 268
Joined: Sat Feb 02, 2008 12:00 am
Location: Tanzania
You live. You learn.

Re: About to buy a Mic and a Preamp - Suggestions...

Postby ef37a » Wed Aug 17, 2011 4:28 pm

One dual channel pre that hardly get a mention is the Audient Mico.

I seem to remember Hugh was quite taken and it has the rare distiction of a digital output which of course means that if like me you have a near redundant S/PDIF input you get four channels on the soundcard/AI.

EQ and dynamics are I understand best left these days to software post tracking?

Dave.
ef37a
Jedi Poster
Posts: 7081
Joined: Sun May 28, 2006 11:00 pm
Location: northampton uk

#They did not listen, they are not listening still...Perhaps they never will?#


Re: About to buy a Mic and a Preamp - Suggestions...

Postby Martin Walker » Wed Aug 17, 2011 8:03 pm

Ah, I suspected someone else would beat me to mentioning the Audient Mico Dave

This is the one I chose about a yea ago for my own use, partly as you say because it offers a digital output that can be plugged directly into an existing S/PDIF audio interface input, but also because it’s essentially clean and transparent but has the option of introducing colour (HMX) on one channel, and variphase on the other for tweaks. oh, and it also has a high impedance DI input on the front panel too, which is perfect for plugging in visiting guitars.

It sounds wonderful for my sound design purposes (capturing things cleanly through a variety of mics) but gives me enough flexibility to cope with all sorts of ‘creative’ options that crop up. Highly recommended!

Image

Here’s Hugh’s review for more info and another opinion:

www.soundonsound.com/sos/may09/articles/audientmico.htm





Martin
User avatar
Martin Walker
Moderator
Posts: 9575
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 8:44 am
Location: Cornwall, UK

Re: About to buy a Mic and a Preamp - Suggestions...

Postby Darren Lynch » Thu Aug 18, 2011 9:05 am

techKilla wrote:
And this one goes for "The Elf" (or anyone who wishes to participate):
Out of curiosity, which dynamic mic are you using? I'm always hesitant to use them for vocals (although I did for a couple of hip-hop productions), because they seem always "muddy" contrast to their capacitor "brothers". Is there a decent one out there for quality productions?

I like SM58s, 57s...but for an instantly 'produced' sound from a dynamic, the Audix OM range is hard to beat for the money. I have a OM3, tight bass, open highs, sits in a mix with minimal EQ. It got a good review in SoS. It's cheaper than the classics (421, 441), but holds its own.
Darren Lynch
Regular
Posts: 380
Joined: Tue Feb 25, 2003 12:00 am

Re: About to buy a Mic and a Preamp - Suggestions...

Postby ef37a » Thu Aug 18, 2011 9:28 am

I resisted buying an SM57 for a long time. I had a Sontronics STC-2 LDC and two small caps' the AKG P150 (the P170 is virtually the same current model). I was happy being deef! But son never was, quite. So I relented and bought a '57 and my worst fears were realized! Fork, this thing is barely any more sensitive than my Reslo RBs!

But, with our ZED 10 all but max'ed out gainwise son absolutely loves it! Even for acoustic guitar he is very chuffed with "smooth, even sound". One plus point is that it pretty much forces him to keep his levels down! He has spent far too long getting a decent noise performance out of a Teac 4 track OR and my attempts at neg 18 education have not so far sunk in!

I suppose one of THE classic vocal dynamics is the Shure SM7B? But lottalolly and even less sensitive than the 57/58s. There are now some very well repp'ed budget ribbons around, smoother and a bit more HF than the dymos but not as "glassy" as many capacitors perhaps? Sennheiser and EV do some nice dynamics too of course.

Dave.
ef37a
Jedi Poster
Posts: 7081
Joined: Sun May 28, 2006 11:00 pm
Location: northampton uk

#They did not listen, they are not listening still...Perhaps they never will?#


Re: About to buy a Mic and a Preamp - Suggestions...

Postby techKilla » Mon Aug 22, 2011 11:26 pm

ef37a wrote:

EQ and dynamics are I understand best left these days to software post tracking?


Well, thats true most of the times but there are cases you might want the EQ prior the recording if:
a. you know EXACTLY what you are doing
b. you're being gentle with it
c. your EQ model is of the highest quality OR you like its coloring.

Now, the compressor is a bit trickier. I use it frequently for vocals BEFORE the recording (i.e. digitization). Not quite as your regular vocal compressor in mixing (I'm still using that one too), but rather to "even out" the vast dynamic range of the human voice (little threshold, small ratio, fast attack). You'll end up with a more usable signal, fatter, with more clarity and better SNR. Of course for the trick to work you'll need a HARDWARE compressor, preferably one you like and trust.

Apart from that the MICO has some nice features and the best part is its cost. For the moment though I think I'll stick to the LIQUIDCHANNEL mainly because you get around 40 pre-amps in the price of ...well, 3!


I'll definitely have it mind though, especially if the internal converters are good...
User avatar
techKilla
New here
Posts: 5
Joined: Tue Aug 16, 2011 11:00 pm

Re: About to buy a Mic and a Preamp - Suggestions...

Postby MarcusH » Tue Aug 23, 2011 7:05 am

techKilla wrote:... you might want the EQ prior the recording if:
a. you know EXACTLY what you are doing
b. you're being gentle with it
c. your EQ model is of the highest quality OR you like its coloring.

Now, the compressor is a bit trickier. I use it frequently for vocals BEFORE the recording (i.e. digitization). Not quite as your regular vocal compressor in mixing (I'm still using that one too), but rather to "even out" the vast dynamic range of the human voice (little threshold, small ratio, fast attack). You'll end up with a more usable signal, fatter, with more clarity and better SNR. Of course for the trick to work you'll need a HARDWARE compressor, preferably one you like and trust.

Thanks. Interesting. What do you think I should be doing with my LA-610? I've been thinking about my first reply to your original post (i.e. was basically saying that I don't use the LA-610's Eq or compression but do it all in the box)

I think maybe I should use maximum low shelving cut at 70 Hz - as a sort of rumble filter. Then maybe about 2-3dB max of gain reduction in compressor mode?
MarcusH
Regular
Posts: 268
Joined: Sat Feb 02, 2008 12:00 am
Location: Tanzania
You live. You learn.

Re: About to buy a Mic and a Preamp - Suggestions...

Postby Jack Ruston » Tue Aug 23, 2011 7:07 am

All this stuff is very much personal opinion. For what it's worth, here's mine...

RE the U87: These mics seem to have developed a reputation for having this incredible 'Neumann' sound. In reality they're not a 'wow' mic at all. When we think about classic Neumann, a couple of (hard to describe) things spring to mind...there's a midrange focused presence and a slight 'sheen'. The U47 and M49 most obviously exhibit these charachteristics. 67's and even 47 fets do it too. The newer mics like the M149 and the TLM103 don't. And the U87 doesn't. It's not flattering to the sound at all. It doesn't have a rich low end. The midrange is not chesty and forward, in fact if anything it's a bit harsh in the high mids. There is no sheen. Engineers have always known this about the 87 and used it accordingly. It's a very good mic when you don't want those charachteristics, or when you need something solid that will just help you to record what's in front of you. But you need good engineering skills because you have to avoid the slight high midrange thing sometimes, and you might need to do other things if you want to flatter the source. It's a worthy mic in the same way that a 414 is. Neither are flattering, both are very useful, and both have their minus points. The reason I say all this is that in recent years there seems to be this tendency to believe that the 87 is somehow the definitive first choice vocal mic. It's really not. I mean, it can be sometimes, but it's more the exception than the rule depending on what you're doing. I'm not saying that you shouldn't get one, but you need to be aware of what to expect from it. You will not plug it in and go 'Wow!'. And for that money I personally would not buy one, unless you're doing RnB, Hip Hop etc for external clients. It's not that it's so much better for that than anything else, it's just that your clients might well believe that it is. Which is as good a reason as any.

Re the liquid channel. It's not 30 pres. It's one very good neutral preamp with a convolution engine providing an aproximation of the behaviour of 30 others. It does not sound as authentic as the marketing would have you believe. But, the variations are useful and do sound good in their own right. The problem is that it's not a great investment. The very second the LC2 comes out, you wont be able to give it away...Look at the old sintefex machines on which its technology is based. Thats the nature of technology products.

Re the 737: Not a great product...Not nearly as nice as the 2022 that they make. The preamp is good, the eq is ok and the compressor is very average indeed. In certain circles it's achieved a sort of legendary status for reasons unknown. Probably because it looks awesome. But you're paying a lot of money for a lovely front panel, and an eq and compressor that are probably best avoided. But your clients may love the thing.


The answer to your questions depends very much on what you need the stuff to do. Are you renting studio time to clients, and if so, what sort of clients are they? Or is this just for yourself?

Here's what I'd do if it was me...My shopping list would consist of

A Neve 1073 DPA (Not quite a vintage 1073, but a great choice)
An SM7 (amazing for rappers, screamers and rockers)
A Bock 241 (new, cheaper cardioid version of their 251)
A distressor
A CL1B

I'd look for all this used (except the Bock which you wont find). There are plenty around. I'd add the compressors later when funds allow. You should be able to get the mics and the mic amp for the price of a liquid channel plus an 87.

That's just what I'd do though of course.
Jack Ruston
Frequent Poster
Posts: 3471
Joined: Wed Dec 21, 2005 12:00 am

Re: About to buy a Mic and a Preamp - Suggestions...

Postby James Perrett » Tue Aug 23, 2011 9:31 am

Jack Ruston wrote:All this stuff is very much personal opinion. For what it's worth, here's mine...

RE the U87:
...
The reason I say all this is that in recent years there seems to be this tendency to believe that the 87 is somehow the definitive first choice vocal mic. It's really not. I mean, it can be sometimes, but it's more the exception than the rule depending on what you're doing. I'm not saying that you shouldn't get one, but you need to be aware of what to expect from it. You will not plug it in and go 'Wow!'.

I know that I'd disagree with some of this but your description of the sound applies much more to the ai version rather than the older P48 version that I have. However, I'd agree with the last sentence - the U87 is not an impressive sounding mic when you listen in isolation. Its qualities become more apparent when you are trying to get a sound to sit in a mix.

The Audix suggestion is also interesting as I've done a few vocal shootouts with an Audix OM5, U87, U47fet and VTL CR3A and found that the Audix sometimes wins. Whichever mic wins, the U87 is never lower than second place.

James.
James Perrett
Moderator
Posts: 5764
Joined: Sun Sep 09, 2001 11:00 pm
Location: The wilds of Hampshire

JRP Music - Audio Mastering and Restoration.
http://www.jrpmusic.co.uk


Re: About to buy a Mic and a Preamp - Suggestions...

Postby techKilla » Tue Aug 23, 2011 2:23 pm

@MarcusH:
If we are still talking about vocals the low-shelving will probably work for most pop/rock performances. I might leave it alone though for a barittone singer. Another thing: in most cases the MICROPHONE'S low-shelve switch worked better than the pre-amp's one. Cleaner and with less coloring. If you have a microphone with a low-shelve switch try that as well (or at least record something in both manners to see which one works best for your project).
2-3dB gain reduction is perfect for what you want. It will serve you well on most cases. In time, you might even get down to 5-6dBs, depending on the singer and the genre (you know; the guys who scream "I HAAAAAATE YOUOUOUOUOUOUOU!!!!" for 2 and a half minutes in front of your mic!). Don't go lower than that though, unless you REALLY know what you want, because everything here is irreversible.

@Jack Ruston:
I think that both the Neve 1073 DPA and and the SM7 are great alternatives to the Liquidchannel and the MD421 respectively.
I'm not sure about the BOCK 241 though. Not because its not a great mic, but because it can't compete with the U87 in terms of the "client factor" you mention. ("Whoa dude! Is that a Newmann mic and a Neve pre-amp there? Cooool!!")
Vain as it is, even my grandmother knows these brands! (well, not exactly but you get the point...)
The compressors are quite expensive as well. But I guess you can't settle for less if you are talking about such mics and pre-amps. Maybe later, you are right on that one too!
Thanks for your perspective...
User avatar
techKilla
New here
Posts: 5
Joined: Tue Aug 16, 2011 11:00 pm

Re: About to buy a Mic and a Preamp - Suggestions...

Postby Jack Ruston » Tue Aug 23, 2011 2:30 pm

techKilla wrote:
@Jack Ruston:
I think that both the Neve 1073 DPA and and the SM7 are great alternatives to the Liquidchannel and the MD421 respectively.
I'm not sure about the BOCK 241 though. Not because its not a great mic, but because it can't compete with the U87 in terms of the "client factor" you mention. ("Whoa dude! Is that a Newmann mic and a Neve pre-amp there? Cooool!!")
Vain as it is, even my grandmother knows these brands! (well, not exactly but you get the point...)

True.
Jack Ruston
Frequent Poster
Posts: 3471
Joined: Wed Dec 21, 2005 12:00 am

Re: About to buy a Mic and a Preamp - Suggestions...

Postby The Elf » Tue Aug 23, 2011 4:51 pm

The U87 is a fabulous mic and the Ai even more so, having a higher output and a bit more 'air'. Ignore GS-speak about 'harshness' - I have both old and new U87s side-by-side in the studio regularly enough to know that's nonsense.

No, it never sounds 'wow', but track up a few vocals with a U87 and you begin to realise its strength. It's not a 'sound amazing' mic - it's a 'sound right' mic. You can't lose with it.
User avatar
The Elf
Jedi Poster
Posts: 9936
Joined: Mon Aug 13, 2001 11:00 pm
Location: Sheffield, UK

An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: ConcertinaChap and 2 guests