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Do I really need an LDC?

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Do I really need an LDC?

Postby Jonny DiBergi » Tue May 14, 2013 11:06 am

Hello!

Never really caring that much about my recorded vocal sound I've been using an NT1a for many years. I mostly just demo songs for other people to sing, or record BVs and it does a reasonable job. I'm taking my singing a bit more seriously now and am doing a little collection of songs, and I'm looking to upgrade. Initially I started looking for just a better LDC but I'm wondering if that's definitely the right way to go, and whether looking at a nice dynamic would be worthwhile?

Budget is low, something around £300 would be do-able, maybe more. Not sure I can be specific about the sort of sound I'm after - happy to take recommendations based on my voice, which can be heard on this here song: soundcloud

I have a helpful combination of a warm bass-bari, screechy head voice, and a bit of sibilance. Any ideas, LDC or otherwise?

Thanks in advance

(Ps, if it could be decent on acoustic guitar, that would be a bonus..)
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Re: Do I really need an LDC?

Postby Stef Andrews » Tue May 14, 2013 12:13 pm

If you can stretch the extra £76, the Audio Technica 4033 is fantastic on just about anything you can throw at it (don't actually throw stuff at it though, unless you've got a REALLY good pop shield!). Vocals, guitar amps, acoustic guitar, upright bass, (in a pair) as drum overheads, upright bass, kick mic on a jazz kit are uses I've had for them off the top of my head and i'm sure I could think of more if i tried!

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Re: Do I really need an LDC?

Postby ConcertinaChap » Tue May 14, 2013 12:18 pm

Given that the NT1a is actually not a bad mic, what problems do you see with the sound you're getting from it now?

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Re: Do I really need an LDC?

Postby Jonny DiBergi » Tue May 14, 2013 12:46 pm

ConcertinaChap wrote:Given that the NT1a is actually not a bad mic, what problems do you see with the sound you're getting from it now?

CC


The top end is a bit raspy and aggressive. I'm not saying I'm looking for something mellow and the airy lift is nice, but I don't find it particularly rich or flattering and with any extreme eq it can get a bit nasty. I think the characteristics of the NT1a are quite well-known - as you say it's not a bad mic, but I don't particularly love it and I think it's time to take a step upwards.
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Re: Do I really need an LDC?

Postby Jonny DiBergi » Tue May 14, 2013 12:49 pm

Stef Andrews wrote:If you can stretch the extra £76, the Audio Technica 4033 is fantastic on just about anything you can throw at it (don't actually throw stuff at it though, unless you've got a REALLY good pop shield!). Vocals, guitar amps, acoustic guitar, upright bass, (in a pair) as drum overheads, upright bass, kick mic on a jazz kit are uses I've had for them off the top of my head and i'm sure I could think of more if i tried!

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Thanks Stef, I did see that getting recommended (by yourself and others I think) in another current thread, and it's on the list. There's one mic on the list at the moment.

I'm really hoping someone who knows their cherries will listen to the recording and say "I recorded a guy like that and a xxxx sounded great on him. Also it was perfect for acoustic instruments and cost next to nothing."
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Re: Do I really need an LDC?

Postby Mike Stranks » Tue May 14, 2013 1:24 pm

The Sennheiser MK4 is spot-on budget-wise. I've heard good reports. Bob Bickerton has one; maybe he'll be along to give his opinion...
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Re: Do I really need an LDC?

Postby Jonny DiBergi » Tue May 14, 2013 2:01 pm

Mike Stranks wrote:The Sennheiser MK4 is spot-on budget-wise. I've heard good reports. Bob Bickerton has one; maybe he'll be along to give his opinion...

Just listened to Bob's 'blind' comparison with the TLMs and a C414 which was interesting. Quite a chunky sound, though maybe not super-defined. Beginning to think I should be looking at a higher price range as these all seem to be variations on a theme that the NT1a isn't a million miles away from...
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Re: Do I really need an LDC?

Postby ConcertinaChap » Tue May 14, 2013 2:56 pm

Jonny DiBergi wrote:The top end is a bit raspy and aggressive. I'm not saying I'm looking for something mellow and the airy lift is nice, but I don't find it particularly rich or flattering and with any extreme eq it can get a bit nasty. I think the characteristics of the NT1a are quite well-known - as you say it's not a bad mic, but I don't particularly love it and I think it's time to take a step upwards.

Well in that case I think I'd go a +1 on the AT4033a. Excellent mic for the money and also comes up quite often on ebay (I see there's one there right now for £215).

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Re: Do I really need an LDC?

Postby Jonny DiBergi » Tue May 14, 2013 5:48 pm

Hmm, I'm actually looking at SM7, RE-20 and PR-40s now...
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Re: Do I really need an LDC?

Postby Bob Bickerton » Tue May 14, 2013 7:05 pm

I like the MK4 on certain voices, usually female where I'm after a HF lift. But is has a similar (but nicer) character to the NT1a.

The SM7 is a great vocal mic and having listened to your track (unfortunately only on an ipad speaker) it would probably be the first mic I'd put up if you came into the studio. It needs to be worked close like a stage mic.

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Re: Do I really need an LDC?

Postby Bob Bickerton » Tue May 14, 2013 7:05 pm

I like the MK4 on certain voices, usually female where I'm after a HF lift. But is has a similar (but nicer) character to the NT1a.

The SM7 is a great vocal mic and having listened to your track (unfortunately only on an ipad speaker) it would probably be the first mic I'd put up if you came into the studio. It needs to be worked close like a stage mic.

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Re: Do I really need an LDC?

Postby Tim Gillett » Wed May 15, 2013 4:11 am

Jon, I've just listened to you Soundcloud track through a good system. Sounds good. I wouldnt change much. Your vocal gets a touch lost in the mix when all instruments/voices are playing but apart from that, sounds pretty good.

Honestly, I doubt if a change of mic would help. Are you EQing/Compressing your vocal now in mixing? So long as your mic is being used correctly, is reasonable, and the NT1 is, the most important tweaking for the voice mic is EQ and comp.

Sadly there seems to be an idea about that since the mic is the first link in the chain, you need to find "that" vocal mic which complements your own voice perfectly. A bit like finding the perfect marriage partner. It just doesnt work like that. Basically, one good mic will capture any human voice. If there are tweaks to be made on a particular voice, that's what processing is for. Searching for "that" mic which relieves you of the chore of processing in the mix is not the way to do it. You have to use your ears and learn the art of processing the sound - if and when needed. And it seems you've already mostly done that.

Think of the countless professional recordings of top artists, male, female, basso, soprano and everything in between, made with the same one mic, for decades. What do we know that award winning recording engineers didnt?

Hope this helps,

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Re: Do I really need an LDC?

Postby shufflebeat » Wed May 15, 2013 8:50 am

Basically, one good mic will capture any human voice. If there are tweaks to be made on a particular voice, that's what processing is for. Searching for "that" mic which relieves you of the chore of processing in the mix is not the way to do it.

Nah, often finding the mic that suits the voice/scenario is a pretty important first step in defining the sound of the project.
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Re: Do I really need an LDC?

Postby Bob Bickerton » Wed May 15, 2013 11:18 am

Tim Gillett wrote:Jon, I've just listened to you Soundcloud track through a good system. Sounds good. I wouldnt change much. Your vocal gets a touch lost in the mix when all instruments/voices are playing but apart from that, sounds pretty good.

Honestly, I doubt if a change of mic would help. Are you EQing/Compressing your vocal now in mixing? So long as your mic is being used correctly, is reasonable, and the NT1 is, the most important tweaking for the voice mic is EQ and comp.

Sadly there seems to be an idea about that since the mic is the first link in the chain, you need to find "that" vocal mic which complements your own voice perfectly. A bit like finding the perfect marriage partner. It just doesnt work like that. Basically, one good mic will capture any human voice. If there are tweaks to be made on a particular voice, that's what processing is for. Searching for "that" mic which relieves you of the chore of processing in the mix is not the way to do it. You have to use your ears and learn the art of processing the sound - if and when needed. And it seems you've already mostly done that.

Think of the countless professional recordings of top artists, male, female, basso, soprano and everything in between, made with the same one mic, for decades. What do we know that award winning recording engineers didnt?

Hope this helps,

Tim

Have to disagree.

Finding the right mic for the given source positioned correctly and with minimal processing is the way to go. Your assertion that the NT1a is a reasonable mic is also questionable! It's a cheap mic with a nasty high end which may possibly suit some sources but not many in my opinion.

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Re: Do I really need an LDC?

Postby Jonny DiBergi » Wed May 15, 2013 7:40 pm

Bob is saying all the right things here

The SM7 is looking like it's worth a blast, and I appear to have convinced myself that I should get an Isa One to go with it...

My 'style' does feature quite a lot of long consonants and since I have a goofy front tooth they're a bit lively - I would really like something I can just relax and sing into. Almost everything I'm reading about the SM7 is saying go for it, including that it will help hide the fact that my room isn't ideal.

Tim thanks for the thoughts and kind words. There was a bit of EQ and a fair amount of compression. I would like to use more actually but recordings with the NT1a don't seem to always respond the way I'd like them to. Things get sibilant and just a bit unpleasant which is why I'm looking for something else.

As a bonus, when pointing out to the wife that the SM7 is good on female vox, she sounds keen to chip in! Happy days.
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Re: Do I really need an LDC?

Postby Tim Gillett » Thu May 16, 2013 1:04 am

Bob, I agree with you that finding the right mic for the given source, positioned correctly and with minimal processing is the way to go.

But "minimal processing" can be taken to extremes. I see the NT1a is pretty flat but has a peak of 6db around 13khz, something easily tamed in processing if you are aware of it.

The fact is various vocalists have voices with excessive sibilance, far greater than the NT1a's peak. I recorded one last night and will have to deal with it in mixdown. Nobody in their right mind would go looking for a quality mic designed specifically to reduce excessive sibilance for example. They just dont make them. The manufacturers expect that the audio engineer knows his stuff, can use his ears and make his own judgements and corrections in mixdown.

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Re: Do I really need an LDC?

Postby Bob Bickerton » Thu May 16, 2013 5:35 am

Tim Gillett wrote:Bob, I agree with you that finding the right mic for the given source, positioned correctly and with minimal processing is the way to go.

If so why the following?

Tim Gillett wrote:But "minimal processing" can be taken to extremes. I see the NT1a is pretty flat but has a peak of 6db around 13khz, something easily tamed in processing if you are aware of it.

Actually it's anything but flat, the foothills start way down but more important is how it sounds!

Tim Gillett wrote: The fact is various vocalists have voices with excessive sibilance, far greater than the NT1a's peak. I recorded one last night and will have to deal with it in mixdown.

Recording a sibilant person with a harsh mic is making your job doubly difficult relative to using the right mic for the task.

Tim Gillett wrote: Nobody in their right mind would go looking for a quality mic designed specifically to reduce excessive sibilance for example.

I must be out of my mind!

Tim Gillett wrote: They just dont make them.

Actually they do, good dynamics, ribbon mics TLM193.........

Tim Gillett wrote: The manufacturers expect that the audio engineer knows his stuff, can use his ears and make his own judgements and corrections in mixdown.

Now your implying if we cant make a good recording with any old chinese mic it is the fault of the engineer and likewise implying that theres no need for quality microphones, sorry but thats nonsense. An audio engineer who knows his stuff will use his ears and judgements to select the right microphone for the task and make minimal corrections at mix down. Which is not to say they won't do their best to fix a poor recording, but most of us have learnt it easier to get it right first up.

However its true to say that if you're on a limited budget then its not always possible to have a range of mics. But some are keepers and some are quitters and I'd say SM7, TLM193 fall into the former and NT1a fall into the latter.

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Re: Do I really need an LDC?

Postby Mike Stranks » Thu May 16, 2013 8:22 am

I'd stop digging Tim...

I'm at the very shallow-end in terms of being able to afford quality microphones, but even the budget mics I use (and I'd classify the NT1A as a budget mic) display differing characteristics that are far more complex than just what their frequency-response plot indicates. So even though I'm on a tight budget I still have a range of mics that I'll use for vocals - seeking to suit mic and voice.

... there's more to it than 'fixing it in the mix'.
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Re: Do I really need an LDC?

Postby Tim Gillett » Thu May 16, 2013 11:40 am

Mike Stranks wrote:I'd stop digging Tim...

I'm at the very shallow-end in terms of being able to afford quality microphones, but even the budget mics I use (and I'd classify the NT1A as a budget mic) display differing characteristics that are far more complex than just what their frequency-response plot indicates. So even though I'm on a tight budget I still have a range of mics that I'll use for vocals - seeking to suit mic and voice.

... there's more to it than 'fixing it in the mix'.

I'd stop insinuating, Mike...

We were discussing sibilance and frequency response, or at least Bob and the OP were. Sure, there are other characteristics in a mic other than just its frequency response. So what do you see as the other characteristics which would have a noticeable impact on the vocalist's recorded sound here when using the NT1a? Please be specific.

Of course there's more to it than "fixing it in the mix" but how many even know how to "fix it in the mix" even when the very best gear and technique has been used in tracking? I suspect many home recordists for example not only record flat, as do many skilled people also, but leave it flat in the mix, even when, for example, there is a huge bass boost on a vocal due to proximity effect. Perhaps they mistakenly believe that having bought their "gold standard" vocal mic, or the one which they are convinced suits their voice perfectly that there's nothing else to do. The fact is most unidirectional mic's bass responses change wildly depending on how close the source is to the diaphragm. If either at the recording stage or the mixing stage we are not allowing for that, especially by using our ears, we still have some things to learn.

Last night I recorded a vocalist who had a quite weak, muffled voice, but his sibilants were at normal level. Hence in relation to the rest of his voice his sibilants were very prominent. I quickly became aware of this but chose not to do anything about it, knowing I could indeed "fix it in the mix" with some carefully applied EQ.

If it had been 70 years ago, recording to media with limited dynamic range especially in the highs, I would probably have had to take action at the time just to get a clean undistorted recording. But it was not 70 years ago but today with good modern gear. Good mid priced mics, pre's and converters and mixing software make that possible. There's usually oodles of wiggle room without creating excessive noise or distortion. (BTW you can tell I'm not a youngster when I make that comment)

I'm sorry but often you can fix it in the mix,at least EQ issues like this, and of this order if you have the skills to do so.
Sure, I'd start with a good mic with substantially flat response but that's just the starting point. I'd go so far as to say that if someone claiming to have good audio engineering skills cant get a simple vocal track to sound excellent using a mic such as an NT1a, they have some learning still to do in that department.

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Re: Do I really need an LDC?

Postby Dynamic Mike » Thu May 16, 2013 1:07 pm

If you record an electro-acoustic guitar with 2 different mics & DI it, then run all 3 tracks through a spectrum analyser the Eq curves are virtually indistinguishable. But no amount of Eq matching or tweaking will make those tracks give you the same timbre.
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Re: Do I really need an LDC?

Postby Tim Gillett » Thu May 16, 2013 3:07 pm

Dynamic Mike wrote:If you record an electro-acoustic guitar with 2 different mics & DI it, then run all 3 tracks through a spectrum analyser the Eq curves are virtually indistinguishable. But no amount of Eq matching or tweaking will make those tracks give you the same timbre.

A bit off topic perhaps but since you mentioned it... I'm a guitarist too. Of course the inbuilt pickup of the guitar, be it the magnetic induction type or a piezo type mechanically coupled to the strings will sound very different from any mic placed in the normal position in front of the guitar. The sound is being transmitted very differently.

I also very much doubt that the spectrum plots would look the same because a spectrum analyzer does not display the true waveform. It's just a graphical representation in terms of amplitude and frequency which can be very handy for analysis.

But if the actual waveforms were identical then the sounds would also be identical.
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Re: Do I really need an LDC?

Postby LeeJamieHayes » Thu May 16, 2013 4:09 pm

+1 on the SM7

Im going to get myself one at the end of the month to have a play around with as Im loving the sound they produce. They're also good for tracking guides or recording live as they have a really impressive off axis rejection!
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Re: Do I really need an LDC?

Postby Dynamic Mike » Thu May 16, 2013 11:14 pm

Tim Gillett wrote:But if the actual waveforms were identical then the sounds would also be identical.

This is only true for a pure sine wave.
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Re: Do I really need an LDC?

Postby Tim Gillett » Fri May 17, 2013 12:55 am

Dynamic Mike wrote:
Tim Gillett wrote:But if the actual waveforms were identical then the sounds would also be identical.

This is only true for a pure sine wave.

How so?
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Re: Do I really need an LDC?

Postby Bob Bickerton » Fri May 17, 2013 5:04 am

At the risk of labouring the point I think it's important to resolve this discussion.

This is all to do with 'Best Practice' and fixing it in the mix is not best practice, whichever way you look at it and whatever stage you're at in the recording career path.

What you perhaps don't realise Tim is that published frequency responses are often a poor representation of the actual response of a microphone and indeed there can be considerable variation between microphones with the same model number. The NT1a (despite your assertion) is nothing like a flat response mic. You'd need to apply at least a nine band parametric EQ to it (according to its published specs) to iron it out, but that's not the point, because cheap mics tend to have a lot more going on frequency wise than you're lead to believe in the media spin.

Having said that, if it sounds good on a certain source, then it is good. But if you have a mic that sounds better, it's nonsense to suggest using the poorer mic and fixing it in the mix.

You imply that professional engineers can fix anything in the mix, but whilst they're no doubt better at it than amateurs, there's a very good reason they use a range of microphones, simply because it better practice to sort it out at source. There's an old saying that says you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear - it applies here too!

Having owned a range of Rode mics I can assure you it is easier and one achieves better outcomes by using a range of quality microphones.

Oh and a hint: Next time you're recording a sibilant singer with your NT1a, trying working the mic off axis. Whilst the published polar pattern plot gives little detail, it seems to indicate that the mic is very directional at higher frequencies, so working off axis would attenuate the frequencies you're trying to fix inthe mix.

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Re: Do I really need an LDC?

Postby Tim Gillett » Fri May 17, 2013 8:13 am

Bob,

Of course it's easier to use quality mics to start with, so long as you know what you are doing.

I would love to be able to afford expensive mics which come with their own individualised test results, but I cant justify the expense. Often there's a cost/benefit issue, unless money is no object.

I'm sorry but one good quality mic such as the two you have suggested ( and I agree that the NT1a is definitely not at the top of the LDC tree) can be used to record perfectly well, any vocal on the planet.

Is the S/N ratio on our current preamps and recording rigs so dreadful that we have to "master" the feed from the mic to the pre, on the way in, by swapping mics beforehand, according to the spectral content of the vocalist? Of course it isnt, at least not these days. But that would be the only technically valid reason to select from a range of vocal mics as sort of Mastering EQ presets, as if we were cutting a vinyl record live and had no EQ facilities upstream of the recorder.
OTOH, as an artistic choice for effect of course, anything goes when it comes to mics.


Bob, you also insinuated I was saying that if someone has a cheaper mic such as the NT1a and a more expensive one such as the TLM193, that they should use the cheaper one. You know very well I didnt say that. And when we were discussing the issue, the OP hadnt bought that other mic.

Of course if the OP buys the better mic he should use it, at least for the technical reasons we discussed. But he hadnt bought it, was undecided even whether to buy a condenser or a dynamic, and obviously posted a sample for our opinions on the vocal in the mix, which is where the rubber hits the road.

In the case of the OP, is the real bottleck in his recordings and mixes the lack of a better quality vocal mic? You seem to think so. I am undecided because I dont feel I have enough information to make such a confident call.
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Re: Do I really need an LDC?

Postby Bob Bickerton » Fri May 17, 2013 10:10 am

Tim Gillett wrote:I'm sorry but one good quality mic such as the two you have suggested ( and I agree that the NT1a is definitely not at the top of the LDC tree) can be used to record perfectly well, any vocal on the planet.


Perfectly well? Have a listen to the variations in the mics used in this article and see if you still agree with your assertion above! There's a huge difference, which implies that even a good mic isn't a fix all.


Tim Gillett wrote:Is the S/N ratio on our current preamps and recording rigs so dreadful that we have to "master" the feed from the mic to the pre, on the way in, by swapping mics beforehand, according to the spectral content of the vocalist? Of course it isnt, at least not these days. But that would be the only technically valid reason to select from a range of vocal mics as sort of Mastering EQ presets, as if we were cutting a vinyl record live and had no EQ facilities upstream of the recorder.


Nothing to do with mastering or S/N ratios I'm afraid. It's simply about good practice.......

Tim Gillett wrote:In the case of the OP, is the real bottleck in his recordings and mixes the lack of a better quality vocal mic? You seem to think so. I am undecided because I dont feel I have enough information to make such a confident call.


The question to ask is, apart from performance, what are the main variables when recording the vocals and they most certainly will be microphone choice, position and room acoustics, with everything else coming quite a long way behind. Given the OP wants to improve his vocal sound, then the obvious response is to suggest a different microphone (and you can hear that there's a huge difference in possible microphones by listening to the samples in the article referred above). He notes his room acoustics are not perfect, so an obvious candidate would be the SM7 which can be worked close and effectively attenuates the sound of the room. Consequently I would have a great deal of confidence in recommending a mic such as the SM7.

This conversation is about recording 'best at source' versus 'fixing in the mix', if you truly believe you can fix everything in the mix, then I have nothing further to add, apart from sympathy

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Re: Do I really need an LDC?

Postby Dynamic Mike » Fri May 17, 2013 11:08 am

Tim Gillett wrote:
Dynamic Mike wrote:
Tim Gillett wrote:But if the actual waveforms were identical then the sounds would also be identical.

This is only true for a pure sine wave.

How so?

Because frequency is a compound value. You don't have enough axes of information to recreate a sound.

However, if you could make two mics sound identical using Eq, then by inference you could apply the same principles of physics to speakers. So with a little Eq tweaking my Tannoys should sound like ATC's. I wish.
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Re: Do I really need an LDC?

Postby Tim Gillett » Fri May 17, 2013 12:02 pm

Dynamic Mike wrote:
Tim Gillett wrote:
Dynamic Mike wrote:
Tim Gillett wrote:But if the actual waveforms were identical then the sounds would also be identical.

This is only true for a pure sine wave.

How so?

Because frequency is a compound value. You don't have enough axes of information to recreate a sound.

However, if you could make two mics sound identical using Eq, then by inference you could apply the same principles of physics to speakers. So with a little Eq tweaking my Tannoys should sound like ATC's. I wish.

Your inference, not mine. For a start the design of a mic and a speaker with power are very different exercises. It's that much harder to make a good loudspeaker than a good mic because of those nasty things called the principles of physics. How many quality mics need to have two diaphragms? How many good quality speakers can use a single full range driver and have any useable power? And isofar as they do work reasonably well, how many of them can do so without serious corrective EQ applied?
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Re: Do I really need an LDC?

Postby Tim Gillett » Fri May 17, 2013 12:08 pm

Bob Bickerton wrote:
Tim Gillett wrote:I'm sorry but one good quality mic such as the two you have suggested ( and I agree that the NT1a is definitely not at the top of the LDC tree) can be used to record perfectly well, any vocal on the planet.

Perfectly well? Have a listen to the variations in the mics used in <a href="/sos/jul10/articles/vocalmics.htm" target="_blank">this article</a> and see if you still agree with your assertion above! There's a huge difference, which implies that even a good mic isn't a fix all.


Tim Gillett wrote:Is the S/N ratio on our current preamps and recording rigs so dreadful that we have to "master" the feed from the mic to the pre, on the way in, by swapping mics beforehand, according to the spectral content of the vocalist? Of course it isnt, at least not these days. But that would be the only technically valid reason to select from a range of vocal mics as sort of Mastering EQ presets, as if we were cutting a vinyl record live and had no EQ facilities upstream of the recorder.

Nothing to do with mastering or S/N ratios I'm afraid. It's simply about good practice.......

Tim Gillett wrote:In the case of the OP, is the real bottleck in his recordings and mixes the lack of a better quality vocal mic? You seem to think so. I am undecided because I dont feel I have enough information to make such a confident call.

The question to ask is, apart from performance, what are the main variables when recording the vocals and they most certainly will be microphone choice, position and room acoustics, with everything else coming quite a long way behind. Given the OP wants to improve his vocal sound, then the obvious response is to suggest a different microphone (and you can hear that there's a huge difference in possible microphones by listening to the samples in the article referred above). He notes his room acoustics are not perfect, so an obvious candidate would be the SM7 which can be worked close and effectively attenuates the sound of the room. Consequently I would have a great deal of confidence in recommending a mic such as the SM7.

This conversation is about recording 'best at source' versus 'fixing in the mix', if you truly believe you can fix everything in the mix, then I have nothing further to add, apart from sympathy

Bob

Bob, I'm glad you referred me to the 2010 SOS "mic shootout" article. Shall we make the article a topic for another thread? IMO lots of things in it to talk about. I suspect the discussion has barely begun...

Tim
Tim Gillett
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