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Apologies for *another* Mic Question, But...

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Apologies for *another* Mic Question, But...

Postby braindead3xl » Thu May 16, 2019 10:46 pm

After a 30+ year hiatus to do the dad/mortgage/career thing, I'm now returning to an old love of recording. Nothing fancy, just Protools on a laptop in my bonus room.

However, I'm looking for a specific sound, and I'd like some advice before I buy something that might not be what I need.

I am wanting to create an "up close" vocal sound. I use the phrase "presence", but that means different things to different people. What I'd like to achieve is something that is as close to being-there as possible. Imagine someone whispering in your ear. Or the sound of a magazine page turning, so realistic that you have to look up from what you're doing because you think it's "right there."

One of the singers I'm working with has a really breathy vocal style which is pretty stunning in person and I just can't seem to capture it with the one crappy microphone I have (MXL 990s). It sounds terrible. Tinny and rotten.

Without spending thousands on a microphone, what mic would you suggest with a Scarlett 2i2 to achieve something as close to a realistic sound as possible?

Oddly, I created this surprisingly well with an $80 Audio Technica handheld and a Midiverb back in the 80's. Stick that little black microphone right on your lips and sing and even on cassette, it sounded like you were there in person. I have no idea what model it was, or I'd hunt one down today.

What sub-$200 mic would you recommend I look at for an up-close-and-personal sound? Since the 2i2 has phantom power it could be a condenser, or if I go dynamic, I might try a pair for stereo with a Cloudlifter CL-2.
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Re: Apologies for *another* Mic Question, But...

Postby Eddy Deegan » Fri May 17, 2019 12:23 am

I am about as far from a mic expert as it gets but given your 'up close' comment I think a Rodes NT1000 would do the job very well for you. It's possibly a bit more than the budget you mentioned (though strangely I recall buying mine for a lot less than they appear to be going for now) but the results I've had from it are very pleasing to me and when it comes to buying the right mic it's always worth stretching the budget a bit - the results will speak for themselves.

Being a synth/pianist person, normally I would hesitate to pitch in on a mic thread but every time I've used it the results have surpassed my expectations and at the end of the day it's all about what your ears tell you, and mine are very happy indeed.

One thing I would say is that being condenser mics they are a little sensitive to pops and sibilance (as I suspect most of the type are) but with a pop-shield made out of a couple of layers of an old pair of tights and singing/speaking into it at a slight angle I've had zero problems with same.

I'm sure some more knowledgeable folks will have alternative suggestions (and I'd recommend you wait for them!), I'm only speaking from my personal experience.
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Re: Apologies for *another* Mic Question, But...

Postby fruitcake » Fri May 17, 2019 3:36 am

I’m probably even farther from a mic expert. And also a horrible singer. But because I wanted to try vocals on some tracks I picked up a Behringer B2 Pro. It does need phantom power. I’m pretty happy with the results. After a lot of Melodyne anyway.

Oh, and it’s relatively inexpensive.

And there’s a SOS review...
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Re: Apologies for *another* Mic Question, But...

Postby Bob Bickerton » Fri May 17, 2019 5:53 am

An important factor in the sound you’ll get from any mic is the sound of the room. Is the room you’re working in acoustically treated? If not, that should be your first consideration.

That price range is a little out of my area but Mr Stranks of this parish recommends both the Rode NT1 and the Audio Technical AT2020.

You have to be careful with cheaper mics in that they often offer a high end lift which can sound attractive on first listen, but can also sound harsh and grainy too.

Sounds like you’re after that “close-miked” sound, so you’ll need good protection against popping and actually, it’s not a silly idea to consider a good stage vocal microphone. I’d recommend Beyer M69 or M201 but they’re out of your price range. Perhaps a Sennheiser e845 or even better the Beyer V70d which is a very good microphone for the price.

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Re: Apologies for *another* Mic Question, But...

Postby Arpangel » Fri May 17, 2019 8:30 am

It's almost an impossible question to answer, as in the strange world of microphones the most unlikely ones can prove ideal in circumstances you would never have thought about using them in. I'm on the side of acoustics and the room sound, you can get an intimate sound from a lot of different types of mic's by experimenting with positioning, small spaces and reflection filters.
On a budget I would "try" Sennheiser 421, quite a rich sounding mic, also, mic's designed for bass drums can be interesting, the AKG D112, or the Audix D6, this may sound silly, but a friend used to use a hand held D6 recording his Hip Hop band, and it sounded amazing. But you just have to try and experiment, borrow, sale and return etc.
Of course, if budget expands in the future, it's got to be a U87 through an Avalon compressor, very much larger than life, and a major cliche, but it's a difficult act to imitate! There are lots of alternatives to a U87, sideways moves, different designs, but it has a very nice quallity to it, it picks up all of that lip smacking detail, it didn't become an industry standard for no reason.
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Re: Apologies for *another* Mic Question, But...

Postby Guest » Fri May 17, 2019 9:16 am

Bob Bickerton wrote:An important factor in the sound you’ll get from any mic is the sound of the room. Is the room you’re working in acoustically treated? If not, that should be your first consideration.

I'm reluctant to disagree with people on this forum but I have made a recording of an acoustic guitar in my carpeted living room with bookshelves and television which was better than the subsequent one done in a good studio. I think rooms and mics and everything are very important, but not always essential. My analogy is a professional racing driver in a family car could out race an ordinary driver in a McLaren. (I'm not implying I'm a professional engineer of course, I'm not.)
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Re: Apologies for *another* Mic Question, But...

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri May 17, 2019 9:21 am

I have several SE-H1 capacitor mics built for stage vocal use. One of those would allow you to get up close to the mic which is good for that intimate sound you're looking for and, to me, they sound pretty refined (and a lot more neutral/natural than a typical stage vocal mic like an SM58) . They have a multi layer steel mesh basket which is pretty effective at preventing plosives and are cardioid so more forgiving of slightly dodgy mic technique than a SC. Cost around £100 in the UK so not Neumann money (or quality TBF) they are my goto live vocal mics.
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Re: Apologies for *another* Mic Question, But...

Postby Arpangel » Fri May 17, 2019 9:47 am

Shure SM7? Forgot that one.
I've tried SE mic's, but the cheaper ones I've found have a strange sounding high end, it attracts your attention, not natural, they can be noisy too, but I suppose it depends what you're recording, I found them good on some vocals, but acoustic guitar had this weird top thing going on. It's never good to skimp on microphones, on the more expensive ones you really do appreciate the lack of noise and more natural response compared with cheaper alternatives. Just spend as much as you possibly can, it's one area of recording where more cash actually gets you more in every way, which is not always the case as when buying other things. Good mic's are expensive, because you only buy them once, and compared with other equipment sales are quite low, but they tend to last a lifetime if treated well, so manufacturers have to get their money back somehow.
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Re: Apologies for *another* Mic Question, But...

Postby Zukan » Fri May 17, 2019 9:53 am

Any of you tried the Aston Stealth?

Hugh did a manly review on it here:
https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/aston-stealth

I've been considering it.
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Re: Apologies for *another* Mic Question, But...

Postby Random Guitarist » Fri May 17, 2019 11:12 am

I bought the stealth a few of weeks ago and am impressed. Only used it briefly on the v1 setting so far but hell yes it's a good sounding mic. I didn't mention it in this thread as it is well over the $200 mentioned, but as you brought it up . . .

The one thing I don't like is the standard mic clip, it's okish but I don't like it. And the mic body is a little too big for most generic shockmounts. The phantom boost built in is nice too.

But yes, the sound is good, very good.
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Re: Apologies for *another* Mic Question, But...

Postby John Willett » Fri May 17, 2019 11:27 am

I always get a little worried about inexpensive microphones - as a mic. is mature technology I always recommend that you should always get the very best yo can afford (and push if necessary) because if you buy right at the beginning you should never have to buy again.

I still have virtually every microphone I have ever bought, because I bought "right" from the very beginning.

If you have to buy with a very low budget, then I would look closely at Audio Technica - their microphones are excellent at the price and are a well established company that don't build mics by copying others.

The AT 4040 is an excellent mic. at around your price point.
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Re: Apologies for *another* Mic Question, But...

Postby Bob Bickerton » Fri May 17, 2019 11:44 am

Still Vibrations wrote:
Bob Bickerton wrote:An important factor in the sound you’ll get from any mic is the sound of the room. Is the room you’re working in acoustically treated? If not, that should be your first consideration.

I'm reluctant to disagree with people on this forum but I have made a recording of an acoustic guitar in my carpeted living room with bookshelves and television which was better than the subsequent one done in a good studio. I think rooms and mics and everything are very important, but not always essential. My analogy is a professional racing driver in a family car could out race an ordinary driver in a McLaren. (I'm not implying I'm a professional engineer of course, I'm not.)

Bookshelves and carpet....... that all helps with acoustic treatment and yes, it’s possible to get good results in less than optimum acoustic environments, but it’s not as easy or as sure fire.

In the list of variables that most effect the quality of a recording, microphone choice and placement is generally considered less important than room acoustics. Maybe that’s not entirely true as if faced with an unfortunate acoustic, an engineer will work with the acoustic to optimise results. Of course this is not to say someone working in a good acoustic will get optimal results either as you have found out, but it’s unlikely that room acoustics worked against the outcome in that scenario.

To use your analogy, given a choice, a professional racing driver would probably pick a McLaren over a family car, if they were serious about winning the race..... ;)

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Re: Apologies for *another* Mic Question, But...

Postby The Red Bladder » Fri May 17, 2019 12:07 pm

A long time ago, a crew were recording some movie soundtrack at our place and at the time Norah Jones was very much the 'Talk of the Town' and had done some work at Abbey Road. I commented on the close and 'breathy' sound of her voice. "It would be interesting to find out how that was created." I said.

One of the crew said that he was there when it happened. "Bog-standard U87 and straight into the desk!"

If you are on a budgie, try a TLM103 - same capsule.

I did a blind A:B:C:D:E comparison of mics recently on a good singist. C414btl2, TLM103, M149, MKH416 and of course the mandatory SM58. Amek/Neve pre and direct-out to an iZ-Radar. Without looking which was which, I picked the 416 as having the cleanest and purest sound.

It's a mid-priced location mic for film and TV - go figure!
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Re: Apologies for *another* Mic Question, But...

Postby Random Guitarist » Fri May 17, 2019 12:45 pm

John Willett wrote:
The AT 4040 is an excellent mic. at around your price point.

I'd agree it's an excellent mic, where can I buy some more at $200?
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Re: Apologies for *another* Mic Question, But...

Postby blinddrew » Fri May 17, 2019 1:25 pm

If you're in an untreated room I'd also consider a stage dynamic, might be worth looking for one with a hypercardiod pattern.
Personally, just squeezing in under your price point, I'm a big fan of the Sub-zero tube mic. I bought one largely on the strength of this review: https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/subzero-sz-v12c but I've been very happy with it.
Sling up a couple of duvets on mic stands, pop it in cardiod if you want to close work it, but it works very nicely at a bit of distance in omni mode as well.
This is an early rough with the vocal recorded on this mic: omni mode, untreated room, couple of duvets over mic stands, through a focusrite scarlett interface, minimal FX (I think it was just a HPF and a bit of room reverb), working about a foot away. https://soundcloud.com/blinddrew/the-storm-keep
Working the mic a bit closer would potentially give you even more of an intimate sound.
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Re: Apologies for *another* Mic Question, But...

Postby braindead3xl » Fri May 17, 2019 2:19 pm

Wow! Fantastic replies, everyone. I greatly appreciate it!!!

The "on top of you" presence I got in the 80's with that cheap AT mic was recorded, literally, in a tiny closet, about 4'x6', packed with clothes and a bookshelf, with a hard tile floor. So in a poor man's way, it was sort of ideal as a vocal booth. Today, my bonus room is one of your typical above-garage sloped knee-wall types. Oh! In fact: https://imgur.com/a/rkw4pzw I plan on putting up some acoustic tiles here and there, but the room is pretty large (about 18x20) but it doesn't sound echoey. I will most likely move to another closet similar to the one in the 80's to track vocals.

Thank you everyone for this insightful commentary. It looks like I've got some research to do!

I used Sennheiser 421's back when I was in radio, and always preferred the RE20 for on-air use, but they never really gave me that up-close breathy sound I'm seeking.

My short list is: Sterling ST55, Rode NT1 or NT1-A, an AT4040, or maybe go ghetto with a plain old SM58.

But, I'll also scope out some of the other suggestions here. It sounds like there are many choices that could do a good job, as long as I get right up on top of them for the performance.
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Re: Apologies for *another* Mic Question, But...

Postby blinddrew » Fri May 17, 2019 9:21 pm

Getting a hands on test is definitely your best bet. :thumbup:
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Re: Apologies for *another* Mic Question, But...

Postby MOF » Fri May 17, 2019 9:42 pm

The Aston mic’s are affordable and getting good reviews. I would think any condenser mic’ and maybe a bit of eq should get you the result you’re after.
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Re: Apologies for *another* Mic Question, But...

Postby Arpangel » Sat May 18, 2019 7:13 am

braindead3xl wrote:Wow! Fantastic replies, everyone. I greatly appreciate it!!!

The "on top of you" presence I got in the 80's with that cheap AT mic was recorded, literally, in a tiny closet, about 4'x6', packed with clothes and a bookshelf, with a hard tile floor. So in a poor man's way, it was sort of ideal as a vocal booth. Today, my bonus room is one of your typical above-garage sloped knee-wall types. Oh! In fact: https://imgur.com/a/rkw4pzw I plan on putting up some acoustic tiles here and there, but the room is pretty large (about 18x20) but it doesn't sound echoey. I will most likely move to another closet similar to the one in the 80's to track vocals.

Thank you everyone for this insightful commentary. It looks like I've got some research to do!

I used Sennheiser 421's back when I was in radio, and always preferred the RE20 for on-air use, but they never really gave me that up-close breathy sound I'm seeking.

My short list is: Sterling ST55, Rode NT1 or NT1-A, an AT4040, or maybe go ghetto with a plain old SM58.

But, I'll also scope out some of the other suggestions here. It sounds like there are many choices that could do a good job, as long as I get right up on top of them for the performance.

John Willett is right yet again, AT are a good bet, another vote for the 4040.
The RE20 is designed not to pop or have any proximity effect, but sometimes you can put this effect to good use, making your voice sound very intimate and warm.
And I know I'm going to be ex-communicated now, but you could always try a bit of drastic EQ and compression, it could work if your mic isn't exactly ideal, just thoughts of the EQ in the Avalon 737 again.
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Re: Apologies for *another* Mic Question, But...

Postby John Willett » Sat May 18, 2019 1:22 pm

Random Guitarist wrote:
John Willett wrote:
The AT 4040 is an excellent mic. at around your price point.

I'd agree it's an excellent mic, where can I buy some more at $200?

Slightly more - but $ 299 at Sweetwater :thumbup:

Same price at Amazon.com

And - well worth the extra. :thumbup:
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