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Using the wrong microphone for the job.

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Using the wrong microphone for the job.

Postby Arpangel » Tue Jan 26, 2021 8:42 am

I amaze myself sometimes, I’m a master at this, unfortunately, but it makes me realise there are gaps in my microphone collection.
I wanted to record an intimate vocal the other day, so I just grabbed the nearest mic to hand, I couldn’t be bothered to go upstairs and get a more suitable one.
The mic was a Sennheiser MKH40, a small diaphragm condenser, I quickly put it on a boom arm and stuck a pop shield in front of it, and started to record the vocal :blush:
I was about six inches away from the mic and it was popping like crazy, despite the shield, so I stuck a foam wind shield on it as well, but it didn’t help.
In the end I just gave up, went upstairs, and grabbed an SM57, perfect.
I need a good LDC, with decent pop protection for close miking, permanently set-up, the MKH is a fantastic mic, but not for applications like this, using it in this situation is like recording a string quartet with two spaced SM57’s at a distance of fifty feet, I really must try that next time.

:-|
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Re: Using the wrong microphone for the job.

Postby CS70 » Tue Jan 26, 2021 9:13 am

Hard to work with, more than "wrong" - as you've experienced. Granted, a "vocal" LDC is gonna be far easier, or a dynamic as the 57, yes.
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Re: Using the wrong microphone for the job.

Postby Arpangel » Tue Jan 26, 2021 9:49 am

CS70 wrote:Hard to work with, more than "wrong" - as you've experienced. Granted, a "vocal" LDC is gonna be far easier, or a dynamic as the 57, yes.

It was an interesting "experiment" :D
For spoken word at a sensible distance the MKH40 is totally mind blowing, frighteningly realistic, but not for close up rock style vocals!
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Re: Using the wrong microphone for the job.

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Jan 26, 2021 11:41 am

Arpangel wrote:I amaze myself sometimes...

Only sometimes? You amaze me continuously! :lol:

I wanted to record an intimate vocal the other day, so I just grabbed the nearest mic to hand, I couldn’t be bothered to go upstairs and get a more suitable one.
The mic was a Sennheiser MKH40, a small diaphragm condenser...

As used by Enya for all those ultra-intimate breathy vocals of hers... ;)

Although for ultra-close vocals, an omni pattern mic (MKH20, if you have one) would actually be a much more sensible choice since it has no proximity effect and is far less sensitive to plosive blasting.

I was about six inches away from the mic and it was popping like crazy, despite the shield...

Why blame the mic when you have a windshield that apparently doesn't work (I've come across quite a few of those!) or is placed far too close, and the mic is either badly positioned or you have a lousy mic technique?

I need a good LDC, with decent pop protection for close miking...

I fear that if you invest in an LDC but use it in the same way, you'll have much the same issue...

That said, most LDCs employ dual-diaphragm capsules (whether they are multi-pattern or not), whereas the MKH40 has a single diaphragm capsule. The rear diaphragm in a dual-diaphragm capsule acts at low frequencies to increase the acoustic impedance of the phase-shifting labyrinth that determines the cardioid polar pattern. As a result, for close sound sources as the frequency reduces the capsule moves away from pressure-gradient operation and towards pressure-only operation... making it less susceptible to plosive blasts and curtailing the proximity effect.

... And that is why studio vocal recording has, historically, mostly been done with LDCs. Today, the majority of people use them simply because that's what they've seen their musical heros using, and copy without understanding... But back when sound engineering really was engineering, those guys knew what they were doing, and why!

But even with an LDC, you'll still need a truly effective pop-screen placed sensibly, and you'll need to position the mic sensibly with respect to the mouth, and you'll need a decent mic technique.
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Re: Using the wrong microphone for the job.

Postby Arpangel » Tue Jan 26, 2021 8:25 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
Arpangel wrote:I amaze myself sometimes...

Only sometimes? You amaze me continuously! :lol:

I wanted to record an intimate vocal the other day, so I just grabbed the nearest mic to hand, I couldn’t be bothered to go upstairs and get a more suitable one.
The mic was a Sennheiser MKH40, a small diaphragm condenser...

As used by Enya for all those ultra-intimate breathy vocals of hers... ;)

Although for ultra-close vocals, an omni pattern mic (MKH20, if you have one) would actually be a much more sensible choice since it has no proximity effect and is far less sensitive to plosive blasting.

I was about six inches away from the mic and it was popping like crazy, despite the shield...

Why blame the mic when you have a windshield that apparently doesn't work (I've come across quite a few of those!) or is placed far too close, and the mic is either badly positioned or you have a lousy mic technique?

I need a good LDC, with decent pop protection for close miking...

I fear that if you invest in an LDC but use it in the same way, you'll have much the same issue...

That said, most LDCs employ dual-diaphragm capsules (whether they are multi-pattern or not), whereas the MKH40 has a single diaphragm capsule. The rear diaphragm in a dual-diaphragm capsule acts at low frequencies to increase the acoustic impedance of the phase-shifting labyrinth that determines the cardioid polar pattern. As a result, for close sound sources as the frequency reduces the capsule moves away from pressure-gradient operation and towards pressure-only operation... making it less susceptible to plosive blasts and curtailing the proximity effect.

... And that is why studio vocal recording has, historically, mostly been done with LDCs. Today, the majority of people use them simply because that's what they've seen their musical heros using, and copy without understanding... But back when sound engineering really was engineering, those guys knew what they were doing, and why!

But even with an LDC, you'll still need a truly effective pop-screen placed sensibly, and you'll need to position the mic sensibly with respect to the mouth, and you'll need a decent mic technique.

Hugh, I don’t know the meaning of "a good mic technique" I’m not a singer in that respect.
Agreed, my pop screen is lousy, it was £3 from the Studio Spares bargain bin.
I just do stuff and see how it works out, without thinking about it, sometimes it fails miserably, sometimes it works.
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Re: Using the wrong microphone for the job.

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Jan 26, 2021 9:11 pm

We all experiment, sometimes with success and sometimes not. The trick, as we all know, is to learn from both and not repeat the mistakes...

My role on the forum is partly to correct misunderstandings and invalid claims.
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Re: Using the wrong microphone for the job.

Postby Arpangel » Wed Jan 27, 2021 8:48 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:We all experiment, sometimes with success and sometimes not. The trick, as we all know, is to learn from both and not repeat the mistakes...

My role on the forum is partly to correct misunderstandings and invalid claims.

Yes Hugh, it was a stupid situation, my knees are worse than ever, it may seem like an exaggeration that it was too much effort to go upstairs and get a more suitable mic, but it wasn’t, I’m in agony right now, and seeing as it wasn’t anything particularly important that I was recording I just grabbed the MKH (MKH/important! :shocked:)
And in this situation you’re right, in no way was it a "happy accident" completely the opposite, it was a fatal pile-up! In future I’ll shout for my partner to bring a more suitable mic!
I don’t store my mic's in the basement, as you know, it’s damp, that’s why I keep them upstairs.
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Re: Using the wrong microphone for the job.

Postby Tim Gillett » Wed Jan 27, 2021 12:04 pm

Recording voices with a cardioid SDC doesnt have to be a disaster either. But the heavy proximity effect exaggerates even mild popping so use a good effective pop filter, keep maybe 8 to 12" or more away and be prepared to roll off even more bass later if needed.

35 years ago when I took a technician job with a talking book recording facility I had little experience with different mic types. The four studios were fitted with SM81 cardioid SMD's. On the existing recordings I sampled I often heard popping and excessive bass so I beefed up the standard Shure pop filters, made sure the mics' HPFs were always engaged, and added some more HPF.

If I'd known what I know now I would have dispensed with the SDC's and used either dual diaphragm LDC's or one of the cardioid dynamics designed to reduce proximity effect such as AKG D202, one of the EV "D" dynamics, a Shure SM53/54 or if they'd been available then, Shure KSM8.

To me it's strange how mics with significant proximity effect are often regarded as standard for stage vocals (perhaps partly for cost reasons), while as Hugh says, in recording situations a dual diaphragm LDC (which also reduces proximity effect) is often specified for vocals but perhaps without knowing that the reduced proximity effect helps make it more forgiving in that application, just as it does on stage.
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Re: Using the wrong microphone for the job.

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Jan 27, 2021 12:49 pm

Tim Gillett wrote:To me it's strange how mics with significant proximity effect are often regarded as standard for stage vocals

Fundamentally because when designed and used correctly, they give a massively improved rejection of low frequency spill.
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Re: Using the wrong microphone for the job.

Postby manwilde » Wed Jan 27, 2021 12:54 pm

Arpangel wrote:I don’t store my mic's in the basement, as you know, it’s damp, that’s why I keep them upstairs.
I used to live in a house with a damp basement where all my audio equipment was set. I spent 450€ on a huge dehumidifier which kept the room at 55%. One of the best "audio" investments I've ever made. Don't know how dump is your place, though...
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Re: Using the wrong microphone for the job.

Postby Tim Gillett » Wed Jan 27, 2021 1:11 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
Tim Gillett wrote:To me it's strange how mics with significant proximity effect are often regarded as standard for stage vocals

Fundamentally because when designed and used correctly, they give a massively improved rejection of low frequency spill.

True so I guess the issue is the trade off between those two desirable qualities. But again I wonder how many are aware of that trade off. For example how many who have tested a Shure KSM8 for stage vocals (I havent) have both applauded its reduced proximity effect, plus its overall smoother off axis response, and noted the downside of its poorer LF spill rejection.
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Re: Using the wrong microphone for the job.

Postby FrankF » Wed Jan 27, 2021 1:39 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote: The rear diaphragm in a dual-diaphragm capsule acts at low frequencies to increase the acoustic impedance of the phase-shifting labyrinth that determines the cardioid polar pattern.

Come on, Arpangel, you should know that! Even my postman knows that! ;)

Anyway, keep on "making mistakes": your music is excellent.
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Re: Using the wrong microphone for the job.

Postby MOF » Wed Jan 27, 2021 2:24 pm

You could try positioning the microphone above your mouth, pointing at your mouth, no need for a windshield.
Plosives go forwards and downwards, try just holding your hand at various points close to your mouth while making the plosive sounds to see if I’m right.
As Hugh said your windshield was probably too close to the microphone, the turbulent air has to be slowed down sufficiently. If you want to use a windshield then repeat the above test and put your hand behind the windshield to find out where the microphone can be placed without plosives.
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Re: Using the wrong microphone for the job.

Postby The Red Bladder » Wed Jan 27, 2021 2:46 pm

Whilst we are talking about 'the wrong microphone' - I use the wrong microphones all the time!

The idea that there is a 'right' way to record anything is hooey! A great vocal mic in the studio? Try an MKH416 - seriously! No, not the old silver one, the new one. It's great and does not colour off-axis sounds the way the silver ones did. In fact, you can use it on just about anything, but even at a one-meter distance, it's great! One of the unsung heroes of the mic-locker!

We have a giant piano that sounds huge all the time. I suppose if you are recording Tchaikovsky's piano-C in B-flat-minor, let the damn thing rip! But if you want that sharper, thinner Steinway sound, a pair of TLM103s do the job perfectly. In fact, the 103 is one of the great mics for all sorts of things, but many people hate them because they pick up a great deal of room noise and many people have lousy rooms!

Older dynamics are often unusual and useful - the SM59 has almost no handling noise and actually is my go-to for hi-hat. It was a reporter's mic but it's great for all kinds of stuff. You don't believe me? Go to precisely 2:08 on this video and see it in action on the hi-hat! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmd4Se9 ... 6v&index=1 (Our studio BTW)

Can't get any good MD421s? The AKG D202 or 222 are as good, if not better. The dual capsule thing makes them excellent for any percussion jobs. Just great all-round dynamic mics. Horns, vocals, whatever!

A couple of DPA 4061s give you not only first-class lapel mics but they come with rubber mounts that convert them into one of the best PZMs around - ideal for those esoteric Kunstkopf stereo recording you always wanted to make! Get that Styrofoam head built and off you go!

But now comes one of my fav. 'wrong' mics - good mics cost money - right? I mean, even them D202s cost about £200+ nowadays as people wise-up to how good they are! And good ribbon mics cost a fortune - as in hundreds, even for the cheaper stuff. If you are going to record a bass fiddle (in ANY situation!) or even a solo cello, take a Thomann t-Bone RB500 with you. They cost £72 and give you that profound bass sound that all the magic Neumanns and all that other stuff never can. Put that sucker over the f-hole (No, not that one! The one on the fiddle!) and mic the body with whatever takes your fancy and people will applaud your engineering skills! "What a smooth and full bass sound!" they'll say!

But my best and possibly the ultimate 'wrong' mic isn't a mic at all! It's the driver out of a long-since demolished cheap sub-woofer. It's better than that goofy Yamaha thing that costs real money. Clamped to a stand and with an Audix D6 inside the kick and to one side and THAT is the sound of a good thumping kick drum.

BTW - I use the Bruce Swedien method of recording kick - empty the damn thing and take all that crap out that drummers think they have to shove in there - pillows, blankets, a dead cat, whatever. Take the resonance skin off completely and replace it with an empty hoop to stop the fittings from rattling. Cover the outside hoop with a duvet and if the drum is one of those cheapo Chinese jobs, put a cellar-block inside to stiffen it up and stop it from wandering.
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Re: Using the wrong microphone for the job.

Postby ManFromGlass » Wed Jan 27, 2021 3:02 pm

Always good to hear how others make things work. I have a waterproof mic I’ve been saving for the right moment. I’m thinking I would put it in a bucket of water in the room with the instrument I want to record. Could be crap, could be just the right sound for the project.
I just remembered I have some of those old school telephone hand sets stashed away for trying too.
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