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New Mic

PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2021 2:54 am
by blakedirksen
Let me start by saying thanks to everyone on this forum. I have learned a lot in my short time here and really appreciate the fun/kind vibe of this group.

My only condenser mic is at the AT2020 and I would like to upgrade a bit or at least add another option. I was going to go with the AKG C214 but then read the good review of the Aston Element and thought that may be a fun option that might be a bit more different than the AT2020.

I play in a hobby dad band, nothing serious and mostly guitars and vocals.

Any thoughts? Thanks everyone!

Re: New Mic

PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2021 9:41 am
by CS70
The AT2020 is an excellent side address cardioid-only mic, which is very versatile: detailed for vocals and acoustic instruments, but you can place in front of that 4x4 cab or on a snare drum, and it will not flinch. It's reasonably quiet, not over hyped, the top end is smooth enough that you can be bold with EQ in most situations, and while it doesn't remotely have a U47 warmth, you can get a good bass response from say a Jumbo guitar bass strings. Haven't tried it on a bass cab, but I wouldn't be surprised if it does the bass top end thing fairly ok, to mix in with a DI. You do need a decent room however, or at least a large and tall one, as the 2020 is detailed enough to pick reflections aplenty if they are uncontrolled.

That means if you get another side-address cardioid only-mic, you won't probably see much "improvement" (unless for example the 2020 doesn't really work on your voice). It will be more of a slight difference in timbre. Also, a penny of different placement is worth a pound of different microphone (I just spent the whole Friday testing the same mics on a guitar and I could get no less than a dozen different sounds out of the identical couple mounted in fixed positions on a stereo bar, just moving 'em around the instrument).

So for a second mic it's probably worth looking at radically different type. Something with multiple polar patterns for example, or at least a figure-8 (a cardioid and a fig-8 mic allow you to set up M/S configurations which is a game changer). A ribbon perhaps, for that different flavor on said 4x4? Or a couple SDCs when you want that guitar snappy and your drums crisp. A 57? You've gotta have a 57 anyways, and it has a transformer so it does something to the signal that the 2020 doesn't. Even better, save up for an MD421U. That'll be my next mic (well, I've said the same for the last 5 but one day..). A SM7B. Stuff like that. Different.

While the Element is surely a great mic, not sure how much value would be for you, having the 2020 already. But hey the best is getting one, trying and see by yourself.

Re: New Mic

PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2021 10:07 am
by Tomás Mulcahy
Seconding CS70's recommendations. AT2020 is a fine microphone.

Look at something funkier- Sennheiser dynamic mics are excellent IME. Maybe you want to try the classic SM58. Thomann/ Music Store ribbon mics are surprisingly decent. What about piezo contact mics with a good high impedance pre-amp?

I use a 2020 as well. I would kind of prefer if it was at AT4033a but it's not a massive difference, for your purposes. The 2020 basically sounds the same, the 4033a is a bit smoother but definitely in the same family. The AKG214 has a lot of the same qualities too, to my ear it sounds a bit more "metallic" and "whispery" whereas the AT are a bit more neutral but still have the same brightness/ clarity.

Take a listen to https://www.audiotestkitchen.com/ you can hear the differences between a wide range of mics very clearly.

Re: New Mic

PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2021 3:19 pm
by blakedirksen
Thanks so much! This is the first time being a member of this forum may have saved me money. :clap:

I have always really liked the AT2020 and know it pretty well so maybe the best plan would be to spend more time on placement instead of swapping mics out mid session.

I also have an SM57 that we use a lot as well (and a bunch of cheap mics for our terrible backup singers... including myself).

I wish we mic'd amps and drums but we have young kids so we DI everything and play into headphones so our wives don't divorce us.

Thanks for the link to the audio test kitchen website. That is amazing! I agree the C214 was a bit more metallic than the AT2020.

Re: New Mic

PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2021 6:05 pm
by Tomás Mulcahy
You're welcome! Ya that site is brilliant, as close as we can get to a level AB test.

For acoustic guitar yes, as CS70 says, experiment. For that instrument, a stereo bar using an established stereo array (XY, AB, DIN, NOS etc.) is a revelation if you've always used one mic, or have been placing two wherever you like without attention to stereo imaging. I find the bass boost from the proximity effect of the AT2020 a bit much for acoustic guitar, YMMV. So maybe a pair of SD condensers such as Rode NT5 are worth considering.

If it's just vocals you're recording, then there is not much scope for positioning. Monitor on good isolated headphones and put it wherever it sounds like the person singing, and out of the way of direct air blasts from the mouth. An acoustically dry room that's not too small so it doesn't go honk or hum, an absorber such as a quilt behind (in the pickup area of the cardioid mic basically). Hopefully you don't have too much external noise especially traffic rumble.

Re: New Mic

PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2021 6:19 pm
by Watchmaker
I'm just going through a very similar set of experiments a la CS70's. If you have any interest in stereo recording, you'll want two mics that are very closely matched in frequency response and polar pattern. Small diaphragm condensers are widely used for stringed instruments and can be often be obtained as a matched pair. I just got a pair of Oktava Mk-012's for $500 and am learning them in a variety of configurations. That might also be an avenue to think about.

Re: New Mic

PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2021 6:33 pm
by blinddrew
Worth having a look at Mike Senior's library of alternative microphone positions here: https://cambridge-mt.com/rs/lmp/acoustic-guitar-01/
to narrow down your options a bit before you start experimenting yourself.

Re: New Mic

PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2021 8:36 pm
by blakedirksen
Great idea on the SD condensers. Will do some exploring on that direction!

Re: New Mic

PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2021 9:56 pm
by CS70
blakedirksen wrote:I wish we mic'd amps and drums but we have young kids so we DI everything and play into headphones so our wives don't divorce us.

It's a common club, especially in pandemic times! Thank goodness for schools and guitar amplifier emulations. :D

Re: New Mic

PostPosted: Wed Feb 17, 2021 9:36 pm
by blakedirksen
I ordered a pair of small diaphragm condenser mics and a bracket. Can't wait to test it out. Thanks for the help and support!

Re: New Mic

PostPosted: Wed Feb 24, 2021 6:59 pm
by blakedirksen
I had my first session playing with the small diaphragm condenser mics. It is WAY fun. Thanks for the suggestion.