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Old 09-13-2011, 07:59 AM
moon moon is offline
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Default Pick Your Top 5 Mics

Just discovered the zenpro clipalator where you can listen to audio samples of a whole range of gear, including mics.

So: have a good listen to the mic samples and make your choice for the best five mics to record acoustic guitar.

I'll post my own top five once I've finished listening. From what I've heard so far, the hypercardioid Oktava Mk012 is sounding really sweet - better than many more expensive mics.

EDIT: rather than "best five mics" let's say "the five I'd want to take home". There's no absolute "best" because that depends on the kind of sound you're looking for. A pair can count as one since that's just one type of mic.

Last edited by moon; 09-13-2011 at 12:49 PM.
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Old 09-13-2011, 10:27 AM
SteveHung SteveHung is offline
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What a great site for comparing mics! Thanks for sharing, this is very helpful.
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Old 09-13-2011, 11:21 AM
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Still AB-ing my way through them but the Royer 121..! Oh my That's going to be hard to beat.
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Old 09-13-2011, 12:45 PM
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OK my selection:

Royer 121
Oktava Mk012
Kel HM3C
ADK Vienna Mk8
Neumann 84

In the initial fingerstyle bit, the Royer captures a strong, driving sound in the bass strings like nothing else. Not so good on the strumming part of the clip. Not many mics did sound good on the strummed sample so maybe the guitar is partly to blame.

Oktavas: low end body and lots of detail and silky high end sparkle. If you like new string zing I think these would really capture that well.

Kel HM3C: honest and accurate. Way too good to be this cheap! They coped well with the strummed part. Very few of the other mics did, at least IMO.

ADK Vienna: slightly emphasised top end but not to any extreme. I think I could get some lovely, bright-but-balanced sounds out of this.

Neumann 84: I'd pick this just to have something different... It sounded extremely biased towards the high end which normally is a big turn-off for me BUT it might be good to have that option for times when you want something to cut through or for shimmery, bright strumming.

Not sure I can talk prices here but let's just say the more expensive mics don't always sound the best.

I really like that Royer. Would be superb on fingerstyle if you want a smooth and silky sound. Oktavas if you like more zing and detail.
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Old 09-13-2011, 09:21 PM
alohachris alohachris is offline
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Default Moon! More Mic's!

Aloha Moon,

That IS a decent site that I occasionally go to when checking out stuff. More samples than most. Too bad that Zen choose to close mic - I mean CLOSE MIC! - the strumming samples. Some mic's simply work much better farther away than others. Too much proximity guitar body resonance is heard in these samples. But you can hear the basic differences among the mic's in the fingerstyle part of the clips.

RE: MY top five mic's for acoustic guitar recording?

For many years, my hobby has been renting pairs of mic's from all over the world & auditioning them at home. Hundreds & hundreds of them. 99.5% are returned quickly. I've owned some great acoustic mic's over the decades. Some are among the Zen samples.

When I started getting into learning about DAW recording (still an infant really), I upped my interest level again in guitar recording mic's. There are SO many that work well with SO many preamp combo's. Other variables are the instruments, recording space, styles, & knowledge of using them.

[U]Mic's I've kept of late:[/U]

[B]S/D Condensers pairs:[/B

- Schoeps CMC641 hypers (my current favorites for stereo recording - fingerstyle. So smooth! Detailed & accurate.)
- Jim Williams-modded AKG 460's (Much better that stock models, these are about as good as the Schoeps, but not as smooth)
- Peluso P-28 S/D tubes (I like these better than Neumann KM-84's I used for many years for cross-picking)

M/D Condenser pairs:

- ADK A6's (great budget mic w/ pro quality sound - very natural, light, airy, accessible sound)

L/D Condenser pairs:

- Mojave MA-200's- cardioid (great for strumming tracks! My favorite Vocal mic too)
- Neumann U-87's - variable (Vintage reconditioned 1972's - great for anything - vocal or guitar)

Ribbon (figure 8's):
- AEA R-84 (use with an S/D for Mid-Side recording or vocals - a winner)

Dynamic: - Heil PR35 (best live vocal dynamic I've ever heard. Also sounds great on acoustic guitar too)

Other:
- Several different capsules for the Schoeps (the MK8 ribbon cap is great for M-S recording)

Mic's I'd like to own:
Brauner VM-1
AKG C-12
Lawson L47
Neumann U-47
Original Telefunken 251

Moon, admit it, you like that Royer 122 (much better than the 121 in the Zen samples, IMO) because Dream Guitars switched out to those from the ADK A6's. Ha! The thing is? I prefer the A6 samples. That mic is simply amazing for the cost ($249 new). I hope more players will check it out.

Like this ADK A6 sample by Al Petteway of a fine Petros guitar. That mic just shines on that guitar, even in mp3. format:

http://www.dreamguitars.com/detail/2...reek_fs_32127/

Fun thread, Moon. Hope more chime in. They can't all be recording with 57's, can they? Not a bad live mic though. Ha!

BTW Moon, what preamps do you - or would you - like to run your top five mic's through? Me, I just sold my Great River MP-2NV (wasn't using it much) & now use either a Pendulum MDP-1a tube pre, an A-Designs Pacifica (players should check that one out!) or my trusty SPS-1 live pre, which also works great on recordings.

I can't wait to see what Bob will share here.

A Hui Hou!

alohachris

Last edited by alohachris; 09-14-2011 at 12:26 AM.
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  #6  
Old 09-14-2011, 06:11 AM
Ty Ford Ty Ford is offline
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Moon,

Other sites have done this before and while the idea may be intoxicating and the effort considerable, placement of the mic, the preamp used and the guitar itself are relatively unknown. I thought of doing something similar years ago, but knowing that an inch here or there can make a huge difference in the sound and the difference between a Mackie and a Jensen, Millennia Media, GML or other top shelf preamp can also make a stunning difference kept me from doing it.

Allen Sides put out a CD a number of years back with different samples. http://www.amazon.com/Allen-Sides-Mi.../dp/0793574021 That was a better idea but still you're looking at the same issues as above. Kudos for these folk for going to 320 kbps MP3 files instead of 128 kbps, but I know what my M160 sounds like and it doesn't sound like theirs. And I tried 121 and 122 Royers (and other ribbon mics) on several guitars here and found the lack of HF response made them sound dull unless the guitars themselves were pretty nasty sounding or you're looking for that very mellow jazz guitar sound. Good for guitar amps, though, and a better choice for banjo to tame it a bit

This is one in a line of continuing effort to get the word out about mics. That's a nice idea in this day and age, but it has a tendency to commoditize the mic market. You really have no way of knowing what's going to happen until you plug a mic into your system, aim it at your guitar and hit record. In the "real studio" days, the operator learned from others (as we do here) but the mic learning was done first hand with your own ears. The studio operator went to the local pro audio shop with whom he had a relationship and they lent him a few mics to try, knowing, because of their long term relationship that he was a standup guy and could be trusted. That makes a difference.

The democratization of technology has blown that business model to pieces and you get people from out in the boonies nowhere near a good pro audio shop wanting info. (There weren't many good recording studios in the boonies in days gone by, which is why musicians traveled to towns where there were.) Efforts like this site short-circuit the process of you knowing what a mic really sounds like. You'd do better to rent a few mics for a couple of days from good rental houses, have them mail the mics to you and do your own research.

Oh, and there really weren't as many bottom-fishing mic makers out there looking to snare you hard earned dollars.

Regards,

Ty Ford
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Old 09-14-2011, 07:42 AM
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KevWind KevWind is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alohachris View Post
Aloha Moon,

Too bad that Zen choose to close mic - I mean CLOSE MIC! - the strumming samples. Some mic's simply work much better farther away than others.
Agreed all those mic's might well sound fine for strumming placed a little further out. An often overlooked but excellent mic position is IMO, level and in line with the top waist point of the guitar, straight out front, from 1 to 3 feet. Smoother( i.e less pic and string ) than the 12 th -14 th fret position and less boomy, (depending on the guiar) than below the bridge.

That being said I have to say my top choices and the only ones I currently use, also did not make the list

With Chris here also on SDC Schoeps CM6 except MK4 would like to try a 41

For LDC I absolutely love my Brauner Phantom V on both voice and Guitar.
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Old 09-14-2011, 08:08 AM
Scott Whigham Scott Whigham is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by moon View Post
OK my selection:

Royer 121
Oktava Mk012
Kel HM3C
ADK Vienna Mk8
Neumann 84

In the initial fingerstyle bit, the Royer captures a strong, driving sound in the bass strings like nothing else. Not so good on the strumming part of the clip. Not many mics did sound good on the strummed sample so maybe the guitar is partly to blame.

I really like that Royer. Would be superb on fingerstyle if you want a smooth and silky sound. Oktavas if you like more zing and detail.
I have the Royer 121 and many more mics that I've tried/do record fingerstyle, flatpicking, and hard strumming with. I love the Royer for acoustic recording in the right situation. IMO though "fingerstyle" is almost never that situation. It's like Ty said - the Royer's frequency response just doesn't match up perfectly with an acoustic guitar. It needs to be paired with another mic for solo acoustic work - a nice M/S config with a nice LDC or SDC. I was doing mic tests a while back and playing around with flatpicking to check what mics I liked on what tunes. Here's a little quick sample of a tune I was using to test the mics - it's a the Royer 121 in M/S w/ a Pearlman TM1:

http://soundcloud.com/scott-whigham/...100-100pan-m-s

It has a nice bottom end thanks to the Royer. Of course the Pearlman is no slouch either! Great for strumming or hard playing. Just not my thing for fingerpicking.
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Old 09-14-2011, 08:52 AM
j3ffr0 j3ffr0 is offline
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First -- thanks you very much to the OP for posting this link. This might save me some money and some disappointment.

I'm an acoustic fingerpicker, so I'm not going for thick strummy sound. I'm listening to these on a macbook pro. I haven't listened to them all, but I've listened to many. With all that in mind I seem to be favoring SDCs (which I imagine might actually be closer to the instrument, because the proximity effect is less severe). My early rankings:
#1 Beyer M201 (not even a condenser)
#2 Neumann KM84 (I now hear why this one is the standard)
#3 Audio Technica ATM450
#4 Neumann KM184
#5 Royer 122

Right now I have an AKG460 with the CK61 capsule, and it definitely doesn't make the top 5 ten for a finger picking Mic. I think I will be picking a Beyer M201. Hard to beat at that price.
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Last edited by j3ffr0; 09-14-2011 at 08:54 AM. Reason: M201 is actually a dynamic mic
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Old 09-14-2011, 09:15 AM
Fran Guidry Fran Guidry is offline
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Originally Posted by j3ffr0 View Post
First -- thanks you very much to the OP for posting this link. This might save me some money and some disappointment.

I'm an acoustic fingerpicker, so I'm not going for thick strummy sound. I'm listening to these on a macbook pro. I haven't listened to them all, but I've listened to many. With all that in mind I seem to be favoring SDCs (which I imagine might actually be closer to the instrument, because the proximity effect is less severe). My early rankings:
#1 Beyer M201 (not even a condenser)
#2 Neumann KM84 (I now hear why this one is the standard)
#3 Audio Technica ATM450
#4 Neumann KM184
#5 Royer 122

Right now I have an AKG460 with the CK61 capsule, and it definitely doesn't make the top 5 ten for a finger picking Mic. I think I will be picking a Beyer M201. Hard to beat at that price.
Please be aware that the M201 is a dynamic mic, and as a very rough rule of thumb the flatter the frequency response of a dynamic, the lower the sensitivity. The M201 will require an excellent preamp capable of 70 dB of clean gain and the signal will still be low.

I listened to a few of the sample clips at that link. The first thing I noticed with the lack of level matching. Since our ears are not linear with respect to volume, that immediately causes differences in what we hear.

Please give these clips a listen - these four mics were carefully level matched and used to record a single performance:

http://www.homebrewedmusic.com/audio/20090626-F.wav
http://www.homebrewedmusic.com/audio/20090626-G.wav
http://www.homebrewedmusic.com/audio/20090626-H.wav
http://www.homebrewedmusic.com/audio/20090626-I.wav

These mics range in price from $150 to over $1500, they're US, European, or Chinese in origin. Some are large diaphragm, some are small.

Do these sound as wildly different as the mics in the OP's link?

Fran
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Old 09-14-2011, 09:45 AM
moon moon is offline
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Originally Posted by alohachris View Post
I mean CLOSE MIC! - the strumming samples. Some mic's simply work much better farther away than others. Too much proximity guitar body resonance is heard in these samples.
Something did sound wrong. Almost every mic sounded bad in the strumming bit - that's probably it.

Quote:
Moon, admit it, you like that Royer 122 (much better than the 121 in the Zen samples, IMO) because Dream Guitars switched out to those from the ADK A6's. Ha! The thing is? I prefer the A6 samples.
Didn't know that. I just loved the sweet, full sound. It might not be the only sound I'd want to have but definitely one I'd use a lot.

I was surprised the A6 clip didn't sound better - just my opinion. The new find for me was the Kel HMC3. Might be another one to add to the "cheap but good" list.

Quote:
BTW Moon, what preamps do you - or would you - like to run your top five mic's through?
The Royer would have to be a AEA TRP or RNQ. Ribbons really need high impedance, right?

I could dream up lots of expensive gear but on a practical level I'm on a limited budget. At the moment my chain is pretty basic: A6, ART MP, M-Audio 2496 which sounds like this. I think the next step up for me will be some DIY pres from JLM Audio or FiveFish. Maybe a second hand Focusrite ISA One if I'm lucky.

Last edited by moon; 09-14-2011 at 09:57 AM.
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Old 09-14-2011, 09:54 AM
moon moon is offline
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@Ty

Good points. I should have emphasised that more in my original post. It's not definitive just "some idea of some of the sounds you can get from some mics some of the time... "

Still, at the very least it's useful as a critical listening test. Most of all I was hoping it would help to show the difference between some good and bad acoustic guitar sounds. It's hard to tell if you can't AB some samples. OK good and bad is kind of subjective but some sounds are so far out they're just objectively bad.
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Old 09-14-2011, 09:54 AM
j3ffr0 j3ffr0 is offline
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Originally Posted by Fran Guidry View Post
Please be aware that the M201 is a dynamic mic, and as a very rough rule of thumb the flatter the frequency response of a dynamic, the lower the sensitivity. The M201 will require an excellent preamp capable of 70 dB of clean gain and the signal will still be low.

I listened to a few of the sample clips at that link. The first thing I noticed with the lack of level matching. Since our ears are not linear with respect to volume, that immediately causes differences in what we hear.

Please give these clips a listen - these four mics were carefully level matched and used to record a single performance:

http://www.homebrewedmusic.com/audio/20090626-F.wav
http://www.homebrewedmusic.com/audio/20090626-G.wav
http://www.homebrewedmusic.com/audio/20090626-H.wav
http://www.homebrewedmusic.com/audio/20090626-I.wav

These mics range in price from $150 to over $1500, they're US, European, or Chinese in origin. Some are large diaphragm, some are small.

Do these sound as wildly different as the mics in the OP's link?

Fran
Absolutely not. They all sound good too (very nice playing). I think I prefer F while my least favorite is H.

Yes -- you are right the levels are quite a bit different, so in reality it would be hard to tell anything from that. It's easy to see now that all of the samples I liked had some of the higher levels.
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Old 09-14-2011, 12:17 PM
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Your mic tests are.. challenging.. Fran You even had an SM57 sounding not too bad on acoustic guitar not so long ago. They do make me rethink some of my assumptions.

Still, I don't think clipalator is totally useless. I think you can hear the character of different mics. There's a clear difference between the hypercardioid and cardioid Oktava capsules for example (the hyper sounds a lot better to me).

What would be your picks? Would you really just take home any five at random because they all sound the same anyway..?
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Old 09-14-2011, 01:22 PM
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What would be your picks? Would you really just take home any five at random because they all sound the same anyway..?
As much as sound character matters, what I would use as the basis for picking most gear is functionality and basic quality - by which I mean build construction, and things that are indisputable, like noise and features. Especially for solo acoustic guitar, low noise is pretty critical. You also need to choose based on the rest of your gear, like you can't use a condenser unless you have phantom power or some other way to power it. Flexibility is nice, so mics with swappable capsules to get different polar patterns is both useful, and a cost saver. Or a mic that has switchable patterns. On the other hand, if you have no interest in that, and know you just want cardiod, or just omni, that simplifies things.

There certainly is a difference in mics, but as Fran demonstrates, it's subtle, usually even more subtle than the effect of moving the mic a few inches.

So I'd think about your basic needs and budget, pick a few that others have used successfully (which is just about everything), and just pick one. I'd also tend to favor classics, things that have been around a while, over the latest cool thing (speaking from personal experience at getting burned a few times). If you discover some cool magic mic that no one else is using, it might be a great secret weapon, but more likely there's a reason no one else is using it. And stay with tried and true types of mics - like don't get all excited about ribbons until you have some condensers and know why you might want a ribbon. You are unlike to go wrong with most of the brands and models you've been hearing about, Neumann, Schoeps, Gefell, Shure, Oktava, Peluso, Audio-Technica, Royer, ADK, AKG, etc.
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