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  #46  
Old 07-03-2012, 06:52 PM
moon moon is offline
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Originally Posted by Doug Young View Post
Maybe we should have a list of these over-marketed bad mics to stay away from! There are so many mics, I imagine it might be faster to list the bad ones than all the good ones.

They've done lists like this on gearslutz a few times - bad purchases and so on, but oddly they often end up containing the same items as the "best" threads. One person's crap is another's ideal.
Remember, I'm starting from the assumption that we're trying to record a "natural", unaltered sound. There will be exceptions, of course, but I think that's what most people are looking for. For that you need a mic (& etc) which is fast and flat. Presumably you would at least accept that not all mics are fast and flat?

You're right that you can find all kinds of contradictory advice on gearslutz but that doesn't negate any attempt to objectively assess the quality of different mics.

Perhaps I emphasise mics more because fixing the room or experimenting with mic placement are relatively cheap and easy - although no less important. If you make a mistake with a mic placement, you can try again but if you make a mistake with a mic purchase, you might be stuck with it if, like me, you can't afford to just write it off and go back for a better one.
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  #47  
Old 07-03-2012, 09:04 PM
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Presumably you would at least accept that not all mics are fast and flat?
Yes, tho the biggest differences come from mics of different types. For example, the AEA R88 I use is neither flat nor fast. Sounds completely different than any condenser. It does sound really nice, tho! Its also hard to put quality judgements on differences. For example, the KM184 isn't flat, but some people like that presence peak. Differences are one thing, preferences are another.

I think we've veered way off topic, and it's probably my fault. To me, the way to improve recordings is to focus on your weakest link. When it gets to where the mic is weakest link, then changing mics may help - or at least make a difference. Until then, you'll get far more mileage out of fixing the weakest point in the chain, and by the time you get to mics, you'll be able to make a better choice. In Bob's case, the mic's not the weakest link, so my advice would to focus elsewhere, but obviously you disagree, which is fine!

What mics do you use, by the way? Any examples?
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  #48  
Old 07-03-2012, 10:34 PM
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For example, the AEA R88 I use is neither flat nor fast.
By "fast" I meant "capture transient details well". I know the AEA R88 isn't a bright mic but it is designed to have a good transient response - unlike, say, a dynamic which will also tail off at high frequencies but reacts to transients like a drunk trying to recite "she sells sea shells by the sea shore".

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What mics do you use, by the way? Any examples?
ADK A6. I think it's a nice, versatile mic. I got here after being thoroughly disappointed with, and wasting limited funds on, a bunch of cheap condensers. Finally I got some good advice on AGF.

The samples don't really show off the sound of the mic so much as the sound of the guitar (and my poor playing), but that's why I like it. A good acoustic mic should be invisible, I think.

sample 1 (A6 on flute and guitar)
sample 2
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  #49  
Old 07-04-2012, 12:39 AM
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unlike, say, a dynamic which will also tail off at high frequencies but reacts to transients like a drunk trying to recite "she sells sea shells by the sea shore".
I've heard people get good sounds from dynamics. They wouldn't be my #1 choice, but they might even be a good choice for Bob with his poor room acoustics. I once was at a live show when Laurence Juber was setting up, and he was offered his choice of guitar mic from a fairly big box of mics. He chose an SM58, which really surprised me. I asked him why later, when there were condensers in that box. He said he thought of the guitar as having a vocal-like quality, so a vocal mic worked great on them. This was live, of course, and he favors Schoeps for recording these days as far as I know, but it was an interesting comment.


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ADK A6. I think it's a nice, versatile mic.
Seems to be a popular budget choice. I haven't come across any in person. I notice that ADK only claims they are "relatively" neutral sounding :-) These would seem to me to reinforce the idea that even an inexpensive mic can sound fine. I can imagine in that price range one does want to be a little careful to pick something you've at least verified can sound good.

Your samples all sound very nice. Thanks for sharing!
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  #50  
Old 07-04-2012, 11:07 AM
Fran Guidry Fran Guidry is offline
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I've seen a number of posts demonstrating how little difference the mic and preamp and interface make in recordings.

And I've seen many more posts stating the opinion that different mic, preamp, or interface absolutely make a huge difference.

I'm still waiting for a useful demonstration of that difference.

Could someone please put up a pair of level matched, same performance clips showing a vast difference between two mics of the same pattern and same transducer technology? A $150 preamp and a $1500 preamp? An M-Audio Fastrack and an Apogee Duet and a Forssell a/d converter?

Fran
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  #51  
Old 07-04-2012, 01:18 PM
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I think one reason for this is that the recording process can be so variable. I've more than once recorded something where I liked the sound, come back the next day with nothing changed - mics still setup, chair not moved, etc, and not liked what I was getting. What changed? The humidity? Strings a day older? My mood? Is it really different, or do I just think it is? (I've also recorded things I really liked, only to listen to the tracks the next day and wondered what I was thinking!)

In any case, if I had changed mics when this happens, I'd surely assume it was the mics and attribute a big difference to that. It could be, but then again, maybe not, since it frequently happens when nothing obvious has changed at all.

And then there's the whole issue of "better" as opposed to different. Even when something clearly is different, one person may prefer A, the other will prefer B, which is another reason I don't entirely buy into the idea that there're good mics and bad mics, even if they sound different (ignoring obvious defects - hum, noise, etc). Just different choices. Sure, "fast, flat and accurate" is a common thing to think of as "good", but there's also the whole "color" concept, in which you take some gear that deliberately doesn't convey the real world, and yet somehow sounds "musical" in some context. The only thing that matters is if you end up with a good recording.
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  #52  
Old 07-04-2012, 03:55 PM
Fran Guidry Fran Guidry is offline
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One might take the post earlier in this thread referring to my KSM44 as a suggestion of hypocrisy on my part - that I contend that mics don't make much difference while I've spent hundreds/thousands on microphones. And that I surely choose the most expensive (erstwhile "best") for my recording projects.

But since I post recordings often in the form of YouTube clips, it's easy to find that my latest projects have been recorded using a Sony PCM-D50, Rode NT4, Zoom H2n, and Zoom Q3HD. The last time I used the KSM44 was on a group session where the figure 8 pattern enhanced isolation, and I used the Shure along with two Rode switchable mics and a CAD M179.

Gear fetish is clearly something many of us enjoy. I was amazed to discover the world of microphones, and when someone at Gearslutz said that a pair of SM81s would result in great recordings I bought them. Then when someone else said that SM81s were junk and Oktava MC102s were the answer, I bought them. It took years and many purchases before I learned how to make valid comparisons, and when I did I discovered that most of the mics I had acquired would do the job just fine.

It turns out that searching for info about mics on Gearslutz one can learn that any and every mic is boomy, neutral, sizzly, smooth, boring, amazing, magical, ghastly, accurate, hyped, 3 dimensional, flat, any kind of good adjective and any kind of bad adjective one might imagine. And also that any mic that is inexpensive will be less good than one that is more expensive or vice versa. This is the nature of gear fetish discussions in every bar, back porch, and internet forum in human experience.

While I'm ranting, I might mention that a clip of an unknown guitar recorded in an unknown room with an unknown mic placement cannot in fairness be offered as a demonstration of the excellence of a microphone. There's no way we can possibly tell if the mic delivered a sound that was the same as, better, or worse, than the sound in the room. There's no way we can possibly tell if another mic would have sounded twice as good for half the cost, based on that example, can we?

Fran

Last edited by Fran Guidry; 07-04-2012 at 04:04 PM.
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  #53  
Old 07-05-2012, 03:08 PM
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@Doug

I actually think it's much less subjective than you make out. An acoustic is designed to sound excellent "straight-to-ear" - unike say an electric with its pickups, amps and cabinets - and it should be no surprise if the best acoustic guitar recordings are made with the most invisible mics which capture all the acoustic information without adding or subtracting. Obviously there is a wide range of acoustic guitar types and timbres, but I think it's fair to say that usually the owner will want it to sound exactly like itself, and nothing else. If we could do a survey, I'd expect to see a normal distribution curve with a big spike in the middle for "natural, uncoloured sound please".

I'll exclude big, multi-track recordings here because good tone is more about crafting narrow bands which cut through the mix or blended sounds where the individual instruments are less distinct.

I do agree that what sounds "musical" is the bottom line. I wouldn't want to make a religion out of natural tone for its own sake. However, I'd argue that there's actually very little leeway to process an acoustic guitar. It's a thin and fragile sound, a delicate balance which very quickly goes bad if you push it hard in any direction. It's not at all like it's electric cousin, for example. I'd expect that the way to make it sound most musical will (usually) be with a fairly invisible recording chain which stays out the way of the luthier's designs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fran
It turns out that searching for info about mics on Gearslutz one can learn that any and every mic is boomy, neutral, sizzly, smooth, boring, amazing, magical, ghastly, accurate, hyped, 3 dimensional, flat, any kind of good adjective and any kind of bad adjective one might imagine. And also that any mic that is inexpensive will be less good than one that is more expensive or vice versa. This is the nature of gear fetish discussions in every bar, back porch, and internet forum in human experience.
If gearslutz has a lot of bad advice, maybe we need to try harder to understand and explain mics, and not simply give it up as a lost cause.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fran
While I'm ranting, I might mention that a clip of an unknown guitar recorded in an unknown room with an unknown mic placement cannot in fairness be offered as a demonstration of the excellence of a microphone. There's no way we can possibly tell if the mic delivered a sound that was the same as, better, or worse, than the sound in the room. There's no way we can possibly tell if another mic would have sounded twice as good for half the cost, based on that example, can we?
We still learn something. We'll know it's at least as good as the clip we heard and, if it's a good clip, that tells us a great deal. A single clip might not rule it out but it could rule it in.

Frankly, gentlemen, I am appalled at all this defeatism and rampant relativism.

Here's a list of sample clips. When you've finished putting them in order, you'll find the key here.

Do they really all sound the same?

I rushed through the list, spending literally 3 or 4 seconds on each clip, deliberately to see if the differences were obvious. I quickly picked out my top 3 and when I went to check the key I discovered that I'd chosen Peluso, DPA and Schoeps. What are the odds that I'd get the two most expensive, pro-level mics in my top three entirely at random...?
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  #54  
Old 07-05-2012, 03:14 PM
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PS: Bob - if you want us to take this to a new topic just say so.
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  #55  
Old 07-05-2012, 03:56 PM
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Frankly, gentlemen, I am appalled at all this defeatism and rampant relativism.
I'm not trying to be defeatist, and I certainly didn't expect this aspect of the thread to go on and on. There is a difference between mics - you can easily prove that with a simple null test. Even two mics of the same exact model won't be identical. However, in my experience, the difference is pretty subtle, much less than lots of other factors - something as simple as moving your hand position on the guitar slightly, for example, so I think we do people who have little experience with mics a disservice by making them think there are night and day differences between mics. They matter, but there are other things that matter a lot more. Just my experience, tho. Yours is apparently different, which is fine.

I've heard the test you posted before. That's a useful example - I would describe the differences between mics there as extremely small. Keep in mind, these are different performances - I even think I hear level differences between the clips - haven't downloaded them to verify that tho. But this may just explain the entire debate - I take it you consider these clips to sound hugely different. To me, the differences are so small I could chalk them up to different performances or slightly different mic positions - you'll notice that he admits the mic position changed from mic to mic. So it just may be that we have a different scale, or different meanings of "huge" and "small". But I think this is an excellent example for anyone considering mics to listen to - if you listen and think there's a huge difference and that one mic stands out as dramatically better - then you know which one to buy! At least you can listen with your own ears and make your own decision. I like sound samples because they bypass this whole "it's huge - no it's small" word issue.
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  #56  
Old 07-05-2012, 04:06 PM
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Guys,

You guys got me thinking...

small condenser or large condenser?
cardiod or hypercardiod?
one mic or two mics?

For example for the price of two ADK A6s ($500, two large condensers) you get within spitting distance of a more expensive single mic like a AKG 451 B or a Beyerdynamic MC930. Ot I could spend less on a Oktava MK012 from Michael Jolly ($400) or a Shure SM81 $350), a Rode NT5 ($430) or a Sennheiser e914 ($400). I am sure any of these are capable of making a nice recording for my purposes. I am however confused as to which is easier to set up and get a good recording for my room.

I am sitting back and watching the dialogue...

Thanks,

Bob
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  #57  
Old 07-05-2012, 04:09 PM
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@Doug
If we could do a survey, I'd expect to see a normal distribution curve with a big spike in the middle for "natural, uncoloured sound please".
Moon, et al,

If that were true, there would be no Neumann KM184s ever sold for acoustic guitar. Yet people talk about using them all the time.

It's also sort of a point that most players never hear exactly what their guitars sound like because, for most guitars, you really can't hear what the audience does (even without PA) from behind your own guitar.

Regards,

Ty Ford
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  #58  
Old 07-05-2012, 04:24 PM
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If that were true, there would be no Neumann KM184s ever sold for acoustic guitar. Yet people talk about using them all the time.
That's a funny case. Based on internet forums, the KM184 must be the worst guitar mic ever. It's probably also one of the most used :-) I've been to two different studio recently, both of which have recorded some pretty nice CDs by some fairly well known people, and both told me that one benefit of recording there was the great mic lockers they had, but that they had one mic that just sounded great on everything. And in both cases, they pulled out - you guessed it - KM184s :-) I didn't have the heart to ask if they ever read internet forums.
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  #59  
Old 07-05-2012, 04:39 PM
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Originally Posted by iim7v7im7 View Post
Guys,

You guys got me thinking...

small condenser or large condenser?
cardiod or hypercardiod?
one mic or two mics?
Those are good questions, and areas where there are some differences, in my opinion.

Small vs big, not terribly critical in my experience. Conventional wisdom says small for acoustic guitar, but lots of tracks we all love, from Beatles to Tommy Emmanuel were recorded with large.

Hypercardiod can help in rooms with bad acoustics - slightly less room sound. I usually use Schoeps CMC6/MK41s (hypers) in my untreated You Tube recording space. That may help tame that room a bit.

The 1 vs 2 mics is easy - two. Recording in stereo does make a night and day difference. Given a choice between 2 cheap mics and one good one, I'd use 2 "lesser" mics every time. Of course if you plan to stage purchases and invest in one lifetime mic, planning to buy another later on, then maybe I'd live with mono at first.

There are bunch of aspects to gear that aren't coming out in this discussion. My personal bias is to buy good, classic gear. It holds its value, and I buy it once and am done. Buy some cheap flavor of the day mic, (or whatever) and if you ever need to sell it, you'll find no one really wants it. And in the back of your head - no matter how small the difference is - you'll wonder if you'd sound better on a "better" mic. If budget allows, I try to buy stuff that is high quality and has stood the test of time. But it's not necessarily because I expect to plug it in and realize some huge difference in sound from the get-go. I do expect the gear to last the rest of my life, be servicable if something goes wrong, and so on. As an example, my Great River preamp developed a problem a while back. It's almost 10 years old now. I contacted them, they said send it in. Repaired and sent back free of charge in less than a week.
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  #60  
Old 07-05-2012, 04:54 PM
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That's a funny case. Based on internet forums, the KM184 must be the worst guitar mic ever. It's probably also one of the most used :-) I've been to two different studio recently, both of which have recorded some pretty nice CDs by some fairly well known people, and both told me that one benefit of recording there was the great mic lockers they had, but that they had one mic that just sounded great on everything. And in both cases, they pulled out - you guessed it - KM184s :-) I didn't have the heart to ask if they ever read internet forums.
The KM184 are VERY BRIGHT and, perhaps in the analog tape days, you could make an argument for them due to the HF loss of analog tape. It's not that way anymore, but some "preferences" die hard.

Under closer inspection, I think you'll find in most of those cases the acoustic guitar is not the primary instrument, but a rhythm/percussion instrument somewhere in the mix. In that case, the "tizz" of a KM 184 should scratch through the mix pretty well. But if you're soloing it, YIKES! where's the chunk of the midrange!? Where's the bottom?

Now a KM84, that's different! I'd try one of them, if I could find one in good shape, but I like my schoeps thank you very much.

There are a LOT of SD and LD mics out there that are anything but flat that people use on acoustic guitar. So I think the whole "sound as natural as possible" thing is a load of hooie. Then again, people frequently don't say what they mean.

Regards,

Ty Ford
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