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Old 10-16-2009, 12:31 AM
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Default 4 mics compared

In my thread on mic placement, Edward wondered how much the Brauner mics contributed to the sound. I devised a quick mic comparison to find out. This is many ways echoes an experiment by Fran some months ago, but this is with different mics, and I'm recording in stereo. But you might want to revisit his thread, (and his blog) too, if this interests you, for even more variety of mics.

The setup:

The last time I tried to compare two mics, people suggested that the differences were because I used different preamps, so this time, I split my signal chains. I have 2 decent preamp-A/D chains, and I ran the left pair of mics thru one (Great River MP2-H, Cranesong HEDD) and the right pair of mics thru the other chain (AEA RPQ-Mytek Stereo96). So for each comparison, the mics on each side of the stereo track were using the same preamp.

Mics were setup as spaced pairs, starting with a position I liked for the Brauners, and placing the comparision subjects as close to the Brauners as I could. I ran three tests, using the Brauners as the reference in each case. The files below are 16 bit 44.1 wav files, about 8 Meg each, with the Brauners 1st, followed by the comparison mic. I recorded these at the same time, so within each set, it's the exact same performance, I just pasted them one after the other for posting.

There are kinds of caveats with any test like this. The placement was optimized for the Brauners, the mics can't occupy the same physical space, and the Brauner's are pretty big, so as close as I could get still leaves capsules maybe an inch apart, which can matter. Maybe one mic would have sounded different thru a different preamp, etc, etc. But within these parameters, it seems like a pretty fair test, if not a very exhaustive one.

Oh, all tracks were normalized using Adobe Audition's Equal Loudness process, which still doesn't guarantee that the tracks will come out at identical sounding volume, no matter what the numbers say. But they should be close. No EQ, reverb, etc, just raw dry tracks.


Here's the 3 tests,the Brauner's are always first:

Brauner vs Schoeps CMC6/MK41 My long time favorites mics, with a hypercardiod capsule - brauners are cardiod

Brauner vs Neumann KM184 A popular and common choice for acoustic guitar

Brauner vs AT2020 The Audio Technica 2020, another large diaphragm mic, I think these were $79 each.
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Last edited by Doug Young; 10-16-2009 at 09:55 AM.
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Old 10-16-2009, 04:22 AM
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Hello Doug,

Your last url (AT2020) points to the KM184 file.
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Old 10-16-2009, 04:51 AM
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Doug, very nice tune and playing.

I listened to the clips several times using my laptop and MDR7506 for monitoring as I sip my first coffee of the morning. Not an ideal monitoring situation, but one that I am familiar with.

At first listen I was surprised at how little difference there was in the different clips. They are distinct, but none came across as a real golden tack, or dog.

On more careful listening I was able to discern subtle differences between the Brauner and the Schoeps (both are warm, with nice detail), with the Schoeps my first pick.

I actually preferred both the KM184 and AT2020! They each exhibited more detail, and a more satisfying listening experience, for me. It could be the time of day, the monitoring situation, or a hundred other reasons, but if I were faced with a purchase decision based on only these tests I would be shelling out a lot less cash than I would if I was basing my decision on reputation alone.

One thing that may have skewed my tests was the presence of considerable noise on the left channel of the Brauner clips. It was more noticeable on the comparisons with the Schoeps and KM184.
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Old 10-16-2009, 08:57 AM
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Hello Doug,

Your last url (AT2020) points to the KM184 file.
Good catch Ron. Doug, change the last link.
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Old 10-16-2009, 09:12 AM
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Listening through Grado Sr325 headphones the Brauners were a bit warmer and notes a bit more rounded than with the Schoeps. The Schoeps were a bit more detailed. I can’t say which I like better with any conviction but I am leaning towards the Schoeps. The KM 184s were almost as pleasant sounding. The AT2020 in comparison to the other mikes were harsher and thinner sounding.
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Old 10-16-2009, 09:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ronmac View Post
Hello Doug,

Your last url (AT2020) points to the KM184 file.

Oops, fixed, thanks for the catch
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Old 10-16-2009, 10:04 AM
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To me it’s a great example of how hairsplitting mic choice can be. They frankly all sound great to me. The 2020’s sound really good. They’re the least warm, but the detail is very good. I didn't think they were harsh. I would rate them in order of preference as: 184’s, schoeps, Brauner, 2020’s. To me the 184’s were a greatest hits of the Brauner warmth and the schoeps detail and airiness.
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Old 10-16-2009, 10:48 AM
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Great playing and recording Doug. They all sounded really nice.

I had a slight preference for the Brauners. They seemed a little rounder and richer with nice detail and a bit of sparkle in the upper mids. Really nice for that recording I thought.

Thanks for sharing this!
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Old 10-16-2009, 02:34 PM
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Nice post Doug. I enjoyed all the clips, and to me none stood out as being bad or a sound i would not use. I agree, i think the 2020's dont sound as warm or rich as the other more expensive mics, but at $75 each they certainly dont sound bad. I think given a good room, good signal chain, and mixing/mastering an acoustic guitar album recorded with them would sound fine. Of course your fine playing helps too.

Its funny how small the differences are between these mics.


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Old 10-16-2009, 04:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by anton View Post
Nice post Doug. I enjoyed all the clips, and to me none stood out as being bad or a sound i would not use. I agree, i think the 2020's dont sound as warm or rich as the other more expensive mics, but at $75 each they certainly dont sound bad. I think given a good room, good signal chain, and mixing/mastering an acoustic guitar album recorded with them would sound fine. Of course your fine playing helps too.
Its funny how small the differences are between these mics.
Anton
In clips like these the differences are audible but not great. After all these mikes are trying to capture what's there and not purposely color the sound. The frequency response curves are all probably similar.
The main differences I hear are in the areas of a smooth sound to a grainy sound and a detailed sound to a blurry sound. Some mikes are able to be an excellent mix of a detailed and a smooth sound.
When you start post recording tweaks what started out as small differences can multiply. In reverb for example a slight grainy sound from the mike can really become unpleasant in reverb tails.
Of course in hands use on mikes vary much more than you can tell from clips where the mikes were all in one static position.
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Old 10-16-2009, 04:20 PM
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Hi Doug...
Wow thanks for the time and attention to detail you provided.

My ears like the Neumann as much as the Brauner...and in fact I did some scrubbing back and forth to see if I could tell the difference (small fairly accurate above average Bose system at my desk) and they are really close.

They all sound great and any of them would be useable...


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Old 10-16-2009, 04:36 PM
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Originally Posted by rick-slo View Post
Of course in hands use on mikes vary much more than you can tell from clips where the mikes were all in one static position.
I agree, good point, Rick. I was surprised myself how similar these examples ended up sounding. But I wouldn't conclude that the mics are all the same, just that for this clip the differences are pretty minimal. For example, if you speak into the Brauner's you get this big "radio voice" thing, while the Neuman's don't seem to work very well for vocals, as fair as I can tell. Partly that has to do with pop filters and so on, but I think it's more than that.

There's also a big difference in sensitivity, which should show up on a guitar recording somehow. If I have a Schoeps and a Brauner side by side at the same level, a tiny crackle across the room sends the brauner's VU meter towards the top, while the Schoeps VU meter barely registers. I don't fully understand that, but it seems that the Brauner's respond to very fast transients better than most mics.

At last spring's NAMM show, Audio Technica had a cool booth, semi-soundproof, where you could put on headphones and talk into all their mics. They had a row that went from the AT2020 up to the 4060(?) or whatever their top end is. You could absolutely hear the difference as you walked down the row, partly in how your voice sounded, but even more noticeable was the degree to which the mics picked up the floor noise that leaked into the "sound proofed" room. The AT2020 barely picked up anything, while the higher end mics picked up all kind of stuff from outside. For getting the detail of a guitar, I assume the mics that pick up everything are more useful.
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Old 10-16-2009, 11:36 PM
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Really, really interesting - thanks, Doug. I like the Schoeps, I must say, and I like how the km184s sound through your rig. The Brauners are lovely and warm, but I miss some detail. The Schoeps to my ear have a certain suspended or airy feeling that is very cool...I hear it on that first note that you let ring, just a couple beats into the piece. (I think it's a gentle hammer-on.) I don't have any idea which mike is truer to the sound one would hear sitting in front of your guitar, but the Schoeps seems more interesting to me.

As others have said, though, they all sound really good!
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Old 10-16-2009, 11:57 PM
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I've tried a lot of mics over the years, and it has always come down to "sounds good, but not as good as, or at least no better than the Schoeps". They're hard to beat. But its always interesting to hear what other people hear in these. To me, the Schoeps are very smooth, but the Brauners and KM184s are brighter, which I'd call "airier", but then words never quite work.

I did just have an interesting issue tonight. I fired this stuff back up, and 1 channel on my Great River is out. Took a bit of digging, but something's messed up suddenly. Extremely low output, with some noise. And that's the side the one Brauner was on, and which happens to have the most obvious Brauner noise on it. Other than the noise, I don't heard any obvious issues with what I recorded yesterday, but hmm...

Isn't the reason we play acoustic so we don't have to deal with all these gear issues?
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Old 10-17-2009, 12:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug Young View Post
I've tried a lot of mics over the years, and it has always come down to "sounds good, but not as good as, or at least no better than the Schoeps". They're hard to beat. But its always interesting to hear what other people hear in these. To me, the Schoeps are very smooth, but the Brauners and KM184s are brighter, which I'd call "airier", but then words never quite work.

I did just have an interesting issue tonight. I fired this stuff back up, and 1 channel on my Great River is out. Took a bit of digging, but something's messed up suddenly. Extremely low output, with some noise. And that's the side the one Brauner was on, and which happens to have the most obvious Brauner noise on it. Other than the noise, I don't heard any obvious issues with what I recorded yesterday, but hmm...

Isn't the reason we play acoustic so we don't have to deal with all these gear issues?
Ugh. I had some elusive fuzzy static awhile back and changed out nearly all my patch cables and mike cables before I isolated it. Interestingly, replacing the mike cables totally changed the gain...higher by probably 8 db (!). It made me realize that cables have a lifespan even if they're just sitting there in the same setup, not being jerked around, etc. So I had some mike cables in my chain that were 20+ years old, getting old and dull just like me.
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