12: Vocal Recording and Presentation – Mic Comparison

A friend directed me to an extensive, rather well conducted microphone “shootout” style test. This website (linked below) will be the basis of this exercise.

http://bradfordswanson.com/mic/index.html

The website offers a range of content, but I’ll stick to the isolated, sung vocals for the purpose of this exercise.

The rest of this post will be my own quick notes based on my feelings about each of the examples, categorised by source material and mic type and polar pattern.

Female Vox (Isolated)

  • AKG C414-XLS, Cardioid: Clinical, breathy, sibilant, slightly thin
  • AKG C414-XLS, Omni: Similar tone, more early reflections from room
  • AKG C34, Cardioid: Warmer, less sibilant, slightly harsher on higher pitched notes
  • AKG C34 Omni: Similar tone, more sibilant, early reflections
  • Neumann U89, Cardioid: More presence, high mids, slightly hollow, buzzy, more throatiness and croak
  • Neumann U89, Omni: Less present, early reflections, slightly harsh, not as much ER as other cardioid patterns
  • Rode NT2, Cardioid: A lot of air, less low mid warmth, less croaky/throaty, seems like it would “cut through” better, edgy sounding
  • Neumann TLM103, Cardioid: Warmer, breathy, less harsh resonances than some, balanced, not much “air”
  • Shure KSM-44, Cardioid: Airy, more throatiness to sound, resonant, slightly harsh at points, transients seem more present
  • Audio-Technica AT-4050, Cardioid: Warmer, still throaty and airy, some noticeable resonances on higher notes, seems to jump in level
  • Audio-Technica AT-4050, Omni: Same, but with a slight hint of ER, but not much
  • Rode NT1A, Cardioid: Resonant and harsh, quite airy, lip noise is obvious, quite tiring to listen to
  • Marshall MXL 2003, Cardioid: Very airy, lots of HF and High-mid, pretty harsh, picks up transients well
  • Shure KSM-141, Cardioid: Very airy and breathy, quite thin, lip noise and plosives are obvious
  • Shoeps CMC6/MK21, Wide Cardioid: Quite thin, Airy, Slightly harsh, sibilant
  • Neumann KM140, Cardioid: More balanced, slight resonances although not too tiring, warmer than last
  • Shoeps CMC6/MK5, Omni: Airy, resonant in high mid, not too thin but not particularly warm
  • Neumann KM-183, Omni: Pleasing warmth, quite throaty sounding, breathy
  • DPA 4006, Omni with Ape: Sounds slightly phasey? Something hollow and off-putting about the sound
  • Earthworks OM-1, Omni: Well balanced, more obvious room sound, quite a pleasing tone
  • Shure 55sw, Cardioid (Dynamic): Little air, bad transient response, warm, resonant on some notes in mid freq range, expected result from a dynamic mic
  • AKG C535, Cardioid (Condensor): Sibilant, resonant at 2-4k making it quite harsh, breathy sounding, not too thin
  • Sennheiser MD-409, Cardioid (Dynamic): Surprising transient response, resonances at MF, not very airy, quite dead sounding
  • Beyerdynamic M88, Cardioid (Dynamic): Level is not consistent, quite breathy, more airy
  • EV RE-20, Cardioid (flat): Very sibilant and breathy, harsh 2-5k resonance, not very pleasant, quite tiring, throaty
  • Sennheiser MD-421, Cardioid (flat): Hollow, inconsistent level, very breathy
  • Sennheiser MD-441, Super-cardioid (flat): Much Low mid, picks up some rumbly throat noises, not particularly pleasant
  • Shure Beta 57A: Very breathy and throaty, quite harsh, not flattering
  • Shure Beta 58A: Sibilant, breathy, very present, not too thin, good transient response
  • Shure SM-57: Low- mid hump, relatively balanced, transients sound boomy
  • Shure SM-58: Weird “phaseyness”, quite harsh and breathy, not flattering
  • Beyerdynamic M160, Hypercardioid Ribbon: Very boomy/warm, not much air, quite muddy sounding
  • Royer R121, Bidirectional Ribbon (Front): Sounds rather distant, ER is present, better transient response than M160
  • Royer R121, Bidirectional Ribbon (Back): VERY similar, almost indistinguishable, maybe ER is less bright
  • Alsesis AM-62, Cardioid Tube: Very up-front and present, slightly tiring due to HMF resonance, quite clear transients
  • Alesis AM-62, Omni Tube: Similar, but breathier, and ER is quite obvious
  • Alesis AM-40, Cardioid Tube: Very breathy and airy, presence in LMF, quite “scooped”, slightly harsh at points
  • Neumann M147, Cardioid Tube: Warm, present LMF, quite breathy, good transient response, good presence
  • Audio Technica AT-4060, Cardioid Tube: Throaty and rattly sounding, still quite warm, a little harsh

 

I was intending to test the male vocals hosted on this site also, but the singer is very weak, pitchy, and actually quite annoying. I don’t think I’d give the test a fair run for these reasons. However, I believe that the female vox has given me enough to consider.

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