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AKG Mic /Telefunken Tube

Discussion in 'Microphones' started by DonnyThompson, Dec 7, 2014.

  1. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Here's a song I recently did where I used an AKG SolidTube mic, replacing the stock 12ax7 tube with a Telefunken ECC83-TK.

    I've been using a 12AT7 for a few months, and I've been wanting to try a Telefunken tube.

    Cover version of a Warren Zevon song; Accidentally Like A Martyr from his 1978 Asylum LP Excitable Boy.

    NOT A MIX. LOL - NOT EVEN A ROUGH MIX. Just to listen and talk about the mic/tube. Here it is:

    I just kinda threw "the faders" up on this one with attention and focus on the lead vox, so we could hear and discuss what this tube sounds like.

    Some observations:

    I really had to roll low end off on this mic/vocal track; 150hz and down was attenuated by a whopping -10db, because the vocals sounded so "boomy".
    I might have overdone it a scoodge... LOL

    Throughout the mix, it sounded to me like the tone was "changing". There were sections of nice air and silk, and then sections where sibilance got a bit much; there were sections where it sounded like it had too much low-mid body, and yet other sections where it sounded "thin" to me. Yet, other sections sounded really nice, with a nice balance of the tube " edge" and smoothness

    I haven't done anything to the EQ other than what I mentioned regarding the HPF at 150hz.

    Some moderate compression - 3:1 @ -15db thresh, MU gain around +2db.
    Slight plate verb.

    Any thoughts, comments are more than welcome.
  2. audiokid

    audiokid Staff


    Its a really nice sounding mic, but I hear an edgy, almost consistent character you get on tracks which are creating a spiking in the top mids, maybe 8k. I know you mentioned the mix itself so I hear past that but its also there so perhaps that gets in the way to appreciate the mic as its best foot forward.
    I'm wondering if that is an EQing, pre, or converter character in your tracking gear or sonic taste? I'm certain its not the mic. Being said, I love the overall presence of this, Donny. The mic covers your whole range; and your skills are excellent as usual. If the example was flat, it would be easier to hear its character. Am I picking up on something helpful for you?

    Thanks for sharing!
  3. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I didn't add any EQ to the mic, Chris.. all I did was roll of a huge amount of low end "whoomp"... LOL

    Looking at the master bus, ( Samplitude) it's essentially flat; 80hz @+1db, -1.5@ 250, -1 at 7k, +1 at 12k.

    BUT... I also don't have the monitoring that you do, either. And it's entirely possible I may have too much upper end absorption as well.

    I'm not disliking this mic. I'm still a bit puzzled by how the sonics seemed to kind of randomly change throughout the song. I let the mic warm up for 30 minutes before I tracked the part. I think that the Telefunken tube is edgier by nature than the 12AT7 I had before it.

    I think it's a good mic to have around as a secondary option, although it still isn't my number one go-to though, which is my 414 EB. I may cut a vocal track with that mic and post another version of the song for comparison.

  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Here's a version using the AKG 414 EB on vox. Lead Vocal is a bit pitchy, I just sang it a few minutes ago, quickly. Not enough coffee in me yet to do it without some wizzlies in pitch. LOL

    No EQ added or cut. Flat w/a bit of GR and a little plate verb to match the vibe.

    Again, not a mix.

    View: https://soundcloud.com/donnythompson/accidentally-like-a-martyr-414
  5. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    I can't listen to the akg version here at my job.. but I listened to the tube mic this morning.
    I didn't comment right away because I wanted to read other comments first.
    I too heard a HF defect. I call it defect because I found it disturbing and annoying. It's like you had a narrow bell peak around 8k-10k and that peak have a lot of distortions.
    I will listen to the new version when I get the chance..
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    And I hear it too. My intuition tells me that perhaps this tube isn't biased correctly for use in this mic... just because a tube physically fits into a component doesn't mean it's the best choice... or so I've been told by tube "aficionados". ;)

    The 414 track sound much smoother to my ears, far less peaky, warmer, silkier.

    I'll let you guys decide. ;)
    bigtree likes this.
  7. Smashh

    Smashh Active Member

    I listened to both and for me the tube mic (except for the harsh area ) just sits in the mix so much better from here. I thought it may be that the 414 track was louder in mix .
    I can hear more emotive content on the tube , like the slightest bit of pressure difference really gets portrayed and is sitting with instruments wonderfully.
  8. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    One of my favorite songs from one of my favorite albums. When you listen to the "production" on Excitable Boy you come to realize that it was probably made 'faders up'....print it!

    I only listened on the office computer. So detail wasn't as good as it is in the studio. The Solid Tube mic seemed to deliver that "thing" that tube mics tend to have. Sort of a more musical alignment of the frequencies in a voice. The AKG was just way too clinical and correct with an edge that made it hard to finish the track. I didn't hear the changing you spoke of. There was a change in emphasis on some phrases but I couldn't be sure that wasn't the singer being into the track more than a hardware problem. I like that the guitar is more country rooted than Waddy's was originally.
  9. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I'm the odd duck out here. But, thats because I hear what I can do in the mix. I'm not persuaded to like the other because its mixed a bit more into this track.

    This one is by far superior, but as the others has expressed, it lacks what the tube does. But, this is something I could help along later. Give me clean over compromised colour any day. :)
    I'd much rather have a better tracked transparent version to one with issues you can't remove. I could run this through an LA2A, 1176 and it would have a really nice sheen.

    The reverb is pushing a bit too much sss on this but its much better overall. I think you are right about the bias on that tube. Something isn't lining up with it.
  10. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    I like the 414 better.
    I guess I can't get past the weird HF of the tube. Like Chris, I think it would be a problem at the mix time.
    The 414 neutral capture that some don't like is a blessing for me because I'd have more chances to give it the character I want with EQ comp etc...
    Of course the level of the performance may not be the same but obviously it wasn't part of my decision. ;)
    I guess the solidtube would be better served with another tube, the one that you tested before was a bit better in my opinion.

    This comparaison makes me realise that I long craved for a tube mic and althought the AKG is not the top of the line, it makes me realise that with a tube in the mic you have what you have and can't really change much of the character. I'm very glad I went with an all tube preamp like the LA-610 instead of a tube mic because I get to choose how much I drive it and get 100 different sounds instead of 1.

    IMHO of course
  11. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Agreed. I wanted to see what using a different tube would do, and in this case, I don't think it works - at least not on my voice. I'm going to put the other tube back in - the 12AT7.

    But, I'm not sorry that I did it... after all, how do we know this stuff unless we try, right? ;)

    pcrecord likes this.
  12. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Failing is just finding another way not to do something ! ;)
  13. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    BTW, if anyone is interested, I'd be glad to make tracks available for mixing if you want... or, if you just want the vocal, that's fine too...

    If so, let me know whether you want the latest 414 vocal, or, the SolidTube with the original AT7 tube with a re-tracked new vocal.

    Hell, I'll even track a new version with a Ribbon if you want.

    Might be fun to see what everyone can do and how they approach it.

    or, no to all of the above is fine too. ;) LOL
  14. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I'm not sure I'd really consider it a 'failure" per se', because I didn't go into it with any expectations either way... it was just an experiment to see what the other tube would sound like.
    I wasn't optimistic or pessimistic, I just wanted to hear the results and talk about them here.

    For all I know, that mic and tube combination might be fine for horns, or electric guitar, etc. Or, it might not work at all for that mic. Or, maybe the tube is going bad and another Telefunken tube might sound great.

    But, at least for the tube I had and used, on that vocal track, on that song - or, maybe I should say for MY lead vocal, it didn't "work". ;)
  15. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    That's the downside to a tube mic, I think... even the older, much sought-after vintage models; they sound great on some people and not-so great on others.

    (FWIW, I've worked with Telefunken and Neumann tube mics in the past, and I never ran into any singer that they didn't sound great on, but then again, I only worked with those vintage models on rare occasions. Perhaps if I had been using them everyday for a long period of time, I would have eventually come across a performer where they might not have been the best choice.)

    But, if you have a hi-quality, transparent mic - which I certainly consider the 414 EB to be - you can pretty much do anything you want with it after the fact. You are starting with a clean slate, so to speak, and as long as the mic doesn't have any inherent wizzlies, and can record with nice sonics, you can always run it through any number of a tube pre which allows you to vary the tube/tonal characteristics, match impedance, control gain structure, etc., - or use post processing - either OTB or ITB - to get the sound you want...
    ...as opposed to a dedicated tube mic that pretty much "is what it is" - and for some, "what it is" is fantastic. But, you can't count on that being the case for every single vocalist.

    Given the choice, I think I'd rather have a nice hi-end transparent mic / pre - and have the option to put it through a tube pre, or process it after the fact, using ITB/OTB options.

    I'm not saying I'm gonna "toss out" the Solidtube LOL - once I put the AT7 tube back in, it will probably have its place for certain applications. ;)

    pcrecord likes this.
  16. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    I admit the word 'fail' is a bit hard here. ;)
    When making tests, it's always a win because you answer questions while looking to better yourself !
  17. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I'm re-tracking with the 414, and I'm also going to do one with a ribbon as well (MXL 860) and am going to replace the tube (back to the 12AT7) in the AKG, and do a take with that one as well.

    I can also track with a Neumann U89i as well, if you want...let me know. I don't have my U87 at the moment, ( it's on-loan to an engineer friend of mine who is working on an album this month).

    All takes will be through the Presonus VSL/XMAX preamp and converters.

    (although, if you want to send me a Neve, RME or other "boutique/second mortgage" preamp to track with, I'm more than willing to accept. ) :)

    Let me know if you want to work with these files - we'll probably have to do this via drop box, or through an online FTP file-sharing program of some kind, that can handle the size(s) of the files; for as convenient as Soundcloud is, I don't want to add any of the potential wizzlies of an MP3. If we are going to do tests, I want the audio that I make available to be as high in quality as possible.

    All files will be mono, totally flat, no processing of any kind.

    And, I'll be happy to provide any other details that you want - as far as tracking method, distance from the mic(s), the space I'm in, etc.

    I think I'm gonna dig out my packing blankets for this one; to alleviate any potential for flutter echo, room sound, etc.

    And if you don't want to do this, that's fine, too. I realize some of us here are very busy (obviously I'm not right now, or at least this week, anyway LOL) and might not have the time for this trivial exercise.

    I'm going to track more vocals on this song through different mics on my end anyway ... just to satiate my own curiosity.

    If you do want the files, let me know and we'll work out the best way to transfer them. ;)

  18. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Level matched would be nice too ;)
  19. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I'll make sure the tracks are as level as possible from vs to vs to choruses and such, and as close to each other with each take using different mics as well.

    I can kick 'em out at -6db or so through the master bus to a mono file.... any more than that and I'd need to use GR, and I really want to avoid that.

    I suppose I could use some very light compression, to tame peaks, but honestly, I'd rather not, and instead I'd rather use volume envelopes to even things out... I don't want to make everything the exact same level,
    (and I'm not saying that this is what you are inferring, either ;) ) because there are dynamics in the performances I'd like to respect.
  20. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member


    I re-tracked the lead vocals yesterday through 3 mics... AKG 414, SolidTube (with original 12AT7 tube put back into mic) and also thru an MXL 860 Ribbon (just for fun).

    All tracks are mono, flat, no processing. The only thing I did was to clean them up a bit to get rid of breaths and a bit of sibilance here and there - but for this I didn't use a de-essing processor, instead I did it manually through Samplitude's object editor, which allows me to separate out the "s" section of a file and attenuate the gain... (Chis is familiar with this method) I prefer this way because I'm not compressing frequencies (which can also remove pleasing frequencies at the same time. I also used this process to even out sections for overall volume.

    All files are MP3 (225kbps) ...for now... I can make all the tracks available in 24 bit .wav as soon as I figure out how to provide them.

    Here are the three vocal takes.

    View: https://soundcloud.com/donnythompson/vocal-414-flat-mono

    View: https://soundcloud.com/donnythompson/vocal-solidtube-mono-flat

    View: https://soundcloud.com/donnythompson/vocal-860-ribbon-mono-flat

    And here's a quick and dirty 2 mix with no lead vocal, I only posted this in case someone might want to have it, to use as a bed to compare vocal takes/mics, BPM is 65, there will be three measures of silence at the top of the song, this is intended. This is a pretty quick mix.. yo can critique it if you want as long as you know I didn't spend much time on it.
    Output level is around -12db or so (RMS) with peaks at around -6 db:

    View: https://soundcloud.com/donnythompson/accidentally-2-mix-rough-no-vocal

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