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Are mic differences mostly EQ?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by took-the-red-pill, Apr 16, 2005.

  1. took-the-red-pill

    took-the-red-pill Active Member

    Okay, I know this is going to sound like a class A Newbie question, but I was just on the KEL site and checking out his sound clips. On it they record the same signal with a few different mics so you can compare apples to apples.

    Now the thing is, to my virgin ears, most of the differences in the mics sounded like differences in the frequency response curve only. And even those differences only showed up when you A-B them so fast your ears have not had a chance to forget what the last one sounded like.

    Is that really the case? Does 95% of it really come down to simple EQ adjustments?

    If so, then one ought to be able to, in theory, simply take a condenser, throw it in front of the singer/cabinet/kit/whoopie cushion, and then learn to add subtle EQ it until it behaves like X, Y, or Z mic.

    Now I know the answer CAN'T be yes, because if that were the case, how could we justify spending all our hard earned shekels on a hundred different mic flavours, when a few would do the same thing? How could we support an entire industry that wants us to believe their mic is the golden egg that's going to get us a Grammy? And how could we possibly break it to someone who had just dropped $3500 on a mic without getting a face full of knuckles?

    Nawww, there has to be more to it than that...

  2. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    Well it would explain why everybody and his or her brother uses a SM57 to record everything from guitar riffs to frogs chirping.(ribbit)
    But IMO it's the same invisable (i.e. magnetic flux lines, that are different because of the way that each mic is wound, and the type of conductor used to wind the capsule) things about everything we love. Think about it...Is a woman a woman. Sure. Are they all the same? 2 eyes, 2 boobs, 2 legs, 2 hands, 10 fingers, ect, ect.
    But, there is something invisable that you can't see about her that makes everyone of them different. And you can't see it. You have to "get to know them". Just like "getting to know your mic's". Then you will hear things about them that no one else knows (or hears) Because they are too busy judging with their eyes. Also not all copper comes from the same country. And higher oxygen content in copper can change the sound of a mic (it becomes more capasitive). And capasitive is the storing of an electrical charge.
    We all know that some mic's use "gold" windings, or "gold plated" this or that. And gold is a better conductor than copper (which means that the speed at which it operates or passes electrons is greater) basically faster. It may be only in nano secounds or even micro secounds, but it does effect the sound in little ways. If you are using copper from a country that does not try to remove most of the oxygen content somewhere in the process of making the microphone, Vs using oxygen free copper, or even better..(dare I say it) oxygen free gold. Or at least some technology that removes the capasitive nature of the contents of the electrical conductor.
    So there are many things that "look" like they are the same thing but truely are changing the sound in ways we will never see.
  3. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    Frequency response is different off axis than on axis. The difference will vary between mics and impact the sound.

    The acoustics of the housing around the capsule will also impact the sound - not just the frequency response, but it may add a little color (try to define "color" :p ). Oktava MK319s and MI219s are supposed to be the same capsule and electronics in a different housing. Their sound is significantly different and it is (in theory) only the acoustics of the housing the makes the difference.

    The same might be said for the SM57 and SM58 - there was a dirty low-down flame throwin' name callin' thread about those mics a while back - it seems the two mics use the same capsule, but there are clear differences in how the mics sound - must be in structure that surrounds the capsule.

    Different types of mics and variations in design will effect how they respond to transients.
  4. dpd

    dpd Active Member

    The preamps in condensor mics will have a signficant impact on the sound, IMO.

    That comment above about gold/vs copper and electron transfer speed - nope...
  5. Randyman...

    Randyman... Well-Known Member

    You also have to look at how the mic is responding to the signal. Dynamics are slower, Condensors are quicker, etc. That is not EQ related at all, but envelope/transient related.

    Also, the patterns, and more importantly - off-axis patterns - will also have HUGE differences in how a mic will sound in any room. Some mics accentuate the high frequencies off-axis to add "fairy dust" to the ambience, but not to the direct sound. Again - not possible to recreate with EQ.

    I'l let the experts take it now that the amateaur (me) is done :)

    Oops - I see the experts beat me to it... Sorry - I was away from my desk before I could "send" my post...

  6. took-the-red-pill

    took-the-red-pill Active Member

    I'm diggin' on that woman analogy in a big way.

    I think the thing I'm hearing here that most convinces me that mics truly are different, is that they behave differently off axis. Also that the housing thing would affect the sound. Those would make sense to me, not enough for me to pull out my wallet and spend more dough on mics, but I see where you're coming from.

    So what we really need is one condenser mic that comes with 4 interchangeable housings, 12 polar patterns, and detailed information on how to EQ it to sound like all your favourite mics. Then a dynamic version of the same thing and badda bing: supermic! The only thing left is for them to include a mini phone booth to change the housing.

    And while we're not really on the topic, how incredibly stupid ARE these "pro audio" on line magazines. They review and compare sound equipment and DON'T provide the tracks for download so the shopping public can actually hear the mics/pres/instruments in use to judge for themselves. One would think that it would be standard practice for people in the sound business to have lots of examples of...well...sound. It's kinda like a photography magazine with no pictures in it, no?

    Rant over

    Things will be different when I'm king.

  7. Antho

    Antho Guest

    Thing about recording mags is that sometimes you're better of spending you cashola on gear or a holiday :)

    But occaisionally you find someone you can trust, for me Paul White of SOS i can trust his judgement, and he hasn't thus far led me astray.

    the other thing is, how many people buy with their eyes? many...

    And here on the net? How many times honestly have you been sold on a product without even hearing it yet? Maybe you're unique, but plenty of people get sold on popular opinion and reputation, as well as good reviews.

    they used to say and still do: cash is king. Well, I say reviews are king if you want to sell your product!

    re: mics: a lot of EQ's introduce phasing anomolies into the sound you've recorded, as can incorrect positioning of mics... a lot of EQ's just sound plain crap. I find the better the EQ I'm using, the more I can bugger around with it later after recording, but the teaching has been for many decades: get it right at the source, don't try to fix it in the mix. It's a good philosophy, but to me there's still room for EQ in many situations...

    But as stated above: mics have transient response, Frequency response, dynamic response...circuit quality, transistors or no...and I'm sure more, adding up to the overall sound. You have certainly raised a good point though well worthy of discussion!
  8. Antho

    Antho Guest

    ahh sorry, I didn't realise you meant "online mags" still, the principle is there. Also Paul white is ONE of many I trust...there are many more!

    REL the supermic idea... interesting. We could end up with something like the Focusrite Liquid Channel...but with many changeable mic heads and swithcable internal circuitry. Of course by the time it's all good and done and $$paid for$$ it would cost as much as a decent mic kit, and allow you to record a grand total of one track :)

    Still, the future is always there ahead
  9. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    RME Multiface
  10. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    Whatever dpd, just because you say something doesn't make it fact. And saying nope when you don't seem to know any better won't help you.
  11. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    Thanks Took the red pill
    I try not to use too many of those analogies, I found sometimes they can get a point across and sometimes they dont work at all.
  12. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member

    Correct! I even learned in my high school electronics class that gold is a better conductor than copper, but expensive...because it's f'ing gold! I can't believe I remember that.

    So why are you not correct? Nope doesn't cut it for me. It makes perfect sense that a shitty conductor used in a mic or pickup will yield a bad end result compared to a great conductor in the same product.
  13. took-the-red-pill

    took-the-red-pill Active Member

    That Guy sez:

    "And I have been doing electrical work for almost 15 years now, so I would love to listen to you tell me more of your "opinions". But I will not hesitate to bring out facts... about the various speeds that electrons can transfer their valence electrons. And the operating speeds that all electronic devices work at. Ever heard of Latency?
    Do you know what modulation is and why it is used?...Can you even explain why a condensor mic uses 48V? Have you ever heard of conductors? Do you know what an insulater is? Do you understand when I say, that gold is a better conductor than copper because of it's atomic makeup?"

    I sez:

    In answer to your questions:
    yes, isn't that a pshychological term?
    yes, it's describes the movement of a hula dancer's hips...no wait, that's 'undulation!'
    no, but 12V was already taken by auto makers
    yes, though sadly the railroads are doing away with them
    yes, my roof has R40 worth of them

    I do have a question though, albeit likely irrelevant: How would the speed of something travelling as horrendously fast as electricity affect the sound of a microphone. Would it matter if it took 1/100,000,000 of a second or 1/80,000,000 of a second to go through your mic and to your board?

    Antho sez:

    re: mics: a lot of EQ's introduce phasing anomolies into the sound you've recorded, as can incorrect positioning of mics... a lot of EQ's just sound plain crap.

    i sez:

    Okay, so this is a new one to me. How would a layman such as myself hear an example of such phasing anomolies? How does an EQ introdusce them? Are they very subtle, or are they blatantly obvious once one knows what to listen for?

    Let me ask this in a different, more direct way. Can you listen to a mix, and point out that this or that track has these phase or other anomolies?

    And yeah, I'm not advocating "fix in the mix" mentality, it just seemed to me that you the difference between mic A and mic B is about 2 points here and 3 points there of up or down at certain frequencies.

    Oh, and as for "Supermike<caron>", the idea is that you buy 10 of these babies and then mix and match the housing 'for all your recording needs.' Also, with the patended "Dual Fart Bubble Technology<caron>" one end of the mic is a condenser, and when you flip it around, the other end is dynamic. All bases are covered.

    Jeez, do I have to explain everything to you guys?

  14. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    The gold used in connectors is for corrosion protection and flashy looks. It is god-awful thin and would not (IMHO) make any measurable or perceptible difference in the signal. It will not oxidize, however, which will make for more reliable connectors - and prettier, if you like gold. That's all, nothing else.
  15. ghellquist

    ghellquist Member

    Please guys, stop the pissing contest and go back to the question!

    In my humble experience the differences between mics can not be changed with any EQ available to me. I know Focusrite has something like the liquid channel that says to be able to do that. Have not heard it, but I stand very sceptical so far.

  16. GuitarTim

    GuitarTim Guest

    I recently bought my first condenser mic, and in the process I'm learning something, but I'm not sure yet if I'm learning about the differences between MIC's, or the difference between mic PRE's.

    Before buying, I spent a LOT of time researching various options in my price range, and had pretty much figured that I'd end up with either the Studio Projects B1 or the KEL HM-1 or something like that. When I went to the store, cash in hand, I discovered I wasn't going to get an opportunity to "try before I buy", and when I talked to the sales guy, and told him what I'd be using it for, he recommended the Apex 415, which I bought. It has 3 polar patterns (cardioid, omni, and figure-8), and when I asked him how the sound of it would compare to the SP B1, he said "better".

    Anyway, I've had it a couple of weeks now, and while I LOVE the sound (esp compared to what I had before), I'm finding I have to really crank the gain on the preamp in order to get any real level on my tracks, and I also have to be practically on top of the mic when recording. I'm connecting it to my (cubase) DAW using a Steinberg MI4 interface (USB), which has a built-in preamp and phantom power. So I'm wondering if the lack of gain is related to the mic, or to the preamp at this point.

    I post this not only to get opinions from more experienced folk, but also to highlight one other possible area of difference between mics...
  17. dpd

    dpd Active Member

    I don't want to get into a useless flame war. I agree with you that gold is a good conductor. Especially in exposed environments since it doesn't oxidize.

    As far as I can tell, I believe these are facts:

    As to the answer to which is the better conductor - copper or gold? It's copper - the resistivity of the metal (17.1) is lower than that of gold (22.1), but not as good as silver (15.9).

    As to the speed of current flowing in the wire? That's dictated by the electromagnetic fields and the material surrounding the wire.
    The speed has nothing to do with the material of the conductor.

    It has everything to do with the physical characteristic of the medium around the wire. It turns out, the issue is not how fast the electrons can travel in the copper, the issue is how fast the electromagnetic field can travel in the medium it is traveling through.

    That speed is maximized in a vaccuum to the speed of light and slows if the wire is surrounded by anything else. The drift velocity of the electrons through a wire is so slow you could time it with a stopwatch.

    As to your other questions the answer is yes. I have a degree in Electrical Engineering and have worked in industry for over 30 years designing and applying technologies covering about your entire list. (big deal...)

    I'm here to learn about the application of technologies to the art of recording. I have read many of your posts and have learned from them.

    No hard feelings, here. Peace

    BTW, what are your thoughts about the sonic differences in the on-board mic preamps?


    'took-the-red-pill': An EQ is, typically, a parametrically-controllable filter. In the analog world, all such filters affect the phase at the same time as the amplitude. The phase of these filters are a measure of the time delay through the filter and the effects are noticed primarily near the center frequency of the filter (for a peak or notch). What it will do is modify the time alignment of the frequencies passing through it its passband relative to those above or below that passband (e.g harmonics). This will change the waveform, hence, affecting the sound of the signals passing through it.

    Digital filters can be designed that have linear phase and, therefore, only affect the amplitude of the frequencies in the passband of the filter.

    Not a great explanation, but it was a short one.
  18. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    Well, I'll be dipped in sh*t - I checked and you're right. I always thought gold was #1.
  19. Antho

    Antho Guest

    "Well I'll be dipped in...."

    LOL! I'm usin' that one from now on...wha' a classic :)

    BTW Zemlin, you're an old proreccer ain't ya? I was/is SpeckO over there...haven't really been for some time though :)

    TTRPill: I think the EQ phasing was explained very well above, a bit better than I could've done myself.

    Does it make a massive difference? Depends on your ears, your monitors, the EQ in question etc etc. I wouldn't worry about it too much other than for 'hardcore' recording. I use quite a bit of EQ, somtimes dulling a bright mic, scopping or boosting mids, particularly rolling off low end. I'm rarely after a 'pure' sound and even when I am, I can sometimes obtain a Purer in my opinion sound than the straight unEQed sound! I know purists will disagree, but My level of mic's / preamps dictates that i use EQ! Plus, sound is percieved differently by different target audiences...

    If you are recording jazz, the ears listening tend to be a bit more refined than say HIP HOP or dance...for instance.
  20. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    I still check in, but it's been pretty quiet. I think the new front end ran a lot of folks off - it just doesn't "work" real well.

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