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Best mic for my voice?

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by Wyatt W, Feb 13, 2013.

  1. Wyatt W

    Wyatt W Active Member

    Hey guys, this is a long shot, but I thought I'd try. I'm looking to buy one mic for a home studio. I'd like to stay under $1000k, or worse-case scenario not much over it. I've read through forums and listened to many shoot-outs. My main concern is I want something that really works well with my voice. I know the only way to really figure that out is to go to a studio and do it, but the area I live in has no studios with a decent mic selection, nor are there any places to rent mics from. I'd have to book studio time and travel a long way. Would anyone with experience be able to listen to this video of me singing and give it a shot at a mic that would complement my voice?

    Toto - Africa (Wyatt Welsh cover) - YouTube

    I was thinking about the AKG c414 b-uls? I wanted to do the vocals at home so I could really spend the time to get the best performance. Am I better off paying studio price to use something like the Neumann u87?

    I know that the pre is a big factor, and that's for a different thread, but assuming I have a good pre, any suggestions?
  2. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    No to both of those. I own both, the U87ai (the "ai" stands for "ain't it no mo' ") and a 414XLS (the smooooother version of the ULS). If you gotta have an LDC, my recommendation would be the Audio-Technica AT4047. No need for the multi-pattern version here. You have a lower-registered voice, that mic kills in that range. Smokey, silky, and smooooth. Just remember that the acoustical environment needs to be right - that means treated, not dead - or else that big ol' diaphragm will be picking up bad reflections like no one's business. The other choice? A Beyer M-69 (or TG69) dynamic. Tight pattern control,great on males.
    What preamp do you have?
  3. Wyatt W

    Wyatt W Active Member

    Thanks for the input. I've heard good things about the AT4047. After more research though, I'm wondering if I wouldn't be better off with a dynamic mic, like the Shure SM7b. I've always used condensers, but they seem to bring out a brassy, metallic sound in my voice on the high end, especially the expensive ones. Maybe a SM7b would balance that out? It would also help with the room - I rent an apartment so I don't know how well I'll be able to treat the room for a condenser.

    I don't have a preamp yet - I was looking at the A-Designs P-1. Or something from Great River. I know that the SM7b, if I go that way, needs a lot of gain to work. Any thoughts between the AT4047 and the SM7, or between a condenser and dynamic for my voice in general?
  4. Wyatt W

    Wyatt W Active Member

    Sorry, just saw your suggestion on the Beyer M-69. Haven't heard much about it, but have heard a lot about the M-88. What's the difference between the two? And how do the Beyer's, in your opinion, stack up against the SM7?
  5. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    If you have a good preamp, I'd go for a good dynamic. You won't get the "air" of an LDC, but you need the room to be right and the match to be right for your voice for an LDC to shine. A good dynamic gives its best in a wider range of conditions on a wider range of voices. I have not tried the Beyer M-69. My favorites are the Electrovoice RE20 and the Shure SM7b. The Shure in particular is low output, so you need a preamp with a lot of clean gain. Another point here is that there is much less financial risk. Less than half your budget and good resale value.

    [Edit:] Ha, cross posted. Again, can't compare to the Beyer, but the RE20 is one of the most popular mics for radio - nice presence without any harshness in the highs, very little proximity effect. The SM7b is very similar with a tiny bit less in the low mids a touch more in the highs. (All the good dynamics I am familiar with have a bit of a 2-3k presence bump and a roll off after 5-10k. They differ in the exact position and magnitude of those deviations.)
  6. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    To echo everyone else and add one in the direction Bob is thinking! The DPA d:facto just came out, it might be right in the middle. I have know idea what is like but I would love to know. DPA mics are incredible.

  7. JakeAC5253

    JakeAC5253 Active Member

    A ton of clean gain can be difficult to find in a preamp. I've actually just bought something called the CL-2 Cloudlifter. It's a neat little two channel inline gain boost that gives 25dB clean gain from JFET amplifiers inside that run on phantom power. So if you decide to get the SM7b, that may help to get it in the right place without cranking the preamp and getting noise and hiss.

    Large diaphragm condensers have an upper end EQ boost by default, that's because of the bigger diaphragm. Small diaphragm condensers won't have that bump in the upper range, but they're not so good on vocals in general. I'll echo what everyone else is saying and ask how is your recording environment?
  8. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    The RE20 is a great mic, and versatile... great on voice, great on kick drum, great on brass... If I were headed to a desert island and could only take one of the mics in my collection I think it'd probably be the RE20... and I also have Neumanns and AKG's.. LOL

    Now.. that being said, there is no "one mic fits all". You need to go with what sounds best on your voice. It may be a U87, it may be an SM57...
  9. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Depends on where you look. The AEA preamps are designed for ribbons and are quite high gain (83 dB if you believe the specs). There several in the high 70's (e.g. True.) I've been using ribbons on most acoustic string instruments, so I now have four channels of the AEA TRP. Doesn't add any color (which I'd usually prefer) but I love it on quiet sources and low output mics.

    I have not tried that, but have seen it recommended before. There are other ways to gain stage: for instance, going through a hardware compressor and using the makeup gain.
  10. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    It's a bit hard to guess from that video clip, but it sounds as though you have the sort of voice that would benefit from trying a ribbon mic. When trying out mics for vocalists I have not recorded before, I go through a selection of different types including a Beyerdynamic M500 ribbon as well as standards like the SM58 and the RE20 that others have mentioned.

    You give a vague reference to the pre-amp you either have or are thinking of getting, but I would emphasise that it's important to consider the microphone/pre-amp combination as an instrument in itself when teasing out the subtleties in vocal mic selection. An SM58 through an API 3124+ sounds a lot different to the same mic going into a FastTrack Pro. You also may find that a pre-amp that has adjustable input load impedance gives you the particular flavour you are looking for.

    I'm sorry to say that it's not something that you can easily predict and decide in isolation. You may have to travel to hear and try out the different combinations, but a good, reputable dealer in a big city should have both the stock and a half-decent demo room for you to try out a number of mics and pre-amps, especially if, as you say in your first post, you have $1000K to spend.
  11. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    The reason that I recommended the 4047 is because I have found that it has better detail and clarity without sibialnt harshness that a lot of LDC's tend towards. But you will need a better environment to work with it.
    I like the RE-20 as well, and I have recommended it a lot, especially when you want the room out of the picture. My SM7b always sounds like a 58 with extra foam, at least to my ears. I have the Cloudlifter, too, and it works well with both of those dynamics very nicely. In fact it really opens up the SM7.
    The M-88/TG88 are a bit husky for me, the 69 always seems to have a bit more presence and balance. I personally have always liked the sound of Beyers on many voices, there's a subtle presence to them that adds to the detail and clarity.
  12. thatjeffguy

    thatjeffguy Active Member

    My first impulse after listening to your voice was to suggest the SM7b. I've got over 35 mics to choose from and that is what I would use on your voice. I run it through either my AEA RPQ preamp or my Great River MP-2NV. Sounds great through both.
    Chris likes this.
  13. Wyatt W

    Wyatt W Active Member

    I plan to use a homemade vocal booth, but the treatment won't come anywhere near what I'd get in a studio, so a dynamic is probably the way to go over a condenser. As for pre's, I haven't bought one yet. I'm between Great River and A-Designs. Leaning towards A-Designs P-1. I've read that the A-Designs provides more of a creamy vintage sound, which I think I'd like. I'm definitely gonna check out the Cloudlifter.
  14. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    You can waste the money on the SM-7. It's really just a 300+ dollar version of the 58. Stick an extra foam pop filter on the 58 and then one of those embroidery loop pantyhose pop filters. Keep them a few inches away from the capsule and it will sound like a seven. It won't have the bass frequency low frequency rolloff (you'll have to do that in software) and it always has that presence boost on. And if that's worth an extra $200 + to you? Go for it. And where you'll also find plenty of folks who have used that 7 or 58's to record the lead vocals for folks like Michael Jackson, Bono and Steven Tyler and more. It will not be affected by the room acoustics anywhere near as much as anyone's condenser microphone will. It provides a nice full robust sound was great presence and clarity. Works even nicer in the better preamps. You just cannot go wrong with it. Much more versatile than a condenser microphone. Especially under compromise acoustical conditions such as your home.

    You only use a studio condenser microphone when A) you want that condenser sound? Or, B) when your client wants that condenser sound. Otherwise you're fooling yourself in thinking that everybody uses these condenser microphones for recording vocals with. They don't. But a fool and his money is quickly parted. I'm not saying ya shouldn't get a 414. Probably your next most versatile sounding microphone, any version. Some have a marked presence peak where the others are flat. The units with the presence peak have been determined to be very good on vocals. But then so has the flatter version.

    The other rather substantially different sounds will come from the different kinds of microphone preamps. Whatever is built into your computer audio interface is certainly adequate no doubt. They are also likely to be of a transformer less design that are very clear, clean, crispy, metallic, brittle sounding. Where is the older school designed preamps utilizing an input transformer and discreet transistor electronics will provide this gorgeous sound from a 58. And that's what I use mostly with my API & Neve preamp inputs. I do a lot of live location work and these 57 & 58's, I couldn't do my job without those. Those get used more than any of my simply fabulous and collector item 67's, 87's, 56 & 86's and let's not forget the AKG & SHURE condenser microphones also.

    And where I am dealing with a high or squeaky voice, for those, I always grab for the ribbons. What I mean if you want a high squeaky voice to sound even more squeaky, nearly unlistenable, certainly not enjoyable, go ahead and grab for a condenser micro. Then you can go out of business the following week. I wouldn't even put a 58 on a soprano or some squeaky guy. I own 6 ribbon microphones. I couldn't live without them. I'm 57 and I've been using them since I was in my teens. They never used to be cheap. Today, the Chinese are making some lovely ones. They are imported by American firms and also AT, Beyer, Rupert Neve Designs, Royer, Cascades and a boatload of others. Some starting as little as $160. And extending well past $3000 US. So some not much more money than a Beta 58 by Cascades. So dynamic and condenser microphones are certainly not the be-all end-all. I use my ribbons as often as I used my dynamics and condensers. I believe me, I have a good top shelf selection. The only crappy ones I have are the eight Radio Shaft Pressure Zone Microphones that I purchased over 20 years ago. And with their slight modifications, they are balanced out and run on 12-18 V battery power (cannot be effectively phantom powered). And they sound like my $375 brand name Crown PZM's, with that simple modification. One plug and a change of batteries. There are definitely advantages to hemispherical patterned microphones. Especially when they are part of one of the boundary surfaces such as the wall, ceiling, floor, 4x4 foot/2 x 2' plexiglass panels that have been hung or mounted. And so sometimes I will stick a Pressure Zone Microphone on a wall and make people face the wall and either sing or talk to the wall. Especially if I don't like them LOL. Then ya can make all sorts of obscene gestures. And they will have loved the experience of working with you. Just make sure their family members are not in the control room when you do that or bitch about what an idiot they are. Freakin' No talent! But of course you want their business back again. So use the right microphone.

    Now these ribbon microphones depending upon the types and costs, largely sound like those old-fashioned radio and movie microphones that the RCA 44 made so popular and their 77. That's smooth lush warm quality without any strident high-frequency fizzy sounding thin diaphragm condenser thingies.

    So having a ribbon kind of completes your Swiss cheese fondue. Without the ribbon, you've got the pot, you've got the flame, you've got the forks, you've got the baguette but ya forgot the cheese. So you could have little toasted bread squares that are ultra-crispy. And you won't have any of that satisfying and filling molten cheese goo. Though the Rhine wine and the Kirsch Wasser may have already been completely consumed and everything will sound great? It's that or you have drunk little pieces of bread all catching on fire?

    I like a lot of garlic and Kirsch Wasser in my Swiss cheese fondue. And I don't go lightly with the Rhine wine.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  15. audiokid

    audiokid Staff


    You've been saying this a lot over the years and I have to say, I'm starting to lean towards this more and more and I'll share why.

    When I do remixes, the labels provide stems that sound terrible. I mean terrible. I could never record vocals that sound that bad. Why are they that bad, you can clearly hear they are using condensers in studios that sound like ITB ass. The whole package sounds like smashed digital mush with no life. Just loud and irritating.

    Here's where this gets interesting now. For remixes I always keep the Vox track and usually replace everything else. When I do that, the vocals actually don't sound that bad to me then. But I hear the rooms in all of them and it doesn't help one bit! So how could a 58 be worse I think. I know these vox tracks would sound better had they used something that kept the room reflection and ugly metallic edge out.. Who cares about all the top and bottom end. I roll that off anyway. Its not natural in vocals and in the final mix, you add that to the entire mix together. Thats how I do it.

    My point here is exactly what you are saying here! We don't need all that added high end zzz, low end rumble and crappy room reflections added in vocals. I don't care what anyone say's today about a nice sounding room. For my application and methods and how i see the end result, hardware reverbs sounds better in the mix than an out of time studio room forcing its way through an entire song.
    Dynamic mics through high end preamps and high rail analog consoles should sound killer compared! Add a Bricasti or two and I think this is a killer concept for most studios. The trade off, less room trumps my concept to achieve a much better mix.

    I'm with you now. Take the room out of the mix.

    Dynamic mics with killer preamps and high voltage consoles sounds like a great plan.
  16. Wyatt W

    Wyatt W Active Member

    Thanks guys, I hear you. It looks like my biggest investment will be the preamp - still leaning towards the A Designs P-1. If I do get this, can I go with an inexpensive interface, like an Echo Audiofire2, that doesn't have a preamp. Or the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 or Presonus Audiobox USB. Is it easy to bipass the built in preamp? I'm only recording vocals and midi.
  17. JakeAC5253

    JakeAC5253 Active Member

    Well the mic and preamp pairing is very important yes, the preamp has some tuning effect on the microphones' response. What a poor quality converter will do is take a nice 3d image and turn it flat and lifeless. Not saying you have to buy the ferrari, but I wouldn't be looking at a Pinto either... that's called a bottleneck. I wouldn't be aiming quite as low as you are.
  18. BassLiK

    BassLiK Active Member

    You can't go wrong with the Pacifica!, that's what I got my pennies saved up for.
  19. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    We use the word "chain" in signal chain for a reason. Scrimping on any link does degrade the final sound. However, if you are forced to scrimp on any one link I'd scrimp on the interface/converters. First, I'd argue (admittedly against some opposition) that there is less difference between the different levels of converters than between different levels of mics and preamps. Second (and most importantly) the quality of analog is more stable than the quality of digital. If you bought a good mic and/or preamp 15 years ago, it's still a good mic/preamp. That is NOT true of interfaces/converters. What was good 15 years ago is now trash. That may not be true in the future - digital technology may have stabilized. But history says if you have to choose between the two, spend the money on the preamps or mics.

    [Edit:] Of course, I look forward to the time when we take six different microphones, six different preamps, and six sets of converters and record the same sound source using 216 combinations . We can have a panel of experts rank their quality and do a statistical analysis to see which elements had the strongest correlation.
  20. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I looked into that A Designs P-1. OK it's a knockoff on the Quad Eight Pacifica. This is an old-school design like I had talked about earlier. Transformer coupled input with a pad. Yes! I had a Sphere Eclipse C, designed and built by Don McLaughlin. He was one of the original ElectroDyne founders. He started Sphere and when that went under, his guys split off to create Quad Eight. And that's a lot like the Sphere which was just out of this world sounding. Unfortunately that's just a preamp and does not include a converter. Now you can plug that preamp into most any line level input converter. You could even plug it into a Focusrite, given it has a line level input. You can go into that microphone preamp maybe? And generally only if that also offers a pad switch. Which you would engage.

    Now Kurt is talking about noisy preamps that you do not want to turn the gain up on. That's not true. This Cloud Lifter nonsense is not something I would want to put in front of a quality preamp out ever, never. Completely unnecessary to do that. I wouldn't use any of those ridiculous Cloud Lifters on anything other than perhaps a passive ribbon microphone going up 250-1000 feet worth of microphone cable. I mean it's not a horrible thing to do but if you already have a good microphone preamp why would you want to put some other cheap little preamp circuitry that cost $50 in front of a preamp that costs $500. Does that make sense to you? It certainly doesn't to me. And that A Designs P-1, is a preamp to write home about. So you might want to look into a MOTU interface instead? Something that has a line level input and can handle a +24 input source? That's where the head room is and the real professional sound is, baby. It doesn't come from low headroom entry level junk.

    And where the SM 7 along with the Electro-Voice RE 20, Sennheiser 441/421 may very well provide you with superior sound and performance of your vocal recording over anybody's premium condenser microphone and I mean anyone's. Otherwise your indigo whole lot of nasty room sound and not what you want or need.

    With your example you posted, you are obviously not a highly dynamic singer or performer. Crooner, folk artist, yeah. You also don't open your mouth enough when you're singing the words. You're almost mush mouthed sounding. That's not emotion that's mush. It's also not much of a performance. You're not breathing! You're working on available stale air in your lungs. No no no. Breathe! Project. Open your mouth and enunciate. Thanks Steve Tyler with a softer delivery. That man is 80% mouth and 20% body. You are 20% mouth and 80% body. A big difference in performance delivery there.

    While folks have suggested that AT 4047, which is extremely nice, I really don't think it's going to make things better for your voice. That SM 7 or that he very much more affordable 58 will make you sound better with your A Designs P-1, preamp, than most anything else. MOTU makes some very fine products of which I am an owner of one and have been for over 10 years, the 2408 mark II. And it only allows on the line level inputs for a maximum of +20 and my preamps all deliver up to 10 db more. So I can't make my preamps go balls to the wall for the sound I want to get without having to also utilize a resistive H pad before it sees the 2408. And I would prefer not to be robbed of that additional 4-10 db of extra headroom my preamps/mixer/consoles deliver. But I don't have the money for the premium AD/DA Convertors like the Lavery, Prisms, API A 2 D.

    On one of those folks that actually likes to crank the crap out of my all discrete transistor microphone preamps/EQ and console. Noise is not the issue nor the problem. But overload is. If you're getting too much noise? You are likely too far from the sounds source? Now that does happen when that oboe solos when your microphone is a ribbon and more than 30 feet away. Then you'll hear some noise. In a studio environment it's virtually a non sequitur. I really cannot believe all of my colleagues saying that 50 DB of pre-amplification, wouldn't be adequate in a bedroom studio environment? And I find that asinine. Never has that been an issue for me and countless others. My Neve & API preamps, can deliver between 70-80 db of pre-amplification. And where are they most of the time when recording rock 'n roll with low output dynamic microphones? Usually around 20-50 db of pre-amplification. So what the hell do you need 70+ for, in a bedroom/basement studio? I really can't think of any reasons? I don't know how these guys are doing their recordings? I only know what I've been doing for over 40 years and what equipment I've had to work with. And where, if it becomes an issue, we know how, I know how to deal with it. And there are many ways in which to deal with it that cause no sonic degradation. I used downward expansion, noise gates, noise reduction units and manual or programmable muting. And that's how it's done. And it's not where you sit back eating a hamburger and blame the problem on your equipment. It's only yourself to blame that you didn't know what to do.

    And when you especially have a high quality old-school preamp like that A Designs P-1, you have one of the finest microphone preamps ever designed. In fact on those kinds of preamps (which I personally prefer) I'm frequently engaging the pad switch and cranking up the gain. This will increase the noise factor by as much as the pad which is generally around 20 db. So I make my noise 20 db worse just to get the sound I want out of that discrete transistorized old-school designed, transformer coupled input, microphone preamp. And noise still isn't a problem with a 20 db loss of signal to noise ratio. And that's what you're going to do with that preamp of the A Designs P-1, to get that sound. That's THE SOUND! It's when you run that preamp up to the point of the amplification circuit, when it slightly starts to go nonlinear. That's the hit sound that everybody marvels over. But you don't get it by running the preamp according to the directions. You have to have this understanding of that discrete transistor circuitry to glean the full advantages it has to offer. And if you just adjusted properly, accordingly, to established operating parameters, you'll simply get nice, good sound. The good stuff happens when you push it beyond that. But how are you to know that? Now you do.

    You don't get Grammy, Emmy & Soul Train Music Awards nominations for Best Engineered, by being a hack. You don't get those because you went to a recording school and got a piece of paper. You get it by understanding all that you are working with to begin with. And by understanding the imposed limitations of whatever equipment you are using. And everything has its limits. Even those high-voltage rails, in the console that Chris just purchased. Which likely exceeds most everything else. But what good does that do you? Especially when it still has to end up at 16 bit, 44.1 kHz, MP3, MP4, iTunes, whatever. At least with iTunes you could now deliver 24-bit and a higher sampling rates. But that's just them. It sure the hell ain't everybody, where they simply want 16-bit, 44.1 kHz as a wave or MP3, MP4, AIF/AIFF. And the streaming stuff, that ain't high definition of any sort.

    Nobody will even tell you how awful PCM sounds. Because it's all they're using. It's the only currently practical format. And it ain't good. But everybody will tell you that 24 bit/32 bit float at 192 kHz sounds just like the input source. That's an outright lie. They're being paid. And if all of the successfully rich engineers are being compensated by companies to tell you that, what are you going to believe? Them of course. So I guess I'm the only one that can hear the difference on cheap speakers? Or even on the top-of-the-line stuff being demonstrated with at the AES conventions? People today listening to digital artifacting all think that's the original analog source. It's not. It's digital artifacting. It's a component now there that wasn't in the original. And that's digital artifacting which is faking everybody out. Not me. My hearing is too keen my mind too sharp. I just listened beyond the hyperbole blather. You're there to listen. You're not there to agree just because they are shaking their heads yes and you're shaking your head no. I once had Burgess McNeil, who designed and built all of the conceptual pieces for George Massenburg, tell me you could not hear his limiter working. I absolutely could hear it working. It sounded like any other limiter working. But Burgess is telling everybody you can't hear it working. So more lies from somebody I knew personally. You can either elect to believe these people or not. And when someone is telling me what I can't hear, I'm completely amazed to know that they can tell what I'm listening to. And then they get it wrong. Proving their expertise. Like I'll ever believe them again? No way. And that's the top of the top of the top equipment manufacturers. So I only want to know what they are selling. My listening to it will determine the validity of their claim/claims. Sometimes I really do hear things that impressed the heck out of me. And at an affordable cost that only the rich can afford LOL. So you either have to be smart or you need to be rich but you have to be one of those two. With none of that in the equation, you're blind. You won't be able to make intelligent practical financial decisions in your purchasing. And because most of the truly affordable stuff is all about the same. So go for the features that you think you might want rather than looking at the marketing blather of the advertisements. In my work, I require some very specific features and capabilities from the equipment in which I use. And I know what I want to get as far as my own signature sound goes. Just like Bob Clearmountain, George Massenburg, et al.. They're not out there trying to discover what piece of equipment they want next. Most of that equipment was already supplied to them, free of charge to evaluate. Most of the time, they give the equipment back. What's that tell ya? They have no interest in using that stuff. Why? It's state-of-the-art. That's why.

    You're learning
    Mx. Remy Ann David

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