1. Register NOW and become part of this fantastic knowledge base forum! This message will go away once you have registered.

Close Micing Vocals - Difficult Voices

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by MasonMedia, Nov 9, 2006.

  1. MasonMedia

    MasonMedia Guest

    Like most engineers, I strive to eliminate as many variables in the recording process as possible. A large choral group I record often includes high volume gospel tunes. More often than not, there's one or more male or female soloists belting out the lyric over the top of the 120 voice group. Add to this a driving drum and bass line, piano, guitar, etc.. You get the picture.

    In the beginning, it did not take long to realize that the vocal mics, provided by the groups PA company, were a huge variable, depending of course on how badly they had been brused in the rough and tumble of a touring life. To eliminate this variable, I replaced these SM58s with my own set of Neumann KMS 105s. This made a big difference. For the most part, vocal tracks are consistent when the vocalist practices suitable mic technique (that's a whole thread for another time).

    So what's the issue. Every now and again, there comes along a "special voice," usually female, which has a unique timbre that produces a recorded sound with overtones that are so abrasive (screechy, edgy) it is difficult and time consuming to mix in. It takes a lot of time to find the offending freqs to attenuate. Often it's more than one, and if the singer is really talented, the freqs move about, too.

    Since this just happened again in their latest recording which I'm now mixing, it got me thinking of how I can reduce the likelyhood of this being a problem in the future, assuming of course, that I can identify a vocalist edgy tendancy during a pre-concert warm-up or rehearsal. (a big if :wink:)

    What I'm thinking about is adding a couple of Beyerdynamic M260 ribbon mics to the mic locker, just for the special cases (and the occassional wind instrument). My thought stems from its less pronounced presence boost (>8K), as compared with the KMS105, and it's ribbon design.

    Any thoughts or suggestions of other mic choices to solve this kind of problem? Anyone had experience with the M260 on high energy vocals?

  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Peter, a better choice would be the Beyer M160 or you might even want to try one of those new Cascade ribbon microphones being advertised here on Recording.org for $159 each??

    I love to use ribbons on screechy sopranos, it's the only way to make them sound reasonable.

    Ribbon roundup
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  3. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Remy- Have you tried the Cascade? Anyone else tried them? Very tempting price.
  4. MasonMedia

    MasonMedia Guest


    Thanks. I did consider the M160, however I felt the M260 is a better choice for close-up vocals since it includes a high pass filter. Both are hypercardioid which is good for live performace with PA. Come to think of it, it'd be nice to have some of each. Spoken like a true gear adict 8).

    Cascade's gear sure is tempting price-wise, isn't it? Honestly, I have no direct experience with them and therefore these mics could be great. However, it's not what I'm looking for right now as there's no time to experiment and do the QC (selection) that these inexpensive mics are likely to warrant. I know it's a cliche, but from past disappointments, I've come to believe more often than not, "you do get what you pay for." :wink: To make the point another way: I have a friend who designs pro audio gear that is contract manufacturered in China (like I suspect the Cascade mics are). The company he works for spends lots of time QCing and fixing crazy stuff the manufacturer let's slip including substituting parts of different quality or even specification (a transformer's a transformer, right---:twisted:). From the stories he tells, it's not hard to wonder what sort of "quality" and consistancy can be offered for this sort rock-bottom price. Enough of the soap box.

    Have you used either the M160 or M260? If so, on what?

  5. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Peter, I own 4 M160's, 1 M130 figure of 8, have used M260's and M500's but was not as impressed by those as I was the 160's and 130 which are technically identical except for polar patterns and are a double ribbon design as opposed to the single ribbon design of the 260 and 500. I also have 2 RCA 77's and really love using my ribbon microphones, especially on female vocalists, trumpets, violins, piano, drum overheads. These old ribbon microphones all exhibit that classic smooth high-frequency rolloff along with its superior transient response capabilities. Some people feel that ribbon microphones are "too noisy". That's ridiculous. They make no noise of their own but actually rely on the noise created by the microphone preamplifiers themselves and so it's imperative to use really good quality preamps for ribbon microphones.

    The real advance in ribbon microphones technology has come from David Royer. His ribbon microphones design differs from the older classic designs. I understand not only are his microphones much more robust and less susceptible to wind damage but he did what I thought about doing years ago. He put a low noise buffer amplifier in his microphones that require phantom power and along with that, produce a higher output level with relates to lower noise, from the microphone preamplifier. When I heard them demonstrated at the AES show in New York City, they didn't even sound like ribbon microphones to me but reminded me more of small capsule condenser microphones. Now that might be fine if that's the sound that you want but that's not necessarily the sound that I want from my ribbon microphones. I want that old-time radio sound. I want that 1950s Mercury records sound. If I want a modern sound, I will utilize a modern microphone.

    Using old-fashioned underwear to match my old-fashioned microphones
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  6. MasonMedia

    MasonMedia Guest


    I'm sold on the benefits of ribbons, too. I know both Wes Dooley and Dave Royer and they each have done much to popularize the technology. BTW, Wes's company AEA is now selling a nice 2 channel mic-pre that is designed specifically for ribbon mics. I used it on a recording in June with a Shure 330 on trumpet. Very nice, and quiet, too.

    Back to the M160/260. The Beyer freq. plots indicate the same response for the 160 and 260 which does not make sense if the 260 has a HP filter. With a vocalist 1" away from a 160, I'm concerned the proximity effect maybe overwhelming. Am I missing the boat on this?

  7. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Peter, I have only used the M160 as a handheld vocal microphone on a few occasions. I actually put an oversized foam pop filter on it which also helped to give me an additional inch of spacing between the singer's lips and the front of the microphone. This also helped a little with the proximity effect and utilizing a little high pass filtering after the fact was just fine. It was some old-time Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Gershwin style music and it sounded lovely with that microphone. Takes you right back to a bygone era. Sweet.

    Remember kids, always put a condom on your microphone
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  8. MasonMedia

    MasonMedia Guest


    S' Wonderful! Thanks for your insight and humor.

  9. TeddyBullard

    TeddyBullard Guest

    It is CASCADE, not CASCADA
  10. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    See Terry, not as easy as you think! :wink:
  11. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    heh Teddy- best to check your own spelling before correcting others. :D

    Anyways, Peter- Beyer made a handheld vocal ribbon mic- the M500. A great sounding microphone actually and may be just what you're looking for. I don't know if they are still being made, though... You may have to resort to the used market.

    Also, some other dynamics can work well- the M88 can make a good vocal mic, some of the Audix mics do well (I've used OM7/OM5, etc...). The Sennheiser 431 is also a great handheld vocal mic (ugly as hell, but sounds good). With condensers, you may also find that an AKG 535 may be a bit more forgiving on some voices than the Neumann (next time if you want to borrow one, drop me a line- I'd be happy to help you out).

  12. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    Beyer stopped making the M500 a few years back, after offering a special all-chrome "anniversary model". Interstingly enough, Beyer referred to the technology used in that particular model as "dynamic ribbon" as opposed to the other models they simply referred to as "ribbon". I still have a couple of M500s and have owned a number of them in the past. You have to treat them with extreme care, as they are easily damaged by a simple drop on a carpeted stage. Very smooth on female gospel singers (think Hawkins)... It will be interesting as to how these "new" C-a-s-c-a-d-e mics are going to do. A couple of years ago, an LA music store advertised in MIX that it was giving them away with the purchase of a Jay Tarses electric guitar...
    BTW: There is some fluke in the word processing program that this site uses that automatically "corrects" the spelling of that company to CASCADA...nice.
  13. MasonMedia

    MasonMedia Guest


    Thanks for the suggestions. I've noticed a few M500's for sale on ebay. They appear to have a much larger pop filter than the M160/260 type.

    I agree, the 431 is wierd looking mic. I have one which I tried a while back and it did not play well as a general vocal mic. Not sure why. At the time we had no time to experiement with it to see if there's something out of spec.

    The datasheet for the AKG 535EB indicates there is a 4 position switch for roll-off and level options. The photos do not give any hints as to the switch's location. Is there a slot on the backside?

    Moonbaby - Thanks for the comments on the M500. That sounds like what I'm looking for, at least from an audio perspecitve. The fragile nature you describe may be the reason they are not made anymore. Unfortunately, with amateur singers the situation can be unpredictable, so it's probably not a good choice. :(

  14. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    It is substantially larger than a 160 or 260... They are a bit on the fragile side (then again, so is the 160 and 260 as are most ribbons). That being said, I've never had service issues with the ones that I use. I'd expect that your folks would probably treat the mic with the respect that it deserves (esp if they are used to handling a Neumann).

    Interesting. The 431 in my experiences has been one of the most useful dynamics I've used. I even had to use it on a violin once and it worked well for that. It should sound very similar to a 441.

    Yup, you need to reach in with a pointed object to adjust it. It is about an inch down the mic from the capsule. I keep mine in the regular gain with high-pass. You positions are flat and high-pass with 0 and -10dB settings.


Share This Page