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jazz and crooner microphone choices

Discussion in 'Microphones' started by Eraserfish, Sep 12, 2012.

  1. Eraserfish

    Eraserfish Active Member

    Wish I would've found you guys sooner. Excellent responses and advice from the moderators; nice to have such a supply of recording veterans out there. I've played a lot more than I've recorded and for some reason, I've always been lucky with friends with good mics, and didn't have to invest in much till now. I've spent the last 6 months trying to find a very specific mic for a really in your face, but smooth vocal sound. A little like the old Bing recordings where he is just so close and the music is just background. I've heard what I want but can't afford it (I got to record a couple of songs on a U47 (a real one), and it was like opening your mouth and having your soul sucked out through your throat. Since that's out of the question, I've been entertaining the C414 (I've used a ULS, but it looks like they don't sell it anymore; replaced by the xls?). Funny thing is that I was just listening to some comparisons of the RE20 and the SM7b with deep male lounge singer vocals and either of those mics would probably cut it. Both have earned their street credit to be sure. The unmixed Re20 is a little more in your face than the SM7b which is good, and I'm worried that the SM7b is not going to be clear enough. The SM7B is forgiving however, and my recording situation isn't perfect (just a portable vocal booth and carpet). Got some recordings of what turned out to be my neighbor two houses down using his table saw added to my background vocals the other day. That was on my much loathed mxl 990 (I still haven't found anything I like it for...maybe second mic on an acoustic guitar to mix in string action when using a transducer under the bridge). Which is a good example as a comparison mic. The mxl 990 is a sibilant, tinny, over-picky, good for recording the neighbors cat meowing a block away but not the natural bass tone in anything microphone; when you go looking for the information in the mix it just isn't there. I admit that my skill as a producer and sound engineer is lacking, and that I want to focus on being creative and recording tracks, so I am looking for something a little forgiving. Matching vocalists to microphones is like picking out a car, noone can do it for you because there are just too many factors involved. In this case I don't have many opportunities for a test drive. An engineer buddy from the states reccomended the Geffel 92.1s to me, and he knows my voice, but without singing into it I just can't make a decision at that price. I know the Rodes NT-1 and I don't get along and the Neumann 103 is so clear that it sounds like I have a lisp with it (maybe I do have a lisp, but with that mic I can hear my teeth falling out thirty years from now). Your inputs are much appreciated. Hope I was specific enough, but as you've all said you just need to try them out to see what sound each vocalist and mic acheive together. Think Michael Buble. Anyone know what he's using? I don't really care Dynamic, condenser, Ribbon, but I doubt I well spend over a thousand unless one of you become insane and want to sell me your Dads U47.
  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    I really recommend you try a ribbon for the sort of sound you are looking for. If there's a high(ish)-end dealer near you who is prepared to let you have something like an AEA R84 for a couple of days, it would give you the low-down on whether this is what you are missing.

    A ribbon like that needs a good pre-amp that can deal with quality low-level signals. You don't say what pre-amps you have, but running a high-end mic of any type into a mediocre pre-amp is not going to be much use for evaluating mic properties and differences.
  3. Jer-vox

    Jer-vox Active Member

    Hi Eraserfish,

    I,m not sure of your budget, but there are U-47 clones out there that are a lot less than a Telefunken or Neuman. You might want to look into Peluso, Lawson, Bock, Pearlman and others. I personally own a Lawson and could't be happier. Google thier websites and check out their prices and check out their sound samples if available. Generally from $1300 and on up. These are all tube mikes that very possibly can give you the sound that you're looking for.

    Good Luck

  4. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    I WOULD recommend the Audio-Technica AT4047 (you don't need the "MP" -multi-pattern- version). I love the ones that I have had on jazz and certain r'n'b singers, both genders. Very warm and yet clear, it was designed with the Neumann 47 in mind. The problem is that,with almost ANY large diaphragm condenser, you can pick up a cat's meow down the street, as well as the acoustical properties of the room you're in. This is probably not a good thing for you with a "booth".
    This brings up another issue - the booth. These are usually counter-productive to the creative process because the can be too tight an airspace, and the reflections in the constrained room add a "boxy" sound to the recording. Not good.
    I like Bos' suggestion for a GOOD ribbon. And a proper preamp to bring it up.Besides the AT4047, I have had very good results with the Beyer M160 ( a ribbon mic). It has a very tight hyper-cardioid pattern (similar to the RE-20), with a very smoooooth sound. The pattern is unique to most ribbons and it helps to minimize the room's sound being picked up. Most ribbons are "figure-8" pattern, and this can be an issue in a booth because the rear lobe is picking up lots of the wall reflections. As with any ribbon, you need to be vigilant of your working distance to avoid plosives that can possibly damege the ribbon element.
    By the way, your observations of the performance ofthe various mics you listed are spot on with many who have used them over the years. Cheap LDC's suck...LOL!!!
  5. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    the crooner thing (i'm thinking bing crosby / frank sinatra) was usually a RCA 44 ......
  6. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Yeah, a RIBBON MICROPHONE. That's what you are looking for. And you don't have to drop a big load to get what you want. Companies like Cascades and others are importing some rather worthy Chinese Ribbon Microphones. Some of those can be had for as little as $170 US with a $100 transformer upgrade. It's just a fighter sounding transformer, but even without that transformer, I have found that you still get that true ribbon quality sound. Even in spite of a crappy Chinese transformer. Still quite usable that way.

    You really won't need a special microphone preamp at all. While ribbon microphones typically output, the lowest signal of all the microphone technologies. We typically use in a studio environment, higher gain preamps are not particularly necessary when doing a vocal fairly close to the microphone. It becomes a bit of an issue, when the microphone is at a distance from the sound source, such as ambient room microphone. And that's not what you're going for anyhow. Do if you don't want on a ribbon microphone is the Phantom Power, intended for a condenser microphone only. Not that my mixers can't defeat Phantom Power but they can't. So I actually feed Phantom power to my ribbon microphones. If your cables are not good, you could easily smoke a ribbon microphone, if there is Phantom power on it. So I have been taking the chance of blowing up a ribbon microphone out for over 30 years and never have. I like to live dangerously. LOL.

    When purchasing a ribbon microphone, there are generally two different types. Some are known as long geometry ribbons and others are known as short geometry ribbons. Some utilize a single ribbon and others utilize dual ribbons. The shorter geometry ribbons have a slighter brighter sound than the long geometry ribbons, which are the most mellow sounding ones. Short geometry ribbons would be microphones like the current Beyer M-130/160/260/500, vintage RCA 77 series. Long geometry ribbons would be microphones like RCA 44 BX, AEA R-84, Cascades Fat Head, which are all extremely mellow and smooth. Just the way Bing Crosby sounded.

    It was really Frank Sinatra on that U-47, which none of the cheap imitations actually really sound like. Nothing actually sounds like the original 47 with the VF-14 tube except a 47 with a VF-14 tube. Nothing! Everybody expounding on their own marketing blah blah about getting that 47 sound is just marketing BS. So there are those few that actually sound good, but they don't really sound like 47's. It's like telling somebody that gold mylar wrapping paper is really made from gold. People have even made condenser microphones with a gold mylar wrapping paper, because it is conductive, but it ain't gold.

    Of course, you can still find genuine 47's, but you'll drop about $9000 to get one. Because people WANT THAT SOUND and not an imitation. Everything else I've heard is crispy, wispy and lame. You might want to look into the Neumann TLM 67? That's a transistor emulation of their former U-67 tube, like I have. Still though, not cheap. It's only about $2200 as compared to the 87's $3300 retail price. I actually complained to Neumann about that price difference between their 87 & 67. They indicated their new 67 didn't have any Transformers in it like that 87 still had. I told him that's not a good reason to have a $1000 price differential between two of the most top end microphones ever known. Actually, I felt that it devalued my original U-67's, original issue, tube microphones with Telefunken tubes. I've also got a pair of 87's. Both of these microphones, had a more mellow quality to them than most similarly cheap large diaphragm microphones by other manufacturers. That's because the original 47, 67, 87's were 6 ยต thick sheets of gold sputtered acetate and later Mylar. Everybody else is making them at 3 mil and 1.5 mill to get that brighter sound that they think everybody wants. And as you have discovered with your 990, you don't particularly like that sound and neither do I.

    Now 414's, & C-12's are quite different sounding. Regardless of the 414 permutations, those have always been brighter sounding large diaphragm condenser microphones. Very popular because they don't sound cheap as they are not cheap. But they certainly aren't mellow, either. Quality for sure, when used on appropriate sound sources that require that extra edge. For everything else there's Master Charge.

    No more credit cards from for me. I'm a cream and green broad today.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  7. Eraserfish

    Eraserfish Active Member

    Man, like I said you guys are amazing. Thanks for the replies (and the pics too). I spent the last couple hours looking at some of the options you guys mentioned. That R84 is really a head-turner and paired with a decent pre-amp should be amazing. Some guys are using it with AEA's own RPQ500 and liking the results, and the AEA TRP is supposed to be a winner as well. I'm using a TC electronics SK 48 as an audio interface and I've fed it quite a few mics, but I think the R84 would really want the clean gain of a preamp. Off the top of my head I think I'm at 2kohms of input impedance where some of the pre's are what? close to twenty? I don't live as dangerously as Remy but I will try about every possibility I can while going for something interesting in the studio. The TLM 67 would probably blow my socks off, but is a little to much to justify. I didn't know those guys were using the Rca 44, I'd heard about those being used in a lot of the radio stations for broadcasting (they always had some metal sign attached to the top). I did get some samples of the cascades fat head ii recording some guitar cabs and I was more than impressed. I will have to take a field trip and stick my face in front of the R84 and the M-160 for sure (not sure if I will be able to try a 4047 over hear in Germany). I need to do I little research on the whole figure 8 pattern though. How much sound gets picked up from the back of the mic and what, pray tell are the advantages of that design? From years of playing live, I do need to break myself from working too close to some mics. Not as bad as an old drummer friend who insisted on tapping on mics with his sticks and then asking "hey is this on". We got thrown out of a few bars, but never out of a studio. Anyway, thanks again for the great tips. Looking forward to seeing your posts in the forums. What do guys like for preamps anyway? You guys with great mixing consoles don't even need 'em. Back in the day we had racks full of compressors/limiters/pre's/bbe sonic enhancers/Art whatever's and I always felt like we were generating too much noise (thus all the noise gates, which just added more crap in your signal path).
  8. Eraserfish

    Eraserfish Active Member

    Hey Moonbaby, what do you consider an ideal recording situation for doing vocals with a ribbon mic? My philosophy is that I'm not as picky when I'm recording guitars, bass, and percussion, because those little bad room tells are usually hidden in a good mix, but I'm really picky with vocal tracks, especially ones added to a recording with only synths, and I don't want any junk, just information. I have a half round sound deadening device that I've had really great success with with dynamics and condensers. That kills any reverb off stuff in the room and stays silent without being dead or "boxy". Is that a bad idea for the ribbons? I just checked out some of the cascade mics that remy talked about and the were recording in room with a brick wall and wood floors, and I wasn't hearing any echo or that open space sound you get if you stick a cardoid in the middle of a room. I'm so interested in working with some ribbons now, and figuring out the ins and outs.
  9. Eraserfish

    Eraserfish Active Member

    Remy, thanks for the great info. I was just on the cascade website and listened to a really great setup using a vin-jet and fat head combo, and another using a fat head and a x-15 combo. Wow, that's a great sound at a very good price. Have you used any of those three? The fathead II is supposed to be even better. They have a sale on two vin-jets with a little phantom powered gain device for $625. Can I bug you with another question and ask about the difference in the transformers? What is the olfactory difference between a cheaper xformer vs. a more expensive one? Noise, clarity, presence? I know you probably learned all this through years of work, but do you recommend anything that I can read to un-dumb myself a little. I've been fixing electronics for over twenty years so my knowledge of theory is still good in this surface mount world of disposable electronics. You've got me hooked now...
  10. pan60

    pan60 Active Member

    Also if I am not mistaken, Sinatra liked the AKG d19. Seems I recall him seeing a video of him recording with one.
    Not 100% sure Remy's been around long enough maybe a better memory. A very cool mic but I do not see them around real often.
    I also agree a ribbon would probably be just what you need.
    If you feel okay with a RE20 try a RE15.
  11. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    The optional transformer can be a worthy upgrade, but not an absolutely necessary upgrade. The only thing I don't like about the Chinese transformer is that slight boxy like quality sound, around the 250-350 Hz area. Otherwise still quite usable, since it still sounds and performs as a ribbon should.

    Switchable input impedances really don't excite me much. Back in the day, we actually had to hardwire our selectable microphone outputs and/or transformer microphone inputs. 1500 ohms is a fine load value for most microphones today. Just because the microphone is indicated as a 150 ohm devices not require it to be loaded into a 150 ohm load. It's the same as our low impedance preamplifier outputs (typically between 50-100 ohm) feeding 10,000-50,000 ohm inputs. It's no longer necessary to load, the output of those devices into 600 ohms, as it was back in the day. Though it's still maybe if the output transformer indicates a need for a certain specified termination. Which in certain cases, mandated a need to stick in a 600 ohm output termination resistor across the transformer output of a preamplifier, for flat response and low overshoot. But that largely depends upon what the output amplifier transformer needs for proper loading. Some can get away without the need for 600 ohm termination. Others can't. And that's because the transformer along with the output circuitry is part of an LC inductive type of filter network. Where the need for proper loading ensures a flat response.

    Everything you wanted to know about ribbon microphones but were afraid to ask.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  12. Larry J. Villella

    Larry J. Villella Active Member

    I'm personally not such a big fan of ribbon mics.

    Ribbons tend to sag if not properly stored upright,
    and can 'fry' if hit with phantom power. Additionally,
    ribbons tend to lack sonic information above 10 kHz.

    My personal choice for a mellow jazz sound (I've been
    recording jazz ensembles for 40+ years) would be an
    AT-4047 or ADK Hamburg Mk8. In the interest of full
    disclosure, I own the ADK company. I also own an
    AT-4047 and think it's the best mic they ever made.

    Best of luck!

    Larry J Villella, Founder, ADK)))
  13. pan60

    pan60 Active Member

    I know I had spoke with John about phantom power some years back, the only time I every time I ever seen it be an issue was if it was incorrectly set into a patchbay.
    Some time later John made this video.
    Phantom power does not effect a ribbon if a studio is correctly wired, to say different is urban BS ( IMHO ) and although I as well am not a very big ribbon mic lover I do have several and never had issues with a correctly tension ribbon no matter what position it was stored in.
    I know guys that have mic stored lay down and I store some of mine that way.
  14. Larry J. Villella

    Larry J. Villella Active Member

    I'm not speaking of Crowley and Tripp type ribbons or the modern Royer,
    but many of the classic ribbons had both of these issues in my experience.
  15. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Those long geometry ribbons did have a tendency to sag. The short geometry ribbons are not as highly affected in that respect. My RCA 77 DX's are stored laying down on their side. They sound as good as the day they were new. One is from the early 1950s, and the other was the last production run of 1968 that has the large RCA block letters, and not the RCA circle lightning bolt. Which indicated it was from 1968. And the last of the last. My Beyer M-130/160's are also stored on their sides and have been for almost 30 years now. And no problems. Now a 44 BX or, AEA 84, I might think twice about storing on its side? Those are long geometry ribbons, which do have a tendency to sag. Same can be said for the Cascades Fat Head series as those are also long geometry ribbons. Wes Dooley actually told me he does not produce short geometry ribbons, because he's never been able to get them right. Not sure why that is? Even his imitation 77 DX was not produced to imitate a 77 DX. But actually contains as long geometry ribbon, the same as in his 44/84 series. So his 77 DX is more for the look or the sound of a long geometry ribbon or an installed special condenser element just for the looks. Just some things to think about when you are thinking ribbon microphones.

    I absolutely love and cannot live without ribbon microphones. Faster than any condenser microphones for transient peaks. That beautiful smooth roll off after 10 kHz is something to be appreciated and not avoided. If you think everything has to be crispy bright? Then ribbons are not for you. If you like mellow big fat lush, think ribbon.

    I don't like the aluminum foil ones in my hair.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  16. pan60

    pan60 Active Member

    I have no clue as o the Crowley and Tripp or other new ribbons. But phantom power is only an issue when a studio in not correctly wired or someone dose not know what they are doing.
  17. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    This additional note: I've always been feeding phantom power because my equipment does not have individualized phantom power switching for each microphone input. In over 30 years, I've never lost a ribbon microphone yet. That's also because I keep my cables in good working condition. You only lose a passive ribbon microphone from bad cables or willy-nilly, plugging them in an out of phantom powered XLR microphone inputs. There have been times when I have eliminated the phantom power coming from my consoles. But I did that for other reasons and not ribbon microphone reasons. Changing patch cords on microphones with phantom power on a split, can cause huge explosive pops in the PA system. So when I'm taking splits, and don't want my phantom power on, I'll either pull the module from the Neve or actually go into my API 3124's to disconnect the internal phantom power supply to the microphones. And that's a pain in the ass on that unit. $2500 for 4 channels, and they couldn't include 4 switches? WTF's with that? Not even a single phantom power switch, much less four. Go figure? As if condenser microphones were the only microphones that were utilized? My Sphere Eclipse C, had no phantom power switches. Neither do my API 3124's, nor Neve. And these were designed by the old timers that knew not to apply phantom power to ribbon microphones. And then they left the switches out. I'll never understand those people? We are talking about a $.95 switch on a $2500 box, $25,000 box, $250,000 box. I guess they would have to raise the prices to include 4-48 $.98 switches? What? Another $48? LOL.

    I've been too lazy to install my own switches. My bad.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  18. Larry J. Villella

    Larry J. Villella Active Member


    It appears you're a very savvy ribbon end-user and recording engineer.

    I guess I just never got into the ribbon mic usage, being a condenser mic person for over 40 years.

    We can use different tools, and still have the same passion for tracking jazz or other acoustic music.

    I appreciate your insights. I actually bought an RCA Ribbon a few years ago, thinking I was missing something.

    It's since departed my mic locker, maybe because my habit of using old Neumann and AKG tube condensers was too ingrained.

    Anyway - I've learned a lot from your posts!


    Larry Villella, Founder, ADK Microphones
  19. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Larry, I have closely looked at your microphones at the AES in NYC, in recent years. Your mics are quite good, and I have been thinking. One of my next purchases of condenser microphones may well be one of yours? Your product has a great reputation. And I like your German associations in your marketing design. Yup.

    And does everyone know what George Neumann was best known for creating? It wasn't microphones. It was the nickel cadmium battery. The first battery that could work in space. And without that contribution, satellites would have never been born, LOL. His microphones, however, were a monumental contribution to the Recording Arts & Sciences. If only they could have built their own tube manufacturing plant, we'd still have VF-14's and we'd all be rolling in U-47's, hee hee.

    I just have to settle for my U-67 original issues, the 56, 87's, 86's. And my long gone KM L, which I traded away and never received a replacement for from a previous NBC engineering manager. I should have never traded thataway. That's one of the rarest of Neumann, microphones, a lavalier 84 is what it is. Or was when I had it.

    Donald Archiable, owes me a microphone!
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  20. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    more mics that are "warm". RE20, SM7a, Kel HM1, D12, D112, 58.

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