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Mic closet recommendations

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Kurt Foster, Nov 25, 2004.

  1. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Here's a list that I decided to compile that may help those of you who are asking what are the "studio standards" when it comes to mics. These are the ones I think are a a bare minimum requirement, the "must have" to run a respectable project or professional studio. The up side is this is a complete "wish list" which should serve almost any pop production house. I am guessing as to the cost of this list but I am reasonably sure I am in the ballpark ... perhaps Littledog can give us a package price on this "KF's Studio Pac" ???

    U87ai w/shock mount & box (one)

    SM57 (four) drums, guitars, vocals etc.
    $ 360
    SM7b ( one) bass amps, kick, vocals.
    $ 300

    RE20 (at least one) bass amps, kick, vocals,
    $ 300

    421 (four),drums, guitars, vocals etc.
    441 (one) vocals, horns, woodwinds, snare, kick.
    $ 400
    409/609 (four) toms, snare, guitars, vocals etc.
    $ 400

    201 (two) snare, guitar amps, vocals etc.
    $ 400

    451 or 460 / 480 (at least three) acoustic instruments, drum overheads, hi hat.
    D112 (at least two) kick, floor toms, bass amps, guitar amps, vocals.
    $ 400

    D6 (at least one) kick, floor toms.
    $ 200

    Audio Technica
    4033 (at least two) toms, drum oh's, guitars, horns, woodwinds, vocals etc.
    $ 800

    Total package: = $8260
  2. Big_D

    Big_D Well-Known Member

    Nice list, thanks Kurt. Many of us with personal studios can benefit from it as well (although in my case not the whole list). :lol:

    One curious ommision was the AKG 414. Is this no longer considered a studio standard or is it's ground covered by the others enough that it's not necessary? Thanks again!
  3. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    You're right ... the omission of the 414 was an oversight ... altough in the context of "the list", 414's may be redundant ... perhaps a substitution of the AKG "pencils" or perhaps the ATM 4033's for the 414 would be an option ... I'm trying to hold down the costs.

    Once again, these are my choices ... opinions and milage may vary ...
  4. Big_D

    Big_D Well-Known Member

    And some great choices they are!

    Thanks again for the explanation and list.
  5. inLoco

    inLoco Active Member

    kurt how about a mic pre list?
    for different uses would be great too...
    drums, bass, guitars, vocals, keys
  6. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Mic pres are a different thing ... so much is subjective and depends on the level of the studio, if their interfaces have pres, if they have a console or not and many other things ... (too much to list) ...

    Rather than a list of specific pres, it would be better to look at the criteria of what makes a good mic pre.. I posted a list like this, of what I thought makes a good pre, just a little while ago ... I'll look around to see if I can find it.
  7. inLoco

    inLoco Active Member

    thks kurt...

    since we're on the subject what do you think are tube mic pres limitations? you think they don't fit well with some instruments or vocals or whatever? or are they always good?
  8. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    OK I found the post ....

    "I will usually go for Class A, transformer balanced, all discreet, point to point wired, mic pres and compressors. With the exception of a few, the devices that use LSI chips, op amps and surface mounted components are not desirable to me. There are a few exceptions like the Focusrite Red range, API's, Neve Amek 9098 series and the JLM TMP8, all which use chips or op amps ... The 9098 does not have transformers either and relies heavily on chip technology as well but the EQ in it so good I overlook that. ."

    I don't think there are any real limitations to tube pres to speak of .. perceived as an issue is they tend to have a higher noise floor but if you know how to record correctly, it's not so much an issue ... (hint: signal masks noise) ..

    I have mentioned before ... many of the recordings I think are the best ever done were recorded using all tube gear .. mic, pres, comps recorders ... I would be able to do good work with only tube pres ... as well as with only solid state ones .. I do believe that what you record, is much more critical than what you record it with .
  9. inLoco

    inLoco Active Member

    so what's your favourite combination for vocals?
    mic, pre, compressor and or anything more?
  10. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    It's impossible to make a blanket statement like that ... too many variables. Things like voice, song, genre', which mic is best suited will also dictate certain pres be used ...

    One combo for my voice I have found to be very nice is the Sebatron VMP with a Neumann U87ai ... I also really like the Great River MP2NV on just about everything I have tried it on ... this IMO may be one of the most versatile pres I have come across to date ... I can't think of a single instance where I have put the MP2NV up and then said, "ohhh, let's try something else".

    Mics I tend to prefer on vocals..
    U87, ATM 4033's, AKG 414 or C12 ... the C12a is nice as well but can be a bit noisy on quiet sources.. I like the RE20 and the Shure SM7a in the dynamics department but for a soft, quiet female vocals sometimes a 421 works well ... a real surprise for me was the AKG D112 on male vocals ... very nice sometimes. This is why it's nice to have a mic locker that offers choices. It all depends on the before stated criteria,

    As to comps I lean towards classic or classically inspired pieces like the URIE line ... LA2a, LA3, LA4's ... 1176 / 1178 ... a little known but nice comp is the UREI LA22 ... of course the DBX 160 ... I have a Manley EL OP that I really like ..

    The thing I like about the opto types is they are simple to use and unless you try to pull out like 15 dB with them, they are relatively unobtrusive, not adding a lot of artifacts.
  11. inLoco

    inLoco Active Member

    i just bought a c414 tlII for vocals and guitars... (i'll try it on hi-hat too till i get a c451b)
    the d112 i want to try on male background vocals! i think it can be interesting or maybe on some vocals with that old radio feel (it can balance that eq highs... i think...)
    as for the sebatron is on my whish list as it is the maybe the tmp8
    have to see budgets (wanted to try focusrite octopre, m-audio octane, rme octamic) the tmp8 i know i can't try but i can see the results from this ones with your review kurt...
    the thing that it's getting me really mad is acoustic treatment! here in europe auralex and other companies have their prices at least 2x more than there...

    do you tend to use the compresser always on the recording stage?
  12. Kurt, many thanks for this thread and the excellent recommendations....

    Could you say what constitutes a set of 'minimalist' mics - ie for doing rock / pop / jazz & vocals but capping at say six or eight mics?

    In other words, find $Cheap replacement for 421s and alternative to the U87 pair?

    I'm at the stage where I have need for batch of drum mics, the SM57 (3), AKG D-112 and C 418PP clip-on condenser. Also, have a stereo pair of the Rode NT1-A (and another Rode in storage).

    Today's recording also finds me doing a lot of acoustic gtr.
  13. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    The "list" is a bare minimum for what I would consider a respectable studio. The U87ai offers multi pattern operation ... as does the AKG414 ... You can perhaps substitute the 414 for the U87 but the 414 is a more "focused" mic ... it doesn't pick up ambience as well ... I also would recommend the Studio Projects C3 as a replacment for the U87 but again, you are now entering "cheapo land" ..
    As a replacment for the 421's, SM57's are surprisigly good .. you could also try the Sennheiser 609. .
  14. Doublehelix

    Doublehelix Well-Known Member

    Hey Kurt, great list!

    I notice that you do not list any ribbon mics. Any comments there? I am considering adding a ribbon to the collection for bit different flavor.
  15. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Either the Royer 121 or the AEA 44 / 77's are nice modern ribbons ... The Coles 4033 is a classic design that can be purchased new. All these are good. I wouldn't but a used ribbon mic unless someone like Wes Dooley had checked it out.

    I usually shy away from ribbons because they are so expensive, delecate and need to be handled with care ... You can ruin a ribbon mic just carrying it across the room .. Plus I'm the kind of guy that usually winds up boosting a bit in the "air" regions, so what's the sense? ... I usually lean towards condensers.
  16. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    A slightly different take on the mic list Kurt has put here- Instead of the U87, perhaps a Microtech M930 or M70 to save a few bucks (and IMO get a bit better sounding mic- really depends on your vocal use, though).

    I would suggest a ribbon in there as well. You can get Beyer 160's pretty reasonably priced on the used market- I bought mine for $300/ea and they are bulletproof. The Royer 121 and 122 are also very hardy microphones. Heck, I've seen them survive being placed on a kick drum. I wouldn't suggest it unless you know how to place it, but it certainly is a way to go.

    The Beyer M88 is another very versatile dynamic. It can be used quite effectly as a vocal and instrument mic. Also works pretty well for acoustic bass- although I prefer some of the other mics on the list for that.

  17. RichardOtt

    RichardOtt Guest

    AT 4033? Hm, this s just home recording level, isn't it? I am using 4047 which I would rate at least to be a semi prof studio mic.

    Another comment: Forget about the U87. YOull find the same capsule in the TLM193 for the half of the price. Also AKG 480 are obsolete: Use a MBHO 603+cardio LK100 capsule. Incredible clean quality for only a bit more of the prive.
  18. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    The 4033 is not home studio level only mic ... many respected engineers use this mic for it's tight focus with crisp clean yet large sound ... This is a mid size diaphragm mic with a 3/4" element ...unlike most others and unique for the most part.

    The U87ai is a dual diaphragm mic and this is why I recommend it .... To my ear mics with 2 diaphragms sound a bit different that mics that employ the same diaphragm in a single element configuration .. The ability to use the mic in fig 8 and omni is a plus ... you will notice the other mics in the list don't have this ability so IMO, the U87ai is a great addition to the list. Plus it's a Neumann ... It's a U87 .... nuff' said!

    I'm not sure why you say that ... I have both vintage 451's and some AKG 460's (which the 480 is a updated version) and think the 460's are quite a bit warmer in tone that the 451's ... but neither mic is IMO, obsolete. It's virtually impossible for a mic to be obsolete ..

    The criteria I used to assemble this "list" takes into consideration more than "what sounds best" ... Name recognition and application, the ability to have some alternatives / choices, what will make the room the most viable to a producer who is shopping studios, all are considered. Many producers or engineers (talent e-ven) will have other more esoteric pieces to supplement your mic locker, or may rent some higher end pieces for the sessions, so in that light I feel "the list" is pretty spot on.
  19. took-the-red-pill

    took-the-red-pill Active Member

    If 26 mics is the bare minimum for a studio, then you're right: Life IS meaningless, death IS inevitable!!!

    For the rest of us, with finite bank accounts, however, this presents itself as a little unrealistic. I think what you mean is that this is the bare minimum for a studio where you would invite a big name artist in, expect to be paid large dollars, and not want them to be driven elsewhere by your 'meagre' mic array. Is that really what you mean?

    I do appreciate your caveat that 'WHAT you record is more important than WHAT YOU USE to record.'

    A few counter punches:

    Tom Schultz used all SM-57s on Boston's first.
    Blood Sugar Sex Magic was recorded almost exclusively on sm-57's(and a pair of C414's for overheads). Most of it was done with one 'sweet' SM-57 that just seemed to work on everything.
    Apparently Michelle Shocked recorded her first album on a walkman. It costs more to buy than to make.

    Okay, let's go in a different direction:

    You are going on the set of SER(Survivor, Recording Engineer) You will be stranded on a desert island with a 24 track recorder and a board. You have to record the world's greatest band...um...Electric Mayhem, from the Muppets, they have Kermit doing guest vocals.

    So you have a drum kit, vocalist, saxophone, keys, bass guitar. You can record each instrument seperately if you wish. They will be doing a few ballads( "It's not easy, being green" ), some jazz, and a few rock tunes for good measure.

    Here's the trick, you are allowed to take:
    4 mic pre's
    6 mics
    4 channels of compressor/limiter

    There is a canyon on the island which provides natural reverb. You get no noise gates, no effects, no other toys, no click track (you can depend on Animal)...and if the recording isn't smokin' you WILL be voted off the island.

    What are your choices of mics, pre's, compression?

    Happy choosing, and see you at tribal council
  20. Wizbang

    Wizbang Guest


    Great post , Sir red pill...
    I don't know jack to contribute to discussion, just wanted to say funny, creative and good exercise...now maybe I'll have a good idea of which to buy first...

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