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Need help with MXL R144

Discussion in 'Microphones' started by Nathan Kim, Jan 25, 2015.

  1. Nathan Kim

    Nathan Kim Member

    Hi, I am new to recording. I am trying to find the best settings for my MXL R144 paired with a XENYX 802. I am using this primarily for recording violin. Right now, I am getting a muddy and scratchy sound from my mic. Any tips?
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    The R144 is a ribbon mic - so it will have a darker sound inherently. If you are looking for "bright", then it's not the best mic to use. In fact, a ribbon mic would not be my first choice for recording an acoustic instrument like a violin. It won't pick up the nuances of the instrument. You'd get better results using a condenser or dynamic for this purpose. Also, Ribbon mics are usually Fig 8 in their pickup, which means that you will also be picking up quite a bit of the sound of the room you are recording in as well.

    I'm not familiar with your mixer, so I don't know how much gain the mic pre's have; and because ribbon mics are traditionally very low in output, they require a mic pre beefy enough to gain them up to optimal levels. I'm not saying your mixer can't do it, I'm saying that this might be something to look at.

    As far as the "scratchy" sound you are hearing - it might be a bad mic cable, or, the mic itself could be defective. MXL is a pretty cheap mic, hence it is built using cheaper components, so you might have an issue with it. Have you tried other mics, using other mic cables, though the same mixer channel? If you have an there's been no problem, then you probably need to replace the mic.

    If the mic is relatively new, I would return it and swap it for another one, and for what you want to do, I would suggest you look at a condenser or a dynamic model instead.

  3. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    Your Behringer mixer will probably need to have the channel's mic gain cranked to use that ribbon mic. Then you run into the noise issue...Probably not the best match for that mic.
    Your "scratchiness" may be the positioning of that mic...maybe too close to the bridge?
    As stated, that mic may not be the right choice for you....a small diaphragm condenser ("SDC") may suit you better for this application.
    If you are really stuck with that mic, there are small level-boosting devices - the Cloudlifter is one tht works well - that will give the low output of a ribbon mic a good boost to the mixer.
  4. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    time for reflection...



    sorry, back to regular viewing.
  5. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    I'm not against a ribbon on a violin. If I'd need a sound that is soft and not harsh, it could be a good choice. But I would probably combine the sound of the ribbon with another mic (dynamic or condenser) just to be safe at mix time if it ends up laking presence.

    Being an owner of 2 cascades fathead ribbon mic (which are on the cheap side of the lot of ribbons available) I know they need a good clean and powerfull preamp to sound good. I use them with ISA preamps which have 80db of gain which for the good part is noise free and I wouldn't even try them with the onboard preamps of my interface.

    So I'm with the guys, the behringer alone wouldn't be a good choice to drive a ribbon mic.
    A better preamp, a different mic or the cloudlifter are good options.
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    according to the specs - I looked it up - the OP's desk has preamps that list 60db of gain. This would be considered bare minimum for some ribbons, and not enough for others, so yes, as Moon mentioned, you'll either end up having to record very loud sources, or, having to crank the pre's to get a signal that's barely sufficient, and probably with a fair amount of noise attached as well.

    I've never used a cloudlifter, although I've heard they can be useful.

    There are affordable i/o's that do offer sufficient gain for low output mics - like ribbons, and a few dynamics - like SM7's, - but you have to check the specs to make sure. For example, the Presonus 1818VSL (along with it's older brother the StudioLive desk), uses XMAX pre's, which are rated at 70 db, so there's sufficient gain there to work with when using low output mics. Focusrite's Scarlett Series i/o's are also sufficient in pre amp gain to run these types of mics.

    And, again, I would suggest that the use of a ribbon mic alone for what you want to do is probably not the best choice, unless you were to couple it with a good SD condenser. Traditionally, along with being low in output, they are a darker sounding mic, kind of "syrupy". You probably won't get the presence boost you seek; those pleasing frequencies that capture the nuance(s) of a violin, like fret or fingers or the bow...

    Ribbons do differ though... there are high end models which are nicer microphones all the way around - like the Royer 144, for example - but I would still be using an SD condenser with it to record solo violin.

    The added benefit to getting a cardioid condenser mic is that, with your fig 8 ribbon, you could also record in M-S, which can be very nice for acoustic instruments, adding natural depth and space - but, you'll also need a decent sounding room, and, you'll still need to get a preamp that has sufficient enough power - to gain up your ribbon to acceptable levels.


  7. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Nice idea, but I'm sorry to say this combination doesn't work for M-S. The ribbon is a velocity microphone and the condenser is a pressure microphone, so their outputs are 90 degrees out of phase at all useful frequencies. This means that you can never get correct M-S decoding unless you use an all-frequency electronic phase shifter in either the M channel or the S channel. Even many learned textbooks on audio engineering get this wrong.
  8. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    I used a Fathead ribbon for the side and a ksm44 in a cardioid mode for the M in my last guitar recording. The side was recorded on two seperate tracks which the right was put at inv polarity.

    I don't know what the book said but it sounded very good.. May be I got lucky ! ;)
  9. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Perhaps I should have called it something else... I've also done this method and have come up with some very nice sounding tracks with depth and space... now, I was shifting phase on the S channel, so perhaps that made the difference.
  10. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    It can indeed sound convincing - until you have to get down to detail, maybe to solve a mixing problem.

    If I'm recording a choir performance or something similar and all I can use is a central overhead mic position, I usually string up a pair of SDC cardioids and an MS pair of ribbons (Beyer M130/M160 or a B+O BM5 stereo ribbon) and use whatever pair turns out best in the recording. If I try to mix the two pairs together without any correction, things start going very awry in the phase department. Your DAW phase plot is a useful tool here.

    I carry a tone generator and small guitar amp to my recording gigs and usually go round the various key positions on the stage after setup playing short sinewave sections at 100Hz, 1KHz and 5KHz while all the mic channels are recording. Doing this, it's easy to spot phase problems and any cable mis-wires at mixdown. Playing a 1KHz sinewave at a fixed position into physically adjacent condenser and ribbon mics illustrates the velocity/pressure difference very clearly when zoomed in on a DAW screen.
  11. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    I get you Boswell, my use of it with a single instrument that is centered to the mics in M/S maybe what's making it work. I tried that as drum overheads and it wasn't working at all. So I totally agree that using a ribbon and a condenser in M/S for a choir will probably be create a bunch of problems.

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