New Mic / Pre, Vocal Questions

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by JazzHat, Mar 26, 2017.

  1. JazzHat

    JazzHat Active Member

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    Mar 26, 2017
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    Central Ohio
    I record singer-songwriter stuff (soft rock that strays into easy listening) using an AT4040 (vocal) into a Clarett pre/interface & Logic Pro X. I'm in a treated room that sounds pretty good ( I did measurements in the dihedral/trihedral corners when building bass traps & also eliminated comb with site build absorbers). I'm happy with the sound I'm capturing but want to up my vocal game.

    I want more dimension/depth in my vocals. . . the Blue-eyes, Nat K Cole sound when I'm writing "crooner" stuff or like some of the Norah Jones vocal quality on a more modern track. ( . . . and no, I don't have that level of talent! Just talking about the quality of the vocal capture).

    Thinking I need a tube mic /outboard pre and hoping you folks can tell me if I'm looking the right direction. Still researching mics but looking at things like Peluso, 2247, Telefunken ak47, Perlman m47, or one of the tube based Lautens. Thinking about a UA LA610MKII and run that into line-in on my Clarett.

    I'm looking at some possible studio time where I'll be able to demo mics in about 8 wks (at a commercial studio). Have not gotten to a short list of mics yet & still researching. I'm thinking the right tube mic into the LA610MKII when I'm doing "crooner" tracks or run the tube mic straight to my Clarett pres when I'm tracking a more modern sound. Am I looking down the right path or am I "off in the weeds?"
     
  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

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    What you must remember is that the engineers and producers who made the Sinatra, Nat K Cole and other classics didn't hit on the choice of mics by accident. Hours and hours would have been spent swapping the best quality mics and compressors (and to a lesser extent, pre-amps) in and out to get the sound for that voice that we all recognise today as being the vocal sound of that era.

    I would not instantly assume that your AT4040 is not a good enough mic for what you want to try to do. It could be that it's the very open character of the Clarett that is not right for the direction you are aiming to go in. Maybe a transformer-input pre-amp like an API (available as the single channel 512c for a Lunchbox) or even the Focusrite ISA would give you sufficient of the vocal character you are looking for. If not, there's the LA610 you mentioned or other compressors such as an LA-2A to consider.

    For this sort of investigation, I would certainly advise not buying anything before you have heard it. It's worth paying for an hour's time at a good studio, which should have enough of these characterful pieces for you to go along with your AT4040 mic and spend the hour trying them out. You would be surprised how different these pre-amps and compressors can sound when paired with other top-quality gear and heard under good conditions.

    Otherwise it's the rental market. Sigh.
     
  3. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Distinguished Member

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    It's refreshing to read someone serious enough to do reseaches and try-outs before buying. Some goes to forums to confirm what they already chosen to buy and sometime they don't even accept when said their idea is not a good one.

    On characteristics of older recording that we lost with the digital arrival is all that sweet and not hyped high frequencies. When I think of a mic with those sweet highs, I think of the 47 flavor. U47, Fet 47 etc..
    I did a DIY build form microphone-parts.com with the 47 as inspiration. Their T47 made me realise some other pricy mics I had where too bright. (for certain voices anyway.)

    Boswell gave you very good advices. I have the ISA and the LA-610 MK1 in my arsenal and I simply love them... API, Daking neve, Manley and others are all very good preamps but you need to find the right recipe mic-pre-comp...
     
  4. JazzHat

    JazzHat Active Member

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    "Boswell gave you very good advice. I have the ISA and the LA-610 MK1 in my arsenal and I simply love them... API, Daking neve, Manley and others are all very good preamps but you need to find the right recipe mic-pre-comp..."

    I've also been looking at the ISA 2 but was afraid it might be too similar to the Claretts (which I really like). Some of the others (Neve style, UA style) I thought would take me closer to the vintage vibe I'm after (and variety). But. . .I really have no expertise. That's why I'm going the studio route.

    What I hope to gain from the forum is hone my list of what to demo in the studio. So if I expand the list of pre's do you think I'm looking at the right mics? (From my OP: Peluso, Tfunk ak47, Perlman m47, tube based Lauten)

    Oh, if this helps I am a baritone and in terms of timbre I often hear, "you have a radio announcer voice"
     
  5. JazzHat

    JazzHat Active Member

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    Oh, btw. . . Boswell, it also occurred to me I should try to get my hands on a LA610mkII and try that at home with my at4040. See where that takes me. Would you recommend that as a first step? Should I try the LA610 and an ISA2 with my at4040?
     
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

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    Sinatra and Cole used a variety of mics over time, as mentioned above by Bos and Marco...one which saw a lot of action and wasn't mentioned was the Telefunken Elam 250/251 tube mic.
    Those Mics fetch top (and I really mean top) dollar now, but there are manufacturers who create very respectable knock offs, such as Pelosi and ADK, who also creat very nice versions of the others mentioned (U47, 67, etc).
    And with some of those late 40's Capitol sessions, Ribbon mics were very popular too.
    I think Boswell's advice is sound; renting an hour or two at a really nice studio where you could try different mics through different pres is a great idea. A mic that sounds great on one person doesn't always sound as good on another. You might find that you sound best through a Neumann U87, or an AKG 414, or even a Royer or AEA ribbon. Or, your corner heroes mic choices might be exactly what you like for your voice.
    ;)
    D.
     
  7. JazzHat

    JazzHat Active Member

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    Update - hired 1/2 day in a studio, rented a Flea 47 and pulled a short list from the studio mic locker (Telefunkens, Lateens, etc). Took one of my original tunes, we loaded it into the studio DAW and re-tracked my vocal through all the mics. Took the resulting stems home to my own studio and spend the next 2 wks playing with the stems (EQ, mix) Today I ordered my new mic with total confidence.

    To anyone on a similar quest I cannot stress enough how effective this approach is. The benefit goes way beyond just trying mics. Having a second set of ears with a different skill set was alone worth what I spent. We talked about what my engineer was hearing with each mic and how they each took EQ. The mics I liked we tracked through all the outboard pres available. I learned more in 4 hours than the prior 4 months of you-tubing and forum lurking.

    Cheers, JazzHat out
     
  8. pcrecord

    pcrecord Quality recording seeker ! Distinguished Member

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    At the time I bought my first ISA two, I was using the Liquid Saffire 56. The difference was night and day. The first thought was ''OMG that's how the pro do it''

    Focusrite says the clarett model the ISA, as in modelling?? The gain range of the clarett is 57db compared to 80db of the ISA. Even if the sound is close, that extra clean gain is what makes the ISA my first choice. I'd like to do an A/B comparaison of the clarett and ISA... ;)
     
  9. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Distinguished Member

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    There basically an 'air' band eq on the pre amps from what I understand, which is on the vein of the Isa. I'm not aware of any dsp or circuitry they use to model the xformers and the selectable impedence of the isa. My guess is if you like this clarett you'll love the isa or red series. Just my findings from many hours digging into the Scarlett/clarett/isa stuff, which seems quite nice.

    Congrats to the OP (@JazzHat) on the new investment! Enjoy!
     
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  10. JazzHat

    JazzHat Active Member

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    Central Ohio
    pcrecord & kmetal, thank for your thoughts on the Isa... very helpful. My plan is to spend a few weeks with the gear I've got and really learn the mic (placement, proximity, eq). When I feel like I really know the mic (Flea 47 on order) I'll look at the pre side of the equation... that said you know how gear lust works, hard not to obsess over pre amp threads while I wait for the mic to arrive -LoL!

    And thanks all, great forum!
     
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  11. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

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    Dec 10, 2001
    Location:
    Pacific NW
    I applaud your diligence and method for sussing out what you want in your mic. Renting the time in a good room is the ONLY way to really know how something is going to work with your style, voice, and mic technique. I mention the last because there aren't that many vocalists who pay a lot of attention to their technique in front of the mic. In those cases the engineer is likely to be the person to instruct towards this end. A lot of vocalists used to a live stage and not so much the environment of the studio, are greatly shocked at what they actually hear with a great mic and signal chain.

    With a mic like the Flea, you will be able to hear your fillings moving around.........

    I know you probably already have the mic and I'm fairly certain that the limitations of your Claret interface have become apparent. Not that they aren't a good interface....I'm hoping you are using yours with the Thunderbolt and as has been said this line of the Focusrite family is really clean and clear without a lot of character....which may be good as the two Flea 47's I have heard had the cachet one expects from a U47-like mic build. So plenty of character in the mic.

    My only recommendation for a preamp for this type of mic and for your defined use is to look at something that gives a dimension to the capture. Your Thunderbolt interface in the Claret is going to get a high quality to the DAW so no need to look much further there....Tubes or not is something you'll have to determine for yourself and I'm sure you got a good palette to think about with your mic shoot-out at the studio. I don't know your budget or number of channels you might need, but I can say that looking used at places like Vintage King will yield something that may be a bargain in a market that is fairly saturated with gear.

    Maybe a channel strip? If you only need the one 'special' signal chain for that mic, this may be your best bet for covering all the bases. The new Manley Core is excellent. I'm still a great fan of the older Langevin/Manley Dual Vocal Combo which can be had at reasonable prices. Yes its tube.....yes its clean and clear...yes it sounds BIG.

    Which is what you want with a ginormous sounding mic
     
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  12. JazzHat

    JazzHat Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2017
    Location:
    Central Ohio
    Thanks Davedog. . . yes, Clarett is thunderbolt connect.

    Actually don't have the mic yet. It's being built and should ship next week. (I'm told Flea has a several wk production cycle - 251's on wk 1, etc) I'm getting the stock tube / capsule config with a spare matched tube.

    In anticipation of the new mic I decided to pick up a Grace M103 this week and am getting familiar with it. I'm finding the Grace pretty amazing and a really versatile. . . nice channel strip. With it I've found some new life in my meager existing mic collection. Going to start the Flea on the Grace and if not getting what I want, I will try a few other options. The mic has so much character I'm thinking I might like the Grace. Either way the Grace is a keeper for guitar and other instrument tracks - it is sooo detailed & clear. In the mean time I will also read up on the Manley Core.

    But bottom line, you are right about spending time in a good room. What I spent for 1/2 day studio is such a tiny investment toward this level of gear. If I decide I want something other than the Grace M103 I'll probably rent another 1/2 studio day in a room with some specific target pre's. . . first round I just tried the pre's they had available. This time I'll carry in my Flea 47 and really focus on the pre side Oh man, "my Flea 47" . . . I like how that sounds, LoL!

    Thanks Again!
     
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  13. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

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    Dec 10, 2001
    Location:
    Pacific NW
    Very cool! The Grace was also something I was going to suggest. I have the compressor that's part of that strip. It is one of my favorites and you cannot go wrong with an optical for getting that smooth control on a vocal. If I didn't already have LA2A's I would pick the Grace (502 in a 500 format) for that work.
     
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  14. JazzHat

    JazzHat Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2017
    Location:
    Central Ohio
    Ok,
    Flexible Audio (aka Flea) U47 arrived today.
    coming up for air after an initial 6 hr run in studio with the new mic.
    Vocals only and of course have not even scratched the surface (placement, proximity, gain, omni mode in a live room. . . Much to learn!)

    That said, sounds real good into the Clarett pre. . . But into the Grace (m103) with a hint of compression and zero eq. . .Wow, magic started happening. A huge step up in clarity & detail (from what I was doing before). It's warm, detailed, and a beautiful balance. A different vocalist would likely find a different path, but for my voice the 47/Grace is looking like a fantastic pairing. I'm hearing tonight in my monitors a sound I've been chasing in my head for months.

    Anyway, want to thank you guys. I'd already worn the bandwidth off most of the mic shootout videos before I landed here. I tried to really listen to and consider all the points you guys offered. And of course studio time was key. So thank you all, my quest to upgrade vocal chain is a huge win!

    Let's all go make some music
     
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