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Rode M5 vs M-Audio Pulsar II (Cheapo Battle Royale!)

Discussion in 'Microphones' started by Dr. Fuse, Mar 24, 2015.

  1. Dr. Fuse

    Dr. Fuse Active Member

    I just did a mic test recording session at the local Tom Lee Music. Mics tested include: Neumann KM184, Neumann TLM 102, Audio-Technica AT4022, Rode NT2-A, and the Rode M5s. An eclectic and broad sampling, to be sure.
    The Neumanns were at the top, of course, the Rode surprised me for its silky and attractive performance, the AT4022 was okay, and the M5s were disappointing.
    BUT - the M5s are on sale, and I need a cheap matched pair of pencil cardioids. For the same price I could get a matched set of M-Audio Pulsar IIs.
    Can anyone give me a comparison of the two sets? Could the Pulsars possibly be weaker than the M5s?
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    My own experience is limited to the Neumanns and the Rode NT - although I take that one back - I've never worked with the NT2A, only the NT1.

    (I'm a little confoozled as to why you were comparing LD's to SD's ( or vice versa) in your shoot out)

    If the M5's sound - in your own words - "disappointing" - then why are you even considering them?

    You had to kinda know going in, Doc, that the KM's were gonna sound a whole lot nicer than the M5's would, or for that matter, any other cheap $80 SD, (like the M-Audio) right?

    Just because something is "cheap" doesn't mean it's a bargain... in fact, it hardly ever does mean that.

    If the M5's sound that disappointing to you, ( and if you find the M5's disappointing, I can't believe you wouldn't also be disappointed by any other cheap $85 SD), then what's the point in buying them, if all they will end up doing is disappointing - and in turn, frustrating you - so I guess I have to ask.... where's the "deal" in that?
  3. Dr. Fuse

    Dr. Fuse Active Member

    Just trying to get a working knowledge of as many mics as I can, I guess.
    I just purchased the AT4022, so my budget is kind of shot right now. But I'd like to have a pair of pencils once I get recording.
    So the "deal" is, I am hoping someone will chime in and tell me what the magic $85 SDC is that sounds like a $1000 gem. Once reality slaps me in the face I will start banking pennies (if they existed in Canada anymore!) and save up for a 184 or something similar.
  4. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    You have mentioned a wide budget range of mics, but if you are shopping for SDC mics, that's what you should be testing. You expect a different sound between LDCs and SDCs, as that's why there are these different strucural types. I have a pair of Rode NT2-As and use them where appropriate, making use of their pattern switching. The lucky hunch to put them as an M-S pair in front of a visiting Flamenco guitarist gave me a once-in-a-lifetime recording that I treasure.

    For SDCs, I would avoid the low-end types, and that includes the M5s. It's a false investment to get something you are not happy with at the outset. You don't give your intended usage, but my guess is that it will include drum overheads, and this is where cheap mics can really let you down.

    If you can, I would go back and listen to a few other SDCs such as Rode NT55s and Shure SM81s against the Neumanns you have already heard. Make sure you include an off-axis source, as a lot of the drum overhead sound is necessarily captured this way.
  5. Dr. Fuse

    Dr. Fuse Active Member

    As I said above, I am simply testing whatever I can. Selection availability here in Victoria, BC (an island) is really poor, and the music stores have started charging non-refundable deposits to bring stuff over from Vancouver - even their regular stock. I takes what I can gets.
    I'm not currently looking for the pair of SDCs as drum overheads - it's mostly as ambient distant miking for a main M/S recording of classical string ensembles, from solo viola to string quartet, as well as use in miking a piano in a viola/piano duo.
  6. pcrecord

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

    I'm sorry to say that the M5 and the Pulsar are cardioid mics and you need at least 1 figure of 8 to do M/S recording.

    Those all call for large condensers if you are doing ambiant M/S recordings. Unless you want to throw a ribbon in there....

    With my deepest respect, recording classical music and instruments is a very quality demanding activity. Because of the dynamics and ambiance sound we would expect out of it.
    I wouldn't purchase any entry level gear and try to trick my way around the facts. Classical music loves good quality instruments, great room accoustics, quality mic and preamps and good converters. Going agaist that seems like futile waist of money.
    No offense intended ;)
  7. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    @Dr. Fuse: Sorry, I misjudged what you were about. For my classical work, as well as main pairs, I always make sure I have with me some mics that are or can be changed to be omnis. This allows both spaced A-B recording, outrigger usage to support a main pair (needs a delay when mixing) and also an underneath mic for the bottom octave of a full-size grand piano (needs polarity inversion).

    While not quite top-of-the-range, the Rode NT55-MP pair is excellent value in having pad and HP filter switches on the body and cardioid and omni capsules in the kit.

    @pcrecord: I think he has the main M-S pair covered by other products
    pcrecord likes this.
  8. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    ..... yeah, that's not gonna happen. even the Neumann's you mentioned are not the flagship models ... with mics you just have to bite the bullet. no cheap way out here. however you can consider that some of the most satisfying work that can be done is that in which great results come from humble equipment. even the cheapest mics these days are much better than what was considered affordable 20years ago .... it's a good time for the "homies".
  9. Dr. Fuse

    Dr. Fuse Active Member

    Thanks for the feedback, guys. Much appreciated.
    I recently purchased the Audio-Technica AT4022 as the Mid mic, and am currently using a feeble Apex 205 as the Side. I suppose a decent figure 8 is really the required next purchase. But still dreaming of that pair of Schoeps, or something that sounds like them.
    The AT4022 did ok in my test recordings, but not as attractive as the Neumanns or the Rode NT2-A (that one was surprisingly silky and quiet). My mic came across as very clinical. The room was decent, but treated to have not much reverb. I am hoping it will shine in a better, wetter hall.
  10. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Well, there's is one thing you might want to think about. The AT2022 is a condenser (pressure sensitive), and the Apex 205 is a fig-8 ribbon (velocity sensitive). These two types of transducers produce outputs that are 90 degrees apart, so do not work correctly as an M-S pair. To get proper M-S operation, you need two mics that use the same type of transducer physics.
    pcrecord likes this.
  11. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I would love to hear this Bos! Any chance you'd ever post this for us? I'm debating selling excess gear to put it towards a new classic guitar right now, reading this, is timely. I aspired to be a Pepe Romero for years so this would be a treat, plus a really great referral for the NT2's.
  12. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    It was about 8 years ago, and, as luck would have it, it's the one concert where I have had major hassles with the promoting agents. I was engaged for PA work, but somehow they found out that I had recorded the event when they believed they had a "no recording" term in the contract. I can't find any such term in my copy, but as they have threatened to sue me if I release any of the recording, my policy has been to keep it safe, at least for the next 42 years.

    Ironically, the performer's brother contacted me some time after the event and asked if he could have a copy of the recording, as, surprisingly, they never got ones of live concerts. I wanted to oblige, but had to say no, citing the unpleasant behaviour of the agents.
  13. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Kurt's right. An $80 SD is never gonna sound as good as an upper level mic - like a Neumann, certainly not a Schoeps - You can get closer - as Bos mentioned, the Shure SM81's are heading in the right direction. But if you are hoping to find an $89 SD that sounds just like one of the upper range models, and that has the exact same sonic characterisics well, you're gonna be disappointed, because it's not gonna happen. That "sil" you are hearing is the result of a mic that has been designed well and carefully crafted.

    That's not to say you can't get those lower caliber mics to sound reasonably "useable" - taking a lot of time to find the right spot to put them in, as well as upgrading to a nice preamp ( if you don't have one already), would help a bit to make them sound " less disappointing".

    Which brings up the question - what preamp are you using?
  14. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    LOL... that' so typical, isn't it? You get reamed out for doing a great recording, and the next day, you get a call asking if you could provide them with copies because they liked the way it sounded.

    My ex-wife was a videographer, and she got a call from a client who's daughter was performing a scene from a Broadway musical in a local talent show at a community theater; they wanted her to video tape and edit the daughter's performance.
    She ended up just filming the whole show, and at the end, the director of the theater, an aggressive and uppity woman, approached her and said "I'm just giving you a head's up, out of "courtesy" that I am going to be talking to our attorney to see if what you did today was illegal."

    She never did get a call from an attorney, but she did get a call two weeks later .... from the same director who had threatened her with legal action - she had seen the finished video of the one performance she was hired to tape - and get this... she wanted to know if the theater could get a copy of the video to use as promo... because it looked so good.

    My wife told her that she was sorry, but she only kept the one performance that she was hired to record and edit, and that she had destroyed all the other footage she had taken after the director had threatened her with legal action.

    She hadn't destroyed it, of course. She just wanted to make the woman squirm a bit before she told her "oh, hold on eh, (my ex is Canadian LOL) you know, I think I may have made a safety copy of the footage, but it's not edited, eh? "

    She ended up making around $1000 for that editing gig. ;)
  15. Dr. Fuse

    Dr. Fuse Active Member

    Finally got to try my pair of M-Audio Pulsar II's in a real concert at a music festival I teach at, CYMC in Comox, BC.

    Here is the link:

  16. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Can you tell us some details about your setup for this concert? ie. Room size, Preamp(s), Mic array(s), mic distances from performers, height of mics, etc, along with what platform you tracked to... :)
  17. Dr. Fuse

    Dr. Fuse Active Member

    Hi Donny,

    The room was the huge school gymnasium (with a nice wood floor), divided in half with a retractable wall. We put up some sound shield walls directly behind where we performed. The mics (Pulsar II) were in X-Y config, about 12 feet in front of my viola, and maybe 8 feet high, angled slightly downwards to face the sound source. Recorded onto a Marantz PMD 671 set to 16 bit/44.1kHz (needed maximum time as it was just left recording all night).

    We're going through a severe heat wave and drought in BC with record numbers of wild fires, so the door was open and two fans can be heard running. I'll try to EQ the fan noise out a bit, but it doesn't seem like anything can be done about the vehicle noise.

    Tracked to Audacity on my Macbook Pro Retina, to 24 bit/44.1 kHz.
  18. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I think that you managed to get very respectable results, considering what you were dealing with. Nice job.

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