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SDC for overheads

Discussion in 'Room & Overhead' started by ChrisH, Feb 8, 2012.

  1. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    I'll be getting a pair of good small diaphragm condensers, here in a couple months.
    Would like those of you with experience with these mics to describe how there character in sound.
    They'll be used as overheads to track drums for all genres, and they'll be my main SDC's

    Rode NT55's

    Shure SM81's

    Sennheiser e614's

    Sennheiser e914's

    Shure KSM137's

    Shure KSM141's

    AKG C451's
  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Hi there Chris.

    First off, you either want small dynamic microphones or small condenser microphones. I don't think anybody has paired a dynamic with a condenser yet? Dynamic with a ribbon, a long time ago by Altec the 649.

    OK, OK, with what you have posted, what exactly is your budget? I love my 4 SM 81's and use them all the time for drum overheads and lots of other stuff. When it comes to SDC small overheads, I also love my Neumann KM 86's which have the same capsules as the KM 84's and are the predecessors to the KM 184's. You'll need pads "on" for the AKG C 451's. I'm sure the KSM137's would also be a great choice. Though the Rode 55's are probably the most affordable and sound equally fantastic. I love Sennheiser's but when it comes to small capsule condensers, only the MKH series do I give much credence to. I'm not even familiar with some of their other funnier newer permutations? I really don't care for many of their dynamics either other than the MD 421/441's. I love all of their headphones though. From their cheapest to nearly their best (I can't afford their best).

    You're on the right track
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  3. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    Small diaphragm condensers is what I meant, haha.
    I'm leaning towards the Rode 55's or the SM81's but want to get the best I can possible. For like $1000 ish
  4. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I say with that budget go with the SM 81's. Partially because they'll probably be around longer than those other guys? They're not going to go away anytime soon like so many others have. I got my first pair when they first came out for just 180 bucks each. Didn't get the second pair until the late 1980s and they weren't much more in price. Now they're twice the price and still in production which does say something. They are also not a " true condenser " microphone since they do not require +48 V phantom power but anywhere between 5-48 V a.k.a. an "electret" condenser microphone. Those have a permanent polarization whereas other regular/normal condenser microphones require the +48 V to polarize the capsule. The internal electronics don't need that much voltage. In the past, electret condenser microphones were not considered to be of studio quality. Over the years, massive improvements in technology and manufacturing made these electret condenser microphones very popular. All tie tack microphones you see on newscasters are all electret condenser microphones. Any condenser microphone that accepts a single AA battery is a electret condenser microphone. Numerous 1-3 foot long shotgun microphones are also electret types. And all condenser microphones of both varieties are very sensitive to the surrounding humidity levels. Dynamic microphones can be used during thunderstorms and hurricanes without failure. Condenser microphones die nearly immediately under those conditions. Though modern day electret condenser microphones are far less susceptible to humidity than the pilots experienced in the famous Japanese Zero fighter/bomber/kamikaze planes. They had the earliest versions of that electret technology and the humidity from their voice would make their communications microphones fail. I'm sure lots of those pilots cracked up because of that. Or so I've read. And I don't think they were laughing much?

    1.) choose one. Crack Pot. (I'll take the latter any time)
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  5. Paul999

    Paul999 Active Member

    I agree with Remy. Sm-81's are hard to argue with. I have 4 as well. I used km84's for years. Here is my dirty little secret though. I've been totally digging sm-57's through my API mic pre's lately. I've track my last 100 songs or so with this chain.
  6. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    What you haven't told us is the range of conditions under which you will be using these overheads. Are they for strictly pro studio use, where the drum tracking room has good acoustics and minimal bleed from surrounding performers, are they for all-track-together studio recordings where you mic everyone and work with the bleed, or is it for live stage use?

    I have different sets of SDCs that I use as overheads under different conditions. For controlled studio use, I more often end up using my NT55s than my SM81s because I happen to prefer the off-axis sound of the Rodes. Where I have to minimize bleed, I sometimes use my tight-pattern MBHO MBNM440s (sold as the KEL P-1 in N.America).
  7. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    Controlled acoustic environment, strictly for studio use, noise bleed is not an issue cause I run everyone threw headphones.
  8. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    These are all flavor choices of the same dessert. All will do the job in a professional and trusted way. Its up to you to determine through hearing these what will be right for you. If you cant audition a variety of these mics in your room then you should choose according to their reputation and build quality.

    But they're all good. Just different in their voice.
  9. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    How does a mic have an "off axis" sound? What do you mean?

    I'm leaning towards the NT55's, how would you guys describe the voice of those mics?
    & Do I really need the pad switchs?
  10. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Every microphone and its specifications usually also mentions its sound and/or response from " off axis " sound sources. That means that those sources are not in the direct path of the directional characteristics of the microphone capsule/diaphragm. Generally, the smaller the microphone capsule diaphragm is, the better the " off axis " frequency response and better prevention against phase cancellation will be. Large diaphragm condenser's suffer most from off axis sound in the form of a cloudy phase canceled like audible presentation. Another reason why large diaphragm condenser microphones generally don't sound as good in compromised acoustical environments such as small basement and bedroom studios.

    The 55's suffer very little acoustic aberrations because they are SDC's and feature a superior off axis pickup that generally does not have that boxy, nondescript sounding, phase cancellation texture of LDC's. Which is not to say that having a couple of LDC's isn't also an advantageous type of microphone not to have. As long as they are not picking up copious amounts of off axis reflections from walls and other instruments they are not pointing directly at. For instance, vocal overdubs wouldn't suffer as much of that ill effect since they are usually worked a little tighter to the vocalist and no other instruments are bouncing or slapping off of the walls to leak into it. Though a bad acoustical environment would also be accentuated in the most unflattering way. And the SDC won't suffer such awful acoustic maladies by presenting the compromised acoustic environment in a heightened unflattering way. This is why it's crucial to understand about the different types of microphones capabilities and design criteria and where a simple SM58 may solve many more problems than anyone's SDC or LDC of any type or quality level. Because of the way those work they frequently reject most of those unflattering aberrations in the acoustical space utilized. And that's because of their design criteria along with their lesser sensitivity to fully transfer those acoustic aberrations in the space in which you are recording and using them.

    Do you really need pad switches? Well, any decent condenser microphone already includes those. They are necessary on high sound level sources to prevent from overloading the microphones internal electronics. Most folks that are novices and unknowing, unknowingly indicate they are only going to use their condenser microphones for some lightweight vocals and acoustic guitars. In that realm, pad switches are generally not needed and you get to save $20. That's a sorry ass excuse not to have a microphone that may have to be put into a live sound environment application such as drums, loud amplified metal guitars, etc.. And when used for vocals, most quality condenser microphones also include a bass cut a.k.a. low pass switch to roll off some low-end and able to thwart the " Proximity Effect ". And when not used, vocals frequently appear to be rather muddy and nondescript, not easy to mix, not great to listen to. It sounds great in your headphones and that's why you shouldn't mix with headphones. It's not giving you the real sonic picture without also hearing it through control room speakers of some type. And most entry-level folks just don't understand that since they think their headphones sound great. They sound especially great when the recording is properly engineered and was mixed through speakers to begin with. Not the other way around. Most people don't understand when mixing with headphones, you go for the least amount of bass. Then when you play it back through speakers, it might sound like something reasonable. And that concept is difficult for most newbies to comprehend. It takes time, talent and tons of listening tests with headphones and speakers to finally be able to get a usable mix utilizing only headphones which does happen from time to time. You don't always get a place on location to set up a control room in which to set up speakers in. And you might even be right in front of the band and being inundated with an abundance of low frequency energy all around you making it extremely difficult to evaluate what you are hearing through headphones in that environment. So you crank the low end up until you hear it properly in the headphones and the next day you realize your mix sounds like crap with nothing but a booming low-end of mud. Then everybody stands around scratching their head and blaming their equipment. Broadcast oriented recording engineers like myself have frequently been in those types of situations. So it's imperative to understand what's going on with the headphones and what you actually are listening to.

    Easy to do screw... when you don't have a clue.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  11. rocksure

    rocksure Active Member

    Personally I prefer Large diaphram condensors as overheads for recording. Having said that here's my 2 cents worth on a few sdc's.
    AKG C451: really nice microphones, but can be a tad bright on some cymbals
    Shure sm81: also nice..not as bright
    not on the list you mentioned but:
    Octava MK-012: a bit darker sounding. Can work well on brighter cymbals etc
  12. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    Very helpful information, thank you everyone.
    What would you say the difference between Rode nt55's and Shure SM81's would be?
  13. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    About $20 per mic on average. And the Shure is more 'in your face'. Both are very good. While I dont have as much experience with the Rodes as I do with the Shures, I would not hesitate to use either in pairs for anything I would want an SDC for.

    That being said, my favorite SDC's at the moment are the AT4051's or the 4041's depending on whether you want a bit of zing and color or you want intense reality.

    One thing. The Rodes have interchangeable capsules so you do get an omni as well as the cardioid. Helpful in stage production types of recordings and drums in a larger space.

    For rock drums, the Shures are the sound. With the AT4051 close behind. For acoustic guitars, ESPECIALLY a really good woody sounding one, the AT4041 is superb.

    I usually record acoustic guitars with a 4041 and a 3Zigma Chi with a cardioid capsule. The 4041 on the 12th fret area and the Chi System almost parallel to the lower bout below the bridge. Especially on loud massively vibrating tops like Martins or Guriens. On my Tayler I use the 4041 in the same spot and an LDC over the top of the guitar, The AT4033 for brighter strumming tracks and the U87 for darker work.

    Of course if you want to go 'all the way' then you're looking at a pair of Schoeps or Neumann KM184's or something along this line.

    You'll certainly never buy another SDC.

    Speaking of the AT4033. Theres not a lot of better sounding drum mics than these. They are a medium sized capsule and theres something about their frequency response which lends itself to drums. Also great on a lot of things, but as overheads, superb. The Shure KSM27 and KSM32 are also great overhead mics.

    Something to consider.
  14. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    So the Audio Technica's are now on my list, my favorite drum sound is the drums on the Incubus Morning View Record, looks like a pair of AT4051's or 4041's.
    There's footage of them tracking the drums for that album on youtube and it looks like just like the at4051's and 4041s but not a good enough shot to say for sure.
    Here's an mp3 of the sound i'm going for
    Incubus - 11 am.mp3 - 4shared.com - online file sharing and storage - download - K.
  15. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    The sound you're going for as indicated, sure as heck doesn't sound like SDC's over-the-top of the drums to me. And this is a relatively straightforward and simple sounding recording. Vocal microphone sounds like it could be a SHURE SM 7? Doesn't quite have that energy condenser sound. But I could be wrong? It's nice-sounding. It's simple sounding. Follow that lead.

    Don't let it lead to nowhere.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  16. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    Here's a video of them tracking the drums (in certain parts of the video you can see the overheads)
    Incubus- Circles (practice) - YouTube

    They did use a SM7 on the vocal, 57 on guitar cab, E604's on Tom toms, 57's on snare, dw drums, jose pasillas + an amazing live room = My favorite drum sound "ear candy"
  17. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    That was a nice little house they were in. Too bad the trees and ocean are such a distraction. And all that light from those windows... sheesh... what kind of ambience is that to create in?

    So, do you have a big room for that big drum sound? No? It's OK. You've got software. So in some convoluted way you can create that same space with some convulsions and convolutions. You only need a single microphone on the opposite side of the room for that. But a stereo one of course. Oh! And a bass drum microphone.

    Another problem solved
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  18. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    The house is called Morning View Studios, and it's a very big house. The live room is 75'x40' with 30ft ceilings. I guess you're being sarcastic cause I can't imagine a better ambience to record in.

    Another sarcastic response? C'mon..
  19. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    OK so I was a little sarcastic, sorry. I think you should vote for Mitt Romney? I know, more sarcasm.

    Morning View, not bad. Everybody should have a nice little house like that to record in. Nothing like having the wind in your hair and the microphone at your back. Where you can also make noise with that other part of your body to record. No but really, you can generate that kind of ambience without such a large and luxurious space. Hundreds of NYC recording studios have been doing it for years. It's nice though to have the large cubic footage where waves can properly propagate & bloom. Some of us have had opportunities in the past to record in lovely large acoustically fabulous studios. Unfortunately, it will screw you up when you record in any little space again. It's an experience to behold. Nothing wrong with dead little spaces either since it provides a better feeling of intimacy with a complete lack of acoustical value. After all, all equipment tests are performed in anechoic rooms. So why not record in one? It's actually a little bit more challenging to record in cramped spaces. And in rooms that large, when the band is tracking their basic rhythm tracks, you have to keep the band members fairly close together. Otherwise with long distances of that magnitude, you get plenty of time delay slap. The studio I designed and built in 1978 was 50' by 40'. In an early session, we have the drummer at one end and the guitarist at the other end. It was no can do. The time delay between the two rigs was too long. So we had to move them closer together. Great for that additional ambience but you had to keep people within about 15 feet of each other. I like the ambient interaction and bleed between band members. When they get too far apart even in the studio, you just start picking up too broad a time delay between instruments. So careful placement of your microphones along with careful placement of your musicians is of paramount importance. And I'm not being sarcastic about trying to obtain that same room feeling through electronically generated hardware/software ambience generators a.k.a. short reverb. And so, virtually any SDC will do you fine.

    I'm just another smartass bitch
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  20. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    Ok, I get what you were saying now. Sorry, thought you were being completely sarcastic.

    I understand what you're saying but what ever they used had a certain realistic and sizzle'y character, so thats what I'm looking for.
    I assume you mean any high-end professional quality SDC? Cause I know my $200 pair of Audix F15's don't get that same flattering sound.
    I understand Room mics, preamps, processing, eq'ing, also play big role but I'd say the mics they used were a much bigger factor.

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