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What's the big deal about having a stereo set?

Discussion in 'Microphones' started by ClarkJaman, Jun 25, 2012.

  1. ClarkJaman

    ClarkJaman Active Member

    Hey guys. I am just a rookie producer/engineer with a small collection of mics. I mostly use my AKG C414, my MXL V69 and my AT 2020. I usually stereo mic acoustic guitars, pianos etc with my C414 and either of the other two, depending on circumstance. Producer friends are telling me that I should invest in a stereo set. But I don't get what the difference is. I guess they might have a more in sync phase. But is that all?

  2. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Theres a bit of difference in a "stereo set" as opposed to a 'matched pair'. I dont know what type of music you are recording and producing, but if its more to modern rock, pop, country, really anything with a large amount of drums and amplified instruments, a "stereo set" or 'matched pair' isnt really going to get you that much better of a recording. A good stereo pair is necessary for something like a recording of a stage ensemble, choir, or perhaps a solo piano recital where you arent close micing but are focusing on getting the sound of the space as well as the music and its effect on the space. In that case you are going to want mics with their specs within a very small tolerance of each other. This is simply to retain the balance of a stereo image. You wouldnt want one side or the other to have a different response or a different EQ curve.

    It can be done...and it is every day, but the ease of matching two sides of a recording in a space becomes evident when the two sources are matched.

    When you're tracking single instruments and close micing them, the matching can be a good thing, especially on acoustic instruments, but its not as necessary as recording a room. I actually like having unmatched pairs for acoustic guitar simply because I can tailor each mic to a certain position on the instrument by matching that mics' frequency responses to the instruments' tonalities. The same holds true for an acoustic piano.

    That being said, a matched set of 414's can get a lot of use.
  3. ClarkJaman

    ClarkJaman Active Member

    Thanks for your reply Dave. I think I am beginning to understand. I will have to do more research before I decide whether to invest in a matched set.
  4. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    The error is really only in terminology. You can't "stereo mic" in a professional sense by using dissimilar microphones, leaving aside M-S techniques. What you can do, as DaveDog explained, is use multiple microphones on one source to get different sound colours that you then blend in the mix. This is very different from creating a stereo image by microphone placement.

    That out of the way, I would tend to agree with your friends that for your next purchase you should consider getting two microphones that can be set up as a true stereo pair or used singly. The usual first pair would be small diaphragm condensers (SDCs), and you can't do much better for the money than the Rode NT55MP set. These have interchangeable cardioid and omni capsules, allowing you to set up the standard cardioid configurations of X-Y, ORTF etc as well as the spaced omni A-B configuration. You would find that in a decent room the pair of omni capsules set up over a full-size grand piano gives you a bottom octave capture that any cardioid mic would struggle to achieve. When many years ago I listened to the playback of the first time I tried this, I said "So that's how they do it!" when I heard the piano sound that is present on most classical CDs and radio recitals.

    The other thing noticable about your mic collection is that you don't list any dynamic mics. A pair of Shure SM57s is a staple foundation of any set, and you maybe ought to be thinking about getting those either instead of or in addition to a condenser pair. Note that you can't easily mix condenser and dynamic mics on a single sound source without some post-processing in the pre-amp or in the mix. This is because a dynamic mic responds to the velocity of the sound waves and a condenser mic responds to the amplitude, and these two properties are 90 degrees out of phase. Unless you have a variable-phase pre-amp such as the Audient Mico that can correct a 90 degree shift, you have to do the correction at mixdown.
  5. ClarkJaman

    ClarkJaman Active Member

    Boswell, that really helps. Thank you so much! I will check out those NT55s. They are about the price range that I am looking for in an SDC pair.

    The other set I have my eye on is the Octavamod MXL 603 Ultimate SDC mod. They sound great, and I know people who are very happy with these mods. Since I don't have any modded mics I think this might be a good purchase. The question I have though is this: If a matched pair is handpicked from hundreds of microphones, and you both the mics by swapping out a couple parts, are they still a perfectly matched pair? My intuition tells me not. What do you guys think?

    As for the dynamic mics, I do have a few cheap Berhinger vocal dynamic mics, but they're no good. You are right, I should invest in an SM58 and a 57, just because every producer should have them. I have held off this far because:
    1) I don't particularly like the sound of 57s and I don't know of any other dynamic instrument mics that are worth purchasing.
    2) I don't mic drums very often, and when I do I just borrow mics. Everyone and their dog has SM57s that I can borrow any time.
    3) Other than drums, I don't see what I need 57s for. But I am probably just ignorant. ;P
  6. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    There very few mics that can reproduce electric guitar amps as well as an SM57. There ARE better. Just not a lot. Recently I recorded some tracks with a guitarist who used a 60's Vibro-Champ and a Tele. Great sounding recording rig. Not a lot of watts but pure tone and enough wattage to drive the output section of the amp which is where you get those great tones. I used a Royer R-101 ribbon with an old SM57 I have. One of the best recordings for guitar tone I've ever done. I thought a lot of it was the Royer. Turns out the Royer was complimentary mic and the 57 did all the heavy lifting. Together it was magical.
  7. rocksure

    rocksure Active Member

    I recently wrote a tutorial that is split into 2 parts on the different stereo micing or (miking, mic'ing ?) arrays and techniques that can be used. Some of these techniques do require a well matched pair of mics to do it properly. In the case of a Decca Tree array it really is a "set" rather than just a pair. If anyone is interested to read them, stereo micing techniques part 1 covers X-Y, ORTF,NOS, DIN and spaced pair methods and part 2 covers Mide-side (M/S), Blumlein pair and Decca Tree arrays
  8. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    In your situation, having a 414 in figure of 8 mode, perpendicular and facing the left & right walls and one of your other cardioid condensers as the middle/Mono microphone can be utilized for very effective MS stereo miking. While not being matched, it will still present quite a lovely and variable width stereo recording. So in that application, you're already set to make lovely stereophonic recordings utilizing MS (middle side) microphone technique.

    As Boswell indicated, recording a pop/rock can now in stereo may actually present a better recording when utilizing SM57's in stead of a condenser microphone which has a tendency to pick up everything else you don't want. So it's not really how much you spend on a microphone but utilizing the right microphone for the job. So you still need at least a couple of 57's or, 58's with a metal ball unscrewed when you need a 57 since they are identical capsules. And that's like getting four for the price of two. Such a bargain.

    You can't live without at least a couple of 57/58's
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  9. pan60

    pan60 Active Member

    at least couple of 57/58's!
  10. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I might also add, some folks when they purchase microphones in pairs ask for a matched stereo pair. This really isn't necessary today. Back in earlier times, all of these microphones were made by hand. There were small variations therefore in each one. And so when you asked for a matched stereo pair you received a pair generally made by a single person and consecutive serial numbered. Today with mass production, requesting a matched stereo pair merely increases your cost. Mass production techniques are so consistent that any pair, purchased at the same time are an extremely close match even if the serial numbers are not sequential. But because people still unknowingly asked for a matched stereo pairs, companies are still willing to accommodate you and charge you extra for that. It's a needless expense in today's mass production world. There really isn't anything to be gained by it.

    I just generally purchase microphones in pairs
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  11. ClarkJaman

    ClarkJaman Active Member

    Are they really the exact same other than the metal grill on the 58?
  12. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Yes. And the SM7 capsule is also the same but the placement within the foam blast shield is the difference here.

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