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Boutique Vs. Mainstay? ~$1K vocal mic?

Member for

21 years
So here's my quandary:

I'm feeding a MOTU Traveller (haha, yes, MOTU is something funny these days, but it serves my needs well) with a twinpack of Eurekas and an ISA220, but since my best mic is a C4000b, I think it's time to add a nice mic to the closet. I need it to excel on vocals (male and female) as well as acoustic guitar.

I've been kicking around some mics in the $1k range, and since I don't really want my flagship mic to be a ribbon, the Royers are out...

Blueberry, C414xls/XLII, tlm103, U195, maybe a lower-end Gefell... and those are just some of the "mainstay" mics that I've been looking into.

I'm still interested in some of the other boutique mics out there... Violet, for instance.

I've heard that the 414XLS aren't that great on vocals, and that that is why they released the XLII... if this is true, I don't see why I would want to spend the bread on a mic that is "awesome" on guitar but "good" on vocals. Ugh, a grand to spend, what would you do?


Member for

17 years 6 months

Cucco Sun, 01/28/2007 - 16:18
I'm with Remy and Dave -

First - the Soundelux is in fact a BEAUTIFUL microphone! It's my go to kick microphone and it works on 80% of the voices I throw in front of it (with a little placement, a lot can happen).

Also, in regards to Remy's comments, I can't agree more about the Beyer combo! Both the 130 and 160 are great microphones and more and more I find myself busting them out (why, I even tried it on kick today...wouldn't advise it, but it worked).

Ironically... as you mention Remy - blowing in ribbon mics (most varieties) is never a good idea (the RCAs are probably the worst in that regards). I recently found myself needing two of my 130s in a different part of the building and fast. So, I broke out into a jog and about halfway to my destination, I realized the elements were facing INTO the wind as I was running!!!!! Terror and fear struck my heart. I plugged them in and cranked the blown elements.

Anyway...several other things to mull over.

1 - Consider the Rode K2. I love mine.
2 - consider more than just 1 mic. As mentioned above, broaden the pallette. There are many GREAT $500 mics on the market.

Good luck!


Member for

15 years 11 months

RemyRAD Wed, 01/24/2007 - 23:14
The 414's are all wonderful microphones! The XLS & TLII were intended for different applications. One is the extra linear series that was designed for general musical instrument recording, with a very flat response. Whereas the TLII was made more for vocal applications since it had a tailored frequency response, with its retro capsule, with a modest presence peak, to accentuate vocal frequencies. It's a mainstay that won't go away anytime soon.

So it really depends on what you believe you will be using this microphone most for?

I was fairly impressed by some of the large diaphragm condenser microphones by Shure. They have great presence and include that nice high-frequency edgy quality that's pretty cool sounding on vocals when you want that breathy, horny, I needed now, sound. Many of the other large diaphragm condenser microphones are using very thin mylar capsules. These .3 mil capsules will give you great high frequency response but can also get rather shrill and thin sounding. Whereas others that have a .6 mil mylar capsule will have a darker quality like the Neumann U87 has. So thinner is not always better when you want a lusher sound.

As elegant as tube microphones can be, their consistency is quite varied since every tube will sound different. Plus they're just not good when you need long microphones cable runs since the microphones has to stay closer to the power supply. So although I own some tube microphones, they are not the first microphones I grab for.

For a truly contrasting sound when it comes to microphones, why not try a ribbon microphone? They are not particularly crispy sounding but rather warm and mellow in their character. Most have a natural role off starting at about 5000 cycles that will get you down 10 DB at 20kHz. (This may not be the case with the Royer line of ribbon microphones, which are quite different sounding?) Not flat you say? That's OK. It will sound better than flat since it can reproduce transients better than any condenser/capacitor microphone can. So I might recommend the Beyer M160 HyperCardioid dual ribbon microphone. It's small and modern and under 1 K. $. There are also quite a new Chinese ribbon microphones hitting the market these days at very attractive pricing. Not sure what they sound like? But if they come close to a 77 DX, I'm sold! Those microphones have been running around $160 to $500 as opposed to the almost $1000 Beyer M160/130 or the nearly $1500 for a used or new knockoff 77 DX. Those microphones are also extremely fragile and never, ever, blow into one. If you do, you will have likely destroyed the ribbon.

In the way of dynamic microphones, if I had $1000, I might invest in 3 Sennheiser MD421's? Totally fabulous on drums. Incredible tone without overload. One of my favorites!

My world for all the microphones in the world!
Ms. Remy Ann David

Member for

16 years 7 months

moonbaby Thu, 01/25/2007 - 07:46
Remy brings up good point. You don't list but 1 model mic you have, but if I had $1000.00, I would probably be tempted to get a good dynamic (the 421, an E-V RE20, or a Beyer M99) with some of the $$ and the rest on a decent LDC like an A-T AT4047. More options and flexibility. Or the M160 and a 421. And everyone out there will give you his/her opinions of their mics. The point is, you should be building a "pallette" of sounds that is flexible and versatile. One mic on your budget is limiting that.

Member for

19 years 9 months

Davedog Thu, 01/25/2007 - 18:38
Of your choices, only one of them stands out as a 'go-to' vocal mic. That would be the Soundelux U195. This is an outstanding mic and when its a perfect match there is nothing in this price range that can come close. The others you mentioned are very subjective to the source and while all are outstanding in the things that they are 'right' for, they arent as right as they could be for all sources.

I agree with Remy and Moon, you should consider a GREAT dynamic and a very decent condenser. You've listed the C4000 as your 'best' mic, and I can think of a number of mics at a much lower price point that I would chose over that one. It doesnt get much better than a Sennheiser MD421 for most things, voice included. An RE20 Electrovoice is as smooth as a babys' butt and can be used for anything. The new Heil Dynamics are superior.

As for 'cheap' condensers.....some are some are NOT. Cheap sounding that is. The new ADK ViennaII or the HamburgII are voiced a lot like REAL expensive mics. Really. Several mic snobs I know are angling for one of these as soon as the next check clears.

While I have not heard one as yet, Joel Pattersons' review of the new MAudio Sputnik tube condenser makes me want to find one NOW.

For a grand and maybe a touch more, you could, with a patient search and looking used, find yourself with a great dynamic, a really good condenser AND one of those new ribbon mics(some are less than 200 and get great reviews).

Now thats a lot of colors for the paint set.

Or you could just spend it all on the U195 and be really really happy with it.