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John Hardy, Grace, AKG 414 BULS – Voice-over advice

I'm new to this forum; have been reading posts for some time and found it very educational. I have a question, especially to those who have some experience recording voice-overs.

I'll soon be setting up a home project studio for recording voice-overs, most likely for FM radio audio skits with cartoon-like wacky voices (some of which pitchshifted) on sfx/musical background. I'll be recording from home (will have a well designed vocal room) but will be “coached” by a guy who owns a small commercial studio (he'll help me with mixing, etc).

He feels very strongly about me using AKG 414 BULS (says U87ai too aggressive) and since chances are I'll be working with him for the next couple of years, that's the mic I'll probably will be getting, at least for starters. Now assuming that's the mic I'll use, what are my options in terms of a preamp? (Budget for pre is around $1000 – just need one channel, maybe another $1000 for compressor during tracking)I would like to have a detailed sound that is not too aggressive but that stands out easily from the mix. I heard great things about John Hardy M-1, Grace 101 or HV-3. However when i went to a local music store, the salesman told me that something as transparent as those pres in combination with AKG 414 BULS will sound flat, dull and boring in the mix. (and then suggested Universal Audio LA-610 or Blue Robbie saying it would add some life to AKG 414 BULS. Is it true that JH or Grace wouldn't compliment well this specific mic for VO? Any insights would be greatly appreciated. Thanx.


BobRogers Thu, 12/28/2006 - 04:09

What does your "coach" say about preamps? You are being offered something very valuable with the free training - worth far more than the difference between a couple of good mics or preamps. If you like this guy's work and he is willing to help you, I'd stay within his comfort zone - with the equipment he knows the most about. Let's face it. Different people get good results with all kind of gear. When someone says, "preamp X is better than preamp Y," they mean that they can get a better sound out of preamp X. You have someone who is willing to show you how to get the most out of the gear he recommends. I'd be pretty reluctant to buy anything else until I'd learned all I could from him.

FifthCircle Mon, 01/01/2007 - 12:19

Wow... a 414 BULS being tame compared to a U87Ai??? Don't get that one. The 414 has got to be one of the most brittle sounding expensive mics out there. All top end and not much else. The only way I would consider using it would be to send it off to Jim Williams for an Audio Upgrades mod.

The U87 may not be a perfect mic, but it is a standard in the VO world (especially for animation). Other great mics include the mentioned EV RE20 and the Shure SM7. In the "great but not as common" category, the Sennheiser MD441 and Microtech M930 or UM70/71 are great offerings. For some voices, some of the BLUE mics can also work well.

In the end, I'd try to get several mics to demo and see what works for your voice best. It may be a 414, but it also may be something else. What matters most is what work for you rather than what somebody says you should use.

As for pres- the Hardys are awesome (and after talking with him at various trade shows, he seems to be one of the "good guys" out there). I own a pair of the original Boulder Twin Servos and they are great. I would generally go for a bit larger sounding pre for VO work, though. One of my favorites is the A Designs Pacifica. Good meaty sounding mids, but also a clear top end. It gives you the best of both worlds for voice. When in the field, I use a Grace Lunatec but that is because it is small and clean sounding. If I can get a larger sound (in a studio), I'll prefer that.

I would stay away from lower-end "tube" pres that are really poor quality solid state pres with a tube to "grunge" up the sound.


anonymous Sat, 01/13/2007 - 12:20

Let me start by saying I do music, not the spoken VO so much, but here something else to consider...
I have the 414TLII and like it much better than the standard 414. Without the transformer in the mic the low end is better, and for voices people tend to dig low-end punch.
Also, what about the Avalon 737sp? It's a killer preamp, and if you can snag it on eBay for a good price ($1600ish for a good condition used one) it will hold it's value. Try it - if you don't like it you can put it back on eBay and get most (if not all) of your money back out of it.

Good luck!

Davedog Tue, 01/30/2007 - 12:49

JWHardy wrote:

the guy told me

The guy is an idiot.

John Hardy
The John Hardy Co.

How did I miss this???

John, you dont hang here often but everytime its a real informative time!

That there's funny........

If I wasnt a poor electron farmer I'd be buyin me some of that Hardy stuff.....

Ben got it right. The BULS version is WAY bright and in yer face....."more aggressive than an 87"....I dont think so. An 87 in excellent condition is one of the MOST versatile mics on the planet. I own an older one and everytime I think I'm gonna plunk down a bunch of lettuce on something to 'replace' it, I hear it and it never fails to hold its own and change my mind. It certainly allows for the single-malt budget to stay up where it should.

Cucco Wed, 01/31/2007 - 07:26

aqualand666 wrote: the 414 is one of the most transparent microphones in existence.

????????????????????????????? :shock: :shock: :shock:

Hmmm...I wouldn't call the 414 transparent in the slightest. To me, transparent means, what passes through the microphone sounds exactly (or darned near exactly) like the actual source. The 414 (all versions) is a VERY top heavy mic with anemic low end and sterile (not transparent, sterile) midrange.

For transparent...there's plenty of choices. DPA, Gefell M930 (not perfectly transparent...think transparent plus a little sweetener), Neumann TLM193, etc.

But...for VO, transparent is often not the preference. Often it's the flattering mic - one that emphasizes positive attributes in the voice.

anonymous Wed, 01/31/2007 - 16:28

see cucco, i don't know if i would ever really characterize a Neumann as being transparent. then again i've never heard the 193, the TLM 49 is much more coloured than the 414. i would say that along with earthworks, the 414 is up there in terms of transparency.

it was my assumption that the reason Neumann discontinued most of their tube model microphones was because they did such a great job engineering the FET versions of them (most of which seem to be so incredibly warm.) i might also say the 451 is rather transparent.

what exactly are you saying, that the 414 has colour within the high frequencies but doesn't with mid and low range? i think meat loaf might have said that two out of three ain't bad. what is "top heavy" anyways, most condesner mics have some kind of elevated high frequency response. when you boost high frequencies, usually it gives a little more clarity to the subject regardless of what frequency that instrument lies within. doing so, you may also get some noise which could very well be what you are calling colouration in this case.

i could be wrong though

Davedog Wed, 01/31/2007 - 18:25

aqualand666 wrote:

i could be wrong though

Well, yes, that is a possibility. I think you're gonna get into some areas here that you're not aware of the level of expertise you're questioning.

Jeremy, be nice.

Ya see, Mr. Aqualand, he records classical music in all sorts of sonic temples and knowing exactly how much 'color' a mic has, how much extended high-end it captures, how balanced each one is in its frequency range and how this affects things is Cuccos' business.

I'm only stating that because I sense issues will be arising soon......

Heres what I think.............

I wouldn't call a 414, and for the sake of argument lets say the BULS is the model, a transparent mic in any sense of the word as used to describe recording noises. Transparent would be something that you absolutely hear the source as it is in the environment its being reproduced in. A TLM193 is exactly that, whereas MOST other Neumanns are not. They have their own sheen and add their own sparkle, midrange blurr, whatever you want to call it.....color. My 87 has color to it. Thats what I like about it. Does it faithfully reproduce the source? Yeah. Accurately, with its color

Its kind of silly to try and lump mics like the Earthworks stuff with the 414. Dont get me wrong, I love the 414 mics, I just think they have a limited use. But what they shine on, nothing gets close. And a 451...transparent?????Do you have one that is? Does anyone?

Anyway, I just wanted to buffer the explaining you're gonna get for your statements. Maybe we'll all learn something in the process....

K...J.... its all yers....

anonymous Wed, 01/31/2007 - 23:30

never thought i'd hear the words "414" and "limited use" in the same sentence

consider this; tube microphones posses some of the widest frequency responses that you can get and whether its a flat curve or not, doesn't make that microphone any less coloured.

frequency curves can obviously influence this matter and since the circuitry of the microhpones we are discussing are FET i guess we don't have much else to use as basis for reasoning.

i might be willing to suggest that if the u 87 and the 414 both had the same frequency response curves, the 414 would be the more transparent mic, simply because of its circuitry alone.

Davedog Thu, 02/01/2007 - 01:10

aqualand666 wrote: never thought i'd hear the words "414" and "limited use" in the same sentence.

Okay. Lets use another 'descriptive phrase'..............How about 'singular' that its arena of expertise is 'limited'.. This mic on a vocalist, say, would have to be very particular for this to be the mic of choice for this purpose.....However, if it suits that particular vocalist, then its PERFECT for the chore and assignment. The same goes for a particular acoustic instrument, brass instrmentalist,percussionist etc etc. NO studio with any sembalance of quality should be WITHOUT an AKG 414BULS...Its a GREAT mic.....I love them...I simply dont happen to agree with your particular view on its purpose in recording music....and thats OKAY....Its my FAVORITE overhead for drumset mic, and I spent several years in a studio where we had U87's as the matched pair of overs in the drumbooth.

They are just not a mic I would choose for VoiceOver work, nor is it a mic that one would rightly consider when choosing a mic for its 'transparency'....

Whatever you choose is whatever you believe in.

"There are no rules."

"Break every one of them."

Cucco Thu, 02/01/2007 - 07:01

I haven't made THAT kind of reputation for myself, have I Dog?? I mean...shotgun,, nah...

Anyway - DD's right - the 414 is a limited use mic. It does some things and it does them well. I also love them for overheads (but prefer my Schoeps instead - much smoother), I also really love them on a Yamaha C7 grand piano (but prefer my Gefells instead MUCH more open and realistic). Other than that, I haven't found a source which screams..."USE A 414!" Thus, I don't own a pair....(besides, I can rent them for $25 a day if necessary...)

I started my recording career with a pair of 414s (ULS series - old ones too - with the legit C12 capsule) into a custom outboard pre and then into a Nakamichi 3-head deck (and occassionally DAT or even earlier that silly Sony box that recorded digital onto VHS!) Anyway, what we recorded was symphonic bands and every recording sounded shrill and thin. That was most certainly not the fault of the Nakamichi (a WONDERFUL tape deck - IMO, almost as good sounding as some fine digital with the addition of a little bit of noise.)

Anyway - the 414 skews towards the high end making it far from transparent. The Earthworks stuff, IMO, is the embodiment of transparent but I feel to get the best out of their stuff, only the best pre will do (Mr. Hardy's certainly would fit that bill as would Millennia or Grace. I'd be curious to pair the QTC 50 with the A Designs Pacifica that Ben raves about. I think the results would be a HUGE hyper-realistic picture!)

As for the Neumann stuff - each mic that they make is significantly different than any other mic that they make. The TLM 49 is definitely a "colored" mic, but it is designed to be that way (second order distortions built-right-in to emulate a tube). I haven't used the TLM 49 personally, but I did just recently attend the Neumann/Sennheiser Mic clinic in which they had one and we played around with it for a few minutes. It's not bad.

The 193 is designed to be their "flat" microphone. It is quite nice for almost any application (I love it on piano, woodwinds and voice).

By no means are all Neumanns "hyped" in the upper frequencies. Some are quite pronounced (M50/150/TLM103) others are less so (170) and still others such as the 193 are relatively flat. Their legacy mics (the 87/67/47) weren't really "voiced" with anything too specific in mind. They engineered the mic to be a good mic and the frequency response just happened to work (and become the benchmark for other mics to follow).

Oh....and please throw out the notion that anything with a Tube in it is automatically colored and not "transparent." Most current tube gear (that is to say "starved plate") is quite colored but that is because the tube is getting very little voltage (sometimes on the order of only a couple volts) and is thus overwhelmed by even the slightest of voltage variance of incoming signal (audio) creating significant 2nd and 3rd order distortions. True tube gear (a great example is the new Presonus ADL 600) uses REAL voltage to the tubes (in their case +/- 300 volts) and the audio signal coming across the tubes does not cause the tubes to freak out. In the case of these "real" tube boxes, you'll find that the audio is quite realistic (er...transparent). I find Summit gear to be this way as well.

If you were to hear an M50 in action (a tube mic) you would NEVER think there was a tube in there!

Anyway...gotta get to work. The bills aren't gonna pay themselves...


anonymous Thu, 02/01/2007 - 10:06

alright well then find a frequency that is exactly the same among the 414 and mic X's curve, proceed to depict it via the proper instrumentation, and literally see which mic's circuitry is more transparent.

you must be a master of pun because you are playing on these words "colouration" and "transparency" big time. sure if i were recording a bass guitar, a certain microphone may better achieve "transparency" with it because of its frequency responses.

if you were to compare curves for any two microphones, you will find at least one frequency that has the same response curve pattern among them both. that is where we determine which mic is more transparent.

Cucco Thu, 02/01/2007 - 10:33

aqualand666 wrote: if you were to compare curves for any two microphones, you will find at least one frequency that has the same response curve pattern among them both. that is where we determine which mic is more transparent.


Linearity does not determine transparency. Transparency is a subjective term. Furthermore, I put VERY little stock in "Frequency Curves." They are bogus and over all, bullsh*t.

For example, I find the Beyer M130 to be extremely transparent. However, according to its frequency curve, it is not. Granted it's a TAD on the "dark" side, it's not bad and it takes EQ well (making it "undark.")

The difference is not in its frequency linearity but its transient response and its damping characteristics. Because it is faster than most condensers and has very little body resonance, it translates sounds more effortlessly (with a lot more gain needed at the preamp though).

I ask you to NOT look at pieces of paper when comparing microphones and instead use your ears and your brain. When talking about microphones that cost as much as a cheap used car, you owe it to yourself to do this instead of looking at such meaningless things as frequency response curves.

Cucco Thu, 02/01/2007 - 11:06

I'm not experimenting.

If I were, I would certainly take more into account than the frequency plot.

I've been a musician for 24 years and took my first professional classical gig when I was 8. I know what an instrument sounds like and when the mic captures what it's supposed to. To my ears, the 414 doesn't do it - not even close. If accuracy is the name of the game, it is best to look elsewhere. That's all I'm saying.

We've officially hijacked this thread now, so....we should either start another or let it go (although, feel free to rebutt - I'd hate to be accused of forcing the last word.)



Cucco Thu, 02/01/2007 - 11:16

aqualand666 wrote: any two microphones are going to depict at least one frequency in the same manner as far as volume is concerned.


Well...that's an impossible question to answer. There are other variables. Unloaded, a microphone cannot create volume (rather - amplitude). It is possible to suggest that two microphones of different origin when fed the same input signal (sound) could create the same voltage to their outputs. However, how does this correlate to anything we've discussed thus far?

Besides, even if the voltage is the same (suggesting the same signal at the same amplitude), what about the rise time and damping time of the diaphragm and it's potential connected components (in the case of a dynamic mic)? Will this not also have a direct impact on the sound?

Cucco Thu, 02/01/2007 - 11:45

aqualand666 wrote: cucco, under this postulate you have given us, no microphone would be transparent. because no microphone is as transparent as your ears.

Well...not so. First of all - I agree that nothing beats live music. A recording, however, can sound pretty damned convincing. Don't believe me, put a Royer SF1 over a solo violin and put a pair of DPA 4006TLs in the hall. Then listen. Through a decent playback system, with your eyes closed, you might just get a glimpse of reality.

Put a 414 over the violin and a pair of 451s in the hall and you may as well reach for the band-aids for your bleeding eardrums.

aqualand666 wrote:
can the TLM 193 be used on bass drum and bass guitar?

Hell yes!

aqualand666 wrote: i'm sure it can but would you use it on those applications if you wanted them to sound just as you heard them?

The hell I would! I use a Soundelux U195 on bass drum all the time and I friggin love it. It sounds JUST like the kick when played back. It doesn't sound like some hyped-ass piece of crap Beta 52 (actually, I don't hate the Beta 52, but I did just sell mine for $50 in brand new/mint condition.)

As for you mean electric? (In which case I LOVE my Radial Designs J48. THAT's a transparent DI!)

For upright (acoustic), I sure would use a TLM 193 (or a U195, or a Schoeps CMC62, or a Gefell UMT70, or a DPA 4006, or even an AT4050!!!)

RemyRAD Thu, 02/01/2007 - 12:46

Neither the words transparent nor aggressive really can be used to describe any of the 414's or the U87, in any variety. That's ridiculous. Other microphones sound far more aggressive because they're either too bright or too crappy, neither of which I believe applies to any of the 414's or U87's. And so why is the U87 one of the most popular voiceover microphones, in the advertising, movie and music business? Because it is. In fact, I don't know many who use 414's for voiceovers? Of course I got a Grammy nomination for using one on a fat soprano.

I've cut thousands of commercials throughout my career. I worked for a major international advertising agency and syndicator. My preferred microphone for most male announcers was the U87 and an API microphone preamp into a UREI 1176LN followed by a Allison KEPEX-1 into an APIs 550A equalizer. On occasion I would use a 414P48 or B-ULS or a KM 86 Neumann if I wanted a different or character like vocal sound but four straight announce work, the U87 handsdown. It's just a beautiful combination of stuff for male announcers.

But again, you are working with somebody else who is the "producer?" and you want to give the producer, what they want. But to make a blanket statement that you should use a "414B-ULS", without hearing you on one tells me, he's an amateur. I really want to hear the person first and not over the telephone, before I make a decision about what microphone I want on that person! If he had an ounce worth of sense, he would send you to a local studio or retail establishment to have you cut some tracks with various microphones to see what you'd be sounding the best on for his purposes. Before telling you to go "F" or "S" your self. I think he needs a De-Asser?

I think you should wear jockeys instead of boxers?
Ms. Remy Ann David

RemyRAD Thu, 02/01/2007 - 22:12

The microphone in front of Jay Leno, is not used but a prop. Its most obviously a TLM170 (I use them regularly). Besides, they all use wireless lavaliers on his show, Conan O'Brien, David Letterman, et al.. I'm sure the desk microphone can be used for emergencies. So, aqualand666, you are wrong again. Where'd you get this Missinformation?? Certainly not from this Miss. Maybe, Off-the-wall of some bathroom?? Maybe next time, you can put my phone number up there?? With something catchy like "I'll give a good recording, for a price".

While a lot of people like using the RE20 (myself included), especially in radio, they really don't have the balls or the presence of the U87 or other condensers, for commercials. They do however control proximity effect better than most and so their consistency from mouth to capsule distance, is better.

And, I'm just saying, requesting a microphone before you hear what it does to somebody is preposterous. That's what I'm saying.

Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3 helloooooo??
Ms. Remy Ann Pissy David

I'll take the Orval Redenbacher extra butter microwave popcorn.

hueseph Fri, 02/02/2007 - 15:29

aqualand666 wrote: thanks for the funfact about jay leno's mic setup. wanta rant about getting a 9 ft spring reverb in a 3 ft box? or do ya just plain and simply wanta cookie, fatass?

Ok. Now we're referring specifically to a liquidstudios thread. Welcome back man. Play nice. It's amazing but from the first few posts I could see this coming.