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Poll: vocal microphone shootout

I'm looking for a new vocal microphone, and I could really use your help to figure out the one that works best on my voice. So I've set up a poll to see which mic people like most from my my shootout. I ran the mic shootout at the local recording studio, but I used my own Echo Audiofire Pre8 preamps (cause that's all I own). I think my ears or tired or something and I can't tell the difference too much.

So here is the link to the anonymous files. Can you please let me know which one you like best? Even better, if you could tell me what you like about it, I would appreciate it. All I hear is low-end, or highend- should I be looking for the clarity of the consonants sound or something? Dynamic range?
(If your internet browser doesn't automatically download the files, you can click on the link, right-click on each of the files, and click Download)

Anyway, I'll release the names of the microphones once people start to submit their choices. I will say that there are some big names and then there is also my crappy mike in there. There are 4 microphones (E, F, G, H) and there are two performances (1 is a Jack Johnson song, and 2 is a song of my own).

P.S. if anyone has any suggestions about how better to present the shootout, just let me know.
P.P.S. these are the raw aif's. So they're not level matched. For instance, microphone F is louder than the rest (sorry for the inconvenience).


audiokid Wed, 02/20/2013 - 13:43
Others may think different but mic shootouts are only entertainment to me. They give newbies the wrong impression and fuel misinformation. To top this off, if you don't match the levels, its even worse. 1 db of change between a track is enough to trick the hearing. We are deceived by volume and have the attention span of a yawn.

The only way I do comparisons is by creating a loop between two versions pasted onto the same track with no effects or plug-ins even sitting there disabled. I level match as best I can and join ( A > B > A > B > A > B "") on the same track so there isn't one second to loose focus between the switch. Each version is no more than a bar or two and I choose the right type of musical content for that test.

Example of an ITB vs OTB test I did has been removed now.

Are you singing only a Capella or planning to sing with music? Best way to try the mics is to put them to test in the mix. Roll the reel, sing along and compare which mic you like the best.

audiokid Wed, 02/20/2013 - 14:11
To add to this,

I participated in an up and coming converter shootout that was highjacked by a couple of guys looking to show off there loop comparison software over at another forum . These two guys who I won't name here, but have a following like they are gods over there, performed a test that was flawed and damaging.

The skinny of it was, people were judging this product based on their testing software which could directly effect the launch of that product and throw bias towards another. These guys could ruin a company with one reckless move, which they did IMO.

I thought I would do a test for my own ( because I was interested in the product for myself) to see who was zooming who on this. I downloaded the files that were openly put online and I ran them through my system and methods. I actually found duplicate tracks ( the same track with a different name). It was a mistake but never the less, a BIG ONE!
What was interesting, people actually thought one sounded better over the other. Both tracks nulled to complete silence in my test. The two guys shilling this testing software missed it with their cutting edge software and the audience believed them up until my entrance. Their software stopped short where I'm only guessing here, I must have gone beyond the threshold settings of their software and found the hole in it all.

To add, not only on that shootout, but on a second set of tracks, I noticed reverb on one side of a second track that shouldn't have been there. How could one track have reverb and the other one not, yet they were both supposedly the same reference, so I called them on it. They refused to acknowledge my questioning and took offense to it all.

So once again I performed more tests and discovered the man innocently providing the tracks for the shootout had one reverb plug-in deactivated on one of the two tracks. He never thought it would matter. That track was the one that was proving to be inferior in this test. The reverb wasn't discovered until I nulled the tracks and found something hanging over on one track that you could clearly hear bleeding in. ( plug-ins aren't as clean as you think)

So, this guy and all the people following that shootout were misled, at the expense of the manufacturer. I followed these guys around to see what they were up to and discovered their main focus is to sell this testing software around the world.
I personally feel they harmed the company and never admitted or took the time to learn more about what I discovered. Their mission was to save their face and sell their software. Some of their posts were thankfully removed, but they troll around spreading misinformation in shootouts.
I don't think they mean to do this but they aren't as smart as they think. I heard something with my own ears where digital testing software missed it. And also learned some interesting about plug-in bleed. Even though its bypassed, it can be effecting the signal. This was and Pro Tools HD system BTW.

So, you really need to be careful who you believe and do these tests in your own studio.

They recently signed up here but have never posted. What a facade.

Davedog Wed, 02/20/2013 - 18:37
Okay.I listened to them...mostly. I agree with audiokid completely. Its a flawed test of "which is better" simply because of the myriad of factors which can effect the outcome of a vocal track within a complete mix of music. A LOT of things can sound fantastic solo'd up. A WHOLE LOT LESS sound even decent when mixed with other things. When it gets down to it, its all about what effect you want the vocal track to have on the arrangement represented in the recording. Let me describe this in some detail.

Most Pop music, or rather music that can be described as vocal with accompaniment, have very few dominant melody lines contained in the arrangement. The vocal line is generally THE dominant melodic element and therefore has its importance to the representation of the song as being very high. But there are many ways to approach the making of this important element be relevant. If the vocal is mixed 'up' in the arrangement, then a mic with a lot of clarity and presence might be the choice. This can change with the voices' quality and even go to extremes to hide or repair defects in the voice itself. In that case a mic that has a bit 'murkier' nature might be used. In some cases the vocal is actually run through devices that add distortion or harmonics to accentuate particular bandwidths while suppressing others. In that case you might want a relatively neutral mic. In short its all depending on what you want out of the arrangement of the song and how the vocal characteristics fit with the instruments chosen to represent the song. Its a good reason to have more than one or two "go-to" vocal mics on hand.

Its unfortunate that the general thinking is that these all need to be upper-end mics to achieve vocal nirvana in an arrangement. If a mic passes voltage and sound then it is a working tool and only through throwing them all up at once will you be able to determine what will be best in a particular song with a particular instrumental combination with the voice.

That being said, it IS a great idea to have a complete 'vocal-chain' to start that will work for you under any circumstance and with most variety of voices.

But this isnt limited to the mic alone. ALL the elements involved will have an effect. Just as audiokid described about the level having a huge effect on how a mic sounds so will the preamp choice, the room especially, and the monitoring, and lets not forget the source itself.

A lot of people will say that the mic is the most important. Just as many will go to the environment and just as many may think that the electronics make the most difference in sounds. I say its a combination of everything.

This is a short example of this for me. I have a lot of mics. Some really expensive ones, some medium expensive ones, some are bargains for what they bring to the table, others are simply things I bought cheap. I work with a woman singer/songwriter on projects and she has a great voice, Its one of those voices that makes you want to hear the next song. She's not particularly well trained, and she isnt always in tune though she has a really good ear....BUT theres a LOT of character in her voice and strength. Its one of those really honest voices. So you'd think that a really detailed mic would be the ticket to capture all the nuances available when she's singing. But it doesnt work. So we wind up with a very rich and warm mic even though we lose some of the intimacies. I dont miss em anyway because most of that gets buried in the guitars and things going on. So she gets a tube mic AND a tube preamp.

So, choosing which is best is only really going to work when you put it all together and hear it in realtime.

anonymous Thu, 02/21/2013 - 03:08
I agree with Dave. Context is everything in a situation like this.

It's difficult to pick one of these samples and say "yeah, that's the one" because there are so many other factors involved, mainly, what is happening around, in between, over top of and underneath the vocal.

This is precisely why I very rarely mix anything in solo mode, other than to isolate a potential problem. I know plenty of cookers who sit down to mix and the first thing they do is to solo up the kick, then solo the snare, etc., and they take the time to make sure that in and of itself, a particular isolated track sounds good, and sometimes it does...but then again, when all the other tracks are added, it might not anymore ... it's all about the context. And IMHO it's no different with vocals.

And as Chris mentioned, just a few db of difference, whether it's as a result of simple proximity, or a result of actual gain change, can result in something sounding totally different.

In solo mode, as you presented, what may be perceived as "dark" on its own, might be just the ticket when the other instrumentation of the song is added. Or, perhaps there is an inherent presence bump on one model, in which case a mic that may appear to sound a bit harsh solo'd up on its own, might sound great... when set into the whole mix.

Another factor is the mic pre... which can also add different colors to the front end. Something robust and warm, like in a tube or class A pre, vs. something thinner sounding in a cheaper pre...can make a world of difference, as do the quality of the converters; so you could take a $3000 U87 through a cheap pre, then A/B it against a $100 SM58 through a nice class A, and end up liking the 58 more...or not.

Again, it depends on the context.

IMHO of course.


Sabin333 Thu, 02/21/2013 - 06:41
Hi. This is a lot to respond to. I'll have to be brief since I'm leaving for work. You all seemed to reference context. So if you want to hear what my main microphone sounds like in the type of music I'm making, you can check it out at [=""]Danny and The Bygones[/]="http://www.dannyand…"]Danny and The Bygones[/] (my website) and/or [[url=http://="http://www.myspace…"]Google[/]="http://www.myspace…"]Google[/] (actually a myspace link)

audiokid- Yes, I can see how many of the issues you presented could ruin a mic shootout. Rest assured that with these tracks there are no plugins in use. To alleviate more concern, the engineer and I took concentrated effort to get the 4 microphones as close as possible- so you are hearing one performance for each of the included sets (1 and 2). Lastly, I would have gladly level matched the recordings, but I don't have an RMS or Average Volume tool to measure each track. But since each set of 4 was a single performance, it shouldn't be that hard. So I left the level matching to you guys, the experts.

Davedog- I agree with most everything you said. I just wish you had actually provided some input on my mic shootout recordings. I used the Echo Audiofire Pre8, which is known to have extremely clean and neutral preamps and AD converters. Since you have experience with a lot of different microphones (and I don't), it would be nice to hear your thoughts on the mics I've recorded as compared to the music I make (links above). As I mentioned, one of the microphones in the shootout is the microphone that was used for all of my recordings.

DonnyThompson- do you think that the preamps in my Echo Audiofire Pre8 (which is supposed to have the same preamps as the Onyx and similar DA converters to the Apogee Ensemble) would be too "cheap" for a mic shootout? I used the Pre8 because thats my only preamp (besides my old shitty M-Audio Fastrack Pro) and I wanted to hear how a new microphone would sound with my current preamp.

Again, I appreciate your time. I could really use the help. But telling me that I don't need an "upper-end mics to achieve vocal nirvana" isn't very helpful since: (A) my current mic is basically falling apart, and (B) I need to buy a mulitpattern microphone for specific applications I have in mind. So I am going to buy a new microphone. If you guys listen to the mic shootout and say, "Wow, these all sound the same," then I'll just buy the cheapest multi-pattern mic out there. However, it seems that you all refused to vote on my carefully prepared mic shootout.


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