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Recently we've had lots of topics on choosing mics, and the usual X is good and Y is bad result soon pop up.

Today I needed to record a double bass for a track in the works, but as I had some spare time I thought I'd go through the mic stock and try mics I'd not usually pick, just to see what happened.

My opinion of the results is that there is one real lemon - I had a few of those really dirt cheap Chinese BM800 mics - being sold everywhere on line for stupid money, and they get talked about because they can use laptop power or real 48V phantom. The first one hummed badly. I opened a second and it worked. The tone of the thing is not very good - even with eq you'd be hard pressed to make it sound nice.

The others are a mix of old/new and dynamic and condensers, in large and small diaphragm types.

I even tried using some bass drum mics - the usual SM57/58/beta58, some rather nice Chinese ones I have collected, and a couple of oddities - Electro-Voice Re-320 and AKG 202 (the one with separate bass and treble capsules) I also used a lav mic - which I fixed to the bass with a foam pad between the bridge feet, and the mic clipped to it.

The picture in the video is a little misleading - perspective makes the mics look oddly placed - they were looking slightly down, towards the gap between bridge and finger board, from the high string side of the bass - so missing the fingers, and capturing some of the wood near the f holes. A place I have got used to over the years as a good starting place - distance to the strings about 30cm/1ft.

I played the same piece 8 times, and then simply cut between tracks - I ran out of music by the end, so copied and pasted another chunk - this can be heard as it plays through. The captions change as the tracks swap between mics. They are NOT faded between mics, simply cut - so I thought these cuts would be obvious, but the differences are far, far less obvious than I expected. Some I like lots, others sound a little 'wrong' - but with the exception of that nasty Chinese 800 microphone - I could live with most of them happily - they are all exactly as recorded so with some EQ, 15 out of 16 isn't bad. If you hate any of them, feel free to comment, but I think we've all perhaps spoken about how mics sound and newcomers could assume BIG differences, when these results are clearly more subtle than I figured.

The only other thing of note was to do with gain - I didn't record these tracks in my studio. I used an older Lexicon Omega into my macbook in my living room, then I took the tracks into the studio, and did the chopping. The condensers were all similar in not needing much more than 40% on the gain knobs, the dynamics needed more - up to about 70% on the controls, and the two bass mics, needed more - about 85%, but the Lexicon isn't too noisy, so not a real issue. I just brought the levels up so when I cut between them, the levels stayed the same. Once I had the audio track, I added the images and captions. Apart from a fade up and fade down - again, no audio treatment at all.

The Youtube file is here.

See what you think. If I never have to play it again, I will be happy. Some bits are even in tune! eagle eyed reader might note a piezo pickup on the bridge - terrible thing. Not even radical EQ can make the bass sound like any of these mics, just nasty, metallic and unpleasant. It was about £40, so I figured worth a go - for live use, the lav mic is what I use in too the mixer, and is surprisingly easy to blend in, and if you knock the top end off - it behaves quite nicely, and you can move the bass about more than with mics - turning and pulling back a bit has a big effect.


paulears Mon, 05/21/2018 - 07:54

What really surprised me was the subtle differences - I kind of always assumed they would be pretty big differences but out of 16 very average mainly common mics there was only one I found unpleasant - and some just got on with it and performed pretty well. Maybe we should stop looking at our mics and saying this goes on this, and this goes on this and try some alternatives. Even the SM57 seems to do a pretty good job on bass, and you rarely see this being done - in the studio or on stage. The two bass drums mics sound completely different on the double bass, yet are not that different on a kick drum? The more I listen, the more I like the lavaliere in the bridge - certainly not mellow, but I could get used to it.