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Just wondering if this a common practice at all?

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Shannon Adkins Fri, 07/15/2011 - 22:52

I can get pretty loud (no screaming, just loud singing), and I've always just turned the preamp down when I had to. A couple days ago I borrowed a mic to audition and didn't notice that the pad was on until after a few takes. Anyway, I thought the takes with the pad on sounded slightly smoother. The levels were good with and without the pad on...never was it close to clipping. So it got me thinking that maybe there could be some slight mic distortion going on that I just never noticed. I usually track with a 4033 and 4047...I know the 47 is rated at someting like 149dbs before distortion, but I'm gonna see if I notice a difference with the pad on.
Thanks for the reply!

Davedog Fri, 07/15/2011 - 23:32

bouldersound, post: 374106 wrote: In many cases the pad reduces the gain internally to prevent overload of the mic's own electronics. I bet that applies to both AT mics.

It does and that is why it needs to be addressed for certain situations. I ALWAYS prefer to get the mic at an optimum output and then set the pre where it has the best chance of being open as much as possible.


Shannon Adkins Fri, 07/15/2011 - 23:52

Davedog, post: 374111 wrote: It does and that is why it needs to be addressed for certain situations. I ALWAYS prefer to get the mic at an optimum output and then set the pre where it has the best chance of being open as much as possible.


Does this mean you try to avoid using the pad whenever possible? Sorry, I just find this subject very interesting and want to make sure I properly understand.

audiokid Sat, 07/16/2011 - 09:01

With an audio path, I always think like a river flowing from point A to B to C etc. The last thing you want to do is restrict the flow. You want to keep the path as open and natural flowing as it was designed best. When you start reducing or boosting any signal, sound quality can be compromised by a bottle neck. Sometimes this is a good thing or a bad thing. Knowing your gear and what to are trying to achieve is key to great sound engineering and what gain staging is all about. Balancing levels and using them to your advantage is key.

Example: Using a pre-amp,, you often shape a sound by boosting or reducing levels but for microphones, not the same.

Back to your question, a pad on a good product should be less effected but as Dave said, we like to keep the mic as open as possible to keep the signal flowing in and out of the piece of gear the way it was designed best. The pad is there to help a really loud signal like a tsunami coming . The more obstacles you put into a chain, the more issues occur.

audiokid Sat, 07/16/2011 - 10:03

Think microphone = ears.
Think gain-staging = tuning an instrument.

Others may have a different interpretation and find mine quite eccentric but, because I am a musician first, I have a different way of expressing sound. I almost hear the voltage line up like you do with a finely tuned instrument. When its just right, the harmonics seem to open up and everything opens up wide and true. As more and more sounds are introduced, perfectly tuned instruments just blend so beautifully without wow and argument. Know what I mean? Sustain is effortless with well tuned sound waves and levels.

So, in a mix, when you are all matched up, as a complete package, it all flows and this is where mastering evolves.

Adding eq: If you boost an eq, then your gain changes and you may have to adjust that gain now by reducing it when it hits the 2-bus during final mix. Its not a simple thing to explain, or understand and apply, but this is how I mix music and how I hear sound in my head and why, (another topic) I also choose to use outboard gear for hybrid summing. I just seem to know when it sounds best.

The Microphone is the ear that hears the sound. You wouldn't put rubber plugs in your ears if you didn't need them unless someone was screaming in your precious ear.

When you have poor quality gear, noise and distortions get in the way and we often blindly start trying all sorts of things to make things sound better, with no success. Its why people keep buying more and more poor and/or mismatched gear... we all refer to as G.A.S.

Note: Room acoustic, good gear, good monitors, gain staging (great power source) is how you get it all right.

I used to have a low end mic that broke apart when a good vocalist belted out a line, and it sounded like any other distortion, bad and you know it.

Shannon Adkins Sat, 07/16/2011 - 10:19

Thanks for the really does help! I'm thinking that the AT mics I have (while budget for sure) should be good enough quality....but I'm going to experiment with this issue and see what happens. I've had a few people already tell me that with my voice I'd be better suited with a U87, but I'm assuming it had more to do with frequency response than this issue of high decibles. At any rate (as much as I'd love one:) I just can't afford that kind of mic right now anyway.

Thanks again to everyone who responded! I've really enjoyed this lesson.

audiokid Sat, 07/16/2011 - 10:35

Glad I could help. I kind of gave it all to you at once. I figured it was a good read for a lot of people and a good cross reference.

Note: You don't need to spend thousands on a mic. Your question was more about gain so I hope I didn't get too heavy into it for you or left out some to confuse you more which I'm sure others will point out with good intention :).

There are plenty of wonderful microphones for much less that will do wonders. Even an SM58 for $140 has its spot in sound.

Shannon Adkins Sat, 07/16/2011 - 11:26

I know I don't have to drop a few grand on a Nuemann, but man do I wonder sometimes what one would sound like:) I'm pretty happy with the AT mics, and I also have an sm7b and sm58.

audiokid - Yeah there is a lot to chew on there, but you gave it to me in terms I could understand (as a fellow musician). I can't say I have a firm grasp on everything right now, but definitely with applied listening and experimentation this lesson will continue to help clarify this subject for me.

bouldersound - that's an interesting point about the FET circuitry. What about transformerless mics like the 4033?

bouldersound Sat, 07/16/2011 - 12:01

Shannon Adkins, post: 374129 wrote: bouldersound - that's an interesting point about the FET circuitry. What about transformerless mics like the 4033?

I don't think the transformer matters. What matters is the active circuitry in condensers that can be overloaded, and that the pad prevents that on louder sources. If you overload the condenser's electronics you can't fix it downstream.

Davedog Sat, 07/16/2011 - 13:53

This is the gist of my statement. I would much rather have the mic take care of the extra input and keep the preamp open than vice-versa. That being said there are interesting sounds to be gained by balancing things back and forth. The pad is there for this very purpose. Overloading the mic-amps is never a good thing though it can also be interesting in its own strange way. as for knowing mic distortion when you hear it......Hear it once and you'll know.

Its the phase that seems to be the problem in recordings I hear these days. No one seems to want to use the mono button.

Shannon Adkins Sun, 07/17/2011 - 15:53

Well, I just did a session with the pad of the 4047 engaged, and I can safely say that I don't need it on. There was no audible evidence of distortion with it off, and with it on I could hear right away that my voice didn't sound as full and felt slightly constricted by comparison (even when I matched the volumes). The difference is very slight but audible none the less. Was expecting something different...totally see what you guys are talking about in regards to this issue now. I think "open" is a great word to use.

Boswell Mon, 07/18/2011 - 03:01

What a pad switch does on a mic depends on the design of the mic. I have met ones that simply pad the output, and this does nothing for the overload capabilities of the mic itself. The more useful pad switches reduce the mic's acoustic sensitivity so it can accept higher sound pressure levels without overload, with the result that it can be used to close mic 1KW guitar amplifiers and even Welsh singers.

However, it's very necessary to distinguish between mechanical overload and setting up so the sweet spot of the mic's input range matches the sound source. Overload results in audible distortion and maybe (in the case of ribbons) damage. Finding an operational sweet spot is another field entirely, and is a part of what the others have been saying about gain staging. The pad switch becomes part of your amoury in the fight for a good sound.

kmetal Thu, 07/21/2011 - 22:13

Don't underestimate dynamic mics. we have 414's an 87 and a c12 among some at 3035's, and rode LDC's. a little less than half, the time we end up using a shure SM7 or the significanly more expensive Sennheisser 441. these mics sound fantastic, especially for loud/bright singers. they don't have a pad, but i've never overloaded them on screamers, or drums. I don't think i'm alone in using dynamics for vox a fair amount.

Shannon Adkins Fri, 07/22/2011 - 10:30

I have an sm7 (love it) and an sm58 and an i5. Have tried an e835 also. The problem I have with all these dynamic mics is that they all have a rise in the 5-7 khz area and that is the exact area of my vocal that can be very peircing when singing loudly in the upper registers of my range.
I've only been able to find 2 mics so far that have a dip in this area that are in my price range (1 dynamic, 1 condenser).
An EV RE20 and a Nuemann tlm102. Have not been able to demo either yet.
The basement room I track in is carpeted, bass trapped in every corner, and the joists are all filled with ultratouch insulation (no ceiling). Just for good measure, I also build a vocal tent with thick blankets when tracking. So I'm not picking up much room at all.

But back to the original topic, I did figure out that I was not overloading the mic. I pull back a good 18-24 inches when I belt out the loud notes and that seems to work great.
I think what originally got me thinking about mic distortion was this peircing frequency thing. It seems to be okay when I reduce 3db at close to 6k with a wide Q, but I would love to find a mic that would reduce this need for corrective EQ. Really interested in both the mics listed above....if anyone has any other suggestions I'd love to hear:)

Shannon Adkins Fri, 07/22/2011 - 10:35

Davedog - I've been experimenting with some gain staging and am amazed at the different sounds I can get out of the same mic when using the pad in conjuction with preamp volume. Even tried using the pad with a low preamp volume and that gives a different tone as well. I can imagine circumstances where these different tones could be a great fit.

RemyRAD Sat, 07/23/2011 - 03:53

I would just like to add that to keep the sound more open, you may in fact want to use the pad that is on the condenser microphone itself. You don't necessarily want to use the pad on the microphone preamp input. But you may want to do that also. Here's why, the capsule can overload the electronics in the microphone. You've never had that problem yet, you don't think, but it can and does happen. However, in other situations, you'll leave the pad off on the microphone. Then you'll switch the pad on, on the input to the microphone pre-amp. These different scenarios will change the character of the sound. When you walk the preamp wide open, it is operating in a more open loop gain configuration. And amplifiers operate and sound differently when the gain staging is manipulated. When you turn the preamp down, you are actually increasing negative feedback to a differential input. When you turn it up, you are decreasing the negative feedback. These are peculiar concepts to understand but once you hear them, you'll almost think you have equalizers & limiters built-in. Things can be sounding more aggressive or smoother, fatter & larger or more squeezed and controlled. So yeah, yeah & yeah.

I never liked those other pads
Mx. Remy Ann David