Skip to main content

I am wanting to find out if I can improve the quality and character of lead female vocals, since that is a main element of the commercially distributed music my wife and I create. We are thinking that a more appropriate mic could help. We have been using a Neumann TLM 103, but the sound we are getting has a harsh edgy quality. We also have a CAD E-200, but it tends to have a muffled sound. In the mix I have to do a lot of EQ filtering and various treatments to get it sounding okay. The last mastering guy we worked with complained intensely about the lead vocals being harsh with some high frequency distortion, and he had to work really hard to clean things up.

We are using a Sebatron VMP pre, an FMR RNC compressor (light settings for vocals), and have a Delta 1010 A/D (looking into upgrading to something like an Apogee A/D, but that’s a different topic).

The music style varies, but is kind of a mix that could be classed as folk-rock, world, new age, and pop. You can hear some clips of our latest release at

Any recommendations of some mics we could audition that could give us a cleaner, silky, warm, smooth sound, while also still having a little air but not harsh? We’d like to keep it in the $400-$1000 range if possible.



John Stafford Thu, 10/21/2004 - 00:07

You might consider the AT-4047, which should suit your Sebatron very well.

The AT-4060 might be worth a look too. It's a valve-mic but its valve characteristics are quite understated.

The TLM-193 is another possibility, although not everyone likes it. It can sound rather nice with an alto voice. Maybe a second-hand U87?

Nice voice, by the way!

John Stafford

jonyoung Thu, 10/21/2004 - 07:07

I'm wrapping up a project with a female artist, we started by trying an AT4050 through several different pres and comps (Avalon, API, ART MPA with really good tubes) and we ended up using an AT3035, warm with out being muddy, detailed without being sibilant. Best of all, not expensive. Also a good mic on guitar amps.

maintiger Thu, 10/21/2004 - 08:27

My favorite vocal mic on most female vox is an old RCA D77- I usually try eveyother mic in the cabinet first but when they don't quite make a good fit with the (female) singer I pull out the trusty RCA and 9 out of 10 times is a winner- I just can't believe how many times this has happened- You'd think by now I would have leaned and would go for it first- (Actually i kinda cringe when I use it as it still has the original ribbon and I am a little afraid one of these days one of these powerful singers is gonna pop it)
Of course they don't kake them anymore but you can occasionally find them on e-bay for about 1k or mercenary has rebuilt ones sometimes for about 2K.. :D

maintiger Fri, 10/22/2004 - 08:46

I listened to your tracks and the vocals are good but they do have a overly bright quality and not too much body- That's a common problem I've encountered for female vocals when using bright mics like Rode or Neumanns. (U87 comes to mind) that's when I reach for my old RCA D77- It thickens female vox tracks, makes them sound like butter. There is a DX77 on ebay right now:

also the AEA clones have gotten good reviews but I personally can't vouch for them as I haven't heard them- You might want to talk to Fletcher and see if he lets you return it if it doesn't work just right. The AEA R84 goes for 1K
(dead link removed)

(here I am throwing Fletcher name around and I don't even know the man, other than from these boards, brother!)

I've also have had luck with the tube rode K2 on a couple of female vocalists but I can't wholeheartedly recommed it yet as I haven't tracked enough females with it to say for sure.
Next week I have a session with a vocalist I tracked in the past who the U87 did not do the trick. we'll see if the K2 is up to the task or I have to pull out my old work horse (RCA D77) again.

:D :D

maintiger Fri, 10/22/2004 - 14:45

Yes, it does that- gives it great fullness. for male vocals its not as great, unless you are going for a vintage type sound. I was recording a song in my last production (male vocalist) and the song was a real mellow ballad with a classic feel a la 'misty' or 'what a difference a day makes' and all the mics I used on the other songs for this guy (among them U87, K2) were just too bright- up goes the RCA and instant classic sound! Like i said, though, it only works on certain songs for males- for songs with an edge the mic is just too mellow for guys in my experience-

anonymous Fri, 10/22/2004 - 15:39


I checked out the RCA D77 on ebay. I'm concerned about buying a 40 year old mic. Can it be fixed if it doesn't work right. If so, how much might it cost?

Do you have any idea what the price range usually is for these? If I got it and it didn't work for us, I'm wondering how much I could turn around and sell it for. Maybe a newer ribbon mic would be more reliable?

Sebatron Sat, 10/23/2004 - 01:34

Yeah AT-4047 ,, either 0db pad or -15 db pad is recommended. No 'Air ' or "Bright' ...maybe low-cut.....low-cut on mic as well may help too....
In other words keep the top register flat but try and roll off low frequency energy.
Don't put a comp in the front end yet , .. just a good lead from pre to soundcard or whatever.
Don't E.Q yet either.
Record and solo the vocals on the monitors.... what does it need?
Avoid too much E.Q , the contour of the natural response will drift throwing out other frequencies that may not be initially apparent.
Utilize the organic processing of the front end to supply the ' soft-compression ' needed ( i.e. subtle colour ) so you don't need to use any RNC or sunglasses.
Hope that helps. :wink:

Fruition2k Sat, 10/23/2004 - 06:21

Hi SageK,

My Neumann tube mics get passed up by an RE20 and even a SM57 on occasion. Have you tried an RE20 or maybe SM7?
I recently bought a Beyer M380n (dynamic figure eight), sounds very similar to a Coles 4038. Some call it the "poor mans 44", and its true, for about $100 its a sleeper!...huge low end and a decent top that rolls off nicely. Tried it on my wifes vocals (soprano) out of curiousity and I was very pleased at the results after just a slight bit of eq.

Until you can spend quite a bit more for that perfect high end/$ condenser, there are many ribbons and dynamics that can get you so much closer than cheap inexpensive condensers that present more problems than their worth.

anonymous Sun, 10/24/2004 - 10:45

~Sebatron, thanks for the info and tips! 8-)

As I mentioned in my email, I'm wondering, on the VMP2000 if:

0 Pad = full valve
-15 pad is less valve
-30 pad is least valve?

Also, can I run channel 1 and 2 in series to get more valve action, or in other words, double of whatever settings I have in each channel?

Thanks again,

maintiger Sun, 10/24/2004 - 16:10

SageK wrote: Maintiger,

I checked out the RCA D77 on ebay. I'm concerned about buying a 40 year old mic. Can it be fixed if it doesn't work right. If so, how much might it cost?

Do you have any idea what the price range usually is for these? If I got it and it didn't work for us, I'm wondering how much I could turn around and sell it for. Maybe a newer ribbon mic would be more reliable?

the good news is that these mics don't go down in value- I've seen them anywheres from $800 to $2000- the bad news is that they are really expensive to repair- that's why I cringe when I bring mine out- but the results are phenomenal on most females, what can I say-

Did you consider the RAE one? You might want to e-mail Mercenary or call them and get their input- maybe they'll let you try it with the understanding you will buy a mic from them?! Doesn't hurt to ask!

I am sure there are other mics out there suitable for your wife- the only thing is that it is a very personal thing, a mic and a performer and their sound. One thing though, the RCA has never failed me yet when other mics are not quite right for my singer.

There is a soprano we record often who usel to 'kill' the U87- too bright, too brittle, too much evrything.... The RCa has always worked its magic with her- I am having another singer over wednesday to record and we are going to try the K2 with her- She is more of an alto with a very bluesy voice though and it won't be a very good test for a K2 sound with a voice with your wife's timber, which by the way, is very lovely as you undoubtedly know, (but is always nice to be told). :D

I understand your concern about buying a 40 year old mic. Believe me,
if I didn't have one already I'd feel the same way- but there is no way I'll part with mine- Good luck with your search for an appropiate instrument to match your wife's beautiful voice! :D (By the way, a tube pre like a seb matches like ring and finger with the D77)

anonymous Sun, 10/31/2004 - 22:56

Many dealers (ones you deal with regularly) will let you take several mics "on approval" if you're serious about buying one after you've auditioned them.

Hey I'm hoping to do just that - audition 3 or so mics for recording female vocal (my very talented wife) and purchasing one of them, returning the other 2.

Anyone know if Guitar Center will do this sorta thing, or if there's a mail order place that will?

Of the mics we've used in the past, a U87 has sounded best for her, 414 okay, a Rode classic crummy (ghostly sounding). Sibilance has definitely been an issue.

Any suggestions on mics to audition at around $1,000 or lower are welcome. Right now I'm thinking of trying an AT4050 or 4047, a Blue Mouse, and maybe an AEA R84.