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AKG Mic /Telefunken Tube

Here's a song I recently did where I used an AKG SolidTube mic, replacing the stock 12ax7 tube with a Telefunken ECC83-TK.

I've been using a 12AT7 for a few months, and I've been wanting to try a Telefunken tube.

Cover version of a Warren Zevon song; Accidentally Like A Martyr from his 1978 Asylum LP Excitable Boy.

NOT A MIX. LOL - NOT EVEN A ROUGH MIX. Just to listen and talk about the mic/tube. Here it is:

I just kinda threw "the faders" up on this one with attention and focus on the lead vox, so we could hear and discuss what this tube sounds like.

Some observations:

I really had to roll low end off on this mic/vocal track; 150hz and down was attenuated by a whopping -10db, because the vocals sounded so "boomy".
I might have overdone it a scoodge... LOL

Throughout the mix, it sounded to me like the tone was "changing". There were sections of nice air and silk, and then sections where sibilance got a bit much; there were sections where it sounded like it had too much low-mid body, and yet other sections where it sounded "thin" to me. Yet, other sections sounded really nice, with a nice balance of the tube " edge" and smoothness

I haven't done anything to the EQ other than what I mentioned regarding the HPF at 150hz.

Some moderate compression - 3:1 @ -15db thresh, MU gain around +2db.
Slight plate verb.

Any thoughts, comments are more than welcome.

Comments

audiokid Sun, 12/07/2014 - 18:55

nice.

Its a really nice sounding mic, but I hear an edgy, almost consistent character you get on tracks which are creating a spiking in the top mids, maybe 8k. I know you mentioned the mix itself so I hear past that but its also there so perhaps that gets in the way to appreciate the mic as its best foot forward.
I'm wondering if that is an EQing, pre, or converter character in your tracking gear or sonic taste? I'm certain its not the mic. Being said, I love the overall presence of this, Donny. The mic covers your whole range; and your skills are excellent as usual. If the example was flat, it would be easier to hear its character. Am I picking up on something helpful for you?

Thanks for sharing!

anonymous Mon, 12/08/2014 - 03:56

I didn't add any EQ to the mic, Chris.. all I did was roll of a huge amount of low end "whoomp"... LOL

Looking at the master bus, ( Samplitude) it's essentially flat; 80hz @+1db, -1.5@ 250, -1 at 7k, +1 at 12k.

BUT... I also don't have the monitoring that you do, either. And it's entirely possible I may have too much upper end absorption as well.

I'm not disliking this mic. I'm still a bit puzzled by how the sonics seemed to kind of randomly change throughout the song. I let the mic warm up for 30 minutes before I tracked the part. I think that the Telefunken tube is edgier by nature than the 12AT7 I had before it.

I think it's a good mic to have around as a secondary option, although it still isn't my number one go-to though, which is my 414 EB. I may cut a vocal track with that mic and post another version of the song for comparison.

:)

anonymous Mon, 12/08/2014 - 05:11

Here's a version using the AKG 414 EB on vox. Lead Vocal is a bit pitchy, I just sang it a few minutes ago, quickly. Not enough coffee in me yet to do it without some wizzlies in pitch. LOL

No EQ added or cut. Flat w/a bit of GR and a little plate verb to match the vibe.

Again, not a mix.

[MEDIA=soundcloud]donnythompson/accidentally-like-a-martyr-414
[[url=http://[/URL]="https://soundcloud…"]View: https://soundcloud…]="https://soundcloud…"]View: https://soundcloud…]

pcrecord Mon, 12/08/2014 - 05:25

I can't listen to the akg version here at my job.. but I listened to the tube mic this morning.
I didn't comment right away because I wanted to read other comments first.
I too heard a HF defect. I call it defect because I found it disturbing and annoying. It's like you had a narrow bell peak around 8k-10k and that peak have a lot of distortions.
I will listen to the new version when I get the chance..

anonymous Mon, 12/08/2014 - 05:34

And I hear it too. My intuition tells me that perhaps this tube isn't biased correctly for use in this mic... just because a tube physically fits into a component doesn't mean it's the best choice... or so I've been told by tube "aficionados". ;)

The 414 track sound much smoother to my ears, far less peaky, warmer, silkier.

I'll let you guys decide. ;)

Smashh Mon, 12/08/2014 - 09:05

I listened to both and for me the tube mic (except for the harsh area ) just sits in the mix so much better from here. I thought it may be that the 414 track was louder in mix .
I can hear more emotive content on the tube , like the slightest bit of pressure difference really gets portrayed and is sitting with instruments wonderfully.

Davedog Mon, 12/08/2014 - 10:56

One of my favorite songs from one of my favorite albums. When you listen to the "production" on Excitable Boy you come to realize that it was probably made 'faders up'....print it!

I only listened on the office computer. So detail wasn't as good as it is in the studio. The Solid Tube mic seemed to deliver that "thing" that tube mics tend to have. Sort of a more musical alignment of the frequencies in a voice. The AKG was just way too clinical and correct with an edge that made it hard to finish the track. I didn't hear the changing you spoke of. There was a change in emphasis on some phrases but I couldn't be sure that wasn't the singer being into the track more than a hardware problem. I like that the guitar is more country rooted than Waddy's was originally.

audiokid Mon, 12/08/2014 - 20:33

DonnyThompson, post: 421886, member: 46114 wrote: Here's a version using the AKG 414 EB on vox. Lead Vocal is a bit pitchy, I just sang it a few minutes ago, quickly. Not enough coffee in me yet to do it without some wizzlies in pitch. LOL

No EQ added or cut. Flat w/a bit of GR and a little plate verb to match the vibe.

Again, not a mix.

[MEDIA=soundcloud]donnythompson/accidentally-like-a-martyr-414
[[url=http://[/URL]="https://soundcloud…"]View: https://soundcloud…]="https://soundcloud…"]View: https://soundcloud…]

I'm the odd duck out here. But, thats because I hear what I can do in the mix. I'm not persuaded to like the other because its mixed a bit more into this track.

This one is by far superior, but as the others has expressed, it lacks what the tube does. But, this is something I could help along later. Give me clean over compromised colour any day. :)
I'd much rather have a better tracked transparent version to one with issues you can't remove. I could run this through an LA2A, 1176 and it would have a really nice sheen.

The reverb is pushing a bit too much sss on this but its much better overall. I think you are right about the bias on that tube. Something isn't lining up with it.

pcrecord Tue, 12/09/2014 - 03:03

I like the 414 better.
I guess I can't get past the weird HF of the tube. Like Chris, I think it would be a problem at the mix time.
The 414 neutral capture that some don't like is a blessing for me because I'd have more chances to give it the character I want with EQ comp etc...
Of course the level of the performance may not be the same but obviously it wasn't part of my decision. ;)
I guess the solidtube would be better served with another tube, the one that you tested before was a bit better in my opinion.

This comparaison makes me realise that I long craved for a tube mic and althought the AKG is not the top of the line, it makes me realise that with a tube in the mic you have what you have and can't really change much of the character. I'm very glad I went with an all tube preamp like the LA-610 instead of a tube mic because I get to choose how much I drive it and get 100 different sounds instead of 1.

IMHO of course

anonymous Tue, 12/09/2014 - 03:25

pcrecord, post: 421944, member: 46460 wrote: guess the solidtube would be better served with another tube, the one that you tested before was a bit better in my opinion.

Agreed. I wanted to see what using a different tube would do, and in this case, I don't think it works - at least not on my voice. I'm going to put the other tube back in - the 12AT7.

But, I'm not sorry that I did it... after all, how do we know this stuff unless we try, right? ;)

d.

anonymous Tue, 12/09/2014 - 04:23

BTW, if anyone is interested, I'd be glad to make tracks available for mixing if you want... or, if you just want the vocal, that's fine too...

If so, let me know whether you want the latest 414 vocal, or, the SolidTube with the original AT7 tube with a re-tracked new vocal.

Hell, I'll even track a new version with a Ribbon if you want.

Might be fun to see what everyone can do and how they approach it.

or, no to all of the above is fine too. ;) LOL

anonymous Tue, 12/09/2014 - 04:28

pcrecord, post: 421947, member: 46460 wrote: Failing is just finding another way not to do something

I'm not sure I'd really consider it a 'failure" per se', because I didn't go into it with any expectations either way... it was just an experiment to see what the other tube would sound like.
I wasn't optimistic or pessimistic, I just wanted to hear the results and talk about them here.

For all I know, that mic and tube combination might be fine for horns, or electric guitar, etc. Or, it might not work at all for that mic. Or, maybe the tube is going bad and another Telefunken tube might sound great.

But, at least for the tube I had and used, on that vocal track, on that song - or, maybe I should say for MY lead vocal, it didn't "work". ;)

anonymous Tue, 12/09/2014 - 04:49

audiokid, post: 421927, member: 1 wrote: This one is by far superior, but as the others has expressed, it lacks what the tube does. But, this is something I could help along later. Give me clean over compromised colour any day.

That's the downside to a tube mic, I think... even the older, much sought-after vintage models; they sound great on some people and not-so great on others.

(FWIW, I've worked with Telefunken and Neumann tube mics in the past, and I never ran into any singer that they didn't sound great on, but then again, I only worked with those vintage models on rare occasions. Perhaps if I had been using them everyday for a long period of time, I would have eventually come across a performer where they might not have been the best choice.)

But, if you have a hi-quality, transparent mic - which I certainly consider the 414 EB to be - you can pretty much do anything you want with it after the fact. You are starting with a clean slate, so to speak, and as long as the mic doesn't have any inherent wizzlies, and can record with nice sonics, you can always run it through any number of a tube pre which allows you to vary the tube/tonal characteristics, match impedance, control gain structure, etc., - or use post processing - either OTB or ITB - to get the sound you want...
...as opposed to a dedicated tube mic that pretty much "is what it is" - and for some, "what it is" is fantastic. But, you can't count on that being the case for every single vocalist.

Given the choice, I think I'd rather have a nice hi-end transparent mic / pre - and have the option to put it through a tube pre, or process it after the fact, using ITB/OTB options.

I'm not saying I'm gonna "toss out" the Solidtube LOL - once I put the AT7 tube back in, it will probably have its place for certain applications. ;)

d.

anonymous Tue, 12/09/2014 - 07:05

I'm re-tracking with the 414, and I'm also going to do one with a ribbon as well (MXL 860) and am going to replace the tube (back to the 12AT7) in the AKG, and do a take with that one as well.

I can also track with a Neumann U89i as well, if you want...let me know. I don't have my U87 at the moment, ( it's on-loan to an engineer friend of mine who is working on an album this month).

All takes will be through the Presonus VSL/XMAX preamp and converters.

(although, if you want to send me a Neve, RME or other "boutique/second mortgage" preamp to track with, I'm more than willing to accept. ) :)

Let me know if you want to work with these files - we'll probably have to do this via drop box, or through an online FTP file-sharing program of some kind, that can handle the size(s) of the files; for as convenient as Soundcloud is, I don't want to add any of the potential wizzlies of an MP3. If we are going to do tests, I want the audio that I make available to be as high in quality as possible.

All files will be mono, totally flat, no processing of any kind.

And, I'll be happy to provide any other details that you want - as far as tracking method, distance from the mic(s), the space I'm in, etc.

I think I'm gonna dig out my packing blankets for this one; to alleviate any potential for flutter echo, room sound, etc.

And if you don't want to do this, that's fine, too. I realize some of us here are very busy (obviously I'm not right now, or at least this week, anyway LOL) and might not have the time for this trivial exercise.

I'm going to track more vocals on this song through different mics on my end anyway ... just to satiate my own curiosity.

If you do want the files, let me know and we'll work out the best way to transfer them. ;)

d.

anonymous Tue, 12/09/2014 - 09:57

I'll make sure the tracks are as level as possible from vs to vs to choruses and such, and as close to each other with each take using different mics as well.

I can kick 'em out at -6db or so through the master bus to a mono file.... any more than that and I'd need to use GR, and I really want to avoid that.

I suppose I could use some very light compression, to tame peaks, but honestly, I'd rather not, and instead I'd rather use volume envelopes to even things out... I don't want to make everything the exact same level,
(and I'm not saying that this is what you are inferring, either ;) ) because there are dynamics in the performances I'd like to respect.

anonymous Thu, 12/11/2014 - 05:51

Update:

I re-tracked the lead vocals yesterday through 3 mics... AKG 414, SolidTube (with original 12AT7 tube put back into mic) and also thru an MXL 860 Ribbon (just for fun).

All tracks are mono, flat, no processing. The only thing I did was to clean them up a bit to get rid of breaths and a bit of sibilance here and there - but for this I didn't use a de-essing processor, instead I did it manually through Samplitude's object editor, which allows me to separate out the "s" section of a file and attenuate the gain... (Chis is familiar with this method) I prefer this way because I'm not compressing frequencies (which can also remove pleasing frequencies at the same time. I also used this process to even out sections for overall volume.

All files are MP3 (225kbps) ...for now... I can make all the tracks available in 24 bit .wav as soon as I figure out how to provide them.

Here are the three vocal takes.

[MEDIA=soundcloud]donnythompson/vocal-414-flat-mono
[="https://soundcloud.com/donnythompson/vocal-414-flat-mono"]View: https://soundcloud.com/donnythompson/vocal-414-flat-mono[/]="https://soundcloud…"]View: https://soundcloud…]

[MEDIA=soundcloud]donnythompson/vocal-solidtube-mono-flat
[[url=http://="https://soundcloud…"]View: https://soundcloud…]="https://soundcloud…"]View: https://soundcloud…]

[MEDIA=soundcloud]donnythompson/vocal-860-ribbon-mono-flat
[="https://soundcloud.com/donnythompson/vocal-860-ribbon-mono-flat"]View: https://soundcloud.com/donnythompson/vocal-860-ribbon-mono-flat[/]="https://soundcloud…"]View: https://soundcloud…]

And here's a quick and dirty 2 mix with no lead vocal, I only posted this in case someone might want to have it, to use as a bed to compare vocal takes/mics, BPM is 65, there will be three measures of silence at the top of the song, this is intended. This is a pretty quick mix.. yo can critique it if you want as long as you know I didn't spend much time on it.
Output level is around -12db or so (RMS) with peaks at around -6 db:

[MEDIA=soundcloud]donnythompson/accidentally-2-mix-rough-no-vocal
[[url=http://="https://soundcloud…"]View: https://soundcloud…]="https://soundcloud…"]View: https://soundcloud…]

anonymous Fri, 12/12/2014 - 06:22

I think the SolidTube fits my vocal best - at least on this track. It's an intimate song, I like the warmth and slight edge of the 12AT7 tube here.

Runner up (close) was the 414. I didn't care for the ribbon, I thought it was too dark. Unfortunately, the version that I like best tonally was the weakest version performance wise - I'm a bit pitchy in some areas, and it sounds a little "tired".

Here's a quick mix; ended up attenuating lows on lead vocal at around 200hz , a slight cut at 1k (-2db), a 1db bump around 4k, to allow the "edge" of the tube to cut through the backing instruments.
I intentionally mixed the vocal forward for observation and analysis. If I was mixing this for real, I'd have tucked it back further.

Very little 2-bus processing, some EQ - all cuts, no boosts - -2db at 150, -2db at 1k, -1db at 10k. I did use Am-munition on the 2-bus, in M-S mode, to give the sides some space, about 2db of GR, nothing extreme.
RMS is around -12 to -10, peaks at around -6db.

Any comments or thoughts are welcome.

audiokid Fri, 12/12/2014 - 09:00

414 is by far my preference. Its dead sounding but that's better than what the other two are bringing to the table.
The other two are ( I don't know why this is) have a comb filtering effect and phasing. There is obvious glow to the others but the negatives are really bad. The Ribbon is better but I still hear a problem that cannot be removed after the fact.

audiokid Fri, 12/12/2014 - 09:23

DonnyThompson, post: 422076, member: 46114 wrote: I just went back into my soundcloud settings and switched permissions to allow downloads. Sorry about that, I don't know why I thought that the default setting was to allow DL's.

Anyway, they are now available for anyone to download, should anyone be interested.

:)

The download should be full bandwidth or did you upload them as MP3?

anonymous Fri, 12/12/2014 - 20:08

44/24. Rendered it as a 256kpbs MP3 in Samp. No dither.

I'm serious... the file I have in Samp doesn't have any problems... and it's not just the vocal that sounds phasey on the SC MP3 either... please take a close listen to it, and you'll hear all kinds of phasing crap going on in the SC MP3 - it's very obvious on backing vox, cymbals, keys, accordion, even snare drum.... and not one bit of that is audible when I play the original 24 bit .wav file. Nada.

I'm not believing it's the mic. I understand you don't like the sound of it, and that's fine, we all have our preferences as to what we like to hear...but I guarantee you that the phasing which is so blatantly obvious - on everything on the MP3 on SC - is absolutely NOT on the original 24/44 .wav lead vocal track.

So, either something strange occurred on the render to MP3 in Samp, or it occurred when SC rendered it to whatever the hell it rendered it to. There was no SR conversion at all. Just a render/output to MP3 256kpbs. I've never had this problem with SC before, either. Nor have I ever had it with Samp. Now what I can tell you is that SC came up with an error message three times before it finally accepted the upload... coincidence? Maybe... Or, maybe I used too wide of an image when I put Am-munition on the 2-bus in M/S mode...

But I promise you... it's NOT on the original .wav file, guys. It's not the mic, and it's not evident on any of the other instruments in the project in Samp, either.

I'm totally serious, Chris.

d.

Davedog Fri, 12/12/2014 - 21:08

I had the same problems with soundcloud uploads a couple of years back. Things that were pristine here were all kinds of screwed up after the transfer. AND just the same I had a myriad of problems uploading ANYTHING without error messages. So I simply quit using them.

I also DO NOT bounce anything. Even with just one computer. It is export only.

audiokid Fri, 12/12/2014 - 21:13

Davedog, post: 422159, member: 4495 wrote: I had the same problems with soundcloud uploads a couple of years back. Things that were pristine here were all kinds of screwed up after the transfer. AND just the same I had a myriad of problems uploading ANYTHING without error messages. So I simply quit using them.

I also DO NOT bounce anything. Even with just one computer. It is export only.

Indeed.

Dave, the last dozen posts you've made are spot on to my way of thinking. I have to ask, what has happened in your workflow lately. Or what?
What can I say but , Kudo's

anonymous Sat, 12/13/2014 - 02:58

I checked in mono many times throughout...as I always do, and everything was fine along the way. I just opened the original project file, checked in mono and everything sounds fine, Chris.

Davedog, post: 422159, member: 4495 wrote: I had the same problems with soundcloud uploads a couple of years back. Things that were pristine here were all kinds of screwed up after the transfer. AND just the same I had a myriad of problems uploading ANYTHING without error messages. So I simply quit using them.

I also DO NOT bounce anything. Even with just one computer. It is export only.

Dave, did you notice phasing problems on your uploads as I have on mine? When you mentioned "all kinds of screwed up", could you be specific?

This has had me wondering if I've lost my ability to hear problems...and now I'm not sure it's even my fault. I had a gig last night, and the whole time I was playing, this was on my mind and I was worried about it; because if this is something I did, then I have no business doing this anymore - if I can't hear problems. But I'm pretty convinced this wasn't me.

It also makes it very difficult to have threads like these... because what you guys may or may not be hearing on your end is not what I'm hearing - pre soundcloud - on my end..

pcrecord Sat, 12/13/2014 - 05:45

DonnyThompson, post: 422157, member: 46114 wrote: 44/24. Rendered it as a 256kpbs MP3 in Samp. No dither.

I'm serious... the file I have in Samp doesn't have any problems...

Donny, you really need to find a better way to make mp3 files. I don't think it is soundcloud.
A few MP3 you sent me by email were all screwed up. You may think of finding a dedicated software for this or better settings that you write down as your recipe ;)
I use AVS audio converter but there is a many others to trust.

audiokid Sun, 12/14/2014 - 10:13

Here are two versions of that files you gave me uploaded to soundcloud. My process was, import your file, export as MP3 and Wave. The wave was dithered. Both are here:

Wave:
[MEDIA=soundcloud]audiokid/2014-12-14a-1
[="https://soundcloud.com/audiokid/2014-12-14a-1"]View: https://soundcloud.com/audiokid/2014-12-14a-1[/]="https://soundcloud…"]View: https://soundcloud…]

MP3
[MEDIA=soundcloud]audiokid/2014-12-14a
[[url=http://="https://soundcloud…"]View: https://soundcloud…]="https://soundcloud…"]View: https://soundcloud…]

Yours:
[MEDIA=soundcloud]donnythompson/vocal-solidtube-mono-flat
[[url=http://[/URL]="https://soundcloud…"]View: https://soundcloud…]="https://soundcloud…"]View: https://soundcloud…]

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