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This is a slightly different take on the impossible question of "which Mic should I buy!"

I already have a RODE NTK which I am quite happy with and have got some nice vocal and acoustic guitar recordings with it. I want to do some experimentation with MS recording and thought that the K2 should be a good complement for the the NTK. I would also hope that it should be at least similar in characteristics to the NTK when used in cardoid mode. I know the capsule is different (i.e. dual diaphragm) to the NTK but the valve circuitry is likely to be very similar. Obviously they will never be like a matched pair...

So the question is, would this be the best way to go? There are other options for multi polar designs in this price bracket, the AT4050/CM5 and the SE 4400a for instance and a different mic for "normal" recording always adds to your options. Will trying to "match" the Side mic to the Main mic be of any benefit for MS recording? I know you cannot say definitively but any comments on my thoughts or other options in this price bracket would be welcome.


BobRogers Tue, 11/23/2010 - 04:57

You don't really need the figure 8 to "match" the cardioid - though I suppose some combinations will be better than others, and the K2/NTK should be nice together. But especially since you don't seem to have a huge mic I'd be more inclined to focus on the overall character of the multipattern mic itself. This can be a real workhorse mic. Is it wise to focus on this one application when buying it? There are a lot of multipattern condensers in the $1K price range. Consider all the applications when making your choice.

The K2 is a nice mic. I own one, and have used it a lot over the years. But as my collection has grown I find I use it less and less. I used to use if for a lush sound on instruments, but now I usually use a ribbon. It was once my main vocal mic, but now I use my Mojave more often. Since you own the NTK, you will probably like it's sound, and the continuously varying pattern is very nice. It could be a good choice for you, but I'd look at the rest of the market as well.

MrEase Tue, 11/23/2010 - 16:26

Thanks for the reply Bob. I guess it's the usual advice - try it out with your ears! Having never tried using MS recording before I was a little wary of getting something that really didn't work well with the NTK. Although I do have other mic's it is certainly the NTK I would look to use for the Main mic with this trial.

TheJackAttack Tue, 11/23/2010 - 17:40

I use MS recording quite bit. I'd agree with Bob that the M doesn't need to be exactly like the side. The side in fact is receiving nearly all of its signal off axis so it is more important the mic have good response across all it's pattern. MS is also easy to manipulate in a DAW after the fact giving it variability even after the track has gone to tape.

I have really jumped on the ribbon bandwagon this season and would agree they would make a great MS pair (or complement a different mic in MS).

RemyRAD Tue, 11/23/2010 - 18:47

There is a reason to use identical microphones when doing MS. MS relies on phasing to create your stereo signal. Would you ever consider trying to XY or, ORTF, how about spaced omnis, with non-matching microphones and still call yourself a professional? I don't think so. But the nice thing about MS is that you can vary the stereo sound field regardless of whether the microphones match or not. But it's the differences in the microphones that could give you some inconsistent results since they really don't match. And I never thought that the NTK used a valve/tube? I think it's transistorized. While the K2 is a valve/tube. Sure, I've done some MS with non-matching microphones and have gotten some aurally interesting results. But in the interest of professional consistency, I use matched microphones such as a pair of 414's or Beyer M 130/160 ribbons which are actually designed for MS applications. And don't forget that many of the new figure of 8 microphones do not have consistent responses between front and back. I find that a very troubling issue if you would attempt MS with microphones such as those. In fact I don't like the idea of different sound between the front & back of a figure 8 microphone. If you want a different sound, pick a different microphone. And personally, I prefer to purchase my microphones in pairs because it's the only thing that makes sense if you enjoy making stereophonic recordings. Particularly because microphones age differently from each other even within the same manufacturers model numbers. Just a few more things to think about and confuse you.

Confucius say figure of 8 is infinite! Notice that my eight is symmetrical and not a symmetrical it's not even those symmetricalsesses.
Mx. Remy Ann David

BobRogers Tue, 11/23/2010 - 19:06

Remy - So what is ever identical about a cardioid and a figure 8. Even if they are the same two diaphragm mics with the switch in two different positions they ain't identical. The whole intended purpose of the two mics is drastically different. One captures velocity information and the other captures a pressure gradient. Their function is drastically different. Comparing MS to XY or ORTF is ... uh .... unexpected.

TheJackAttack Tue, 11/23/2010 - 19:59

I generally do use matched-whether by the manufacturer or me-microphones for MS recording now, but I didn't own matched microphones when I started out. I did always try to use similar sounding microphones but wasn't afraid to experiment depending upon the situation. Of course then you run into situations like the current editions of the C414 sounding different front to back by design. Oh well, I'll put that side in my bad ear ^_^

RemyRAD Tue, 11/23/2010 - 21:05

Bob, the difference between the velocity & pressure gradient may be accurate but there is more consistency in phase timing within more identical circuitry than dissimilar circuitry and all those little differences in timing variations present too many variables. There is a consistency in similarities as opposed to differences. I want my electrons moving through my microphone within a nice and synchronized orderly fashion. But I understand your point as well. And those other figure of 8 microphones with the dissimilar sound front to back would just make a terrible choice for MS applications.

Hey, has anybody ever played with a differential microphone? Do you know what that is? Have you ever seen any films of the Grateful Dead? If you want the ultimate in noise canceling microphones differential microphones are the way to go. Of course frequency response becomes rather frenetic in the process.

I like purity & consistency in MS because we are really talking about the same capsules, the same electronics. Anything that varies from that baseline is just an effect as the sums and differences in timings within, will be psychotic. Of course that could be quite appropriate for certain musical genres. And think about all of those pre-built MS stereo microphones from numerous manufacturers. They are using identical capsules and identical electronics even though one is for figure of 8 velocity and one is for cardioid pressure. So how do you classify the Beyer M 160 hyper-cardioid ribbon microphone? It's a velocity element with an acoustic trick to create the cardioid pattern. Remember, even 77 DX's were variable patterned as you could create a cardioid version by moving a metal plate behind the ribbon element within the microphone head. And their front to back response was quite consistent unlike these newer tailored figure of 8 microphones made by Shure, Cascades, Royer, AEA, etc.. You wouldn't think about making a stereo recording with an API microphone preamp for the left channel and a Neve for the right channel. Of course you could, for an effect . And I'm basically referring to MS for orchestral purposes. And if I was using it for drum overheads, I still want the consistency of similarity. So no other reasons other than those which are mostly personal/subjective. I'm certainly not a mathematics professor but I can perceive small differences in timing errors which changes the whole picture of the sound. Of course if you don't have matching microphones you use what you have and you'll still get plenty of stereo stuff. But remember you can end up with some fairly erratic comb filtering with dissimilar microphones. But I guess it could be uber cool for avant-garde music?

My right hand is an inverted phase version of my left hand otherwise, they're identical
Mx. Remy Ann David

Davedog Tue, 11/23/2010 - 22:33

I would think that similar in nature would be the ticket and a figure of 8 with differing responses would indeed be a can of worms.

Wouldnt the timing issues also have a lot to do with the relative spl coming from the source?

I know I have used a M/S configuration on a small guitar amp with excellent results, but I'm thinking that this was because my fig'o 8 mic was the U87 and its pretty well matched front to back. It was also this setup that I got a chance to play with the True Systems P2 preamp which has M/S metering .

Just my impressions.

RemyRAD Tue, 11/23/2010 - 23:12

Bob I disagree. You might have one microphone in cardioid & one in figure of 8 but they are closer in similarity than a different design concept type. And their response curves are only minimally different in their different patterns. And so tonal similarity is maintained. Of course any cardioid & figure of 8 microphone can be used together to still create a phase coherent stereo signal. Because of the way MS works, this technique was also utilized in some specialized analog recorders to maintain phase consistency from azimuth errors. Instead of getting cancellation in Mono due to azimuth errors, the problem was shifted into a shift in the stereo imaging caused by the azimuth errors but maintained Mono phase consistency. In a sense, the same applies to the microphones. I mean you could create MS stereo by utilizing a Beyer M 160 for middle & AKG 414 figure of 8 for side. You would still get stereo with good phase consistency but the huge difference in response would make for some pretty crazy sound. Maybe it's the way to go? I've never really even considered doing that. And has anyone noticed that ribbon microphones do not quite seem to match phase to dynamics & condensers? I actually believe that ribbon microphones operate at a 90° difference to both dynamics & condenser microphones. If you've ever tried to get phasing to match dynamics or condensers with ribbons, it never quite works out. I believe this is where ribbons differ from other diaphragm designs in a fundamental difference. I love doing listening tests as I'm usually 100% correct or 100% incorrect. At least when I'm listening to a quality monitor system. And these are differences that I've learned about ribbon microphones since I started using them over 40 years ago. They mix well with dynamics & condensers but I certainly wouldn't use 2 different ones for stereo unless there was a particular reason to do so i.e. ambient noise issues perhaps? In that respect, I would probably utilize a ribbon for figure of 8 and a condenser for middle cardioid.

7 ribbons & counting
Mx. Remy Ann David

MrEase Wed, 11/24/2010 - 03:06

Well thank you all for your contributions. I never thought I was asking a simple question and find the varied opinions on any attempt at matching the mic's very interesting. After all, this can only be an approximation with the different polar patterns causing their own changes in response even on the same mic. I think I might wait and see what developments arise from those with experience of MS recording. I just hope it doesn't cause too many polarised opinions! :

BTW, Remy, the NTK is very definitely a valve/tube mic using the same tube as the K2 which is why I suspect the circuitry will be very similar, after all the varying polar response is achieved by the polarising voltages on the capsule, so there is no reason for the preamp circuits to be very different.

MrEase Wed, 11/24/2010 - 03:48

Just to add that although I would be using the NTK which is cardoid, I know that technically for MS recording, the mid mic should be an omni. What I was thinking with my original question was whether there may be any effect on the stereo imaging when using mic's with no attempt at matching. It just occured to me that a differing response curve may end up causing some blurring on the positional picture, even though all the stereo information is carried by the side mic.

Does this provoke any other thoughts? I suppose I should do a more mathematical analysis on this but I'm not sure I can be bothered! :

BobRogers Wed, 11/24/2010 - 04:14

Well I admit that now I use "matched" pairs like the Beyer 160/130 or my pair of 414s for M/S recording. But when I had fewer mics I certainly used a lot of "mutt" pairs for M/S with what I thought at the time were pretty good results. I'm really skeptical about the phase differences in the circuitry causing problems. With M/S phase shifts would seem to be more of a feature than a bug. Same thing with tonal differences - we really expect a very different tonal signature from reflected sounds. (I've been listening to different reverbs the last few days while evaluating these UAD plugins, so this is really on my mind.) And or course, the whole beauty of M/S is that any problems with the side mic cancel when summed.

Anyway, I sorta, kinda, almost stand behind my recommendation to get the best possible multipattern mic and not worry too much about the fine details of the M/S pairing. But I admit that in practice I now use very similar mics for M/S.

Boswell Wed, 11/24/2010 - 04:57

MrEase, post: 357440 wrote: Just to add that although I would be using the NTK which is cardoid, I know that technically for MS recording, the mid mic should be an omni.

For the maths to work, the Mid mic has to be cardioid for standard MS configurations or Fig-8 for Blumlein MS. You would get a different (non-standard) response pattern if you used an omni as the M channel.

There have been occasions where I have deliberately gone away from using known MS pairs (e.g. M130/M160 ribbons or two switched-pattern condensers like the NT2-As) for live recordings. The reason in each case has been the acoustics of the venue, given that these were ensemble recordings in a large-ish church. The acoustics of the N-S aisles meant that the echoes from the side were very different from the E-W main direction. I would agree with Remy that one thing not to do is mix ribbons and capacitor capsules in a stereo pair, MS or otherwise.

I recently recorded several different acoustic instrumental and vocal groups in a church concert, and for flexibility, I put up one high stand having both a pair of condensers in ORTF and a stereo ribbon in MS Blumlein. I was expecting the results from some musical groupings to be better using one technique and some to be better with the other technique, and I knew there would be no opportunity to alter the mic positions between groupings. I also took a few spots on keyboard and other instruments. To my surprise, I got best results at mixdown (per track and consistency between tracks) by having either the ribbons or the condensers as the main pair and bringing in a little of the other pair underneath, correcting for the inherent 90 degree phase difference between the pairs. It's worth experimenting!

MrEase Wed, 11/24/2010 - 05:23

Thanks Boswell for pointing out my error on the required mid polar pattern - I thought I had read that somewhere. Like I said, I haven't done the maths!

Overall, although it might be nice to have a "different" sounding new mic, it seems the general consensus is that having reasonably matched mics should be a safer bet than having them radically different. As ever, the venue and subject will always influence the choice of mic's and I find your note about mixing both ORTF and MS pairs to be quite interesting. I think therefore I will go with my original idea of the K2 which might(!) also yield a reasonably matched pair for ORTF recording as well even though that would be a lucky bonus!

Again, thanks to all for your valued comments.

RemyRAD Wed, 11/24/2010 - 10:56

Yeah, I got the Rode NTK confused with their other transistorized version, I believe the NT2 or something like that. And yes, I would agree with you that the NTK would probably be similar with the K2.

And Boswell, I would tend to agree with you when combining your capacitor stereo pair with your ribbon stereo pair. That 90° phase difference can certainly thicken the sound without obnoxious cancellations. A great way to go. That must've been a pretty heavy-duty microphone stand if you're running 2 pairs on the same stand? I know my 14 foot collapsible aluminum microphone stands could never accommodate 2 pairs, unless I was just using KM 84's which I don't have. A pair of KM 86's which are little harder to handle than 84's but probably my lightest weight microphones. Still, I've never wanted to risk $5000 worth of microphones on a single $100 stand. Nope. I won't go there. You can't make me. 2 microphones on a single stand is like 2 children in a single-family. Just right or left.

On both sides or, in the middle
Mx. Remy Ann David

Boswell Wed, 11/24/2010 - 11:34

The stand was a KM 21411 fitted with the older version of the 21231 boom arm. The combination will go to over 4m, and is quite stable with a pair of SDC condensers and a stereo ribbon on the end at full 2m horizontal extension. It's a heavy beast, but I add weights to the tripod base for added security. The two non-standard things I use with this combination are a universal knuckle joint I made so the boom arm can approach the head at any angle, and the multi-mic slotted plate for gettting the correct spacing of the ORTF (or other pattern) pair along with central suspension of a stereo mic.

TheJackAttack Wed, 11/24/2010 - 13:08

That's a similar setup to mine. I'm using the Onstage Stands SB9600 or whatever number it is now, sometimes with an extra section up top. The end of the boom has a toothed 7" pivot arm for refined angle and the I put either a Sabra mount on top or a different bar that the name escapes me at the moment. I have often used C414's on the ends with a C391/394 combo in the center. I've recently purchased a Royer SF12 which will now go into that middle position. When I've used the C414's as MS pair I had to use multiple stands. I have been trying to find some very tall light stands to use for the main array position but haven't found any I like or that I felt justified spending money on.