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Microphone articles & shootout: SM7B, SM57, Beta 58A, BG2.1, RE20, AT4050

Hi microphone lovers! I wrote some articles and created sound clips for a bunch of microphones on Gear-Wiki. I thought I'd share the links as I hope this can be useful.

Articles:

Sound clips (still working on the articles)

Shootout:

Comments

Davedog Wed, 06/08/2011 - 13:26
Very interesting. While I would agree that the SM7B has the most even sound as well as the most controlled proximity effect in close, the 4050 is clearly the crispest and demonstrates an extended top end that may help it sit in a dense mix. For the money, the BG2.1 is a surprising mic and of course, even though its not the best for this application, (ie: spoken word) the 57 once again shows why its a staple. You could hear the tight lowmids which would be something to look for in a guitar cabinet mic. The RE20 had the most sophisticated sound of all. Clear throughout its dynamic range and no proximity bump in close. Its no wonder its the most expensive dynamic of this bunch. The Beta left me me kinda 'Meh' as it always has. I have always preferred the SM58 to the Beta series for all stage apps.

thatjeffguy Thu, 06/09/2011 - 10:21
First off, Ghostwheel, thank you for posting a mic shootout that was so well presented and user friendly, I've visited some that were such a pain to use that I gave up!
I'm with Davedog on not caring for the sound of the Beta. I also thought the BG2.1 was somewhat boxy sounding. The winners to my ear are the SM7B, The RE20 and, of course the SM57. I like the sound of the AT4050 but didn't hear anything in it that I don't get from other LDCs, but cant tell for sure without doing a side-by-side with other LDCs.
Jeff

anonymous Thu, 06/09/2011 - 19:52
Thanks all, I am glad this is helpful! :)

The Shure BG2.1 is actually my first ever microphone purchase – I got it for a ridiculously low price of $40 some 15 years ago when I was first getting into music production. :) It's a very basic, vocal dynamic, and it's nothing special, but it's lasted well and does the job for the occasional quick & dirty vocal. Definitely excellent value for the money and with a sound not too far from the more expensive SM's.

The Shure SM57 is probably the mic I use the least. I don't do a lot of instrument recording so I haven't found much use for it to be honest. It is very prone to noise and rumble when handled.

The Audio Technica AT4050 was for a long time my microphone of choice. It is easy to get impressed with its sound, but over time I grew very tired of its overall tone. The issue with this microphone is that it sounds beautiful when you listen to the raw tracks, but once you start mixing it's tough to get it right. It has a lot of detail in the higher frequency range (8kHz+) and equally impressive lack of detail in the mid-range (2-4kHz). As a result, it tends to sound a bit brittle and thin which only gets exacerbated once you apply EQ and compression. I suspect this mic work well for female vocals, but I've never tried it for that purpose.

The Shure SM7B is my current favorite mic. You really can't go wrong with this one. It has a really dense, warm tone (it was originally intended as a broadcast mic) and does wonders for thin or nasal-y vocals. The sound clips I have up on the site are actually with the bass rolloff switched on, so it is in fact even warmer and more present when that's off. The only issue I have with this mic is the exorbitant amount of amplification it requires – something like 50dB which not many preamps can deliver well.

The Shure Beta 58A is my go-to microphone for live performance. It's a supercardioid, which means you can go crazy with compression and effects and still not get much feedback, if any. I tend to think of it as a more premium version of the SM58 – their tone is very similar, but the Beta has slightly more presence.

The Electro-Voice RE20 is my latest toy and I am still learning how to best use it. It definitely sounds very different from any of the other mics in this group. It has a pronounced peak around 7kHz and then tapers off above 10-12kHz. It tends to also be a bit resonant in the lower-mids which contributes to its dense broadcast tone. I like to put a resonant shelf boost around 10-12kHz to balance out the upper frequency range. The one really great thing about this mic is that it's a true cardioid across the full frequency range. You can move a lot off the major axis and still get a perfectly identical frequency response. This is due to its Variable-D design, which uses special port openings in the body which filter out certain frequencies inside the mic body to produce the uniformly flat response.