Mic Suggestions for Saxophone and Flute
Hi everybody I've got about $400.00 to spend on a mic that will be used primarily for micing sax and flute. I was thinking about possibly picking up an EV RE20 for the job based on some things I have read in the past about them. However, I figure that some of you knowledgeble folk might be able to tell me if I'm making a wrong decision or if you know of a better mic to do the job at around this price. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thanks!
Stage or studio?
It will be for studio use.
Sennheiser 421 would be worth a listen in the same pricerange, and it would be a great workhorse mic to add to anybody's mic collection. But I might prefer the 441 for a flute.
I've used the RE-20 lots of times on saxes-mainly bari, tenor, and alto. Very clean, no proximity to muddy things up. I wasn't thrilled with it on a soprano sax ( think Wayne Shorter) and ended up using a Beyer M160 on that one. Bos, being the flautist and the Renaissance man that he is, will surely weigh in on that one. I haven't used the RE-20 for flute, just a good old 58 on an Ian Anderson wannabe.
I would hesitate to recommend a single mic that would work well both both sax and flute, although the RE20 is a great all-round workhorse.
In this sort of price range, I like the Beyerdynamic M88 on flute, but not for sax, where an MDC such as the AT 4033A does very well. If you can stretch to a ribbon (e.g. Beyer M160), you would get better results, especially on sax.
Boswell, have you ever tried recording flute on an RE20? I would wonder what the defiencies are and if they're that great. I was using a very old Electrovoice EV1 (30+ years) SDC for flute with fairly good results until it finally died. I'm a little concerned with using a ribbon due to its fragility and the player's unfamiliarity with electronics and their care.
lambchop, post: 343626 wrote: Boswell, have you ever tried recording flute on an RE20? I would wonder what the defiencies are and if they're that great. I was using a very old Electrovoice EV1 (30+ years) SDC for flute with fairly good results until it finally died. I'm a little concerned with using a ribbon due to its fragility and the player's unfamiliarity with electronics and their care.
I haven't done any studio recordings using the RE20 on flute, but I have used it on stage once when we had to do an emergency swap-around of microphones. From what I remember, it was OK but lacking intimacy, as it was too physically big to get the really closed-miked sound. Next time I'm set up with an RE20 in a studio situation, I'll try it on flute and see if I can post any samples. By the way, there is a big difference between an open-hole and closed-hole flute when it comes to microphone positioning.
In the studio, I don't think you should be too worried about fragility of modern ribbon microphones. You are in control of the microphone placement relative to the instrument. That said, I don't tend to use ribbons on a flute, as I find they give the instrument a dark sound that is not usually what you want in a multi-instrumental recording. Equally, you must be careful about using low-end condenser mics, as they can give quite a harsh and brittle edge to a flute that quickly gets tiring on the ears. Good dynamic mics ("The poor man's ribbons") can be a very workable compromise, especially where there are budgetary constraints.
I agree with Boswell on the fragility question. I have the Beyer 160 and 130 and a pair of Cascade Fat Head II. I've used them all in the studio and used the Cascades on stage (indoor). No problems. I generally take good care of my equipment, and I figure that every mic has some danger of falling stands, etc. Yes, a ribbon is more likely to be damaged by such a fall than an SM57, but what isn't. And any musician that goes around blowing in any mic should be threatened with a piccolo colonoscopy.
Since I've gotten the Beyers they have been my goto mics for sax. I have not miced flute in the studio, but I used a Fat Head as a spot mic the one time I close miced flute in concert. I had plenty of top end from my main pair, so I don't remember it as being especially dark - and the Fat Head is a fairly dark mic. That may be just a function of how I was using it. I have an RE20, and frankly have not tried it on sax. But now you have me curious. My daughter is a Music Tech/Sax major at Duquesne. I don't remember her mentioning using the RE20 on sax and they certainly have a lot of them in their mic locker. (They do not have ribbons in the locker available to the undergrads.) I will ask her about it.
As far as advice goes: the RE20 is probably the best "investment" in your price range. Top quality dynamic, great for a lot of things. You can't buy a "better" dynamic, only a different one. The Fat Head is in your price range (actually a Blumlein pair in in your price range). You might like it better than the RE20 in some situations, but there is no situation where I have liked it better than, say, the Beyer 130. Check out the [="http://recording.org/microphones/38030-ribbon-shootout-results-audio-clips.html"]Ribbon Shootout[/]="http://recording.org/microphones/38030-…"]Ribbon Shootout[/] we did last year. The Fat Head is a decent mic, but paying more money will get you a better mic. Still, for under $400 you get[[url=http://="http://www.cascademicrophones.com/casca…"] a pair of pretty nice mics with shockmounts and a Blumlein bar[/]="http://www.cascademicrophones.com/casca…"] a pair of pretty nice mics with shockmounts and a Blumlein bar[/]. That's about as much fun as a person can have leagally at that price.
Wow Guys, lots of really good information here. Thank you all for your valuable input. Regarding the fragility issue, the sax player is very accomplished for his age and holds a teaching position in a sizable NJ school system; but is inexperienced when it comes to studios and electronics in general. I had a lot of experience with Beyer's back in the 1970's when I was part owner of a commercial studio out in Long Island (although back then I tended to concentrate more on the music performance end than the studio). Wonderful company with great products.
As a result of your collective valuable input, I think I'm going to find myself in trouble with the spouse as I'll probably go for the RE20 and stretch (or would inflate be the right word?) my budget and look for a ribbon to also experiment with.
Can I ask you Bob, which of the three that you mentioned is the best value and/or which do you think I could get for the cheapest price since I'll actually be going over my original budget amount?
I used to use the RE20 quite a bit for tenor and bari sax as well as trombones and euph's in live big band/top 40 groups. It turned out very nice. It's a great mic for that purpose and built like a brick s^&*house. Provided the humidity hasn't eaten the inner foam away. I've also used a pair of RE27's to record a Hummel trumpet cto in a hall that produced too much high end freqs. I think I'd like to hear a flute or sop sax through a Heil LDD to compare it against my SDC's.
On the ribbons, ti's apples and better apples. The Cascade Fat Head is inexpensive: $175 for one, $325 for a pair with a Blumlein bar. The Beyer 130 and 160 are $700 each, $1300 for a pair. The 130 is figure 8, the 160 cardioid. They are close enough sonically that I've always chosen between them based on the pattern I preferred in a given situation. If I were going to buy just one, I guess I'd go for the cardioid 160. (A cardioid pattern may not be ideal, but it's rarely a problem. A figure 8 pattern can be a problem.)
I'm a big believer in the "buy once, cry once" strategy of buying the best gear you can afford. There is no doubt in my mind that the Beyers are preferable to the Fat Head in every situation. But with the Fat Heads I got a couple of useful mics at a very cheap price, and I was able to experiment with ribbon mics and Blumlein recording. Both of these are favorites of mine now. I guess you could say that the Fat Heads led me to purchase the Beyers because I enjoyed recording with them. So it's not the usual situation of buying a cheap piece of gear and immediately regretting it and buying something better. So I guess I'm saying that if money is tight you might find the Cascades a worthwhile purchase - maybe looking to one or more of the Beyers down the road.
Thanks Bob for answering my question. I'm going to try to push for the M160, if only for as you said, "buy once, cry once". So, my marching mantra is now RE20, M160 (unless something else comes up). I'll let you know when I've gotten them. Thanks again everybody for all of your help!
To echo all that has been offered....the RE20/27 is about as good a bang for the buck as you can get for horns in general. The 27 has a bit more upper end clarity.....not to say that the 20 isnt clear throughout its rang, just a bit dark on top. Without having the proximity effect on either they are great for less experienced artists in a studio setting. Plus they do a hundred other jobs quite well including voice.
Flute, on the other hand, is a problem child much like solo violin. There are so many harmonics at different positions over the instrument its hard to choose a single do-all mic for it. A ribbon like the 160 will suffice and again it has a lot of other uses. But if you are going to be recording a LOT of flute parts, I would have to choose an instrument specific mic like one of the AT or Audix sub-minitures just for this purpose. A google of these mics will open lots of possibilities towards this end.
Again, if you want mics that you can use in the locker for lots of other purposes, the the RE20/27 and the Beyer ribbons are great to own.
Of course there is one mic I would consider as a do-it-all mic in this situation.....Neumann TLM170.
Well, as I promised I'm reporting the first acquisition of the EV RE20 which worked out well as I came in under budget by about $100.00. That makes it that much easier to go about getting me my first ribbon mic. I'll let you know how that turns out, too.
Never used the Beyer or RE 20 but they're on my (to buy) list (Vox, Kick Electric Guitar). I haven't heard the SM57 sound bad on anything (unfortunately haven't heard it on or saxaphone/flute sorry.). It's clean, and has quite a workable proximity effect. Plus it would allow for a leftover 300 or so to purchase/save for another mic. I'd say at least worth a try for comparison. Low priced condensers, are well low priced condensers, i own two of them (at 3035, rode nt1-a) and they collect dust unless i need "extras". AKG 414 took wind outa their sails.
Have you considered a used higher end mic? you may be able to make a serious step up in quality, while staying in your budget.
Let me preface this by saying I have no experience recording flute, so no help there.
I have had a fair amount of experience recording saxophones.
Once w/ an AT2020, Bluebird, Blue Ball, 414, etc... a couple of times w/ a 58 (live), and a few times w/ a Fathead.
The 58 did a nice job, and like any 58/57, you won't be disappointed if you use it right.
The Fathead did very well on sax. And trombone. Guitar amp, etc.
Ribbon mics work great on almost any horn, on the right amp, some female vocals, some drums/percussion, and more.
On that note, I echo kmetal and the other posters - I want the RE20 and Beyer myself, and I've had great experiences w/ my (lesser) ribbon mic.
Stick w/ your RE, save for a Beyer, then throw in a 57 for good measure if you have the extra $100. You'll find plenty of use for it, and the other two mics as well.
A good start to a mic cab that will last a LONG time!
Okay, I received my RE20 yesterday and have just one probably neophyte type question.
Is it normal that the gain is noticeably lower than say a typical supercardioud vocal performance mic? I just want to make sure that there aren't any problems with the mic as I bought it off evilbay.
I think you mean microphone sensitivity, requiring more pre-amp gain. Yes, the RE20 (cardioid) produces several dB less signal than a Shure Beta 58A hypercardioid on the same source at the same distance, but only a little less than an SM58. However, when using the RE20, don't confuse lack of proximity effect (bass boost when close up) with low sensitivity.
Boswell, post: 344182 wrote: I think you mean microphone sensitivity, requiring more pre-amp gain. Yes, the RE20 (cardioid) produces several dB less signal than a Shure Beta 58A hypercardioid on the same source at the same distance, but only a little less than an SM58. However, when using the RE20, don't confuse lack of proximity effect (bass boost when close up) with low sensitivity.
Thanks for the confirmation Boswell. I thought that would be the answer but as I've never experienced using the RE20 I wanted to make sure. I am looking forward to recording with it in the very near future.
That's right, and that's why the RE-20 is so good on a sax (and so many other sources). It isn't easy to overdrive a preamp with one, and it stays clean and articulate even when "eaten". Another great advantage to having the RE-20 is that it can double as a hammer (that's why so many sound geeks swear that's the mic to have if you were ever stranded on a desert island!)...How much did it send you back?