Difference between a Flat Mic & a Warm/Colorful Mic.

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by BKStoltman, Jun 4, 2008.

  1. BKStoltman

    BKStoltman Guest

    I am curious many people refer to mics as being flat or warm or colorful. What does this mean. Some say flat is better some say it should be warm.

    Does anyone have audio samples used with what one would consider a flat mic, and then the same done in a warm mic. This would be a great post especiialy for new people to the world of Microphones.


  2. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Tacoma, WA
    Hey again there Blake...

    Good, logical follow up question to your original posts -

    Here's my take on it.

    "Flat mics" are mics that are good at being as neutral as possible and neither add nor subtract anything from the sound of the original source. Consider it a versatile tool that can be used well on just about anything.

    Generally, large-diaphragm condensers shy away from "flat." Most of the reasons why are dependent upon the construction of the mic itself and the laws of physics. Regardless, many Large Diaphragm Condensers (LDCs) have some coloration to a lot of coloration and this is exaggerated when off-axis from the capsule itself.

    Small diaphragm condensers (SDCs) are generally more neutral (flat) again partly due to physics and partly due to construction. This type of mic, however, is often used for instruments of the acoustic variety rather than voice (though good results can be had, it's not generally done.)

    Where flat mics come in handy are when you want to truly capture the sound of something exactly as you hear it. Additionally, if you have a heavily colored piece of gear down in the chain and you want to minimize the additional colorations, a neutral or flat mic may also be desired. Another example is if you plan to perform heavy effects on teh signal. Often, a flat mic is more predictable than a heavily colored one and thus more desired.

    A "Warm" mic is one that, generally, has a darker and/or fuller sound (a type of coloration). More often than not, when someone is asking for a "warm" mic, they're asking for something that has a full to heavy bottom end and a rolled-off high end. On the other hand, I consider this to be dull, not warm.

    Warmth, to me, is an overused term which is too often sought after in vain and rather blindly rather than just seeking a good, full, clean sound with plenty of space in it. Mics that I consider to be warm (and that I like) are AEA R84, Royer 121, SF1, etc. M49 (warm with sparkle...) AT 4060 and a few others like them.

    Colored is a rather generic term meaning anything other than "flat." This could be "warm" or "cool" or "bright" or "fat" (or its close cousin "phat"), etc. The vast majority of mics on the planet fit into this category. It's this reason why many pro studios will have a closet of 50-80 mics on hand. Each mic has its own combination of colors and flavors and can be used to obtain a certain sound (whether it be an accurate depiction to a slight variance to full on departure from the original source).

    At this stage in the game, for your situation, I wouldn't give any of this more than a simple thought. If you start worrying about this now, you'll go out of business looking for the elusive "perfect mic" and never actually get anything done. The reason *most* people have several handfuls of mics is because they pick one up here or there to do a certain job, then it goes in the locker. In this modern age of gear-sluttery, many people do just buy mics for the sake of buying mics. I think of this as the equivalent of a carpenter buying a hammer everytime he sees a new one on the market. It doesn't make much sense.

    Your best bet is to find a good mic that works for you and as you begin to see something lacking and you can attribute 100% of that lacking to the mic at hand, then go shopping for the next purchase.

  3. BKStoltman

    BKStoltman Guest

    Thank you very much for that response. That was very well thought out and detailed, and I think many people will benefit from your response then just me.


  4. Greener

    Greener Guest

    "Each mic has its own combination of colors and flavors"

    It's like skittles for my brain.

    *visualises the rainbow*
  5. BKStoltman

    BKStoltman Guest

    It was mentioned that the AT 4060 was a mic with warmth and sparkle, is the AT 4040 in that same category, would you say?


  6. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    The AT '40' series of mics is like finding a complete pallette of colors to paint with. There are several different ones and each does what it is designed to do quite well.

    The 4060, for example, is a tube mic and it typifies the expected performance of a tube mic in that it is 'warm' and cozy sounding while retaining clarity and a complete frequency response. It does have some 'bumps' in its graphic representation of its response and these bumps give it its character

    The 4040 is the one mic in this series that is a mostly neutral, or flat response mic. It will capture anything you put in front of it in a very real way.Its response isnt hyped and therefore doesnt artificially enhance any one frequency.

    If you have a rich deep voice, this mic will allow that to be prevalent without need for EQ.

    The other AT mics in this series all have their own set of characteristics.
  7. BKStoltman

    BKStoltman Guest

    So if I am understanding correctly a flat mic is much better for replicating a sound with exactness. Where the warm mics have almost like a effect applied to them to make them sound better depending on the ear.

    So then I assume that if one is to get a flat mic like the at4040, and wanted to apply a warm effect such as that of the at4050 or at4060 they could adjust the wave through equalizers and such through Audition or Wavelabs.



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