What mics are great for female vocals?

Discussion in 'Vocals' started by SageK, Oct 20, 2004.

  1. SageK

    SageK Guest

    I am wanting to find out if I can improve the quality and character of lead female vocals, since that is a main element of the commercially distributed music my wife and I create. We are thinking that a more appropriate mic could help. We have been using a Neumann TLM 103, but the sound we are getting has a harsh edgy quality. We also have a CAD E-200, but it tends to have a muffled sound. In the mix I have to do a lot of EQ filtering and various treatments to get it sounding okay. The last mastering guy we worked with complained intensely about the lead vocals being harsh with some high frequency distortion, and he had to work really hard to clean things up.

    We are using a Sebatron VMP pre, an FMR RNC compressor (light settings for vocals), and have a Delta 1010 A/D (looking into upgrading to something like an Apogee A/D, but that’s a different topic).

    The music style varies, but is kind of a mix that could be classed as folk-rock, world, new age, and pop. You can hear some clips of our latest release at http://www.mayasage.com/Music/music-1.htm

    Any recommendations of some mics we could audition that could give us a cleaner, silky, warm, smooth sound, while also still having a little air but not harsh? We’d like to keep it in the $400-$1000 range if possible.

  2. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    The TLM127 is a bit darker than the 103...it could be your ticket.
  3. SageK

    SageK Guest

    Thanks DaveDog,

    Anyone else have some mic ideas to pass along? I want to add that my wife is an alto - low soprano.

  4. Big_D

    Big_D Well-Known Member

    Aug 21, 2004
    Quakertown PA
    I recently used a 414 B/ULS through a VMP2000 on a female jazz singer and it sounded incredible. We thought it might be too dark but with her voice it was perfect.
  5. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    Oct 1, 2004
    You might consider the AT-4047, which should suit your Sebatron very well.

    The AT-4060 might be worth a look too. It's a valve-mic but its valve characteristics are quite understated.

    The TLM-193 is another possibility, although not everyone likes it. It can sound rather nice with an alto voice. Maybe a second-hand U87?

    Nice voice, by the way!

    John Stafford
  6. Ragged

    Ragged Guest

    The vocal on this track was recorded with a Rode NTV using a nagra 4.2 as a pre. There was no EQ treatment required on the vocal during the mix.


  7. JeffreyMajeau

    JeffreyMajeau Active Member

    Sep 5, 2000
    Soundelux E47 sounds great on many female Vox. TLM 103 is a "spitty" sounding mic on females sometimes. The AT 4047 may be the ticket for you. Shure KSM44's not bad, either.

    I don't think the Neumann would be my first choice on female vox, anyway.
  8. jonyoung

    jonyoung Well-Known Member

    Dec 31, 2003
    I'm wrapping up a project with a female artist, we started by trying an AT4050 through several different pres and comps (Avalon, API, ART MPA with really good tubes) and we ended up using an AT3035, warm with out being muddy, detailed without being sibilant. Best of all, not expensive. Also a good mic on guitar amps.
  9. maintiger

    maintiger Well-Known Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Whittier, California, USA
    My favorite vocal mic on most female vox is an old RCA D77- I usually try eveyother mic in the cabinet first but when they don't quite make a good fit with the (female) singer I pull out the trusty RCA and 9 out of 10 times is a winner- I just can't believe how many times this has happened- You'd think by now I would have leaned and would go for it first- (Actually i kinda cringe when I use it as it still has the original ribbon and I am a little afraid one of these days one of these powerful singers is gonna pop it)
    Of course they don't kake them anymore but you can occasionally find them on e-bay for about 1k or mercenary has rebuilt ones sometimes for about 2K.. :D
  10. SageK

    SageK Guest

    Hey Ragged, nice sounding track!! I'm amazed that no EQ was needed on th vocal. You can't believe how much tweaking I did to try and clean up the vocal in our stuff.

    I posed this question on another forum and got a lot of recomendations for the 414 and the 4050, and related AT mics.

  11. SageK

    SageK Guest

    auditioning mics?

    Any tips on how to be able to audition mics at my own studio?

  12. omaru

    omaru Active Member

    Sep 8, 2004
    hey Ragged - very nice - thank you.
    Cruisey music with a great voice.

    The Rode sounds great too.

    cheers omaru
  13. jonyoung

    jonyoung Well-Known Member

    Dec 31, 2003
    SageK, Many dealers (ones you deal with regularly) will let you take several mics "on approval" if you're serious about buying one after you've auditioned them. I've done this several times here in Nashville.
  14. SageK

    SageK Guest

    Okay, thanks. I'll just have to ask around I guess.

  15. maintiger

    maintiger Well-Known Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Whittier, California, USA
    I listened to your tracks and the vocals are good but they do have a overly bright quality and not too much body- That's a common problem I've encountered for female vocals when using bright mics like Rode or Neumanns. (U87 comes to mind) that's when I reach for my old RCA D77- It thickens female vox tracks, makes them sound like butter. There is a DX77 on ebay right now:

    also the AEA clones have gotten good reviews but I personally can't vouch for them as I haven't heard them- You might want to talk to Fletcher and see if he lets you return it if it doesn't work just right. The AEA R84 goes for 1K
    (dead link removed)

    (here I am throwing Fletcher name around and I don't even know the man, other than from these boards, brother!)

    I've also have had luck with the tube rode K2 on a couple of female vocalists but I can't wholeheartedly recommed it yet as I haven't tracked enough females with it to say for sure.
    Next week I have a session with a vocalist I tracked in the past who the U87 did not do the trick. we'll see if the K2 is up to the task or I have to pull out my old work horse (RCA D77) again.

    :D :D
  16. SageK

    SageK Guest

    Thanks Maintiger!

    I appreciate all your tips and experience. And thanks for listening to our tunes. I'll check some of these things out.

    Best Regards,
    Sage :D
  17. Ollie1

    Ollie1 Guest

    I could see where the RCA would sound real good. I have had good luck with an original Neumann M49 on female vocals. Again it tends to take the edge off and fill out the voice.
  18. maintiger

    maintiger Well-Known Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Whittier, California, USA
    Yes, it does that- gives it great fullness. for male vocals its not as great, unless you are going for a vintage type sound. I was recording a song in my last production (male vocalist) and the song was a real mellow ballad with a classic feel a la 'misty' or 'what a difference a day makes' and all the mics I used on the other songs for this guy (among them U87, K2) were just too bright- up goes the RCA and instant classic sound! Like i said, though, it only works on certain songs for males- for songs with an edge the mic is just too mellow for guys in my experience-
  19. SageK

    SageK Guest


    I checked out the RCA D77 on ebay. I'm concerned about buying a 40 year old mic. Can it be fixed if it doesn't work right. If so, how much might it cost?

    Do you have any idea what the price range usually is for these? If I got it and it didn't work for us, I'm wondering how much I could turn around and sell it for. Maybe a newer ribbon mic would be more reliable?
  20. Sebatron

    Sebatron Well-Known Member

    Dec 22, 2002
    Yeah AT-4047 ,, either 0db pad or -15 db pad is recommended. No 'Air ' or "Bright' ...maybe low-cut.....low-cut on mic as well may help too....
    In other words keep the top register flat but try and roll off low frequency energy.
    Don't put a comp in the front end yet , .. just a good lead from pre to soundcard or whatever.
    Don't E.Q yet either.
    Record and solo the vocals on the monitors.... what does it need?
    Avoid too much E.Q , the contour of the natural response will drift throwing out other frequencies that may not be initially apparent.
    Utilize the organic processing of the front end to supply the ' soft-compression ' needed ( i.e. subtle colour ) so you don't need to use any RNC or sunglasses.
    Hope that helps. :wink:

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