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Old May 23rd, 2012, 11:07 PM   #1 (permalink)
Melodeath
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Improve my Mic Locker for $4k

Ok, as my hobby/career/whatever in audio has progressed, I've become much more of a mixing/mastering engineer than a tracking engineer. Not by choice necessarily, just how it's worked out. I've mixed lots of albums, but other than my own band and my own projects, I've only tracked a few other groups. As a result, I have much more money invested in software/plug-ins than microphones. The only microphones I currently own are an SM57 and a pack of 7 Red5 drum mics (which actually sound absolutely incredible for the price. I'm astounded at my tom drum sounds, and cymbals sound perfectly fine), which is a kick mic, 2 SDCs and 4 tom/snare clip-on dynamics.

My main band is death metal, so obviously I record metal, but we don't record particularly often. I've recorded other metal bands, some rock, some singer/songwriter, etc.

However, much more frequently, when I am tracking something, it's myself singing (not growling) and an acoustic guitar. I've been doing this as separate takes with my SM57 for guitar then vocals, or with an SM57 on vocals and SDC on guitar simultaneously. It sounds perfectly adequate, but I am desperate to expand my microphone cabinet. I'm tired of recording with only an SM57, and I'm very curious how my results will change. In addition, having more mics is always convenient, and I want to have some options available because a few groups have asked me to record them in the next few months.

So here's where I'm seeking advice. I need help expanding my microphone cabinet. I have plenty of ideas, and a huge wishlist, but I'm always open to opinions, and to hear others' thoughts. The following is my dream wishlist

- A pair of small diaphragm condensers (SDCs). Hopefully multi-pattern, but if not, I'll want a couple omnis plus a couple cardioids, etc. (Neumann KM84s are the ultimate, but too expensive, and cardioid-only)
- A pair of large diaphragm condensers (LDCs). Again, hopefully multi-pattern. (AKG C414s interest me, but are expensive. Advanced Audio CM414s are an option, but I can't find any reviews, and approach the cost of vintage 414EB when you opt for Tim Campbell CT12 capsules)
- A pair of ribbons. At least one ribbon for guitar amps, but I like pairs in case I want to do something in stereo
- Some dynamics other than SM57 for guitar cabs, toms, bass cabs, etc. MD421, Audio Technica ATH250, RE20, SM7B, Audix i5, D6
Mics "mostly" for vocals:
- Sony C37A/C800 or equivalent
- U47-type (Maybe a Flea 47 or an Advanced Audio CM47 with Thiersch capsule, or a DIY MK47)
- U67-type/flavor
- U87-type/flavor (possibly a Joly modded Rode NT1A, but it lacks multi-pattern and it's not a true U87 clone since it uses a K47-type capsule as opposed to K67)
- M49 flavor
- Sony C800G-type (too expensive. Possibly a JJ Audio Akita is close enough. Manley Reference Cardioid is relatively similar, as well)
- C12-type (have to find a clone like JJ Audio Dutch with Tim Campbell capsule)
- ELA M251-Type (Possibly a Blackspade UM25C)
- Miktek CV4
- Some sort of ribbon for vocals, like a Coles or AEA

I would need about $25,000 to fulfill that wishlist. So let's be more reasonable and say I have $4,000 to $5,000 to spend on a mic cabinet, focusing on acoustic guitar and vocals, but also creating a more well-rounded mic locker than what I have currently. Here is what I'm thinking...

- Manley Reference Cardioid: $2,700 (Pros: would drastically improve both clean vocals and acoustic guitar sound. Cons: Expensive for one mic)
- Oktavamod MK-012 MSP4 (cardioid and omni caps): can find 'em for $750 (Pros: record acoustic guitar in stereo. Probably improve overhead drum miking. Multi-pattern. Cons: Not as airy/neutral as KM84s, but way cheaper)
- Shure SM7B: $350? (Pros: Improved growled vocals recordings, as well as good vocal mic when the Manley wont work on a particular singer)

Granted, this is only 4 new mics, but I think it's a huge improvement for someone who records mostly himself on a guitar.

My interface/preamps/converters are the Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56, so while I'd love to "upgrade" preamps and converters, I think my current equipment is perfectly adequate.

What are your thoughts?
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Old May 24th, 2012, 12:32 AM   #2 (permalink)
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sm7b for sure, almost every studio ive ever been has one and speaks highly of them. Ive been tracking with one this week in my home studio, and it is awesome. Great dynamic mic.
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Old May 24th, 2012, 12:46 AM   #3 (permalink)
colonel kurtz
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SM7
i5
pair of SM81's for SDC's...maybe not the greatest, but always usable
AT4033 - since you mentioned acoustic guitars...so, so, good on acoustic guitars!
royer 121 - great on everything

that's already around $2500 if you go all new on everything. go used, and you could probably get those plus a pair of 414's, a 421(or 2) and a decent tube LDC and stay under the $4k mark, and have a mic locker that's both quality and well-rounded
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Old May 24th, 2012, 02:08 AM   #4 (permalink)
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4 grand huh...

...that's a good amount man. And i would totally go used. There's really no point on buying it new. here's my 2 cents:

pair of 184's (oh's, acoustic guitars, pianos, etc.) about $1000 - $1200
SM7 (that's pretty much all the vocal mic you need for metal and most genres tbh) $250
The R121 it's like a must for any studio (paired with the 57 on guitars, horns, mono room mic, you'll find a lot of great use for it) $900 - 1000

and for an extra $200 - $300 you can buy a U87 for $2000 (sometimes even less if you are lucky). If you don't or you can't, you could buy a pair of C414's. Great on ANYTHING seriously...guitars, acoustics, oh's, room mics, snare top w/ the 57 and snare bottom, percussion, vocals, etc.)

For bass cabs and stuff you can use the SM7 or the U87 (if you take that route)

And you'll be set for a very long while with a professional mic locker. You can still keep using your Red5 mics for drums or you could sell them to get 2 MD421's.
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Old May 24th, 2012, 08:02 AM   #5 (permalink)
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And i would totally go used. There's really no point on buying it new.
What he said. The only mics I would ever buy new are ribbon mics. They are more fragile and I don't really trust anybody else with proper handling. The Beyerdynamic m160 is one of my favorite mics and is half the cost of a 121.
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Old May 24th, 2012, 08:42 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Definitely go used and snag those 184's. You'll almost never need anything else for OH's unless you want a second pair or LDC's for flavor.

SM7b is a must-have IMO, it's just a total vocal workhorse that is also cool on HH, snare, sometimes guitar, bass, etc.

You could probably grab both of those and still have enough for a used C414 set and an i5, or just go to town on a bunch of dynamics.
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Old May 24th, 2012, 09:03 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I'm in exactly the same boat as you - only just really progressed from mix engineer to tracking, getting more serious and more numerous recording projects now rather than just mixing and mastering, and I just upgraded my mics. Unfortunately I only had about half of the funds you have (so far, rest to follow in the next month or so) so I grabbed an Audix set (D6, D2 x2, D4, i5) and some Rode NT5's. I'll keep a close eye on this thread for other suggestions though as more funds flow in, I'd like to have a nice variety to reach for in the cabinet.
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Old May 24th, 2012, 09:06 AM   #8 (permalink)
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184 are a cool investment, also sometimes you can get a pair of KM84 for a good price, but they're really "vintage" so they should be in great condition (they also still have Tuchel connectors) otherwise it's a hassle to keep them working. Some people think they're better than their successors - personally I think they're different but not necessarily better or worse.
184s are great as overheads, for acoustic guitars, electric guitars (I use them a lot, for hi-gain and clean stuff), and well... pretty much any acoustic instrument haha.
I never heard the Oktavas in person, but they seem to get a lot of praise from people, I also know some who prefer them to 184s (but not to KM84s).

+1 for the SM7b.

Personally I wouldn't buy a single LDC for that much money ($2700), but maybe that's just me. I used the U87 a few times now, and while it's certainly not a bad mic, it's not like it sounds a lot better than say a Audio Technica 4050 (which is awesome btw). In fact a lot of engineers I talked to also said it's not famous for its great sound, but because it's a workhorse and you know what you're gonna get out of it. Of course it works real good with some voices but it doesn't work at all with others (like most mics do).
If I were to spend a lot of bucks on a single mic, I'd rather go with a ribbon mic or a pair of them.. but again that's just imho. If you can, compare a U87 or the Manley to an AT4050 / 4040. Also the C414 is really versatile and sounds great.

Last edited by jipchen : May 24th, 2012 at 09:08 AM.
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Old May 24th, 2012, 09:27 AM   #9 (permalink)
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If you can, compare a U87 or the Manley to an AT4050 / 4040
i'm about to bail out for work, but when i get home tonight i'll post some clips i recorded a few years back of a U87ai, 414-uls, AT 4033, and rode nt-2a on a steinway D thru a grace 801 pre. there's a little bit of differences because they obviously couldn't have the same placement all being crammed under a piano at the same time, but they give a good idea of the differences between them
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Old May 24th, 2012, 09:59 AM   #10 (permalink)
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In fact a lot of engineers I talked to also said it's not famous for its great sound, but because it's a workhorse and you know what you're gonna get out of it. Of course it works real good with some voices but it doesn't work at all with others (like most mics do).
I love the U87 on deeper/boomy voices. Thin/airy voices will usually have something else on them.

However....I get clients all the time who refuse to use anything else because that is what Named Artist used on such and such album. I have had artists come to me after turning down other places that didn't have one.
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Old May 24th, 2012, 10:22 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by colonel kurtz View Post
i'm about to bail out for work, but when i get home tonight i'll post some clips i recorded a few years back of a U87ai, 414-uls, AT 4033, and rode nt-2a on a steinway D thru a grace 801 pre. there's a little bit of differences because they obviously couldn't have the same placement all being crammed under a piano at the same time, but they give a good idea of the differences between them
Yeah that would be pretty interesting!
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I love the U87 on deeper/boomy voices. Thin/airy voices will usually have something else on them.

However....I get clients all the time who refuse to use anything else because that is what Named Artist used on such and such album. I have had artists come to me after turning down other places that didn't have one.
Yes that's what I experienced, too (both points you mentioned ). Last time I worked with another AE on a school project and we made a shoot-out for the singers vocals with the U87 (not the "ai", the original one), the C414 XLS and a AT4040 and the difference was negligible imho. The singer really wanted to use the U87 though and so we went for it
I didn't save the other files unfortunately because I'm stupid
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Old May 24th, 2012, 12:42 PM   #12 (permalink)
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U87 (not the "ai", the original one), the C414 XLS and a AT4040 and the difference was negligible imho.
Your ears must be broken.
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Old May 24th, 2012, 03:21 PM   #13 (permalink)
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SDC Omni
Earthworks tc30 pair ~ $1700 (There's a pair on eBay now for $1100 BIN)

LDC Multipattern
AudioTechnica 4050 pair ~ $1400

Ribbon
ShinyBox 46U pair ~ $850, or 46MXC or 46MXL pair ~ $1100

Even buying new, you'll come in right around your budget with these.
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