Hands On - Quality Microphones (part 2)
So why spend all this money on a microphone, or microphones, when you can spend much less and still get a flat frequency response and a crisp clear sound?
So why spend all this money on a microphone, or microphones, when you can spend
much less and still get a flat frequency response and a crisp clear sound? The
answer is that some mics have that certain something that make them
special. Its very difficult to say what it is but once you have compared
one of these mics against an ordinary £300-£400 model
then youll know what the difference is. This difference is most marked
when you are recording in stereo with two mics for overall pickup and also when
you are recording vocals, which brings me back to my first point
relatively few exceptions you will find that most commercially successful recordings
are made using these very high quality mics for the vocals. It makes the difference
between a product that will stay on the shelf and a product that people in their
thousands will buy. Yes really!
Way back in the mists of history, the engineers at Neumann decided to make
a mic that would beat the best then currently available. As was the style at
the time, it would have a fairly large diaphragm, and it would operate with
those new-fangled transistors which were just beginning to oust valves as the
active circuit device of choice. Add to that powering from a 48 volt phantom
power supply, when it was still quite common for mics to use inconvenient dedicated
mains power supplies, and the option of an internal 22.5V battery (which now
appears in Neumanns price list at £13!) and you had what was considered
in those days a very desirable mic. The strange thing is that the Neumann U87,
now reincarnated as the U87 Ai, is still a very desirable mic after all these
years. I find it very surprising that as technology makes such tangible improvements
in every other field of sound recording equipment, that the old mic designs,
tweaked for lower noise and higher SPLs, are still subjectively among the best.
Like the AKG C414 and Beyer MC740, the Neumann U87 is a multipattern mic with
a double diaphragm. The outputs of the two diaphragms are combined within the
mic to give omnidirectional, cardioid or figure-of-eight patterns. Id
be willing to bet however that most U87s are left set to cardioid for at least
364 days out of 365. Compared to modern compact microphones the U87 is big and
bulky, which is partially the result of the large diaphragm. Once upon a time,
diaphragms had to be large to capture enough sound energy to produce a reasonable
signal to noise ratio at the output. In fact, even now you would expect a large
diaphragm mic to have a better noise performance. The problem the engineers
had with the large diaphragm, of this mic and similar ones, was that the mass
of the diaphragm created a resonant frequency which was within the audible range.
If you look at the frequency response chart of the Neumann U87 Ai you will see
a peak at around 10kHz which is probably produced as a result of this resonance.
The engineers had a problem with this because it didnt look right on paper,
so they started designing small diaphragm mics which measured better but somehow
didnt have the same sound that people liked, and still like.
Q: Should I upgrade my Shure SM58 and use technical solutions for noise and ambience?
An Audio Masterclass visitor wonders what the next stage in his journey towards pro audio should be. Read more...
What is production? Part 5: Mastering
When the mix engineer has squeezed every last drop of perfection out of the original multitrack recording and turned it into a stereo mix, the mastering engineer will attempt to perfect it even more… Read more...
A brief introduction to mixing in the home recording studio
The function of mixing has changed since the beginning of the modern era of recording techniques in the late 1960s. In earlier times, the band and vocal would be recorded all together simultaneously, directly into mono or stereo. Mixing therefore took place actually during the recording session. But as multitrack recorders developed, eventually it was possible to place each instrument and vocal on its own track, and leave the mixing until later. Read more...
How Isabel Fay got noticed on YouTube
The average YouTube music video gets a few tens of views. Isabel Fay's gets 683,649. How come? Read more...
Q: Why does my mixer have a 48 volt switch?
A RecordProducer.com reader wonders what the phantom power switch is for, and how it might improve the signal from the microphones. Read more...
The Beatles original audition tape - is it a fake?
The tape that got The Beatles rejected by Decca Records in 1962 has unexpectedly been rediscovered. But is it just a (money-making) fake? Read more...
Will.i.am is giving up music to learn computer programming
Many aspiring producers admire Will.i.am for his musical success. He admires Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. Read more...
Sampling rates for sample libraries
I always set up my projects at 24 bits/44.1 kHz, but recently I noticed how sample libraries are offering 32 bits/96 kHz. Do you think we have to use them? Read more...
Should you pan low-frequency instruments?
A reader asks whether it is allowable to pan low frequency instruments. If not, what would the possible penalty be? Read more...
How much better could you play your instrument?
You play your instrument pretty well, don't you? Well you could play it even better... Read more...
How technology is killing music
Don't we have great music-making technology these days? But what happened to the great music we were going to make with it? Read more...
The shocking truth about working in pro recording studios
An RP reader successfully lands an internship in a major recording studio. But the kind of work he is asked to do isn't quite what he expected... Read more...
A heroine for live performance on TV?
Viola player Natalie Holt throws eggs at Simon Cowell on Britain's Got Talent. She protests at having to mime playing her instrument. Read more...
These 1957 loudspeakers get closer to the original sound than anything you've ever heard!
Still monitoring on modern moving coil loudspeakers? Perhaps you need some vintage electrostatics to really hear what's on your recording? Read more...
Does your recording need analog magnetism?
A RecordProducer.com reader wants to take advantage of the wonderful warm sound of analog tape. But he doesn't know what it sounds like. Read more...
Drum reverbs - should they linger longer?
If your drum reverbs are hanging around too long, they could be confusing your sound. How long should a drum reverb last? Read more...
Q: How should I use an equalizer with a limiter?
Q: "Could you tell me please whether the equalizer should go first, then the limiter. Or should the limiter go first?" Read more...
Can you use office dividers as acoustic screens in the studio?
We're all for cutting costs where it doesn't compromise performance, but can office dividers do a good job in the recording studio? Read more...
Why your voice-over recordings need to be FULLY professional
Voice over recording can be very lucrative. But only if your voice talent AND your recording techniques are of the highest standard. So what are the potential problems? Read more...
Q: When should I normalize, and by how much?
A RecordProducer.com reader wonders about normalization. Should he do it? Should he normalize all the way? Read more...