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Mic-o-rama

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Munjibunga, Jun 16, 2002.


  1. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Long. Don't read if you don't give a crap about how you sound when you sing through your mic.

    OK, I'm going to put this here. I thought about Recording Equipment, but this is stage and performance stuff mostly. I also thought about Off Topic, but this is about music, and all you singing bass players.

    Lately I've been acquiring a bunch of decent mics, and tonight I plugged them into my Mackie 1402 VLZ Pro for side-by-side comparisons. My band has been using exclusively Shure SM-58's for 8 years. We even have a wireless one. Here's the lineup of mics I've got now, and that we'll presumably be using in the future:

    1. Shure SM-58 (cardioid dynamic)
    2. Shure Beta 58A (supercardioid dynamic)
    3. Shure Beta 87C (cardioid condenser, the Beta 87A is supercardiod)
    4. Neumann KMS 105 (supercardioid condenser)
    5. Rode NT1 (large-diameter cardioid condenser)
    6. AKG C4000B (large-diameter multi-pattern condenser)

    Here are my opinions regarding what I experienced by singing 2-octave scales into each one, side-by-side with the others in various combinations.

    Best overall sound: Rode NT1. Not bad for a mic that lists at $500 less than the AKG. The AKG was a close second. The Rode gave a very crisp and acurate representation throughout the full range of the scales. It was great on the low end without being boomy (I sing bass), and held the mids with nice highs as well. You just can't beat those large-diaphragm condensers. The AKG was slightly more subdued, but it would be easy for someone to prefer its sound over the Rode. It also has more features, including 100 hz bass roll-off, 10 dB pad, and a three-pattern selector: cardioid, supercardiod, and omni. We've used both of these mics on stage and, while they require a little attention to placement to avoid feedback, they sound, well, bitchen.

    In fairness, you can't really expect hand-held stage mics to compete with large-diaphragm mics. So:

    Best-sounding hand-held: Neumann KMS 105. Big surprise, eh? It is a small-diaphragm (one-half inch) condenser, and is considered by many to be the "best" hand-held mic made. It oughtta be for $500 street. Really nice detail throughout the range, a little bass roll-off to cut boominess, excellent highs without excessive sibilance (I just HAD to use that word ... reminds me of Tom Hanks on SNL). That said, the Shure Beta 87C (also a small-diameter condenser) ran a close second, and at $220 street (Rik's Music), it's much better bang for the buck. In a live show situation, you're not going to be able to tell the difference between it and the KMS 105. In fact, because the Beta 87C is a cardiod, it's going to be a little more resistant to feedback generated from monitor systems and other off-axis sources. I had thought that, after I sell my last remaining 4-string "bass," I'd get me another KMS 105, but, if I need more mics, I think I'll go with the Beta 87's and get more of 'em.

    OK, that leaves the Shure Beta 58A and SM-58. These are both dynamic mics, with the Beta 58A being supercardioid pattern and the SM-58 cardioid. I imagine the Beta will be more susceptible to feedback because of this. There's really no comparison here. The Beta has increased high-frequency response (16khz as opposed to 15 khz for the SM-58), and it is very noticeable. It's just more crisp and realistic than the SM. By the time you get into the high-mid vocal register, the SM has lost its lustre, and sounds comparably flat. The Beta has considerably more detail in the higher registers, and it sounds good. By comparison, though, the Beta 58A doesn't have nearly the detail of the Beta 87C. Both mics have a significant increase in low-frequency "presence" if you sing into them very close to or touching the screen. This can be cool, if that's what you like. (For instance, if your band does "Fame" David Bowie style.)

    Keep in mind that all the condenser mics tout a frequency range that goes up into the 20 khz stratosphere. This gives them a very "live" sound, but to my ear, also enriches the mid frequency range with some nice overtones.

    In summary, my recommendation is the Shure Beta 87C. Sounds great, most bang for buck. It sounds much more articulate than the SM-58, the industry standard. It may be a bit more fragile though. The Beta 58A (about $120 street, if you work at it) is a step up from the SM-58, and you can get two of them for the price of one Beta 87, or four of them for the price of one KMS 105. One last thing. Condenser mics require phantom power, so make sure your board can supply it, or buy a power supply.

    That's all.
     
  2. Cheers man, that's helpful. My band use SM-58's all the way at the minute, simply because they're the cheapest, at least they are around here, but we've been thinking about buying some better ones now that some money is coming in, so I appreciate the reviews :).
     
  3. PJR

    PJR

    Jun 20, 2001
    N.E. PA
    I personally use the Neumann......

    ....but I carry a bunch of Audix OM5's , 6's and 7's for when I do sound........

    The 5's (as compared to the Beta58) has a bit better feedback rejection....and sound a bit meatier thru the midrange.......

    PJR
     
  4. cassanova

    cassanova

    Sep 4, 2000
    Florida
    Are those the big old fashioned looking mic's? Like the kind ya see Elvis singing into at times?


    I myself have a Sure SM-48. I only bought it because they were on sale for $50. I know nothing when it comes to what to look for in a mic. I also usually only use mine to mic my cab
     
  5. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY


    Careful what you wish for.... :D

    http://homerecording.com/bbs/showthread.php?s=&threadid=27030
     
  6. Great post. Your impressions on these mics (except for the Rode, because I've never used one) closely match mine. I really dig Beta 87s for detail and clarity but I'd like to add that there are situations that they just don't work in. If you're in a very loud band or your singer screams a lot, don't get 87s. They don't like being screamed into. I've found that they tend to lose rejection on loud stages and I hear way too much other stuff through them. Also, you need to make sure you use a cable with a firm connection and a solid lock, especially if you're moving them around. I've had some bad experiences with loud cracks and bangs due to loose mic-cable connections. This goes for all condensor mics, but Beta 87s seem to be a little more susceptible.
    People still use 58s because they are predictable and practically indestructible. They tend to be a bit dull in the real high end and have a little bump in the upper midrange (1.5 or 2 kHz or something)
    I've been using Beta 58As a lot lately and they seem to work very well. They actually have better feedback rejection than the SM 58 or the Beta 87, and have the same ruggedness of the 58. I can get the same wedges considerably louder without feedback with the 58A than with the 87 or SM 58. The trick with supercardiod is not to put the monitor directly behind the mic. Put it slightly off to one side and angle it in towards the singer. This makes an incredible difference when using super or hyper cardiod mics.
    I've actually been using Beta 57As with one band with good results as well. They have even better feedback and off axis rejection than the 58A. Go figure.
    Here are some other mics that I like: AKG 535, small diaphragm condensor. It's similar to the Beta 87. Audio Technica ATM 4050. It's got a fairly large diaphragm (1.5" I believe). Pretty open and big sounding. The Sennheiser 835/865 series are pretty nice, too.
     
  7. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Here's a pic of the mics I reviewed. I haven't tried any Audix mics, but a lot of folks like them. I think Rode is making some of the best mics for the money out there. I can't get over how good that cheap old NT1 sounds every time I use it, whether for voice or instruments (like a Persian setar). I'm thinking really hard about a matched pair, the NT5 set, at $269 street. They are about the size of Neumann KM 184s, which cost about $1200 for a matched pair. I can't belive there's that much difference in the sound. By the way, Rik's seems to have the best prices on Rode.

    [​IMG]
     
  8. lneal

    lneal

    Apr 12, 2002
    Lee County, Alabama
    Excellent information. When I do PA work, I use SM-58's for all vocals. Why? Because I find that you can always put singers using them right up front in the mix. They will cut through and that is what's important to me when I'm mixing. As you point out, many mikes do sound better, but will they cut through a wall of g****rs and drums? If you are doing country or something milder than rock, then some of the other mikes will probably be good. I have to say that I don't have any experience with the Rode or the 87C so I cant give an informed opinion on them.
    The only place I find the 58 lacking is with female vocals. The Beta 58 is definitely better for that. Still haven't found a mike that's impervious to lipstick though!
     
  9. cassanova

    cassanova

    Sep 4, 2000
    Florida
  10. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    lneal ~

    We were doing the same thing with SM58's because they sound fine and are essentially bullet proof. I just noticed that some of the other mics sounded a lot better, especially in the high mids where the girl singers hang out. The first of the good stage mics I got was the KMS 105 (for $300 at GC ... do you believe it?). I had the girl singer in one of my two bands sing through it, and the difference was remarkable. Just much clearer. Then I had our male lead singer (a tenor) in the other band use it at our last gig, which was outdoors. It ruled. So I started looking for comparable mics at more realistic prices (the $300 was a fluke, they're usually $500). The Beta 87C seems to be very comparable for a lot less gold. We won't be using the SM58's much any more.
     
  11. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Munji,

    I think you're confused about cardioid vs. supercardioid. Supercardioid is going to be more feedback resistant (all else equal) because it has a tighter pattern.

    The tradeoff is you have to be more careful being on-axis.
     
  12. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Supercardioid is tighter in the front of the mic, but is susceptible to signals on-axis from the back. This means that correct monitor placement is more critical for supercardioid. They should be placed about 120 degrees off axis. If you put it on axis from the back, the mic will feed back.

    Otherwise, you are correct ... the mic is more resistant to off-axis sound from the 90 degree side, give or take.
     
  13. lneal

    lneal

    Apr 12, 2002
    Lee County, Alabama
    Munji:

    I also am in a band with a girl singer and as I mentioned I have found the standard SM 58 to be lacking for that use. She is going to buy a mike in the near future and your test results will be taken into account. I will suggest that she try the 87C. I have heard good things about it too. Although I have to say the Beta 58 is pretty darn good on a female vocal, and the price is certainly right!
    Great work and great info. You would have to scour many pages to get a comparo like yours. Now if we could only get the manufacturers to list a lipstick-resistance spec......
     
  14. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    A vocal mic without lipstick stains on the windscreen is a vocal mic that has not yet lived.
     
  15. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Since my original review, I've acquired a Rode NT-3 ($149 at GC, less at Rik's). I'm using it as my personal vocal mic. I love this thing. Very rich all the way through the frequency range. It's a 3/4-inch diaphragm condenser, with optional 9-volt internal battery if you don't have phantom power. As with the other condenser mics, it's a leetle tetchy at the high end, but the judicious, yet nominal, application of a little EQ takes care of that. My recommendation now shifts from the Beta 87C to the Rode NT-3. Great mic.
     
  16. Oysterman

    Oysterman

    Mar 30, 2000
    Sweden
    It's funny to read your praise of the NT-1 when most every other opinion I've read has been thrashing it for its supposed harsh character. Goes to show that you really have to try these things for yourself... as with everything.
     
  17. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Rode NT1 Review

    Another

    I recorded some exotic instruments (Persian setar and oud) and vocals with the NT-1, and it was excellent. Great for instruments and overhead for drum kits, too. Have you used one?
     
  18. Oysterman

    Oysterman

    Mar 30, 2000
    Sweden
  19. BFunk

    BFunk Supporting Member

    Voices are different too. Mics are almost like acoustic guitars, a very personal choice.

    BTW, Munji, have you ever tried the Shure KSM series? I have been hearing very good things about them.
     
  20. FretNoMore

    FretNoMore * Cooking with GAS *

    Jan 25, 2002
    The frozen north
    That's why I reserve one of our mics for my personal use. I don't like anyone else's lipstick on my mic! :)