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Choosing mikes for vocal and voiceovers
  • No pricey >$300 mikes discussions in this topic.
    Use topic for large diaphragm microphones, please.

    Good blog about various mikes:
    http://recordinghacks.com/

    It is not about shotguns, but larger mikes are also very useful if you are doing voiceovers and other things where better large mikes could be used.

    Got to it via
    http://recordinghacks.com/2008/11/01/chinese-ribbon-microphone-designs/

    Useful Articles:
    http://www.emusician.com/mics/emusic_mics_mix/
    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/indepth/indepth/audio/buying-guides/voice-over-equipment
  • 117 Replies sorted by
  • Good article (bottom link). I have a pair of old Tannoy ribbons which sound great - hard to describe as not a sparkling, contemporary sound, but they make a great job of sounding "natural" as they pick up the sound of the room very nicely. I'd recommend anyone who's curious about ribbons to have a play with one. We used them exclusively at the BBC world service and they were wonderful on speech.
  • When I recorded for the BBC they had a room full of Schoeps. I asked the engineer, because I had heard they use Coles ribbon mics, and he said it was up to the engineer, he used whatever he wanted. I was shocked! I have heard from many sources they use ribbons. Would like to hear more from Mark on this, if this was just a rogue engineer. I asked if I could have the fluffy foam pop screen that said BBC in big letters after the session and he said "No." I would have given him one. Geez. I must say I do like the Coles 4038 and 4040.
    The "budget shootout" leaves out the SP B1, which is one of the best budget mics (but too heavy to boom).
    The ribbon shootout leaves out the 4040 which, well, whatever. Whatever.
    Incidentally, if you want to "hack" your ribbon mic by replacing the transformer, my favorites are
    1. Sowter. IMHO, the best
    2. Reslo Unobtanium. The sweetest, but not much output
    Lundahls are better than stock, but the Sowters are really smooth and rich.
    I actually like the Beyer M130 for voice-overs (with a Sank mod), if you have a really good amp, and you can be close to the mic. But almost any ribbon is good, or a nice juicy Neumann M147 tube.

  • @DrDave Depends I think where you were - the BBC is huge! Just in case I misled, the Tannoys were (are!) my own, the ribbons in use by the BBC World Service were 4038 - wonderful. I particularly remember some of the Hausa speakers who had the most amazing voices, and the ribbon mics sounded just wonderful. You have to remember this was all mono and the programming was mostly live so you didn't have time to mess about. You'd have 15 mins to get into the studio and set up a live show which ran anything from 15 to 120 mins, in any of 36 languages. Editing was fun! We did once attempt to do a stereo (crossed pair) recording with 4038s, during a slack day, and they stuck themselves together with a fairly loud "clunk". But they were great for drama work as you could have an actor apparently walk off into the distance by simply edging around the mic towards the dead zone, and were also used a lot as solo singer mics and for miking up certain instruments. Very sensitive to vibration, though.

    Depending on the area of work, you'd have access to all sorts of mics, from specialist single-unit crossed-pairs to specialist ribbons like the lip-mics, to (of course) gun mics and M&S rigs.

    I did purchase and use Schoeps for the sound effects recording I did (I did that job for a year and made some of the early BBC SFX CDs, using initially a NAGRA with Dolby-A noise reduction cards, then later a Sony PCMF1 and a phantom-power box I made myself, feeding its mic inputs). They were probabaly some of the first Schoeps mics in the BBC. I thought they had amazingly low noise and with the knuckles and the "ball-gag" (a sort of spherical Rycote-windshield), they made for a very compact stereo rig. The low noise was great for sound effects recording as some locations / sounds were incredibly quiet but aside from that, to be honest I didn't like them that much personally. To me they had too sterile a character.

    I think mic placement is also very important - having a great mic is probably similar really to having a great camera, you still have to point it in the right direction!

    You are right about transformer quality for a ribbon mic - very important. Essentially you're taking a very low source impedance and multiplying the voltage to something usable by a mic preamp.
  • I use all kinds of mics in my studio. A lot of them I've modified, including the ribbons. I actually prefer the Lundahls over the sowters. The biggest problem with the chinese ribbons is that the ribbon material they use is poor. It's inconsistent in thickness and the mics are rarely tuned correctly. For one of my chinese ribbons, I bought some higher-quality ribbon material, corrugated and tensioned it to a point where I felt it sounded much better. I felt it negated the need to upgrade the transformer as I did with the other mic. Dampening the ring prone body was another fix. I coated the inside of the shell and in the null areas with a sealing mastic. It considerably reduced odd resonances.

    My low cost winner is a slightly modded Apex 460 tube mic. That thing even kills my Gefells on voices/singing.

  • Svart--which Lundahl model did you choose over the Sowters, I have some time over the holidays and I need to mod another ribbon. TIA.
    Dampening the body--yup, why do they make these things ring like a bell? Ugh. Did you use Silicone caulk for dampening?
  • @Vitaliy_Kiselev

    These are some of the newer budget ribbons that came out since 2008

    MXL R44 :

    MXL R77 :
    ;

    Oktava ML-52 :
    ;

    Shinybox Ribbon :
    ;

    Superlux R102 :
    ;

    Golden Age Projects R1 :
    ;
    These are supposed to be of outstanding quality for their price, being compared to ribbon mics 10x the price. http://www.goldenagemusic.se/goldenageproject/uk/index.htm

    Thomann in Germany sell some of their own Chinese budget ribbons under the T-Bone brand : http://www.thomann.de/de/baendchenmikrofone.html
  • These are the cheapest Chinese small-diafragm i know of at 35$ a pair, but they're said to be good quality : http://www.karmamics.com/shop/K-Micro-Matched-Pair.html
  • For all of your audio DIY needs check out this place- http://www.groupdiy.com

    @ Mark_the_Harp
    "I think mic placement is also very important - having a great mic is probably similar really to having a great camera, you still have to point it in the right direction!"

    This has been my observation as well.
  • @Bitcrusher, do you frequent GroupDIY? I used to a lot back in the day but rarely do anymore.

    @DrDave, I'll have to open the mic up, I don't remember which model I used. I used some kind of sticky plastic mastic, I don't think it was silicone based though. It was very heavy and obscenely sticky. The shells went from a high *ping* to a dull *thump* once applied. I did the same thing to the shells of some Oktava 219 mics, which also suffer from shell resonations,
  • Yes, the 219 is a dinger, but even my Neumann TLM193 have this problem.
  • Just about any large diaphragm condenser from SE Electronics will sound good
  • Was going to mention SE Electronics...

    Fantastic sound, also Mr. Neumann collaborated with them on their ribbon mics... Based in Shanghai.

    http://www.seelectronics.com
  • That was Mr Rupert Neve..
  • @mrbill
    Sorry my bad... (I knew it started with an 'n')
  • There's always the Shure SM7B and Electrovoice RE20 if you want to go off piste :)
  • There are actually many Chinese made microphones from reputable brands besides SE Electronics that put out good consistent quality at a fair reasonable price :

    http://www.mixonline.com/gear/reviews/blue_microphone_spark_microphone_review/
    http://mixonline.com/gear/reviews/cad_audio_e100s_microphone_review/
    http://mixonline.com/gear/reviews/microphones/sterling-audio-st-condesner-microphone-review//index1.html
    http://mixonline.com/mag/audio_apex_tube_microphone/
    http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/aug05/articles/mxl.htm (v6 is now v69)
    http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/aug08/articles/violetblackknight.htm

    The more expensive Chinese mics, supposedly well worth the money :
    http://mixonline.com/gear/reviews/review-adk-hamburg-vienna/ (There's also a cheaper 300$ version of this mic)
    http://mixonline.com/gear/reviews/jz_microphones_v46_v67_vintage_series_review/
    http://mixonline.com/products/review/audio_mojave_ma_tube/
    http://mixonline.com/gear/reviews/audio_studio_projects_microphone/ (they sell some models under 100$ as well as a good mic pre)
    http://mixonline.com/gear/reviews/audio_avant_electronics_avantone/
    http://mixonline.com/products/review/audio_avantone_aktype_vii/
    http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/may10/articles/peluso22251.htm
    http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/sep09/articles/lautenhorizon.htm
    http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/mar08/articles/segeminiz5600aii.htm

    (Maybe) not made in China but definitely inexpensive for the quality
    http://mixonline.com/gear/reviews/neumann_tlm_102_review/
    http://mixonline.com/gear/reviews/akg-condenser-microphone-review/
    http://mixonline.com/gear/reviews/audio_heil_pr_pr/
    http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/feb06/articles/at2020.htm http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/apr09/articles/at20352050.htm
    http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/feb09/articles/akgperception.htm
    http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jul08/articles/newmannretro.htm
    http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/aug04/articles/oktavamkl5000.htm
    anything from http://www.rodemic.com

    This is just a short list, as there are so many microphones being made today.
  • I bough so many of these as they came out. I never use them. The ribbon mics you can rebuild and they sound OK with new ribbon and new transformer. And there are some OK ones, but most just a bit under Oktava, esp. with the mod. The Studio Projects B1 is a steal at $100, and so is the Zoom H2. Mainly the budget mics are a bit monochromatic. But it is fun to try new mics.
  • I'd say the only sub $600 mic I would recommend to anyone is the Audio Technica AT2020 USB. At less than $100 on Amazon, it is the best voiceover mic you can get for the money. http://www.amazon.com/Audio-Technica-AT2020-USB-Condenser-Microphone/dp/B001AS6OYC/

    If you are using this solely on the computer, don't get the non-usb version which is cheaper. It is a xlr connection and you will need something like a Pro-Tools box to plug it in. The xlr version is the exact same mic, just without the usb hardware.

  • >I'd say the only sub $600 mic I would recommend to anyone is the Audio Technica AT2020 USB.

    We are not talking on such level here.
    Or this is a bad joke?
    How many mikes do you have?

    >If you are using this solely on the computer, don't get the non-usb version which is cheaper.

    I think it could be good for "Budget USB microphones topic" :-)
  • Bad jokes have bad punch lines. Maybe this is a good joke? :)

    I'm a voiceover artist and I use the AT2020 USB for everything I record at home. When in the studio, I've used mics that cost over $10,000 that sound better than the Audio Technica. However, for most things, you can record at home with this mic, and you'd never know it by listening to it.

    If this thread is about choosing a good mic for voiceovers, it should be posted here, regardless of price.
  • @muntus
    >However, for most things, you can record at home with this mic, and you'd never know it by listening to it.

    This one is much better.
    But all this "the only sub $600 mic I would recommend" and "I've used mics that cost over $10,000" looks weird.

    It can be good mike, and thanks for posting this info.
    But such phrases don't help :-)
  • Yes the $10,000 mic does sound a bit odd, although I'm sure it is possible.
    I've never actually used or seen a $10,000 microphone, other than some hitech head simulations which didn't sound great.
    I've used expensive systems, like the Schoeps KFM 360 5.1 Surround Sound System ($18,000) and, well, if I really liked it I would have bought one, but I just don't like so much these "sphere" or "head" systems. Maybe someday. Part of the art of recording is moving the mics around, hard to do that when they are in a sphere. But that isn't really a mic, it is a "system". $18,000 will buy you a pair of DPA omnis, a pair of MK41, and a box of assorted Sennheisers.

    Of the expensive mics--and here, why would you ever pay more?--the Neumann Solution D (which I don't like) is $8000. Of course, it isn't just the mic, its digital. The Neumann M149 (which I like) clocks in at $5,000. A DPA 4003 $1800. Schoeps MK41 with the CMC6 (not the XT which does not sound so good) also $1800.
    And there are more, of course. A Coles 4040 which is monster ribbon mic, is $1500. Cheap for that mic. A steal.
    So a single pattern, handmade mic from Schoeps, which is one of the finest mics you will ever use, is under $2000 complete with a variable voltage preamp.
    Basically, there is a price ceiling of $2,000 for a really top end mic and around $3,000 for a multipattern, unless you go for the M149, which is really nice mic but a bit overpriced.
    The best microphone in the world is of course the Rens Heijnis modified TLM 170s that I have on my shelf complete with a discrete, 12 pattern power supply and remote control. 12 patterns, smooth as silk.
    Why do I mention this? Because once you get over the say $4000 price, you are better off having something custom made, with all discrete circuits, solid silver wire, the whole nine yards, unless you just want the "big name".
    As far as I know, of the big four, only the Schoeps are still hand made in the traditional sense. Maybe DPA.

    So there is no reason to pay more. Get a pair of Schoeps, or DPA, Neumann, Sennheiser, or whatever and you will have great gear. There is a reason the MK41 has a great rep in the video world, it is a great mic.

    As for the under $600, well, the Elation KM201, the modded Oktavas, Joly's 47 capsule, the SP B1, the Stellar CM6 tube, I mean there are some good mics for under $600. And the reality is, the budget mics are just going to get better and better, until there is zero difference. There are some high quality "clone" capsules being made, and boutique outfits that will put that capsule in a custom housing with state of the art circuitry.
  • The Telefunken ELa M 251 is 10000$. It's probably that one he meant.
    http://mixonline.com/products/review/audio_telefunken_ela/ (There's also a stereo version at 17k :)
    There's a good alternative in the Peluso mics, or if you don't want a Chinese mic, you can buy the Telefunken AR 51 http://www.soundonsound.com/news?NewsID=12438
    http://www.soundonsound.com/news?NewsID=12665
  • Yeesh, the eternal "best mic" thread. It's like kudzu, or ass cancer. No gear geek forum is safe from its creeping tendrils. It can't be killed or blocked, only endured at periodic intervals.

    The "best mic" is what sounds best to you on a given project. Sometimes it's a Neumann or a Sennheiser or a Chinese clone or a Korean clone of a Chinese clone. Or an old RCA ribbon. Lots of times - way more often than not - it's an SM57. No mic "sucks". Well, except the EV 635a, and even that one is sometimes the best mic.

    The important thing, though, is to absolutely keep this thread alive at all costs, because surely all this geekyak will finally settle this matter once and for all.