AF’s Weblog

October 10, 2012

The Mighty Kick Drum Microphone: Part 2

Filed under: Drums/Percussion, Microphones — Tags: , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 12:28 pm

To read the full detailed article see:  The Mighty Kick Drum Microphone Part 2

Our survey of kick drum microphones through the years continues….

To read Part I please go here.

Optimized Response

In the 1990s, Shure debuted the Beta 52, the company’s first purpose-designed kick-drum mic, with its response specifically optimized for the task at hand using an internal EQ network.

Its integral mic stand adapter, oversized body (inside is a regular-sized capsule) and passive LC network are strategies that have been copied by many over the last decade. The idea was to make it easier by eliminating the need for EQ.

Shure even knocked itself off, after watching others do so, with its own PG series of inexpensive mics, and its PG52, at half the price of the Beta 52, is about what you’d expect. There have been many imitators of this ‘large body means big sound’ with varying results, but the concept of a contoured response, customized to the needs of the drum is here to stay.


Shure Beta 52 (left) and PG52

Manufacturers have gotten caught up in ‘big mic’ aesthetics, as users are easily invested with the false notion that bigger is better for a kick drum, or that a large diaphragm is better for low frequencies, which is only true in some cases for condensers – other factors really do play a part in determining how well a mics response is tailored for kick drum.

As such, there’s a proliferation of sub-$100 kick drum mics, and the old chestnut that ‘you gets what you pays for’ really applies. I’ve rarely found a cheap mic I could recommend to pro users, while a quality microphone will serve its owner for years while retaining its value.

New Kicks in Town

The following modern kick drum mics are favorites, and are designed to get a sound engineer most of the way there before ever touching the EQ. In efforts made great mics for floor toms, they never quite delivered the goods for kick drum.

The Audix D4 is just one example, but I can single it out because the company did such a great job on the D6, which immediately replaced the M 88 as a personal favorite.

The D6 is a second generation cardioid kick drum mic with a tight low end and smooth contoured response.

The beyerdynamic Opus 99 and M99 are really the same mic. hypercardioid and contoured with passive filters, but the M99’s switches allow the engineer to independently turn off the mid-cut and HF boost, making it useful for a wide range of applications beyond kick drum.

The Electro-Voice N/D 868 is a cardioid kick drum mic that sounds somewhat like an RE27, but with pre-contoured EQ built in. The Sennheiser e602 and newer e902 are both contoured cardioid dynamic kick mics, but the e902 has more high-end snap.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Really Different

Studio guys will tell you that a great technique is using a large diaphragm condenser (LDC) several feet away, often constructing a tunnel of sound, deadened to maintain isolation.

For live gigs this has obvious limitations, combined with the fact that they usually get increasingly omni-directional at low frequencies.

Some engineers have had good results using an AKG C414 fairly dose to the kick drum’s sound hole for lighter acts, but most chose to use their 414 inventory for other tasks before dedicating one to kick.

It’s worth noting that single-diaphragm LDCs like the C3000 maintain their directional pattern in the low end, making them better candidates for all kinds of full-bandwidth live applications, besides being less expensive.

The Audio-Technica AE2500 dual-element cardioid mic places a dynamic and a condenser element in the same housing. This invention borrows from the studio ploy of taping a 57 and a 451 together so they’re time-aligned, and capsules are borrowed from A-T products in both categories.

Some find it has more potential on snare and guitar cabinets, but many swear by it on kick drum. And yes, it costs about the same as two good microphones.

Yamaha SKRM Subkick.

A while back, Yamaha introduced the SKRM SubKick, a 10-mch drum shell with a 6.5-inch woofer inside. This kick drum mic’ing idea is borrowed from the old-school studio approach of using the woofer from a Yamaha NS10 near-field studio monitor (usually available because its tweeter was blown) as a microphone for the kick drum.

Different results are obtained depending on whether tile woofer is in the NS10 cabinet to dampen its response, or is in ‘free-air.’ The frequency response of the woofer naturally rolls off the highs, but this technique has always been used to compliment another, more traditional mic’ing technique, providing a fatness and thickening that complements the transient of a condenser.

It’s not for everyone, but many think it’s “da bomb.”

Earthworks Kickpad/SR25 combination is a kick drum solution from the company’s three-mic condenser drum mic kit. Rather than design a mic specifically for kick drum, the company provides an in-line XLR barrel for its SR25 cardioid condenser which pads it down and contours its frequency response.


Earthworks KickPad

The KickPad can be bought separately and can be used with other mics, especially helpful with condensers, and it can also be used with dynamics, but pre-contoured kick drum mics get far less benefit from a double dose.

Many consoles can achieve the same results by putting in a pad and a mid-range cut, as sometimes they’re just not options on the desk (i.e. PreFade = PreEQ).

Now that we’ve established two inputs as standard, the next frontier is obvious. Someone recently joked that it’s about time we added a third input, but I agree wholeheartedly.

We’re best able to evaluate various combinations and new microphone choices by simply allowing for a third experimental kick drum mic in the input list. You may find that you can replace the two mics you’ve been using with a single mic that works better.

Alternatively, you may prefer some two-mic combination to what you’ve used all along.

How else are you going to find out unless you put some play time and space into the daily grind? Most engineers plan an hour between line check and sound check.

Why not invest a little of that time every day to learn more about microphones that make it go bang!

To read the full detailed article see:  The Mighty Kick Drum Microphone Part 2

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October 4, 2012

The Mighty Kick Drum Microphone: Part 1

To read the full article see:  The Mighty Kick Drum Microphone Part 1

Though there are other conventions, it is generally agreed that the kick drum goes into the first channel of the console, and for time immemorial, inordinate efforts have gone into tediously adjusting it.

Sound check never really starts until after this first input has been tweaked to satisfaction.

The kick drum is the cornerstone of rock. It puts the pop in pop music and is the one input that holds it all together. It’s the heartbeat of rock and roll.

With most input channels, the goal is to accurately recreate the original sound, but with kick drum an ideal is constructed from the available material.

Perhaps it’s in channel one because it defines ‘one.’

First Things First

If you want good sounding drums, the drums must first sound good. Though it sounds like a platitude, sound checks frequently grind to a halt while someone looks for a drum key. Crap drums always provide crap sound (garbage in, garbage out), but the same kit, properly tuned, sounds completely different.

You don’t have to be a drummer to know how to tune drums, though it helps. However, plenty of drum techs are living proof that anyone can learn.

When foldback speakers began battling it out with Marshall stacks and Sunn Coliseums, taking the front head off the kick drum became a necessity to provide a degree of isolation and allow the mic to capture the attack of the beater hitting the head.

The use of a pillow to dampen the head began, no doubt by a sleepy drum tech, and as years went by, the art of the hole in the front head evolved.

There are three ways of setting up a kick drum: with heads on both sides, batter head only, or with a hole in the front head. The latter compromise has become the rule, as it provides access for mic placement, while retaining some benefits of the resonant head, and over time the hole has gotten smaller and moved away from the center.

Countless back-lounge discussions have been logged on this topic. It’s generally agreed that anything larger than 6 inches (a roll of duct tape) releases too much air and performs like no head at all (other than to keep the pillow inside), and a hole in the center also releases too much pressure.

Cutting a hole with a utility knife can have disastrous results and is a job for the skilled or experienced. Heating a coffee can on a stove and pressing it into the head can melt a hole that’s even and smooth.

And in case you were wondering, the 4-o’clock position for an offset hole became traditional because a boom arm reaching across the head causes the weight of the mic to tighten the screw on the mic clip and keep the mic in position.

Batter head tension should be no more than a half-tum past taking the wrinkles out. The front head’s tension affects the batter head, and should be slightly looser for the fullest sound.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Classics

By the 1980s other mics contended for the first channel.

The beyerdynamic M 88, originally introduced as a premium hypercardioid dynamic for a wide variety of applications, was eventually discovered to be an outstanding kick drum mic.

However, repeated exposure deteriorates the compliance of the membrane and imparts a “wooly” sound that some actually prefer for the drum, but is no longer acceptable when combined with proximity effect on vocals.

Informed users therefore clearly mark their M 88s as to their designation for drums or vocals.

Top to bottom, EV RE20, RE27N/D
and the newer RE320, which includes
a switchable curve designed for kick drums.

The Electro-Voice RE20, heralded for bringing out the fullness of radio announcers, was also discovered to bring depth to the kick drum.

This mic was followed up a few years ago with the RE27 N/D which employs a neodymium-alloy magnet, hotter output, extended HF, a presence peak at 4 kHz, and provides two low-cut filters instead of one, plus a high-cut.

The AKG D 112 became the first “application specific” kick-drum mic, partly in response to complaints about expensive D 12E studio mics breaking down under high SPL in the kick drum. Today it remains one the most popular, and the first to marry aesthetics to functional contoured frequency response. It looks cool and sounds great.

The Audio Technica ATM25 followed as a great hypercardioid utility mic, and it has been compared to a highly directional rugged D 12E.

 

 

To read the full article see:  The Mighty Kick Drum Microphone Part 1

October 1, 2012

Blue Microphones Reactor Review

Filed under: Microphones — Tags: , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 9:09 am

The launch of the Spark, which we had the opportunity to review here, generated a lot of excitement. But Blue Microphones shows no intention of stopping there and has introduced a new microphone with a quite… different look?! Reactor enriches the product range of the US brand while staying faithful to the philosophy of offering affordable, but original products. Let’s dig into the details.

How Does it Sound?

Blue Microphones Reactor

 

Blue Microphones ReactorI find the Reactor does a quite good job in all four examples. There’s no doubt it’s a modern mic with high output level and emphasized highs. Regarding the preamp, we kept the same gain setting for both mics in order to show their different output level. In the mono drum-ambiance sample, the Reactor emphasizes the overall brightness of the drum kit. The cymbals clearly cut through, as does the attack of the toms, giving quite a lot of presence and attack to the overall sound. The sound is bright rather than sharp, although that depends on the cymbals… It would have been interesting to try out a couple of Reactor as overheads. However, I fear that the weight of the microphone makes it difficult to put it on a stand and place it in the right position…

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

Blue Microphones ups the ante when it comes to originality with this characterful microphone. The Reactor is bright both in terms of look and sound, and it will serve a wide range of recording applications. The microphone gives good results with many sound sources. However, do note that you have to use it with a sturdy stand if you want to place it in strange positions, in spite of its 90° swiveling head. Nevertheless, with this small rocket, you get Blue’s very good engineering and manufacturing quality for just $500.

Thanks to Red Led for his legendary guitar playing and to Marc Upson (Upson Studio) for letting us use his facilities… and for his patience. Red Led appears courtesy of LeftWing Beard&Glasses Publishing

Advantages: 
  • Look?! (it’s all a matter of taste)
  • Sound
  • Manufacturing quality

Drawbacks:

  • Weight?!
  • No pad… With such a high output level, a pad would be really helpful!

June 6, 2012

Apogee Mic Review

Filed under: Microphones — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 1:44 pm

To read the full article with sound samples see:  Apogee Mic Review

The invasion of smartphones and tablets has had a big impact on many different industries and the home-studio world is no exception. Many software and hardware products for iPhone and Android phones have been developed. Apogee, which has been married with Apple for several years, followed this trend by launching the JAM last year, an interface to connect your electric guitar directly to your iPhone/iPad. Now, the manufacturer comes back with the Mic, a condenser microphone for iOS and Mac.

There is a mic for this

Apogee Mic

With the coming of recording software programs for smartphones and tablets, like Apple’s Garage Band, it became crucial for Apogee to offer a microphone dedicated to these applications. So Apogee developed the Mic, a condenser microphone you can connect to your iMac (no PC support, as usual with Apogee) via a USB port, and to your iPhone/iPad via the Dock connector port. The first nice surprise is that both cables (USB and Dock) are included in the package! The Mic is provided with a small desktop tripod, which is not perfect (it could be a bit taller) but it exists!

As usual with Apogee, the metal construction is good and the look pleasant. The Mic is small and light but it gives the impression of sturdiness. The installation is very swift because the Mic is a real plug ‘n’ play unit: just plug it to your iThing, start Garage band  (or another iApp) and you’re ready to go! A small LED lights up as soon as the mic is ready to be used. The LED is also useful to adjust the input level: green = ok, red = overload. The small knob on the left side of the mic serves to adjust the gain (up to +40dB, according to the manufacturer), but having only two colors is a bit scarce to do it precisely. Moreover, Garage Band’s meters have a pretty long reaction time — not the best match at all! But for demo recordings, it will do.

By the way, please note that the Mic doesn’t support 3GS iPhones nor older models. It’s a pity because Garage Band and many other DAW software products support these iPhones… And I personally own an iPhone 3GS…

Now let’s have a listen…

Conclusion

Apogee’s Mic has a nice look and a good manufacturing quality. It’s self-powered, plug ‘n’ play, small and easily transportable… Almost perfect! We like the fact that it is sold with a small desktop tripod and two USB and Dock cables for direct connection to a Mac or an iPhone/iPad. PC users and older iPhone (3GS and former) owners will have to find an alternative solution. Double-bass players will find the low-frequency response too limited, but singers and guitar players will be very satisfied. The Mic could have more LEDs to allow more precise level setting, and a wind screen is required if you want to get useful vocal recordings. With the Mic, Apogee offers a mobile solution that is a bit expensive but guarantees good audio quality. The ideal tool for singers and guitar players who want to record demos with their iThing.

Advantages: 
  • Good audio quality
  • Nice look and good construction
  • Small and transportable
  • Sold with USB and Dock cables
  • Sold with a small desktop tripod
  • Supports iPhone/iPad/Mac
  • Neither battery nor external PSU required
Drawbacks:
  • A bit expensive
  • Only one LED for level setting
  • A wind screen is required for vocal recordings
  • Lack of lows in the frequency response
  • Supports neither 3G/GS iPhones nor PCs

To read the full article with sound samples see:  Apogee Mic Review

April 11, 2012

Capturing The Energy Of Live Shows

To read the full detailed article see:  Audience Mic Techniques to Enhance Recordings

What makes a live recording sound live? The audience, of course. A live recording is all about the energy of the event, and that energy comes from the crowd, so some real thought has to be given as to how it’s captured.

Just setting up some microphones haphazardly usually produces less-than-desired results.  To avoid that scenario, let’s have a look at some proven mic techniques for live recording.

First, it can be tempting to use approaches that engineers recording classical music deploy, such as spaced pairs, X/Y, ORTF and Blumlien.  What they’re trying to do is capture the ambience of the environment and a “perfect” stereo image, but our primary concern is capturing the audience.  Note that these are two different beasts and have to be handled that way.


Figure 1: Center hall position.

Sure, capturing some of the ambience is essential to a great sounding live recording, but it will come as a byproduct of a well-mic’ed audience, so it’s not important to worry about it until the primary mission is accomplished.

Audience mic’ing is a situation for omnidirectional mics if you have any, but never underestimate the value of a couple of short-scale shotgun mics.


Figure 2: Mono center hall position.

These are especially useful because they help to attenuate the intimate conversations from the crowd that happen around where the mic is placed.

In you don’t have the option of either an omni or short shotgun, make sure that the mics that you do utilize are identical models. Also, don’t forget to engage the low-frequency rolloff switch if the mic has one.

Let’s take a look at some other mic positions…

The Great Outdoors


Figure 8: Mics at multiple positions.

Mic’ing a crowd outdoors poses a different set of circumstances in comparison to the indoor experience. For one thing, placement is usually a lot more difficult, with fewer options for hanging mics.  In addition, the ambience of the venue is lessened, so you usually need to resort to using more mics as a result. And don’t forget the windscreens, because nothing makes a track unusable like wind blasting across the mic capsules.

To read the full detailed article see:  Audience Mic Techniques to Enhance Recordings

April 6, 2012

Setting Up the Lead Vocal Mic for The Red Hot Chili Peppers

To read the full detailed article see:   Setting Up the Lead Vocal Mic  for The Red Hot Chili Peppers

 

The attention to detail that takes place in preparing a rock show can be mind boggling. For example, I listed out the factors we account for in setting up the lead vocal mic for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Check it out:

1) The mic. Anthony has been using Audix OM7 dynamic mics for over 20 years now. The OM7 exhibits high feedback stability and picks up very little room sound compared to other mics. This allows me to capture an “up close and personal” vocal sound, and if I need more air or space, it’s easy to add with a vocal reverb. Also, these mics are very durable, and the spring steel grills don’t dent when dropped.

Conversely, the OM7 pick-up pattern falls off in volume very quickly if you’re not lips to grill on the mic. Also, it tends to be more susceptible to moisture than other microphones. Since Anthony sings close to the mic and we switch to a fresh mic at mid-show and again before encore, those drawbacks are not an issue in this application.

2) The mic stand is integral to the performance so it must be exact. We use the Atlas MS12 – a straight stand, no boom. The “12” stands for 12 pounds, and that is the weight he’s used to swinging around. These stands have a slightly larger diameter tube than the Euro manufactured metric stands and are less likely to bend. The metal clutch is more durable than the plastic clutches, and the larger diameter cast metal base makes it less likely to tip over as well.

3) The cable must be extremely durable. We use Belden 8412 or equivalent with real rubber jacketing (not plastic), braid shield, multiple fiber wraps and preferably a twine filler. It must have minimal stretch, withstand abuse and be resistant to tangling.

Now let’s take an even closer look…

8) Clip rotation tension. The clip needs to hold the mic firmly at an angle and not loosen easily. Cheaper imitation clips do not have the tension washer stacks inside and will come loose when repeatedly rotated.

9) Cable length. The mic cable is 50 feet long and plugged into a stagebox located center stage.

10) Spare mic. An identical spare taped vocal mic is coiled at center stage. The main mic, spare, and a wireless mic all are plugged into a three-way SoundTools switcher located at the monitor position. This allows Anthony to grab any of the three mics and have it instantly switched in line to both monitors and house.

There you have it – now you know how we prep snake channel 24!

To read the full detailed article see:   Setting Up the Lead Vocal Mic  for The Red Hot Chili Peppers

 

October 10, 2011

Blue Microphones Spark Review

Filed under: Microphones — Tags: , , , , , — audiofanzine @ 2:20 pm

The American manufacturer Blue Microphones — famous for its emblematic Bottle — decided several years ago to extend its products range by offering more accessible microphones with the same reliable manufacturing quality. Today, the brand reaffirms its ambition and launches the Spark, a condenser microphone that redefines the down-market mics, both for Blue and its competitors. Will it sparks things off?

Explosive Package

Blue Microphones Spark

It seems that “famous brands” have made it a national (international, I beg your pardon) sport to offer low-budget products to compete directly with more aggressive competitors… even if still surprising. Especially if the manufacturer’s flagship costs almost $6,000. Now, the Bottle can be seen in many recording studios and in front of many famous artists, however, it’s not the first time Blue has tried to offer low-budget recording tools… From USB mics to iPod accessories, its product range grew over the years and reinforced the reputation of the brand that was previously inaccessible…

 

What’s at stake with the Spark is very high, especially due to it’s low price: $199! How can a mic with such a low price find a place in such an aggressive market segment? Is the brand trying to use its fame to attack a market segment that is almost saturated?

 

I must admit that, at first, I didn’t understand a thing. The first nice surprise was the packaging itself. The Blue Spark is sold in a small wood case including accessories we didn’t expect considering its price. In fact, you get a small shock mount and a windscreen conceived by Blue to match the capsule size. In spite of its modesty, the brand didn’t relinquish its habits nor professionalism — on the contrary, it has kept its identity.

 

Blue Microphones Spark

Inside the case you’ll also find a brief user’s manual with original layout and pictures. In fact, the technical documentation provided reminds a matchbox, which only reinforces Spark’s universe and design. Very well done. The manual is comprehensive enough and easily readable. Beginners and experienced users alike will find something interesting inside. For instance, you’ll find small schematics explaining how to use the Spark optimally, i.e. in which recording situations, with which instruments, how to place it in front of the sound source, etc. You will also find all standard technical data, in case you’re looking for precise information instead of nice images. Certainly, the manual is only a small part of the product, but it reflects the quality of the whole… And, considering the price, the manual is surprising and very well conceived.

Now let’s take a closer look…

Conclusion

It’s always a surprise to see a high-class brand attack a low-budget market segment, but we can affirm that Blue didn’t rest on its laurels to conceive the Spark. This all-around microphone feels at home in the studio and can capture almost any sound source without a sweat. It certainly can’t compete with its famous big brothers but it offers a rarely reached performance and high-quality manufacturing at a very affordable price. An excellent new product and certainly a new standard for all home-studio owners.

Advantages:

  • The sound
  • Comprehensive package considering the price!
  • User’s manual
  • Manufacturing quality and overall design
  • Incredible value for money

Disadvantages:

  • Shock mount is not “optimal”
  • No pad… but considering the price…!

To read the full detailed review see:  Blue Microphones Spark Review

 

 

 

 

February 11, 2011

Capturing Guitar Amps in the Wild: Multi-Channel Micing for Live Sound

There are almost as many ways to capture guitar amplifier sound with a microphone as there are for a piano. And as with piano (and kick and snare drum, for that matter) single-mic approaches can’t always provide the best solution for guitar amps – we must also explore multiple-mic approaches.

A Vox AC30 with a Shure KSM32

(above) and an Orange 4 x 12

with an Audio- Technica AT4050.

 


About four decades ago, at the “dawn” of modern live sound reinforcement, there was the Shure SM58 for vocals and the SM57 for instruments.  This eventually included mic’ing guitar amps, because as the PA got bigger than the backline, there was a danger that the guitars wouldn’t be heard over the vocals (causing the sound guy’s credibility to be doubted by the guitar player’s girlfriend behind his back).  In the golden days of rock, tuning the PA consisted of saying “check, one-two” into an SM58 and manipulating the faders on a Klark Teknik DN30 graphic EQ until the voice sounded as natural as possible.  Because the SM57 and SM58 have nearly identical response, this led to natural sounding instruments as well.

 

Over the years, sound systems have become increasingly full-range and high-fidelity, with modern systems exhibiting smoother, more even response.  At the same time, today’s large-diaphragm condensers have become more rugged and sturdy than their tube-based ancestors, and have made their way out of the studio and onto the stage.  “Big Mick” Hughes, Metallica’s engineer for a quarter century, is credited with putting Audio-Technica AT4050 studio condensers on stage and introducing their use in stereo pairs on guitar rigs.

One popular approach is to deploy a pair of matched studio-quality large diaphragm condensers, each on a separate cabinet of a stereo guitar rig, that also act as a pair of stereo “ears” for in-ear monitors (IEM). They also provide redundancy to the PA, and can be panned or doubled as needed.

Desired Response

Dual Shure SM57s – one for each

speaker cone – on this 65amps

Monterey 2×12 combo.

Most guitar amps don’t achieve their proper “sound” until the onset of clipping, producing that warm, yummy crunch, but yielding high-decibel sound pressure.  Strategies include using a “power soak” to draw some of the power off, going with lower-powered guitar amps, or remotely locating the amp or just its cabinet and isolating it from the performance stage.

 

Dynamic mics produce a contoured response, with warmth in the lows due to proximity effect, and often, a highmid presence.  Besides the Shure SM57, perennial dynamic mic choices for guitar cabinets include the Electro-Voice RE20, Sennheiser MD421 and MD409 (replaced by the 421 II and e609), AKG D 112, joined by a relatively new contender, the Audix i5.

Condenser mics offer extended highs and lows while providing a flatter frequency response.  The Neumann U87 is the gold standard for large diaphragm condenser mics, rarely seen outside of studios. It’s heritage also includes the TL103.  The AKG C 414, in all its variations, has been crossing over to the stage for many years, popular in particular for drum overhead and grand pianos.  Audio-Technica’s AT4050 is the largeformat condenser that first broke into live sound specifically for guitar cabinets, followed closely by the Shure KSM32.

Ribbon mics, with a bi-directional figure-of-eight pattern, have a transparent sound that allows the amplifier’s character to be clearly heard with a natural roll-off in the highs.  They re-entered recording studios several years ago when manufacturers began making them more rugged to withstand normal handling.  The Royer R-121 was the first modern ribbon to find widespread acceptance, and two years ago the company released a ruggedized “live” version with a thicker ribbon.  Recently, the new Shure KSM313 ribbon has earned its place on national tours, as has the new A-T AT4081 ribbon mic.

Now let’s take a closer look at other solutions…

The Direct Route

A Radial JDX DI can capture the

warmthof tube guitar amps while

addingresponse that emulates a

guitar speaker.

In the world of live hard rock or heavy metal, it’s common to find amplifier DIs which take their signal from after the guitar amp and in parallel with a speaker cabinet.  The original is the Hughes & Kettner Redbox, and Radial Engineering makes a modern JDX “amplifier DI” that’s active and employs Class A discrete electronics. These devices capture the warmth of tube guitar amps, while adding response that emulates a guitar speaker.

 

Redbox DIs eliminate inconsistencies from mic selection and placement, accidental misplacement of the mic and speed up changeovers on multi-band concerts by requiring only a re-patch of an XLR – no mic to move.  They employ electronics to emulate the response of a guitar cabinet’s speaker cone, rolling off the highs like a real speaker.  They’re specially equipped to take the higher voltage of a guitar amp’s output, but the big warning is they don’t act as a speaker load and must be used with a cabinet, or the amp will fry them.  When used in combination with a single microphone, the results can provide a wide range of creative options, and their relative distances are only determined by the one mic’s position.

 

This is a personal favorite for in-ear monitor mixes learned from Meredith Brooks, with the DI

The desired mic position can be clearly

marked on the cabinet’s grill using

gaffe tape. (That’s a Royer R-121L

ribbon mic, by the way.)

panned away from the rest of the band and the mic towards the band, but it’s a stereo effect and works best with a stereo IEM mix with both ears in.

The distance from the speaker cabinet is considered important in most studio recording applications, but in live sound, the inverse square law dictates that placing the mic right against the grill cloth reduces bleed from adjacent sound sources.  That said, when guitar amps are placed next to each other, use of gobos can increase their isolation from each other.

 

With modern in-ear monitoring, guitar players no longer need their cabinets on-stage with them, so it’s common for the guitar tech to set them up off stage (hopefully on the opposite side of the stage from the monitor console).  This gives the guitar tech full access to the amps during the show, and keeps them from muddying up the sound in the venue.

Today’s live sound systems provide opportunities to easily make multi-track recordings that allow engineers to compare various approaches to many sound reinforcement applications by swapping different combinations of inputs and auditioning them in the PA, without having to annoy the band to play the song over and over.  It also allows the engineer to demonstrate mic choices to a guitar player while he’s standing at the console and listening instead of playing.  Do this, and it leads to better communication and collaboration, and you may even become friends for life.

To read the full detailed article see:   Capturing Guitar Amps in the Wild

October 28, 2009

Microphones: How to choose

Microphone Types

Figure 2

Long the role of the professional sound engineer, choosing the appropriate microphone has now become, with the proliferation of the home studio, the task of the amateur and even the beginner. This choice should depend upon what you’re going to be using the mic for, but also on personal preferences. In this article we’ll be dealing with the two main categories of microphones: dynamic microphones and condenser microphones.
.

Signal 1.Sound Waves, 2.Diaphragm, 3.Coils, 4.Magnet, 5.Audio Signal

Dynamic Microphones

These mics generally have a more robust design due to the fact that they are more often used in live settings. They are also usually less expensive and resistant to moisture.

Dynamic microphones use a diaphragm which is attached to a coil of wire placed within the magnetic field of a permanent magnet. When there’s a variation in pressure on the diaphragm it will cause the coil to generate a varying electric current which then needs amplification. Because it’s necessary to attach the coil directly to the diaphragm, dynamic mics tend to have thicker diaphragms than condenser mics. Because of this, recordings are less precise as they’re less sensitive to high frequencies than condenser mics. Popular models include Shure SM57 and SM58.

Dynamic mics generally don’t need any electrical power to operate (as opposed to condenser mics). They are ideal for all-round high sound pressure levels (SPL).

Signal reverse1.Sound Waves, 2.Diaphragm, 3.Metal Plate, 4.Battery, 5.Audio Signal

Condenser or Capacitor Microphones

Also known as capacitor or electrostatic microphones, this type of mic picks up sound through a thin, flexible diaphragm that’s placed next to a metal plate ( as opposed to the rigid diaphragm/coil system used by dynamic mics).

Condenser mics can range from inexpensive Karaoke mics to ultra high level recording mics. Generally, they produce high-quality audio signals and are sensitive to distant sounds and high frequencies. Because of these reasons they are often used in studio recording situations.

Because condenser mics are more sophisticated and are more difficult to manufacture, high quality condenser mics are rather expensive. Condenser mics are ideal for recording voice, acoustic guitars, pianos, orchestral instruments, percussion, and sound effects. Some of the most famous models are the Neumann U47 or the AKG 414.

Phantom Power

Condenser mics require a power source, provided either from microphone inputs as phantom power or from a small battery. The most common type of phantom power is +48v DC. This phantom power is used to charge the diaphragm and plate. It also supplies a small amplifier which boosts the small current* generated by diaphram movements. Phantom power supplies are often built into mixing desks, microphone preamplifiers and similar equipment.

Ribbon Microphones

Ribbon mics are a type of dynamic microphone. They use a very thin metal ribbon that’s suspended between the poles of a powerful magnet. Sound waves cause this ribbon to move and create an induced current. Voltage output of older ribbon mics is much lower than dynamic mics so a transformer is used to increase voltage output and to increase output impedance. Modern ribbon mics avoid this problem by using improved magnets and more efficient transformers. Ribbon mics are usually bi-directional (see next page on pick-up patterns). Classic models include the RCA 44 and 77 as well as Royer mics.

Now let’s take an even closer look…


Other Considerations

Fig.1: A Typical Frequency Response Chart Signall

Frequency response

This is a measure of the microphone’s sensitivity to different frequencies. It’s a characteristic of all mics that some frequencies are exaggerated and others attenuated. So the frequency response shows how a particular mic responds to particular frequencies.

A chart usually shows a mics’s frequency response. The x axis shows frequency in Hertz, the y axis shows response in decibels. A higher value means exaggeration and a lower value means attenuation. A completely flat chart (frequency response) would show that the mic is equally sensitive to all frequencies. But in reality a totally flat response is impossible and even the best mics have some degree of deviation. Also it should be noted that sometimes a mic is especially chosen for the specific frequency response that it has. For example, a mic with a frequency response adapted to the human voice would be a good choice for recording in an environment with low frequency background noise.

Self Noise

This measurement represents the lowest point of a mic’s dynamic range. This is important if you want to record very soft sounds. Basically, the lower the number is, the better.

Maximum SPL (Sound Pressure Level)

This is the maximum level a mic can accept. Here, the higher the number, the better. But one should note that mics with very high SPLs have higher self noise.

Sensitivity

Indicates how well the mic converts sound pressure into output voltage. The higher the number, the higher the sensitivity. A highly sensitive mics produces more output and will therefore need less amplification after. It should be noted, however, that a higher sensitivity rating does not necessarily make one mic better than another.

To read the full detailed article see:  Microphones: How to Choose

August 25, 2009

Se Electronics – Se 2200T Tube Microphone

Se Electronics presents the new sE2200T, the tube version of the sE2200a microphone.

To see more exclusive video demos visit Audiofanzine Videos.

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