I originally thought of doing this when I found out my drummer had bought the new BLUE handheld encore 100.  I”m always interested in new snare mic possibilities as I’ve gotten bored with doing the same old 57 thing time and time again.  I’ve tried the Heil PR20 and wasn’t super impressed it despite the hype.  I’d LOVE to get my hands on the Josephson e22s, and see how that compares, but unless Josephson feels like mailing me one for a week (hint hint!), I don’t see that happening anytime soon. As far as I know, no one in town owns one.

Anyway, I’ve done my own little mic shootout.  Nothing special.  I used four mics and I will explain why I chose each one.

THE ROUNDUP —————————

Shure SM57 – if I need to explain why I chose this one, you’re probably reading the wrong blog 😉

Blue enCORE 100 – Obviously, the point of this little experiment.  It’s smiliar to a 57, and I wanted to see how in compared.

Neumann KM84 – I frequently put this on a snare as an alternate or an addition to a 57.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  VERY snare dependent and song dependent.

AKG 414EB – A colleague of mine told me a little while back that many New York engineers would use this.  It’s very unconventional, so I was intrigued.  I don’t think I could ever bring myself to actually put this on a snare for fear of it getting hit.  Especially considering that I have one sitting on my desk right NOW that needs repair from a drum stick hit.  Not cheap to fix.  But then again….it’s all about getting good sound right?  😉

SESSION SETUP —————————

This shootout was done in the main tracking room at SmithLee Productions. All mics were calibrated to within 0.2db using a test tone.  Not in the most scientific way, but it served it’s purpose.  The signal chain was an API 3124+ though Digidesign 192 converters into Pro Tools 7.4 tracked at 24bit 96kHz.  Mic cables were all 20ft Canare.

Now, all of this nice setup comes to a screeching halt when you realize the type of source material I had to work with!  I’m sorry people, but all I have here is a metal Tama Swingstar snare (Remo Ambassador heads).  Not the greatest sounding snare in the world.  So I’m going to make up this bullshit story about how less than optimal source material makes for better testing parameters because it better brings out the subtle nuances of the microphones.  😉

ANYWAY, I’ve attached pictures of the whole setup.

WHAT DO THEY SOUND LIKE? —————————

So without further ado, here are my personal OPINIONS on what I hear.  (For those of you what would care to hear the samples, please leave a comment and I will get you the files.  I haven’t sorted out my hosting issue yet)

SM57- Your standard expected snare sound.  No surprises here.  The low mids are pretty fuzzy compared to the others.  The top end it pretty boring.  Not really doing anything special

BLUE – Upper mids are undefined.  The low mids and bottom are nice and tight…best of the four.  It’s present, but not in a “fake” way if that makes sense.  Sometimes mics can be too hyped via added EQ, this one is not.  It has the best snap out of the four, and was definitely the most “different” sounding.  Not sure if that’s good or bad.  I guess it’s good if I’m looking for something different huh?

KM84 – Way too bright for my taste.  The mids are pretty scooped too.  Surprisingly, with this mic, you can’t hear as much sound emanating from the snares.  Maybe useful to know just in case.  The KM84 tended to sound to paperly on this snare.  Like I said earlier, this mic can be hit or miss depending on the drum itself.  I have a feeling it works better on wood snares, rather than metal ones.

414EB – Definitely the most realistic sounding out the 4.  I was pretty impressed with the sound of this mic on snare.  I had never tried it before and I wish I could again, but like I said, this mic isn’t easy to place on snare and could very easily get wacked by a neophyte drummer.  It has a tight bottom end and crisp highs.  I would totally use this on maybe a jazz kit were I’m going for realism and the drummer isn’t smacking the kit to death.

CONCLUSIONS —————————

Well, this was definitely a worthwhile experiment.  I may have to borrow the BLUE again next time I have a tracking session and see how it does in more of a real world situation. If it weren’t for the phasey upper mids, I think this mic would be a 57 killer on snare.  Dammit!  I need to try this on guitar now.  Time to bring an amp in!

I think I realized why the KM84 is more of a supplement than a replacement due to it’s tonality.  And 414, why can’t you cost less?  I wish I could use you.

I’m not going to go overboard in my reviews of these things because this stuff is so subjective, and sometimes I really dislike reviews.  You never know if the reviewer is playing to his or her advertisers and sometimes they get too detailed for fear of not being thorough enough for the nitpicky readers.  So there’s my opinions.  Hopefully it helped!

VOCALS ———————–

I didn’t want to make a complete assessment by just doing a single drum.  I think that’s unfair, and I wish I would have had the foresight to bring my guitar amp in too…maybe next week..

Unfortunately, like the crappy drum, I’m very sick this week.  I was too anxious to get this done though, so if you want the samples, you’ll have to bare with my nasally mucus vocals.

The same setup was used, except positioning obviously.  One of my BIGGEST pet peeves for shootouts is when the same source isn’t used.  You can’t make a judgment on which sounds better if they are different performances!!!!  How hard is it to see multiple mics up at the same time people?  SO, all of my mics are occupying roughly the same space.  Same signal chain is used as well.

Obviously these aren’t choice mics for recording vocals, but again, I wanted to try these out on another source BESIDES snare.

SM57 – Not my cup of tea for vocals.  First off, ground hum….yuk.  The 3-4kHz range got a little annoying.  This mic sounded more compressed than the others.  I know that’s an odd choice of words, but it’s the only way I can describe it.  The only thing I actually liked about this was the low end rolled off nicely for vocals.

BLUE – Again, a harsh upper mid range.  Not AS bad as the 57, but still noticeable.  It’s smoother than the 57 but it doesn’t cut as much.  Might work out better for female vocals.

KM84 – Definitely the lowest noise floor of the bunch, which the BLUE coming in 2nd.  This mic seemed very unnatural for vocals.  I liked the high end of this mic the best compared to the others (bright by natural) but it ended there.  Everything else was sub par.  Not that it matters too much, because I doubt I’d ever use this on vox.

414 – Holy cow this was a noisy beast.  Very high noise floor.  I was really kind of underwhelmed by this since I’ve used it on vocals so many times, but maybe it just didn’t fit MY voice well.  It sounded the most “plastic” and was very dark.  Oddly enough, despite those things, it sat in the mix the best (untreated)  go figure.

—————————————-

So there it is.  My first shootout.  Hopefully you enjoyed it.  I’ll have more to come soon!

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Comments
  1. Luke Arens says:

    Very interesting… I kind of want to try this myself. And once you figure out the track situation, I’d love to hear!

  2. Kyle Krupinski says:

    Cool mic shootout Justin. I’m going to have to try the 414 on snare at some point, I was using them on Toms for a while which sounds really cool but recently I’ve been using Neaumann TLM 103s on toms which sound very similar in the top but they have a nice chunky midrange thats usually not too muddy although a little EQ on the way in helps quite a bit. They are pretty BIG sounding mics.

    Ever mess around with the Beyer M201? Been a while since I’ve heard one on a snare drum, been wanting to get one for myself. I know Brian Sheffer of Firebrand has one, he also uses the 451 a bunch but those mics have always been underwhelming in my opinion. Also the Audix i5 is kinda a cool mic, I despise their kick mic and tom mics but the i5 is actually pretty cool.

    • glitchfactor says:

      Thanks! The 201 I have not. We have a 101 at SmithLee. THAT thing is wacky. Not a lot of uses besides a room mic or something. The 101 is a small diaphragm OMNI dynamic. Very odd mic.

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