Posts Tagged ‘microphone’

Shortly after completing my review of the AEA N22, I was contacted by Patrick Timmons from a company I had honestly never heard of before….Feather Microphones.

Patrick said he had some mics that he wanted me to try out.  I was happy to oblige, as I love trying out new gear, and telling my audio friends about it. Patrick sent me two different models, the Black Beauty and the Blonde (ash).

From the moment I opened the UPS package, I knew that Patrick takes pride in his products. They came in an ample sized water tight pelican style case.  The mics fit quite snugly in the cushioned insert and further came in a velvet type pouch.
The mics themselves are beautifully designed.  They look like a work of art.

50f852_f25fca2cfe514091afe8e6c21f1560d3.jpg_srz_p_655_807_75_22_0.50_1.20_050f852_d17c3cd65f2e4006ac17f229b0644899.png_srb_p_400_400_75_22_0.50_1.20_0

As the XLR connector is the only thing occupying the bottom of the mic, they require a generic shockmount that will fit multiple sized mics.  Patrick happily sent me an extra to use.

I tried the mics out on a number of different instruments (drum overhead, drum room, upright bass, acoustic guitar, lap steel and ukulele) and shot it out against of few other ribbons and old standbys.  I enjoyed the Black Beauty personally, so I stuck with that one for the remainder of my testing.

(At the very bottom you will find a link to download a few samples)

Overall, I found that the Feather excels with acoustic instruments.  It sounds quite natural.  I honestly wasn’t a fan of it on drums at all. I found it to be quite harsh on the high end, which is odd for a ribbon. The cymbals had a strange bite to them which I found pretty unusable as an overhead or drum room mic, almost like some weird phase incoherence in the upper frequencies. I’d be curious to find out what causes this. I have my assumptions, but I’m not qualified to voice my speculations.

My colleague, Tim Mauldin and I recorded a few acoustic songs for singer/songwriter, Lilly Pappas, and I use the Feather everywhere I could.  We put the Feather up against a “ribbon standard” (the Royer R-121) on acoustic guitar.  The Feather had an upper midrange that just sounded “right”.  I literally didn’t EQ it at all in the final mix.   Same with the lap steel.  I had the Feather sitting in front of a Fender ’57 Deluxe Reissue.  With the exception of notch filtering some hum out of the amp, no EQ was used and no compression was used.

On upright bass, it sounded surprisingly close to my AT4050.  The Feather had a bit more “woodiness” to it. So if you’re looking for a natural sounding mic for bass or maybe cello, this mic is great. I ended up using the Feather in my mix over the AT4050.  Although the AT was more than usable and maybe even had a rounder bottom, the Feather just seemed sit better in the mix.

If you are looking for a nice neutral ribbon mic for acoustic instruments, I would seriously consider getting your hands on a Feather. They will definitely be an eye catcher for your clients as well. The only big turnoff I would say is the price.  I can get an AEA N22 which is also a fantastic ribbon for $300 less.  Granted, they aren’t for the same purpose, in my opinion, but there are a lot of mics you can also buy for $1200.  Although, I could argue that the service is second to none, Patrick is fantastic, and you would be supporting a small startup business. He was extremely responsive with any questions that I had, and went out of his way to make sure I had a good experience with his gear.

Here is a link to download a few samples of the mic.

In the zip file you will find a comparison of the Feather and Royer on acoustic guitar, lap steel, and bass.  For guitar and steel, the mics were place right next to each other.  On the upright bass the AT4050 is about 1 foot above the bridge, and the Feather is right at the bridge (so not a completely direct comparison).  There is also a song that was recorded using almost entirely the Feather microphone (all stringed instruments).  It turned out pretty amazing I think.  Virtually no EQ or compression on this track.  Vocal performance by Lilly Pappas Bjorklund, and all other instruments performed by Tim Mauldin.

Alternately, you can stream the song below.

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My friend Travis Atkinson over at AEA Microphones was kind enough to send me the new N22 Active Ribbon to try out this week. I’m always in search of a new guitar mic to use.  Let’s face it, even though we gravitate towards that SM57, we’re all kind of tired of using it.  I like a Beyer M201, and recently I started using my Beyer M69 which I’ve always blown off….it’s a nice sleeper mic.   What I really love though is a 57 paired with a ribbon.   You get the upper mid range bite out of the 57 plus the warmth and depth of the ribbon.   So I was excited when Travis told me about the N22.

Local St. Louis guitar player, Tim Mauldin, and I were working on project so I decided to mic up the rig with the N22.  He brought in a Matchless which he runs through a Bad Cat combo minus the amp.  He brought up his newer Gretsch and I currently had in my possession a vintage ’58 Anniversary…….*insert homer drooling sound*.

Since it would be a little difficult to get all mics on the same speaker I placed the 57 on the opposite side.  Paired to together on the same cone was a Royer R-121 and the AEA N22.  I wanted to see how the N22 stacked up against the Royer in addition to how i fit with the 57.  Tim played a rhythm part for a song we were working on in addition to laying down some lead parts.  (both are posted below).  All tracks were run through a Vintech 473 and level matched as best as I could and then straight to Pro Tools HD (192 I/O).

I have to say, the N22 in a phenomenal guitar mic.  Not only did it blow the Royer out of the water in my opinion, but it’s great just all by itself!  Most ribbons I’ve used sound best when paired with another mic.  I don’t usually like them alone.  The N22, once you add a little upper mids to it and take out a bit of beef, it sounds stellar…..and that’s what we ended up using for the track.  The Royer was just a bit too woolly and dark to stand on its own.  There is a clarity to the N22 that just works.  It’s a little pricey, but compared to a Royer, definitely comes in under budget if you’re looking to spend that kind of cash.

I said that this was going to be a quick review, so I’ll keep to my promise.  If you’re looking for a new mic to expand your sonic palette on guitars, I would seriously consider this mic.  Take a listen for yourself, and YOU be the judge.  Below I’ve included some audio samples.  The rhythm guitar clip is short, but you should be able to loop it easily in your DAW.  I’ve included the 57, Royer, and AEA with both lead and rhythm sections.

Enjoy!

DOWNLOAD MIC SHOOTOUT SAMPLES

I’m recording another EP for St. Louis metal band, Black Fast.  So I decided to do some testing on my Peavey 5150 to determine which speakers sound the best, what mics to use, and what microphone preamp to use.

You already know I love a good shootout!  😉

Since the test was already done, I decided that I might as well put the results on the ol’ blog.

THE SETUP

I’ve got an original Peavey 5150 (the signature version) and a Peavey 5150 straight cabinet with Sheffields on the bottom and Celestion Vintage 30 on the top.   I mic’d the the upper left hand speaker with a 57, just a little bit off center close to where the dustcap ends.  The guitar was a Hamer Studio USA model with Seymore Duncans.  My playing is…..bad.  The recording was done at SmithLee Productions.

Peavey 5150 metal

Mic’d up Peavey 5150 to reamp for preamp test

I recorded myself playing a riff direct input to Pro Tools HD and reamped the EXACT same performance out the head so the ONLY difference you are hearing here is the preamps.  Everything else remained the same.

The preamps used were:

1. Amek 9098 (2 channel 1U version)
2. API 3124+
3. Classic Audio Products of IL VP26
4. Sytek MPX-4A
5. Vintech 473 (switched to 300 ohms)

I’ve included the files (somewhat volume matched, you may have to adjust a little) with the same guitar performance being fed to 5 different preamps.   Click the link below, take a listen and tell me which one YOU prefer!

DOWNLOAD

 

 

I’m back!    ….finally!

Between nothing really piquing my interest in the audio world and my newborn son being in the hospital for a few weeks, I’ve been neglecting the ol’ audio blog.

BUT , I’ve been REALLY excited to post about our newest purchase over at SmithLee….the AEA R88 stereo ribbon microphone!  *trumpet fanfare*
A few months back,  Travis Atkinson of AEA held a mic demo at SmithLee (arranged by Gary Copeland of South-Fi).  It was attended by a group of our engineer friends around St. Louis.  Travis brought the entire AEA mic family along with some preampes including the new RPQ 500. We had tons of fun micing drums, piano, bass, and vocals with nothing but AEA ribbons, most of which were on AEA preamps.  Theodore Brookins, Grover Stewart Jr., and Jesse James Gannon are the amazing musicians who helped us out.  Those guys are a phenomenal talent.

As soon as we mic’d up the piano with the R88, I knew it had to be mine.  It’s like that scene in Wayne’s World where he drives by the Fender Strat in the music store.

“She will be mine….oh yes….she WILL be mine.”

Now, I’ve mic’d our Steinway M at SmithLee COUNTLESS times.  I’ve tried every combination of microphone and position one could think of, but I’ve NEVER heard our piano sound this great until the R88 came along.  I played the recordings for David Smith (owner of SmithLee) who has owned the piano for well over 30 years.  He said it sounded like a new instrument – and he knows that piano better than anyone.  It finally came to life.  It was clear and present without that harsh 5-7kHz area that can sometimes sound too tingey on a piano.  And the phase….OH THE PHASE!  It was aligned!   (without having to spend half and hour moving mics back and forth).  The best position I’ve found so far is from Stav’s book Mixing With Your Mind.  He suggests an LDC M/S setup right around the curve of the piano.  This technique was  a ear opener for me.  But the R88 blew that setup out of the water.  We didn’t track with any compression or EQ and it sounded like a piano should.  This mic doesn’t quite suffer from the usual need for a little extra top like most ribbons do.

Now, I must preface all of this by saying we did run the R88 through the AEA RPQ500 preamp which has a MUCH higher impedance and gain than most other pres.  According to Wes Dooley, these mics really like having that big impedance and gain boost to clear up and get above the noise.  Days after that session was over, I mic’d the piano again with the R88 running through our Amek 9098 preamp.   It was still amazing, but I could tell right away that the R88 paired with the RPQ500 is a match made in heaven.  If you’re going to spend $1,800 on this mic, I would highly suggest putting out a little more and buying the preamp to go with it.  Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.  I’m not going to go through all of the features of the preamp here, and why you should buy it because, let’s face it, you DO have the internet.  But to be helpful, here’s the link.

http://www.ribbonmics.com/aea/RPQ500.html

Next, we switched the R88 over to drum overhead duty.  Holy. Cow.  Again, phenomenal tone!  Instantly a round, classic sound.  We had no phase issues from placing mics as a spaced pair, and the cymbals didn’t rip your face off.  The toms had a beefy presence to them while keeping a nice balance in the kit overall.  Granted, having Grover as a drummer made this easy!  Now, I will say that this mic may not work for every application.  I probably wouldn’t chose it if I were recording metal, and maybe not even hard rock.  Like I said, it’s a “classic” sound….round, well balanced, not too hyped, and smooth……veeeery smooth.

At a later date I use the R88 in M/S mode for a room mic about 8 feet out from the kit, level with the toms. I hate to sound like a broken record, but again….knocked out the park.  I’ve never heard our room sound so good before!  The room just sounded bigger and more open.  I could hear the nuances and reflections that I just couldn’t get with many of the condensers that I had been using.   I was having a discussion with Travis about a client of his ONLY wanting to use the R88 as a room mic and nothing more.  I couldn’t understand why on earth someone would possibly take such a great mic and use it for just one thing.  After setting this mic up in the room, I now understand why.  NOTHING in our mic cabinet is a better room mic.  Period.  I wish I had 2 of these!

At this point, I’m going to have to do a supplemental post after I’ve recorded a few different instruments with this mic.   I can’t wait to record some guitar or horns with this thing.  I’ve been out of the studio for a few weeks with my son being in the hospital and haven’t had the chance yet.  But I’m sure I won’t be disappointed.  HUGE props to Wes Dooley on this one.  This mic is nothing short of stellar.  ALL of the AEA stuff is!   We tested out the R44, A840, R84, and R92.  I was completely impressed with the lot, and so were the other engineers that attended the session.  In fact, after the mic demo, 4 mics and 3 preamps were sold that week by engineers who attended.  I think that’s a huge testament to the sound quality of Wes’s products.  I’m sure everyone there would have bought one if money weren’t an issue.

I will post audio samples as soon as I get out of the hospital where I’m currently writing this.  In the mean time, have some pictures!

UPDATE

I finally got around to grabbing some samples of this and posting them.  So, here you go!  Download and take a listen to the R88.
R88 Samples

They are all 320k mp3 to keep the file size down.  I know…lame.  All of the files have NO EQ/Comp or ANY processing.
What we’ve got is the following:

1. Band – Full Band With R88 on Piano.mp3 – Recording from the AEA mic demo I talked about above.  Full band is playing with the R88 featured on the piano.

2. Band – R88 on Piano Solo.mp3 – Same recording as #1 but with the Piano Solo’d.

3. My Horrible Drumming – R88 MS Room Mic.mp3 – Let’s get one thing straight….I’m not a drummer.  This is me playing drums to see how the R88 sounded as a room mic.  So this is the R88 in M/S mode in the middle of the room.

4. R88 on OH.mp3 – Again, from the AEA mic demo, but this time the R88 is used as an Overhead on the kit.

5. R88 on Piano Classical.mp3 – Totally separate recording.  R88 on the piano.  I know, the piano needs to be tuned!

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!