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OT, One respected mic vs many good mics?

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  • OT, One respected mic vs many good mics?

    I have been doing voice overs for about a year now and have bought a bunch of mid priced large condenser mics. I have been using a CAD E100S which is considered by VO guys as decent. I also have a sterling ST51, AKG Perception 420, Shure SM27 and a Sennheiser MK4. These mics all have their strengths and I get compliments on my sound on a regular basis with the CAD and Sennheiser. Enter the Neumann tl103. This mic has a great reputation and seems to considered a bench mark for pro home studio VO. AMS has a twelve payment plan on these and I jump on it with hopes it will take my sound to the next level. In my studio it sounds no better and in some cases not as strong as my other mics. My question to you is, would you sell off all of the other mics that sound as good to pay for one mic that will be considered more professional to potential clients? My other option is to thin the heard, buy some other gear and let my sound quality do the talking in hopes that not all potential clients are gear snobs. Pro tools vs Garage band. Avalon vs Berhinger. Any opinions would be helpful. Thanks.
    If I listed all of my gear here my wife may see it and start asking questions.

  • #2
    By your post, it seems you are considering the practical aspects which is good. In my world, results trump all other considerations.
    For a vocalist, having a great name brand mis is just like a guitarist having at least one high end guitar. It may not sound as good
    as other less expensive guitars, and he may only strap it on to show off with. Mics in a studio create much of this same "High Class"
    perception. As the old Blues guy said in that movie Crossroads "You aint no man if you aint got no Chevy"

    The Pluses of owning a Newman is it will retain its value and resale will remain high. Many other mics who may equal or even exceed the quality
    sell for dirt used. This is because the market for high end gear is very small so reselling a mic is difficult even with Newman's is difficult.

    For the practical side, it seems you've tried them before. if you hadn't, my suggestion would be to rent one before you bought one so you
    knew what you were getting. Next would be does it make your voice sound better than other mics? Voices are very unique things.
    In my case It took me a long, long time to find a mic that worked well with my voice. I own dozens and for most I always feel like I'm
    fighting the mic response adapting my voice to what the mic can produce to get good results. the mic governs my voice and singing

    Since I'm not a great singer and abused my abilities singing through bad gear for so long, a mic that forces me to use good vocal
    techniques does improve my singing, but it doesn't necessarily produce the best results. Large diaphragm condenser mics for example
    give good fidelity, but for me it strips away 40 years of experience that comes from using a dynamic mics proximity effect to get my voice to sound right.
    Instead of moving an the mic an inch or two to change the mics bass and presence, a condenser has practically no change in response moving ten times
    that distance.

    I was lucky enough to find the EV PL84 hand held condenser mics had the fidelity of a condenser and the proximity response of a hand held dynamic
    which made them ideal for my voice. I can use it hand held and get the results I need and since its basket head has great pop rejection I can use it up close
    like I would a stage mic and not have breath noise issues tracking.

    This was my solution which was unique to my voice and vocal techniques. Everyone has a unique match and luckily the choices have never been more extensive.
    The big problem is finding the best solution. Sellers don't want people spitting into their mics testing them out. Its unhealthy first off, and expensive if they get damaged.
    At least a guitarist can pull a guitar off a rack and see if he likes it. Stores don't have mics ready to test like that so much of the buying is based on blind faith and reputation.
    Otherwise you may need deep pockets and try allot of trail an error buying mics. Most pros find their go to mics from having worked in studios where engineers make
    those calls based on the results they get. They decides what's best based on their experience and what they have to work with in their mic locker.

    Lastly, a mic is only one element in a chain. The chain starts 1st with the voice, 2nd the room, 3rd the mic, 4th the preamp, 5th the quality of the A/D converters, 6th the Mix,
    7th D/A converters, 8th the monitors, 9th the room acoustics for the monitors, 10th the engineers ears.

    What overrides everything in that chain is the human mind. That mind needs experience, and good judgment, and inspiration based in the art of recording to put all of those
    elements together to create a great product. If he's good at it "and" lucky enough to find others to employ him he can have a happy life doing what he likes. There are no guarantees though.

    So after my long winded advice here, My opinion is this. If a high dollar mic will inspire you to walk up to that mic and sing your ass off like you never have before,
    then it "may" be worth the investment. Having the mic is a status symbol in the eyes of the client and they will feel their money is being well spent on the best quality.
    Its always easier to convince a customer to pay more when they think you are using the ultimate quality hardware.
    If need be you can always A/B the results against another mic that truly does give your voice better results.

    The reality however is, a great vocal performance cant be bought at any price and being focused on the gear you use recording can be a distraction if not a ball and chain
    to getting the best results. I learned this long ago when I built my first guitar. It was a piece of junk that sounded bad and looked awful. I'd strap it on as a joke for the
    audience performing live and I'd ham up my performance playing in the process. I'd often get a bigger applause because I could pull off a great performance with such
    a piece of junk, because the audience recognized the talent in back of the gear instead of the gear itself as being the source of talent.

    That's the key to it all.
    If you can perform beyond a pieces of hardware's ability to capture that quality, you'll know that piece of gear is performing at 100% efficiency.
    If you don't have the ability to go beyond the gears performance quality, then you may be wasting your money on buying something you cant fully utilize.

    I as most do prefer to have some quality headroom. It gives you room to improve and a target to shoot for. Its all a pyramid though. The better you get
    maximizing hardware efficiency the less hardware there is made that can give you any additional headroom. You eventually have to realize this and focus
    on the art itself for the answers you seek. Art has no limitations like manmade hardware does so you will always be free to grow if you stop using hardware
    as a crutch and an excuse for why your art isn't the best it can be.



    • #3
      as far as the Tlm103, I think it'll just be a sideways move at best compared to your selection. It's not a benchmark for VO. In fact some find it too aggressive, harsh and cheap sounding. Mics mate up with voices a certain way and to an extent, price point, nor brand can give you an indication how they'll work.

      the CAD is a quality, very quiet mic. It also has a significan lift in the HF. So, if you have sibilance problems it will; not mate well.

      What is your preamp? what compression are you using? the whole chain together makes for the finished sound. A good basic non-hyped mic into a nice trans preamp followed by a sweet comp will get you there. Look at something like a Warm Audio WA12 preamp and an FMR audio Pbc-6a compressor. There is no reason that a $1500 chain; mic, preamp and comp can't get you world class results.

      I mix, fix, and record VO every week for my job in TV. In my opinion, the standards, like an RE20, or SM7 are hard to beat. The Heil PR40 is great. I'd take a Neumann tlm 102 over the 103. The bottom line for me is results..sending off a file that says "I used a Neumann" adds no bonus points with regards to audio

      how are the acoustics in your VO space? I hear problems there quite often, proximity to walls...
      Last edited by witesol; 04-01-2014, 12:28 PM.


      • #4
        My go too set up is the Sennheiser or Cad into a DBX 286S Channel strip into a Lexicon Alpha. I get compliments on my sound all of the time. My real question in its simplest form is, Would you buy a piece of equipment that says " I have filled my studio with professional gear" to reassure potential clients you have professional gear? I would likely use the Neumann as it sounds very similar to the Sennheiser but it is not a necessity. It would be a trophy. I started out with an SM7B. It was a great piece of gear. I sold it to buy other things and now regret it. I would need to sell the Cad and Sennheiser as well as some other things to pay off the Neumann. I may have just answered my own question.
        If I listed all of my gear here my wife may see it and start asking questions.


        • #5
          I wouldn't get caught up in that game. Results are what matter. If you want to up your quality, it would need to be mic, Preamp then A/D. You've got a $200 channel strip preamp and a sub $100 interface. Your voice quality and talents are probably what is selling your VOs at this point, not gear sizzle.. It wouldn't take much to improve that chain.


          • #6
            I'd say your weakest link is the Lexicon Alpha. Its a $59 interface with budget parts.
            Even though you are using the DBX as a preamp, you're still connecting through the Lexicons line level preamp
            before A/D conversion.

            If you're going to invest in gear I'd focus on that bottleneck first.
            Even a Focusrite should do better with its balanced impedance preamps.

            Focusrite line level specs

            Dynamic Range (A-weighted): 105 dB
            •SNR (A-weighted): 105 dB
            •Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20kHz +/- 0.1dB
            •THD+N (A-Weighted): < 0.001% (measured with 0dBFS input and 22Hz/22kHz bandpass filter)
            •Noise: -90dBu (22Hz/22kHz bandpass filter)
            •Maximum level (A-weighted): 16.3dBu at 1%

            Lexicon Line Level specs.
            Line Inputs: (2) 1/4" TRS balanced or unbalanced
            Input Impedance: 20 kOhm balanced, 10 kOhm unbalanced
            Maximum Input Level: +13 dBu
            Frequency Response: +0, −0.5 dB 20 Hz - 20 kHz, ref. 1kHz
            THD+N: <.009% A/D, 20 Hz - 20 kHz

            If you compare the THD+N noise levels you can see the Focusrite has
            less noise and its maximum input level without distortion is better.
            This is important when feeding it with an external preamp that has its own noise generation
            and frequency losses.

            If you look at the DBX you see.

            ~LINE OUTPUT (4” TRS phone) Balanced/Unbalanced
            Impedance 100Ω unbalanced, 200Ω balanced
            Maximum Level >+21dBu, >+20dBm (600Ω load)
            Gain Adjustment Range -30dB ... +10dB
            Noise <-85dBu unweighted (20Hz-20kHz); Both Gain Controls set for 0dB, all
            processing controls OFF
            Frequency Response 20Hz ... 20kHz, +0.5, -0.5dB
            Distortion <0.08%THD, 20Hz-20kHz, +10dBu, all Processing Controls OFF

            With the processing controls used the DBX you add at least .05% THD for .13% THD which means its a very noise box, typical of inexpensive preamps.
            The Focusrite has a THD of .001% which is what 50 times less? Its not just the noise of course. Its how well the converters sample the analog signal.
            If the signal has noise its going to foul up the samples being made. Crystal clear preamps mean you will have a better digital rendition of that signal being
            saved and the reconstruction back to analog will sound sharper with less degeneration as well.