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Old 23rd April 2010, 09:31 PM   #1
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Default How does one select microphones

Okay, I know how to select speakers and amps. I audition them with a piano CD (Serkin, Beethoven sonatas, Colombia) and match the sound to my Sohmer piano. Then I play some ZZ Top since Beethoven had all the bass notes pianissimo on those sonatas. I have now picked up a used band system with the best sounding speakers I've ever owned, Peavey SP2's. I have this mixer, a snake, amp, speakers, and no mikes. Mikes are all over craigslist. I've only heard one in my life I liked,it was the kind you can't buy anymore- an RCA ribbon. If I bring the mike home to test with my Steinway, I've bought it already. I have a lot of favorite recordings that were recorded with some superior mike, but what is a big secret. People have a lot of opinions- I've listened to other peoples idea of a good speaker and laugh in my car all the way home- or in the case of our church, weep in frustration. If I play any solos in church, I'm porting my sound system to the stage, none of that music committee garbage. So how do I select something decent? I can't port the Steinway to their living room. I talked to the guy at the music store, he had a lot of suggestions for bargains from that center of all consumer electronics innovation, the far east. As I am unemployed in the US and their economy is growing at 11.9% due to poor standards, poor working conditions, and a manipulated untradable currency, I am disinclined to follow his suggestions. I realize voice mikes are different than piano mikes are different from stringed instrument mikes are different from symphony mikes. I'll be doing a little voice and maybe some live piano or synth. For the synth, I don't need a mike. For speakers, good piano= very nearly good everything. So how do I test? Who has done reliable tests? Can one look up anywhere what mikes were used to make what recordings? Why are all the used mikes singles? Did the matching one die? Specific questions: What did CR Fine use on those Mercury symphonic classics? What did Colombia use on Serkin? What did RCA use on Peter Nero "When I Fall in Love" which is also great for auditioning tweeters? What did the Carpenters use for voice?
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Old 23rd April 2010, 10:43 PM   #2
SY is offline SY  United States
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If you can find a copy of the first Stereophile Test Disc, there's is a terrific mike demo on it. Puts the questions of electronics and wires into perspective...

(wish I had some B&Ks...)
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Old 23rd April 2010, 10:48 PM   #3
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Mercury used Telefunkens. Similar to Neumann tubes. Look at Microtech Gefell.
They make a nice ORTF pair i use with very good results.
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Old 23rd April 2010, 11:09 PM   #4
imix500 is offline imix500  United States
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Now you're into my territory on this (mostly) home audio forum.

You can call up a recording studio and get a list of mics they keep in their vault. Most studios are very proud of their collection and are happy to flaunt them.

Have a look at Heil microphones. Very good performance for the price. Many will say get a bunch of Shure 58's and 57's, and they are fine- but there are better.

For vocals it can be a very tricky decision. Different people have different voices and some mics do not sound right on some people. It's wise to have several you can switch to to get the best sound. Literally, there are dozens of good vocal mics.

For strings and piano you can use the same mics or use different mics since the piano is a stringed instrument. For instance right now I'm using a Schopes on violin and harp, and they are probably some of the best I've heard on these. But do consider those mics are what the NY Met Opera and NY Philharmonic uses in their pit and carry a price tag to match.

If you have the budget you really can't go wrong with DPA. Look in just about any Broadway pit and you will see many being used all over the place. Also most shows are using DPA 4061 lavs as headworn mics on the cast.

I like the Neumann KM184 or AT4050 on piano in a tape bridge hi/lo config but the piano is one of those instruments that no two people mic the same way.

Otherwise some good general use condensors like the AKG 300 and 460 with your prefered flavor of capsules or the venerable AKG C414 are a good choice. Also AT4033, 4050, and 4060 are quite good for the money.
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Old 23rd April 2010, 11:53 PM   #5
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Default thanks to all

Thanks to all for responding. When I talk about "strings" being easy to record, I'm thinking of the typical guitar-banjo-mandolin-string bass bluegrass group that is extensively recorded around Louisville by KET-TV, also the electric guitar hammond organ pop bands. None of those instruments have difficult to reproduce high frequencies, except for oddities like the Rickenbacher 12 string that the Byrds guy played. There is a lot of experience around me recording those instruments, but not much on the instruments I play. Except for the mediocher Shure SM58 and the AD, none of those mikes show up around here at the resale shop, or on craigslist. But both of those are refuges for the stuff people didn't want. Thanks for the tips, I may break down and order something new by mail from the coast. I've heard Neuman mentioned by a salesman as something I couldn't afford, but it would be a once in a lifetime purchase, hopefully. Neumans are copies of what CR Fine used, very interesting!
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Old 24th April 2010, 12:02 AM   #6
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Try get a hold of "MICROPHONES technique&technology" by Norbert Pawera, dated 1981. Still relevant today
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Old 24th April 2010, 12:03 AM   #7
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I think it was the other way around. Neumann developed it and Telefunken build a variety.
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Old 24th April 2010, 12:05 AM   #8
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There is an LP from the German Label Tacet. It´s called "Das Microphon" and the recording engineer recorded the same music with different famous microphones for comparison.
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Old 24th April 2010, 12:33 AM   #9
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I'm confused. Is this for recording or playing live? That will make a difference, for sure.
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Old 24th April 2010, 01:29 AM   #10
imix500 is offline imix500  United States
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The Marketplace section of ProSoundWeb can be a treasure trove of used mics.
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