Posts Tagged ‘Audio-Technica’

The Fetish Stiletto

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

I recently posted something on Twitter that seemed to strike a chord, judging from how many retweets it seemed to generate. I said, “Sorry for the generalization but, microphones are to audio engineers what shoes are to women.” It’s an analogy that seems to work on several levels. Well, you can say I have a mic fetish but, I say, “What good engineer doesn’t?” I think I should start my own brand of esoteric, boutique mics called Fetish and the flagship model can be The Stiletto. (Shhh — don’t tell anyone. It’ll be our exclusive little mic.)

There are some mics you don’t necessarily reach for all the time and there are the work horses. You’ve got your Manolos of the mic world like the Neumann U 47 and then you have your 9 Wests like the SM57, MD421 and fat Heads.

So, in my search for the “black pump” of tube condensers, I happen to call Dae Bennett (Tony Bennett’s son), owner of bennett Studios (http://www.bennettstudios.com/news.html) in Englewood, New Jersey. I had heard some good things about the Audio-technica AT 4047 and, specifically, that it was used on all of the vocals on Tony’s “Duets” album. Now, I know it’s not a tube mic, but I was considering buying it but simply had to confirm that this mic was used on all of the vocals on that album. I had my doubts because I know that some of the vocalists on that recording like Sting and Stevie Wonder happen to use the Sony C800G a lot of the time. Dae confirmed that the AT 4047 was, in fact, used on all of the vocals except one. Turns out, what I heard was true — Bono always seems to use a Shure SM58 Beta in the studio.

Anyway, during our conversation, Dae mentioned the Apex 460 (http://www.apexelectronics.com/products.asp?cat=21&type=1&id=74). I hadn’t heard much about the mic so, when I learned that someone had modified a pair for him, I was intrigued and began researching the mic. I was amazed at the differences of opinion this mic caused.

I wish I had known about RecordingHacks.com (http://www.recordinghacks.com) at that point. It probably would have saved me a lot of surfing time. Matthew McGlynn does an amazing job with his Microphone Database (http://recordinghacks.com/microphones). It has tremendously useful links to the manufacturers’ web sites, spec sheets, owner’s manuals, etc.

At a certain point, I found Dan Richard’s side-by-side comparison (http://www.studioreviews.com/m16-460.htm) of the R-F-T Telefunken M16 and the Apex 460 on StudioReviews.com (http://www.studioreviews.com). Turns out that, apart from three resistors, the mics are identical. Of course, the $1,400 price tag for the M16 seemed a little steep as compared with the $229 cost of the 460. Telefunken re-released the mic as the M16 Mark II with the same price tag but allegedly upgraded components.

So, further research revealed that the Apex 460 was just a rebranded Alctron HST-11A (http://www.alctron-audio.com/encpShow.asp?id=70) which is a Chinese-made multi-pattern tube condenser that seemed to appear under many names including Nady and Carvin, among others. There seemed to be a number of modifications that some folks were doing like transformer swaps, changing the capsules, capacitors and tubes. There were some guys like Dave Thomas, whose company, Advanced Audio (http://www.aamicrophones.com), offered highly modified versions of the HST-11A and branded them with their own names like the CM12 (http://www.aamicrophones.com/tube_mics/cm_12.htm). In some cases, third party “mic moders” were using the Peluso CEK-12(http://www.pelusomicrophonelab.com/capsnmnts.html) as an upgrade from the stock capsule. Further, I discovered that Peluso themselves offered a similar mic known as the P12 (http://www.pelusomicrophonelab.com/P12.html).

All of these mics were essentially based on the legendary AKG C 12. Not being in a position to justify the cost of a vintage C 12, I found the Apex 460 at Full Compass Systems (http://www.fullcompass.com/product/314911.html) for only $181 at the time and ordered several. I compared the stock 460 to a pair of 460s I had modified by one of Dae Bennett’s friends. The moded mics were ever so slightly darker but, apart from that, all of the mics, even the stock models, sounded quite nice.

I always wanted to compare the moded 460s to an AKG C 12 so I called Chris Dunn at DreamHire (http://www.dreamhire.com) and he personally dropped one off at the studio –  not because I’m such an important client but, rather, most likely because I’m literally down the street from them since they’ve moved to Astoria (woohoo!).

These shootouts almost always reinforce what I’ve come to realize: the great Neumann and AKG mics of yesteryear were absolute marvels and achieved an enormously high standard even 50 years ago — a standard that is still strived for today. At the same time, there are plenty of new mics today that technically out-perform the vintage offerings. Thing is, almost none of those mics sound like they did the day they were made and many of them have been so heavily modified and repaired that, for all intents, they’re practically new mics.

I don’t know if I would ever buy a vintage U 47 or C 12. i mean, it would be great to own a piece of history, yeah, but in almost every shootout, I’m reminded that the vintage models, as nice as they are, aren’t necessarily the winners and are sometimes, quite frankly, the losers. I think I’d rather invest a little less money in a contemporary mic like the Peluso 2247LE (http://www.pelusomicrophonelab.com/22 47 LE.html) and be content owning an extraordinary, modern microphone. People will always covet the historic Neumann, AKG and Telefunken mics and they’ll always be collectors items for some. I’ll always respect and revere them but I think I’ll stick to, umm… the black pumps.

background music for this episode is by Sarina Bridget Bach from her debut album, “All Except One.” Recorded by Slau at BeSharp, June 6, 1999.
Sarina Bridget Bach – piano, Patience Higgins – tenor sax, Jesse Andrus – tenor/soprano sax, Hugh Fraser – trombone, Steve Roane – bass, Richie DeRosa – drums

Additional excerpts from: Joel Weiskopf, Marty Mabin, Libby Richman and Carlo Barile, Vinny pedulla and Slau.

Geo Vocal Mic Shootout (repost)

Friday, April 24th, 2009

I’ve used a few different vocal mics on George Hrab over the years. Most often, I’ve turned to the Audio-Technica AT4033/SE. Now that we’re in the middle of recording his sixth album, I figured I’d do a little vocal mic shootout and thought it might be fun to get some opinions of the listeners. Now, of course, in this mp3 of the podcast, the differences between the mics will be less pronounced but, for those who wish to download and import files into their DAW, 24-bit WAV files can be downloaded below. They’re all in sync so one can just line them up and A-B.

In alphabetical order, the mics featured are:

AKG C-1000S, medium diaphragm condenser

Apex 460, large diaphragm tube condenser (modified)

Audio-technica AT4033/SE, large diaphragm condenser

Cascade C-77, ribbon

Heil PR-40, large element moving coil

Mojave Audio MA-200, large diaphragm tube condenser

Neumann TLM-103, large diaphragm condenser

Oktava MK-219, large diaphragm condenser (modified by Oktavamod)

If you’d like to play along at home, the individual WAV files are available on this page:

We’ll tally up the results of listeners’ preferences and announce them on next week’s Geologic Podcast. In the meantime, if you’d like to know the identities of each microphone, I’ll post a comment revealing them in the next few days.

“Far” by George Hrab

Monday, March 9th, 2009

I tore myself away from Twitter long enough to put this one together… (tweet, tweet)

My dear friend, George Hrab, called me to book a quick session to record a song called, “Far.” This was an expanded version of a jingle that he had been asked to write for the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast. We banged the whole thing out in a few hours and he subsequently made a video of the tune which you can find either on YouTube at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dF2HG1PVZok

or on Blip.TV at:
http://blip.tv/file/1768264

Belated special thanks to a few people on the show:

Donna Mugavero of Sheerbrick Studio (a.k.a. Ms. Information) for designing the Sessions With Slau banner and for insisting that the site be neat and clean. You can find her on Twitter at @MsInformation or check out her blog

David Jackson of Cooler Websites for helping me put together the podcast through his Podcast Fast Pass program which allows me to concentrate on just creating the content and slowly get my feet wet with the whole WordPress and RSS universe.

Tony Corso for his voice-over on the podcast intro. We recorded a bunch of stuff so I’m sure you’ll hear more of him in the future.

Audrey Farolino (my lovely wife) for doing the “Sessions With Slau.com” tag at the end. She insisted that I let her do another take but, I swear, her first take was perfect.

Thanks so much for the comments and e-mails. You can always reach me at:
slau { at } sessionswithslau { dot } com
and you can often find me tweeting by following
@slaubesharp

http://www.sessionswithslau.com

Watch the George Hrab Video “Far”

Shootout at Legacy Recording

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

I was looking around for a new vocal microphone for myself. Of course, anything I’d buy for my own purposes would undoubtedly benefit my clients as an extra option when recording them. I always wondered whether it would be worth a $10,000 investment to find a used Neumann U 47 or something in that class of mics. Would it be impressive? Without question, it most certainly would be. Would it sound better than what I already had at my disposal? Hmm… I guess you’ll have to listen to the episode to get an idea.

I booked some time at Legacy Recording (which has since closed its 37th Street location). We recorded 7 mics into a Pro Tools HD system through a Millennia Media HV3D. The tracks were unlabeled and I had the engineer make a list of the tracks and their respective mics on a piece of paper. I didn’t know the results of the shootout until having heard the tracks at the end of the session.

Back at BeSharp, I added a few mics to the shootout using the same accompaniment track and recorded the additional mics through an Hv3D. So, the second round of mics weren’t recorded in the same room (actually, a bigger room than at Legacy) but it was all done in relatively close proximity in cardioid mode on all mics.

The lineup:

Neumann U 47

Neumann U 87

http://www.neumann.com

Sony C-800G

http://www.sony.com

AKG C-12VR

http://www.akg.com

Rode Classic II

http://www.rodemicrophones.com

Audio-technica AT 4047

http://www.audio-technica.com

Mojave Audio MA-200

http://www.mojaveaudio.com

Rode K2

http://www.rodemicrophones.com

Apex Electronics 460

http://www.apexelectronics.com

Studio Projects T3

http://www.studioprojects.com

Cascade Microphones Elroy

http://www.cascademicrophones.com

Yeah, it’s a little “apples & oranges” but I was just curious how a $1,000 mic would stack up against something ten times the price. Very interesting…

Hey, believe it or not, I’m finally on Twitter. If you’d like to follow me, search for

slaubesharp

I promise I won’t tweet too much — just studio and audio-releated stuff.

Winter NAMM 2009

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Namm Show LogoI had the pleasure of meeting up with many friends and acquaintances at this year’s winter NAMM show. Here are a bunch of interviews with some of them.

In order of appearance:

Bob Heil, Heil Sound
http://www.heilsound.com
Bob is an absolute legend in the audio business. What an incredibly passionate and dedicated man. He has a ton of great stories to tell and I could just listen all day. He was very generous with his time and I cut a bunch of stuff out of the interview just to make it a little shorter. Extremely nice new drum mic kits from Heil. Check ‘em out.

Lonya Nenashev, fDW Worldwide (Nievaton)
http://www.nevaton-microphones.com
I finally had a chance to meet Lonya Nenashev (formerly of Red Square Audio) in person and check out some of the offerings from Nevaton, a Russian microphone manufacturer. This is one of those cases where I wish I had a quiet room in which to audition these impressive looking large diaphragm condensers. I’ve always been intrigued by Russian-made microphones and these look enticing. They’re not very well known in the States… yet.

Jed, DPA Microphones
http://www.dpamicrophones.com
Not surprisingly, DPA wasn’t showing their excellent line of studio microphones but rather their new series of mics designed primarily for live instrument miking at a considerably more affordable price point.

Doc, Avant Electronics
http://www.avantelectronics.com
There’s something about Avant products that I really like. Everything that I’ve seen from them so far has been really nice. I just recently purchased a pair of Mix Cubes for the studio and find them to be quite nice. Doc talks about some soon-to-be-released microphone offerings. What kind of a name is Doc? Well, he got that nickname because he was a medic in the Navy. Cool!

Dusty Wakeman, Mojave Audio
http://www.mojaveaudio.com
As a big fan of the Mojave MA-200, I was excited to see a prototype for a stereo version of the LDC called the Ma-202ST which should be out in the next couple of months. For years, I’ve been trying to track down an earlier LDC tube mic designed by David Royer known as the 747. I’ve told Dusty that, if Mojave were to put out a new multi-pattern, large diaphragm  condenser, I’d probably buy it sight unseen or, well, unheard.

David Royer, Mojave/Royer Labs
David seems to me like a cross between a hippie and a scientist. He apparently has a sketchbook filled with ideas and designs. Oh, how I’d love to take a little peek…

John Jennings, Royer Labs
http://www.royerlabs.com
John showed me Royer’s new SF-24V stereo tube ribbon mic. Man, if I only had an extra $7,000 laying around. Hmm… Well, for now, I grabbed their much more affordable (actually, free) new demo CD which features clips from multitrack sessions featuring Royer ribbons — right up my alley! Can’t wait to sit down and give a close listen.

Paul Erlandson, Lynx Studio Technology, Inc.
http://www.lynxstudio.com
Paul and I have been missing each other at a few NAMM and AES shows. Well, we finally did catch up and I was really impressed with their interfaces. Maybe we’ll manage to get one into the studio to shoot out against some other converters.

Gary, Audio-Technica
http://www.audio-technica.com
I’ve always been a fan of Audio-Technica microphones, especially the 4033/sE. They were showing their new stereo mics and headphones. Again, one of those situations where I would’ve loved to have a quiet room on the show floor in which to have a close listen. Oh well, it’s a trade show…

Tony O’Keefe, CAD Professional Microphones
http://www.cadmics.com
I’ve loved CAD microphones for years, especially their early models. Although Tony showed me a bunch of new and interesting products at the booth, I was truly excited to hear that they’re going to be manufacturing their higher-end microphones in the States again. Wow, you’d better believe I’ll be hounding Tony to send me some review units in the future!

Steve Trunnell & Renee, Audio Engineering Associates
http://www.wesdooley.com
It’s so nice to meet folks at the show with whom you’ve only had e-mail exchanges. Renee and Steve have been so friendly and supportive of our efforts at microphone shootouts and reviews for podcasts. It was their first time in their own booth at the NAMM show. I wonder how these people have the stamina to do it for four days. I know Steve was exhausted by this point in the show and he was nice enough to spend some time talking about the new RPQ mic preamp. Very impressive stuff from these guys. Always a pleasure to see what’s going on with AEA.

Wes Dooley, AEA
Kevin Peckham, GearCast from Full Compass Systems
http://www.fullcompass.com/gearcast
I’ve been a listener to GearCast from Full Compass Systems for quite some time now and would recognize Kevin Peckham’s rich voice anywhere. So, I was immediately distracted while interviewing Steve at the AEA booth when I heard that unmistakable voice behind me, interviewing the one-and-only Wes Dooley of AEA. I took a moment to introduce myself and chat a bit after Kevin finished his interview. I was later horrified to hear Kevin’s interview with Wes on GearCast where all I could hear in the background was my loud voice speaking with Steve. (Sorry Kevin). Anyway, I’ve been a long-time customer of Full Compass and especially GearCast. keep up the great work!

Michael Chiriac, Cascade Microphones
http://www.cascademicrophones.com
I can’t tell you what a big fan I am of Cascade Microphones. I’ve always said that, in my opinion, the best bang-for-the-buck ribbon microphone is the Fat Head. Yes, there are plenty of budget ribbon mics out there but, all things considered, Cascade offers the highest quality at the lowest price and their customer service is unbeatable. I own a bunch of their products and I’m consistently impressed with each new model. Their latest C-77 is truly a marvelous ribbon mic and sure to spend more time on the boom stand than in the mic closet. I can’t wait to see the new tube ribbon coming down the pike…

Also at the show, but not in the interviews:

Joe Bosso from the Music Radar podcast
http://www.musicradar.com
George and I were sitting at the bar at the Marriott across from the convention center when I heard someone next to me mention something about a podcast. Well, that certainly caught my ear and I inquired about his podcast. well, this led to several more beers, a delayed dinner and a new feed to enter into iTunes.

Nick Batt, Sonic talk podcast
http://www.sonicstate.com
I’ve been a listener to the Sonic Talk podcast since day one and was looking forward to meeting up with Nick Batt and Dave Spears from G-Force. We did finally catch them at the M-Audio booth on Saturday and made vague plans but it didn’t work out, unfortunately. Oh well, maybe next time…

Stay tuned for a talk about the show outside the convention center with the inimitable George Hrab on the next episode of Sessions With Slau coming soon!

http://www.sessionswithslau.com