Mic suggestions for singer/songwriter set up?

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Mic suggestions for singer/songwriter set up?

Postby Old Mac Donald » Mon Apr 18, 2011 4:02 am

Hi, looking for mic suggestions for a classic singer/songwriter acoustic set-up. Genre of music is kind of Folk-Rock in the vein of Dylan/Neil Young/Crosby, Stills & Nash with a little contemporary Alt-Country feel thrown into the mix (think Ryan Adams, Elliott Smith). I'm toying with recording the talent both singing AND playing acoustic simultaneously but need some help on the microphone front. I have a small budget for a new mic(s) and was wondering what others here suggest. I've read some positive reviews for the Shure SM7B on vocals so that one's being considered. Thing is, if I go with a SM7B for lead vox I'm guessing I'll need a separate mic to capture the acoustic with. Again, any suggestions for the best mic in budget for capturing acoustic guitar? Also what about separation? Thanks in advance.
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Postby bcfromfl » Mon Apr 18, 2011 8:12 am

It all depends upon how particular you are about audio recordings, and what exactly your budget is. There are those who would dispute this, but it's been my experience that the lower-end Shure mics are more appropriate for live work. Yes, you'll find it splattered all over the internet that Michael Jackson recorded one of his albums using one...but I would argue that his percussive, SFX voice wasn't that demanding of the mic he used.

Your wish to combine the use of the mic with acoustic guitar is an important one, because this instrument is just as demanding of a good mic as vocals are -- but for different reasons.

If you are fortunate and have tons of excellent outboard gear, you can perhaps get good audio recordings out of less-than-perfect mics. But a good-quality, albeit expensive mic, will make your job a whole lot easier, and will give you recordings you can really be proud of.

Another thing you should ask yourself is where the recordings are going, or what will they be used for. If it's just something you play around with for family or friends, then your choice will be different than if the recordings are destined as demos or something even more important.

You don't say what your budget is, but I suspect you need to consider increasing whatever you have in mind...by perhaps a large margin. Beware of the huge influx of Chinese mics on the market...all made by a single company but sold under different names. The value looks impressive at first glance, but they don't deliver.

-Bruce
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Postby Old Mac Donald » Mon Apr 18, 2011 9:03 am

Thanks so much for your valuable input Bruce! Yes, going from what I've read, the Shure SM7B reputation seems to be built around Jacko's use of it on his 'Thriller' album. Thing is, poor Michael would have sounded stellar through a cheap karaoke mic no doubt. The vocalist I am looking to work with has a voice that's somewhere between Ryan Adams (Whiskeytown) and Richard Ashcroft (The Verve UK) - that kind of vocal flavour. I've done some on mic tests trying to capture both vox & acoustic simultaneously using my Rode NTK but I'm gonna need to rethink this as I'm not happy with the results. I've also tried recording acoustic using said mic and then getting the talent to overdub his vocals but, although it's less bleed recording, this way does not capture the 'magic' that is there when he sings and plays at the same time.

Don't get me wrong, I like the Rode NTK tube LDC and have had pleasing results using it with a number of female artists in the past but unfortunately it's just not cutting it for this latest project - it's 'okay' but not great if you know what I mean and I'm feeling the need for a change. I've been reading about small diaphragm condensers for recording acoustic guitar but I'm hoping someone might point me in the direction of the one mic that will tackle both sources equally well as I can't really afford to fork out for two high end mics at this moment in time.

Here's a list of some of the mics I've been researching in the hope that I will find one 'go to mic' for this genre of singer/songwriter acoustic music ie: a mic that will work great on both male Folky/Rocky vocals AND dreadnaught acoustic guitar. This is what I have shortlisted so far and my budget is an absolute max of £500. I would appreciate any comments & experience folks have with the following. If you have one or more of the mics below or you would like to suggest something more appropriate "I'M ALL EARS!" NB: The following list is in no particular order of preference::

- Shure SM7B
- Rode NT1A with U87 mod (??!)
- Studio Project B1/C1
- MXL V69/V67
- MXL V67i
- AKG 214
- AKG 414
- Shure KSM32
- MXL 603
- CAD M179
- MXL V6
- SE2200A
- KEL HM-7U

PS: If I sell the RODE NTK I might be able to afford something higher end
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Postby bcfromfl » Mon Apr 18, 2011 10:06 am

The Shure KSM32 was the first mic I purchased, upon a recommendation. This is not a suitable vocal mic, as it imparted harsh and "brittle" elements...hard to describe exactly.

Rode is an Australian company, but their mics are largely built by the Chinese company I referred to. Studio Project as well.

While researching my current microphone purchase (Miktek CV4 -- gorgeous mic, BTW), I did come across some interesting references to mods done to MXL mics. There were some pretty spectacular claims, apparently coming from intelligent sources, although I didn't investigate further. If you're into this sort of thing, it may be a relatively inexpensive way to go, but I'd be cautious.

I've heard that the Avantone CV-12 is Taylor Swift's go-to recording mic. Interesting, although I would not pay less than $1,000US for a tube mic. The quality and specs of tube mics doesn't start outpacing good LDCs until that point (with apparently the exception of the Avantone...but I would demo this one thoroughly).

If I had to guess, with what you described (vocals and acoustic guitar), I would be leaning towards a good tube. There is a subtle quality of tubes that smooths out transients better than lower-end LDCs. An excellent (but pricey) condenser that comes with impressive recommendations is the Blue Kiwi.

-Bruce
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Postby Old Mac Donald » Mon Apr 18, 2011 10:24 am

Thanks again Bruce. Plenty of food for thought! Is the CV4 suitable for my current requirements? I'll need to investigate. I see you run an Apogee Duet - SNAP! Thanks again
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Postby bcfromfl » Mon Apr 18, 2011 10:34 am

Yes, Miktek is a company in Nashville, Tennessee, and the CV4 performs quite well on many applications. Would not be a good brass/sax mic, for example, but vocals and acoustic guitar is where it really shines. It may be outside your stated budget, however.

An informal shootout last year with the CV4 and several other high-end mics (a couple over $5,000US) at Sweetwater Music's recording studio, resulted in a unanimous preference for the CV4.

Here is their website: http://www.miktekaudio.com/

-Bruce
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Postby Old Mac Donald » Wed Apr 20, 2011 2:13 am

Well, I'm still researching - what a minefield! (By the way, your Miktek appears to be amazing Bruce - unfortunately it's just too financially out of my league at this moment in time. Great mic by all accounts!) I have been investigating the cheaper tube mic alternatives and I'm going to have to find a music store that will let me try a few out I think.

That said though, I'm starting to think I should persevere some more with my Rode NTK. They've come down a heck of a lot in price but I did pay top dollar for it nine years back. It certainly gets a lot of love in reviews and I have had success using it on a female artist a while back. Personally I've always prefered to try to naturally capture a source with mic placement alone but it's beginning to look like I need to experiment more in the whole area of post-recording equalisation before giving up on my existing tube mic. (That Avantone mic you mentioned Bruce does seem great for the money though - I'm still very tempted by that!)

Incidentally, getting back to my original question posted here, I was researching certain male acoustic singer/songwriters in the style of my current talent. Male artists that both sing and play simultaneously. I would be interested to know what mics are being used in the following clip (Richard Ashcroft) as it's the kind of style (with separation) that I'm looking to capture here. NB: Separate mics for vox (a dynamic - Shure?) & acoustic guitar (a tube condenser - make?)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P150UsmEys0

Also while I'm on does anyone know what mic is being used in the following Elliot Smith clip too? I know it's a bit rough round the edges but, if you're going for the unprocessed one mic 'au naturel' thing thi works to my ears. Looking at the mic placement on this clip I'm surprised ny the vox/acoustic balance. You'd think the acoustic would overpower the vocals more in this position?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4cJv6s_ ... re=related

Any thoughts? Thanks!
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Postby bcfromfl » Wed Apr 20, 2011 7:45 am

The thing you need to take away from the two videos you posted links to is single mic vs. double mic. The Richard Ashcroft recording is "OK" IMO, but I notice what looks like the KSM32 on the guitar. I'm just not a fan of this mic, and the song sounded harsh and "toppy" to me, although the balance was good because of the dual placement and mix.

The Eilliot Smith recording, on the other hand...even allowing for the lousy room...was terrible. The proximity effect of using the mic double-duty near the guitar just overpowered the mix, and rendered an amateurish and unpleasant result.

I'm not endorsing these mics, or recommending that you do, but take a look at these videos and see how the pros set up mics for acoustic guitars. The mics near the neck are probably given slightly more weight than the ones near the body, to avoid too much resonance. The vocal mic, if used, would be placed on a boom about even with the singer's nose (with a pop filter, of course). If you're currently limited to two mics, you'll have to compromise if you want to record in one take...just keep the vocal mic away from the guitar.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxsOBTmQ1Gk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i41-xZHzqug

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fvczy4NTZ0A

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1QUelNrjrwY

If you do as I have done and search for mic demos on acoustic guitars, you'll find more of these. Hope this helps.

-Bruce
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Postby Old Mac Donald » Wed Apr 20, 2011 8:59 am

Bruce you're a ST*R mate! Using your above links as my starting point I'm going to do some research this evening when I get home from work. Yeah, I agree wholeheartedly with the comment made about the two links I included in my last post. I was just doing a quick looking for two of the artists my talent is inspired by and the type of sound he wishes to recreate. I quite like the idea & simplicity of the above Elliott Smith track but agree that the recording itself is weak. - good song mind! Cheers & all the best to you.
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