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What's the deal with microphones?

Trell

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I think that's part of why the NT1 sounds good to me - it's natural rather than someone trying to compensate for something. And it doesn't seem like you need to be right on top of it.

The NT1 is a very nice mic at an affordable price and most certainly do not need to be very close to it, unless you want the proximity effect. An audio interface like the MOTU M2 (which I use) have more than enough gain for it as well while the M2 could be marginal for a dynamic mic.

The reason I switched to a front addressed mic like the SR314 was that I felt that the NT1 was too "big"/"into my face"/"in the way", not for any deficiencies as such.
 
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I also got a question about mics (well kinda).

You know how on Youtube and video podcasts/radio, everyone and their mother has desk mics. I see super expensive ones sometimes. But no matter what, all of them are actually garbage by the way they're being used. Firstly, they all sound like the person has a mic down their throat. Anytime they move the sound changes insanely.

But then you have people making videos with shotgun/boom mics (or whatever you call those that are off-screen and being held up by a mechanical arm slightly off camera.)

Almost EVERY single one of those microphones are far more consistent when watching peoples videos that use them.

So my question is, honestly besides seemingly these "throat" desk mics I suppose having a sound field pattern that doesn't have to take into account room reflections so much - what is honestly the wisdom behind using these stupid mics where your lips have to be borderline committing visual induendo with the mic? Keep in mind, this goes for those studio-type situations where a person is in a foam padded room, but they're still having their mouth an inch away from the mic, or an inch away from whatever filter is between you and the mic.

Why would anyone use these sorts of mics? Is it honestly people not wanting to buy arms to hold up a mic off-screen. Because if it's all about the sound field pattern (i get that a shotgun mic can use the same one, and is highly directive), then to hell with that pattern because the hit to sound "naturalness" is just awful. I don't want to hear that muffled sound due to how close people have their mics in their face..


This is what I'm getting at. I've noticed the same thing.

When you get a good quality condenser mic, it tends to pick up quiet noises due to the high sensitivity and wide frequency response. Everything from LF rumble to HF noise will get into the signal. The pickup patterns tend to be fairly wide as well, so the room reflections get in there more.

So, to counter this, you'll see people get up closer on the mic, which increases the ratio of source sound to room sound (kind of like close mic'ing a woofer when you measure speakers - the reverberation is still there, but the woofer is way louder).

Being closer to the mic increases proximity, which can sound boomy, which some people fix by using some kind of presence boost, rather than cutting the bass. I think people like the boomy bass + crispy top end more than just neutral sound, but I don't. A lot of microphones have a big presence boost and LF roll-off. I wonder if the LF rolloff and presence boost build into most mics are to facilitate this sound.

Another side effect of being closer is that volume fluctuates when you move. If you're a foot from a mic, moving two inches forward only makes you a bit louder. If you're four inches from the mic, moving two inches forward makes you twice as loud. This makes the audio really uneven unless you compress it a lot.

So in an effort to get the beautiful, nuanced sound the condenser mic offers, you end up with super compressed sound with a totally unnatural EQ. Everything is there, but it's all out of proportion.

I've been listening to millions of LDC mics and not very many impress me, but then again I'm listening to them the same way I audition speakers - is everything there? Is there any drama?

So far the mics that seem the most drama free are the AT 2035 (totally drama free, neutral) and the TZ Stellar 2 (drama free a bit smooth/warm.) The Lewitt's seem great for the money too. The Shure SM27 condenser is very rich without too much drama but it's that natural sounding. I like Shure stuff though...I've had Shure iems and turntable carts and they're great.
 
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Good Processing Plugins
Just like in photography, it's best to capture things right as best you can. However, I've been researching and auditioning plugins for voice over and dialog cleaning and I've found some which work really, really well.

Izotope RX Dialog De-Noise
This cleans up periodic low level noise from dialog. I got this as part of a package of plugins years ago and it works incredibly well. Very transparent and easy to use.

Izotope RX De-Click/Thump
The former eliminates all kinds of tiny clicking mouth noises and the latter eliminates plosives or noises caused by hitting your mic. I generally don't use the latter but it works. The former does have the effect of smoothing the audio out a bit.

Waves Sibilance
There are a million de-essers, but I think this one is the best. Controls are very intuitive and graphical. You can give your dialog a lisp.

Acon Deverbate
THIS thing is magical. This is a very sophisticated and relatively transparent de-reverb plugin. It also has a module for reducing early reflections, with a learning mode for each. I haven't found use for the early reflections filter but if you listen to their demos, they use this plugin in forensics and other extreme applications. However, it is still effective for making an okay voice recording a bit drier. I tried the competitors and this one works best for me.

Waves De-Breath
There are a few of these - this is the best one. It doesn't work 100%, but it works well enough. I'm not sure if I'll buy this one but it does work.

Izotope Spatializer (Free)
This was free I think? I got it a while ago. It takes your mono dialog and gives it a bit of stereo width. At low settings, it makes the dialog less fatiguing to listen to and a bit more natural.

Loudmax (Free)
Volume maximizer. I'm not sure what it's doing; some combination of normalization, compression and limiting. Basically it changes the dynamic range as transparently as possible, working well in concert with....

Youlean Loudness (Free)
A plugin which allows you to nail the overall output levels of your project, to conform to whatever Youtube/Apple Music/Radio/Broadcast standard you want. I go for 23 LUFS.

IVGI Saturator (Free)
If you want a little analog saturation, this works well. It's free.

Rea-EQ, Rea-Comp, Rea-XComp
These are the free plugins that come with Reaper. The EQ is basically perfect, the compressor is great, and the multiband compressor can make sound more exciting.

I would like a harmonic enhancer but I find that the Reaper Multi-Band compression works almost as good as Waves Vitamin/Waves Aphex.

What I do not recommend are all-in one voice editing plugins (Voxesser, Voxengo Voxformer) These inevitably have a single knob compressor (your DAW compressor is probably better) a lackluster De-Esser (similar to a hardware unit) a presence boost (use EQ) and some other stuff.
 

Blumlein 88

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This is what I'm getting at. I've noticed the same thing.

When you get a good quality condenser mic, it tends to pick up quiet noises due to the high sensitivity and wide frequency response. Everything from LF rumble to HF noise will get into the signal. The pickup patterns tend to be fairly wide as well, so the room reflections get in there more.

So, to counter this, you'll see people get up closer on the mic, which increases the ratio of source sound to room sound (kind of like close mic'ing a woofer when you measure speakers - the reverberation is still there, but the woofer is way louder).

Being closer to the mic increases proximity, which can sound boomy, which some people fix by using some kind of presence boost, rather than cutting the bass. I think people like the boomy bass + crispy top end more than just neutral sound, but I don't. A lot of microphones have a big presence boost and LF roll-off. I wonder if the LF rolloff and presence boost build into most mics are to facilitate this sound.

Another side effect of being closer is that volume fluctuates when you move. If you're a foot from a mic, moving two inches forward only makes you a bit louder. If you're four inches from the mic, moving two inches forward makes you twice as loud. This makes the audio really uneven unless you compress it a lot.

So in an effort to get the beautiful, nuanced sound the condenser mic offers, you end up with super compressed sound with a totally unnatural EQ. Everything is there, but it's all out of proportion.

I've been listening to millions of LDC mics and not very many impress me, but then again I'm listening to them the same way I audition speakers - is everything there? Is there any drama?

So far the mics that seem the most drama free are the AT 2035 (totally drama free, neutral) and the TZ Stellar 2 (drama free a bit smooth/warm.) The Lewitt's seem great for the money too. The Shure SM27 condenser is very rich without too much drama but it's that natural sounding. I like Shure stuff though...I've had Shure iems and turntable carts and they're great.
The Shure KSM 32 is pretty darn flat and a much better sounding microphone than the SM27.

The Earthworks SR20 has an extended proximity effect. Meaning it starts having an effect further away and over a greater number of feet. This does make it less sensitive to making voice over sound boomy or overly heavy in the low end. Also makes it less sensitive to the speaker moving around some. The SR314 looks like it is made to act the same way. And it appears they don't sell the SR20 currently.
 
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earlevel

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The SM7B + Motu M2 looks like a good combo for desk work in an untreated room.

After watching several videos I'm not a huge fan of the sound compared to the NT1, though. The NT1 just sounds more realistic. But, it would pickup low-level background noise a lot more.
I don't find the mic pre gain on M2 on their website specs...OK, the manual says +60 dB, should be fine for SM7B (the UltraLite-mk5 has +74!).

FWIW, found EQ to make SM58 ($99 and more modest preamp needs) sound like an SM7B: https://betteraudioguide.wpcomstaging.com/how-to-make-the-shure-sm58-sound-like-the-sm7b/

Now, as far as vs NT1, I suppose it depends on usage. If you're going VO and post-processing it, then a condenser works out pretty well. But if you're doing it live or don't want to spend time processing it, SM7B is going to yield a consistently usable product. For instance, listen to sibilance in those comparisons—the SM7B is not as crisp, but it's also not prone to promoting sibilance. But an LCD gives you more to work with if you're going to be refining it afterwards.
 
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earlevel

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Izotope Spatializer (Free)
This was free I think? I got it a while ago. It takes your mono dialog and gives it a bit of stereo width. At low settings, it makes the dialog less fatiguing to listen to and a bit more natural.
iZotope Imager—yes, there is a free version (full version in Ozone).

I happened to use it for the first time just a couple of days ago. Sent a song (lead and harmony vocal, piano, strings) to my friend, who added guitar, bass, drums and a few other things, he did an initial mix and sent it back. I found the stereo image a bit narrow, and the piano muddied with another instrument because of it. Imager did a good job of spreading it (mainly to show him what I meant, with a comparison). It did a surprisingly good job of clearing things up.

On thumps: Most of thumps from plosives are in the low end, a little bass rolloff goes a long ways there too.
 

Tks

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Many of them think that "throaty" sounds intimate and is desirable, but I feel more like someone is about to lick my ear at times. Yuck. It's uncomfortable intimate and sounds unnatural to me.

The other aspect is that microphones have sweet spots along with distances that varies strongly among them: Choose the wrong mic for the job and you get what you describe of the tonality changing when the person moves.

There is also "voicing" of mics in accordance with their intended use case, and that is a preference as well as practicalities.

It's not just that, but it's also grating. The dynamic range swings are insane when you're up close to the mic. And volume changing doesn't help all that much when I'm listening because if there is a moment the person on the mic ceases to use the same tone of voice, it becomes too low.

Voice is something I really don't want massive dynamic range swings, especially for speech/non-music.

It's an assault on the senses also because most of the time, it feels like something is about to clip. I don't need to hear the damn reflections occuring off your teeth..

So my question still stands for anyone that uses these desk/studio mics. Why on Earth wouldn't you use somehing like a Lav, or a highly directional boom mic on an arm far away from you since you're locked into a position at the desk anyway?
 
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It's not just that, but it's also grating. The dynamic range swings are insane when you're up close to the mic. And volume changing doesn't help all that much when I'm listening because if there is a moment the person on the mic ceases to use the same tone of voice, it becomes too low.

Voice is something I really don't want massive dynamic range swings, especially for speech/non-music.

It's an assault on the senses also because most of the time, it feels like something is about to clip. I don't need to hear the damn reflections occuring off your teeth..

So my question still stands for anyone that uses these desk/studio mics. Why on Earth wouldn't you use somehing like a Lav, or a highly directional boom mic on an arm far away from you since you're locked into a position at the desk anyway?

People really do associate side address large condensers with 'sound quality'. There's a reason why professional video people don't use them to mic on location.

There is a huge variety of lavaliers from 10 dollar cheapies to $200 Countryman lavaliers. The more expensive ones are tiny, colored to blend in with clothes or skin tones, and produce a ton of output. They're also typically omnidirectional. I wouldn't be surprised if this was the most-heard microphone on TV; I've noticed on a reality show I've been watching that all the contestants wear these big goofy necklaces and I'm pretty sure they're hiding mini-lavs.

The other type of mic used in video is the shotgun, which rejects room noise not through source proximity but through directivity. These work best as close to the source as possible, but you can put them a couple of feet away.

You'll also see the headset mic. Obviously these look a bit goofy but the combination of constant source distance and monitoring makes them very practical for sports, flying an airplane, making phone calls, etc.

If I were a streamer I'd get a Sanken or Countryman lav and call it a day.
 
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iZotope Imager—yes, there is a free version (full version in Ozone).

I happened to use it for the first time just a couple of days ago. Sent a song (lead and harmony vocal, piano, strings) to my friend, who added guitar, bass, drums and a few other things, he did an initial mix and sent it back. I found the stereo image a bit narrow, and the piano muddied with another instrument because of it. Imager did a good job of spreading it (mainly to show him what I meant, with a comparison). It did a surprisingly good job of clearing things up.

On thumps: Most of thumps from plosives are in the low end, a little bass rolloff goes a long ways there too.

So this is another discussion, EQ. The human voice is really fascinating when you break it down by frequency.

See this article:
https://www.dpamicrophones.com/mic-university/facts-about-speech-intelligibility

First you have the fundamental. This varies from person to person. Mine seems to be around 130hz, which is high for a man.

Around 500 hz you can EQ to make your voice more or less boxy. 1K makes it more or less nasal.

350-2K is where vowels can be emphasized or de-emphasized. Consonants are around 1.5-4K, and a boost here improves intelligibility.

Sibilance is 4-10K, but needs to be removed dynamically and surgically.

My voice has nothing above 10K as far as I can tell, and 80hz is a reasonable high pass.

We all have experienced how different our voice sounds on recording compared to how we think it sounds. I think that a lot of EQ is done by people wanting their voice to match how they imagine it sounds, rather than recognizing the qualities it actually has.
 

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I don't find the mic pre gain on M2 on their website specs...OK, the manual says +60 dB, should be fine for SM7B (the UltraLite-mk5 has +74!).

FWIW, found EQ to make SM58 ($99 and more modest preamp needs) sound like an SM7B: https://betteraudioguide.wpcomstaging.com/how-to-make-the-shure-sm58-sound-like-the-sm7b/

Now, as far as vs NT1, I suppose it depends on usage. If you're going VO and post-processing it, then a condenser works out pretty well. But if you're doing it live or don't want to spend time processing it, SM7B is going to yield a consistently usable product. For instance, listen to sibilance in those comparisons—the SM7B is not as crisp, but it's also not prone to promoting sibilance. But an LCD gives you more to work with if you're going to be refining it afterwards.
How about EQ to make the NT-USB sound better?
 

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People really do associate side address large condensers with 'sound quality'. There's a reason why professional video people don't use them to mic on location.
It's a strange trend and clearly shows the marketing influence of video streamers and video podcasters. I know people who have bought this type of gear just to chat to their gaming mates via audio comms on Discord.
 

Trell

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So my question still stands for anyone that uses these desk/studio mics. Why on Earth wouldn't you use somehing like a Lav, or a highly directional boom mic on an arm far away from you since you're locked into a position at the desk anyway?

Many of those studio/stage mics works very well. A shotgun mic can't be too far away or you'll pick up the room, and if too directional the sweet spot can be very narrow. I do have a shotgun mic, a Rode VideoMic NTG, that my wife uses and it sounds OK a couple of feet away but no further than that. My home office has room treatments and that helps.

I've not used lavier mics and they could work well but they do have their own issues
 

Trell

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It's a strange trend and clearly shows the marketing influence of video streamers and video podcasters. I know people who have bought this type of gear just to chat to their gaming mates via audio comms on Discord.

The pandemic has also increased the sales of mics due to so many people working from home.
 

Trell

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How about EQ to make the NT-USB sound better?

If you already have an audio interface, or intend to get one, you'll get a better XLR mic for the same money as you'll pay for the Rode NT-USB.

As for using EQ, I think that you should get a mic that works well without EQ straight out from the box, and then EQ to your hearts delight. Assuming that you can EQ the mic while using it in the program you want.
 

beeface

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The pandemic has also increased the sales of mics due to so many people working from home.
Yeah, you can see on a lot of microphone product pages that "remote working" has been added to the list of uses cases since the pandemic started.

It seems excessive for that use case, too. Apple earbuds are all you need for a Zoom/Teams call. You could upgrade to a business headset (eg. Poly or Jabra) if you're on calls all day.
 

Trell

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It seems excessive for that use case, too. Apple earbuds are all you need for a Zoom/Teams call. You could upgrade to a business headset (eg. Poly or Jabra) if you're on calls all day.

Usually the sound quality is fairly poor on Teams/Zoom/Google due to the poor microphones used, including earbuds.
 

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If you already have an audio interface, or intend to get one, you'll get a better XLR mic for the same money as you'll pay for the Rode NT-USB.

As for using EQ, I think that you should get a mic that works well without EQ straight out from the box, and then EQ to your hearts delight. Assuming that you can EQ the mic while using it in the program you want.
I think I should be able to, Equalizer APO can be used on any input or output:

1629162709467.png
 

beeface

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Usually the sound quality is fairly poor on Teams/Zoom/Google due to the poor microphones used, including earbuds.
Eh, it's good enough IMO. Spending too much for this use case seems a bit pointless when half the users in the business are just using their laptop's built-in microphone and speakers. Often cheap earbuds still sounds better than a conference call on PSTN.
 

earlevel

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How about EQ to make the NT-USB sound better?
A USB mic seems like a nice convenience if you only need that one input, and don't need output other than what your computer provides. Otherwise, you'll need an interface and might as well not restrict yourself to a pool of fewer mics, while part of the cost goes to the USB/converter.

But on a similar topic, if you want to sound like other mics...I remember when this came out many years ago (it had a buzz at the NAMM Show), I can't tell you how good it is; it never set the pro studio market on fire, surely, but might be interesting to have other mic flavors available:

Antares mic modeler

Making a little more impact are the modelers that come with their own mics. The Townsend Labs is probably the best—not cheap at $1500, but has displaced much more expensive mic in some studios. Antelope's are supposed to be pretty good, as are Slate's (probably the one you'll find most youtube video for), while Gauge has the cheapest.

I considered the Townsend Labs (recently acquired by Universal Audio, for which it is exceptionally well suited) strongly, but was always on backorder during COVID, decided to concentrate on one mic/sound anyway. The Townsend start with the best mic, and has more flexibility at a cost—if takes two tracks to record the front and back diaphragms separately, but then you can change even the polar pattern after the fact.

Not so much of a suggestion, but just saying we should expect a lot more of this, and mics with DSP.

Pretty sure I recall some more attractive deals on the Slate, maybe with fewer models, on Black Friday deals, etc. I don't think as nuanced as the Townsend, but it's still pretty impressive to hear the same vocal played back with drastically different mic qualities. (LOL, I looked quick for a Slate video I saw recently that played a male vocal while switching mics...I got interrupted by an ad for a text-to-speech application, one where you don't realize the dialog is not human till they tell you. I think VO biz might disappear someday, except for celebrity voices...unless the court allow them to be cloned too...
 

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The SM7B + Motu M2 looks like a good combo for desk work in an untreated room.

After watching several videos I'm not a huge fan of the sound compared to the NT1, though. The NT1 just sounds more realistic. But, it would pickup low-level background noise a lot more.
That is precisely the crux. LDCs (or MDCs) will get a nice natural to airy sound with good bass response (including optional proximity effect boost) and low self-noise at a moderate price - an NT1 may be as fancy as most of us may need. (AT2035, NT1 and Sennheiser MK4 are some of my midrange faves for spoken word. All have only a mild treble boost of 2-3 dB.) Their relatively broad cardioid response means the environment has to be right though (PGA27 is one of the few supercardioids).

SDC pencil condensers tend to have a more even pickup pattern and tend to be used where low coloration off-axis is critical (e.g. X-Y array). They may have weak low end and tend to exhibit higher noise levels though, and may be subject to some peculiar midrange colorations you don't come across in side-address condensers. A good one isn't really any cheaper than a good LDC.

Dynamic mics interesting for vocal use generally come in 3 flavors, "voice" (presence boost and not overly present bass to compensate for proximity effect in close-up use), "broadcast" (presence boost and neutral to even boosted lows) and occasionally "WTF". I think it is the inherent raggedness in dynamic driver high-frequency response that makes it hard for them to sound quite as transparent as a good condenser, even if the SM7B tries really hard. Due to fundamental resonance, they basically come with a built-in highpass around 100 Hz - something that on voice may be desirable anyway. They will never be as low-noise as good condensers, but still pretty decent in practice (using them for vocal work up close definitely helps in that regard).

What many of us would want is a (short) shotgun mic, but finding one with even dispersion, flat response and good low end is hard. You're looking at around $300 minimum, and some Deity mic was one of the few I've come across that sounded anywhere near as good as a Sennheiser MKH416 (sounds great, but $1000, yikes).

I wouldn't worry so much about the audio interface part if you still need to acquire one... even a lowly Behringer UMC202HD is hardly a bottleneck for a condenser mic in a spoken word application at home (performance with dynamic mics is quite good, too). In my personal setup, mic and room noise never makes it below the 14-bit level (~84 dB worth of dynamic range) anywhere in the audible spectrum, and that's actually pretty decent. So getting along with (-100 dBFS(A); -5 dBFS) = 95 dB(A) should be feasible. If you're not flat out screaming into the mic, you won't exceed maximum input either.
Should you happen to have an existing clean onboard or soundcard input, a little portable mixer may be another option. Note that the very budget end may not provide a full +48 V phantom power but rather just +15 V (Behringer Xenyx 502 comes to mind).

So you already have an NT-USB? Definitely try Equalizer-APO then (using it for my mic as well... I have one preset for my speakers and another for the mic, both of which are being autoloaded). It's not a bad mic at all but that highs peak, yikes. Overlaying the FR graph from its spec sheet in PEACE should allow you to come up with a decent EQ, assuming that is halfway accurate.
 
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