• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). Come here to have fun, be ready to be teased and not take online life too seriously. We now measure and review equipment for free! Click here for details.

What's the deal with microphones?

OP
617

617

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Mar 18, 2019
Messages
1,464
Likes
3,096
Location
Somerville, MA
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).

The shotgun mics that are good enough for serious use are rare and expensive. Still, in the hands of experts, these are the mics we hear on TV and Films all the time! Here's a video where a dude compares it to a TLM 103:

I find that in this video the Sennheiser sounds similar to a dynamic in some ways, I can't put my finger on how. Really civilized upper HF, great intelligibility.

I have an inexpensive dynamic (Behringer 8500). With a little EQ to take out my fundamental, it sounds more intelligible, but less hifi, than my condenser. I don't find the added gain to be an issue.

One thing I like is that it is totally free from brittleness - the mids and treble are sort of rough and textured, but never piercing or hissy. De-essing is not really needed (this is without a pop filter or windscreen.)

Between the AT2035, NT1 and MK4 (and any others you've owned) what would you recommend for a condenser which has that kind of forgiveness?
 

Chromatischism

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jun 5, 2020
Messages
2,464
Likes
1,847
Sennheiser MKH416. If you wanted to flatten that with EQ, it should be simple:

S MKH416.png


I like the idea for desk use, but of course the price puts it out of the question.

How about the Rode VideoMicPro? Affordable.

Or just get a lav.
 
Last edited:

AnalogSteph

Major Contributor
Joined
Nov 6, 2018
Messages
1,724
Likes
1,592
Location
.de
I have an inexpensive dynamic (Behringer 8500). With a little EQ to take out my fundamental, it sounds more intelligible, but less hifi, than my condenser. I don't find the added gain to be an issue.

One thing I like is that it is totally free from brittleness - the mids and treble are sort of rough and textured, but never piercing or hissy. De-essing is not really needed (this is without a pop filter or windscreen.)
Hmm. Can you pinpoint your trouble area (play back a vocal recording and play with an EQ)? Going by its spec sheet, the XM8500 has a bit of a dip in the 6-9 kHz range, which sounds about right as its appearance here (4:47-ish) suggests a dip in the mid-treble:
I can see something in this region as being perceived as piercing and hissy, too. Problem frequencies may also occur around 4 kHz though, so that's another region worth checking.
Between the AT2035, NT1 and MK4 (and any others you've owned) what would you recommend for a condenser which has that kind of forgiveness?
I haven't actually owned very much, but listened to tons of samples. None of these 3 have offensive treble peaks to begin with. (I'm not a super big fan of the NT-1A sound, and the NT-USB treble peak is way over the top, I bet you'd hate that.) I'd say try AT2035 and NT-1 (or rather listen to samples), the MK4 should be a bit brighter. (What's good about the Sennheiser is its very even off-axis response.) NT-1000 is a good one, too.
AT2050 has a rather unappealing brightness to it, I don't think this guy has too many fans in general. Not a fan on the "Chinese highs" of a Behringer B-1 either (my old Samson CL8 has similar issues, I read something about a K67 style capsule that needed some HF EQ which wasn't present). LCT-240 PRO may hit your problem frequencies dead-on with its 6-10 kHz peak (440 PURE has more of an even boost, that's one I might check out).

Other mics with "double bump" highs boosts that may be worth checking out: PGA27 is somewhat similar to XM8500 here (7-10 kHz dip). AT4040 is flat up to ~5 kHz and only then starts boosting, with a ~8-10 kHz dip (might be too high for you).

Oh, and on my t.bone SC400 I'm EQing out a sort of trough extending from about 6 to 9 kHz that consistently showed up in comparison to other mics in speaker measurements, but I'm not sure whether that's normal or just the result of some dust on the capsule...
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: 617
OP
617

617

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Mar 18, 2019
Messages
1,464
Likes
3,096
Location
Somerville, MA
Hmm. Can you pinpoint your trouble area (play back a vocal recording and play with an EQ)? Going by its spec sheet, the XM8500 has a bit of a dip in the 6-9 kHz range, which sounds about right as its appearance here (4:47-ish) suggests a dip in the mid-treble:
I can see something in this region as being perceived as piercing and hissy, too. Problem frequencies may also occur around 4 kHz though, so that's another region worth checking.

I haven't actually owned very much, but listened to tons of samples. None of these 3 have offensive treble peaks to begin with. (I'm not a super big fan of the NT-1A sound, and the NT-USB treble peak is way over the top, I bet you'd hate that.) I'd say try AT2035 and NT-1 (or rather listen to samples), the MK4 should be a bit brighter. (What's good about the Sennheiser is its very even off-axis response.) NT-1000 is a good one, too.
AT2050 has a rather unappealing brightness to it, I don't think this guy has too many fans in general. Not a fan on the "Chinese highs" of a Behringer B-1 either (my old Samson CL8 has similar issues, I read something about a K67 style capsule that needed some HF EQ which wasn't present).

Other mics with "double bump" highs boosts that may be worth checking out: PGA27 is somewhat similar to XM8500 here (7-10 kHz dip). AT4040 is flat up to ~5 kHz and only then starts boosting, with a ~8-10 kHz dip (might be too high for you).

Oh, and on my t.bone SC400 I'm EQing out a sort of trough extending from about 6 to 9 kHz that consistently showed up in comparison to other mics in speaker measurements, but I'm not sure whether that's normal or just the result of some dust on the capsule...

Interesting. I concur about the NT1/NT1a. The NT1 is very neutral and extended but the NT1a sounds a bit too crispy.

I think what I like about the Behringer dynamic is fundamental to dynamic mics. It could just be the natural HF roll off they have and the dynamic differences that come with the heavier diaphragms.

I found a video of this German dude who equalized an SM57 to sound like a SM7b (using a variety of different measurement techniques) and they really do sound identical. I think I will pick one of those up to try that. These two mics have the same capsule so equalization presumably brings them close to each-other. It may be that I just like dynamics more, who knows.
 

earlevel

Active Member
Joined
Nov 18, 2020
Messages
209
Likes
247
Sennheiser MKH416. If you wanted to flatten that with EQ, it should be simple:

View attachment 147968
The catch is these frequency response charts are heavily averaged. Now, I'm not implying there are nasty high-Q dips and peaks being steamrolled—but there is no way of knowing how much variation there is. Such a chart is useful to give the general idea, they'll always be smooth-looking.

But I'll digress with a funny story. A few months ago, I decided on the Soyuz 017 FET, as mentioned. Heard it in audio files and youtube comparisons. Heard from people who have it. The response look reasonably like what should sound good—similar to the above, but two gentle bump in the mids instead of that one.

I get it, hook it up and speak, omg my voice sounded good talking. But then I start singing different ranges, and I'm getting nervous—it does not sound like that chart. I did into the accompanying papers (including hand-signed cards from three people who assembled, inspected, and tested it in Russia). And a measurement charts that looked nothing like the one on their website and reviews elsewhere. But that's what it seems to sound like, it's nearly the opposite of what they claim. To top it off, its' clearly ~10 dB more sensitive than my C414, despite the website specs being similar. But I do the math with the sensitivity number on the measurement sheet, and yeah, it is like 10 dB more sensitive.

So, I'm hear thinking, dam, if really does sound interesting, it's certainly not broken, but did I get a rogue mic? It took a couple of go-'rounds with the Soyuz rep, but finally he accepts the obvious, checks into it, and apparently the website had been wrong fro years—they fixed it right away.

It does show you how little the charts mean—this went unnoticed for years. The same wrong chart for the FET ($2k) and the tube version ($4k), and no one caught it, as obvious as it was to the ear. :p

019 FET was renamed 017 FET, same thing—the original website chart:
Screen Shot 2021-08-17 at 1.11.02 AM.png

Actual:
017-tube-tipovaya-scaled.jpg


I know what you're thinking, it's a big dip and it's bumpy. But it's actually relatively smooth but honest. And the dip is only significant in the sibilance area. The mic actually EQs uncommonly well due to its smoothness, it's known for that. That's why I think the Sennheiser chart is a little unrealistic, you're just not going to get that smooth in reality. I'm sure it's good though, Sennheisers are.
 

Willem

Major Contributor
Joined
Jan 8, 2019
Messages
2,307
Likes
3,478
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.
I do quite a bit of video conferencing and my wife has done some 10-15 hours of online teaching a week for the last year and a half. If there is one thing that matters a lot it is audio quality, and microphones in particular. Many people, and students in particular, use laptops rather than desktop computers and have nothing better than the inbuilt mic or earbuds. This really impacts communication. I strongly recommend something like the Sennheiser ME3ii (a headset style mic without the headphone part). This completely blocks extraneous noise and also room reflections for a much drier and more intelligeable sound. And of course it is also at a constant distance from your mouth. This is a real speech microphone optimised for precisely this. I don't think we have heard about the budget, and of course there are more expensive options in the same style.
 
Last edited:

Trell

Senior Member
Joined
May 13, 2021
Messages
423
Likes
397
How about the Rode VideoMicPro? Affordable.

I've the RØDE VideoMic NTG that is an updated version with better features, specs and form factor. Where I live it's a little more expensive than the VideoMic Pro and about the same price as the VideoMic Pro+. The downside is that the built-in battery is not user replaceable but if you buy from an authorized dealer you can register the mic on the Rode website for a 10 year warranty that includes failing battery.

My wife is using it for video calls on her PC and works very well.

In the picture below you'll see the mic above the left monitor in the position when used for video calls.

1629198021319.png
 

Willem

Major Contributor
Joined
Jan 8, 2019
Messages
2,307
Likes
3,478
That Rode Videomic is similar to the Sennheiser MKE600 that I had in mind for my videoconferencing system (now that my wife uses my Sennheiser ME3ii), and to also use it with a video camera. In this way I would get dual use out of an additional microphone that is quite pricey for private use.
 

Trell

Senior Member
Joined
May 13, 2021
Messages
423
Likes
397
That Rode Videomic is similar to the Sennheiser MKE600 that I had in mind for my videoconferencing system (now that my wife uses my Sennheiser ME3ii), and to also use it with a video camera. In this way I would get dual use out of an additional microphone that is quite pricey for private use.

The VideoMic NTG is very versatile compact mic that includes a DAC for head phones as well as a mic line out, but as you say: pricey. With the right cable from Rode you can use all it's features on an iPhone. I can use it on my camera while still have a usable view finder, though I very seldom use it for that purpose.
 

AnalogSteph

Major Contributor
Joined
Nov 6, 2018
Messages
1,724
Likes
1,592
Location
.de
Sort of reminds me of this:
em91c-graphs.png

(Mackie EM-91C)

t.bone SC300 / Presonus M7 should be similar, too. My SC400 is somewhat different, it has a treble dip almost exactly where the Mackie is bumped back up.

So although the extended response of the 017 in the topmost octave indicates a thinner, lighter diaphragm than in the Mackie, you don't absolutely have to pay 2 grand if you're after a sound like that (the mics I mentioned are all sub-$100).

I know what you're thinking, it's a big dip and it's bumpy. But it's actually relatively smooth but honest.
Actually, smoothness is exactly what you'd expect from a slightly mid-centric response like that.

You're probably right thinking that bogus charts may not be all that uncommon. I would expect it more on the budget end of the market though...
 

Jim Shaw

Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Mar 16, 2021
Messages
86
Likes
83
Location
Northeastern Ohio, USA, in the woods
I want to record some voice-over stuff, and I have an inexpensive condenser mic. I was not really happy with the sound I was getting, so I started doing some EQ and looking at other microphones that people rave about...and I just don't understand what they're talking about.
Any input into this world would be helpful. The consumer in me feels the need to buy something fancy but it seems like room treatments would be a better investment.

I think you are thinking in too many directions at once: condenser/dynamic, cardioid/omni, USB/XLR, live/prerecorded, room treatment, EQ, and on and on. You'll get deep in the weeds with your first few steps.

A good audio recording engineer knows that the first requirement is to select a mic that works for your room, your voice, and your input. It doesn't have to be an expensive mic -- it just has to be well chosen.

Rather that put a primer in here of how to do that, let me recommend two YouTube channels that specialize in it:
Podcastage and Curtis Judd. There are others. Podcastage covers dozens and dozens of mics costing from $15 to $4500. Judd is more of a pro, so he tends to cover mics that might suit a pro application.

EQ can be a treat, but it's hard to do on a live presentation. So, it's best to select a mic that can make you happy without EQ. For voiceover only in a typical lousy acoustic room, you want something close-talking. USB mics are very handy if you want to input to your computer, pad, or phone without the need for XLR-digital USB accessories. But USB mics can't readily be mixed in your computer. They're a single source. Dynamic mics are bad for most music, but very good for close talking in a bad room. A pop filter is essential for close talking.

There are a bunch to pick from under and around $100. I happen to use a Samson Q2U USB Dynamic mic for video voice overs. I am entirely satisfied, but it may not be right for your use.

Oh, and the mic stand you pick will be as important as the mic choice. ;)
 

Trell

Senior Member
Joined
May 13, 2021
Messages
423
Likes
397
Rather that put a primer in here of how to do that, let me recommend two YouTube channels that specialize in it:
Podcastage and Curtis Judd. There are others. Podcastage covers dozens and dozens of mics costing from $15 to $4500. Judd is more of a pro, so he tends to cover mics that might suit a pro application.

Curtis Judd is informative and he has two channels: One for his reviews and so on, and the other as part of teaching audio etc: https://www.youtube.com/c/curtisjudd/featured
 

earlevel

Active Member
Joined
Nov 18, 2020
Messages
209
Likes
247
Sort of reminds me of this:
View attachment 148074
(Mackie EM-91C)

t.bone SC300 / Presonus M7 should be similar, too. My SC400 is somewhat different, it has a treble dip almost exactly where the Mackie is bumped back up.

So although the extended response of the 017 in the topmost octave indicates a thinner, lighter diaphragm than in the Mackie, you don't absolutely have to pay 2 grand if you're after a sound like that (the mics I mentioned are all sub-$100).


Actually, smoothness is exactly what you'd expect from a slightly mid-centric response like that.

You're probably right thinking that bogus charts may not be all that uncommon. I would expect it more on the budget end of the market though...
I think this just backs up "you can't tell from a frequency response chart. The Soyuz 017 is an elite mic. If sub-$100 mics sounded like it, people would rarely pay more. :p

Well, I'll quibble that the Mackie frequency response chart is anything like the 017, but again, I think that's beside the point. The Mackie is down 8 dB from the 100-1k baseline at 10k, the Soyuz down 3 dB (note the grid lines are 1 dB for the Soyuz). I doubt these mic sound anything alike. And it isn't much on the chart, but that peak corner at 2k is so easily heard as part of the sound. It's made me like my baritone register and not feel I have to sing everything as a tenor.

But if the $2k is off-putting, the tube is $4k, same specs. I was originally going for a tube mic (Chandler REDD was in the running—and I like U67 very much, but dam), to try something completely different, explore. But ultimately I don't like the idea of waiting for tubes to warm up, and being diligent about turning things off, and wondering if it needs replacing as it ages, went for the FET. I might get a tube for the fun of it, but one of the many excellent sub-$1k ones. (BTW, Chris Martin was a long-time C414 singer, occasionally SM7B for recording in the control room—switched to the Soyuz 017 Tube in a shootout a couple of years ago.)
 

earlevel

Active Member
Joined
Nov 18, 2020
Messages
209
Likes
247
Back to USB, there's the Blue Yeti and Snowball ($100, $40). You can hear both here—convenient, and they don't sound bad for a youtube video or Zoom call.

However, as the VO guy says, if you're going for broadcast or other serious work, you need to get a mic and an interface. More importantly, my point here is to listen to a him, a VO pro, not me. I'm just chatting, I don't do that stuff. (He has a lot of videos, apparently discusses good budget choices.)

 
Last edited:

Chromatischism

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jun 5, 2020
Messages
2,464
Likes
1,847
I think we are getting somewhere with the VideoMic NTG. Those look great – can use at the desk and on the road with my Nikon. And if you're just getting started, or traveling, it doesn't need an interface. Very versatile. It sounds great, too.

I've ordered one.

 
Last edited:

AA63

Member
Joined
Aug 23, 2021
Messages
6
Likes
2
Lot's of opinions - here is mine.

You are looking in the wrong place. Treat your room. A good mic in a highly reflective room will not sound good. A decent mic - as in ANY decent mic in a well treated room can sound good - AND - will be much easier to treat (mix). AT2020 is a very decent mic that can be had 2nd hand for about $100.

Once you have a decent source, learn how to compress and eq. to your taste. Compression will be the most important for a voice over.

If you want the cheap hack version of this, hang a couple of moving blankets in one of your room corners, mic pointing in. Then try the other way around (mic pointing out) to see which is best for your room - usually it is mic pointing in. Don't forget the ceiling. With those reflections tamed, you will be able to up the gain of your mic - find a balance where it is not too hot, because you will further up it with compression and do not want a noise floor to be elevated. Eq in two stages, removal of bad, then shape for good. You can then de-Ess and limit. Lots of great free plugins.

And that is my 2.5 centavos.
 
Last edited:

AnalogSteph

Major Contributor
Joined
Nov 6, 2018
Messages
1,724
Likes
1,592
Location
.de
Treat your room. A good mic in a highly reflective room will not sound good. A decent mic - as in ANY decent mic in a well treated room can sound good - AND - will be much easier to treat (mix).
Fair point. As demonstrated here:

For most people, tackling the room and noise sources to a reasonable degree and using a typical mid-priced cardioid condenser is going to make a whole lot more financial sense than desperately trying to make an untreated room work by getting a $$$ MKH416. Even with "proper" acoustic elements.

Have I posted this one yet?
AT2020 is a very decent mic that can be had 2nd hand for about $100.
Or in fact brand new, for that matter (US pricing). Still expensive enough for what is essentially a small diameter (16 mm) electret job of average build, average self noise and slightly low bass with no special features. It will handle 144 dB SPL but how often do you need that? AT's bang/buck model, IMHO, is the $149 AT2035.
 
OP
617

617

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Mar 18, 2019
Messages
1,464
Likes
3,096
Location
Somerville, MA
I've been comparing published axial mic responses for inexpensive LDCs. I still have not decided what degree of smoothing is used in these plots - clearly it is some, but as was pointed out before, microphones may just be intrinsically less prone to little resonances.

However, when you overlay a bunch of responses, you start to see that although smooth, there are major differences which could really alter tonality.
1629996568948.png


There are three major trends I see. The first is high variability of the low end response. Even without the HP filter engaged, the bass response of these different units is variable, some rolling off slowly and others more rapidly. I don't know how mics are measured so the measurement set up might be the causal factor here.

Second, the presence or air boost is variable. Some microphones have hardly any excess of energy at 8k. Some have up to 4db, which is beginning to be quite significant. Again, I am not an expert, but sound transducers tend to become more directional with higher frequency, so the top boost may be necessary to make up for the relative fragility of these frequencies - easily lost in the room, in mic location etc.

Least obvious and perhaps most important, many microphones have a gently sloped response, with the bass and mid region being consistently quieter than the treble region. See the Sennheiser MK4:
1629996772889.png

Fairly flat, nothing jumps out, but the whole response is tilted. Contrast with the Rode NT1 and Stellar X2 mics:

1629996834812.png


Which are truly flat. Incidentally, here is a comparison of the Rode NT1 and NT1-a:

1629996880599.png


These are both measurements from Rode. I have to say, I find it odd that they would market the NT1-a as being similar to the NT1, when it has a very different tonality. Even if we assume the NT1 response has more smoothing, it has a flater response (the NT1-a swings nearly 8db from bass to top boost), and worse (but still excellent) noise numbers.
 

Attachments

  • 1629996458045.png
    1629996458045.png
    334.1 KB · Views: 6

Trell

Senior Member
Joined
May 13, 2021
Messages
423
Likes
397
You'll find similar large variances in fr among expensive LDCs as well, and that is due to voicing and intended usage of the mics. The RODE "market the NT1-a as being similar to the NT1" is bit disingenuous of them, if true.
 
Top Bottom