Airy mic to compliment SM7b and vintage U87 for vocals?

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Airy mic to compliment SM7b and vintage U87 for vocals?

Post by jgimbel » Tue Aug 27, 2013 10:42 pm

Trying to keep this as short as I can while being clear about the details. Here I am three years (almost to the day) after posting a thread trying to find a smooth, dark mic for vocals, now I'm looking for the opposite. I find myself using my SM7b (dark and smooth) and my 1974 Neumann U87 (more detailed than the SM7b but not particularly bright or airy) on the majority of the vocals of clients recording here. I love the sound of both, but in mixing I often find myself adding a healthy dose of air - 12/15k. I'm happy with my results but I'm interested in being able to get more air at the mic for the right sources. While it's more than I'm looking to spend, the Manley Reference Cardioid has always piqued my interest in samples for being airy up top but not lacking low end nor sharp in the high mids. It seems airy but somehow in a natural way, and also not perfectly clean and clear - I like color. The Manley is more than I'm looking to spend but if it ends up being the right thing I'll wait a while and save longer, but a few other mics have popped up as having a present high end without being shrill. Here are a few:

Telefunken AR51 - high end seems nice in the Pensado's Place Telefunken shootout, though the roll end is definitely rolled off, still seems like it could be a good option.
Bock 195 - I'm afraid it might be a little cleaner than I might like
Blackspace UM25 - not sure if this would be so airy, but I loved the ELAM 251 in the Pensado's Place shootout and maybe this would be in a mildly similar family
Telefunken AK47 to some extent, less airy but brighter than a 47's high end, I did love it on vocals in the aforementioned shootout but didn't find it especially airy.

Anyone else find their bases covered for dark/detailed soft and look for something airy as a complement? Anyone have experience with these micas on vocals, or soft acoustic guitar, which I also plan on using this mic for? I'll be making rounds checking out a few options at the AES show in NYC in October, I know they had the AR51 at the last one a couple years ago but at the time I didn't appreciate the difference between "airy" and "harsh", ha!

PS - this will more than likely be used on male vocals (soft?), female vocals, maybe dark acoustic guitar, percussion, etc.
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Post by cgarges » Wed Aug 28, 2013 12:05 am

The Lawson L251 is worth checking out. That's a REALLY good mic capsule. I have the whole set (tube/solid state electronics and 251 and 47 capsules) and while I usually use the FET47/tube 251 setup, either set of electronics sounds good with either capsule. When I need a bright, airy sound for a vocal, acoustic guitar, or mono drum overhead. that's usually my starting point. I have an older 414EB, too, that's nice, but the Lawson has a bit more going on up-top. I'm buying a grand piano this week and I cannot wait to try that Lawson 251 as a mono mic in that piano.

I find the U87s to have a bit of a peak up high. Not like a Sony C800 or anything, but not really a mic I would call "dark." Mine's a late-70s model, but I feel like none of any of them I've ever used have been especially dark or lacking detail. You might want to have your capsule checked out. Could be time for a cleaning.

I should also mention that I've mixed a few recordings for a band from Columbia, SC called Lunch Money. They do their recordings at home and they always get really nice, detailed, airy vocal sounds from their female singer. If I remember correctly, they've got an Avantone CV-12. I have to de-ess their vocals a good bit in the mix, but the tone of that mic is really great on her. Might be worth investigating.
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Post by E.Bennett » Wed Aug 28, 2013 3:35 am

We have a pair of BLUE B6 lollipop capsules that fit on the AKG 451. They are extremely detailed and "airy"/bright. They approach AKG C12 territory.

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Post by Jim Williams » Wed Aug 28, 2013 7:46 am

Apex 460, $189.

Add a Microphone parts kit and rk-12 capsule or blow $350 on a Campbell.

C-12 clones are easy to build. Cheap too.
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Post by Recording Engineer » Wed Aug 28, 2013 9:44 am

Jim's suggestion is my vote... Now I still haven't tried one myself, but it's stupid that I haven't bought and done-up a pair with that quality/pricing combo!

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Post by jgimbel » Wed Aug 28, 2013 6:16 pm

Thanks for the input so far everyone.
cgarges wrote: I find the U87s to have a bit of a peak up high. Not like a Sony C800 or anything, but not really a mic I would call "dark." Mine's a late-70s model, but I feel like none of any of them I've ever used have been especially dark or lacking detail. You might want to have your capsule checked out. Could be time for a cleaning.
I described the SM7b as on the darker side but certainly wasn't calling the U87 a dark mic. It definitely has a high mid presence and is incredibly detailed, but I wouldn't call it an airy mic either. This makes it great as is for a lot of things, but for the occasional project I do give it quite a bit of 15k which gives it a sound I've heard some other mics (like the Manley) have from the start. (not my favorite mix but this is a project with the U87 for vocals and some air added, vocals start about 30 seconds in - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_L8DeTEFJw - not approaching C12 territory but moreso than the U87 flat)

The Lunch Money/Avantone tracks sound nice, definitely very bright, fitting with other samples I've heard. I do want something brighter but I've always been concerned about the Avantone being a little light on the low end when I've listened to them before. I don't need a mic with a surplus of boomy low end but this one seems like it could be slightly more rolled off than I might want when using it on something like acoustic guitars. I could certainly be wrong.

Jim, while I've done quite a bit of soldering cables and whatnot, I've never built a mic, but I'll consider going that route.

E.Bennett, interesting. I've admittedly stayed away a bit from the Blue capsules because I've gotten lost in how many different options there are that aren't always obvious what the differences are without extensive research. I'll check out some samples of that one.

A trusted producer friend of mine came by today and just got back from St. Louis where he was tracking someone with a Telefunken AK47, which he described as smooth and round but not dark. I'm definitely going to look more into samples of the two.
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Post by dfuruta » Wed Aug 28, 2013 7:44 pm

I quite like my Langevin CR3As. Not too horribly expensive on the used market, if you're able to find them.

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Post by dfuruta » Wed Aug 28, 2013 7:45 pm

To what extent can it be called a C12 clone if the body shape and grill are totally different?

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Post by JohnDavisNYC » Wed Aug 28, 2013 8:03 pm

what's wrong with EQ?
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Post by vvv » Wed Aug 28, 2013 8:32 pm

JohnDavisNYC wrote:what's wrong with EQ?
:lol:

My thought exactly, altho' I confess that I'd rather change out the mic (I have a few) than use EQ, if that change will work.
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Post by jgimbel » Wed Aug 28, 2013 8:41 pm

JohnDavisNYC wrote:what's wrong with EQ?
Not a thing, but like I mentioned I find it's nice to be able to get the sounds I'm looking for with mic placement as much as possible, and this is just one kind of sound I haven't been able to get from a mic before EQ. Also I figure if this is an adjustment I find myself doing quite often it'd be nice to have something that just sounds like that from the start. I did just get two new preamps that both have some nice high EQ, but I still just love this kind of gorgeous sound that I've heard in mic samples.


cgarges, I forgot to address the Lawson suggestion. That's one I've had on my list for a while, though I can't say I've been able to listen to enough samples of them to be able to feel kind of informed about them. I'll start looking more and try to get my hands on one. I know at one point I saw the point made that since they are an interchangeable system they're not going to be able to imitate two mics that have pretty different circuits. I know I'm saying that poorly but maybe you know what I'm saying better than I can say it. But that only really matters if I'm comparing it to a real ELAM 251 or U47, which I'm fairly certain I would never have a chance to do, and wouldn't need it to match either of them perfectly even if I did have the chance.
dfuruta wrote:To what extent can it be called a C12 clone if the body shape and grill are totally different?
Good question, that's something I've wondered. I'm certainly aware you can modify and build things that can be a great bang for your buck, but I can't say I haven't felt that magical 3D sound from far more expensive microphones than less expensive mics, modded or not. But obviously they're all different.

I'll check out the Langevin CR3A, I've never looked into them before.
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Post by dfuruta » Wed Aug 28, 2013 9:04 pm

The CR3A is *very* bright, but (I think) in a pleasant way. Also known as the VTL CR3A, and later turned into the Langevin CR2001 (which I haven't used).

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Post by drumsound » Wed Aug 28, 2013 9:27 pm

Maybe not as classy as some of the mics mentioned, but the 4050 seems like a coog compliment to the 87 and SM7.

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Post by llmonty » Thu Aug 29, 2013 4:38 am

I really like a BLUE Dragonfly for airy vocals. Love it.
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Post by Jim Williams » Thu Aug 29, 2013 7:52 am

dfuruta wrote:To what extent can it be called a C12 clone if the body shape and grill are totally different?
All of those are variables, but still variations on a theme. A friend has an Apex with the Cinemag iron and Campbell capsule. Mine is the same mic with the stock iron and a Microphone Parts C-12 capsule. He also has a C-12 copy style grill without the inner screens. I used the stock grill.

His mic has a bit extra 20k air, I suspect it's that capsule. My mic has extra depth in the low end, I suspect the cathode follower design has a deeper low end response. His mic has a nasty ring at 6k hz, he believes it's that C-12 open style grill ringing.

All in all, my version is smoother. I like the cathode follower design, it sounds a bit cleaner than the C-12 plate drive circuits, especially in the bass. It's close enough to a real C-12 sound as not to be concerned.
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