Q It Up: What mics do you use?

Reggie “C” Crawford [reggie.c[at] citcomm.com], Citadel Broadcasting, Charleston, South Carolina: Here at the station I use the ‘industry standard’ ElectroVoice RE20 – it actually performs pretty good when you have the right process chain. For myself, I would love to take a test drive of the Neumann U-87 or U-67. I hear they are a MUST for voiceovers!

Laurent “kiwi” Boulet [kiwi[at]choi radiox.com], Radio-X: We use Neumann microphones — TLM 103 in production as well as on air. The advantage of the big Neumann diaphragm, their usual warm sound without the adjustment buttons. This way people who don’t know what they are doing won’t get a chance to fool around with the adjustments!

Dave Foxx [DaveFoxx[at]ClearChannel .com], Z100 Radio, New York, NY: Choosing a mic seems like such a hard decision. Does it warm up? (Is there a proximity effect?) Is it accurate? Does it use phantom power? Is the pattern adjustable? Then, of course, is it expensive? (Can I afford it?) They¹re all questions that are pertinent, but the end results are as varied as the number of people who buy microphones. I happen to have two solutions that work extremely well, although oddly, the less expensive one gets better reviews.

When I bought the Neumann M-149, I was certain I had purchased the best mic in the world. Perhaps I did ­- for a studio application. At the checkout counter, it drops most people’s jaws at 5 grand, but it’s certainly one of the most accurate microphones I’ve ever heard. It is incredibly versatile too, although it cannot take the abuse that something like the RE-20 can handle. When volume starts to exceed 80db, it starts to “crack” a bit and it’s extremely sensitive to “handling” noise, so you must use some kind of butterfly mount. Because it’s a powered microphone (with its own power supply), I run it directly into my Pro Tools setup and boost the gain to something useful, without a real pre-amp.

My home studio has a much more basic setup with a SHURE SM-7 microphone with a Stüder D-19 micVALVE Tube Mic/Line Preamp. When I made the purchase, some 10 years ago, the price tag was just about half of what the Neumann ran, but the reviews are actually better. I used to periodically do demonstrations of the Pro Tools systems both at the Spring NAB show in Las Vegas and at special Digidesign forums held here in the New York area. Invariably, when I would use one of my “home studio” sessions for the demo, I would get questions about the mic chain. Eyes would widen when I'd tell them it was an SM-7 with the Stüder box. My sales rep at the local electronics outlet would call me once or twice over the next few weeks to thank me for getting him sales on the Stüder pre-amp, but couldn’t I please start using a more expensive mic?

After all the money spent, I have to say I get better results with a less expensive mic with a really awesome preamp shaping the sound. The SM-7 has a real proximity effect that can warm up a vocal without making it muddy sounding. The Stüder box can really fatten the vocal across the spectrum. Together, they're really hard to beat.

Dan Zullo [Dan[at]VoiceGalaxy.com] VoiceGalaxy Productions, Sagamore Hills, Ohio: I love the AKG C414-B-ULS — fabulous mic, my favorite. Very warm, easy to EQ, and brings out my best. I have also used an Audio-Technica 3530 — nice mic for the money. I recorded a VO at another studio about a year ago. They had a Lawson. I had never used one before; it even made me sound good. When I win the lottery, a Lawson it is!!

Ian Fish [Ian.Fish[at]chrysalis.com], Heart FM, United Kingdom: All out studios are fitted with Beyerdynamic MC740s (http://www.beyerdynamic .co.uk/datasheets/mc740.pdf), a fantastic studio condenser mic that I wouldn’t change for any other.

Our station voice uses a Neumann U87 as standard, which sounds nice, but “affected” by that famous “warmth.” The Beyer’s give a beautifully real response that sounds crisp and clear right through all the effects and processing right up to “on air.” I realize that the Neumann name carries a lot of weight in broadcasting, and it’s become the aspirational microphone of choice, but I’ve always enjoyed looking for my own microphones (and headphones and DAW and mixer) and doing the research to find the best products for ME to work with... regardless of name.

We do a lot of session work with voices, and artists performing acoustic sets, and most users comment on the clarity and quality of sound. I’d certainly recommend the Beyerdynamic MC740 to anybody looking for that detail in their voice work, and personally wouldn’t try anything else. But that’s just me.

Drake Donovan [drake[at]drake donovan.com], Drake Donovan Productions, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Well, my studio at the radio station is a very old RE-20 running thru “God knows what” under the board. It was originally designed three or four Production Directors ago, and all the processing is in a covered lock box. So I’m at the mercy of the engineer to adjust it. (I’ve been in the studio for over a year and it still hasn’t happened yet.) Since I do very little voice work there, it’s not such a big deal. My home rig , however, is a RODE NT-1000 running thru a Yamaha O1-V. I’m very pleased with its performance. I use the DSP in the board to add a little reverb, compression, and gate; then I do all of the EQ-ing and add some more compression with plug-ins in the computer. 

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