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Thread: Question on condenser mics for bluegrass band

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    Question Question on condenser mics for bluegrass band

    Which mic would be best for all around studio and live use for bluegrass instruments and/or vocals?

    The one I am currently leaning towards right now is the Rde NT3 because it has the option of using 9v battery for phantom power when Im just using one/two of my Line 6 L2t speakers without a mixer.

    Id like to use a large diaphragm mic for single mic of a bluegrass band with two condenser mics on the side of the center mic, maybe 2 - 4 feet on the side so solo artist can play up to them when not singing. Typical arrangement would be lead singer with instrument on center large diaphragm mic (usually guitar or mandolin). On the sides on condensers would be instrumentals (mandolin, banjo, guitar). Bass is in the back with a separate mic or direct input.

    AKG C 535
    Shure SM81
    Shure KSM 137
    Rde NT3
    Rde NT5
    SE Electronics sE5

    Since budget is not wide open for a bunch of these, Id prefer something that could be used for vocal and instrumentals in different settings as needed.

    Thoughts on which would be most versatile?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Registered User Chip Booth's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question on condenser mics for bluegrass band

    I have enjoyed the KSM137s that I use at work more than I expected. They are a reasonably neutral sounding, general purpose small diaphragm condenser. I think I prefer them over my SM81s these days.

    For your purposes however, however, I would look into a large diaphragm mic. I have used AT mics for many years, and regularly use the 4033 or the 4050 for a one mic bluegrass type live setup. The 4050 is also a staple in my studio for both instruments and vocals as it is very natural sounding and has switchable polar patterns making it quite flexible. Both of these mics can be found used at reasonable prices.

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    Registered User mandobassman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question on condenser mics for bluegrass band

    I have played in two bands for the past 9 years using the MXL 990 condenser. Probably wouldn't use it in the studio but it has worked flawlessly on stage for vocals and instruments. Seldom have feedback issues. I fact, we use it monthly in a small, noisy restaurant and it sounds great. And it is cheap. Under $100.

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    Registered User almeriastrings's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question on condenser mics for bluegrass band

    For live use, another vote for the AT4033/4050. If you need a pair of SD mics, then the AT PRO37's are a good match too. All of these have proven themselves very roadworthy. Some of the other SD condensers listed are fine in a studio situation, but not ideal live, for a variety of reasons (prone to feedback, very exposed diaphragms, 'delicate' build quality, etc.) Another well-proven option would be a Shure KSM 32/44 and the KSM137's.

    Though I tend to like quite a few of the SE mics, I thought the SE5 was over-priced for what it offers. There are many mics out there at half that price easily as good.
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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question on condenser mics for bluegrass band

    Local group to reduce head banging has 2 side address cardioid pattern mics side by side ,

    they function as One but all the singers dont have to get so packed in together..

    BTW Rode's M3 is less Money than the NT3, http://www.rode.com/microphones/m3
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    Default Re: Question on condenser mics for bluegrass band

    I also am a fan of the 4033/4050 especially for recording. The 4050 is a great recording mic because of the variable pattern. But I don't use them for live work anymore because people don't know how to use them and because you really have to be careful with speaker and monitor placement. So now I've found some great inexpensive dynamic mics for the vocals with Oktava012's, Peavy 480 for guitar and a Beyer 260 for my mandolin. I found all these mics in pawn shops, eBay and Craigslist for greatly reduced prices. If I ever seen a Shure 27 or 32 at less than list I would jumped on them, but the name Shure seems to never mean discount.

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    Default Re: Question on condenser mics for bluegrass band

    My band uses AT 4033's and they work great except outdoors when the wind is blowing. Lately I see some pro bands using Ear Trumpet Labs large condenser mics. They are about the same price of a AT 4033. YMMV

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    Registered User McIrish's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question on condenser mics for bluegrass band

    Another vote for the AT 4050. It's a great all-around mic and works well in groups of people.
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    Registered User Chip Booth's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question on condenser mics for bluegrass band

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Greer View Post
    My band uses AT 4033's and they work great except outdoors when the wind is blowing.
    The are definitely useless outdoors without a windscreen.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Question on condenser mics for bluegrass band

    Until recently we used an Audio Technica AT4040, with good results. We've just acquired an Ear Trumpet Labs 'Louise' condenser, with modern electronics and vintage looks. Couldn't be happier with it. It's specifically tuned to respond well in a single mic situation, needs very little EQ, and manages the difficult trick of sounding warm and clear at the same time. A little more money than the AT, but well worth it for us. We've had lots of good comments about the sound we make now, and other acts using our setup are blown away by how they sound. Recommended.
    http://www.eartrumpetlabs.com/produc...phones/louise/
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    Default Re: Question on condenser mics for bluegrass band

    We started the one mic set pu with a 4050 a great mic but seems to be extremely prone to feedback, took some work to get it EQ'ud out. We now use a Nady ribbon mic and love it. We do a true one mic set up and the ribbon sounds more like 1st generation bluegrass I guess that's because that's what they used. I know I'm listening to recordings bit at that time ribbons were state of the art so most recording used them. Ribbons are warmer, less harsh, than condensers IMHO.

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    Default Re: Question on condenser mics for bluegrass band

    Quote Originally Posted by mandotim1955 View Post
    Until recently we used an Audio Technica AT4040, with good results. We've just acquired an Ear Trumpet Labs 'Louise' condenser, with modern electronics and vintage looks. Couldn't be happier with it. It's specifically tuned to respond well in a single mic situation, needs very little EQ, and manages the difficult trick of sounding warm and clear at the same time. A little more money than the AT, but well worth it for us. We've had lots of good comments about the sound we make now, and other acts using our setup are blown away by how they sound. Recommended.
    http://www.eartrumpetlabs.com/produc...phones/louise/
    I'm really looking for 2 small diaphragm condenser mics to augment the single mic I already have, but the Louise looks intriguing. I haven't been able to find any videos of it online or audio recordings of bluegrass bands. Do you know of any?

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    Default Re: Question on condenser mics for bluegrass band

    Look at Della Mae. They use Ear Trumpet mic's every time I've seen them. At Grey Fox they used one by Ear Trumpet that looked like it was a large diaphragm capsule suspended in a bicycle chain ring. Crazy looking mic but sounded great.

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    Default Re: Question on condenser mics for bluegrass band

    Whole bunch of videos here, using various EarTrumpet Labs models. http://www.eartrumpetlabs.com/videos-3/ Great mics.
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    Default Re: Question on condenser mics for bluegrass band

    Does have a sort of steam-punk look.
    writing about music
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    Default Re: Question on condenser mics for bluegrass band

    Absolutely brilliant marketing concept. Fantastic. Very clearly shows that looks really do matter. Also interesting to read a few of the 'technical' reviews - hardly any of which even attempt to address the single most important thing with any condenser microphone, the source and design of the diaphragm and circuit used. The only magazine review that did address this adequately was the Music Tech review back in 2012. The manufacturer's website is also surprisingly (or not) light on any meaningful technical data.... and is completely silent as to the internal components used.

    Thanks to Music Tech we know that the 'Edwina' is built around the Transound TSB2555a electret 1" capsule (retail price $12) and uses the generic (very simple) Schoeps transformerless FET circuit that is the basis of the majority of low cost Chinese microphones (same as in the MXL 990, for example).

    You can see the capsule used here.

    A better picture with frequency response, self-noise and other data.

    The diaphragm is actually 21mm, making it a medium-diaphragm design according to most definitions. It seems the 'Louise' and 'Josephine' use the same capsule assembly.

    It's a really fascinating phenomena... it has me scratching my head big-time, to be honest. On the one hand you have people setting out to make really top class, high spec mic diaphragms which are really very challenging and costly to produce, and on the other you have all these 'big names' like Hot Rize and Jerry Douglas obviously very happy with the results from a mass produced $12 (which is what I paid a couple of years ago for some) Chinese microphone capsule inside a piece of plumbing

    Go figure, as they say.

    Absolutely nothing wrong with liking the designs - they do look great - but am left wondering at why more interest is not evident in the actual functional bits. Also, if people are happy with the sound, that's great too. At the same time it is a fascinating psychological phenomenon when so many people are obsessive about the most minute and esoteric aspects of microphones, often demanding the 'ultimate' yet can find satisfaction in something so basic and simple. Those Transound capsules are pretty decent, in fact, and are very popular with mic 'self-builders'. In other ways, however, they are not even remotely close to what say, Neumann, Sennheiser, Schoeps and others use in their products.
    Last edited by almeriastrings; Feb-27-2015 at 2:01am.
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    Default Re: Question on condenser mics for bluegrass band

    Quote Originally Posted by almeriastrings View Post
    It's a really fascinating phenomena... it has me scratching my head big-time, to be honest.
    Hey, didn't you get the memo? Visual presentation is everything, these days. Nobody listens to music anymore except on YouTube.


    I guess it's less expensive than a side-address Schoeps in a Wes Dooly replica RCA44 shell, but that's what I'd use if I was aiming for the big time and had to look cool while doing it. I'm afraid my days of looking cool are long past, so I just use classic workhorse mics and try to avoid the trends.

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    Default Re: Question on condenser mics for bluegrass band

    I must admit to have resorted to stuffing a little Sony ECM lav mic inside a big old brass and Bakelite 'antique' mic case once myself for a TV show when they wanted that 'retro' look.... everyone was very impressed.... "awesome mic!!!"
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    Default Re: Question on condenser mics for bluegrass band

    I've used a wide range of mics for single mic work with the band, lots of them mentioned here. One thing to remember is that you wouldn't really want a 3000 mic in front of a bluegrass band doing the hillbilly twostep for solos. Much too easy to do serious damage. That said, I did some A/B tests with the Louise before I decided to keep it. The comparators were an Audio Technica AT4033, a 4040, a Neumann U87 and a Neumann TLM103. Cheap capsule or no, it sounded better to my ears than everything except the U87, and was very resistant to feedback. Plenty of gain available, so no-one had to 'crowd' the mic too much. The TLM sounded harsh by comparison, and was more prone to feedback. (I had a meter out front to measure the max volume we could reach before feedback). The AT mics did what AT mics do; a good sound, but nothing to write home about.
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    Default Re: Question on condenser mics for bluegrass band

    There are a great many reasons why certain designs of microphones work in some applications and not others. Many of these reasons are not at all immediately obvious, and involve getting into some quite deep technical waters. You could summarize some of it by saying "best is not always better", in fact.... of the examples you give there, the U87 is a beautifully engineered microphone. The diaphragm, the circuit, the components, the head basket.. the lot... is first class. It has also had decades of refinement. I've got an old 'purple label' one one myself which is a super microphone.. in the studio... but as a live mic? Many of the things that make it great in the studio count against it "live. The variable patterns - very useful, but also result in the off-axis rejection and pickup pattern linearity being inferior to many simple "fixed" microphones. This does not matter so much in a controlled environment, but on stage, with "wash" and reflections everywhere - it does. Likewise, the very good S/N ratio and low self-noise is important for recording - but pretty much irrelevant via a PA. The capsule in your 'Louise' is incredibly noisy! In fact, roughly on a par with a typical lav mic.... but, it doesn't matter in a live mic as it is still "quiet enough". The AT4033 is usually thought of as a "LD condenser" - but it is no such thing. It only looks like a LD condenser... it is actually a medium diaphragm electret... and though quite a bit technically "inferior" to a true LD condenser (such as the U87), in some situations, those 'inferiorities' can make them easier to use in some situations. It also has quite a high self noise figure, but the pickup pattern is well controlled (easier to achieve with a smaller, single fixed vs. dual diaphragm), and in addition, the way the diaphragm moves in response to sounds is also different than a very fine quality 'true' LD condenser - as such it might seem "better" than a U87 (or a 4050) live. In (very) general terms the self-polarized electret backplates are quite a bit thicker than those found on high quality 'true' condensers and this affects a) their transient response and b) high frequency handling. The very best electrets are not truly "inferior", but they do have different properties, and those properties might prove advantageous in some applications. All of these factors (and a few others) coincide in 'Gain Before Feedback' which is not so much to do with sensitivity but rather, performance in a closed loop. Two of biggest factors in that area are the linearity of the pickup pattern and off-axis rejection capabilities, and here it can often be the case that a very simple, technically "inferior" mic to a top class "studio" mic can turn in a more manageable performance, and frankly, through a PA (even the very best of them) any other deficiencies are not going to be heard. One very reasonably priced (and good looking) mic that people might like to try out in that situation is the Blue Spark. It too is a small/medium diaphragm design, and it also has a well controlled pickup pattern with decent off-axis rejection - quite similar to the AT 4033. In the end, what works, works... and how it works is probably only of interest to geeks..
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    Default Re: Question on condenser mics for bluegrass band

    Someday I hope to own an AKG C 414. That is a really nice sounding mic for live performance with one mic.
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    Default Re: Question on condenser mics for bluegrass band

    Hi almeriastrings, thanks for the extra explanation; technically erudite as always! I wouldn't dream of using the Louise for recording, for all the reasons you explain. I was looking for a mic that was sonically 'good enough' for live single mic work (admittedly through a nice RCF PA with digital desk), and the Louise makes that job look very easy. The funky looks were a bonus, and we're very happy with the results.
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    Default Re: Question on condenser mics for bluegrass band

    DIY Mic? That sounds interesting. Where'd be the best place to find info on how to build something that'd work just like the "Louise" or better?

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    Default Re: Question on condenser mics for bluegrass band

    There are lots of articles on the web, covering all aspects... generally, it is best (and safest) to start with basic FET designs rather than try high voltage tube designs. There are also kits available (just a few examples):

    http://www.aurycle.com/aurycle-a460-...icrophone.html

    http://microphone-parts.com/microphones/ra-23/

    http://www.diymic.com/

    Useful references

    http://www.pfarrell.com/music/shanghaimic.html

    http://groupdiy.com/index.php?topic=21267.0

    http://micandmod.com/en/106-u87-i
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    Default Re: Question on condenser mics for bluegrass band

    Thanks almeriastrings. So if I wanted to go with something that was as good as or better than the AT 4033 with a couple of smaller diaphragm mics flanking the sides, any idea how the A460 and A218p would do? They look great and seem like a good price point.

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