Large Diaphragm Mics

Get that song on tape! Errr... disk?
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060267
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Large Diaphragm Mics

Post by 060267 » Fri Aug 16, 2019 3:47 pm

Ok guys and gals, this might sound comically simple to you but I can’t figure out what mic would be best for me to do an old timey recording of just vocals and acoustic at the same time. Think early recording productions in the vein of Robert Johnson or something down that road. Single track straight to tape , heavy on room ambiance .

If anyone can help make a suggestion I’d appreciate you!
Just another opinion

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Re: Large Diaphragm Mics

Post by mbene085 » Fri Aug 16, 2019 4:08 pm

I'm pretty sure anything of that era would have been recorded on a ribbon mic, not an LDC.

What's your budget? Are you open to renting? Do you only want to buy? When you say straight to tape, do you mean actual tape? If so, are we talking reel-to-reel or digital tape (ADAT)? What's the rest of your signal chain look like? What budget do you have for preamps? Who's doing the recording? What type of environment is it being recorded in?

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Re: Large Diaphragm Mics

Post by Larry Mal » Fri Aug 16, 2019 4:42 pm

You can approximate an older microphone with a new microphone and some EQ and compression techniques sometimes. Maybe a tape plug in.

https://www.reddit.com/r/audioengineeri ... sound_old/

That may not be at all what you want, of course, but then again there is the fact that you could get a new, quality and modern microphone and use it for that sound even while making it sound old-timey in other ways.
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Re: Large Diaphragm Mics

Post by Steadyriot. » Fri Aug 16, 2019 5:11 pm

+1 on the ribbon mic for that kind of sound
Other mics to consider are maybe the Eartrumpet Edwina ($$$) or the Copperphone.

As Larry said, any mic and some eq-ing would get you pretty far though.
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Re: Large Diaphragm Mics

Post by øøøøøøø » Fri Aug 16, 2019 8:11 pm

060267 wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 3:47 pm
Ok guys and gals, this might sound comically simple to you but I can’t figure out what mic would be best for me to do an old timey recording of just vocals and acoustic at the same time. Think early recording productions in the vein of Robert Johnson or something down that road. Single track straight to tape , heavy on room ambiance .

If anyone can help make a suggestion I’d appreciate you!
How literal are you trying to be? And what is your budget?

The recordings you're talking about are either late entirely-mechanical recordings or early electro-mechanical recordings. They would not have used magnetic tape, which did not come into use in the States until after WWII. This will make quite an impact on the sound you achieve. Analog recording using magnetic tape is much higher-fidelity than 1920s-1930s mechanical or electromechanical recording.

A good period-correct choice, if you're trying to be quite literal, might be a Western Electric 639b. Make sure both the dynamic and the ribbon element are in good working order; they can be finicky. An RCA 44 could be another solid choice, though be advised that any mic making use of ribbon technology might not be at its best at distance on a quieter source like acoustic guitar--they're not very sensitive. Western Electric did make some condenser microphones as early as the 1910s, but they're quite rare and I've no experience with them. German condenser microphones existed as well, but they never would've been seen in the States at that time.

If you're not trying to be super-literal and just want a good sounding minimalist recording of guitar and vocal, I'd opt for the very best large-diaphragm condenser I could afford. And the best-sounding room I could find, naturally.

Good luck!

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Re: Large Diaphragm Mics

Post by jorri » Fri Aug 30, 2019 7:33 am

Ribbons would be good but perhaps for a vocal/guitar what is important is a figure-8 method. You can use two fig 8s, because at 90 degrees they are best at nulling, placing in positions to pick up vox but null guitar and vice versa. Yet capturing ambient response from behind-the ambience and way something is micced often being as important to a vintage sound. I. E. Not a dead room, not a cardioid mic rammed up into the intrument,a wider pattern further away.

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Re: Large Diaphragm Mics

Post by Maggieo » Fri Aug 30, 2019 1:08 pm

Adding to Brad's post- if you really want an early 20th Century sound, it's best to do that in post using EQ, noise generators, etc... Like he said, it wasn't the mics so much as it's what they were using to record the sound on.
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Re: Large Diaphragm Mics

Post by jorri » Fri Aug 30, 2019 1:37 pm

True, im not familiar but things like carbon mics and distortion can easily be replicated enough. A particular ambience though i find 500%easier to mix if you just... Record that ambience, then its there, often with very little need to fiddle, if its unclear compress the ambience, if its phasey delay the ambience 30ms, a poor room sounding better than plugins already.
The difficulty perhaps is finding the space, booking it, taking recording rig there.

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Re: Large Diaphragm Mics

Post by 060267 » Sun Sep 01, 2019 4:40 pm

øøøøøøø wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 8:11 pm
060267 wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 3:47 pm
Ok guys and gals, this might sound comically simple to you but I can’t figure out what mic would be best for me to do an old timey recording of just vocals and acoustic at the same time. Think early recording productions in the vein of Robert Johnson or something down that road. Single track straight to tape , heavy on room ambiance .

If anyone can help make a suggestion I’d appreciate you!
How literal are you trying to be? And what is your budget?

The recordings you're talking about are either late entirely-mechanical recordings or early electro-mechanical recordings. They would not have used magnetic tape, which did not come into use in the States until after WWII. This will make quite an impact on the sound you achieve. Analog recording using magnetic tape is much higher-fidelity than 1920s-1930s mechanical or electromechanical recording.

A good period-correct choice, if you're trying to be quite literal, might be a Western Electric 639b. Make sure both the dynamic and the ribbon element are in good working order; they can be finicky. An RCA 44 could be another solid choice, though be advised that any mic making use of ribbon technology might not be at its best at distance on a quieter source like acoustic guitar--they're not very sensitive. Western Electric did make some condenser microphones as early as the 1910s, but they're quite rare and I've no experience with them. German condenser microphones existed as well, but they never would've been seen in the States at that time.

If you're not trying to be super-literal and just want a good sounding minimalist recording of guitar and vocal, I'd opt for the very best large-diaphragm condenser I could afford. And the best-sounding room I could find, naturally.

Good luck!
Thanks Everyone for your input,

Ok, maybe Im not being THAT literal so to speak. I really liked the way Jack White was recording just his guitar and vocal on his reel to reel in "It Might Get loud",

Maybe I shouldn't have said Robert Johnson for my Example. Maybe I'm looking for more of a Bruce Springsteen "Nebraska" sound, or even like a mid 1950's Doo Wop Recording where you hear all the guys singing together live to tape. I'm Just going to be recording to My Teac A-2300S which I believe is just stereo 2-track which would be perfect for an acoustic guitar and a vocal. Am I trippin here? I Feel like it is totally doable but I can't figure out what Mic our micsI should use. I have two SM-57s and for vocals they are fine but on acoustic its just terrible.
Just another opinion

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Re: Large Diaphragm Mics

Post by Larry Mal » Sun Sep 01, 2019 5:35 pm

I looked it up, loosely, and it turns out that Nebraska was recorded to cassette tape with a pair of Shure SM57s:

https://tascam.com/us/support/news/481

So, I don't know. You are at least using better tape.

The problem is, there's a world of microphones and techniques out there. Maybe just keep on with the 57 and get a decent small diaphragm condenser?

Or maybe even something like an inexpensive ribbon like a Cascade? A lot of modern day ribbons try to have the same full spectrum of condensers, quite unlike the old ribbon microphones back in the day. But the Cascades like the Fat Head don't really do that. It'll still give you a pretty dark and older sound.

Whether that's a good one, I'll let you be the judge. I'm not really recommending this approach or anything- I'd rather have one microphone that did a great job at recording acoustic guitar and then make it sound "old timey" in some way or the other- and you are already recording to tape- than some gimmicky Chinese ribbon microphone that just isn't all that great to start with.

This Cascade ribbon sounds very nice on this recording, though.

I mean, what's the room? What's the budget? Is there any mixing or anything after the fact?
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Re: Large Diaphragm Mics

Post by øøøøøøø » Sun Sep 01, 2019 11:07 pm

The very best advice here, in my opinion: Don't get too hung up on process. And definitely don't over-romanticize process or tools.

Begin with either a clear vision or an open mind (or both!), then use what you've got and make it work.

Keep trying and changing things until the work is as you want it to be. Don't let awareness of process bias what you hear.

Ask yourself-- "If I could achieve the sound I seek using the blandest, most-conventional and boring methods + gear, would I be content?" If the answer is an honest "yes," then begin with the process that's most-accessible to you and then explore and refine until the work is as you want it to be.

But if the answer is "hm, that doesn't sound too interesting, if I'm being honest"--if you're really attached to the idea of using analog tape, or a specific sort of microphone, or the microphone at a certain distance, or a certain approach or technique--then you're setting yourself up to miss the artistic mark. It's a mistake most of us make early on. It's a trap.

It can be a fine line, of course. We want to learn others' processes and develop a sense of cause-and-effect. But we definitely don't want to be mere imitators of process. We want to be artists. And if we're waiting around for a certain microphone or circumstance, we're not thinking like an artist. Artists are opportunists.

It was opportunism, not process-obsession, that led to the use of SM57s and cassette on "Nebraska." That was a case of "use what's at hand and make it work." Don't imitate the tools or methods--imitate the opportunism.

Your work doesn't need to utilize a process that's even remotely-similar in order to have the same artistic impact. It doesn't even need to sound the same, or similar--it just as to be "as right for the moment, for the work." Which, with an entirely-different piece of music, may well look and sound entirely different.

You'll be continually-surprised which processes yield which results. I've heard many poorly-done analog recordings sound cold, harsh, thin, lifeless, and brittle. I've heard several expertly-done digital recordings that sound warm, lush, and enveloping. Just be an opportunist. Don't wait. Use what you have, and begin. Then refine.

Good luck!!

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Re: Large Diaphragm Mics

Post by jorri » Mon Sep 02, 2019 4:03 am

øøøøøøø wrote:
Sun Sep 01, 2019 11:07 pm
The very best advice here, in my opinion: Don't get too hung up on process. And definitely don't over-romanticize process or tools.

Begin with either a clear vision or an open mind (or both!), then use what you've got and make it work.

Keep trying and changing things until the work is as you want it to be. Don't let awareness of process bias what you hear.

Ask yourself-- "If I could achieve the sound I seek using the blandest, most-conventional and boring methods + gear, would I be content?" If the answer is an honest "yes," then begin with the process that's most-accessible to you and then explore and refine until the work is as you want it to be.

But if the answer is "hm, that doesn't sound too interesting, if I'm being honest"--if you're really attached to the idea of using analog tape, or a specific sort of microphone, or the microphone at a certain distance, or a certain approach or technique--then you're setting yourself up to miss the artistic mark. It's a mistake most of us make early on. It's a trap.

It can be a fine line, of course. We want to learn others' processes and develop a sense of cause-and-effect. But we definitely don't want to be mere imitators of process. We want to be artists. And if we're waiting around for a certain microphone or circumstance, we're not thinking like an artist. Artists are opportunists.

It was opportunism, not process-obsession, that led to the use of SM57s and cassette on "Nebraska." That was a case of "use what's at hand and make it work." Don't imitate the tools or methods--imitate the opportunism.

Your work doesn't need to utilize a process that's even remotely-similar in order to have the same artistic impact. It doesn't even need to sound the same, or similar--it just as to be "as right for the moment, for the work." Which, with an entirely-different piece of music, may well look and sound entirely different.

You'll be continually-surprised which processes yield which results. I've heard many poorly-done analog recordings sound cold, harsh, thin, lifeless, and brittle. I've heard several expertly-done digital recordings that sound warm, lush, and enveloping. Just be an opportunist. Don't wait. Use what you have, and begin. Then refine.

Good luck!!
I'll second that. Often old analogue processes are imitated, with the irony that at the time they were trying to use what they had in as clear a way as possible, because its what they had.
I guess what i have is a small home and a nearly free hall to use, so I use natural ambience, but others have made better records in their bedroom, as mostly as i was thinking about the job of setting it up and the selfconciousness perhaps of this recording being heard by anyone walking past.
Its got to fit what works.
Only that i think its less about analogue-digital and more live rooms->dead rooms close micced as a general trend that we can recognise in recording style.

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Re: Large Diaphragm Mics

Post by øøøøøøø » Mon Sep 02, 2019 4:15 am

One thing that I never realized until much later—

Not knowing what the hell you’re doing (while acknowledging and embracing that reality) sets you up to potentially stumble upon some really interesting and unusual things (open-mindedness being a prerequisite, of course).

However, an overestimated sense of certainty about the necessity of a tool or process to a desired end result sets you up for disappointment, the vast majority of times.

And in either case, honesty about the quality of the resulting work, and willingness to pivot in search of improvement, sets you up to learn.

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Re: Large Diaphragm Mics

Post by Lamar Fandango » Fri Oct 11, 2019 6:28 pm

I went on a similar "one mic" mission. I wasn't trying to mimic the old timey sound. But I settled on a Telefunken TF-47. It does the single room mic thing very well. But it also exposes a bad room for what it is...and not in a cool old time way. I ended up treating my walls with panels and bass traps. Now I spend more time tuning the room (adjusting the panels) than I do experimenting with mic placement.

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Re: Large Diaphragm Mics

Post by DeathJag » Sat Oct 12, 2019 9:19 am

I once saw a 5-piece bluegrass outfit play to one ribbon mic on the stage. They made a small circle around it and whoever was soloing or singing just walked inside the circle a step. It was live of course, but I was stunned, shocked, even astounded at how well I could hear *everything* that every instrument was doing. I mean, I was completely floored at the sound and sight, and how brilliantly it worked. One lousy mic on stage! Even the dang double bass sounded perfect in the mix!

I’d try a ribbon positioned vertically so 1/2 of the figure 8 hits the guitar and 1/2 hits your vox. Do it in a non-dead room, then move the mic closer or further to balance the room.

However I feel like you, the artist, could also work with someone else to get this sound. A person who loves old tech and understands it. There are recording studios that use three ribbon mics in an echoey room to record drums. These people who are already there, and maybe they’d offer some advice?

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