Condenser mic recs?

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Condenser mic recs?

Post by my bloody television » Thu Dec 10, 2020 1:58 pm

I’m looking to up my recording game a bit and want to invest in a nice condenser mic. I know one mic can’t do everything but I would like something that can cover a lot of ground...at the very least a strong vocal mic that I could use next to a dynamic on a guitar cab and stick on a drum kit. I’m trying to stay under $1000 and as such have been looking at the Neumann tlm102, Warm Audio wa47, and audio technica 4047 as contenders. What are your thoughts? Are there any others I should be considering? Should I consider raising my budget or will my current budget get me a really solid mic?

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Re: Condenser mic recs?

Post by Larry Mal » Thu Dec 10, 2020 2:08 pm

So it's a large diaphragm condenser you are considering?

I have an Audio-Technica 4050 that works well.

When I researched them, I read over and over that one should stretch the budget to get a Neumann TLM 103 and not the 102. I forget what I read that made me feel that, but it was very conclusive.

In your price range I'll suggest the AKG C414.

I mean, buy it used.
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Re: Condenser mic recs?

Post by marqueemoon » Thu Dec 10, 2020 2:35 pm

A U87 clone of some kind.

I bought the real deal (a 70’s one) and I love it. Having switchable patterns and onboard high pass and pad makes it usable for nearly anything.

I think my next mic purchase is going to be the baddest Earthworks omni I can afford. I hate proximity effect and off axis coloration, so omni is my usual go-to. I usually am recording myself so there’s no bleed of other instruments to worry about. Extended (not hyped) high end is a wonderful thing.

414s are popular, but sound really brittle and boxy to me.

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Re: Condenser mic recs?

Post by øøøøøøø » Thu Dec 10, 2020 3:08 pm

I'd recommend stretching to ~1100 and grabbing a Gefell MT71s (if pre-2005, even better). They are stupid good for the money, and have an excellent capsule (a true M7).

Something worth gently mentioning re: "clones":

Compared to something like a guitar amp (or even a mic pre), condenser microphones aren't easily/cheaply "clone-able" (regardless of the sales pitch)

It's not because the circuits are difficult. Setting aside the all-important capsule and transformer, replicating the circuit of a U87 is a trivial matter costing a few dollars (the hardest part is selecting the FET). A U47 (with substitute tube) is even easier--(again disregarding capsule and transformer) it's just eight resistors, four capacitors, and a tube.

The transformer is much harder--it has to be nice, and real expertise is required to wind a proper one (orders of magnitude more than a mere guitar amp OT). But good ones (although $$$) are available commercially.

But the capsule... that's the reason cloning doesn't work. To get it wrong is like building a racecar and getting the engine wrong (you may as well not bother).

Branmuhl-Weber style caps are full of tiny secrets and incredibly difficult to fully reverse engineer. The finer points of their operation are extremely fragile, with scores of little details that are hard to unlock. I've never heard even a re-skinned Neumann (or AKG) capsule that sounds exactly like an untouched original.

Siegfried Thiersch (and one or two others) make some pretty nice capsules, good on their own merits. But these are not the capsules being used in the "clones." Those are all the same imported capsules you can buy retail for $149 (much less wholesale, I'm sure).

So this is one of those things where a "clone" is a false economy.

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Re: Condenser mic recs?

Post by marqueemoon » Thu Dec 10, 2020 3:50 pm

øøøøøøø wrote:
Thu Dec 10, 2020 3:08 pm
I'd recommend stretching to 1100 and grabbing a Gefell MT71s (if pre-2005, even better). They are stupid good for the money, and have an excellent capsule (a true M7).

Something worth gently mentioning re: "clones":

Compared to something like a guitar amp (or even a mic pre), condenser microphones aren't easily/cheaply "clone-able" (looks and marketing pitches notwithstanding!)

It's not because the circuits are difficult. Setting aside the all-important capsule and transformer, something like a U87 is a trivial matter to make for a few dollars (the hardest part is selecting the FET).

Even a U47 (with substitute tube) seems trivial--it's eight resistors, four capacitors, a tube, and a transformer. The transformer has to be nice, and real expertise is required to wind a good one, but good ($$$) ones are available commercially.

But the capsule... that's the reason cloning doesn't work. To get it wrong is like building a racecar and getting the engine wrong (you may as well not bother).

Branmuhl-Weber style caps are incredibly difficult to fully reverse engineer. The finer points of their operation are extremely fragile, with scores of little details that are hard to replicate by trial-and-error. I've never heard even a re-skinned Neumann (or AKG) capsule that sounds any good.

Siegfried Thiersch (and one or two others) make some pretty nice capsules. But these are not the capsules being used in the "clones." Those are all the same imported capsules you can buy retail for $149 (much less wholesale, I'm sure).

So this is one of those things where a "clone" is a false economy. If budget is truly hard-capped at one rack, a used AKG-C-414-B-ULS is a decent utility choice for well under your number (be sure it's that revision, not the TL-II, XL-II, etc)
^The voice of experience right here.

I guess what I meant by “clone” is “has these features and is voiced to play a similar role”. To me the U87 has a flattering weightiness to it and is on the warm side of neutral. That’s what I like about it and those are the characteristics I’d want in my one good LD condenser mic if starting over.

You’re right about the 414 version too. I don’t recall which versions got the results I didn’t like, so my opinion isn’t helpful.

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Re: Condenser mic recs?

Post by øøøøøøø » Thu Dec 10, 2020 3:58 pm

Sorry for over-posting, but re: the AKG C414--

There have been nine completely-different microphones called the "AKG C414." Two completely different capsule designs, four different body designs, two different finishes, and nine different impedance conversion amp designs, among other things!

The first two (the 414-comb and 414-EB) are absolutely incredible and way out of OP's budget. 2500 minimum (still a bargain for how good they are). Original brass-ring CK-12 capsule. God-tier microphones that we frequently choose over five-figure mics, depending on individual voice or application. These are silver in color, and when an old-school engineer says "414" this is probably what they mean. Gotta be careful that the capsule hasn't been replaced with the later nylon-ring one.

The next two (414-EB-P48 and 414-B-ULS) are not even close to the same microphone as the ones above. They are, however, excellent utility microphones and well in your budget. I never use them on vocal. It bears repeating that the capsule isn't in the same category as the brass CK-12.

The other five (B-TL-II, B-XL-II, B- XLS, XL-II, XLS) all date from the 1990s or later, and collectively represent another big departure. The only thing they retain from the B-ULS generation is that second generation capsule, and then they mate it with transformerless electronics that were... not an improvement.

It's a really shitty and confusing state of affairs, but with 414s you generally get what you pay for. If you ever buy a silver one, check that the capsule is right (many were replaced at the factory with the subsequent generation, rendering the mic much less valuable and desirable).

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Re: Condenser mic recs?

Post by øøøøøøø » Thu Dec 10, 2020 4:01 pm

marqueemoon wrote:
Thu Dec 10, 2020 3:50 pm
To me the U87 has a flattering weightiness to it and is on the warm side of neutral. That’s what I like about it and those are the characteristics I’d want in my one good LD condenser mic if starting over.
Totally agree--a good U87 is really special. I don't know why they so often get characterized as "plain vanilla." They're really common, but that's because they're really good and flattering on a range of voices and instruments. And they're anything but "neutral," from my view. They sound like classic records.

Even U87s have gone through some changes over the years.... nothing like the 414, but there was a period in the early 2000s where they were trying a few things to substitute for hard-to-find FETs, and they didn't sound quite as good. The best ones I've ever heard have been a pair from the 1970s (that had the battery compartments inside).

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Re: Condenser mic recs?

Post by marqueemoon » Thu Dec 10, 2020 4:11 pm

øøøøøøø wrote:
Thu Dec 10, 2020 4:01 pm
marqueemoon wrote:
Thu Dec 10, 2020 3:50 pm
To me the U87 has a flattering weightiness to it and is on the warm side of neutral. That’s what I like about it and those are the characteristics I’d want in my one good LD condenser mic if starting over.
Totally agree--a good U87 is really special. I don't know why they so often get characterized as "plain vanilla." They're really common, but that's because they're really good and flattering on a range of voices and instruments. And they're anything but "neutral," from my view. They sound like classic records.

Even U87s have gone through some changes over the years.... nothing like the 414, but there was a period in the early 2000s where they were trying a few things to substitute for hard-to-find FETs, and they didn't sound quite as good. The best ones I've ever heard have been a pair from the 1970s (that had the battery compartments inside).
“They sound like classic records.” Totally agree.

My music can use all the help in this area it can get. :)

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Re: Condenser mic recs?

Post by Larry Mal » Thu Dec 10, 2020 5:31 pm

øøøøøøø wrote:
Thu Dec 10, 2020 3:58 pm
Sorry for over-posting, but re: the AKG C414--

Thanks Brad- I was actually writing a response to you about exactly that and got called in to class. Appreciate it.
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Re: Condenser mic recs?

Post by Dok » Thu Dec 10, 2020 7:22 pm

øøøøøøø wrote:
Thu Dec 10, 2020 4:01 pm
marqueemoon wrote:
Thu Dec 10, 2020 3:50 pm
To me the U87 has a flattering weightiness to it and is on the warm side of neutral. That’s what I like about it and those are the characteristics I’d want in my one good LD condenser mic if starting over.
Totally agree--a good U87 is really special. I don't know why they so often get characterized as "plain vanilla." They're really common, but that's because they're really good and flattering on a range of voices and instruments. And they're anything but "neutral," from my view. They sound like classic records.

Even U87s have gone through some changes over the years.... nothing like the 414, but there was a period in the early 2000s where they were trying a few things to substitute for hard-to-find FETs, and they didn't sound quite as good. The best ones I've ever heard have been a pair from the 1970s (that had the battery compartments inside).
So... Brad. I have a U87ai that I like quite a bit, but I've been tempted more than once to get a Gefell to compare. How much of a lateral move would it be to get a MT71s, price difference aside? I mean, I could buy a pair if I got rid of the Neumann... :D. Thing is I got such a good deal on the U87ai ($1500!) that I don't want to take for granted the good fortune that sent it my way.
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Re: Condenser mic recs?

Post by Telliot » Thu Dec 10, 2020 7:38 pm

Dok wrote:
Thu Dec 10, 2020 7:22 pm

I still don’t understand how you found that mic for $1500... :derp:
Last edited by Telliot on Thu Dec 10, 2020 7:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Condenser mic recs?

Post by Dok » Thu Dec 10, 2020 7:41 pm

Telliot wrote:
Thu Dec 10, 2020 7:38 pm
I still don’t understand how you found that mic for $1500... :derp:
Don't forget, it was the same transaction which landed me the AKAI 12-track tape machine for $20. 8)
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Re: Condenser mic recs?

Post by Telliot » Thu Dec 10, 2020 7:42 pm

Incredible. I’ve never had that kind of luck. :D
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Re: Condenser mic recs?

Post by Dok » Thu Dec 10, 2020 7:46 pm

Telliot wrote:
Thu Dec 10, 2020 7:42 pm
Incredible. I’ve never had that kind of luck. :D
I'm pretty sure I got a hernia carrying it into my house by myself, so you win some you lose some. On the plus side, I spend all my time reading about microphones now instead of actually using them.
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Re: Condenser mic recs?

Post by mbene085 » Thu Dec 10, 2020 7:57 pm

While I haven't gotten to try it, they're pretty enthusiastic about the Beesneez BU87i over on gearslutz forum.

It's cardiod-only and without getting into the debate about U87 clones, it's about $640 USD and has generated a lot of buzz. I wouldn't buy it chasing an accurate vintage U87i sound, but it's definitely a LDC worth considering on its own merit at its price point.

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