In the ProSoundWeb & SoundOnSound articles I used as research they explained the basics of vocal recording. The main points both touched on are understanding your surroundings, mic selection, the client themselves, microphone placement, and the takes as a whole. Although you don’t need a huge room to record vocals in, it’s still best to have the flattest (deadest) sounding room possible so the reverb and reflections of the room doesn’t bleed into the recording (good headphones help as well). Having an isolation booth is helpful, but not necessary, a reflection filter would work just as well to deaden the area around the vocalist. Knowing which mics work best with your vocalist is also a huge factor (and what this article is for). Depending on the vocal styling of the artist mic selection is imperative. Knowing if the artist has a higher or lower vocal range will determine the best mic for their vocals as well as the strength of their voice as well. Some engineers prefer to have the microphone just above their mouth so the vocalist doesn’t sing directly into the capsule and reduce the amount of plosives and sibilance their voice will have (also use a pop filter always). Of course getting the best performances out of the artist goes without saying. Making the artist comfortable in the studio while recording will allow for the best takes from them. Within this session, I had Cody in the big tracking room with a reflection filter around every mic when recording into it with a pop filter as well. I did have him record directly into the capsule because capturing the clarity in his voice was the priority.
The four microphones I chose for Cody to record into were the Blue Kiwi, Rode K2, AEA R84, and Shure SM57 while the preamp I used was the Chandler TG-2. The Blue Kiwi and Rode K2 are both condenser microphones, while the K2 is a Tube Condenser. The difference between a tube condenser and a normal condenser is that a tube condenser has its own power box that acts as the mic’s personal phantom power, while a standard condenser mic requires phantom power from a preamp. The AEA R84 is a ribbon mic, which has a ribbon instead of a carbon capsule that captures and records soundwaves. Ribbon mikes are also notorious for being more sensitive (fragile) and more expensive. The last mic used was the Shure SM57, the classic dynamic multi-purposed microphone. Dynamic and ribbon microphones do not require phantom power to run. If you used phantom power on a ribbon mic the voltage would destroy the mic and dynamic mikes are already at line level so they do not need a boost of voltage to run.
Both the Kiwi and K2 were very clear and crisp on Cody’s vocals. The Kiwi accentuated the clarity of his vocals, while at the same time gave his plosives and sibilance a boost to the front and very obvious. The K2, on the other hand, was extremely clear and captured the clarity without increasing the amount of sibilance and plosives in his voice. The AEA R84, being a ribbon microphone, gave his vocals a darker and more low end sound to it, so the clarity was still there, but not as crisp, and kind of muddied his vocals. Granted, the R84 was being processed through the Chandler TG-2, which is a darker sounding preamp as well, so the mic gave his vocals double darkness to its tone. The Shure SM57, gave the flattest tone of all not really accentuating any specific part of his voice, but still very clear to the ear. It was a very stereotypical sound for the SM57 overall, with some dark tones brought out by the Chandler.
In order, the microphones that sounded the best to my personal tastes basically go in the order I listed the mikes with one change; Blue Kiwi, Rode K2, Shure SM57, then AEA R84. The Blue Kiwi and Rode K2 are both in a tie for my personal favorite, with this recording specifically I wanted a little more of the plosive and sibilance from Cody’s vocals, and so the Kiwi fulfilled its job. Although the K2 captured his vocals perfectly without any flaws, the sound wasn’t exactly what I was looking for in the recording, but any other day of the week the K2 might just beat the Kiwi. The Shure SM57 sounded exactly how I pictured it sounding, so I wasn’t surprised by the way it came out. The only reason it made it higher than the AEA R84 was because the preamp I was using didn’t compliment his vocals through the ribbon mic, but on other instruments, vocalists, and preamp this mic could sound amazing. Examples of the recordings are located below.
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To the left are pictures from the session. The first one shows the mikes and where they were set up. They go in the following order: Blue Kiwi, Rode K2, AEA R84, and Shure SM57.
The preamp settings are also shown, and the order of that is: Blue Kiwi, Rode K2, Shure SM57, and AEA R84.