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Thread: Some Thoughts about "Better", "Best", and Mic Recommendations

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    Some Thoughts about "Better", "Best", and Mic Recommendations

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    Since we see these questions asked over and over in this forum, I thought it might be helpful to clarify a couple of things. With the exception of using some mics in a few situations where you can damage them (inside a kick drum, outdoors, etc.), "A MICROPHONE DOESN'T KNOW, OR CARE, WHAT IT'S RECORDING".

    Think about that for a minute; it's very important to remember. If the mic doesn't know or care what it's recording, then who's responsibility is it? (Tick...tick...tick...tick...take your time...tick...tick) That's right, it's YOUR responsibility to decide what mic to use for what purpose, where to set it up to get what you want, and it's your responsibility to try and pick the right mic for the right job.

    I assume many of you play guitar. Suppose people constantly asked you:

    What's the "best" guitar?
    Which is "better", a 1956 Stratocaster, or a 1956 Martin D-18? Which guitar would you "recommend" I get?
    When should I use a nylon string guitar and when should I use a steel string guitar?
    What's the "best" guitar, if I only have $200 to spend?
    I just played a $12,000 Martin D-28 and it didn't sound any different than my $200 Takamine - are these a rip off?
    I want to get Jimmi Hendrix's "Foxey Lady" sound, so what settings should I use with my Ovation Balladeer?
    What guitar should I get for playing classical and heavy metal?

    See the problems with trying to answer questions like these? They're either unanswerable, or dependent on getting more information about the kind of music the person want to play, or answers that will be obvious when the person understands a little more about guitar.

    It's the same thing with mics. "Better" and "best" often means "good enough for my needs" or "better than what I currently own", but unless you know what the questioner means by "better" and "best", there's no easy answer. For what purpose? What are they trying to do with it? What problems are they having with the stuff they already own?

    Yes, "world class" recordings can be made using less than "world class" equipment, but if you don't know how to use what you have, you won't make a "world class" recording. And if you don't have a good grasp of "world class" recording techniques, your recordings will never be "world class" no matter what you use.

    And yes, rules are often "bent" and "broken" with great results, but it helps to understand why the rule is there, and when and how to break it.

    I do make mic recommendations here, but it is important to understand that any mic I recommend may, or may not, work for your particular application, or with your particular combination of equipment.

    In most cases, I try to recommend great values in general purpose "Swiss Army Knife" type mics that will work on a lot of things well. But there are times when a "One Trick Pony" comes along that may not work on everything, but what it does do, it does very well, at an incredible price point for that trick.

    If people read the "Big Thread" and understand it, it will make life a little easier, since I don't really talk about specific brands and models there. It's all about how to get the most out of any mic you have, and how to pick the right mic for a specific job.

    Every guitar is different; every voice is different. Knowing which mic to use and where to place it to get specific results is the most important thing you can learn. If you put it in the right place, a $50 used Shure SM-57 can sometimes sound better than a $15,000 Telefunken ELA M251. (And there's also a good reason why a Telefunken ELA M251 costs $15,000.)

    But only you can decide what mic works best for a particular application. Just remember that "a mic doesn't know, or care, what it's recording." It's up to you to make the right decisions.

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    It's unfortunate how many mic purchases need to be made 'blind'. The policy of most stores is that returning mics is a health code violation which I'm pretty sure is an outright lie since you can rent microphones. Some of the more high end shops in major cities will let you try them out at home but you will usually pay closer to retail prices for the privilege.

    At some point you do just have to bite the bullet and get a mic(s) and start using it. I think it's pretty safe to say that most of the mics recomended here will work for 90% of the people 90% of the time.

    With my ECM's, 57's, V93 and C1 I feel pretty confident that I could record just about anything and get very satisfying results. I should probably add a good kick mic but there is always one more thing to add

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    Thumbs up

    great thread Harvey !

    BTW the last time i tracked a drummer he liked a pair of emc 's more then a pair of km184 on OH ?

    remco

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    Good explanation Harvey.
    I have coupple of comments/questions if you don't mind.

    First: I was thinking about a mic almost like a tool (well it is a tool ), say a wrench. I have a wrench set that's like $20 for bunch of them. A profesional mechanic also has wrenches but his maybe $20 for each. Well, we both can tighten the nut (may I even say equaly tight). So what is the difference.... ? eeeeeh...
    not sure beyond the obvious, he is making money with his wrenches and his are "better" brand, metal, etc.

    Second: I'm really curious what are some good reasons why a Telefunken ELA M251 costs $15,000. I'm not sarcastic, I realy want to know.

    Thanks Harvey for your contributions and help
    cheers

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    The basic reason why you pay any amount for any object is the same: supply and demand.

    The original ELAM is no longer in production and has a particular sound that is considered by many to be desireable. Since there is a limited amount of these units existing in the universe, and most people who have them aren't interested in selling them, that means that at any given moment you may only be able to find a few for sale. This makes for a seller's market.

    But this is not uncommon. Try pricing a Fairchild compressor (added benefit: you can heat your house with it in the winter). How about a Stradivarius violin?

    Many might say the price of these units gets out of proportion to their "real" value (compared to modern replications or more commonly available "equivalents"). This may be because in their rarity they develop something of a "collectable" cachet. Kind of like a DeLorean.

    Personally, for anything like that kind of money I'd just buy a really good mic in the $3000-5000 range and then send it to Stephen Paul for modification - and end up with a mic as "good" as anything in the world for less money.

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    So are you saying that it's all about economics?

    Or are there any particular electronics or manufacturing methods that tend to jack up the cost?

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    Actually, I believe that in the 60's and 70's products were manufactured more durable than in the 90's.
    I still have an old Akai tapedeck from around '77/'78, and the mofo still works like a charm and beats my '91 JVC in terms of soundquality, rewind-speed, and wow&flutter.
    My grandma had a washing machine from the early 80's. Now my aunt is still using it.
    I think, because of an increase in welfare, most manufacturers will think somethink like:"Why should we use better parts for more durability? Lesser parts = less costs = more profit, and besides, the dumb fools have enough money to buy a new one in 2 or 3 years"
    If everyone was still poor as hell, people would probably only buy
    a few quality products, instead of tons of mediocre stuff.
    So, the Fairchild may not be REALLY worth $15000, it probably IS way better built than a present-day Avalon or something...
    "Beg all you want, woman! This is a mixing desk, not a kitchen table!"

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    A lot of what's being said comes down to the concept of "quality" I got most of this from my wife who taught a class about this a number of years ago. Quality is not the high cost of an item so it must be of good quality, but, does it do what you need, for the amount of time you need it. Is the cost within your budget. For example is a Honda Civic a quality car compared to say a Mecedes 520? Well, my civic got me back and forth to work. The ride was pretty smooth. It had a stereo that sounded good. The seats were comfortable. It was running good when I sold it 7 years later with 140K on it. So, I would say it was of very good quality. OK, the 520 would be a real cool car to have but I was able to do what I needed with my Honda. I guess what Harvey is saying is the same. Quality is not price. It's what you need and how you use it. That being said I'll now be happy to trade anyone's M251 for my V67. (it's a joke folks)

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    Wink

    Great news guys-Telefunken is going to make the 251 again!!
    For a measly $7500 list let's all get one-brand new...

    Chris

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    Originally posted by Fed
    Good explanation Harvey.
    I have coupple of comments/questions if you don't mind.

    First: I was thinking about a mic almost like a tool (well it is a tool ), say a wrench. I have a wrench set that's like $20 for bunch of them. A profesional mechanic also has wrenches but his maybe $20 for each. Well, we both can tighten the nut (may I even say equaly tight). So what is the difference.... ? eeeeeh...
    not sure beyond the obvious, he is making money with his wrenches and his are "better" brand, metal, etc.

    Second: I'm really curious what are some good reasons why a Telefunken ELA M251 costs $15,000. I'm not sarcastic, I realy want to know.

    Thanks Harvey for your contributions and help
    cheers
    There's a nice history of the Telefunken ELA M250 and M251 at: 12 Historic Mics

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