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Thread: Best Bluegrass Band Single Microphone?

  1. #1
    Some Ability - No Talent MikeZito's Avatar
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    Default Best Bluegrass Band Single Microphone?

    Long story short . . . several years ago a local bluegrass band came to the radio station where I work, and we recorded several tracks for them. Before we stared recording, the band leader handed me a microphone and said; 'use this microphone, it will pick up the whole band with no problem'. Much to my shock it picked up every nuance of every instrument and vocal, and sounded amazing.

    Any ideas on what microphone this may have been?

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    Registered User Tom Wright's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Bluegrass Band Single Microphone?

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeZito View Post
    Long story short . . . several years ago a local bluegrass band came to the radio station where I work, and we recorded several tracks for them. Before we stared recording, the band leader handed me a microphone and said; 'use this microphone, it will pick up the whole band with no problem'. Much to my shock it picked up every nuance of every instrument and vocal, and sounded amazing.

    Any ideas on what microphone this may have been?
    A physical description would help, but I can recommend the Shure KSM44A, which is a full omni-directional large-diaphragm condenser mic. I have the single-diaphragm version, the KSM 32, and it is very generous in its pattern with no tone change off-axis. A friend that owns a studio has the 44A and loves it. Dual diaphragms means choice of pattern, from cardioid to dual-cardioid to omni.
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    Default Re: Best Bluegrass Band Single Microphone?

    Was it weird looking? Could it have been an Ear Trumpet?
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    Default Re: Best Bluegrass Band Single Microphone?

    Three points:

    1) There is no such thing as a 'best' microphone. There are a lot of good ones, some superb ones, and which is 'best' is very much open to personal taste, your technical requirements, and intended use. That brings me to to:

    2) There is huge difference to what sounds best (or is even useable) in an acoustically treated studio vs. what might sound best (or indeed, work at all) in an untreated room and certainly, in a live situation. Totally, utterly different situations.

    3) The mic was probably a multi-pattern LD condenser. There is a wide choice of these available. Many of them are excellent. In general (as with mandolins) the more you pay, the better the specifications and performance. Multi-pattern LD condensers range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars each. You can get very nice ones from around the $500 upwards mark..
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    Default Re: Best Bluegrass Band Single Microphone?

    Ear Trumpet labs seem to work as well as anything and they look cooler.
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    Default Re: Best Bluegrass Band Single Microphone?

    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Leyda View Post
    Ear Trumpet labs seem to work as well as anything and they look cooler.
    I honestly don't understand why, but they seem pretty bulletproof. We use a ETL Myrtle and a digital mixer with feedback suppression, and the mic always sounds great. Airy, transparent. We used a 4033 previously, and had to really be careful with the EQ to keep it from sounding boxy. Plus, we do get a lot of positive feedback from audiences who are intrigued by the look.
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    Default Re: Best Bluegrass Band Single Microphone?

    I saw Punch Brothers a couple of years back, and their microphone did exactly as you described. They remain the best sounding band I've ever seen live - in a hall in Sydney of about 1000 (?) capactiy. Every instrument was clear. I can't find the details now, but I remember researching it when I saw them, and the mic was worth 26000 second hand. This is possibly out of your budget, but it might be the one the studio engineer pointed you too.
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    Default Re: Best Bluegrass Band Single Microphone?

    Second vote for the KSM44 Shure
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    Default Re: Best Bluegrass Band Single Microphone?

    THANKS to all for your input - I now have a good starting point for further research.

    At the time that we recorded this bluegrass band, I owned a small recording studio and had no real need for a single mic to record small groups . . . but, now that conditions have changed, and good single microphone might be very useful. Only time will tell.

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    Default Re: Best Bluegrass Band Single Microphone?

    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Leyda View Post
    Ear Trumpet labs seem to work as well as anything and they look cooler.
    I do not get the love for ear trumpet. They certainly look cool, and if you have not heard MUCH better then you would think it is great. But I have a real world experience that makes me a doubter:

    A band of some reputation had used AKG 414 and a pair of Neuman KM84 in a high low set up for years. I saw them maybe 4 times with this setup. indoor clubs of 300-500 seats. They always sounded FANTASTIC. Then they switched to ear trumpet. It was a NOTICEABLY worse sound. I was disappointing enough that I considered emailing the band to let them know. I never got around to it. Last time I saw them, they had ditched the Ear Trumpet mics. This suggests that they agreed with my assessment. I have long been a believer in the AKG 414, and still am after this experience.

    Even if you do not have 414 money, I would think that for the money that ear trumpet costs (600?) you can get a large diaphragm mic that sounds better

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    Default Re: Best Bluegrass Band Single Microphone?

    I have a lot of large diaphragm mics. I find the KSM44 to be a bit hyped sounding. It's not a bad hyped sound but it's not as natural as something like an AKG 414 TL II or other transformerless mic. Not a fan of the stylized mics. There is a huge range in price across microphones and many people don't really know how to understand those differences. A good, expensive mic will have a very accurate polar pattern and documented response. A good mic isn't only what you hear, it's what you don't hear. I can hang a 414 over a drum kit with an electric guitar off to the side and when you solo the overhead mic you will hear drums. There will be a tiny bit of guitar but not much at all. Lesser mics don't handle that nearly as well. This helps in a live sound scenario because they help reject feedback.

    I do see a lot of KSM series mics used at bluegrass festivals and not as many AKG mics so there's something to using mics that sound companies are used to. Also, keep in mind that once you select a mic you will need to do a lot of testing to figure out how close and how far away people need to be in order to get a good mic.

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    Default Re: Best Bluegrass Band Single Microphone?

    I think one reason the KSM's are popular is because they are very tough, well-engineered and stand up well to outdoor/live use. They are also very consistent. All mics have their own 'sonic signature' - just like mandolins. Some you love, some you can live with, and some you hate. Very much down to personal taste.

    Certain things though diverge from mere 'opinion' an are strictly fact/spec based: the quality and design of the diaphragm is one of these. Shure, Neumann, Beyer, Sennheiser, Audio Technica and AKG put a lot of research and effort into this. Others simply import cheap, generic components and put them into fancy 'packaging'.....
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    Default Re: Best Bluegrass Band Single Microphone?

    When our BG gospel was together we used a ribbon mic and a tube pre-amp. Why? It was state of the art 1st gen bluegrass and the " tone " of the music was similar.

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    Default Re: Best Bluegrass Band Single Microphone?

    Quote Originally Posted by vince f View Post
    But I have a real world experience that makes me a doubter:
    ....AKG 414 and a pair of Neuman KM84 in a high low set....
    Well that's $2500 in mics compared to the 600 for the Ear Trumpet. It should sound better! To make a valid comparison you would need to hear the 414 alone compared to the ET. Even then the 414 is probably $500 more.

    We went from an AT 4033 to an Ear Trumpet Myrtle and it seemed to be an upgrade both in sound quality (subjective, I know) and feedback resistance.
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    Default Re: Best Bluegrass Band Single Microphone?

    Quoting myself from some time back...

    " 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).

    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"
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    Default Re: Best Bluegrass Band Single Microphone?

    Quote Originally Posted by almeriastrings View Post
    " the 'Edwina' ...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).
    Aha! Which may partially explain why I, the "Mr. Cheapo" of sound reinforcement, have been getting quite passable results out of MXL 990's in small-room, low-volume applications.

    I hesitate to throw <$100 mics into the discussion, and readily admit my standards are strictly journeyman level. Plus, my PA-system "training" consists of using PA's for 40+ years, without more than a rudimentary understanding of the electronics involved. I find discussions like this, including people with real expertise, very enlightening.

    Nonetheless, I have a small arsenal (five) of MXL condenser mics, use them frequently, to general audience approval. One of the concert venues I assist with uses a single Ear Trumpet 'Louise' mic, and for a room seating 80 tops, it has been quite satisfactory.
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    Default Re: Best Bluegrass Band Single Microphone?

    I saw the Milk Carton Kids in a small auditorium (capacity is a bit over a 1000, but don't know attendance at that particular concert. it seemed pretty full). They used a single Ear Trumpet mic and the sound was gorgeous. Granted, no banjos, lol.
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    Registered User almeriastrings's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Bluegrass Band Single Microphone?

    Sound reinforcement is a relatively undemanding application, in most respects. Hence, you can get very good sound from an SM57/58 (used correctly). Studio sound, and film/broadcast sound tends to need somewhat less forgiving specs.
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