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Your most disappointing microphone #3016522 11/18/19 04:00 AM
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matthew mcglynn Offline OP
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It happens to each of us eventually. You've done your research, you've comparison shopped, you finally put your money down on the microphone you've been eyeing for days or weeks or months... only to be completely underwhelmed by it once you plug it in.

For me, it was the Electro-Voice 635a <http://recordinghacks.com/microphones/Electro-Voice/635A>

[Linked Image from cdn.recordinghacks.com]

IIRC there had been a glowing review in Tape Op. There was a great quote online from one of my DIY/mic heroes, Scott Dorsey: "You should be ashamed of yourself for not owning any EV 635As. They cost less than SM57s and are just as versatile." The mics were available for cheap on Ebay, so I bought a pair.

And... I never really found a use for them. I tried them as room mics, on overheads, as a close snare mic. None of those ever gave me a sound I liked.

I still have the pair. I have a soft spot for old dynamic mics. I just wish I had a killer application for them. I'll have to try one again if I ever make that podcast I've been thinking about for 10 years.

What's your most disappointing mic?

(BTW, I'm not at all suggesting that the 635a is a bad mic... just that I never found a use for it that I loved.)


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Re: Your most disappointing microphone [Re: matthew mcglynn] #3016524 11/18/19 04:16 AM
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Dr Mike Metlay Offline
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As a pro audio magazine editor, I had to handle a lot of reviews that went like this. It was important to separate "this mic doesn't fit my applications or needs very well" from "this mic doesn't fit my applications or needs very well, therefore it is a bad mic". Reviewers who couldn't draw that line clearly in their own minds (and therefore in print) didn't last.

Personally, I think the mic I had the most disappointing time with was the Placid Audio Carbonphone. I really wanted to love it... my initial tests were so much fun that I bought it from Placid. But over time, I realized that this carbon mic not only was very limited on uses in my rig, but that it wanted preamplification and processing that I didn't have. I couldn't get it to give me the sound I wanted.

Fortunately, this tale has a happy ending. I went to visit Paul Vnuk at his studio and brought the Carbonphone with me because he was curious to try it. He had bought a Copperphone Mini after reviewing it, but had found himself using it less and less. We tried both, and immediately shook hands and traded mics on the spot. The Copperphone Mini is now set up permanently in my studio next to my high-end vocal condenser, and he uses the Carbonphone on all kinds of stuff. Horses for courses!


Dr. Mike Metlay (PhD in nuclear physics, whoop de doo)
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Re: Your most disappointing microphone [Re: matthew mcglynn] #3016543 11/18/19 01:48 PM
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Mike Rivers Online Content
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I'm hard pressed to think of a most disappointing mic in my closet, but I think I'm not the typical user here. I tend to choose mics based on experience and what's handy, and it's rare that I pick something that I feel I need to change out for something else. I don't agonize over vocal mic shootouts, and I almost never record drums, so I don't have a need to re-create someone's snare or kick sound. I work almost exclusively with electric instruments, and these days much of my work is in the field with nothing but a pair of KM84s. But I haven't cleaned out my mic closet.

I've been accumulating mics over a period of more than 50 years now, and I've acquired what I needed when I needed it. I've also acquired some mics that were targets of opportunity, and have found uses over the years. I still have, and occasionally use the EV 654, my first "good" microphone. My first condenser mics were a pair of Sony ECM-21s that I bought on a work trip to Japan. If there's a mic I'm disappointed with, it's those, because their electrets have lost most of their charge and they barely work any more. They used a mercury battery that's no longer available, but I made adapters to use a AA cell with them and got pretty good mileage out of them for longer than they deserved to be used. My next condenser mic, which I still have and it still works, is Audio Technica's first entry into the field, the AT-813. Last time I used it was a couple of years ago when I gave a workshop on miking the banjo at Banjo Camp North. Their ad showed it in the foreground over the shadow of a U87. I bought it at the same store where I bought my vacuum cleaner (they also sold A-T phono cartridges).

When I decided that in order to separate myself from all the other TASCAM studios in the area, I started looking for some condenser mics, and I got a good deal on four AKG C-451s, which I still use without reservation. When I decided that I needed a large diaphragm condenser mic or two, I saw a pair of AKG C-12s advertised in the Washington Post Sunday classifieds. I didn't even know what they were at the time, and by the time I learned enough about them to realize that they'd be good to have around, they were sold. This was before the Internet, about 1976 or so, but I found a couple of good U87s at a decent price ($550 each) and I still use those on just about every session.

A pair of KM-84s came along shortly after that, and other things that have fallen in over the years are some Beyer M260s (two of which now have new RCA style ribbons in them courtesy of Stephen Sank, because Beyer wanted too much to replace them) and Beyer M160s - my ribbon mic collection, recently augmented by a Cascade Fathead, which has become a favorite old time banjo mic. Somewhere along the "I wish I could afford some condenser mics" and during the period where I was doing field recording with a Sony TCD-5M cassette recorder, I picked up a pair of AKG D-224s, a dual element mic that had a lot of the characteristics of a condenser but didn't require phantom power. That's still a favorite mic for mandolins. And there are some Sennheiser 421s, some little tie-tack mics, and a pair of Fostex 55RP "Flat coil" ("printed ribbon") mics that I don't get much mileage out of because they're best on shrieky vocalists, and I don't get many of them. There's a Radio Shack PZM that I haven't used in years, a C-Ducer (great to stick on a harp at a folk festival), a Shure SM11 lav that's great slipped underneath a washtub bass, and one of those square, flat Sennheiser MD409s that they made for themselves and others that was the hot guitar amplifier mic through most of the 1980s - mine is branded Echolette and probably originally came along with a tape recorder in the 1960s.

I have a couple of USB mics that were review samples that I can't say I'm disappointed with, but that I've never used for anything I care about, and then there's the MXL 990 and 991 pair that I bought for the 991 to show at Banjo Camp as an example of an inexpensive condenser mic that worked well on banjos and mandolins, and usable on fiddles, but not a favorite of mine on guitar - but disappointing? Nope. Every now and then I think about getting one of Matt's "87" upgrade kits for the 990, but, heck, I already have real U87s. I've used EV 635s, but never owned one. A radio producer friend of mine used to carry one in her purse all the time in case she had to go on the air from someplace where they didn't have a decent mic - it sounds great on her voice.

I don't need any more microphones, but I keep looking at the latest crop of $200 "84" style mics, and I think I'm going to get one of the new Samar $350 ribbons for myself for Christmas because I've never had a mic of that style. And the built-in mics on my TASCAM DR-44WL handheld recorder are surprisingly good as long as they can be put in the right place.

But disappointing mics? No, I don't think I have any. I might be disappointed with a $20,000 mic, not because I didn't like it (I hope I would) but because I don't do any work that would justify the cost.

Re: Your most disappointing microphone [Re: matthew mcglynn] #3016593 11/18/19 06:11 PM
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KuruPrionz Offline
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As of today, my most disappointing microphone is the Shure Beta 87A that I'd been using for over a decade as a live vocal mic.
A friend of mine was tweaking something on his upright bass and knocked my mic stand over.
The mic hit a hardwood floor head on. It died, a paperweight

He took it and said he had a friend who fixed mics. So far, nothing. I am not quite sure what I am going to do about it.
Shure will make it like new for $125, I told him I could carry a portion of that. No response yet. It's possible he just sent it in, he's a solid guy.

I'm using an Audix OM-2 I found at a pawn shop in like new condition for $25 and it's fine but no match for the Shure.
In context, I wish I'd gotten the Beta 87C which has a bit larger sweet spot. Ugh...

Long ago, I bought 2 SM58s and 2 AKG D-1000E. I might like the AKG mics now but I hated them then and did not miss them when I flipped them for a loss. Just didn't sound good to me back then.


There is never enough time to be in a hurry...
Re: Your most disappointing microphone [Re: matthew mcglynn] #3016659 11/18/19 11:04 PM
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I must be a freak. I don't think I've ever been disappointed in a mic that I've acquired.

Probably because I spend a bunch of time moving them around until they sound good to me. idk grin

dB

Re: Your most disappointing microphone [Re: Dave Bryce] #3016680 11/19/19 03:31 AM
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matthew mcglynn Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Dave Bryce
I must be a freak. I don't think I've ever been disappointed in a mic that I've acquired.

Probably because I spend a bunch of time moving them around until they sound good to me. idk grin


I think I just have a lot more mics than you do. ;-)

Add the AKG C1000S to my list. To be fair, I didn't realize how disappointed I was in them until I heard other mics.


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Re: Your most disappointing microphone [Re: matthew mcglynn] #3016713 11/19/19 02:47 PM
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Dave Bryce Offline
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Originally Posted by matthew mcglynn
Add the AKG C1000S to my list. To be fair, I didn't realize how disappointed I was in them until I heard other mics.

Ok, we agree on that...but I didn’t own one. I did work in a store that sold them though, and I remember not being enamored with that model.

dB

Re: Your most disappointing microphone [Re: matthew mcglynn] #3019222 12/12/19 12:36 AM
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Hah; I bought that same E/V mic (the e635), based on the Tape Op review as well, and couldn't find a single use for it. I do respect E/V quite a bit, but to this day remain mystified regarding the purpose of that mic and what sets it apart from others.

Although I used it for years because I didn't know any better, the AKG D112 ultimately disappoints, and I eventually had to use drum replacement software on all the tracks I recorded using it. Come to think of it, that might be its main purpose! No relation sound-wise to the excellent and elusive D12, which of course was why I bought it in the first place.

E.V's RE27 was a mistake from my point of view; it didn't work well as the "Voice of God" voice-over mic that the RE20 can be, and wasn't quite as good as the ND868 (which I have since moved on from, but it's still an excellent mic) for bass guitar cabinet and kick drum (and floor tom as well). They have an even newer version that tries even more to be all things to all people. I have an RE20 now. :-)

Oh yeah, leave us not forget the awful AKG C1000s, which so many of us bought as the first affordable condenser mic. Acoustic guitar and human vocals suffer especially under this mic, but I did make salvageable tracks (with LOTS of EQ and cleanup) by going through a good tube pre-amp at the time. It was another one of those pre-internet "don't know any better" mics that everyone recommends. At least it taught me a lesson, not to buy any mics that run off of battery power, as I think that was likely its biggest flaw (even with a fresh battery loaded).

Last edited by Mark Schmieder; 12/12/19 12:45 AM.

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Re: Your most disappointing microphone [Re: matthew mcglynn] #3019300 12/12/19 05:01 PM
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shaund Offline
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The first mic that comes to mind is a Sennheiser e 609. Up against a 57, I preferred the 57. Not sure why, exactly (perhaps it had to do with poor mic cab placement - it was a long time ago), but that's what I recall.

Also not a fan of the Audix i5. A drummer I played with had one and used it on snare on several demo recordings - I remember it having more low fundamental snare tone, more high end snap... and thus scooped mids. And I didn't like the sound; pre-processed, but not to my taste.

Re: the D112, my shootouts of currently-manufactured kick mics always leaves me preferring the Beta 52 over the D112. I don't hate the D112, but I, too, always sample replace it. I find it's EXCEPTIONAL as a trigger for Addictive Trigger. (Which, btw, is an excellent "set and forget" drum trigger - very easy to use, and has an "Audio Fingerprint" that works much better IME tools where you're dragging a slider below certain transient peaks, while trying to keep it above others...)

I often use a pair of KSM 32's for drums overheads. While those mics are not instantly exciting, I've come to enjoy them more and more. It's the opposite curve, slowly falling in love with them, versus what I had the with D112, where at first I thought I had stumbled onto the Sound Of Rock, but then realized I didn't like where the low-end thump and the beater click peaked.

But these are all inexpensive dynamic mics.

Wonder if anyone has an expensive mic they have been unimpressed with for some specific reasons?

EDIT: I played with another drummer a long time ago that had a C1000. Even at the time, I hated that thing! smile

Last edited by shaund; 12/12/19 05:03 PM.
Re: Your most disappointing microphone [Re: matthew mcglynn] #3019639 12/16/19 03:23 AM
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Probably the most disappointing mike that I've used is the Neumann TLM-103. I work with a producer on a regular basis who has one. The TLM-103 is a Neumann, so it is a quality, well-built mic. The problem is that when we have set it up for vocals with another microphone, we always decide to use the other mic. It has lost against an Audio-Technica 4050, an AKG 414EB and ULS, A RØDE Classic, and my Equitek 200 to mention a few. It always sounds thin. I would guess there is a use for it, but I haven't found it and it just sits in the box, at least when I'm around.


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Re: Your most disappointing microphone [Re: StudioMicZone] #3019698 12/16/19 04:26 PM
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KuruPrionz Offline
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Originally Posted by StudioMicZone
Probably the most disappointing mike that I've used is the Neumann TLM-103. I work with a producer on a regular basis who has one. The TLM-103 is a Neumann, so it is a quality, well-built mic. The problem is that when we have set it up for vocals with another microphone, we always decide to use the other mic. It has lost against an Audio-Technica 4050, an AKG 414EB and ULS, A RØDE Classic, and my Equitek 200 to mention a few. It always sounds thin. I would guess there is a use for it, but I haven't found it and it just sits in the box, at least when I'm around.


A friend bought a Neumann TLM-103 for his recording/project studio. He went back to using a Shure SM7 for vocals and sold it.
I sang through it once, harmony part. It worked fine but nothing special.


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Re: Your most disappointing microphone [Re: KuruPrionz] #3019776 12/17/19 02:05 AM
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Originally Posted by KuruPrionz
As of today, my most disappointing microphone is the Shure Beta 87A that I'd been using for over a decade as a live vocal mic.
A friend of mine was tweaking something on his upright bass and knocked my mic stand over.
The mic hit a hardwood floor head on. It died, a paperweight

He took it and said he had a friend who fixed mics. So far, nothing. I am not quite sure what I am going to do about it.
Shure will make it like new for $125, I told him I could carry a portion of that. No response yet. It's possible he just sent it in, he's a solid guy.


Update: When the Beta 87A fell to the floor, we tested it and only got silence. My friend took and said he'd get a friend to fix it. I know another guy, our best local sound guy, who has his mics done by the same person. Anyway, I got back in touch last night, he still had the mic and stil could not contact the repair dude.

I told him I'd like it back, was planning to send it to Shure for repairs. I plugged it in and it seems to be working fine. It's been so long since I used it that I don't remember exactly how it sounds but it seemed to be fine, a rich, defined tone with well controlled proximity effect and clear highs. Plenty of output.

So it is no longer my most disappointing microphone.


There is never enough time to be in a hurry...

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