Sydney, Australia (November 25, 2020)—Røde Microphones has introduced a series of three Røde Vlogger Kits, centered around a Røde VideoMic, tripod, phone grip, LED light and accessories.
Intended to be an all-in-one mobile filmmaking kit, the range caters to every type of smartphone, with options for iPhone, which includes a Røde VideoMic Me-L with a Lightning connector, and Android devices, which features the new Røde VideoMic Me-C with a USB-C connector. There is also a Universal Edition, which includes a Røde VideoMicro for use with smartphones that feature a 3.5mm input, such as older iPhones and Android models. This can also be used with Lightning and USB-C equipped smartphones using a certified adaptor.
In addition to these compact microphones, each Kit includes the new Røde Tripod 2, a three-position tripod with a gimbal head, the new Røde SmartGrip, a lightweight all-metal mount with rubberised grips, and the new Røde MicroLED on-camera light, which slots onto the SmartGrip.
Røde’s history as a microphone manufacturer informs its vlogging kits, as the key feature is a Røde VideoMic directional microphone, intended to reduce background noise while focusing on what they are pointed at, ensuring audio is clean and intelligible. They include a furry windshield for filming outdoors.
The Tripod 2 supports both handheld and tabletop use and its gimbal head allows for flexible positioning. The MicroLED and its diffuser and eight coloured filters ensure vloggers can adapt to any recording environment, with over four hours of operation available on a single charge.
The Kits are currently shipping worldwide and will be available in-store in the coming weeks.
Recording microphones have been flying off the shelves at retail all year, but that hasn’t stopped pro-audio manufacturers from introducing a new studio microphone every few weeks this Fall. Some are high-end products aimed at the upper echelons of the recording world, while others are intended for down-and-dirty use in home studios, but they’re all worth finding out about, because every new mic is a potential new tonal flavor for your sonic stew. Sift through our ICYMI rundown of new mics from the last six months and see what’s new!
Aston Element Microphone
Aston Microphones has clearly had a blast this year developing its new Aston Element by having potential users vote on sound samples to determine the way the microphone would ultimately sound. The Element incorporates new capsule technology, a new chassis design, a magnetic pop filter and custom shock mount, and a backlit-LED logo 48V phantom power indicator. According to Aston, the studio microphone has been rated by NTi Audio as the world’s quietest mic and the frequency response, which extends far below 20Hz and above 20kHz, as the widest of any electromagnetic microphone.
Audio-Technica has released new limited-edition AT2020 Series microphones—the AT2020V (standard) and the AT2020USB+V (USB model), each featuring a reflective silver finish. The side-address condensers are equipped with low-mass diaphragms custom-engineered for extended frequency response and transient response. The mics’ cardioid polar pattern reduces pickup of sounds from the sides and rear, improving isolation of desired sound source. All models in the AT2020 mic line are aimed to provide a wide dynamic range and handle high SPLs. Both of the limited-edition V models come with AT8458a shock mounts to attenuate noise, shock, or vibration transmitted through a mic stand, boom or mount.
Aiming to help drummers capture the ultra-low end of their sound, Avantone Pro has introduced Kick, a sub-frequency kick drum microphone that aims to capture the subsonic signature by using a low-frequency driver. The AV-10 MLF sports a single continuous press-formed cone, and in the Kick’s case, the 18 cm cone acts as a microphone element. The microphone itself is of a moving coil dynamic type, with a 50 Hz to 2 kHz frequency response, 6.3 Ω output impedance and figure-eight pattern, plus a male XLR connector.
Beyerdynamic has introduced two new additions to its TG series. The second-generation TG D70 dynamic kickdrum mic is meant for capturing the impact of bass drums and similar low-frequency intensive instruments, while the TG 151 instrument mic is a lean microphone with a short shaft that can be used on everything from snares and toms to brass instruments and guitar amplifiers.
Swedish audio manufacturer IsoVox has introduced IsoMic, a new studio microphone created in conjunction with fellow Swedish company Research Electronics AB, owners of the Ehrlund Microphones brand. The new microphone is based around a triangular capsule with a 7 Hz to 87 kHz frequency range. The IsoMic itself features an aluminum body with glass bead-blasting finish. Its triangular capsule reportedly has a SNR (Signal-to-Noise Ratio) of 87 dBA, DR (Dynamic Range) of 115 dB, and a maximum SPL (Sound Pressure Level) peak performance of 0.5% THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) at 116 dB or 1% THD at 122 dB.
Hot on the heels of introducing its Revelation II studio microphone in the Spring, MXL Microphones has launched its new Revelation Mini FET, aiming to provide intimacy and warmth of a tube mic, but built around a FET circuit with a smaller footprint. MXL’s Revelation Mini FET utilizes a 32 mm center terminating, gold-sputtered capsule combined with a low noise circuit. The mic focuses on the midrange and lower frequencies, resulting in recordings with less hum and more music. Additionally, the inclusion of a three-stage pad (0, -10 dB, -20 dB) is intended to provide the flexibility needed for recording high SPL sources, such as horns and kickdrums. The mic features black chrome accents as well as hand-selected FET and capacitors
First announced earlier in the year, Sanken Microphones is now shipping its new CUX-100K Cardioid or Omnidirectional super wide range professional microphone. The new microphone builds on the history of the company’s Chromatic omni-mode CO-100K, adding the ability to change modes with three settings: Cardioid (Far), Cardioid (Near) and Omni modes. The CUX-100K is intended for a variety of high-resolution, high-sample rate recordings, both in spatial or close-miking applications.
Scope Labs, a new pro-audio manufacturer based in Finland and operating globally, has introduced its first mic, the Periscope Microphone — an omni-condenser microphone with a built-in compressor that gives the mic a unique character. The Periscope is based around an omni capsule followed by a compression circuit intended to highlight textural nuances that the mic captures, with the aim of providing a hyper-realistic sound. The Periscope is manufactured in-house at Scope Labs Ltd. in Finland.
Sennheiser has introduced two new vocal microphones—the MD 435 large-diaphragm microphone, bringing the company’s dynamic MD 9235 capsule to a wired vocal microphone for the first time; and the MD 445, an LDC with a tight super-cardioid pick pattern. Ostensibly intended for live sound use, they reportedly hold their own in the studio as well. The MD 435’s lightweight aluminum-copper voice coil is intended to provide fast transient response, according to Sennheiser, in an effort to provide detailed, transparent sound. The large-diaphragm microphone features dynamics of 146 dB(A) and can handle sound pressure levels of up to 163 dB/1 kHz. The MD 445 is designed with a high-rejection, super-cardioid pick-up pattern, it reportedly offers uses considerable gain before feedback. Dynamics are wide at 146 dB(A) and the microphone is said to be able to handle sound pressure levels of up to 163 dB/1 kHz.
The TF11 is the company’s first large diaphragm phantom-powered condenser mic. The CK12-style edge-terminated capsule is a single membrane version of the capsule featured in the TF51, and the amplifier is a proprietary take on the FET mic amplifier similar to the M60, coupled with a custom large format nickel-iron core transformer by OEP/Carnhill made in the UK. The mic’s through-hole components include UK-made polystyrene film capacitors, Nichicon Fine Gold electrolytic capacitors, and a high-performance, ultra-low-noise JFET amplifier.
Wedemark, Germany (November 17, 2020)—Sennheiser has introduced two new vocal microphones—the MD 435 large-diaphragm microphone, bringing the company’s dynamic MD 9235 capsule to a wired vocal microphone for the first time; and the MD 445, an LDC with a tight super-cardioid pick pattern.
The MD 435’s lightweight aluminum-copper voice coil is intended to provide fast transient response, according to Sennheiser, in an effort to provide detailed, transparent sound. The large-diaphragm microphone features dynamics of 146 dB(A) and can handle sound pressure levels of up to 163 dB/1 kHz.
Meanwhile, the MD 445 is designed for use in a large, loud, live sound atmosphere. With a high-rejection, super-cardioid pick-up pattern, it reportedly offers uses considerable gain before feedback. Dynamics are wide at 146 dB(A) and the microphone is said to be able to handle sound pressure levels of up to 163 dB/1 kHz. It also features a metal casing and has a shock-mounted capsule, while a hum-compensating coil protects the microphone against electromagnetic interference.
For use with Sennheiser’s wireless transmitters, the capsule of the MD 435 is also available as the MM 435 microphone head, and will soon replace the existing MD 9235 capsule. Likewise, the capsule of the MD 445 is also available as the MM 445 microphone head. Both capsules can be used with Sennheiser wireless series ranging from the evolution wireless G4 and 2000 series to Digital 6000 and Digital 9000.
The MD 435 microphone and MM 435 microphone head retail at EUR 499 (roughly $591 US) each, while the MD 445 microphone and MM 445 microphone head retail at USD $619 each.
“Some microphones sound fantastic on one singer and don’t sound fantastic on a similar singer,” says recording, mixing and mastering engineer and producer Ronan Chris Murphy. “That’s just because of a particular resonance in the voice of one singer compared to the other.”
Murphy can generally predict which microphones will work on a singer after hearing them sing or listening to previous recordings. He’s worked with a wide range of artists, including Gwar, King Crimson, Terry Bozzio, Steve Morse, Pete Teo and Jamie Walters, as well as on video games titles such as Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood and Mafia III, so he has experience across multiple music genres. Even so, he says, “There are times where, because of various factors, predictions can be wrong.”
To zero in on the best choice from among the available alternatives, Murphy, who is also founder of Recording Boot Camp, a recording education business, will have the vocalist try as many as six microphones. “I always try my best to set up double-blind tests,” he says, because the eyes can deceive the ears. “You’re absolutely going to think the fancy Neumann sounds better—but in reality, that’s not always the case.”
None of the mics would be optimally positioned in an array of six, so Murphy tests two at a time through a matched pair of mic preamps. Eliminate one mic, replace it with the next choice, set up the double-blind again and continue the process. “You can get though six mics in under half an hour,” he says. “Especially if you’ve got somebody to help you.”
However, the quality and performance of a particular microphone is only part of the equation. There are two more important things to also keep in mind, he says: First, does the sound of the microphone suit the record that is being made? And, equally and perhaps even more importantly, he says, “Will this particular microphone get a better performance out of the singer?”
There are two sides to the performance issue, too. A singer may have spent the last several years handholding a dynamic mic playing live with a band before they cut their first record. “Now you’re going to try and capture on record that amazing thing they do. A lot of times, you put somebody in front of the big, shiny mic with headphones on and they’re out of their comfort zone,” says Murphy.
Conversely, a high-end mic can elevate a singer’s performance. He recalls a project where the shootout ended in a dead heat between a vintage Neumann he had rented and a Shure condenser. The singer had talked excitedly all week about using the Neumann. “So we spent a little extra money so that he could step up in front of that big, shiny microphone like he’d seen his idols do. It was worth it to get a better performance out of the artist.”
Check the microphones throughout the singer’s dynamic range, he also urges. Worse case, he says, “If I find somebody is great on one mic in the choruses and great on another in the verses, I’ll put up two mics, track both, then cut between the two in the mix.”
Even Murphy has been surprised by the results of shootouts, and advises checking any preconceptions at the door. “People are surprised that moving coil dynamics can beat out large diaphragm condensers or that an inexpensive condenser might beat out a more expensive one. There are times when a $100 microphone can sound significantly better than a $10,000 microphone. The great thing about double-blind testing is that it removes all that bias.”
Montreal, Canada (November 17, 2020)—Brian D’Oliveira, founder and creative director at La Hacienda Creative in Montreal, Canada, uses more than 900 one-of-a-kind instruments to produce award-winning work for films, TV and video games, capturing the new and often otherworldly sounds with his matched pair of Sanken CUX-100K microphones.
“When I heard about the new CUX-100K, I thought this might be the dream microphone,” says D’Oliveira, “and they’ve become my main mics, recording all kinds of material. To my surprise, it’s become pretty much the go-to mic and I’m recording about 90% of everything that I do now with this mic. I own two CUX-100Ks, and I got them especially because of my previous experience with my Sanken CO-100Ks. What’s great about them is that they are completely neutral and grab exactly what I hear with my ears. To me it’s the closest microphone to normal human hearing that exists.”
The high-resolution response of the mics enables D’Oliveira to manipulate the audio after recording. “I use the CUX-100K as audio putty, you could say, because sounds become a lot more workable. I do a lot of re-pitching and if I go down four octaves, I’m able to do all kinds of magical mangling. You would never be able to do this type of sonic transformation with any other microphone in the market right now.”
D’Oliveira has also been experimenting with the traditional recording of a wide variety of instruments. “To my surprise, using the CUX-100Ks produced a much bigger and massive cinematic sound out of the bass drums and our collection of rare percussion that we regularly use in our soundtrack production work. This is the original RCA Victor room from the 1940s and I use this room as an instrument in itself. The acoustics here are naturally beautiful and when I got the CUX-100K, it was the cherry on the cake because it was able to capture the full resonance and space better than any other microphone. It has become the perfect system for me to record what I do as a creator, as a composer and as a sound designer.”
Helsinki, Finland (November 17, 2020)—Scope Labs, a new pro-audio manufacturer based in Finland and operating globally, has introduced its first microphone, the Periscope Microphone — an omni- condenser microphone with a built-in compressor that gives the mic a unique character.
The Periscope is based around an omni capsule followed by a compression circuit intended to highlight textural nuances that the mic captures, with the aim of providing a hyper-realistic sound. The Periscope is manufactured in-house at Scope Labs Ltd. in Finland.
Mattia Sartori, co-founder of Scope Labs, noted, “For years, microphone manufacturers have been looking for the most pristine sound, we have our mic lockers full of supposed-to-be-perfect pieces. They can tell us exactly how an instrument sounds, but often they cannot capture the vibe, they cannot tell us the story behind it. That’s why we need new unique tools with character and that’s exactly what the Periscope delivers.”
Paavo Kurkela, co-founder of Scope Labs, stated, “Our mic is not a clone. It’s a brand-new design developed from the ground up, taking inspiration from tools and techniques that have been used for decades, but that are only now available in a sleek and simple plug-n-play form. Just hook up the mic in front of the source, switch phantom power on and you’re all set…. The obvious question for many is why would you compress or distort a microphone? Because we can, it’s unconventional, and it sounds super cool.”
Beta testers for the Periscope Microphone have included electronic music pioneers Chemical Brothers, producer Butch Vig (Nirvana, Garbage, Foo Fighters), engineer Ricky Damian (Mark Ronson, Lady Gaga) and others. Vig noted, “When I’m looking for character and color, The Periscope is my new go-to microphone…. If you’re looking for instant vibe, the Periscope rocks.
Richland, MI (November 11, 2020)—Studio accessory manufacturer Stedman Corporation has introduced its new AD-1 Clamp Adaptor.
The new adaptor attaches to the clamps of Stedman’s Proscreen XL and PS-101 pop filters to allow them to properly attach to square-tubed broadcast microphone boom arms that are a popular part of many podcast studios, such as the Rode PSA1 or the Heil Sound PL-2T.
Stedman’s pop filter clamps were originally designed to work only with circular microphone stands and boom arms. This adaptor will allow the PS-XL and PS-101 to be used with any square boom arm with a width of up to 0.65”.
The AD-1 has a retail price of $5.99 USD. All Stedman products are handmade in the U.S. and are backed by a limited lifetime warranty.
What do you do if you’re a working voice actor in a big city, and all of the studios you visit to do your work are temporarily closed? While some actors already had solid home setups at the start of 2020’s lockdown, most had cheap USB mics which had previously been just for auditions. Bad-sounding audio has never served anyone well, even at the audition level, but it was forgivable since on the day of the job, the actor would be in the studio in front of a professional voiceover microphone. With that scenario off the table, however, VO artists were suddenly scrambling to get “broadcast quality” from home. The question on everyone’s mind was “How do I create a home studio that’s solid but won’t leave me with a pile of expensive gear I may not need again when studios reopen?”
The truth is, a dependable voiceover microphone is a great thing to have around, regardless of whether there’s a worldwide pandemic on or not. There are wonderful mics at every price-point that will serve you well into the future. Not only can you affordably provide broadcast quality from home, but you will also forever have better-sounding auditions. Quality is now more important than ever, since it has to be assumed that what is heard in the audition is what should be expected for the actual session. Quality matters.
There are a couple of voiceover microphones you see in every professional VO booth. They are the well-known, large diaphragm condenser microphones that cost a few thousand dollars, or the shotgun mic you see in film sets and ADR studios that happen to sound excellent for voiceover work, running around a thousand dollars. That’s great for the big studios, but for the working actor or VO artist, that kind of money for a mic might be a stretch—especially when you factor in treating a space to record in (which in many ways is more important than the mic itself), plus a decent interface and other peripherals.
So how do you sound big on a budget? If you want to stay with the brand you know from the studios you’ve worked in—and if your budget allows—you might consider the Neumann TLM 103, which retails for around $1,300. You can save even more by looking at the very popular Neumann TLM 102, which sells for $699. Both of these mics skip the selectable polar patterns of the larger U 87 (which you don’t need as a voice actor anyway), as well as the roll-off switch. Neither of those things are critical for recording voiceovers at home, and help lower the cost of the mic.
Low-cost large diaphragm condenser microphones are nothing new, but their quality and competitiveness has grown steadily over the years. Røde has been a hero for voice actors recording from home. Both the NT1 (which retails for $269) and the NT1A (which sells for $229) come with a shock mount and a pop-filter attached. The NT1 typically comes with a metal mesh pop-shield, but lately has been popping up with the more traditional round, nylon pop-filter. These both give an impressively warm and rich tone for the cost. Critics will point out that there is a harshness on the high frequencies, but as an NT1A owner, I have not found that to be the case for my voice. Both mics can deliver a wonderful proximity-effect bass boost when needed. In fact, in a recent national radio spot, knowing that the actor was using an NT1A, I directed her for one particular line to lean-in and talk directly into a corner of the mic to take advantage of that sound. These microphones were so popular at the start of the 2020 lockdown that for a time, they were hard to find!
Having heard a demonstration in a YouTube video, I was very curious about the Stellar X2 mic from TZ Audio. This led me to reach out to the company via its website, and they assured me that they had plenty of inventory and were open for business. The Stellar X2 costs $199.99, and includes a sturdy carrying case, shock mount, wind screen (not a pop-filter) and a pouch. I am truly impressed with the sound coming from the actors that have it. It is comparable to the Rode NT1 in terms of smoothness. It is less bright, but still shimmers—and has a little less proximity effect than the Rode NT1 or NT1A. It is a solid little mic with a big sound!
The Synco Mic D2 is an impressive shotgun-style mic, weighing in at $249. This has been a hero for actors that do more than just voice recording at home. Given that it’s designed for distance and focus, it’s perfect for self-taping for on-camera and keeping the mic out of the frame. Because of its hyper-cardioid directional condenser design, it does a great job at rejecting background noise and reflections. For many actors converting small city closets into voiceover booths, this can really help minimize reflections that cause comb filtering. Obviously, there is more to that issue than just the microphone, but the shotgun mic helps tremendously. As a point of reference, during lockdown, I recorded several national TV spots with well-known actors who sat in their cars in my driveway while the clients listened in via Source Connect and/or Zoom. With some careful placement in the vehicle, we got booth-quality sound while working in everything from Toyotas to Teslas—all thanks to the nature of a shotgun mic!
As previously mentioned, the right voiceover microphone is only one part of the equation. Your voice and recording space play a major role in the overall sound coming from your home to the world, but the mics mentioned are proven winners when used properly. With a price range from $199.99 up to $1,399; there is something for everyone, and you will sound excellent.
Frank Verderosa is a 30-year veteran of the New York audio industry, fighting the good fight for film studios, ad agencies and production companies, but secretly loves mixing music most of all. These days, he plies his trade at Digital Arts in NYC, and is also a noted podcast engineer.
Burbank, CA (November 11, 2020)—Gene Martin, owner of Audio Department and Sound Guy Solutions, found a solution for a challenging commercial shoot during the coronavirus pandemic: the just-released DPA 4097 micro shotgun and MMA-A digital audio interface.
“The commercial was shot as a series of video chats from mobile devices and laptops, so we needed something where the actors could be walking around with their phones and not have a large recording device with them,” says Martin. With scenes being shot in separate areas around the U.S., Martin had to juggle as many as 10 different drop kit audio packages at a time. As he was on-location with the main crew in California, he also had to account for remote workflows as well as social distancing protocols.
“The client was happy with the video from the devices, but was looking to drastically improve the audio. I was originally going to use the DPA 4060 because its higher sensitivity would benefit us being able to have the mic further from actors’ faces. Then, the 4097 was introduced and it was the perfect little microphone for this application; everything from the design to the sound was exactly what we needed.”
The size of the setup played a big role in Martin choosing DPA. “Our first point of business was to find an interface or recorder that was small enough to mount to the mobile device,” he explains. “The DPA MMA-A gave us the ability to easily switch between the phone and computer interfaces. Add to that the fact that we could thread the DPA 4097 directly onto the MMA-A and attach it all right to the back of the phone, and we had the perfect little microphone positioned right above the camera.”
The DPA system also worked well when the actors switched to scenes in which they were using laptops. “This small, lightweight microphone and audio interface combination attached directly to the back of the computer,” adds Martin. “What we ended up with was audio from a high-end, broadcast-quality directional microphone that was much better than the internal microphone on the devices. This helped us capture exactly what we needed to focus on — not a lot of the background ambiance, but rather really just single-in on our talent.”
There’s nothing quite like the sound of a nasty cool guitar amp or cabinet. The fiery attitude, grit, edge and sometimes extra volume is truly something to behold—and to be heard! But how do you get that huge sound to translate to small speakers, including the ones that go in your ears? Let’s look at a few mic techniques to help make that happen, and we’ll also get some guitar miking tips from Grammy-winning producer/engineer/mixer Neil Dorfsman (Dire Straits, Paul McCartney, Sting, Kiss, Bruce Springsteen, Oasis) and engineer/mixer extraordinaire Richard Chycki (Rush, Dream Theater, Aerosmith).
Don’t Forget The Basics
There’s a reason I’m going to say “start with a Shure SM57.” That’s simply because it works and we’ve all heard it on countless hit records. Stick one of these trusty desert island gems a few inches from the outside cone of a speaker and turn up the preamp. Boom—instant damn good guitar sound.
There are plenty of other mics that can get the job done on their own. For a smoother sound, I’ve used ribbon mics like the Beyerdynamic M 160 and Royer R-121. An AKG C414 large-diaphragm condenser mic covers a lot of ground on its own and features the ability to record multiple polar patterns. For a bigger, thicker sound, the Sennheiser MD-421 II cardioid dynamic mic is one of my favorites, along with a Neumann U 87 (or 67 tube mic if available). Each of these has their own ‘frequency sweet spot,’ so use to taste.
Don’t be afraid to move the mic around the cone area, experimenting with what part of the speaker sounds best, or for that matter, which speaker on the amp sounds best. Also, experiment with the distance of the mic on the speaker. For example, when I’ve recorded guitar great Ace Frehley, he always likes to put the mic right up against the grill of his 4X12 Marshall cabs. This helps deliver a nice thick tone due to the extra bass from the proximity effect of the mic being so close. Ever since, I’ve pretty much done the same thing, maybe moving it back a few inches on occasion, but I’ve found that for the most part, keeping the mic in tight usually delivers the right attitude.
The More Mics, The Merrier
The real fun starts when you introduce several mics (and amps) into the picture. Reaching out to my good friend Neil Dorfsman, he had a few ideas on the topic. “While I’m not necessarily of the opinion that ‘if using one mic is good, using two is better,’ I tend to try and capture multiple representations of electric guitars sounds,” he notes. “For me, there’s so much complex harmonic content that I find one or two mics just don’t do the trick.”
Dorfsman uses a number of setups, but there’s one he turns to the most. “When I mic an electric guitar cabinet, I’ll normally set up two ‘midrange / punchy’ mics—usually a Shure SM57 or Sennheiser MD-421—with one on-axis and one angled about 30 degrees off-axis,” he said. “Then one smooth, less ‘peaky’ mic (usually a ribbon such as a Royer, AEA, RCA 77-DX or Beyer M 160) and one ‘hi-fi’ representation (usually a -20 dB padded AKG C451), and possibly also a ‘full-sounding’ large diaphragm condenser (Neumann U 67, U 47 and so on). In addition, I’ll do a slightly distant ambient pair of large diaphragm condensers, such as U 87s.
“That is a lot of mics and requires some ‘time and phase alignment’ to make it work,” he continued. “Depending on the sound I’m trying to capture, the diaphragm will be anywhere from 1 to 4 inches away from the cone. The mics are placed in various and different positions, depending on their sonic character and the speaker’s sound. I submix them as I am recording—keeping only the ‘ambient mics’ separate for mixing later. I’ve found it helpful to always also take a DI [from the amp] as well, which can later be re-amped or processed with an amp simulator plug-in while mixing.”
Checking In with Chycki
Richard Chycki takes a variety of approaches, too, when it comes to miking a guitar, ensuring that he has lots of possibilities to work with when it comes time to mix.
“I split the guitar signal, usually with a Radial JD7 for larger setups or a Radial X-Amp 500 for a two-amp split,” he notes. “I always record a guitar DI for both re-amping possibilities and editing, as distorted guitars usually look like an audio sausage [in a DAW, making it] a bit difficult to find transients for editing.”
“For Alex Lifeson from Rush, we set up a string of amps, cabinets and mics and create tone presets on the console as we work,” he said. “The main amp is miked with a Royer R-121, a Mojave Audio MA-301fet and a Shure 57. I don’t EQ the mics individually but use placement and balance between the three mics, submixing to a buss where I have a Pultec EQP-1A EQ and a Urei LA-3A leveling amplifier, and then go to the DAW.
“We do prefer Celestion G12M or Vintage 30 guitar speakers and larger 4×12 cabinets, like Marshall TV or Mesa Boogie Rectifier cabs,” he noted. “For a session as complex as Rush, we had an assortment of other amps connected, including a Mesa Boogie Mark V, a version of a Lerxst Omega [Lifeson’s signature model guitar amp], an Orange OR-120, a 20-watt Hi-Watt, and a Bogner Uberschall. We also used a Roland JC-120 [Jazz Chorus Stereo Combo] processed separately and miked in stereo to capture the full chorus width. All of the amps were miked with combinations of Shure SM57, Royer R-121, Sennheiser MD-409, Shure SM7, Neumann U 47 fet and, of course, the triad of mics mentioned earlier.”
Room ambience is a crucial seasoning for your sound that your mics can provide, depending on your tone and taste. Sometimes you want it, and sometimes you don’t. As Chycki explained, for recording Lifeson, “A pair of Royer R-121s set up using Blumlein Pair technique, and Earthworks SR30s set up X-Y are always on hand for room ambience, if needed. However, for recording John Petrucci’s guitar for Dream Theater, we used the ‘guitar condom.’ The GC is a hut made from bales of Roxul rock wool insulation that encapsulate the guitar cabinet and microphones, completely removing any room sound from the close microphones.”
Capturing big guitar sounds can be as simple as placing a single mic in front of an amp to creating complex setups with DIs and a myriad of sonic options. Take the time to move the mic(s) around, check your phase, check the speaker and experiment. Subtle changes can make a big difference in the final product. Just remember—if it sounds right, it is right, no matter what the setup.