tips and tricks
 »  Article Archive  »  Recording Engineers  »  Getting Started  »  What Is A Good Mic?

What Is A Good Mic?

By  Brandon Drury | Published  11/13/2005 | Getting Started
Rating:

What Is A Good Mic?

 Yes, you heard me. I'm totally confused how a mic can be a good mic vs a bad mic. Just for fun, let's discuss what a bad mic is. Obviously, a bad mic is a mic that doesn't function. I would say that a bad mic is probably sitting in the ?fix me in 3 years? box with all the other bad mics. I would say that you could classify a microphone that doesn't always work, but intermitently works as being a bad mic. Poor reliability makes a microphone a ?bad? microphone. Now here is where you need to put on your thinking caps. Is a harsh mic a bad mic? Before you just jump in and say ?yes, a harsh mic is a bad mic? think about what you are saying. I would probably go as far as to say that a recorded track that sounds harsh in the mix is probably a bad thing. (Notice, I used the word probably twice). However, before you just say that a mic is bad because it is harsh, at least consider the notion that you are recording a very dull source that you are probably going to need to use parametric equalization to fix. If you are going to add the harsh frequencies with EQ wouldn't it just be better to use a harsh mic?


When I need a mic to add a little bit of bite to a recording, I want a harsh sounding mic. I'm going to argue that if a harsh sounding mic gets me the exact sound I'm looking for, than the harsh mike is far and beyond being a ?good mic?. In this application, it's a ?great mic?. (Honestly, if any mic ever gets you exactly what you are looking for, tell me about it. I'll fly out to your studio and you can show me how to do it..I don't know if it's ever been done).


Let's talk about the Royer R121 ribbon mic for a second. Almost everyone considers this a very good mic. Maybe even a great mic. Guess what. It sounds like crap. That is why everyone likes it. Yes, you heard me. The R121 sounds like crap. It's dull. It has this way of ignoring the hifi quality of a signal you capturing with it. Vocals sound ?wrong? when compared to the sound of a high end condenser in most cases. Acoustic guitar is the same. So why does everyone seam to love this mic? The answer is simple. When you need a dull sounding mic, the R121 is often the perfect choice. It's a favorite on guitar amplifiers because it knocks the fizz off. I use it when doing vocal layers. It knocks the high end off in a pleasing way. When a drummer brings in overly bright cymbals, the Royer R121 has a way getting the cymbals right, whereas using the usual condenser would prove to be way too bright and just make the problem worse.


When a person says a mic is a good mic I must say that I'm confused. I'll often say ?good for what??. Then they act like I'm questioning them or not trusting them. I've never seen a mic that was good for everything. I'm not sure that I ever will. I'd like for people to tell me that a given mic is good and then tell me what is its good for. I'd also like them to tell me what it is bad for.


For example: An SM 57 is great on darker sounding guitar cabinets because the upper mid push of the 57 helps the guitars cut through. The 57 is not so good on a really fizzy, biting guitar sound, once again because the upper mid bump causes the sound to be too thin.


One other way of looking at it. Is a mic a good mic to own? I have mics that I'd recommend because they are good mics to own. They have a flavor that seams to always get used for something. Since a mic can not be great on everything, maybe saying that X is a good mic to add to your collection is all you need to hear.

 
Related Articles
Recording Forum

If you have a question, please post on the Recording Forum.