My Top 10 Microphones
Microphones are like paint brushes. Each one paints its own sonic picture and you can never have too many of them. Ask a serious guitarist how many guitars they own. Most of my friends have between five and ten. Its equally important for engineers, musicians, and vocalists to own several mics. I’ve compiled a list of my top 10 microphones, some of which excel in recording, some for live use.
Top 10 Microphones for your collection:
First of all, we must begin with Neumann. They are microphone scientists and have cracked the code with U87. It has three polar patterns which makes it ideal for singers, broadcasters, overheads, piano, and cello. Already considered a classic, the U87Ai is known for its balanced characteristics. It has long been a favorite for vocalists and orchestral recordings. This mic is an investment that will retain its value for years to come.
The tagline for this microphone is “just add talent” and for good reason! This tube microphone has a polished sound right out of the box and presents a flattering, larger-than-life sound. Based on vintage European tube mics such as the beloved U47, this mic avoids the need for compressors or boosting of the 5 to 10k bands.
The Blueberry is my go-to vocal microphone. Its design sounds intimate with a presence reminiscent of expensive, vintage vocal microphones. It has minimal proximity effect (no boomy bass) with detailed highs and a smooth midrange. If you want to cut through the mix, give this work of art a try.
The C414 is an all-around work-horse in the studio. It features nine selectable polar patterns making it perfect for any application. It has a very transparent sound without implementing its own tone. Either instruments or vocals benefit from the C414. Acoustic guitars will sound crisp and a matching pair can make for killer drum overheads.
Singers always seem to shortchange themselves when buying microphones. Whereas guitarists will spend $2000 on an American Strat, singers hover in the under $200 range for mics, not doing their voices justice. The KSM9 is a dual-pattern handheld condenser designed for the rigors of the road. It sounds precise and clear and the large diaphragm provides consistent response across the entire frequency range. It’s internal shock-mount isolates it from handling noise while the three-stage grill reduces pop and breath noise. Live singers will belt out their best with this mic. It’s a no-brainer.
Another complimenting Neumann, the KM184 is a compact instrument condenser with a smooth, colorless frequency response on- and off-axis. It’s great for close-miking of strings, wind instruments, percussion, piano, and guitar amps. The small size makes it ideal for tight situations.
ElectroVoice RE20 (& RE320):
The RE20 was introduced in 1968 and still remains highly popular in the broadcast world. It’s great for sound reinforcement low-frequency applications such as kick drum due to its Variable D technology which rejects excessive bass boosts. The RE320 is brighter and louder. It’s like using an RE20 with +5dB boost around 4-5kHz. Due to its big-bodied sound, I’ve used it for live rap vocals with great success.
For over 50 years, the MD421 is a road-tested favorite of engineers. Originally developed for the broadcast industry, it been adopted by audiophiles due to its ability to deliver the robust tone and rich timbre. Easily capture brass, electric guitar cabinets, in addition to drums. It handles high SPLs exceptionally well and accurately reproduces low bass making it ideal for kick drums too.
The D12VR is an improvement on the industry-standard AKG D112 large diaphragm dynamic kick drum mic. The D12VR has a design that enhances low-frequency response. The beautiful thing about this mic is that even though its dynamic, it is actually a hybrid that alters its sound when phantom power is present. 48volts aid this mic to change its character using one of three active-filter presets. Using a switch on the body you can experiment to craft your kick drum tone depending on the song you’re recording. As an added bonus, the guts of this mic feature the same transformer the original, legendary C414.
The TLM49 breathes warmth. It has a gentle presence boost above 2 kHz which gives it a very open sound. The TLM49 makes a statement for those looking for rich, powerful vocals for either song or broadcast.
Wrap It Up
In conclusion, microphones should be something you aspire to purchase. Maybe some of these seem expensive, but they are a great investment and hold their resale value. Some microphones even increase in value when production ceases. Don’t short change the way you capture audio. I’d love to read about your top 10 microphones in the comments below.