MD 421 mic positioning?

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by MichaelK, Nov 28, 2005.


  1. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    Hello folks -

    My wife and son bought me a MD 421 for my birthday because I expressed admiration for the clean guitar tones on my son's latest mixes. He blended two tracks, the 421 on one cab and a Royer 121 on a different amp, different cab. I've always liked how the 421 sounds but never used one.

    He told me how he miked his cab with it: a few inches away from the grill, 45 degree angle aimed at dead center of the speaker. I dunno if that's ideal... I think if I did that with a 57 it wouldn't sound too good, but obviously this is not a 57. And I am not blending this with a Royer.

    I'm gonna mess with this thing tomorrow and I'm curious how others do it. How do you guys like to position this mic on a guitar cab, solo, no other mics?
     
  2. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    I asked one of my studio buddies and he gave me the same advice he gave me when using a SM57, which I know for a fact works great (and which I've posted here ad nauseum). So here it is, pasted verbatim from his email to me:

    "... most engineers that get the better tones on a guitar amp with a 421, face the top end of the mic directly in between the dust cap and the cone of the speaker on the guitar amp. If the amp has two speakers, pick one. Also, you may find that reflective areas such as tiled bathrooms and hallways tend to focus a huge amount of sound back into the mic. As long as the mic is not too far from the reflective surfaces, you should not have any comb-filtering problems and normally will get a richer sound acoustically on your recording."

    I'll add that when we've used a 57 the mic is maybe 1.5" - 2" back from the grill cloth, dead-on axis.
     
  3. TAVD

    TAVD Guitar Player Gold Supporting Member

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    I mic my speakers where the cone meets the dust cap also. Mic parallel to the cone is my preference, although standard practice is to place it on axis. The 421 has a fair amount of bass response too so it might end up further away than a 57 would.
     
  4. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    I just ran a test track with clean guitar. I kept both mics the same distance from the grill cloth, about 2", no bass roll-off on the 421. So far they sound nearly (but not quite) identical. The 57 is a smidge "beefier," but I liked the tone from the 421 a little more on this track. It also sounds a little closer to what I was hearing in the room. But again, not by much.

    Back to the studio...
     
  5. nickdahl

    nickdahl Member

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    Are there different variations of the 421? I hear a lot about this mic and wonder if there's anything I should look for as I try to locate one.

    Thanks,

    Nick
     
  6. TAVD

    TAVD Guitar Player Gold Supporting Member

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    Yes, there are differences over the years. The newer ones (md421-II) have slightly different capsules and are assembled differently. There are also differences in the various older ones as far as the assembly goes, some were hard-wired and some use quick connect terminals. Plus there are different connectors (xlr, tuchel, etc.) Consider buying a new one to get the warranty.
     
  7. mccreadyisgod

    mccreadyisgod Member

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    I'd love to find an old Telefunken 421 in working shape... such cool mics.

    My favorite position is halfway between the center of the speaker and the edge of the speaker, angled towards the seam of the dust cover dome. I usually put it right up against the grillcloth, but if it's too muddy, move it back a couple inches. I wouldn't use the bass roll-off, it interferes with the gorgeous proximity response the mic is famous for.

    I love a 421 on clean guitar tracks, especially really warm jazzy tracks. It just fits that tonality so well. Another quick note: If you ever record an electric piano (Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, keyboard e. piano, etc) through an amp, the 421 is ideal for this application. I've even used it on cheaper keyboards' internal speakers for a funky effect, and it sounds amazing.
     
  8. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    Yeah, mine is brand new. Its the "Mark II" or something, but it's the only one they're making right now.

    OK, I tried it with a modded PRS CE 24 and an ASAT Semihollow through a Rivera Chubster 40. For each guitar I just dialed in clean tones I liked on channel 2 (the "Fenderish" channel), and positioned the 421 and a SM57 as described above with both capsules the same distance from the grill. I ran both mics to a Focusrite Red1 preamp and then to an Apogee Rosetta A/D. The preamp gain was set the same on both channels.

    I experimented on all pickups with and without a couple of clean effects pedals.

    Observations:

    With no roll-off the 421 was indistinguishable (to my ears, anyway) from the 57 on most clean sounds. With 1 click of roll-off there was a slight difference, but nearly microscopic. With 2 clicks of roll-off I felt I was starting to get somewhere – that worked well for clean tones. Chords were crisp but not too dry and there was more audible articulation on leads. 3 clicks and it was too thin-sounding for my taste (and VERY different from what I heard coming from the cab).

    For slightly crunchy tones the 57 usually sounded more pleasing across the board than the 421, but I think the rolled-off 421 would probably sit better in a mix – which I have not tried yet.

    More than slightly crunchy and the 57 was the clear winner every time. It just does a certain "something" with that tube distortion in the low mids that's so right.

    Something that was cool: as an experiment, on the take where I had 3 clicks of roll-off on the 421, I jogged the 421 track back 20 ms. behind the 57 track and panned them hard L&R. Nice chorus effect! But I could have done the same thing with EQ on a duplicated track because they are so similar in character. A different type of mic – ribbon or condenser – positioned differently, or a separate amp & cab would make for more interesting contrast. Both of which are exactly what my son did. :)

    Early conclusions: On electric guitar, the 421 is not so drastically different from the 57 that I would recommend it as an "essential" for someone using it just for that. Yeah it's different, and different is good, but it ain't like night and day. I understand that it's great for toms (which I don't track at home) and other drums (which I do), and I've even heard it's good for certain vocals. But for electric guitar, I think something like a Royer or a nice large diaphragm condenser would bring more variety to the table.

    Until I'm more familiar with it I think I'll use both mics on the cab and see which track I like better.
     
  9. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    Positioned like you did, the 2 mics could sound very different 'cause the off-axis rejection is different. But the way I did it, dead-on, the proximity effect was the same in both mics. At least I thought so.

    I mic my Yamaha P-150's built-in speakers all the time, it sounds great that way! Much better than the direct audio output and better than amped. I'll try it with this mic. I've heard it's good on bass cabs, too.

    Thanks for the suggestions!
     

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