save me from myself - a case of Neumann mike lust

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by zenpicker, Aug 7, 2005.

  1. zenpicker

    zenpicker Member

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    It appears that Neumann mikes are the gold standard for condensor mikes, as the price would imply. Given that a pair of them is worth the price of a really sweet guitar, my simple question is: Are they worth it for recording solo steel string acoustic guitar?

    I am slowly getting better and better acoustic results from my very modest gear, but I feel some gear lust for Neumanns encroaching. How much of a difference will it make if I spend a couple thou on those puppies and at least a thou on a better preamp to match them? There are decent discounts on eBay for the mikes but it's still a ton of money.

    As a reference point for my current recording sound quality, I would offer this tune, recorded dry on pretty darn cheap MXL condensors and an mAudio DMP3 preamp:

    http://home.comcast.net/~musicarea/crossing_crystal_lake.mp3

    Sounds pretty good to me, but what do I know. Would Neumanns make a tangible difference worth a multi-thousand-dollar investment? In what way, acoustically speaking?
     
  2. Greggy

    Greggy Member

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    A km184 only costs around $600-700 new, right? A damn good acoustic guitar mic, IMO. But not a multi-thousand dollar investment, unless you are looking for a matched stereo pair.
     
  3. enharmonic

    enharmonic Old Growth Gold Supporting Member

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    IMHO, you'd be MUCH better off if you went with Microtech Gefell mics. They're the real Neumann.
     
  4. GuitslingerTim

    GuitslingerTim Member

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    There was a comparison between the Marshall MXL V69ME and several of the multi-thousand dollar tube mics in one of the music publications and the MXL was picked over its more expensive counterparts by professionals. The V69 goes for $300 with case and shockmount.
     
  5. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    KM-184 is a great, great mic for guitar or any fretted acoustic stringed instrument, piano and some (but not all) percussion. Highly recommended. A stereo pair is a worthwhile investment for any studio IMHO. But they are pricey, and not an absolute requirement to get a great recording. I forget what Bryan uses... he uses a much less expensive mic and IMO his results are terrific. Maybe he'll chime in.
     
  6. enharmonic

    enharmonic Old Growth Gold Supporting Member

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    I can't argue with popular opinion, but have you ever put a KM184 up against a pair of Gefell M295's? They're made like the old KM84's, which smoke 184's by a lot. You can get a matched pair on the short side of 2 grand...and have the real deal instead of a mic that borrows off of the legacy of a legend. The KM184 is not a KM84...not even a little bit. The M295 is as good if not better IMHO. They're the only ones building the nickel capsules today, and the sound difference is obvious

    I even prefer the M300's to the KM184...but that's just me. YMMV :)
     
  7. TAVD

    TAVD Guitar Player Gold Supporting Member

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    If you're using the mxl 603 mic, then you have a pretty good mic for the $ (althought they vary widely). They have decent transistors and Wima caps so there's no gains to be made there.

    I'd suggest the Avenson sto-2. A sleeper mic the costs $500/pair. The next step up would be the Josephson c42 pair @ $850. Although neither is a Neumann substitute. Consider a preamp upgrade to go with your new mics.
     
  8. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    Gefell isn't the "real" Neumann. It was the Neumann factory prior to the end of WW2.

    There was considerable litigation between the East and West Germans for the rights to use certain names during the postwar years. For example, BMW had originally been on East German territory before the war, and the East Germans were producing a "BMW" with a red propeller logo using some of the tooling, instead of the blue one, at the original Eisenach location, while the BMW group consisting of the actual shareholders and managers was making its own products (mostly pots, pans and Veritas cars) in Munich.

    In the case of Neumann, you had the "Neumann family Neumann", and the "unauthorized" East German Neumann. Eventually these cases were settled during the late 40s-early 50s, hence the Gefell name.

    So the "real" Neumann IS Neumann, and Gefell is a distinct company that was State owned and State run, which used its own version of the Neumann capsule. It is a very good capsule, and probably for all practical purposes identical to the original, but Neumann in the West also made mics originally with its capsule, and then went on to design other things.

    Neumann also made the stuff for the Telefunken mics, and many Neumann products were branded Telefunken.

    The KM184 is a very good mic. The KM84, which I have used a great deal, is not at all the same mic as the 184 OR the Gefell. It was designed long after the settlement between the two factories, and if there is any resemblance, it is due to Gefell essentially copying the KM84 product during the Communist era.

    The KM140 is a great mic if you like the 84. I happen to prefer the Blue mics to either, but that's a question of taste. The bottom line is that you can get great recordings with ANY of these microphones, assuming you have a great sounding guitar and a good guitar player.

    Anyway, the question of who borrowed from whom is easily ascertained if one does the history.

    In any event, I wouldn't argue that ANY mic is the "best"; the best mic for any application depends on the instrument, the player, the room, and the miking technique.

    :)
     
  9. LSchefman

    LSchefman Member

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    I would add that the M7 capsule has, in my humble opinion, been long equalled or surpassed by later designs, and that the postwar Neumanns were technically superior to the prewar/wartime "bottle" Neumanns, which is why U47s, 67s, and 87s are all over the classic recordings instead of the prewar models.

    Just my opinion.
     
  10. Bryan T

    Bryan T Guitar Owner Silver Supporting Member

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    zenpicker,

    I'm on my second listen to your track right now. It sounds good to me. Nice playing and nice meditative song. One issue that I hear is that the recording seems to be unbalanced from ear to ear - the right channel was boomy. You need to be a bit more careful when doing stereo micing techniques.

    Since I don't know how you play, what type of guitar you are playing, how fresh the strings are, what your room sounds like, etc. it is hard to say if your current microphones are falling short. Do you think you are accurately capturing the sound of the guitar? Are you missing any of the sparkle the guitar has? Is the sound tonally balanced? Are the microphones capturing the midrange correctly?

    I've read a lot of reviews of the Neumann 184s that were unfavorable, mainly because they are brighter microphones than the 84s. I haven't worked with either, so I don't know if this is correct. A lot of people do swear by those microphones.

    I do a lot of recording of solo acoustic guitars. My experience with some of the cheaper microphones is that they sound flattering, but tend to not be true to the sound of the guitar. I had a Audio Technica microphone that I did a lot of recording with that I came to loathe. At first I liked it, but then I realized that it completely screwed up the midrange, no matter where I was recording. It was very frustrating to need to do that much EQ correction on a microphone that was supposed to be relatively flat.

    My biggest lesson was that you really have to spend a lot of time trying different microphones and different microphone placements to find what is best. You can read about it all that you want, but hands-on is the way to learn what works for your room, guitar, playing style, and microphones.

    Earlier this year I upgraded to a matched pair of Josephson C42s. I really enjoy working with these microphones and like their sound. They are very sensitive to placement, much more so than other microphones I've used, which can make initial setup somewhat frustrating. They are a bit bright, but I like what that does to the sound of my guitars.

    Bryan

    P.S. A good performance will tend to sound good, no matter what gear you record it with. The listener's ears get used to the sound of your recording pretty quickly.
     
  11. zenpicker

    zenpicker Member

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    May I first say, thank you to all for the insightful feedback. This forum is impressive. Not only do I get quick replies from people who clearly know their stuff cold, I get history and background and context too. I love it.

    A question for Bryan:

    You correctly point out that the right side of the recording is boomy. That was a large-diaphragm MXL placed about 6" from the 14th fret. The other channel is a paired MXL small-diaphragm condensor aimed at the saddle end of the soundhole, about the same distance. That is a hotter mike in the treble end of the spectrum. Based on experience, would you guess that the boominess is due to my placing the large-d mike too close to the guitar? Directed too close to the soundhole (i.e., should I point it more toward the head of the guitar)? Or is the mike/preamp the issue?

    Today I am going to swap in a Behringer B1 that I have and see what happens. It's another inexpensive large-d condensor, so I would not expect Neumann sound or anything close, obviously, but it might highlight the "color" of the B1 better.

    This really is a black art, isn't it?

    Thanks again to all--most informative thread.
     
  12. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    I haven't heard the Geffels, but I've used 84s many times. IMO 84s don't "smoke" 184s. They're somewhat more golden, different, but not so vastly superior that if I heard a well-engineered recording of either one I could tell you which it was.

    But if you hear that much of a performance gap, more power to you. JMO.
     
  13. Bryan T

    Bryan T Guitar Owner Silver Supporting Member

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    To be honest, I'm not sure if the sound is boomy or if it is just boomy in comparison to the other microphone. I think the typical practice when using unmatched microphones is to blend the signals using the same panning position - that is how I would approach it at least. Moving the mic away from the guitar will reduce the proximity effect, reducing bass. If I have one mic at the 14th fret it will typically be about 6-10 inches away and angled slightly towards the soundhole, which sounds like where you have yours positioned. Don't overlook adjusting the height of the mic, as you can make the sound brighter by positioning it a little lower, at least in my experience. Again, futzing around with mics and using your ears is the best way to learn.

    By the way, I only do stereo using matched microphones in a standard setup (XY or ORTF) and that keeps the stereo spectrum tonally balanced. Also, you need to be aware of any phase issues you might be encountering with the microphones a similar of a distance from the guitar - that can really screw up the perceived EQ and balance of your signals. Sometimes one microphone is the best way to go.

    I'm curious if you've tried the microphones using the small diaphragm at the 14th fret and using the large diaphragm a few feet out from the guitar. That is a pretty standard way of recording a guitar. Again, you'd blend the microphones using the same panning position. The small diaphragm would pick up the transients better and the large diaphragm would be a nice ambience mic. I'd spend a lot of time getting the small diaphragm positioned so it could be used by itself if need be, as you might decide that the room mic isn't something you like.

    Hope this helps,
    Bryan
     
  14. E-Rock

    E-Rock Member

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    Another thing to look into is a ribbon mic.
    I have a Royer 122 that sounds killer.
    Very natural sounding.
     
  15. elambo

    elambo Member

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    Smoke? What are you smoking that you'd say something like this? By NO means does the 84 SMOKE the 184. I agree without hesitation that the 84 is a better mic, but not by so much. I see people say this and I know to never take comments from that author seriously ever again.

    I have many Neumanns and I use all (most) of them, including 184s. Sitting right next to it in my mic closet is a pair of Schoeps CMC6/MK4, but the 184 is just "right" sometimes (altough not as often as the Schoeps) on certain guitars for a certain sound. In general, it's still a great mic.

    I'm so tired of defending the 184 against antiestablishmentarianists (had to use it - first chance ever to do so. I know, I'm an ass) who hear about the Gefells then praise them as the *real* Neumann. :mad: Neumann is Neumann for a reason, even if they're not the same company they were in their golden age.
     
  16. loudboy

    loudboy Member

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    My "go to" set up for solo acoustic guitar is a Royer R-121 on the lower bout, below the bridge and a 184 at about the 12th fret, pointed at the body joint, thru a Great River MP-2MH. The 184 picks up the detail and the Royer grabs the wood and body tone as well as any mic I've used. I'd love to try a pair of Schoeps, tho.

    Loudboy
     
  17. elambo

    elambo Member

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    And as E-Rock says, the Royers are great mics also. Awesome for micing a guitar cabinet (the 122 or even the 121), but I'm not sure that they get the same response from engineers when used for acoustic guitar. Not that they're bad, just that it's not where they shine.
     
  18. elambo

    elambo Member

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    My life got a whole lot easier after I bought a pair of Schoeps. I can't say enough about them. Piano, acoustic guitar, and they're great as drum overheads, too. Used one for a vocal last week and it held up nicely there also.
     
  19. Bryan T

    Bryan T Guitar Owner Silver Supporting Member

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    You can get a sampler CD from Royer that shows off how they sound on acoustic guitars. It isn't the sound that I'd want as my only microphone, but if you are going for an older feel, then those mics are a good way to get there.

    Bryan
     
  20. zenpicker

    zenpicker Member

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    Bryan - I am definitely going to try reversing my positions for the large-diaphragm and the small, as you suggest. Thanks for reminding me of the phase issue, too.

    Last night I swapped in a $100 Behringer B1 for the MXL large-d condensor I had paired with the MXL small-d. Much brighter, clearer sound off the B1--really a dramatic improvement! All of them are cheap mikes, basically, but I'm having a lot of fun seeing how far I can go with them. Sort of a hot-rodding mentality.

    Based on this thread, it looks like an outlay of $2000+ to upgrade my pre and mikes to the next level, so I think I will bide my time for a bit. This has certainly been informative--thanks all!!!
     

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