Recording - May 2013 - 72

used for vocals, all set up as close to each other as possible with their heads
facing together like a giant metal snowflake, all aimed at one vocalist who
essentially sings into all of them at once. Each mic should be captured
through the same preamp, to level the playing field; a large audio interface
or mixing console with no outboard pres is a good testbed for this sort of
thing. Again, record everything and then do A/B comparisons to find a
tonality you enjoy.
The middle ground is to make a guess at two to four suitable mics and
set them up close together for simultaneous use. This is easy on the singer
and very simple for even a small beginner’s studio, as long as you have or
can borrow enough mic stands.
Sometimes you can make a guess as to what sort of mic can complement
a singer’s tone. Commonly, a good voice will be complemented by the traditional large-diaphragm condenser mic, which gives high-end extension

Editorial by Mike Metlay

Marrying For Love
I’d like to take the last page of this issue
on vocal recording to talk about a subject
that is near and dear to my heart: the perfect match that leads to a long and happy
marriage. I’m not talking about two people in this case, however... I’m talking
about a singer and a microphone.
The relationship between a particular
voice and a particular mic can be the
stuff of legend. Many of our readers will
have heard the story of country music
singer Dolly Parton, who during her
tenure with RCA Records used a cheap
old Electro-Voice RE15 dynamic mic
that sounded so good on her voice that
the mic was locked in a safe when she
wasn’t using it. While you may never
experience a hookup with that level of
mythic status, it can benefit you to take
note of when the magic happens so you
can take advantage of it the next time.
This is especially important when working with clients whom you know will be
using your studio again and again, not to
mention recording your own vocals.
There are many ways to find a good
marriage of singer to microphone, some
more scientific than others, some tried
and true and some a bit unusual to the
newcomer. The one that involves the
least brainwork but perhaps the most
effort is to simply swap mics out and
have a vocalist sing the same take again
and again, then record and compare the
results. This has the disadvantage of
being boring and tiring to the singer,
with inconsistent performances leading
to less reliable comparisons.
Bruce Kaphan, the successful pedal
steel guitarist and producer/engineer
whose articles frequently grace our
pages, suggests creating what he calls an
“asterisk”. That’s an array of every single
mic in your studio that could possibly be
72

RECORDING May 2013

and sparkle mixed with a solid and convincing bass and midrange; these
days, ribbon mics with their smoother top end and richer tone are returning to popularity as vocal mics.
A more nasal voice that lacks depth and body (like mine, alas) can be compensated for by a dynamic mic with a strong midrange, and this can often be
further accentuated by careful placement so the proximity effect boosts the
bass. The classic “radio announcer voice from Heaven” mic is the magnificent Shure SM7B; it can turn even the wimpiest voiceover into the stuff of
dreams, and on a truly deep and rich voice (my least favorite example, mainly because of sheer jealousy, is frequent Recording contributor Allen
Goodman) it can be so sinful it should be illegal! And if you don’t have an
SM7B, try other dynamics; many famous vocalists track with the Shure
SM58, ostensibly a live mic, and my go-to mic for my voice is the SM57.
In all cases, you’re listening for a frequency response that fits well with
the formant structure (the natural pattern of stronger and weaker fixed frequencies) of the singer’s voice. Formants are why we can tell a man singing
falsetto is a man and not a woman; they are the sonic fingerprint of a particular voice, and how they interact with a mic’s frequency response is key.
The miracle of a good mic marriage happens when the singer uses the mic
and suddenly everything just comes together—there is power, depth, richness, and clarity, no muddiness or shriekiness or nasality or thin wimpiness.
Many mics throughout history have become famous for the way they capture voices, from the Telefunken ELA M 251, AKG C 12, and Neumann U 47
and U 87 to the old RCA ribbons (now faithfully recreated and elaborated
upon by AEA) and modern classics like the Royer R-121 and the AudioTechnica AT4050 to surprising musical upstarts like the Cascade Fat Head,
the Earthworks SR40V, and the Kel Song Sparrow. While an expensive mic
is more likely to give a consistent and musical response to a wide variety of
voices, you might find a marvelous matchup between a particular singer
and even a very inexpensive mic... remember Dolly!
You may find that if a singer has a wide range of singing styles, one mic
may work better for deep and soft chest-voice vocals while another better
captures the nuances of head-voice belting. And sometimes, a song may
demand that a tried and true matchup be broken in favor of a mic you
wouldn’t have thought to use on a particular singer; be prepared to change
things up if it helps the final result!
Once you’ve found a match that works, then you can experiment with
changing out preamps and working with eq or dynamics settings to polish the
results. But a good match between vocalist and microphone shouldn’t rely on
external help to sound right. As in a marriage, it takes hard work and perseverance to get to a good place, but once you’re there, you’ll know it.
Mike Metlay (mike@recordingmag.com) is Associate Editor of Recording.



Recording - May 2013

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - May 2013

Recording - May 2013
Fade In
Contents
Talkback
Fast Forward
Jim Anderson Records Patricia Barber
Lewitt Authentica LCT 940
PreSonus Eris Series High-Definition Studio Monitors
How To Record Great Vocals At Home
Audio-Technica AT5040 Studio Vocal Microphone
Plug-ins To The Rescue—Real-Life Remedies For Vocal Tracks
Moon Professional 3500MP 2-Channel Microphone Preamp
DPA Microphones d:fine Series Headset Microphones
Plug-in Outlet: Toontrack EZmix Pack: Vocal Toolbox
Plug-in Outlet: iZotope Nectar Elements
Blue Spark Digital USB Microphone
Plug-in Outlet: Noveltech Vocal Enhancer (and Character)
Readers' Tapes
Recording Fundamentals. Chapter 17: Sweet Spot Conundrums—Part 4
CAD Audio Acousti-shield 32
Advertiser Index
Fade Out
Recording - May 2013 - Intro
Recording - May 2013 - Recording - May 2013
Recording - May 2013 - Cover2
Recording - May 2013 - 1
Recording - May 2013 - 2
Recording - May 2013 - 3
Recording - May 2013 - Fade In
Recording - May 2013 - 5
Recording - May 2013 - Contents
Recording - May 2013 - 7
Recording - May 2013 - Talkback
Recording - May 2013 - 9
Recording - May 2013 - Fast Forward
Recording - May 2013 - 11
Recording - May 2013 - 12
Recording - May 2013 - 13
Recording - May 2013 - Jim Anderson Records Patricia Barber
Recording - May 2013 - 15
Recording - May 2013 - 16
Recording - May 2013 - 17
Recording - May 2013 - Lewitt Authentica LCT 940
Recording - May 2013 - 19
Recording - May 2013 - PreSonus Eris Series High-Definition Studio Monitors
Recording - May 2013 - 21
Recording - May 2013 - 22
Recording - May 2013 - 23
Recording - May 2013 - How To Record Great Vocals At Home
Recording - May 2013 - 25
Recording - May 2013 - 26
Recording - May 2013 - 27
Recording - May 2013 - 28
Recording - May 2013 - 29
Recording - May 2013 - 30
Recording - May 2013 - 31
Recording - May 2013 - 32
Recording - May 2013 - 33
Recording - May 2013 - Audio-Technica AT5040 Studio Vocal Microphone
Recording - May 2013 - 35
Recording - May 2013 - 36
Recording - May 2013 - 37
Recording - May 2013 - Plug-ins To The Rescue—Real-Life Remedies For Vocal Tracks
Recording - May 2013 - 39
Recording - May 2013 - Moon Professional 3500MP 2-Channel Microphone Preamp
Recording - May 2013 - 41
Recording - May 2013 - DPA Microphones d:fine Series Headset Microphones
Recording - May 2013 - 43
Recording - May 2013 - Plug-in Outlet: Toontrack EZmix Pack: Vocal Toolbox
Recording - May 2013 - 45
Recording - May 2013 - Plug-in Outlet: iZotope Nectar Elements
Recording - May 2013 - 47
Recording - May 2013 - 48
Recording - May 2013 - 49
Recording - May 2013 - Blue Spark Digital USB Microphone
Recording - May 2013 - 51
Recording - May 2013 - Plug-in Outlet: Noveltech Vocal Enhancer (and Character)
Recording - May 2013 - 53
Recording - May 2013 - Readers' Tapes
Recording - May 2013 - 55
Recording - May 2013 - 56
Recording - May 2013 - 57
Recording - May 2013 - 58
Recording - May 2013 - 59
Recording - May 2013 - Recording Fundamentals. Chapter 17: Sweet Spot Conundrums—Part 4
Recording - May 2013 - 61
Recording - May 2013 - 62
Recording - May 2013 - 63
Recording - May 2013 - CAD Audio Acousti-shield 32
Recording - May 2013 - Advertiser Index
Recording - May 2013 - 66
Recording - May 2013 - 67
Recording - May 2013 - 68
Recording - May 2013 - 69
Recording - May 2013 - 70
Recording - May 2013 - 71
Recording - May 2013 - Fade Out
Recording - May 2013 - Cover3
Recording - May 2013 - Cover4
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