Certainly a classic, this reliable, rugged dynamic mic has a frequency response of
40Hz–15kHz. Its relatively tight cardioid polar pattern and ability to take high volumes make it a first-call on many sessions. Due to its aggressive mid-range growl, it’s a perfect companion to blend with “darker” mics.
When it comes to bang for the buck, the SM57 is hard to beat.
The R-121 is a dynamic Ribbon mic with a
Figure-8 polar pattern. Like other ribbons, it’s
warm, creamy and natural. Unlike most other
ribbons, it was built to take a max SPL rating of
135dB, making it a great cabinet mic. Also, by
turning it around and reversing the phase, the
back is sonically brighter at distances of two
feet and closer. We found its face-front sound
to be one of our favorites overall for warmth
and character—a perfect blend with an SM57.
|Neumann U 87 (Ai)
Another legendary classic, this large diaphragm
mic has three polar patterns (cardioid,
omni, figure-8). We used an older model
in cardioid mode, but the new Ai version has
circuitry to increase the headroom by 10dB.
With the rear switch attenuated, the U 87
can take up to 127dB and has a frequency
response of 20Hz–20kHz. You can hear the
“beef” on both clean and distorted parts,
and very nice attitude on distorted sound.
Almost always thought of as a vocal mic,
sometimes you just have to put one up on a
cabinet. Like the SM57, its price, midrange
peak, 50Hz–15kHz frequency response and
ability to handle massive gain make it a mic
drawer classic. Essentially a 57 with a different
grill and more girth, it sounded surprisingly
good on the clean parts.
|Earthworks QTC1 (Same as QTC40)
An omni? Sure, why not! The QTC’s small
diaphragm gives it a realistic and accurate
sound. A super-wide frequency range of
4Hz–40kHz and max acoustic input of 142dB
SPL make it a great option. It had a very
natural sound—what you heard in the room is
what came out of the speakers.
|Sennheiser MD 421
A cardioid mic with a five-position bass rolloff
(to help eliminate proximity effect), this
mic is a classic tone heard for decades now.
Its frequency response of 30Hz–17kHz and
ability to take very high SPLs give it a full,
round sound. It works great with other mics,
and by itself sounded warm and full, with
slightly rolled off highs.
|Beyerdynamic M 160
The M 160 is a hypercardioid, dynamic ribbon
mic that has two ribbons arranged one above
the other a half-millimeter apart. It’s got a
max SPL of 129dB and a frequency response
of 40Hz–18 kHz. Its big, ribbony sound is
always a favorite for good reason.
The i5 is a dynamic, general-purpose mic with
a cardioid polar pattern. It has a frequency
response of 50Hz–16kHz and a max SPL of
140dB—so it can take it hard. It sounds like
a 57, but with additional presence and upper
mid clarity, and would make a great partner
with a MD 421 or Royer.
This is a large cardioid, vacuum tube condenser
with a large, 2-micron-thick gold
diaphragm and separate power supply. It
features 20Hz–20kHz specs and can take up
to 131dB SPL, which is a lot for a tube mic.
While it may not be the best call by itself, it
would make a nice mic to put back around
3–4 feet for some additional room sound.
The 4038 is a studio ribbon mic designed by
the BBC for broadcasting and recording. It’s bidirectional
(figure-8) with a frequency response
of 30Hz–15kHz and can take up to 125dB
SPL—although we had to move this back to 11
inches for breakup factor. Another classic ribbon
sound with the softened highs and warm
overall tone, there’s no denying this one.
This good-looking condenser mic has a wide
frequency response of 20Hz–18kHz and the
ability to take up to 159dB SPL with the 10dB
pad in. There’s a switchable 80Hz hi-pass filter
as well, and it features a gold plated dualdiaphragm
capsule design. It captured both
crisp highs and a well-rounded bottom.
|AKG 414 B-ULS
Wow, another classic. The 414 has five switchable
polar patterns (omni, wide cardioid,
cardioid, hyper cardioid, figure-8) and a large,
1-inch diaphragm. It’s got 20Hz–20kHz frequency
response and a max SPL of up to 158
with -18dB of attenuation switched in. We set
it to cardioid, no pad. This mic cuts through a
mix well and has lots of attitude.
Often referred to as the “donkey dick” mic,
this large diaphragm dynamic cardioid monster
routinely seen and heard on radio/TV broadcasts
has a frequency response of 45Hz–18kHz.
Commonly used in guitar session work, it
makes a great complement to other mics, such
as the 57. We used a PL15, which is basically
the same model. It’s got great low end in both
the clean and distorted parts… smooth upper
mids and not too much high end.
This dynamic is often viewed as a radio mic,
but it has a smooth sound and 50Hz–20kHz
frequency response. There are bass roll-off and
mid-range emphasis switches, but we set it
flat. With an immediately pleasing sound both
clean and distorted, it’s got a bottom-heavy
focus that works great alone or in conjunction
with a brighter mic—great attitude.
Now available as the Luna II, this cardioid
condenser has a large, solid brass capsule,
Class-A electronics and a 10dB pad, which
lets it handle up to 140dB SPL. It has a good,
full low end and smooth mids, especially on
the distorted tracks, and is well balanced.
|Heil PR 40
A dynamic supercardioid mic from Heil
Sound, it features a large low-mass aluminum
diaphragm, a heavy steel case and a
wide frequency response from 28Hz–18kHz.
Very nice bottom and high end, almost nondescript
in a positive way. It sounds really
cool with a Coles 4038, or the like.
List: $1925 (as DPA 4006)
Now labeled under the DPA name, this
high-end, phantom-powered omni mic is
often used in classical recordings. Its got an
extremely linear frequency response from
20Hz–20kHz, and can take up to 143dB
max SPL. It sounds quite natural, with non-extended
highs and lows that give you back
just what you put in front of it.
A classic English ribbon mic from the early
sixties, it’s got a frequency response of
40Hz–15kHz… no wonder it can be heard
on some of those classic Beatles recordings.
The output sounds like analog tape
through an old tube console.