Hands On - Quality Microphones (part 4)
The Beyer MC740, or MC740 N (C) to give it its full title, is a relative newcomer compared to the U87 and C414. Obviously Beyer wanted to get a slice of the prestigious large-diaphragm action, and a very good job they have made of it too. Just to go one better, the MC740 offers five polar patterns, adding a wide cardioid to the usual four. Although this might seem like overkill for vocals (do you know any vocalists with a wide cardioid mouth?), changing the polar pattern in all three mics subtly changes the bass response and the overall warmth of the mic. Some engineers, for instance, use cardioid for lead vocals and omni for backing vocals, so the lead stands out from the crowd just that little bit, even before making adjustments on the faders. And just in case you dont fancy the idea of running into the studio to change the polar pattern yourself, or diverting your assistant from coffee making duties, you can buy the MC740 N (C/5) version of the mic which operates from the MSG 740 power supply unit which offers remote control over the mics pattern. The MC740 has switches for 10dB attenuation and low frequency cut, similar to the Neumann U87.
Using quality mics
When you have achieved the status of having one of these very expensive quality microphones in your studio, the first rule of operation is dont drop it! Seriously, these mics are quite robust but they will repay care and consideration with two decades or more of usefulness. Old mics never go away, and in fact if they go the way of valve models like the Neumann U67 and AKG C12 the mics described here will increase in value as they age. Once the mic is mounted firmly on its stand, probably the first thing to do is discard any thoughts of using the slip-on foam windshield which you may have acquired with the mic. As far as I can see, the only advantage they offer is that they keep spit out of the mic, and they might have some attraction for people who prefer a muffled sound. All of these mics are sensitive to popping however and you will need to take action to prevent P and B sounds creating undesirable low frequency peaks on your recording. It is currently fashionable to use a stocking-on-a-coathanger pop filter in front of the mic, and although the home made version can look crude it certainly works and has the additional advantage that it keeps the vocalist at a fixed distance from the mic. All three manufacturers have such pop screens in their catalogues - at rather more than the £0.00 that home made ones cost - Neumanns PS 20 and AKGs PF 20 (a bit of a coincidence in the names) being stand mountable and probably more versatile then Beyers clip-on PS 740. If you cant afford a name brand pop screen, and lets face it youve probably broken the bank already, then you could use the alternative technique of placing the microphone so that the diaphragm points at the mouth, but not in the direct line of fire of the breath. To do this you really need to have the mic above the level of the mouth and you should tell the vocalist not to sing directly at it.
I hope this has been interesting reading for you, but you may be thinking that at list prices approaching or exceeding the thousand pound mark all this is rather academic. The good news is that these mics are available from hire companies at rates that put them well within the scope of anyone who is serious about recording and wants to get the best result possible, particularly on the all-important vocals. Hire companies are unfortunately mostly centred on London, but commercial studios worthy of the name have at least one high quality mic, and you could consider taking your project into a studio to do the vocals, as long as they use the same tape format as you. I strongly recommend exploring the world of high quality mics. It really will make a big difference to your recording.