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Three pro mics tested on female vocals, with audio tests three pro microphones on female vocals. Which do you prefer? Which is the most expensive? And on which take can you hear a technical fault?


There is no other piece of equipment that can make so much difference to the intrinsic, unprocessed sound of a recording than the choice of microphone. Get it right and your recording will sound wonderful, and professional. Get it wrong and it will sound lifeless, or perhaps even cheap.

For this test I used three microphones. One was brand new and had never been used before, the others are less than a year old and have been compared against identical models to make sure they are working correctly.

The artist is gospel singer Moira Rumveye who happened to be passing by, so I dragged her into the studio. Well I didn't quite drag her but she needed some persuasion as she obviously had a cold that day.

The three microphones were set up as close as practical to each other, at the same distance and angle to the sound source. So the performance you hear is identical for each mic.

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Moira's cold meant that she didn't have more than a few takes in her. We took three, and clearly she peaked on take 2. One of the tracks displays a technical fault that could have been edited from another take or track. However, for this test I thought it would be better not to make things any more complicated than they needed to be.

The preamplifier was a Focusrite Octopre. Gains were set appropriately for each mic, but very quickly so we didn't lose a take.

The recording was made to 24-bit resolution on a Pro Tools HD system. The best take was selected and edited out, then each track was normalized over the duration of that take. The bounce was done using 16-bit dither.

Now, the microphones...

One is a well respected microphone for studio vocals. Another is a modern tube mic. The third is what you might call 'cheap and cheerful', but it is widely used professionally. Each file is 4.7 Megabytes in WAV format. (Right click, save target as...)

Mic 1
Mic 2
Mic 3

The questions...

  1. Which microphone do you prefer in this instance?
  2. Which is the tube mic?
  3. Identify the technical fault.

As usual, the answers will follow in next week's Audio Masterclass newsletter, together with my views on the sound quality of these mics.

One last word of thanks to Moira. Even with a cold she sounds fantastic, and if anyone might be interested in working with her, I'll pass on any messages.

By David Mellor Monday March 6, 2006