Microphone Shootout Advice
I'll stipulate, from the get-go, that microphone shootouts are tricky business, and tend to be of limited value, there are just so many variables.
Now I need to figure out a way to conduct one. Mostly for my own use, but I will certainly share the results if it turns out decently.
I have this sound in my head - what I think an acoustic guitar should sound like - that I'd like to record. I have this deeply held conviction that only a pair of KM-84s will do the trick. I used these frequently years ago when they were a staple in every studio locker. I (almost) always liked the results.
It has over 15 years since I've used them. In that time I've stuck to the microphones I own, most of which are pretty decent.
- AKG C-451/CK1 (x2)
- AKG C-61/CK1 (x2)
- Audio Technica AT-4031 (x2)
- Earthworks SR-71 (x2)
- Neumann KM-84 (x2)
- Sennheiser MKH-405 (x2)
- Blue Dragonfly
- Mojave MA-101FET
- Tascam PE-120 (modified for P48)
All of them do some great things with different guitars, but none of the, so far, get that mystical sound I'm looking for. Hey, it could be the guitars, it could be me, it could be I just haven't figured out where to place the microphones.
I am borrowing a pair of KM-84s, and a pair of Telefunken M60s, and possibly a pair of Josephson C42s, although I think they are a bit bright. If I can, I'm also going to borrow a pair of Shure SM-81s, since they are a common go-to microphone for some talented engineers.
I need a way to evaluate the 8 pairs, and then the ten, maybe eleven singles.
My current plan is to record different guitars with each pair set as an X/Y coincident pair, and I won't play with placement, I'm going to find a good spot for the first guitar and then just swap microphones. This creates what one might call a level playing field, each pair is going to "hear" the exact same thing.
Then I will record each guitar with a single microphone, and for this test I will look for an optimal placement, this will show what each microphone is capable of capturing.
In all cases I will record a "reference" track with a Neumann TLM-193 or Sphere L22 placed behind the test microphones, and a Royer R-101 placed above the guitar. I'm not sure these are really necessary, but since they require little or no extra work I figure I'll include them. If they provide no additional information then I can just delete them.
In all cases I will play without headphones, I do not want to be influenced by what I hear through the cans.
I will use no processing, and editing will be limited to chopping the heads and tails. Gain will be left constant as well, although that one has me a bit concerned, since level can impact our impressions. I may end up with a copy of the tracks normalized to the quietest microphone.
That's my plan. If it works I can make a decision on whether or not to sell a couple less used organs to purchase a pair of KM-84s. It would be really lovely if I discover that I already have a pair of microphones that does the trick, and if that isn't the case I'd be happy if a modern (read in production) microphone is a good substitute.
As a good friend (and well respected engineer) pointed out this week, this could a fun folly. In his mind nothing sounds quite like the KM-84. Love the guy, but dang I hope he is wrong!
After all that, anyone have suggestions for how I can make this experiment more usable? Am I doing anything particularly brain dead?