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Old December 5th, 2006, 09:48 PM   #1
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Tube mics ? Do I need to spend $1000's ?

Hi,

I would like to get that fine Morgan Freeman sound for voice overs. Talent aside, I'd at least like to replicate the microphone. Some of the tube microphones I've heard sound kinda tubby and are missing the high end. Should I be looking into an expensive tube microphone (possibly rental), a decent vocal microphone + real tube pre-amp, or both ?
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Old December 6th, 2006, 05:07 AM   #2
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Tube mics and preamps aren't magic bullets and the rich sound of Freeman's voice comes more from the qualities of his throat than from the gear that's being used recording it. What I think of when you describe the sound you're getting as being too "tubby" comes more from having a reflective recording space than the mic that's used. Try spending a few hundred working on the acoustics of the recording space before spending thousands on new mics, preamps, etc. As for mics, consider cardioid dynamic mics designed for vocals like the EV RE-20 or RE-27ND and also experiment with a variety of large diaphram studio mics - if you've got the bucks look into Neumann U87a and some of the VO gurus say good things about the AKG414.
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Old December 6th, 2006, 01:23 PM   #3
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One factor to consider before you buy an expensive tube mic is that people sound different in different mics. In my experience I would choose having a good compressor, preamp, and audio interface before a good mic when working with digital recording.
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Old December 6th, 2006, 01:40 PM   #4
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Mic placement is KING! But AKG414BLUS is a great all around mic. Neumann 103 is quieter than U87 and last but not least Rode does make an outstanding assortment of less expensive mics not less quality. Preamps do make a heck of a difference as was pointed out.
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Old December 6th, 2006, 01:53 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Huling
Mic placement is KING! But AKG414BLUS is a great all around mic. Neumann 103 is quieter than U87 and last but not least Rode does make an outstanding assortment of less expensive mics not less quality. Preamps do make a heck of a difference as was pointed out.
Oh, I agree. The Rode NT1a is a good studio mic and they make others as well.
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Old December 6th, 2006, 06:34 PM   #6
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Thanks for the suggestions. I have a DBX compressor/limiter and will be constructing a "voice-over box" as demonstrated by Doug Spotted Eagle. That is much less demeaning than recording in a closet, as I've been doing for all of time. I never found that equalization produced the effect I lusted for, so I'm looking into tube microphones and preamps.

So, am I better off spending on a tube pre-amp or a tube in the microphone itself ?
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Old December 6th, 2006, 06:41 PM   #7
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Since you already have the DBX compressor, buy a tube preamp. Then after blowing lots of money on the preamp, get the best mic you can with the remainder of your budget be it tube or not. Or use something that you already own and see how it sounds.
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Old December 6th, 2006, 06:49 PM   #8
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I used to use a compressor when recording in 16 bits. Without compression, if the signal was too hot, it clipped, and if it was too cold, you'd get audible noise.

Now, with 24-bits I record with lots of headroom and gain it up without fear. I can then compress to taste, rather than being stuck with the compression on the raw recording.

Some might argue that the analog gear sounds better. In that case you can send it out through your analog gear and record the compressed track. Later, if you decide you don't like the sound, you can always go back to the raw recording.
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Old December 7th, 2006, 04:55 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gints Klimanis
Thanks for the suggestions. I have a DBX compressor/limiter and will be constructing a "voice-over box" as demonstrated by Doug Spotted Eagle. That is much less demeaning than recording in a closet, as I've been doing for all of time. I never found that equalization produced the effect I lusted for, so I'm looking into tube microphones and preamps.

So, am I better off spending on a tube pre-amp or a tube in the microphone itself ?
You really seem fixated on the idea that a tube mic or a tube preamp is going to be the solution to your problem. Why? Yes they're often very good and can be good choices for certain vocalists but there's nothing magical about them, the audible difference between 'tube' circuitry and conventional is rather subtle, more apparent with music vocals than spoken word, and they won't inject qualities into the voice of a narrator that aren't already there. Nor will equalization - remember equalization is best used mainly to remove undesired frequencies, reduce the hiss of excess sybilance for example or cut a low rumble or to emphasis certain sounds like the sizzle of ride cymbals but it won't add something that's not already there, Something that *might* help a bit would be to experiment with the subtle application of a convolution reverb to help add a sense of spaciousness and presence.

Until you get the acoustics of the recording space sorted out and have also insured that your setup for monitoring the mix as you work with it is up to snuff, frankly I wouldn't spend money on either one. Until then you're not liable to hear any difference between tube mics or preamps and the others anyway. I really don't think it's going to achieve the dramatic enriching of the recorded voice that you're hoping it will. For that matter, if you're going to spend a few kilobucks and assuming your mixing workstation and workroom is up to par, IMHO you'd be better served spending it on a free-standing announce booth than on high-ticket tube mics and preamps. Of course, if you're emotionally committed to spending a lot of money right away I'll be glad to send you my santa claus list <grin>.
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Last edited by Steve House; December 7th, 2006 at 03:28 PM.
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Old December 7th, 2006, 12:16 PM   #10
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I agree with Steve. Having had the opportunity to work with dozens of incredible recording enginneers tubes are not the answer. They can be for a particular sound. But like I said mic placement makes the biggest difference. When you ask just about any recording pro about mics or preamps they usually respond first about mic placement. But if you really have to have a tube preamp a good little secret is a MPA digital arts under 500 buck or less I think. We use Avalons and others and some actually prefer the MPA because you can drive the tubes. Sort of like "hitting tape hard" analog that is.
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Old December 8th, 2006, 12:26 PM   #11
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Thanks for all of the advise everyone. I don't *have* to have a tube microphone. My current microphone equipment (lavalier, shotgun, stereo X-Y) has served my sporting event needs well . I have some dialog recording coming up in a couple of months, and I'm researching what is needed, be it recording environment, technique or, well, expensive microphones.
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Old December 8th, 2006, 06:10 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gints Klimanis
Thanks for all of the advise everyone. I don't *have* to have a tube microphone. My current microphone equipment (lavalier, shotgun, stereo X-Y) has served my sporting event needs well . I have some dialog recording coming up in a couple of months, and I'm researching what is needed, be it recording environment, technique or, well, expensive microphones.
I've been going on the understanding you were recording voiceovers but here you mentioned dialog. Dialog recording actually has quite different requirements from narration / voiceover. Assuming it is narration, are you going to be recording yourself as talent or will you be hiring professional voiceover talent to do the job?

If you're recording professional talent and they are experienced, sit down with them and discuss what microphones they have found worked best with their voice in the past. You might very well find that they have their own studio already set up and can work with you through an ISDN connection or record to their PC while you direct over a phone patch or through VOIP using software like Skype, uploading the finished file to you at the end of the session - this is a very common practice for established professional VO talent and is rapidly becoming the normal workflow for commercials, broadcast, and theatrical voiceovers. If you're going to record yourself, one thing you might consider is taking a bit of the money you might have spent on an expensive new mic and spend it instead for some sessions with a professional voice coach if you have never done so - it really is a skill that has to be developed and practiced.
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Old December 8th, 2006, 07:09 PM   #13
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Hey Gints,

Sorry to say, you can't evoke Morgan Freeman with a nuclear powered tube mic or any other tube mic, or FET mic.

What you want is in the pipes of the narrator. I'm an AFTRA/SAG narrator. I teach narration to other actors and folks "who have been told they have great voices and should do something with them."

I spent 17 years as a Production Director in major market radio honing my skills tweeking the right knobs and making the right sounds.

You want that slight amount of gravel? Great, the right amount of compression and limiting with the right EQ and mic can give you some cut and density, but there aren't any knobs that will give you Morgan Freeman.

Regards,

Ty Ford (did the book get there yet?)
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Old December 8th, 2006, 07:20 PM   #14
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Quote:
You want that slight amount of gravel? Great, the right amount of compression and limiting with the right EQ and mic can give you some cut and density, but there aren't any knobs that will give you Morgan Freeman.
What??? no plug-in for that! so that's my problem...
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Old December 8th, 2006, 08:04 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ty Ford
Hey Gints,

Sorry to say, you can't evoke Morgan Freeman with a nuclear powered tube mic or any other tube mic, or FET mic.

Ty Ford (did the book get there yet?)
Thanks, Ty. Yeah, I was looking for Morgan Freeman box. Chuckle.

Yes, I received your book. Thanks. I'll get to reading it this weekend. If you have any or know of any voice over instructional material, please let me know. In particular, I need a video I can show to a group of athletes to help them with basic camera presence. Most of the guys are too entertained by watching themselves on the video that they forget to evaluate their performances for improvement.
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