Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Make Room For The Vocals, After The Fact

If you're in the audio business, eventually some one is going to ask you if you can record them singing or rapping over some pre-produced music. It might be someone with karaoke dreams, a student making an audition track, or more likely a hip-hopper with some talent at beat making but who is lacking know how on getting good recordings of actual sound. Any of the above are usually worth working with. It might take a little work to get things together but it's not too hard to make someone's day, it's a couple extra bucks, and hey... it's only one mic right?

I'll leave out all the bits about getting good takes out of inexperienced vocalists and people that want to rap right over top of Jay-Z. Assuming there's no nonsense involved you may still have a good sized issue to deal with here. Some pre-produced backing tracks are intended to have a voice recorded over them. There's a whole industry based around making karaoke tracks, and some artists release music only versions of their songs (or they can be had dishonestly if you search the internet enough). 

But the situation I'm talking about is the beat builders, I guess they call themselves "producers" these days that have musical talent but aren't so skilled at engineering a song. Putting together a piece of music where the vocals are important means leaving space for them to exist. You can find endless discussions and posts about carving out guitar tracks and whatnot to make room for the vocals. 

So what do you do when presented with a stereo mix that's bangin' loud and doesn't have any room left in it for the kid to rap?

My technique involves a little side chain compression. I'll divide the track up into three bands, much like I do when setting up crossovers for a PA. That means duplicating the track a couple times, high pass one, low pass another, and do both to the last (just the mids are left). The bass can pretty much be left alone unless it's really going to step on things. The highs may or may not need attention, if they're really busy you may need to touch them but to start just leave them alone. The meat and potatoes of the mids is where this trick will be most effective.

Set up a compressor on the mid track and key it with the vocals you recorded. When there's no voice, the track is left alone, when the singer or rapper is on the mic, the mids are being compressed. Make sure there's no make up gain, you're looking for straight reduction. If you're careful with your attack and release settings you can make it pretty transparent. Dial the threshold and ratio in properly and you'll find that you can make the music gently step aside for the lyrics.
If the consonants aren't getting through then you repeat the process with the highs. You may find that you need to automate some of the settings. What works in a hard driving chorus might not work in a laid back verse.
Give it a try Brethren of the Knob and Fader. The difference between slapping a vocal on top of a produced track and gently placing it inside is huge. People will hear it and once word gets around that you're the guy cutting the hot vocals, you can make a nice buck at it with very little work.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Panning and EQing

The more music I listen to lately the more I'm surprised by how much of it is basically mixed in mono. Sure there might be some little things in the highs whizzing back and forth to generate a little interest but that gets old pretty fast and the real meat and potatoes is still pretty much solidly, unmovingly, up the middle. In the forums you find all kinds of people saying mono doesn't matter any more. Reality would seem to indicate otherwise.

For that reason I'm always looking to find ways to create space and if possible, motion in my mixes. That doesn't mean wild panning automation. There's a lot of little things you can do. Things that you have to do. Because once the ear gets used to something, it disappears. 

One of my favorite tricks, both live and in the studio, is to mic a source twice, hard pan, and EQ each side differently. You can use two of the same mic or two different ones, it's half of one and six dozen of the other. Or something. That's about the most basic step you can take to widen the image of something that's basically parked at center. 

In a DAW,  if I don't have two mics on a source, or I'm stuck with a single, mono track I'll just duplicate it and start in on the EQ. My favorite EQ plugin has a neat option that allows you to flip the curves upside down. I never had a use for it until I spotted it while working through this trick. I put the EQ on the left instance and cut some 400 Hz out of a guitar, then boosted 2.5 kHz. I copied the plugin instance to the other track and checked the reverse box. Boom! Evil twin guitars. They're playing the exact same note at the exact same instant but because of the panning and EQ when the music goes lower it sounds like it's coming a little more from the left and when he goes up the neck it moves to the right. You can accentuate the motion even further by using some subtle compression after the EQ.

Don't just sit there Brethren of the Knob and Fader. What are your favorite tricks for getting space and motion in a mix?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

SNR Podcast #48 - DiGiCo SD-9 Review, Aging Gear

This week Jon got a tour of a DiGiCo SD-9 and gushes about it for a bit. Then he and Anth discuss gear getting old and trying to get a decent buck for it on the used market. As always you can check out the YouTube version right here or use the MP3 link below to stream or save for later.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Give A Man A Fish

Just a quick thought on learning today. If you learn how to do something, that's great. You've got a skill. If you learn it to the point where you understand how it works, then you're in the best shape possible.

I see it all the time when teaching volunteers how to mix. You explain faders and EQ, the difference between a sub and an aux, and they slowly get it. But at first it's usually a case of "if this, then do that". Which is functional but doesn't help a lot when stuff stops working or you need to do something different.

When things start to get really good is when things finally click into place and they begin to understand how gain structure and signal routing work from front to back. That's the point where you go from having a semi-skilled person who's trained for a single application, to having a full fledged operator who is now ready to step up to any mixer anywhere and dig in.

Not that it's always that easy because equipment differs so much but I think you get the point. Understanding the underlying processes puts you at a distinct advantage to someone who only understands how to accomplish tasks.

Keep this in mind any time you're learning something new. If you're getting into recording it's good to know rules of thumb regrading bit depth and sample rate. It's even better to read up a little bit on sampling theory so you know why you're making those choices. Not that you have to be an expert on Reed-Solomon code. But it makes good sense to understand the machinery behind the face plate. Apply it to anything, learning lighting should include some electrics and electronics studies. You get the idea.

Don't just learn tasks. True Brethren of the Knob and Fader understand the inner workings.

Here's a link to a LifeHacker post on how to learn anything in a short amount of time.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Price of Used Gear

Today's topic is a rather depressing one. You buy a new piece of gear and the first day it's already plummeting toward worthlessness. Depreciation, in short, is a bitch. My own woes stem from building up close to $100,000 worth of audio gear and finding myself lucky to sell it off for 20% of what I paid. 

Now it's a rare item that actually gains value over time. The odd classic bit of gear, a particularly good sports car, high end watches. Most of it runs a pretty similar life cycle to a car. Most gear looses 20% to 30% of its value in the first year. After that it tapers off a bit until it's worth about 20% of cost.

Where this is really felt is when there's a paradigm shift in the industry. When the majority of folks adopt new technology and it's only a small old guard that's still interested in doing things the old fashioned way, it really becomes a buyer's market. In my case, I bought a mid sized analog console in 2006, right before digital found its way down to the masses. Now in 2013 even though it's still very clean and functioning perfectly, I'll be lucky if I can get 25% of what I paid for it. Probably less.

That's not to say that some things won't become hot items again in a few decades when they become "vintage". I just don't have time to wait around to recoup my investment. I need to go digital too and I can't count on selling off my old stuff to help me do it. 

Even if you pay very close attention to trends it can still be pretty difficult to tell what's going to sweep the industry and what's just a fad. But no matter what the current state of things it's always a good idea to keep turning over your gear in mind. This isn't so much an issue for the studio guys but for the live guys who's stuff is out there taking a beating it's much better to sell it while it's still got some miles left in it than to hang on to it until you can't get anything for it.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Abuse

If you're a live sound engineer then this is your life.

During "business hours" you're either day jobbing it like normal folks, or you're advancing, prepping, repairing, or driving.

After business hours the work really starts. Let's face it there's not a ton of concerts going on at 10 AM on a Tuesday.

On your "days off" you're basically on call. Advancing more gigs, dealing with folks at the venue that can't turn your stuff on much less use it, chasing down clients to pay you.
When the gig "ends" and the room clears you're still on duty and won't be off until the truck is loaded and driven back to the shop or the next gig.

While you're in a room full of hundreds or thousands of revelers you're one of the few if not the only one fully sober and on duty. Maybe the bar tenders or security are sober but they don't have to worry about anybody getting electrocuted or having a speaker fall on them.

You get to deal with small time performers who think they're big time performers, big time performers that think they're deities, and a host of people with an ocean of requirements and no real knowledge of what goes in to making them happen or even sometimes how to ask for them.

It is acceptable behavior for anyone who as ever touched a volume knob to walk up to you while you're working and criticize your work. 
Unless you have good security it's acceptable for the person who is the most falling down drunk to come spill their drink on you and ask if the band will play songs that are as far removed from their musical genre as possible.

You will more than likely at some point be doing the job of the lighting guy, stage manager, house captain and a host of others but none of those people will be able or qualified to cover for you if you need to go pee or answer an emergency call.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

But when it comes right down to it... what the hell else are you going to do with your life?

Those of us that do it couldn't imagine doing anything else.

Because every once in a great while, you get to work on a really really good gig.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

SNR Podcast #47 - 5/19/2013 - Mic Tricks, Cheap Studio Setups

This week hosts Jon Dayton and Anth Kosobucki start out with a few mic tricks and then move on to talk about some interfaces coming on the market. They wrap up by figuring out the best way to spend a small amount of cash on a small studio setup. As always you can check out the YouTube version right here or use the MP3 link below to stream or save for later.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Mic Week - Part 8: Sennheiser 421

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The theme for this round of Mic Week is mics that are a little more expensive than the entry level stuff we covered at first and specifically ones that will do double duty on stage and in the studio. Today we bring you the formidable Sennheiser 421.

First off let's address the clip. Whether you have the old version or the new, the clip just sucks. Try not to look directly at the mic when using it or it's likely to fall on the floor. Even the "new and improved" clip on newer models has a tendency to just let go. For that reason this mic is easily one of the most durable in the industry. Only an SM58 could fall on the floor so many thousands of times and still function flawlessly.

On to the nitty gritty. Looking at it you might be a little confused about which way to point it. Because the grille is set up sort of like what you would see on a side address condenser mic you might think that you would sing or play into the side of it. Don't let that band of metal across the end of it fool you, that's the part you point at the sound.

Apart from the slightly confusing construction there's one other thing to know about before you set off to use one of these. There's a switch on the bottom that's mysteriously labeled "M" and "S" with a few clicks in between. There are a number of jokes floating around about just what those letters stand for. Our German friend Eike helped me come up with a few more if you want to tease people. My personal favorites are männlich and sopran which in English mean "manly" and "soprano". I also like militär and sendung for "millitary" or "broadcast" use. The real meaning is "music" or "speech" though and it's simply a five position bass roll off switch.

As for uses there's really no limit. New version or old you can pretty much put them on anything. They're a perennial favorite for tom mics and sound wonderful on guitar cabs. I've had nights where a female jazz singer sounded lovely through one. There's even a trick for using one aimed at the open lid of a grand piano. In a way this mic is sort of the big brother to the SM57 which isn't a great mic for anything but a pretty good mic for nearly everything. This one is really pretty good on just about anything and if you take care with your placement you can get excellent results on a multitude of sources.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mic Week - Part 7: Cheap Large Diaphragm Condenser

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Continuing along with mic week this time around we're covering mics that are still pretty garden variety but a little more expensive than the most basic stuff you see around. We've also moved the focus a little bit to cover mics that can do double duty both on stage and in the studio.

Today we're looking at large diaphragm condensers, LDCs and specifically those that are inexpensive. Generally LDCs are expensive, sometimes hand crafted pieces that studios invest thousands in. Some are true flagship pieces that a studio will build their whole reputation around.

But on the other hand there are a lot of companies making much more affordable models. For a couple hundred bucks you can have most of the benefits of an LDC with only a small penalty in build quiality. When the price point is low you don't have to worry so much about putting an LDC in harm's way. You can track subtle vocals in your bedroom on Thursday night and drag it off to the festival on Saturday.

Specifically I'm going to talk about my MXL 4000. MXL has been making what basically amounts to knock offs of classy studio mics for years. Lucky for us consumers they've slowly worked their way out of having a reputation for building cheap mics and into being known for building inexpensive ones. In fact their knock off of the venerable Neumann U87 is 80% as good and at a mere fraction of the price.

At any rate I picked up the 4000 at work so we could have a multi-pattern LDC on hand. We do a fair amount of voice over work for video as well as demo recordings. But we actually find a good deal of use for this mic out on stage. A small vocal group will sound great gathered around it in cardioid mode. I've used it in figure eight mode with a second, omni mic to do mid-side recording both on and off stage and as an omni mic for field recording and location video work.

Because it only set us back $250 I don't have any worries about putting it out on stage or even taking it out in the elements. Sure, it has its limitations and shortcomings but I just chalk that up as part of the flavor and move on.  For an even better entry level option you can find a pair of MXL condensers for under $100. The 990/991 package will give you a cardioid LDC as well as a pencil mic. They're practically disposable at that price! There's no reason not to own a couple and do what you will with them.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mic Week - Part 6: Shure SM81

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Mic Week is back and this time we're covering mics that will do double duty on the stage and in the studio. I know it seems like Shure mics show up a lot more than other brands but hey, they make a decent mic for the entry level folks and they're pretty common place. Eventually we'll get to the esoteric stuff but for now it's the garden variety that we're concerned about.

Theh SM81 is a small diaphragm condenser mic in a form factor sometimes called a "pencil condenser". It's long and thin with no noticeable flare at the diaphragm end. It requires phantom power to operate and has a 10 dB pad and a two stage low cut filter. They have a cardioid pattern which means they reject noise fairly well from the back side but don't have a super tight focus.

First off they're probably seen most often as a high hat mic. The small diaphragm reacts quickly to sharp transients and you get a nice clean sound. They also find use around the drum kit as a snare bottom mic and quite frequently as overheads. They're also a great choice for auxiliary percussion.

More than just a percussion mic, they're well suited for work as choir mics, close mics for strings, podium mics, and stereo pair room mics. If you have two of these in your box you'll find yourself reaching for them time and time again.

There are many inferior knock offs, even within the Shure line. The entry level PG series has the PG81 which is well under $100 and while it's better than nothing, the difference between this pipsqueak and it's older sibling is night and day. The closest thing I've ever found is in the short lived Beta Green series. The 4.0 is slightly larger and has no roll off or pad but does have an on/off switch. Head to head with an 81 on a choir I was hard pressed to tell the difference. They'll also run on a battery which makes them great for field recording and video work. I was given three of them years ago and use them for all of the above and more. Once again though, once you hear a real 81 you'll see why they're the pro choice so many times.

Other similar mics are the AKG C-1000 which has it's followers but a lot of detractors as it is not only bulkier but can also have a harsh sound. There are also several different versions and it's said that the older ones are better but still not up to snuff compared to the 81. The Rode NT5 is another similar mic and much loved in the film and video world.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mic Week - Part 5: Shure Beta 91

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Mic Week is back (already). This time around we're covering mics that are a little bit more expensive and can do double duty on stage and in the studio. Our friend Eike from Germany is kicking things off for us with his thoughs on the Shure Beta 91. 
Back when I was mainly mixing hardcore and metal shows at a small club, I sometimes found it difficult to make the kick drum cut through the noise of a drum kit and two 4x12 cabinets driven by hi-gain amps in a pretty small room. Someone at the local music store recommended the Shure Beta 91 for doing exactly that. Boy was I impressed when I first tried it out! With this mic it's a breeze to dial in the (nowadays pretty much overdone) clicky kick drum we all (used to?) love so much. I had bands bringing in drum triggers and modules - that sounded the same as the signal the 91 put out, basically making them obsolete. I still use it to this day as my go-to-mic for kicks for a lot of material though. Since there's no stand to worry about, this mic proves invaluable on small (and busy) stages - where even the smallest stand will get dragged around by guitar or vocal mic cables eventually. I think the standard approach is having this mic worry about the "attack" content and putting another "regular" kick mic near the hole to give you more low end information to blend in. However, I find that this mic can work as your ONLY kick mic, even if (or because) it produces wildly different results, depending on the PA speakers used: with smaller speakers (or rigs with no subwoofers) the kick is clearly distinguishable (but lacking a smooth or deep bass response), with bigger speakers and subs it puts out a nice bottom end as well, giving you a very "modern" polished sound. A little corrective eq in the 150-400hz region is sometimes all this mic needs.

Lately I've also been using it exclusively as a cajon mic. Works really well. I DIYed a sort of "cradle" for it (cut a rectangle the size of the mic in a mat of heater insulation foam) which holds the mic firmly in place, even if the cajon is tilted. I feel the mic gives me all the stuff I need from the cajon, even if it feels a little hyped / larger than life. Which might or might not be a good thing when the cajon is used in an acoustic type of performance. Sometimes I use a second mic on the outside, but I usually only blend the second mic in to have more options, not because I need it.

I think that the use as a theater/stage mic is another application that gets handled really well by the Beta 91. I don't normally do this type of work, but I tried it out for a small play, and the results came out very nice. The mic rejects noise from behind really well (which helps with gain before feedback immensely), and it sort of reaches far into the stage, so that even actors way back upstage get picked up. Also I feel that the hyped high end actually helps intelligibility in this situation. I tilted the mic up a little so it wouldn't pick up so much "floor noise" (i.e. footsteps, squeaks and so on). I placed it in the middle of the edge of the stage with two similar (but vastly cheaper) mics a couple of meters to the left and the right. These cheaper mics worked ok, but you could easily tell that they were inferior in all the aspects mentioned above.

The one thing I dislike severely about this mic is the flimsy mini-XLR cable that you connect to it. While I've never had one of those cables break or fail, this concerns me every time. Shure were smart enough to design a 4 pole socket that serves no function at all – except being a sort of “dongle”: it effectively keeps you from hooking up “regular” 3 pin mini XLR cables to it (which are hard enough to find around these here parts). So I reluctantly ended up buying the original replacement cable as a backup (which comes at a rather hefty price tag!). The new version of this mic (Beta 91A) has a regular XLR socket. I haven't tried out one of those next gen mics, but this fact alone is almost reason enough to buy one. 

There you have it Brethren of the Knob and Fader. The industry standard internal kick drum mic, great for use with a D6 or 52. Auxiliary percussion, no problem. Room mic, stage edge mic for theatre, the list goes on and on. You can even stick two back to back and use them as a stereo pair. A 91 has a long list of uses and if used carefully will quickly become a favorite.

Don't leave us hanging. Send in your favorites and by all means hit the comments section and fill in anything we left out or add your favorite uses and stories.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

SNR Podcast #46 - Impedance, Projects, Unique Effects

This week we do a short PSA on matching speakers to amps. Very short indeed because we stop short of getting into the math. Then it's on to some current projects and we end up talking over some unique methods for adding effects. Build your own wah-wah with nothing but an EQ plugin? It can be done. As always you can check out the YouTube version right here or use the MP3 link below to stream or save for later.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Limiting... Yourself

I was thinking about the bad old days of recording to four track tape. That would be my teenage years spent trying to get my bands recorded with a Tascam or Fostex on cruddy cassette. The good old days would of course the Beatles doing the same thing but with better gear and more creativity.

While our endeavors and theirs were separated by a pretty wide gulf of talent and experience we both had to make the same decisions. After you filled up a few tracks you had to bounce, either to another machine (which was not always available) or more likely to whatever free tracks were left. Record drums and bass, bounce them down to track four. Record two guitar tracks over those, bounce them down to track three. Record lead and backup vocals on track one and you're done.
In both cases this lead to mono recordings although the Beatles did have some of their material panned for separate stereo releases but those weren't like the stereo we think of today. If you wanted to do a true stereo image you had to record the drums in stereo on one and two, then record bass while bouncing down to three and four, then bounce back when you recorded vocals. It was a lot of generations and the noise would really add up.
(I'm sure someone will jump right up and correct me that there are better methods for doing this. The point is that it's tedious and you loose a little bit every time you bounce.)

There's something to that mode of thinking that you get in though. How many engineers today are good enough to commit to a drum mix before they get down to recording bass? Who today would have the guts to go ahead and record drums, piano, and trumpet on the same track? If you look up some tracking sheets from old sessions you'll find crazy stuff like that. People were forced to make decisions and commit to sounds and levels just so they could function. It's a far cry from the nearly unlimited capacity for tracks we have today with our DAWs.

So here's what I propose. Try recording something with just four tracks. No cheating. If you need to free up tracks you have to bounce them down to another track before you can move on. You'll have to decide on EQ and level as you go. Have you got the chops? It's a fun exercise. Unlimited resources aren't always freeing. Sometimes limitations open up more creativity.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Compression Panning

Despite the fact that people seem to think that mono is dead I beg to differ. I've worked on quite a few projects that the left and right channels were all but identical. Even where some panning had been done the effect wasn't that powerful. The reason for that is your ear gets used to things. The best mixes have motion in them. It's not hard to get. The most basic approach would be to just automate some panning. But there are much more subtle (and less nausea inducing) ways to add a little motion.

One of my favorites is really simple to do and really flexible. Done well it can be very subtle and effective. Let's say you've got a doubled guitar track. No wait, let's make it even a little harder. Let's say you've got just one guitar track and you wish you had doubled it to put some space in your mix. The old trick of duplicating it in the DAW and adding a little delay or even a little de-tuning to one side is as old as the hills and like anything else that doesn't move, it falls flat after a while and your ear stops hearing it. So what to do?

Take those identical guitar tracks and hard pan them. Then EQ them differently. Make one a little more bottom heavy and the other a little top heavy. Then strap a compressor on each of them and make the settings different. With both compressors idle the image will be in the center. When the sound gets a little chunkier the fat side will squash down a bit and the higher sounds on the other side will seem to poke out. Likewise a high solo will squash down a little and the bottom heavy track will be a bit more audible. 

It has sort of the opposite effect. When the signal goes one way, the result is an accentuating of the opposite end of the spectrum on the other side of the mix. But don't forget that you're also getting the benefit of the compression fattening up the signal going through it. So a chunking guitar riff will get fatter but also seem to sparkle a little bit, a solo will gain some texture but also get a little body. And the beauty part is that the changing dynamics on the hard panned tracks will make it all dance just a little between the two sides.

How much it dances is based on how much you squeeze each side and how heavily you've EQ'd them. Like anything, a little goes a long way. Don't make that rookie mistake of laying on your new trick all thick and spicy. The Brethren of the Knob and Fader live by a code of tasteful application. Learn this trick and do it well and people will be excited by your mixes and not know why. You can just smile the smile of a true wizzard and know how the magic really works.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Phone Voice - The Real Answer

Every once in a while you need to come up with a simulated phone call effect. It should be pretty common knowledge how to go about this and if you don't already know it you can look it up and find the answer on literally hundreds of websites.

The short answer is that you just band pass the audio so that everything below 300 Hz and everything above 3.4 kHz is rolled off. Add a little compression and you're pretty much done. 

That's only a partial answer though. What most people don't realize is that except for the "last mile" of copper wire into customers' homes, the telephone system has been largely digital since the 1960s. So to really push your phone voice sound effects over the top you need to take some sampling into account.

Digital audio is hard and bandwidth is expensive. So Ma Bell came up with a spec that gives you acceptable audio with a minimum of load on the system. A lowly T1 line can handle hundreds of phone calls if they're all sampled at 8 bits/8 kHz. The simple way to get your audio to sound the same is just record a voice over like you always would and then when you render crank the output settings down about much as you can. In my DAW 8/8 was as far down as it would let me go.

If you have to do it live for a performance you'll have to make do with just EQing. But when you've got the time and the resources, know you know everything you need to know to get it just right. Here's a little mini podcast that says basically what I just said here but with some examples in the middle.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

SNR Podcast #45 - 5/5/2013 - Compressors and Effects

This week we're a little scattered. We go over a couple pieces of new gear we've run across lately, then turn to methods for getting the good stuff out of your compressors both live and in the studio. We wrap up by starting to get into effects but then decide to save it for next time and do a full show on them. As always you can check out the YouTube version right here or use the MP3 link below to stream or save for later.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Mic Week - Part 4: Sennheiser e609

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It's Mic Week! We intend for this to be a regular feature and for starters we're going through some of the usual suspects that you'll find in nearly every mic box everywhere.

Today's offering is the Sennheiser e609. I believe the intention was to create an SM57 killer and they've done a fine job of it. If you're used to 57s on guitar amps when you slap on a 609 for the first time it's like meeting an old friend... that's been to the gym and got a nice tan.

The 609 does a great job picking up all the things you expect but it just somehow does a nicer job of it. The body of the sound is fatter. The highs are clearer.  It's hard to describe exactly but in a taste test nearly everyone picks it as the winner.

When I got my first pair I put them out on stage along with my usual 57s with the intent of A/B-ing them and picking the one that sounded better for each player. I put up a 57, then I put up a 609 and said, "Wow!". But then I put them both up together and the heavens opened up. Having a fat mic and a skinny mic on the same cab gives you nearly unlimited sculpting ability without touching the EQ much if at all. It's sped up my sound checks and it's an added level of protection. Blending them is easy even if one of the mics isn't getting that great of a sound. When you're under time pressure on a festival stage it can be a real life saver and it has the added benefit of making guitar players feel like you really care about them. You can read more about our favorite guitar mic trick in the original post.

One of my favorite things about it is that it sounds good just flat against the grill. That means you can get away with just draping the cable over the top of the amp and use a little piece of gaff tape to hold it in place. It also happens occasionally that I'll get some poor keyboard player that shows up with some cheap piece with built in speakers and a non-functioning output jack. Gaff tape and a 609 to the rescue again.

It tends to get used on guitars almost exclusively but it's really a pretty good all around mic. I've used them on back up singers, brass, toms, even violin. But this is only the beginning of the story. Anyone with anything to contribute should click on the comments link and add your knowledge to the pile for the benefit of all the Brethren of the Knob and Fader.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Mic Week - Part 3: AKG D112 Kick Mic

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It's Mic Week! We're not shooting for the stars just yet. This week's focus is on garden variety mics that you're likely to run into nearly everywhere you go. Today's catch is the AKG D112 kick drum mic.

Back in the days when metal reigned supreme these were about all you would see on stage after stage. They're well suited for picking up a lot of attack. As styles changed and sub woofers got better, people started looking for something better. Mics like the Shure Beta 52 and more recently the AKG D12 reissue (that's a 12 not a 112)  bring more low end to the table.

Even though it's seen less and less on kick drums, there's usually still two of them in everyone's mic box. They find good use on large floor toms and sometimes bass cabinets. A few people who have watched the video for Closer by NIN will even ask to sing on it occasionally. (Two NIN references in a week!)

While many will turn their nose up at this former champion of the kick drum, there's a great little trick to make one sound great with very little work. We did a post a while back featuring our favorite Kick Drum Mic Trick. If you're short of inputs and can't do an inside and outside setup, or if you've only got a beat up old D112 on hand this will make your day. Get it inside the drum, turn it around and point it up toward the top of the front rim. The post covers it in more detail.

These posts are meant to be a little generic. I'm relying on all you salty old dogs out there to fill in the gaps in the comments section. Got any tricks or odd usages? Hit us up.