I thought the way that Don set things up for the first test was really interesting: seven mics, clustered in the middle of the room, as close to each other as humanly possible. (Unfortunately, for the acoustic piano portion of the test we could only fit two mics at a time in my 5’10” Kawai grand close enough to get accurate results.) Don ran all the mics into a Horizon snake and then directly into my Roland VS-2480 digital mixer’s preamps. Although we started the test using external preamps such as the Sytek MPX4a and a Studio Projects VTB-1, the results were similar enough to the 2480 pres that we decided to keep things simple. Of course, we threw out those earlier results, took a break and started over.
For source material, we used four voices: my high tenor, Andy’s lower tenor, my wife’s alto and Don’s baritone (first from about 2.5 feet back, then from 6-8 inches away). Next up was a Gibson acoustic guitar, a shaker, and my brother’s kalimba. We also captured a front-overhead sound while I played my rather loud jazz drum kit, though we did a more focused drum mic test on the second day.
Let me remind you that once we pressed “Record,” none of us knew which mic was which. We’d record for a few minutes and take a break. Then we’d all listen back, switching from track to track (mic to mic). The three of us would then describe the sounds and vote for the top three mics in each instance. For our purposes, “top” meant a combination of what sounded most pleasing, most accurate (not always the same mics, of course) and what would be most likely to fit in a mix of my music, a combination of acoustic and fusion jazz, with heavy dashes of folk rock from time to time.
Only after we’d commented and voted did Don retrace the wires and reveal which mic was which. The results? Thought you’d never ask.
First of all, the results were not only pretty consistent, but also consistently surprising. Of course, at first we all tried to guess which mic was which based on the playback, but we were wrong almost every time! And, although most of the mics sounded good, in all of our tests there was only one instance where the three of us didn’t all pick the same mics for either the #1 or #2 spot.
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