Small Studio Mic Shootout

objective

I want a very clean mix where everything sounds true – like they are being played in a small intimate club or cabaret setting. I want to add effects sparingly, but only after a clear and clean recording.

vocal mic winner

SE Electronics VR2 – my favorite mic

I just finished testing all of my microphones first with vocals, then guitar and cello played through a Fender Mustang modeling amp and finally, a mandolin played acoustically.

The clear winner was the VR2 for vocals. I didn’t even test it on instruments because the VR2 now graces my vocal mic position. It wasn’t even close.

instrument mic winner

Best guitar amp mic – Royer R10

The Royer R10 did a fine job on vocals, but not up to the VR2. However, it was clearly the best on the guitar amp and on the acoustic mandolin. It absolutely needs the dBooster and set at 12 dB gain. At 20 dB gain it “motorboats” with some nasty oscillation – which I’m not that happy about to be honest.

best bang for the buck

Golden Age R1 Active

The Golden Age Project Active R1 in many situations sounded as good as the Royer R10 and (when you add in the fact that the dBooster is a must for the R10), the R1 is 1/3 of the cost of the R10.

maybe mic – SM-57

The Shure SM-57 is a legend, but I would use it only when I want a more raspy / grungy sound or when I set the amp to a distortion model. It also really needs the dBooster.

the losers

The Rode NT1A’s color the sound too much for my liking. Previously, I thought they were great. But since I have started mixing using the Avantone Mixcube, I can hear that a clean clear and natural mix is needed more than anything.

The SE Electronics SE7’s are great little mics, but forget about them on vocals. However, they are better than the NT1A’s on the guitar amp and are a close second to the R10 in miking the acoustic mandolin. They are also a best bang for the buck, but didn’t make the top spot.

ssl2 beats the UA Volt 276!

I also tested all mics through these two digital interfaces / preamps, and the ssl2 was a clear winner. The 276 is a much better interface as far as layout and looks go, but these are for the ear, not the eyes.

Finally, my upgrade from the iLoud monitors to the Yamaha HS-5’s and the Avantone Mixcube means between my better mics and monitoring, I just upgraded from beginner to intermediate. That holds true for quality of sound and cost. Because my studio is tiny and while treated it never will be good enough for more than the gear I have now. If I were to move into our spare bedroom, then yes, I could treat the room and then go to the next level. That’s a really big if though.

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