Microphones may be the most important link in the audio chain. It is the point where acoustic energy changes into electric energy, and what comes out of the back of a mic into the wire will probably be as good as it gets. I have an ever growing personal collection of mics. Here are a few of my favorites. Although they are among some of the best ever made, you won't see these in most studios.
The DPA 4011 is an amazing cardioid condenser microphone that captures sound from instruments and voices with virtually no coloration. The first time I heard one it blew me away - I thought the sax player was standing in the control room with me! It can handle high SPL so it's great on drums and percussion. Yet it's accuracy and transient response makes it a great mic for acoustic instruments like piano and nylon string guitar. It's expensive, but worth every cent. It's not a flashy mic to look at, but wait till you hear it at work. All you hear is the music - not the mic! Like almost all of my condensor microphones, I own a pair for stereo recording.
These are vacuum tube powered SCHOEPS 221B's from the early 1960's. I had my pair refurbished by Tracy Korby, who is considered one of the leading tube microphone specialists in the US. They are stunning on acoustic instruments when you are looking for detail, and they have that "tube warmth" that is so desirable. These Schoeps capsules have both cardioid and omni settings, so they can be used in a wide variety of recording applications.
I also have a pair of the more modern Schoeps CMC-5 microphones. These wonderfully accurate, solid state microphones have a very neutral sonic character. If transparent is what you are looking for, these will serve your purpose. Very quiet mic with a lot of output. I have both the cardioid and omni capsules, and a pair of -10 dB pads, so there aren't many situations where these mics won't do an outstanding job. I have owned this pair of Schoeps for over 20 years, and use them in almost every session. Ideal for piano, harp, acoustic guitar, hammered dulcimer, upright bass, etc. As I say, "Anything struck or plucked!"
The Royer Labs R-122 is a compact, monaural, phantom powered ribbon microphone - the first ribbon microphone of its kind. Its ability to withstand high SPL's makes it ideal for applications that were previously considered off limits to ribbon microphones. Ribbon mics impart a warmth and smoothness to sounds, and is another way to avoid harsh digital tones in your recordings. I have a pair of these mics which I use for many purposes - drum kit ambience, guitar amps, vocals, acousitc instruments, more.
My collection includes several Earthworks microphones. Among them are a "matched triad (3)" of omni pattern QTC-1's so I can do "Decca Tree" recording for orchestras. This is a 3-mic technique that was developed by Decca Records back in the 1950's for stereo recording, and is still used in orchestral sessions today. I also have a matched pair of Z30XL's which are the "hyper-cardioid" models. These have a very tight pick up pattern, but still retain that magnificent open and accurate sound that Earthworks microphones are famous for. Earthworks has recently discontinued making this model, and I'm lucky that I got a pair of them. They have amazing isolation characteristics.
This is my Milab DC96. These mics are made in Sweden, and it is surprising to me that so few US studios have them in their mic closet. They are amazing sounding microphones. Milab DC96s can capture punch and transients with a transparency that will surprise you. While using this mic, other engineers have walked through the control room, stopped, listened, and then asked, "Wow! What mic is THAT?!?!?!" When it comes to recording acoustic instruments, this is one of the best microphones available. Guitar, mandolin, piano, whatever! Stunning clarity with lots of punch! Physically, it is a rather small microphone (only about 5 1/2 inches tall,) so it can get in close without being an obstruction to work around.
I have a pair of Audio Technica AT 4040's. This large diaphragm cardioid condensor microphone has smooth, natural sonic characteristics. Exceptionally low noise, wide dynamic range and high-SPL capability enables it to work well in a wide variety is acoustic situations. Transformerless circuitry virtually eliminates low-frequency distortion and provides superior reaction to transients. It's a great choice for warm vocal sounds.
I also have collected various other microphones. I recently acquired several Electro Voice PL6 mics. It is one of the best mics for kick drum ever made - even out performing it's big brother, the EV RE/PL 20 (which I also own.) These were discontinued in the mid 1980's, and are a rare find these days. I have 3 Shure Beta 87A hyper cardioid mics (killer rack tom and floor tom mics, and of course, vocal) a Sure Beta 87C cardioid, and a Sure Beta 57A. I have an old AKG D12 which is one of the most desired "low end" mics. I also have the newer version, the AKG D112. Adding my collection of mics, mic pre's and outboard gear to the existing gear available at the studio you choose gives us a very flexible selection of sonic options.
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