Adventures In Audio
Hands On - Quality Microphones (part 4)

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Adventures In Audio.

Thursday January 1, 2004
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Beyer MC740

The Beyer MC740, or MC740 N (C) to give it its full title, is a relative newcomer
compared to the U87 and C414. Obviously Beyer wanted to get a slice of the prestigious
large-diaphragm action, and a very good job they have made of it too. Just to
go one better, the MC740 offers five polar patterns, adding a wide cardioid
to the usual four. Although this might seem like overkill for vocals (do you
know any vocalists with a wide cardioid mouth?), changing the polar pattern
in all three mics subtly changes the bass response and the overall ‘warmth’
of the mic. Some engineers, for instance, use cardioid for lead vocals and omni
for backing vocals, so the lead stands out from the crowd just that little bit,
even before making adjustments on the faders. And just in case you don’t
fancy the idea of running into the studio to change the polar pattern yourself,
or diverting your assistant from coffee making duties, you can buy the MC740
N (C/5) version of the mic which operates from the MSG 740 power supply unit
which offers remote control over the mic’s pattern. The MC740 has switches
for 10dB attenuation and low frequency cut, similar to the Neumann U87.

Using quality mics

When you have achieved the status of having one of these very expensive quality
microphones in your studio, the first rule of operation is don’t drop it!
Seriously, these mics are quite robust but they will repay care and consideration
with two decades or more of usefulness. Old mics never go away, and in fact
if they go the way of valve models like the Neumann U67 and AKG C12 the mics
described here will increase in value as they age. Once the mic is mounted firmly
on its stand, probably the first thing to do is discard any thoughts of using
the slip-on foam windshield which you may have acquired with the mic. As far
as I can see, the only advantage they offer is that they keep spit out of the
mic, and they might have some attraction for people who prefer a muffled sound.
All of these mics are sensitive to popping however and you will need to take
action to prevent ‘P’ and ‘B’ sounds creating undesirable
low frequency peaks on your recording. It is currently fashionable to use a
stocking-on-a-coathanger pop filter in front of the mic, and although the home
made version can look crude it certainly works and has the additional advantage
that it keeps the vocalist at a fixed distance from the mic. All three manufacturers
have such pop screens in their catalogues - at rather more than the £0.00
that home made ones cost - Neumann’s PS 20 and AKG’s PF 20 (a bit
of a coincidence in the names) being stand mountable and probably more versatile
then Beyer’s clip-on PS 740. If you can’t afford a name brand pop
screen, and let’s face it you’ve probably broken the bank already,
then you could use the alternative technique of placing the microphone so that
the diaphragm points at the mouth, but not in the direct line of fire of the
breath. To do this you really need to have the mic above the level of the mouth
and you should tell the vocalist not to sing directly at it.


I hope this has been interesting reading for you, but you may be thinking
that at list prices approaching or exceeding the thousand pound mark all this
is rather academic. The good news is that these mics are available from hire
companies at rates that put them well within the scope of anyone who is serious
about recording and wants to get the best result possible, particularly on the
all-important vocals. Hire companies are unfortunately mostly centred on London,
but commercial studios worthy of the name have at least one high quality mic,
and you could consider taking your project into a studio to do the vocals, as
long as they use the same tape format as you. I strongly recommend exploring
the world of high quality mics. It really will make a big difference to your
recording.

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