Adventures In Audio
Why you need a used tube condenser microphone in your studio

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.

Wednesday April 26, 2006

Make a mental list of the microphones in your studio. Go through them one by one; visualize them, auralize the sound they create. ('Auralize' means imagine aurally).

Think about the areas where choice of microphone makes most difference.

Vocals, obviously. Also a big fat kick drum or bass guitar sound (you don't DI your bass guitar, surely?).

And the snare and toms of the drum kit. Do your drum recordings sound like hitting a cardboard box with a flyswat? Much of that is down to the microphone.

Chances are you bought your mics by recommendation, or as the unfortunate result of exposure to marketing information, none of which is likely to be true.

Or perhaps you absorbed virally or by some kind of osmosis that a certain mic is just good to have in some way. And you bought it.

Let's face it, your mic collection is a pretty characterless catalog, isn't it?

In fact, it's pretty much a duplicate of anyone else's collection. You're using the same mics and getting the same sounds.

So how can you get a different sound? A sound that is absolutely all your own?

The answer is to dig deep into your financial resources and add a used tube condenser microphone to your collection.

Why tube?

Obvious - tubes have a special sound. It's the sound of recording. Maybe not accurate but it's the sound the potential market for your music likes.

Oh, and it's worth saying that the tube in a tube condenser microphone is the active device that captures the signal directly from the diaphragm. It isn't just an 'added on' piece of circuitry to a bunch of transistors, as in most modern so-called tube microphone preamplifiers.

But why used, when you could buy new?

Well used mics acquire character as they age. It's like buying a classic guitar - the best way is to go to every guitar store in town and buy the classic guitar that sounds and feels best to you.

But what if you can't try out a mic because the dealer is too remote?

Simple - buy one from a reputable dealer. Then buy another. Keep the better of the two mics and sell the other one on eBay. It's hard to lose money on a classic microphone.

You can repeat that as many times as you need until you have the perfect microphone. And you'll actually enjoy the process!

And when you finally have the used tube condenser microphone of your dreams, perhaps a Neumann U-47, you can be sure that no-one has a mic that sounds the same as yours.

At last your sounds are truly original.

Of course, you might also consider a modern tube mic. It can age with you...

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