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I'd like to hear opinions on folk's experiences with all these crazy microphones that are on the market these days.

I've got my stack of Neumanns and vintage RCA mics, and such, but I constantly hear people telling me I've wasted money on mics when I can get cheaper mics that do the job better.

Last summer, I was on the road, and I had sudden rush of ads to do for Google. I had my portable system with me (Macbook Pro & an MBox Pro), but I'd neglected to grab a microphone, not thinking I'd end up doing any VO work while I was gone for a few weeks.

So I picked up a "cheap" microphone. An AKG Perception 200. It cost about $100 give or take a few dollars. I found it to be quite amazing, especially given the price.

Now, I'm running a ProTools HD3 system, with focusrite ISA 428's for pre's, through a 192. Quad wired all around, etc...

So when I heard this mic A/B'd next to Neumann TLM 103's, I was kinda shocked. I've A/B'd them next to my M-149. Totally different story. Not the same sound at all, but that should be obvious, it's not a tube mic, right? Now, it's the mic that is always up in my studio, in case I have to record a quick vocal or VO for a client. The TLM's seem to spend most of their time in their boxes.

So lately, people have been telling me that Peluso's P-12 sounds exactly like an AKG C-12. I doubt it, but for around $1000, compared to the price of a C-12, I'm wondering if anyone has A/B'd these mics. Or any other cheaper ones. I know Bill Bradley has given warnings, and I trust him, but I don't believe he's actually checked this particular mic. Every studio in Miami seems to have them in their closet now. Even the big guys. Stil, I'm skeptical that I could have C-12 quality (always been a dream to own a pair, or a C-24) at one tenth the price.

Another find for me was Cascade. It's a group that makes cheap chinese ribbon mics (if you can tolerate the lead in them). Once again, I have some vintage RCA's. I love them. You all know what one must pay dearly to get these mics. I don't have the best RCA's, but what I have is nice. I picked up a Cascade X-15 for less than $500, I believe. It's a stereo mic, much like a Royer. I A/B'd it to a royer (I don't own one). To me, I wasn't hearing a diffference. I'm sure maybe some better ears can. I couldn't. I use it on overheads quite often. Very soft and natural sounding microphone with a nice image. It's also cool to flip it 90 degrees on some projects to get a whacko out of phase sound, which I love. I know, I know... But we've all done it on occasion. Sometimes without realizing it.





I now have regular access to C-12's I also added 414's and 451's to my studio. I have two Cascade Fathead II's with lundhal transformers, and they are amazing. Also the X-15, which I love. I've found that in the long run, that most the cheaper mics aren't the quality of the expensive ones, but some of them can really give the expensive ones a run for their money. I'll still take my Fathead's and my X-15 over royers and EAE mics ANY DAY OF THE WEEK!

I've also diversified a lot on my front-end gear. More mic pre's like martechs, LA-610's, and API 510's, also a bunch of compressors and limiters to help out with things too. So I've found that many times the best mic isn't the issue, but the best pre for the mic and source as well. Duh.

Tags: AKG, Cascade, Mic, Microphone, Microphones, Neumann, Peluso, Ribbon, Royer, Tube

Views: 1351

Replies to This Discussion

I'm off to buy a Cascade X-15 as soon as possible...

I just recorded a project at Blair Master's to get his piano and I think he has a couple of Chinese made tube mics. They may be Cascade's but I am not sure. Those coupled with a very nice stereo pre-amp (made locally) sounded incredible.
that is a pretty nice pre amp blair has as well - I believe it used to be called Nashville Design Works, but now the name escapes me.

I have one of the older 'original' ones before jb (builder/designer)went all cool packaging and such. I got to try out his pre's one day doing some gtrs and vocals. Smooth with that nu-vistor tube in there, mid range not a pronounced as the neves, and not quite at 'in your face' at the api.
to clarify, Blair's mics are SE Tubes
Lancaster Design Works, or Lancaster Audio....something like that and it is here in Tennessee too.
for a 251 clone i use the peluso 22251
for a u47 type i have a pearlman tm1
the marshall mxlv69 is a nice mic for $299
I have to chime in, I had a chance to use the Fathead II's and love them, I have a pair of Royer 121's and the Fatheads hold up very well to them.

I have also used the Lawson 251 and 47 clones with the tube and solid state bodies. Both great mic's run in either scenario. I have had good luck with the peluso c12 and 47 copies too, but more limited time to really do a good comparison. I am not sure they are exactly the same, I have used a lot of C-12's and 47's in my day to know there are no 2 that sound alike - - but they do follow similar characteristics.

I don't know what mic's the Octava's are to clone, if they are at all, but I have used some of those and they were nice. I even got to try a pair that were modified by some guy - they were GREAT for the $. I think I read an article on him in TapeOp or something....

I have had quite a bit of experience with the soundelux mic (now Bock) - I am not sure they have a direct clone for the U99 but that was/is a really nice mic. Gtr's, vocals. not cheap...but good.
I have always worked with the notion of "you spend your money on mics and pre amps". The reality, however, as a studio owner is that you can't always have the huge budget for these. I have used cheaper mics & pre's in the past and I have found that you can get a good sound but you have to work much harder for it. The difference between a RODE NT 5 and a KM184 is that you have to position the NT 5 a few times to get the sweet spot. The 184 is a lot less labor intensive to get that sound. As far as vocal mics go, I do believe that clients expect to see that Neumann diamond or some brand they know. If they see "Violet", MXL, SC or some other lesser known Chinese brand they think you aren't for real.

The bottom line is that some of these companies give you a lot of bang for your buck and if you're a project studio or an artist who wants to record their own stuff then they're fine but when you have clients and outside scrutiny of your work then you need to step up and spend some real money on at least one flagship mic and one channel of premium pre-amp. Its the best way to get that pro sound that clients are paying for.
about a year ago I bought a pair of the Lauten Audio Tube mics. They look like the Neuman 563s with the oval looking capsule. They sell for $800 each. I must say, for the money they are pretty great. Besides having to call Lauten and get a few replacement tubes (mailed them to me for free) they have become a standard on my tracking sessions. I use them mostly on acoustic guitars or dobro. They are a thicker than KM54s or AT 4051's and tend to be a bit darker but in the mixdown, they sit well when you pull out some 300-500 hz.

Anyway, I still rent KM54's when theres budget but always have felt good about buying the Lautens.

Chad Carlson
I got a pair of the Cascade Fat Heads recently, and they're quickly becoming my go-to mic for guitar amps now. Also sound great for drum rooms and trumpets. I know one of the great things about the Cascade mics is that even though they're made in china, they're all hand tuned once they get stateside.

I don't have any myself but i've heard the results from some Sure KSM32s that are pretty amazing.
The Peluso mics are hit or miss sometimes. The P-28's are amazing and I use them every tracking session but the P-12 was harsh and brittle to me. I do like the 47 style mic, especially on baritone voices, but with my tenor voice, I found it to crap out just like the real 47 when I get on it and sing hard. The positive thing about the mic is that it doesn't have the Neumann mid-range honk so it fits into the mix better than a 47 sometimes. As for the Cascades, they are nowhere in the game with Royers. They sound like cheap, dark, cloudy mics to me. Having lots of ribbon mics in my studio, I enjoy the smooth rich sound they give, however, the Cascades tried to capture the richness and cheapness together and didn't make the grade. I know, I tried a whole box of them and didn't like a single one. After trying them on several applications, I did a side by side comparison with my old ribbons and the Royers. There was no comparison. A mic that I rely on alot is also a David Royer design. The MA-200 Mojave is a wonderful mic and works great on many singers with very little eq, if any at all, for the desired final sound. I use a cambridge eq to roll off undesired rumble in the bottom and compress lightly with a Kajaerus Audio Gold Compressor and I am done. Especially for the money, the Mojave is a winner. They sound like a 67 Neumann with a bicep. The trick with this mic is proximity - too many engineers record the vocalist right up on the mic and collect artifacts that aren't flattering. This mic is sensitive for that aspect. Like any good tool, it's only as good as the user.

Couldn't disagree more on the Cascades. I may have said this earlier in the stream, but since I started this discussion, I've had a lot more experience with various cascade microphones. I've A/B'd my X-15 with the royer 122's. Using my Focusrite ISA pre's, it sounds every bit as good with more than sufficient gain on drum overheads for a ton less money. I've also used the X-15 on acoustic guitar with success as well. I also bought a pair of the fathead II's with Lundahl transformers. They are darker sounding, but are amazing again on drum overheads and guitar ams paired with a 57 or on it's own. I've even used them for vocals, A/B'd with my RCA 74 (restored/re-ribboned by Bill Bradley), and again, it sounds every bit as good, and is my preferred mic of the two. Their M39 is an easy to go instead of a 451 or KM-84. No, it's not the KM, but it's as good as the 451. I use one on hat all the time. Candidly, if I thought the 451 was better, I'd buy it. As for the KM, I think the old ones are worth the money. Not sure on the new one having not used one. But the 39 gets me the hat sound I want, so why look elsewhere?

So again, I couldn't disagree more on the Cascade statements you made. But again, that's why we have personal taste, right? But I do think that royer makes a great microphone. I just don't think it's as great as they think it is. The value just isn't there for the price.

Thanks for your thoughts on the Peluso mics. I still have a lot of curiosity there. I still question the value of the M-149 I have compared to these mics.
I've always preferred an expensive dynamic mike to a cheap condenser for the same price, assuming I was using a first class mike preamp. For example the Beyer M-88 is amazing.


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