451's are my favorite small diaphragm in that price range... I picked mine up for like 600 new on ebay...probably grey market or something like that...but yeah...fantastic mics. Very versatile. If you want, send me an email and I'll send you some recordings I've done with them.
I found C451 being a great mic for cymbals but my preferences for acoustic guitar lie somewhere else. I liked it on my own voice surprisingly. The last instrument I tried it on was distorted el. guitar and that's where I found C451 very thin and utterly unusable.
Actually I could describe it like C451 sounds thin but you'll find sources that benefit from this (piano?).
The result of my little tests back then was me purchasing a couple of C480s with cardioid capsules.
Unfortunately, I think the only test I kept on my hard drive is the cymbal test (plus the cymbal was not the highest class). I'll take a look if I have some more and will let you know.
As the faithful and repetitive Audio-Technica apologist, I'll stay out of this one. However, the AT mics I've used on acoustic (4033, 4041, 4051) are right up there or past many of the more expensive mics I've used and owned(such as the KM184). The only Neumanns I'll put up on acoustic are my beat-up KM84's, and they're great.
The AKGs are nice for cymbals, great for hat, awesome on percussion. I'm a little less enthralled about them for acoustic, mainly because of the "thinness" factor mentioned above.
However, if you want to make an informed purchase, get one of each of whatever you're looking at and give them a whirl on your own time. If you have any (and I do mean any, even local) kind of reputation as an engineer, you should be able to get a dealer somewhere to send you some pieces to play with. I don't know what market you're in, but you can usually find a decent rental house to try stuff from as well.
I am actually not the kind of person to rush into a purchase. I searched for a console for a year and a half before making my decision.
I am in a fairly remote area and we really don't have any stores around here (the closest GC is an hour and a half away even) so it's hard to try things before you buy them here - I guess that means I'm an idiot/don't have a good reputation becasue I came here to ask some questions, oh well.
I may call my sales rep over at Sweetwater and ask them about buying a pair with the option to return them - maybe they have some demos they could send me.
No, it doesn't mean you're an idiot at all. I just hate it when it appears that someone is making a pretty important purchase based on internet conjecture, even good internet conjecture.
If you never have the opportunity to hear the choices with your own ears in your own environment, how do you know you've made the best choice, even if what you end up getting ends up working out in some way?
For instance, someone may really like a mic I recommend. Great. But there may be a different mic out there that that person would have liked better. The only way someone else can truly evaluate my or anyone else's suggestions is with their own two ears. What's really great is when I suggest something, and the person goes out and listens to some stuff and finds something different that really tickles them. It's more gratifying to see people really get jazzed by gear that they love. I've used a lot of gear, and the only reason I've posted a thousand times on this forum is because I've found some stuff that's really great that I love to at least get others to listen to in order to help their own music-making process.
It appears that you're starting from kind of a usual magazine/forum/music store catalog blurb point on this decision, and your shopping list seems to be changing based on people's contributions and on what you've read. Not a bad place to start, but a horrible place to end. If you come away from this forum with a short list of 5 mics or so to personally evaluate, then the forum has served its purpose. However, if you blindly buy something because of some random internet guy's advice, then you've done yourself a disservice.
Also, if you find a $250 mic that sounds better for your application than a $600 mic, you've really scored. I keep bringing these AT mics up because they really have a habit of humbling things that cost 3 times as much, and I have access to pretty much whatever mics I want, so this just isn't about savings, even though there's a lot of things I can do with the extra $350 saved.
It really matters more to me that you find a great mic than it does that you have a painless and thoughtless buying experience. You're probably going to hate me by the end of this, because I'll keep calling you out to listen to these things in person, but if you get a mic you just love, then I can handle it.
MH - a sort of different side to this same coin...
I've generally found that I have to use a mic quite a few times in a variety of ways before I can even begin to make a determination about how much I like it and what sorts of things I prefer to use it on. It's impossible to get this kind of experience in any sort of casual setting (i.e. going to a store to "try them out"). The best you can do is borrow some from someone to use for an extended period, rent them from a rental house (expensive), or (my method), just make the best decision you can up front and buy them.
These days there are very few "bad" mics until you get under a couple hundred dollars. For any given application there are usually a handful of popular models to choose from. They are usually popular because they work well. Pick one, buy it, and use it. 75% of it is just working with what you have and maximizing what you can get out of it. Personally I think some people spend too much time agonizing over what to buy, and not enough time learning to get the most out of what they do buy.
If worse comes to worse you sell a mic you don't like and move on after having benefited from the experience. I've sold very few mics over the years. My collection continues to grow, and even though there are some mics I don't use as much as I once did (and I probably wouldn't buy them today) I am glad I have had them and continue to hold on to them because there are certain specific things they do very well.
It's hard to make a really bad investment in a mic if you stick to the quality brands.
It's quite helpful when the question goes "I have this mic called XY and would like to move to something that sounds more ...". It gives a good chance that someone here has XY and perhaps knows what he'd go for if he was in the same need.
I guess more what I meant was that it sucks, for instance, when you buy a KM184 for $400 or whatever, and find out later that something like an AT 4041 actually is better in the same app for a chunk less money (my personal experience, but maybe not everyone's).
If you'd never heard both mics for yourself, how would you know? The KM184 is a fine mic, everyone else will tell you so, and you'll get good results from it, but you could have done as well or better with another mic for less money.
I find just buying whatever is popular without being very discriminate about one's own personal tastes to be a very ham-fisted approach. If variety weren't the spice of life, we wouldn't have hundreds of small-diaphragm condenser choices available to us because everyone would just use the same things. The market speaks for itself on that one.
What's interesting is that almost the opposite happened to me. I bought AT 4051's years ago. Loved them. Still do. But later I got some 184's because I thought the AT's could be a little strident on some sources. Now I use both about equally.
I don't know how I would have ever figured all this out without going through the experiences I went through. If I had used them both on one session, in a sort of shootout, I'm sure I might have liked one more than the other that day and gone that way for the purchase. Would I have still ended up with both? Who knows.
Fact is I used the AT's for years and was perfectly happy with them until using the 184's on a few things. This type of scenario has been repeated many times in my studio. I'm glad it went the way it did. I can only think of one example where I ever felt ripped off in a significant mic purchase (as in I spent way more than I should have for what I got).
There's been much more to my methodology than simply buying what's popular, but I've also found that things are usually popular for good reasons. It's hard to go too far wrong. Again, I put the time and energy into application and learning how to get the most out of things, which pays off much better than agonizing too much over a purchase (not that I don't agonize over purchases - I do, but I control it). On any given day, under the right circumstances, there may be a mic better suited for the task at hand than the ones I have access to. But even if I had access to many more mics than I already do it gets impractical at some point. I'm better off knowing what I can get out of what I have (from working with it) and just zeroing in on that. Once you have a pretty good collection of mics it gets much easier to buy mics to fill in the ever smaller number of holes in your capability. Where you start with that collection only determines the nature of the small gaps in coverage you end up with later, and either way you go the stuff you learn along the way is by far the most important thing you get out of it.
"If variety weren't the spice of life, we wouldn't have hundreds of small-diaphragm condenser choices available to us because everyone would just use the same things. The market speaks for itself on that one."
Correct, it says "the popular ones are good." They may all be good, and many of them likely have an application where they are ideal. Ultimately there's no substitute for experience and judgment on this.
"If you'd never heard both mics for yourself, how would you know?" Of course you don't know. You don't know that there isn't something that will smoke your 4041's either. Yet I doubt you are going to go rent these hundreds of sml diaphragm condensers for weeks at a time to use them each in enough different circumstances to make a truly informed decision. It just isn't practical. And since this isn't really possible in any casual listening environment about the best we can all do is work through it over time and hopefully make reasonably good decisions along the way. Like I said, I have sold very few mics. Almost every one I've had is ideal for something. And that validates the purchase for me. The few times that hasn't been true I just chalk up to experience. I still learned from it.
Actually, I make a habit of questioning my assumptions about mics, whether they be positive or negative, on a pretty regular basis. If I get my hands on something new, I'll try it on as many things as I can find time to do so. Or, I'll try a mic I'm familiar with, even if I don't like it much, on very different sources and see what happens.
For instance, I tried an M147 on kick drum this weekend. In the past, I haven't liked the 147 very much, especially in it's purported primary application: vocals. Turns out the 147 is a great kick drum mic, and I shared my findings. Now, I can update my feelings on the mic from "I don't like the 147" to "I don't like the 147 on vocals, but it's a great kick drum mic."
As for the 184, it's a popular mic, but I found Neumann's own KM84 better for the warmer sound, and the 4041 and 4033 better for the brighter sound. I felt the 184 did some of both, but didn't do either particularly well. Now I own several mics which beat the 184 at it's own game and which are really great at other things which the 184 could never do (the 4041, for instance, is a great snare drum mic). And I sold my KM184's.
While popularity is a sign of a useful product, it is in no way the sign of the best product. Avalon 737's are popular. Focusrite 220's are popular. Neumann U87's are popular. But there are critically-acclaimed products in each of those categories from companies such as Pendulum Audio, Great River, and Soundelux, to name a few, which are arguably superior to the Avalon, Focusrite, and Neumann at their own game, by the critical opinions of a lot of engineers, and, by God, for sometimes the same or less money.
I got on the ADAM bandwagon very early on. I almost was a Tannoy System 800 owner. But I was willing to take some time and a chance on this unknown company called ADAM. Before they were even a twinkle in Sweetwater's eye. Boy, am I glad I did.
Popularity is as much the result of good marketing and placement as it is usefulness? Do many people really think the Avalon 737 is the best tube channel strip out there. No. But it's sold many more units than say, the Pendulum Quartet ever will because it's a piece of cool-looking, decent-performing high end gear that can be found at every Guitar Center and in every Musician's Friend catalog. And it sure DOES sound better than the guy's Mackie that it might be replacing. But that doesn't make it the best.
I don't think anyone has the time to listen to hundreds of mics. But I do feel any serious engineer should take the time to listen to 5 or 6 if they are spending any kind of serious money, and if they care about the results. I feel these forums have done their job if an inquirer leaves the discussion with a short list of 5 or so mics to audition personally, having come to that list based on their own sonic preferences applied to the recommendations of others. I feel that we should serve to narrow the field.
I don't feel that we should serve to simply validate anyone's preconceptions or to tell people what to buy. That makes for an uninformed purchase and purchaser, and also creates a scenario where someone is now a gear owner without really knowing why they bought what they did, and also how it stacks up to what else is out there.
The simple fact that you prefer the 184's to the Audio Technica mics while I prefer the opposite says that there's a lot of equally valid, if opposing opinions on these matters. How's someone else to know where they fall on the subject if they don't use their own two ears?
I'm not in this for the easy out or to just buy the popular stuff. While I do have to go and be an actual engineer occasionally, which limits my time for the testing and the theoretical, it sure is nice to go into sessions knowing that the gear you chose will let you go as far as your talent can take you. I like that.
Last edited by michaelhoddy; 03-30-2004 at 02:04 PM.
Yeah, I don't really disagree. I was very careful not to say popular products are the best. But they are almost always good, and usually that means they are worth serious consideration.
What is "best" anyway? That could be debated all day long - I think we'd all agree that it is largely determined by context. Context in most of our studios changes from year to year, month to month, or session to session (not to mention different preamps, personal preference, price, etc.). Therefore there probably is no "best" in the strict sense of the term. That's one reason why I am happy to work up from good enough - always striving for better.
Your point about using forums to narrow down long lists to five or six is valid. Ideally that is great. But many project studio owners still don't have the resources to obtain and properly evaluate them. My assertion is that if you get a good mic you will be able to get good sound with it. You'll generally get better results with a good mic and great technique than you will with the "best" mic and little to no technique. Therefore even if you don't end up with the "best" mic for a particular scenario, if you learn what you are doing, you will be fine. Thus, don't get too gripped about the purchase.
Originally posted by Noah330 I have decided to upgrade my mocrophones as they seem to be the weakest link in my recording chain (I recently upgraded everything else).
I am looking at the AKG C451b. I am thinking about getting a pair of these. Is this microphone a good sounding professional mic or is it more on par with a C1000/30000?
Right now I record mostly singer/songwriters. I am planning on recording live drums within the next 4-10 months and read these mics make good overheads.
I am nervous about spending $900.00 for a pair of these only to have them sound like the other $200-$300 mics (rode nt5, mxl, etc...)
Anyone using these and how are they???
I read through your other thread on upgrades and posted a reponse there about large diaphram mics (suggesting you blow your whole wad on one LD). As far as SDs go, the AKG 451b is decent for acoustic guitar. Some like the mic alot. I don't care for it much as other mics, but I'm thinking solo acoustic fingerstyle, not vocal accompaniment (strum or fingerstyle). Nevertheless, I've spent alot of time finding the right acoustic guitar recording chain for my ears, and SDs are part of that equation. In the $1,000 price range for a pair, there are several decent choices:
T.H.E. Audio KA-04/KR-2C (a little over $1K)
Microtech Gefell M 300 (used)
AKG 460 (used plus Williams' mods)
Neumann KM184 (used)
If you're going to upgrade, just do it once if at all possible. Most would say that the above mics are "keepers" for the studio. Sure, at some point in the future you might want to go to the next level, say DPA, Schoeps or Josephson Series 6, but in the meantime any of these mics will serve well. You just need to listen to them, as well as others you might add to the list, to find the one you like the best for your needs. Absent personal listening, any of them will represent a substantial and pleasing upgrade over what you are using now.