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Microphone Month

Sweetwater Forums [Archived]

After 15 years of great discussions, the Sweetwater Forums are now closed and preserved as a "read-only" resource. For discussions about current gear, check us out on Facebook, YouTube, inSync, and our Knowledge Base.

The BEST Tube mic for under $1000?

Red20Seven

I want to purchase a tube condenser for vocals, and wanted to know opinions on any of these mics:
Rode NTK, CAD VSM1, Studio Projects T3, or any other good mics in this price range (under $1000). Or is it really worth the money to step up to say a M147? My main pre for vocals is a focusrite platinum voicemaster, and I love the sound I get from it. I would just like a little bit more warmth and presence. I figure that one of these mics would compliment this pre, any thoughts?
September 26, 2001 @08:21am
Nika

Sir,
Just curious.........why are you looking for it to be a "tube" mic specifically?
Thanx!
Nika.
September 26, 2001 @02:33pm
Red20Seven

I just thought that a tube mic would would give me more of the warmth and presence I'm looking for.
September 26, 2001 @05:29pm
Nika

Rod,
Just to make sure we're on the same page before I give a more complete response, do you know/understand the functionality of a tube in the microphone? Do you understand what it is that the tube actually does in such a mic?
Let me know. I'm happy to help,
Nika.
September 26, 2001 @05:41pm
Red20Seven

I think I know, but I could be wrong, so I would really appreciate it if you explained it to me. Thanks.
September 26, 2001 @07:59pm
Nika

Any condenser microphone has such a low electrical signal produced by the movement of the diaphragm that it needs to be amplified before it ever goes down a cable. If not the signal will never make it without being washed out by noise and losing any LF material.
Thus, all condenser microphones have an amplifier inside the body to amplify the signal just up to typical microphone levels (about 40db quieter than line level). The signal then goes into a preamp where it is raised the remaining 40db or so.
The tube in a tube microphone is just the amplification stage for inside the microphone. So a tube microphone uses the same technology as any other mic, but has a tube amplifier in it.
Are we cool so far?
Nika.
September 26, 2001 @08:12pm
Red20Seven

Cool, we are on the same page.:D
September 26, 2001 @08:23pm
Nika

OK, so now that we recognize that it's just a tube amp as opposed to a solid state amp, we enter the conversation of tube vs. solid state again. This is where I put forth that anyone can design a tube circuit that has a tube in it for the sake of marketing, but to design a tube circuit that actually takes advantage of the tube in the way that we have all come to know and appreciate as providing that distortion that is "warm" and "pleasant" is much more difficult and expensive.
My personal opinion is that a lot of "tube" gear that is made for not much money is not often of the same quality (and sometimes lesser quality) as a piece of well designed solid state equipment at the same price. Solid state equipment is less expensive to design and manufacture well, so at a given price range it is not surprising if the solid state equipment outperforms the tubes.........until you get up to the point where the tube equipment is SERIOUS tube equipment.
In my humble opinion, in the world of mic pres and compressors you need to talk about $2k and up before the tube stuff starts to perform against the solid state equipment as we'd expect. Avalon, Manley, Tubetech, Summit, etc.
In microphones I think that that point is somewhere above $1000. So if you want to spend less than $1000 on a mic, I'd say to just find the BEST mic in that range, but focusing on getting a tube mic may NOT find you the warmest sounding mic! It IS possible for a well designed solid state circuit to sound "warmer" then a comparable tube circuit! Solid state Avalon stuff is regarded as an example of this.
If you really want a good sounding tube mic, and you want the sound of the tubes in there, you might want to increase your budget, and the M147 is a very good one for under $2k, but without getting up in the range of the multipattern tube mics like the Manley, AKG C12, M149, etc. etc.
These, of course, are merely my own observations. I hope they are helpful.
Nika.
September 26, 2001 @09:02pm
recordingpro

With the M147 as cheap as it is now (compared to a year ago) I think it's a GREAT choice. There are of course others worth looking at, but I'd definately take a look at it. It may stretch your budget a hair, but you'll really be glad you did.
October 1, 2001 @01:58am
alanhyatt

Red20Seven
As NIKA pointed out, his comments are merely his own obversations. Others like Doug Oberkercher, Grammy winner for Sting, and countless others, as well as Jason Miles...another Grammy winner are using the Studio Projects T3. Of course not exclusively, but in the case of Jason Miles, it seems the T3 is becoming his new go to mic. WHile the T3 may not be the mic for Nika, it may be them mic for you, then again...it may not.
My point is simple, the T3 is an excellent mic, and has already won two major awards. You need to listen to the mics and decide for yourself. Don't let anyone tell you that you that the T3 does not have a good sound. If that was the case, all the T3's we have sold would have been returned to us. You don't have to increase your budget, but you do have to open your ears, so take a listen and decide for yourself. :D
October 4, 2001 @05:25am
David Klausner

I'd like to add that in the tube vs. solid state debate, there are two things we are looking at with tubes. One is using tube saturation to produce additional harmonics, hopefully in a pleasing way. The other is that there is little that sounds worse than a bad solid state gain stage, so some of what has been associated with the "tube sound" is really the absence of bad solid state distortion. A well done tube device can have several times the THD of a given solid state device and still sound more musical. It always amuses me to look in Studio A here at Sweetwater and see in the rack next to the Euphonix desk, the RSP Saturator - a device whose only spec is 7% THD!
Nika is absolutely correct when he says that there are solid state units (mics, pre's, compressors, etc) that sound "warmer" than certain tube gear. For example, listen to an 1176 (solid state) vs. a Manley Variable Mu and in a blind test, pick the one that sounds "tube-ier". Always go for the sound, not the marketing buzzwords.
I also think that Alan is correct in pointing out that these days there are some tube devices that sound quite good, and which are less expensive than the traditional good sounding tube gear of days gone by. Having said that, you'll get my Summit gear when you pry it from my cold dead hands!
October 4, 2001 @04:23pm
alphajerk

you didnt say what mic you are using now for vox.
nor can anyone really assertain your preferences in sound aside from you... with mics you really have to experiment with which ones YOU like, what gives you what you hear in your head.
but i agree with nika, just having a tube doesnt mean it will sound like you expect.
October 5, 2001 @08:53am