The other day one of my clients brought a couple of his interesting mic pres that he has collected (after being a successful session musician for years) to my studio, Mikerophonics in Twickenham for a little listen. I was very keen to hear how some esoteric mic press would sound up against my Focusrite ISA One.
For those of you who are not in the know, recordings in my studio booth are principally spoken voice, commentary and voiceover for post production. My booth sees lots of regular action and has in the last year recorded luminaries such as Brian Blessed, Juliet Stevenson, Steven Macintosh and most of the regulars on the London promo circuit and continuity scene (oh I love those BBC Radio 4 voices…)
Mic Pre Shoot Out: The Usual Mikerophonics Vocal Chain
I usually use a Focusrite ISA One and an AKG 414 straight into the Avid Omni at line level.
I use the ISA One as it is clean, has variable impedance (which I use as an EQ tilt), low noise floor and has a variable non step 20dB trim- which I ride a lot! I have always liked the sound of this little box and rate it highly. It also has a nice variable impedance DI for when my archtop takes my fancy, but that is another story.
I use an AKG 414 as it has switchable patterns (I often switch to omni to avoid cardioid bass tip, if needed, or to get a smoother freq response). It is low noise and is less spiky than some large condensor mics- especially with “the ladies”.
I tend to record with mild eq and compression- as I know what I am trying to achieve and the more I can get right the way in - the less I have to do later. 25 years of experience tells me not to go too far!
My plug-in chain is typically the following (as DSP plugs on my HDX 11.1.3)
- Avid TIME ADJUSTER (digital gain if needed)
- Sonnox SUPRESSOR (the new HDX version) - to de-ess
- Sonnox EQ
- Sonnox DYNAMICS
- Sonnox INFLATOR (if needed)
Mic Pre Shoot Out: The Test
For the test we recorded my client Jonathan (thank you!) reading Rich Tozzoli’s book “Pro Tools Surround Sound Mixing” (what else?) into the AKG 414.
We recorded using the following mics pres:
Focusrite ISA One
From the legendary Focusrite ISA desks - say no more!
DAV Electronics Broadhurst Gardens BG1
This is a well renowned mic pre I noticed used at Mark Knopfler’s British Grove Studios (on a recent trip) and is also enjoyed by David Gilmour (not that I am unduly influenced by fine British Guitarists?) as well as Townhouse and Metropolis Studios. It is built in Twickenham (coincidentally) by an ex-Decca studios engineer to sound big and quiet, so its pedigree is assured.
Chandler Limited LTD1
This should need no intro to preamp fans - a Neve 1073 style hand wired preamp and EQ. N.B. The EQ was in bypass for the recording to make it a fair comparison.
Mic Pre “Shoot Out” at Mikerophonics: The Recordings
Each recording was recorded into Pro Tools 11 with Nugen Audio’s VisLM to a similar level, and all my usual plugs were in bypass. After recording, each clip was “mastered” to be exactly the same loudness by Nugen Audio’s LM Correct audiosuite plug-in. No other processing/editing was done at all.
When using the Chandler I mistakenly thought the freely rotating knob was a trim (rather than output gain) so accidentally recorded with too much input gain and too little output gain - so a “hot” input gain with saturated transformers was recorded as well as a more normal version.
Mic Pre Shoot Out: The Results
This is not science and this is not a “golden ears test”, but a bit of fun and the chance for some of you to hear what spending more than the average amount on a mic pre for a boutique studio might do (or not). Spoken voice is very hard to record well and is very revealing.
Please vote for your favourite recording in this poll.
<a href="http://polldaddy.com/poll/8237930/">Which Recording Do You Prefer?</a>
Please also leave a comment to suggest which recording you think is which and what you think of the differences.
Happy listening and have fun!
on 2014-08-15 09:31 by Mike Aiton
Ok folks (drum roll) I can confirm that the pre amps were (in order)…
- Focusrite ISA One (at ISA 110 Z)
- Chandler LTD1
- DAV BG1
- Chandler LTD (A bit saturated)
Now what do you think of that?
on 2014-08-15 20:59 by Mike Aiton
Some folks have asked what I think…
- I was shocked at how little difference there was between the ISA One/The Dav BG-1 for under £500 and the Chandler LTD1 for £1500.
- Sound wise I thought Mike Thornton made a really good point that I agreed with. We liked the ISA One and the Mike especially liked the BG1 for “ready to transmit” good sound that would need little polishing.
- The Chandler had a great bottom end and smooth top was was a “slow sound”, but for post it would need thinning out to cut through and not to bloat a mix.
- The BG-1 was for me a tad tamer than the ISA One, but I am used to the ISA One so it feels like home to me.
- For post they are all great quality
Other Operational Observations
- The ISA One has the variable impedance which is great way of tuning the sound of the mic - I use this a lot
- The ISA One has 20dB of trim on a variable pot - great for gain riding (essential in post)
- The DAV BG-1 had two mic amps for the price of one - nice, but not necessary for me
- The DAV BG-1 has clickable mic gains, great for classical and for stereo work, less good for post VO or foley work
- The Chandler has an EQ section, which when I tried it was too agressive in its gain structure to use nicely for VO - that really surprised me and it didn’t feel like the Neve desks I grew up with at the BBC. Iwas expecting to dial in some air like the Maag EQ4…..
- The owner of the Chandler agrees with me and uses his Focusrite quad mic amps for VO work over and above the two Chandlers and the BG-1 that he owns….
That’s my 5p’s worth.