Did someone upgrade to a better vocal mic from Rode NT1-A?


#1

I recently started recording and mixing a local singer song writer, with the good old Rode NT1A.
Now that we have recorded 12 songs I am starting to wonder whether I did the best I could do in terms of vocal recording. I would be willing to spend up to another $1000 or there abouts for a better mic if there is a notable difference. The problem I have is that she is a VERY VERY good singer and everything sounds already good. She can hear the slightest off-pitch which I can’t even hear, I don’t have to do any auto-tuning, no fancy effects. I just keep her voice almost dry “in your face” approach.

So, because she is that good I want to make sure I really got the best out of that voice. Without any reference its hard to judge. I live in the country and can’t just borrow a mic from anywhere.

So, did someone upgrade from a Rode NT-1A (just for vocals) and could hear a clear difference or experienced a “how could I ever live without it” moment?

Thanks. :slight_smile:


#2

I haven’t upgraded specifically from a NT1A, but I have upgraded mics in the past and definitely there is - in general - a difference going from a low end to a mid to high end mic. I would say there are a number of mics in that range where you would hear a positive difference.

Problem is that matching a mic to a vocal is not a matter of the more expensive one wins, so it’s really hard to give any kind of advice on which to get for a specific situation. You might spring $3500 for a U87 and then find that it’s not quite suited to the voice (I had the chance to sing into one of those a while back and had that experience - wonderful and versatile mic, but just not for my voice).

That said, here are a couple things to consider:

  • Blue Bottle Rocket Stage 1 - solid state mic that takes advantage of interchangeable capsules. Currently Blue is having a sale where if you buy one (which is $999 and comes with a B8 capsule) they’ll throw in a B6 capsule for free, so you kind of get two chances to get it right, and can then pick up additional capsules in the future for different flavors. I have this one with both the B8 and B6 and can vouch for is as a good mic, but I haven’t recorded female vocals with it - Blue claims the B8 is suited to female voices.

  • Blue again - the Dragonfly, which I think retails also for $999 but I’ve often seen for less. Haven’t used it myself but I’ve heard it’s suited to higher voices and also interesting on acoustic guitar. Blue mics tend to be brighter so that’s why these come to mind.

  • Wild card - maybe a ribbon mic like a Coles 4038: somewhat more than a grand but might add some interesting flavor. Or could be a horrible fit - who knows :slight_smile:

There’s so many of them. The other thing you might try is splitting between a mid range mic and a good pre if you don’t already have one, for instance an RNP or Focusrite ISA One, and an AT 4047, or maybe a 4033 and a Cascade Fathead ribbon. Now I’m just throwing out names :slight_smile: But if you spread out that 1000 on a few different flavors of pre/mic combos maybe you’d have a better chance of nailing down the right sound.


#3
jhunger said

I haven’t upgraded specifically from a NT1A, but I have upgraded mics in the past and definitely there is - in general - a difference going from a low end to a mid to high end mic. I would say there are a number of mics in that range where you would hear a positive difference.

Interesting, do you use the NT1A on your acoustic guitar Joel? or something else?
You have a really good sound. I have been underwhelmed by how my guitar picks up on my MXL.
Just sound dull. Maybe it’s partly due to my cheap, cheap Fender Acoustic.

Well, back the main topic, I hear the SM7 is a good affordable choice. Was used in the Michael Jackson’s Thriller album :slight_smile:
I think it’s around 600$ or so.

I personally upgraded from a 5$ generic mic to a 200$ (overpriced and got it on sale for 50$) MXL 910.
It is good for some things but just not good enough for my purposes.


#4

I think it’s always good to have a few different mics lying around to try on voices. Mix of dynamic, condenser, and ribbons. Sometimes even a good cheap mic like the SM58 can give you a different flavor or work better with a different voice. If I was buying vocal mics, I’d go the route of buying a variety of cheaper/mid range mics over a U87 (unless you have money to burn, in which case, then by all means). For around $1,000 you could get a Shure SM7B, a Shure SM58, a Sennheiser MD421, and a cheap ribbon like a Cascade Fat Head. Now you have plenty of points of reference.

I bought a Neumann tlm 102 to record my voice, and although it’s a good mic, I think my much cheaper Cascade vin-jet ribbon sound better on my voice.


#5
adammonroe said

I think it’s always good to have a few different mics lying around to try on voices. Mix of dynamic, condenser, and ribbons. Sometimes even a good cheap mic like the SM58 can give you a different flavor or work better with a different voice. If I was buying vocal mics, I’d go the route of buying a variety of cheaper/mid range mics over a U87 (unless you have money to burn, in which case, then by all means). For around $1,000 you could get a Shure SM7B, a Shure SM58, a Sennheiser MD421, and a cheap ribbon like a Cascade Fat Head. Now you have plenty of points of reference.

True, I forget where I read it, but some sound designer said that after 500-600$ the price of mics is largely inflated and the increase in value minimal. How good can a mic possibly sound? What difference would there be between a 1,000$ mic and a 3,000$ or 4,000$ mic?

…sorry for some reason, today, I am putting my dollar signs in the wrong spot…


#6

Thanks guys. It’s true, more $ for a mic doesn’t mean you get better results. Sure, ideally you have several mics to choose from but I don’t usually record anything. I’m all instrumental. :slight_smile:
Just happened that I started to work with this singer and I want to see this through now. I also bought a Aphex MicPreAmp (207D) which was immediately better then my USB audio interface (NI Komplete Audio 6).

I think technology had changed dramatically in the last 10-20 years, well in terms of value for money. In 1993 I was studying at the SAE in Sydney and I was fortunate to be able to try a lot of great mics. My favourite at the time (for female singers) was a AKG C414 which is still around today but much cheaper. Back then you would expect to pay $2-3K for a decent mic. It’s still like that today except you can now get great mics for $250 like the Rode. This was unthinkable in 1993. I would really like to compare the AKG with the Rode. :slight_smile:


#7

Hi Guido,

I own Neumann, AKG, Beyer, Shure and Rode mics. My best vocal mic is the Avantone CV12, and it costs only $500 :slight_smile: My dealer lent me one to test and I fell in love! the best way to choose a microphone is to test and compare several, will be best for you can be the worst for someone else!

http://www.avantonepro.com/Avantone-CV-12-Multi-Pattern-Large-Capsule-Tube-Condenser-Microphone.html

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/so-much-gear-so-little-time/889888-lets-talk-about-avantone-cv-12-mic.html

Have a nice day


#8

Hi SoundCity

Sounds cool. I’ll check it out. Actually I just contacted my dealer in Perth and asked them whether I could try a few mics. Let’s see what they say. At the end of the day this will be the only way to go I guess.

Oops, just realized I’m logged in with my other account. Still me though! :slight_smile:


#9
jhunger said

…matching a mic to a vocal is not a matter of the more expensive one wins, so it’s really hard to give any kind of advice on which to get for a specific situation. You might spring $3500 for a U87 and then find that it’s not quite suited to the voice…

So true!


#10

Hi Guido,

Though I never tested the NT1A, I own the Rode NT2A and tested it on vocals alongside my AT4050 and Bock 195 through Focusrite Session Pack ISA 220 channel strip.

On every test, the Rode came last; For female voices i love the AT 4050; For male voice, the Bock is my first choice. But If I was to chose 1 out of the three, I would keep the Bock.
Don’t get me wrong. the NT2A is a fine mic, with lots of polar patterns, giving you great versatility … but soundwise, the other 2 win it for me.
Price-wise, all mikes fit in the 1000$ range.

Hope it helps,

Ciprian


#11

Thanks Ciprian

Actually I do remember working with a AT4050 many years ago but only on acoustic guitar and I was impressed. Damn, so many choices. :slight_smile:


#12
NoizMan said
jhunger said

…matching a mic to a vocal is not a matter of the more expensive one wins, so it’s really hard to give any kind of advice on which to get for a specific situation. You might spring $3500 for a U87 and then find that it’s not quite suited to the voice…

So true!

I often find Neumanns useless for very strong voices, voices with impediments and very sharp vocals :slight_smile: When you record other people you must have many vocal mics. I can say which is universal, not good, which is specific, and which is useless. Most general purpose mics are for me Shure SM 7, Shure SM 57 and golden AKG C414 TLII. So if you record only yourself match a mike to your voice even if it’s a cheap one it could be the better choice.


#13
Erick_McNerney said
jhunger said

I haven’t upgraded specifically from a NT1A, but I have upgraded mics in the past and definitely there is - in general - a difference going from a low end to a mid to high end mic. I would say there are a number of mics in that range where you would hear a positive difference.

Interesting, do you use the NT1A on your acoustic guitar Joel? or something else?
You have a really good sound. I have been underwhelmed by how my guitar picks up on my MXL.
Just sound dull. Maybe it’s partly due to my cheap, cheap Fender Acoustic.

Well, back the main topic, I hear the SM7 is a good affordable choice. Was used in the Michael Jackson’s Thriller album :slight_smile:
I think it’s around 600$ or so.

I personally upgraded from a 5$ generic mic to a 200$ (overpriced and got it on sale for 50$) MXL 910.
It is good for some things but just not good enough for my purposes.

No, I haven’t used the NT1A at all but only know it by reputation as a good mic for its price range. But I have gone through the process of starting with a cheaper mic/preamp combination and eventually upgrading. My biggest “aha!” moment wasn’t due to a mic, but a preamp, after upgrading from a pair of Presonus Tube Pres to the FMR RNP, and realizing that I was now able to mix acoustic tracks without creating a huge pile of over EQ’d mud.

I’m always trying different combinations of mics since I’m never quite satisfied with my guitar sound. My latest phase is stereo mics with an SDC angled toward the sound hole (almost always a Joly modded Oktava MK012) and a LDC at the other end of the guitar somewhere, which is usually the Bottle Rocket, pointed at the bridge or some other spot. I just recorded one with the LDC pointed at the edge of the guitar and really liked the way it sounded. Only recently have I started keeping a note of mics and placement, so maybe when I listen back a year from now I can reproduce certain sounds.

Anyway, the SM7 is a great mic, and is actually around $350. I bought it to use for vocals, but found that I like a brighter mic on my voice. But I use it for many other things, including percussion and sometimes even as the large diaphragm part of my guitar setup. I don’t know if I’d recommend it as an acoustic guitar mic necessarily, but I hate the way new strings sound on a guitar and the SM7 helped mellow out the clanginess.


#14

i have many mics, including the nt1a, from sony c800g to akg c12vr, to shure sm7, etc. as others have stated, it is impossible to pick just one mic that will be universally good for every voice/instrument/etc. there have been cases where my more expensive mics just don’t sound right on a voice, and i end up using the rode or sm7 – so you never know, you may already own the right mic for your use.

all that being said, if i had to pick just one mic to use, it would be, without question, my neumann tlm103. but my taste may be totally different from yours. i haven’t heard the 102, but i would guess it could be a great universal mic for even less.


#15
jhunger said
Erick_McNerney said
jhunger said

I haven’t upgraded specifically from a NT1A, but I have upgraded mics in the past and definitely there is - in general - a difference going from a low end to a mid to high end mic. I would say there are a number of mics in that range where you would hear a positive difference.

Interesting, do you use the NT1A on your acoustic guitar Joel? or something else?
You have a really good sound. I have been underwhelmed by how my guitar picks up on my MXL.
Just sound dull. Maybe it’s partly due to my cheap, cheap Fender Acoustic.

Well, back the main topic, I hear the SM7 is a good affordable choice. Was used in the Michael Jackson’s Thriller album :slight_smile:
I think it’s around 600$ or so.

I personally upgraded from a 5$ generic mic to a 200$ (overpriced and got it on sale for 50$) MXL 910.
It is good for some things but just not good enough for my purposes.

No, I haven’t used the NT1A at all but only know it by reputation as a good mic for its price range. But I have gone through the process of starting with a cheaper mic/preamp combination and eventually upgrading. My biggest “aha!” moment wasn’t due to a mic, but a preamp, after upgrading from a pair of Presonus Tube Pres to the FMR RNP, and realizing that I was now able to mix acoustic tracks without creating a huge pile of over EQ’d mud.

I’m always trying different combinations of mics since I’m never quite satisfied with my guitar sound. My latest phase is stereo mics with an SDC angled toward the sound hole (almost always a Joly modded Oktava MK012) and a LDC at the other end of the guitar somewhere, which is usually the Bottle Rocket, pointed at the bridge or some other spot. I just recorded one with the LDC pointed at the edge of the guitar and really liked the way it sounded. Only recently have I started keeping a note of mics and placement, so maybe when I listen back a year from now I can reproduce certain sounds.

Anyway, the SM7 is a great mic, and is actually around $350. I bought it to use for vocals, but found that I like a brighter mic on my voice. But I use it for many other things, including percussion and sometimes even as the large diaphragm part of my guitar setup. I don’t know if I’d recommend it as an acoustic guitar mic necessarily, but I hate the way new strings sound on a guitar and the SM7 helped mellow out the clanginess.

Totally agreed that a pre-amp was the aha moment for me. I have an LA-610 pre-amp that’s really helped my sound. I was discussing with another engineer about whether to invest in a higher end mic or pre. His advice to me was that a great pre-amp can make all of your mics better, while a great mic can only improve that one facet. Much in the way that Bono or Trent Reznor uses an SM58 to record vocals, but have it still sound awesome, not only because of their voice, but also because of a great pre IMHO.


#16
StudioMonkey said

…from sony c800g to akg c12vr…

!!!


#17
sunchannelmusic said

Totally agreed that a pre-amp was the aha moment for me. I have an LA-610 pre-amp that’s really helped my sound. I was discussing with another engineer about whether to invest in a higher end mic or pre. His advice to me was that a great pre-amp can make all of your mics better, while a great mic can only improve that one facet. Much in the way that Bono or Trent Reznor uses an SM58 to record vocals, but have it still sound awesome, not only because of their voice, but also because of a great pre IMHO.

+1 yeah, this, too. :slight_smile:


#18

You want to get out the best of a specific vocal. In this case I would look for an online shop with a money-back guarantee for to order more than one mic to check them all on your situation.

As the fellow authors mentioned before there isn’t ‘the’ mic.

In germany we have the online music-store ‘Thomann’ with a 30 days money-back and invincible prices which is already well known around the world. If you’re able to disburse more money for a certain time you could order a few mics of your choice, try them, keep the best and send back all others.

You’d get back every little cent without any charge or transport costs. Than you would be sure that you got the right one for your female singer. And it tells you more than million words and opinions could do.


#19

Any love for AKG Perception 820 ? My dealer in Perth just offered me their last model for $599 which would be a great price in Australia.


#20
GuidoNegraszus said

Any love for AKG Perception 820 ? My dealer in Perth just offered me their last model for $599 which would be a great price in Australia.

I’ve never heard it, but I guess that hasn’t stopped me from commenting before so… In that price range you could probably do a lot better. I would consider the AT 40 series (4040, 4050, 4033, 4047), or the Shure KSM32, maybe Rode K2 if you want to go with a tube mic, or I think SoundCity mentioned the Avantone CV12. There are tons more if you go to any big dealer’s site and sort by price.

I had one of the lower end Perception mics for a short time, I think maybe the 220, and disliked it - it sounded harsh and unfocused. Maybe the 820 is a big step up, but I’d do some research on gearslutz or other places before laying down any money for it, even if it’s a good deal.