Home Recording Podcasts Recommends:
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Lauten Audio atlantis
Everything that I have used made by Lauten Audio has been fantastic, and they are the manufacturer of several of my best and favourite microphones. The Oceanus is a suburb tube LDC, the Torches (discontinued SDC's) have fantastic depth without the bright brittle high end of some other pencil condensers, and the Horizon, although only cardioid, is at home on several wonderfully diverse applications, such as close micing drums and guitar cabs, to acoustic guitars, percussion, and in a pinch, even vocals! And although I would gladly include all of them on my gear recommends page (and I would recommend all of them), I will narrow it down to the one microphone that rarely leaves my vocal microphone stand - the Lauten Atlantis.
Although I use it most often on vocals, this microphone is fantastically versatile. It is a Diaphragm Condenser microphone, featuring 3 voicing options: Forward, Neutral, and Gentle. Basically, it is three switchable variations on the circuitry that all share the same capsule, but result in surprisingly varied tonal imprints. I find the forward position best for bright, in-your-face pop and EDM vocals, the neutral position (which is use the most often) to be good for - well almost everything, really... and the gentle position best to subdue harsh or shrill sources (the odd vocal or electric guitar). Gentle seems to work well on quite acoustic sources too, but I usually find myself using the neutral setting for many of these sources instead. Really, it all comes down to preference and taste, and what you are trying to achieve with the microphone. Many times, it is great to have the options, and it is essentially 3 microphones in one!
Besides the additional voicing options, the Atlantis also features three polar patterns (cardioid, figure-8, and omni) and a -10db Gain and a +10 db Gain switch, which can be used to have less tonal imprint from a preamp, or to improve the signal-to-noise ratio over a longer cable run. The -10 db Gain switch is great for padding loud sources. The only thing missing from the Atlantis's swiss army knife of features is a high pass filter, but this is easy enough to do in a DAW or on a console. I still appreciate having the option on the microphone, so that the unwanted sub-sonic frequencies are not passing through the (pre)amplification stage.
Heil PR30 and PR40
Okay, I'm lumping these two together. They are both fantastically versatile large diaphragm dynamic microphones (broadcast mics). They are both boast a rugged build quality, cardioid polar patterns with excellent off-axis rejection, nearly-flat frequency response, that extends much higher than many dynamic mics, and most notably, very fast transient response, giving them a tonality similar to many condenser microphones. They can easily handle high SPL levels, and come with a sturdy and easy to use mounting clip, which can be a pleasant surprising after using large diaphragm dynamic clips from some other microphone manufactures (yes, I'm talking about you MD421!) An optional shock mount is available for both models.
Both models shine on the common sources associated with dynamic microphones, such as guitar and bass cabs, snare and toms. I have had great success with using the PR40 on voice over work, and kick drums, although it often requires some EQ sculpting, as it is not a tuned kick drum mic. I have heard reports on it working well on stand-up bass, although I have not had the chance to try this myself. It makes sense that the PR40 would work well here, as this is a common application for the Electro-Voice RE20, and the two are very comparable microphones. I have also used both on acoustic stringed instruments, such as guitars, on occasion, although they are seldom my first choice. I have had great success using the PR30 on acoustic guitar a few times, when I need it to cut through a loud rock mix, especially when there are also several distorted electric guitar tracks. Here, it seems to accentuate the high-mids in a pleasant way that can elevate the acoustic guitar track, despite the microphone sounding slightly thinner and less nuanced than most condensers.
Both are a great option if you have $350 to spend on a durable work-horse microphone, and one or both make it onto the majority of the songs that I record.
AUDIENT MIC PREAMPS
If you haven't heard of these guys, and you are looking for a solid 8-channel preamp, do your self a favour and look them up! They used to be a well know manufacture of large format recording consoles, but as a result of the DAW revolution, they have started to bundle 8 of their console preamps in a 1RU box. There are a lot of 8-channel preamps on the market now, but I firmly believe that the Audient units are the best bang for buck. To my ears, they sound a bit more coloured (in a good, interesting way) than the RME OctaMic series. They are packed with great features (depending on the model) such as variable low-pass filters, variable impedance switches, and saturation options.
The two current models, the ASP800 and ASP880, ship with burr-brown A/D converters, which is seriously badass! This means that if you have an interface with ADAT inputs, all you need to do is plug in one lightpipe cable to add an additional 8 inputs, which is great for expandability if you are starting with an interface such as the iD22 (Audient's equally badass interface) and need to record drums, or a session that requires more inputs. The DI inputs also use a JFET circuit, which is basically a type of transistor renowned for producing pleasant "tube-like" harmonics. My single complaint about the product line is that there are no power switches on the front of the unit. This isn't a huge problem, but it is an irritating oversight.
SE Electronics Reflexion Filter SPACE
The original Reflexion Filter Pro became a very popular in studios across the world after its release. I purchased one second hand, but was somewhat put off by its small radius (which I found led to a some colouration and boxiness in the midrange) and by its horrendous mounting hardware. The latter problem was such a nuisance that it hardly got used. I am pleased to say that both were addressed in with the redesigned SPACE model.
The layer structure of these filters is quite complex, as different materials and densities are necessary for broadband frequency absorption. In this model, vertical pillars were added for additional bass trapping. Overall, I'd say that the formula worked, as this sounds very balanced, ie, transparent, to my ears... not too mention less claustrophobic for the vocalist.
SE's reflexion filters have been replicated by many other manufactures now, but you always need to be careful about which model you buy. Many are just some foam mounted inside an acrylic shell, which may sound "acoustically dead" when you sing or clap your hands in front of it, but can drastically alter the frequency response of your curve, as you are primarily suppressing the highs with a simple slab of foam. Other models, such as the RealTraps Portable Vocal Booth and the Aston Halo look a bit more promising, but I don't have any hands-on experience with them, so I will refrain from making any judgements.
If you own a home studio or you frequently have to record vocals or voiceover in less-than-ideal acoustics, this may be the perfect product for you. The SPACE filter is very heavy, especially with a large tube microphone mounted on it, so make sure you heavy duty stand. I personally use and love the Micco/Bicci Ultimo SupremE floor stand so that I have some piece of mind that my microphone isn't going to nosedive onto the hardwood, but between the stand and reflexion filter, you are looking at a pretty seizable investment.