What a Difference a Mic Makes

Hey folks – long time no see. I’ve been busy with all kinds of stuff, like vacations and piano practice (If I work really hard… sometimes I get a sticker on my sheet music!). But, I’ve also been working on Cody’s record. I bet you folks thought I forgot about it huh? Well, no fucking way.

But, what have we been up to? A couple of things, wanna take a guess? Yep, you’re right – some changes in microphones.

You see, well, I sorta fucked up. We did some vocal recordings and well, they were crap. I let Cody clip the microphone and I didn’t really admit that I fucked up until well into the mix of Ever Wonder. I sat there, trying to mix the damn thing, and asking myself, “is that really distortion?”. I did everything I could to tell myself that it wasn’t; I’m a terrible liar.  Garbage in, garbage out… for shame.

Now, with any late stage project, the last thing you want to do is re-record. Re-recording means well, I’ve gotta re-do the edits, and throw out the work I’d done on the mix (of the vocals, anyway). But, I’d learned things since the original recording, and I supposed I should put those bits of knowledge to good use.

I had two options once we had decided to re-record: 1.) Use the same mic (GrooveTube GT57), and just do a better job (hey kids, I learned the value of a mic’s -10db pad, who knew it had a use?). 2.) Use a different mic that’s more suited to Cody’s style of singing.

Of course, I wanted to do number 2, but what mic would I use? Most of my other mics were not suited for Cody, and in fact, I think they sound like shit; shit wasn’t the sound I was going for. My best alternative would be one of the condensers in my matched pair that I used on Cody’s guitar – and while they sounded good, they’d have similar issues to my GrooveTube when Cody really pushed his voice. I also wanted more texture than using one mic on everything would give me, and finally, I didn’t want the sound of those mics for the vocals.

No, none of these options would do.  I had too many good reasons not to use any of the mics I owned.  And I had a good reason to add another mic to my collection.

But which mic?  I’d done a little reading up and the Shure SM7B had caught my eye. There were a number of things I really liked about it:

  • It was a dynamic mic – These mics can take a beating from a vocalist due to the fundamentals of their design.  It was pretty damn near impossible that Cody was going to clip the mic itself when he pushed his voice (you can overdrive condensers no prob, and we struggled a lot to get Cody’s other songs not to clip – he’s just got a strong sexy “dynamic” voice, why not use a dynamic mic?  See what I did there?).
  • Michael Jackson used it on Thriller.  And well, you’ve all heard thriller right?  Thinking about what Michael Jackson can do, it makes a lot of sense to me (now) that they used this mic.
  • The SM7B is actually fucking affordable.  I’m always hung up on 5000 dollar condensers (and I still am) but this mic is about 450 bucks.  I’ll get a Nueman some other time.

And fuck, when I got it home – it sounded good, damn good.  Very different than the GrooveTube too – but you can judge for yourself in a second.  My take on it is, the GrooveTube is really good at subtle stuff in the highs.  While this is really great in some applications, with Cody it really accented breathing, and breathing related activities which got in our way a few times.  Sure, there are some nice subtle sparkle bits it brought out for him – but on some of his songs, we needed less of that sparkle breathy high stuff, and a mic that Cody could go to town on.

The Shure on the other hand is smoove.  Yes, smoove.  Or, in other words, smooth as fuck.  At least, this is my take away.  A little less of that high-end detail, great mid range, and just… smooth.  I don’t know how else to describe it.

Cody loved it too, and so we re-recorded two of the track son it.  Smoove, like buttah.  But you don’t need to take my word for it, here’s a comparison of the two – these are normalized but all processing is removed.  And, the GrooveTube recording is the original, with the mic clipping, please forgive me… I’m still learning.

The GrooveTube GT57

The Shure SM7B

Both of these excerpts are from Ever Wonder, one of the 5 songs on Cody’s upcoming release.

Judge for yourself.  I can find reasons to use any of my mics, but for these tracks the Shure SM7B is definitely the winner in my arsenal.  I’m excited I have it, and can’t wait to try it on some more singers.  Maybe Marlena or Zoe?  Only if we’re all a little lucky.