Mic Wars continue... the Omega tests
So, in this chapter of mic wars, there is a clear winner and it is not the mics or the signal path. It is the Omega vibraphone. Tony brought his over to my place and we recorded a couple of short passes so I could work out some kinks in some of my new recording hardware without playing at the same time. The nearly complete lack of noise, the beautiful pure tone of the instrument, and Tony's playing together gave a perfect backdrop to test the mics, because all the tests sounded good.
Here's the gear involved...
Three pairs of mics involved here, all in spaced pairs and very near one another, so the mic perspective in all three sets should be almost beyond perception.
- Earthworks SR25
- Neumann KM184
- Aston Spirit (set to cardiod, no pad, no hi-pass filter)
Three different signal chains involved...
- Straight into my Universal Audio interface using its embedded preamp
- Straight into my Universal Audio interface using its embedded preamp with modifications to emulate a tube based preamp
- Into the Universal Audio interface as a line in, with a Neve preamp at the front end. (no pads or rolloff or silk settings in effect on the Neve. It was just there for clean gain).
The cables were 15' gold plated Mogami cables.
There are six clean audio samples (no EQ, compression or other processing) for everyone to compare. The clean samples are all recorded at 96/24.
- The KM184s into the UA with the tube emulation (omegatestkm184_ua_tube.wav)
- The KM184s into the Neve (omegatestkm184_neve.wav)
- The SR25s into the UA (omegatestSR25_ua.wav)
- the Sr25s into the UA with the tube emulation (omegatestSR25_ua_tube.wav)
- The Aston Spirits into the Neve (omegatestspirit_neve.wav)
- The Aston Spirits into UA (omegatest_spirit_ua.wav)
There are also three audio samples (the ones where the file name ends in X) with small amounts of compression, EQ and reverb as would be used in a final mix of a recording. These samples are also reduced in resolution to the standard 44.1/16 that is used for CDs.
Of special interest to me here is that often the mic that gives the "best" clean recording turns out later to be one that gives a recording that has some stuff that sounds less good once the recording has been mixed and mastered. The added detail that surfaces with compression, for instance, often highlights mallet noise and other negative factors (on my axe, rattles and squeaks, but the Omega did NOT have that problem).
People always ask, so... I don't really have a favorite here, to be perfectly honest.
I hear different flavors of good in all three signal chains and all three pairs of mics. That is why I own them. I think if I had to do a recording today of solo vibes with my axe, I would probably go with the Aston Spirits into the Neve, just to get the extra warmth and to hear all the subtones. I have been using the Neumann 184s for tracks I offer to people as part of group recordings because of what I hear as a little extra shimmer. On more new agey tracks, especially when playing very soft passages with very hard mallets, to my ears nothing beats the Earthworks because they are so literal and capture so much detail.
Bottom line, if there is a lesson here, it is that these differences are subtle, but it is in the subtle parts of music where the magic happens... and that also applies to recorded music, in my opinion. So, give them a listen if you are interested.
One caveat: if you are listening on laptop speakers or a pair of earbuds, you will likely hear very little difference if any at all. Like I said, these are subtle differences.
To compare the mics as Tony and I did... listen to omegatestspirit_neve.wav, omegatestkm184_ua_tube.wav, and omegatestSR25_ua.wav or omegatest_spirit_ua.wav, omegatestkm184_neve.wav, and omegatestSR25_ua_tube.wav
To compare the signal chains, listen to omegatestspirit_neve.wav and omegatest_spirit_ua.wav OR omegatestkm184_ua_tube.wav and omegatestkm184_neve.wav OR omegatestSR25_ua.wav and omegatestSR25_ua_tube.wav
To compare what happens when the raw, clean tracks are processed to hear what happens in the end to a normal recording listen to omegatestkm184_ua_tube.wav and omegatestkm184_ua_tubex.wav OR omegatestspirit_neve.wav and omegatestspirit_nevex.wav OR omegatestSR25_ua.wav and omegatestSR25_uax.wav
any feedback is greatly appreciated!