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SDC shootout for classical guitar
Old 18th September 2012
  #1
Here for the gear
 
Ton Meister's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Small diaphragm condenser mic shootout for classical guitar

I hope that this shootout, though neither scientific nor complete in any way, may help you find the right microphone for your purposes, or in the very least, provides some fun!

The guitar
The guitar is a rather bright sounding Prudencio Saez ‘Model 85’ supplied with Augustine Red strings.

The guitarist
I’m not a pro player, as you can tell. I played as consistent as I could. I use my nails and this is audible in the attack of the picking.

The piece
‘Lágrima’ by Francis Tarrega. It has both a low E and a high one, which will hopefully contribute to revealing the microphones’ qualities (or lack thereoff). I limited the takes to just the A en B part each once, for obvious reasons.

The room
The recordings were made in an untreated, pretty small living room with lots of stone and smooth surfaces. Some nasty reflections occur, and there’s quite some bass build-up in the corners. Overall, this room sucks for recording purposes (I will not evaluate the ‘living’ purposes here, but they suck too). For this shootout, I don’t believe that’s a problem though: this way, there’s an opportunity to compare the microphones in less-than-ideal circumstances.

Placement
The mics were placed parallel to each other on a T-bar, about 55 cm (21,6 inches) apart. The distance from the microphones to the instrument is 33 cm (13 inches). I’m aware that a spaced parallel pair may not be the most common or desirable approach for recording guitar. However, for the sake of comparability, I thought this was the best solution, especially because it’s pretty hard to position microphones accurately from the player’s side of the mics with a guitar in your lap (no extra pair of hands available, so I had to do some multitasking). Furthermore, I think that a fixed placement has (at least in this case) the advantage of not having to search for a ‘sweet spot’ which is 1) not necessarily the same spot for every microphone, and 2) arguably a matter of taste anyway. I also felt that this approach might reveal more of the ‘room factor’ which may be an important consideration when reviewing a microphone. Feel free to disagree… this is how I did it.

Technical approach
Signal chain: Microphones – FMR Audio Really Nice Preamp – line inputs TASCAM DP24 recorder (recording mode set to 24 bit / 48 kHz, no gain on the preamps) – Logic: bounced to WAVE 16 bit 44.1 kHz interleaved, dithering: Apogee UV22HR.

For all mics, input gain was set at 54 dB, except for the Beyerdynamics (48 dB) and the Sennheisers (60 dB). I set the peak level for the master outputs at 0 dB in Logic*. So in the end the mics with a lower output will pay a price in terms of a (at least relatively) higher noise floor in the resulting sound files. Left and right channels are panned to full left and full right. No relative level changes were made between left and right channel. No equalization, compression, etc. was used: what you’ll hear is the raw recording, except for the master level adjustment. Last but not least: All pads and filters were disengaged.

*In spite of cranking up the levels in Logic I couldn’t quite get the Sennheisers up to 0 dB. I could have normalised the tracks or used a plugin of some sort, but that may have changed the character of the sound too much. So I just left it this way.


And now…The microphones!
Starring in random order:

Rode NT55 (cardioid capsules, matched pair)
Beyerdynamic MC930 (cardioids, matched pair)
Neumann KM184 (“stereo set”, cardioids, not a matched pair, Neumann claim tolerances are low enough)
Behringer B-5 (cardioid capsules, not matched)
Studio Projects C4 MK-II (cardioid capsules, matched pair)
Sennheiser e614 (supercardioids, not matched)
Mystery pair (?)

The Rodes (albeit the NT5 version which is fixed cardioid but shares the same capsule), the Beyerdynamics and Neumanns are pretty popular microphones for recording guitars.
The Sennheisers, of course, are not: with their supercardioid pick-up pattern, lower sensitivity and higher self-noise they’re technically much better suited for drums and percussion.
The Studio Projects C4‘s are relatively unknown here in Holland and I couldn’t find a single professional review of them on the web; forum opinions on them are somewhat divided.
And yes, I included the ‘B’-brand... Behringer gets bashed a lot on GearSlutz, but so do the people who bash Behringer. Let your ears decide (and your wallet).
The mystery pair is… well, a mystery pair. This pair does not have a cardioid pickup pattern. I thought it would be nice to include them because the room I used for the shootout pretty much sucks, as mentioned before. Because of that, a different kind of pick-up pattern will most likely influence the recording more than average, and this may be of interest.

The SP C4’s and Behringer B-5‘s were kindly borrowed to me by Rein de Goeje. Thank you, Rein!

Due to upload restrictions, I had to convert the files to high-quality mp3. If you would like to hear the uncompressed WAV-files, download them here: SDC shootout.zip

Please PM me for the key, or e-mail me at: [email protected]. I’m really looking forward to your reactions, judgements, guesses, whatever you’d like to share, with lots of exceptions, of course.

Cheers from the Netherlands!

Ton
Attached Files

SDC 1.mp3 (1.46 MB, 1881 views)

SDC 2.mp3 (1.50 MB, 1816 views)

SDC 3.mp3 (1.44 MB, 1681 views)

SDC 4.mp3 (1.42 MB, 1664 views)

SDC 5.mp3 (1.45 MB, 1956 views)

SDC 6.mp3 (1.53 MB, 1679 views)

SDC 7.mp3 (1.47 MB, 1697 views)

Old 20th September 2012
  #2
Here for the gear
 
🎧 5 years
Great!

Thanks, great effort, man.

In order of what I like best:

2
5
7
6
4
1
3

My guess is that 2 are the Neumanns, 6 the Rodes (very bright). Not sure about the others. 3 sound very dull and lifeless, my guess is that these are the (hypercardioid?) mystery pair? I will pm you for the key
Old 20th September 2012
  #3
Lives for gear
 
mljung's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
Thanks for the test

In this setup I found that 5, 7 and 2 [probably in that order] they sounded the most relaxed and linear, to my ears. Looking forward to find out what those were.

I was surprised about the noise from 4, but that could maybe be the secret mic

::
Mads
Old 22nd September 2012
  #4
Here for the gear
 
🎧 5 years
Thanks for the key. I guess I'm a reasonably good guesser ;-)

Surprised about the number 7, I think they're quite good. A bit more mellow perhaps, 'softer' in tone, but quite musical.

I'd like to hear another shootout with these mics on western guitar, could you do that?
Old 26th September 2012 | Show parent
  #5
Here for the gear
 
Ton Meister's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by PetrJ ➡️
I'd like to hear another shootout with these mics on western guitar, could you do that?
The whole idea was to do this for classical guitar, for this one time, only ;-)

But hey, if you want to see / hear a great western guitar SDC mic shootout, check out Jeff Troxel's page:

Flatpicking Guitar Magazine: Articles: Small-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone Comparison

As someone else stated already, it's easily the best on the web.
Old 3rd October 2012
  #6
Here for the gear
 
Ton Meister's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
my own favorites

People keep mailing me about the key and my own personal preferences.

I still think it's best to listen first without knowing the key so I won't post it here...

...but surely I can share my own favorites with you:

1: #2 and #5 (each with it's own character, but both great)
3: #7 (not very precise, but quite pleasant)
4: #6 (much detail but too bright)
5: #4 (would have ranked higher if not so noisy)
6: #3 (not very suitable for this setup)
7: #1 (kinda thin and a bit on the harsh side)
Old 25th October 2012 | Show parent
  #7
Lives for gear
 
Graal's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ton Meister ➡️
People keep mailing me about the key and my own personal preferences.

I still think it's best to listen first without knowing the key so I won't post it here...

...but surely I can share my own favorites with you:

1: #2 and #5 (each with it's own character, but both great)
3: #7 (not very precise, but quite pleasant)
4: #6 (much detail but too bright)
5: #4 (would have ranked higher if not so noisy)
6: #3 (not very suitable for this setup)
7: #1 (kinda thin and a bit on the harsh side)

Key please?

Thanks!
Old 27th November 2012
  #8
Gear Nut
 
🎧 10 years
Thanks for doing this shootout on my instrument of choice!

My preferences: 5,7,2,6,4,1,3.

I agree that 4 probably would have ranked higher if not for the noise, although not much higher.

Could I get the key, please?
Old 27th November 2012 | Show parent
  #9
Lives for gear
 
Tinderwet's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by CGBrian.M ➡️
Could I get the key, please?
Old 27th November 2012
  #10
Lives for gear
 
jinksdingo's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Good on you for doing this!
Hold off on the results, it changes everything.

But the truth is my connection is throttled till end of the month and it'll take a long while.

Mystery pair?

My guess AKG's 451s of course or perhaps a real spinner a couple of those Niainat miniature mics.
Old 27th November 2012
  #11
Lives for gear
 
thenewyear's Avatar
Nice playing. I'm listening on crap headphones and can't work out whether I'm being lead by other's suggestions but I'm looking forward to the results.
Old 28th November 2012 | Show parent
  #12
Here for the gear
 
Ton Meister's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by jinksdingo ➡️
Good on you for doing this!
Hold off on the results, it changes everything.

But the truth is my connection is throttled till end of the month and it'll take a long while.

Mystery pair?

My guess AKG's 451s of course or perhaps a real spinner a couple of those Niainat miniature mics.
Nice guess, but... not the right guess...

Just let me know when you'd like the key.

Ton
Old 1st June 2013
  #13
Gear Nut
 
A.alden's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Thanks for the shootout! I have the SP C4's and I'm debating whether to upgrade to the mc930's or the km184's.

5, 2, and 7 are my favorites. 5 sounds the most detailed and musical, 2 has similar detail but with a little less low end. I'm going to guess that 7 is a nice omni. It sounds more open than the others and does the best job capturing the guitar's sustain.

Could I have the key?
Old 2nd June 2013
  #14
Gear Nut
 
🎧 10 years
Could I have the key too please.. I like 2,5,7 the most in that order
Old 2nd June 2013
  #15
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
Also 2,7,5 , can't decide if I like 5 or 7 more. Could you please also PM me the key, and reveal the "mystery pair"?
Old 1st August 2013
  #16
Gear Nut
 
🎧 10 years
2 7 different but I liket more
5 1 very close between them more midrange
3 4 6 very close between midrange fordward, less ambiance...

Key please
Old 22nd May 2014
  #17
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 10 years
I think 3 is the most precise, I think they are the Km184.
6 may be the NT5 and 5 the B5 or viceversa.
2 has a lot of noise.
Old 23rd May 2014
  #18
Lives for gear
 
bigdoghat's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I must be crazy because no-one else picked it but I liked 4 the best - it was the only one that put me in the room with the guitar and really connected me to the piece - pity about the noise though, although I'm not so sure it would be a deal breaker for me personally. I'm curious which mics they are, they seem to have something that the rest of them don't outside of 'tone'. They give some extra aliveness to the recording.
Old 7th June 2014 | Show parent
  #19
Here for the gear
 
Ton Meister's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by lagoausente ➡️
I think 3 is the most precise, I think they are the Km184.
6 may be the NT5 and 5 the B5 or viceversa.
2 has a lot of noise.
Most of your guesses are wrong ;-)

And, I'm afraid that I don't agree on the 'noise' on the #2.
Old 7th June 2014 | Show parent
  #20
Here for the gear
 
Ton Meister's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigdoghat ➡️
I must be crazy because no-one else picked it but I liked 4 the best - I'm curious which mics they are, they seem to have something that the rest of them don't outside of 'tone'. They give some extra aliveness to the recording.
I agree that they have something 'special' about the tone that makes them stand out. This might or might not be a good thing, depending on the source and the desired results.

Reading these remarks from different people, it struck me that I should have included a 'reference' mic that is very neutral, like the DPA 4011. That way, it would be possible for those who haven't witnessed the recording session, to judge if a mic is 'close to the real thing' or not. Without having heard the source, only recordings, this is impossible.

For me, it is clear that mic #2 was the most honest in picking up the sound of my guitar.

It doesn't mean that one should prefer the recording made using that mic, of course. I just found it to be the most accurate.
Old 8th June 2014
  #21
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Not able to tell much from listening here, but I also would put 7 at the bottom of the list.

In passing - I'm suspicious of one of the notes in the piece. Where the top line goes to the high E and then - E, D#, C# - on the third of these harmonies is that an F# on the quaver after the C#?

If it is, my apologies. My ear is not the best.
Old 29th September 2014
  #22
Lives for gear
 
Darth Preamp's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
What I liked in this order

1 - Seven
2 - Five
3 - One

The others sounded too bright, albeit in different ways.

DP
Old 10th October 2014
  #23
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
2,6,7,4
Key please?
Old 13th October 2014
  #24
Here for the gear
 
🎧 5 years
3 clean
7 ok nice but plasticky
2 meh…OK
5 too bright
1 tinny
6 noise bright
4 noisy


Can I have the Key?

thanks
Old 30th October 2014
  #25
Gear Addict
 
🎧 10 years
My picks are 5 then 2.... They seem the most balanced and smooth throughout the range.

Mic 5 seems to round off the edgey nail attack a little .

I could also live with 7.

Thanks for a helpful shootout..
Old 30th October 2014
  #26
Here for the gear
 
🎧 5 years
I'm a classical guitarist and i use Line audio cm3 to record guitars. I would want to try the beyer mc930 but couldn't so far...I don't like the km184 for classical guitar and i use the Nt5 for some time and thought it was decent but not as good as the others.
Here i liked more the 5, 7 (more noisy) and 2 . The others i find too bright for the guitar enhancing the nails noises.

Thanks for the shootout anyway, it's always interesting ! (could i have the answers ? thanks ;-))
Old 30th October 2014
  #27
Lives for gear
 
Reverb's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
2 on cheap headphones with my laptop.
Old 30th October 2014
  #28
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
5 and 3 were favorites, 2 and 6 least so.
Key?
Old 6th November 2014
  #29
Gear Addict
 
🎧 10 years
In the hope that the OP will do a conclusion piece regarding this shootout ...

I thought I would mention that he told me when he recently sent me the key that he no longer owns any of these mics and it would be interesting to know why ... and in particular what he owns now and his preferred mic for this guitar.

Hope this doesn't offend.... just trying to extend the wisdom....
Old 8th November 2014
  #30
Gear Addict
 
🎧 10 years
Nudge... Nudge.

I found it interesting that a couple of people were "anti-the-Neumann" but had blind-picked it as one of their preferred mics.
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