se mics

I just wanted to throw a quick, pretty uninformed opinion about these se mics onto the net. I might come back with something better after having listened to the session and after having researched the mics. As Mike suggested via email, our situation didn’t give us a great opportunity to test the individual characters of the mics. We had eight people stuffed into the room, all of them banging on stuff and bellowing any which way they wanted to turn their heads. I couldn’t use a very small number of mics, as certain quiet insturments figured largely in their songwriting alongside louder instruments. I decided to group the people by instrument type and throw mics on the different groups, accepting the inevitable bleed but gaining some control over the mix. I used the usual kick mic, an re10 on the snare, an atm 25 on the tiny, gnarled bass amp and the 421 on the tiny, gnarled guitar amp. I put the drums in the corner by the studio door, and, continuing in a semicircle along the wall we usually use for the amps, along the divider to A control, along the wall with the lockers, and ending at the loading door, I placed the amps, the air organs, the percussive strings (banjo, balalaika, acoustic guitars, homemade-lookin’ stuff, etc.), the saw,
the soft-voiced singer with autoharp, the cello, and, finally, the violin. I used the se3’s in an x-y pair on the cello and violin (so they faced directly away from the drums), the earthworks on the singer (hoping to get a little autoharp, too), the large diaphram se at the foot of the (quiet) saw player, the omnis in an overhead, spaced (4 ft.) pair in the vicinity of the percussive strings (those guys sang a lot, too). The voices through the omnis sounded okay, but too distant and not well enough controlled. The earthworks sounded amazing, though it didn’t get enough autoharp. Sorry Ramsey. No drum overheads required. The drums, though pretty quiet, came through everything. The scheme worked okay. I don’t think the situation could have produced a flawless-sounding set. One omni would have sounded badly mixed and terribly distant. I don’t feel bad about the choices I made (though I may change my mind after I listen to the set).

Onto the se’s. First, like the ksm 27 (and most large diaphrams, I’d wager), the se large diaphram got pretty washed out by bleed. Unlike the 27, it didn’t seem to have so much of the dark, almost breathy quality I’ve heard in other large diaphrams. The saw’s mellow mids came through more or less untainted. It sounded nowhere near as clinical as the earthworks, but better tempered than I expected. If I’m right, the mic is more versatile than the 27. It would probably do amazingly well with smooth male vocals, or quieter, smoother electric guitar. The key here is smooth. I think I really like this mic. I tenatively agree with Kyle’s opinion of the se3’s. They made the violin seem a little screachy at
times, although their peak at 10k sort of complimented the omnis. Apart from that peak, I would say the se3’s had a more traspartent sort of sound than the 81’s. They sort of made me think I was getting the benefit of a condenser mic without a sound immediately identifying itself as a condenser. They didn’t seem to create that sense of cavernous space other condensers seem to create for me. That could be a good thing. Maybe, just maybe, the 81’s sound a little more clinical and detailed than the se3’s. I’ll need to hear the se3’s a little more. Finally, I got the impression I could really hear the graininess of our preamps through the se3’s. We had a bad connection between one of the se3’s snake channels and that channel’s preamp, so maybe that explains the graininess. Again, these are just impressions. I might totally disagree with myself in a day’s time.

One thought on “se mics

  1. Andy sent me an email not long after my first post on this subject. He says:

    I might give the Z3300 a try (in cardioid mode) on a cello, but I’d shy away from using it on violin (in figure-8 mode in a dead room). The violin by itself can be a NASTY sounding instrument, and any mic with a high-end bump (like most LD condensers) will voice the violin too raspy/icy/scrapey, especially recording to digital (instead of tape).

    If you’re stuck with a top-end-hyped LD on violin, try de-essing it with a *true* de-esser or a frequency-selective compressor (not with a wideband-compressor with an EQ sidechained to it). If that doesn’t work, use an EQ to peel back some of the high-end.

    I know I’ve had this problem before with violin – I remember thinking the same thing while using a KSM27 during Death Vessel’s session. The question is: what mic’s in our collection are BEST for violin?

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