Recording and Mixing Vocals

Microphone and Preamp

Wed Dec 02, 2015

I've read countless articles on mics and preamps. Forums like Gearslutz are fantastic for learning how the pros think in detail and nuance about every piece of gear and technique. You will rarely find an answer on 'the best' this or that. It all depends on the application and goal. But you will find consistent likes or recommendations if you apply what it is you're trying to do.

Sometimes I read debates on what more important, mics or preamps. My take away is this: Regardless of what mics you have now, you must get at least one good mic preamp. A mic pre will absolutely help bring out qualities in microphones you didn't know existed before.

I settled on a APA Juggernaut mic preamp.
The Juggernaut is a feature-rich preamp. It has an ability to adjust its input impedance. If you have multiple mics the impedance can be set to help each work as it should. Higher impedance settings bring out more bottom and high end sound frequencies. It's subtle put noticeable. This may or may not be desired but being able to adjust it is a plus.

Now that you have a quality mic pre. Finding mics that 'work' for specific applications come into play. The only mic I had for recording vocals was a Shure SM58. I'd plug it into my Avid MBox3 and get started. I purchased a Rode NT-1a a few years back. Many people like this mic for vocals but I never really liked the sound that much. Too brittle in the high-end. A little over a year ago I purchased a Stellar CM-5. The Stellar is a Chinese made 'clone' of a AKG C12. It's a tube mic and it sounds amazing.

I mentioned the Rode NT-1a. I haven't tried this mic, or the SM58 using the Juggernaut. I'm sure there will be a major 'improvement' in these mic now. Perhaps the Rode and MBox have an impedance matching issue and the high end brittleness of the Rode can now be tamed.

So which mic is best? Depends on the application and sound I'm looking for and what each mic can do. What I need to do now is spend time with each mic, with the preamp, and discover what they sound like. You'll see lots of shootouts on the web comparing equipment. I need to do my own shootout with my own equipment, in my own room and see what I get.

The vocals on the current tracks on Soundcloud are using the Rode directly into the MBox3. I'm working on new recordings and these will be with the CM-5/Juggernaut.