Microphones for recording trombone

A subscriber recently asked me a very good question. He asked what microphone I use. He also asked for a mic recommendation. I think, however, the microphone is only half the answer. Let me explain.

The mic I use is a Neumann M149. At $5,000, it is out of the price range of many recording enthusiasts. I also use a Coles Ribbon mic which records nice round sound and is considerably less at around $1,500. The other mic I’ll recommend is the AKG414. They record a much harder sound than the tube of the Neumann but are pretty accurate. I use them more to mic my piano than for the trombone.

The other half of the answer I mentioned above is the mic pre-amp into which your microphone will feed and then color and amplify your sound. I have several, but my go-to pre-amp is the Joe Meek VC2. It’s a beautify warm tube amp that delivers more of the human quality to the trombone. I do not use the built-in compression or exciter since I can always add those later and not print the file with them.

You can have a great mic, but if you have a crappy mic-pre, you won’t get your money’s worth out of the mic. Yes, you can plug your mic into the mixing board or converter, but those are likely to be inferior to a stand-alone quality mic-pre. Often, the manufacturer provides those as accommodations to the user as an add-on to the main device. Not the same. Just like a stereo, separate components are superior to integrated systems.

My recommendation is to divide your budget into both a quality mic and mic-pre. Even if you compromise a bit on the mic in order to afford a decent mic-pre, it may very well be worth it. If possible, find a place that will rent you the equipment or a store with a return policy and then bring it all to a studio to try out. That is what I did many years ago in New York. I filled my SUV with equipment and just tried every permutation until I found my beloved mic and mic-pre combo.

Last, keep in mind that what sounds good to me may not be the sound your hear for yourself so don’t think that there is a “best” mic or mic-pre. Ideally, you have a sound in your head that you want to reproduce on the trombone. Now you have to go find the equipment that gets you closest to that sound.

To see more, watch my video, “How I get my recorded sound”.

2 Comments

  1. Duke on February 28, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    Hello Mike –
    Do you have a take on Microphones for Live Performance that is, when it’s possible to use your own and/or it’s your gig? And maybe your thoughts on what you might do with your sound live versus recorded. The aspects of recording your own individual voice are really interesting.
    Cheers and thanks.
    Duke

  2. Michael Lake on February 28, 2016 at 11:32 pm

    Hi Duke,

    Most of the live work I do is without mic, which I prefer. I play in one big band that has everyone use a clip-on lavalier. It’s convenient for solos but the student sound guys give it too much so that the amplified sound is harsh and drowns out the acoustical sound of the band.

    In live mic situations, I think I care more about the amp and speakers than the mic since I think a great sound system can make up for a mediocre mic but the best mic in the world will still sound like crap over a weak sound system.

    No comparison between my live sound and recording. I’m recording a new tune right now in which I am painstakingly crafting and polishing my sound though not just the mic and pre-amp but with various dynamic controls and filtering. Plus, the subtle nuances recorded in my playing become a big part of my final product – my individual voice. I really enjoy the immense control the studio gives me versus blowing into a sound system and hoping for the best as my sound is pushed out of a speaker.

    Thanks for the good question!

    Mike

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