Chris Briley and I have often gone back and forth over our preferences on vocal mics and while we were in Nashville figured it would be worth a test of some different mics to see what we really prefer. It also seemed like a good idea to check out some of the different wireless options since I’ll most likely be changing our system(s) out next year thanks to the FCC. So we decided we would try and do an RF mic shootout up at Browns Bridge. We chose Browns Bridge since they have the Shure UHF-R system on hand, and the PA is currently the best sounding out of all our campuses.
Of course what started out as a little shootout turned into a bigger deal than I ever imagined with us hiring talent and gear manufacturer reps coming out. I think in total we tested about 18 different mics with male and female vocalists. The mics were primarily RF with a few hardwired thrown in for comparison. It was basically every vocal mic that Shure and Sennheiser/Neumann have to offer along with a couple Audix ones thrown in. You can see everything we tried out by watching the embedded video (RSS readers might need to visit the website). We had a live drummer on stage to simulate our stage noise with a full band running on tracks through the PA at a typical service level. Our talent sang a verse and chorus of a song on each microphone while we listened and multi-tracked the whole thing for future analysis. We had a standard high-pass setting and took a little bit out around 200 Hz on each mic, but other than that there was no processing done.
Now for those of you who are wondering about the results, here’s my take. It was honestly a little frustrating. All the mics sounded pretty good. In fact, for the first time in 2 years I didn’t hate 58’s. It was all different shades of great, and it really goes to show that if you have good talent with a good system, you can probably make just about any of these mics work. Of course there were definitely nuances to each mic, and I was surprised at times about what I actually preferred. But in the end I don’t think there was ever a case where any of us couldn’t have made something work.
It was definitely a cool thing for us to do because I don’t think any of us had ever listened to a lot of different vocal mics all at once. I don’t know how necessary it is to bring in every flavor of mic you can imagine, but if you have a few different flavors of vocal mics on hand, it could be a very informative thing for you and your volunteers to bring in a singer and have them test each of your different mic types. You might be surprised at the results.