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Thread: 3D Mic CD Reviews

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Fort Wayne, IN, USA

    3D Mic CD Reviews

    Someone told me about a site that listed all the links to my site and I checked it out. I came across several reviews that I thought I would catalog here. They may be of interest to others. They were to me. I'm including the good, the bad and the ugly.

    First off from

    3D Audio Mic CD
    ******** First of all, so that you read this review with a properly-jaundiced eye, I want to say that I am not a professional audio engineer. I am a composer with a home studio. While I have some limited audio engineering chops, most of my experience in studios has been from the performer_s side of the glass. (Read all about it at My own engineering experience comes from recording pieces of my own chamber music, from recording electronic music with voices and from making some rather elaborate pieces of radio theater. (Again, I refer you to my website where you can even hear a streaming rendition of one of these pieces, although a Real Audio file streaming all the way from Australia to California makes for some thoroughly butchered audio!)
    ******** At any rate, my personal experience with choosing and placing mics is limited to my decidedly not too deep mic cabinet (2x Rode NT1000; 2X Shure SM81; Beyer M88; AT 4033; AT 4050, and a few other dustier things) running through Mackie boards into Alesis recording devices (ADATs for about 10 years and recently the HD24) and a Panasonic SV3700 DAT machine.
    ******** That said, here is my experience with the 3D Mic CD:
    ******** The 3D Mic CD is a collection of brief recordings of 2 singers (with what I would call commerically capable good voices) singing the same two brief tunes through 50 vocal mics each. Most of the mics are large diaphragm condensors, although there is an assortment of ribbons and dynamic mics as well. The mics range in price from sub $100 (Shure SM57) to $20,000 (a vintage Telefunken 251). Care was taken to standardize the rest of the recording chain, including the input levels of the mics.
    ********I took the producers advice to listen to the CD without knowing which mic I was listening to, as I listened to it. (The CD provides a useful coded track list and slating system that lets you keep track of mics without knowing which mic you are listening to on any given take.) As recommended, I listened with paper and pencil in hand and kept track of my impressions of each mic with a few brief comments and by starring the ones I liked. I went back and compared the starred mics and assigned one or two additional stars to the mics that I most preferred. Here are some questions and answers about my impressions:
    ****Which were your favorite mics?
    ********It does not matter. You should get the CD and choose your own favorite mics.
    ****Could you hear the difference between mics?
    ******** Yes. Mostly.
    ****Could you hear the difference between a sub $100 mic and a $20,00 mic?
    ******** Yes.
    ****Is the difference worth $19,900?
    ******** Given my current personal relationship to money, definitely not.
    ****Did the sub $100 mic sound “cheap?”
    ******** Not at all. in fact, I liked it better than many of the over $1,000 mics.
    ****Did any of the tested mics sound cheap or unusable?
    ******** Nope. I expect that good recordings could be made with any of them.
    ****Can you name some of the tested brands?
    ********The complete list and a thorough write-up of 3D Audio_s recording technique is at 3Daudio The list includes mics by ADK, AEA, AKG, AT, BLUE, Brauner, CAD, Coles, DPA, Earthworks, ElectroVoice, GT Electronics, Lawson, MM, Manley, Microtech-Gefell, Neumann, Rode, Royer, Sanken, Sennheiser, Sheffield, Shure Sony, Soundelux and Telefunken.
    ****Should I base my next mic purchase on my hearing this CD?
    ******** Definitely not. The CD_s producers remind us that they intend this experience to be a starting point to help you choose which mics you might further investigate with in- person trials.
    ****Are there any mics which you now want to try as a result of hearing this CD?
    ********Yes. The Shure SM7, because I don’t have a large diaphragm condensor, and I very much liked the way it sounded. I was also very impressed with the Neumann TLM 103 which, like the SM7, is not outside the range of what I can afford.
    ****Were there any revelations on listening?
    ********Yes. Previously, I had not had much experience with ribbon mics, and it was interesting to hear them. Mostly they were not my preference for these two voices. On the whole, they sounded darker and woolier than I had expected. Please don’t think I’m dismissing them as a class of mic! Remember, I am just honestly reporting my reactions to two singers singing through a bunch of mics, and for this purpose, most of these particular ribbons did not move me.
    ****Anything else?
    ******** Yes. It occured to me that this learning tool may not be as helpful to a beginner as it might be to an experienced engineer. It seems to me that it is one thing to know how a mic sounds on a solo voice, but it is quite another to know how that voice track might sit in a mix. On the other hand, I appreciated the chance to exercise the listening/discriminating portion of my brain, and I am guessing that every experience like this will nudge me on in my quest to make better recordings.
    ****Are you glad you spent two hours on this?
    ********Yes. Very. I like learning things. That is my kind of fun. Life should be fun.
    Garry Eister
    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio

    Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Fort Wayne, IN, USA
    From the Boston Audio Society:

    4. EQ mag for June 2000 featured a shootout between 33 mike preamps. Some attempt at objective testing was made by matching the levels to .02 dB, blind testing, and covering the preamps with a black cloth. However the source was a range of microphones with a live vocalist or instrumentalist performing the same music over and over! The variability of the live performance would swamp the tiny differences in the preamps, in my opinion. A pair of CDs will be available of the tests: It would have been informative to measure the frequency response of the preamps with the microphone attached using a signal injection technique, i.e. through a small value resistor in series with the mike feed. The output impedance of mikes having transformer coupled outputs can vary with frequency and cause frequency response differences to appear with different preamp input loadings. Since they were testing preamps, not microphones, a recorded source could have used (still using the signal injection method), eliminating the variability of a live performer. Obviously an enormous amount of work was put into this project, to no avail.
    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio

    Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Fort Wayne, IN, USA
    From which is a set of recorded samples and represents an enormous amount of work.

    Presonus M80 Transformer Listening Tests
    by John L Rice December 2000

    This page provides access to many sound samples that can be used to compare the difference in sound between two channels of a Presonus model M80 eight channel microphone preamplifier and describes the manner in which they were gathered. One of the channels compared had a Jensen Transformers model JT-11K8-APC input transformer installed and the other channel had a Presonus generic transformer installed.

    It is important to realize that even though a lot of time, effort and resources went into this comparison test to make it accurate and useful, this is NOT a particularly scientific or controlled test. Many things were either ignored, assumed accurate and / or forgotten about at the time of testing and any one of these could adversely affect the results.


    "How To Listen To The Samples

    IMPORTANT : The sound of both of the different preamp channels is contained within each MP3 and WAV file. To be able to compare them DO NOT LISTEN TO THEM IN STEREO! Listen to the right side by it's self and then listen to the left side by itself.

    You can do this by quickly turning the pan control back and forth on your stereo or with the pan control on your computer software. The best method seems to be to play the files into your mixer, pan each channel dead center and then use the mixer's channel mute buttons to alternate back and forth between the two.

    I used this method so that the two channels could be rapidly compared against each other and the listener isn't required to 'remember' what one sounded like while the other is listened to. Also, in comparison tests where many separate performances are recorded through different mics or preamps, slight variations in the performances can occur and can be distracting when trying to listen for subtleties in the sound quality.

    That said, the main problem with this method is that, as earlier mentioned, two mics cannot be in the exact same place at the same time and even very slight differences in the position of a microphone can change the sound it picks up. In retrospect I probably should of used mics with an omni pickup pattern instead of the cardioid pattern mics I did use since omnis might of been less sensitive to the slight positioning differences. ( see the Microphone Expressions Lexicon for explanations of microphone polar patterns and more! )

    If you are interested in doing more listening tests beyond what this site has to offer be sure to check out Lynn Fuston's 3D Audio site and his excellent and very precisely done 3D Pre CD's and the 3D Mic CD. These CD's will allow you to audition and compare over $200,000 worth of mic preamps and mics right in your own studio. After experiencing the time and effort it took me to produce this simple site I am suitably humbled and impressed with Lynn's fine efforts!"
    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio

    Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Fort Wayne, IN, USA
    Here's another one from AudioMedia magazine:

    Microphone Shoot-Out

    3D Audio hosts an impressive microphone test that compares over 50 new and vintage microphones. DOUG MITCHELL attends, listens and reports.

    Recently, a group of engineers gathered in Franklin, Tennessee at Classic Recording to survey an impressive collection of over 50 contemporary and vintage microphones. In a blind listening environment they compared the relative qualities of each microphone in two series of tests. The first compared 49 mics with female vocals as the source signal and the second compared 50 mics with male vocals as the source.

    The Set-up

    Lynn Fuston of 3D Audio organized the event, and Dan Kennedy of Great River Electronics participated as technical advisor and provided a calibrated switching system for individual microphone comparisons. The test set-up was designed to present as neutral and repeatable an evaluation of each microphone as is possible while discounting subtle variations in human performance.

    Fuston and Kennedy also developed the test paradigms. The first tests utilized ten channels of Great River MP-2 MH microphone pre-amps. Each set of ten signal paths were set up identically. Initially, the female vocalist sang into a sound pressure level meter and her average dB range was documented. Then, with ten mics (double randomly selected and unknown to test participants) mounted on stands, each mic was calibrated for identical output level. This was accomplished by placing an Auratone loudspeaker a specific distance (the distance the vocalist assumed for each test was approximately 11 inches) from each microphone capsule. A Heathkit signal generator was used to provide a 400Hz sine wave at the documented output level obtained from the vocalist. The Auratone speaker was powered by a Crown D60 amplifier. To assure proper polarity for each microphone, a diode was placed across the terminals of the generator to create an identifiable half wave clip edge. The output of each pre-amp was calibrated for identical output down 2dB from a calibrated +4dBm 0Vu setting using a proprietary switcher/level trimmer developed by Kennedy.

    The output of each pre-amplifier channel could be trimmed to within 0.2dB tolerance. All cables used in the test were identical-length Kiwi cables by Blue. The signal passing from the switcher/trimmer was simultaneously routed through a splitter to the monitor path and the record path. The record path consisted of a Prism Dream AD-2 set to convert at a rate of 88.2kHz, 24-bit.

    The output of the A/D converter was fed to the AES/EBU input of a SADiE disk recording system. For later playback, the output of the SADiE system was routed through a Prism Dream D/A converter. Simultaneous monitoring of the tests was accomplished by taking the balanced split output of the switcher/trimmer to the monitor line input of an AMR 24 console. The monitor gain was fixed to an SPL calibrated setting of 96dB RMS averaged, played through Tannoy DMT 10 Mk II monitors powered by a 175W/channel Harman Kardon Citation 16 amplifier.

    The second tests substituted a Grace 801 eight-channel microphone pre-amp for the ten channels of Great River pre-amplification. Thus, ten listening comparisons could be made at the first sitting, while eight were made at the second sitting on the following day with the male vocalist.

    The Mics

    The microphones compared in the tests included: ADK A 51 t.III; AEA R 44C; AKG C 414 B-ULS, Solid Tube, C 12VR, C 3000B, and vintage C 12 and C 414; Audio Technica 4033/SM, 4047, 4050/CM5 and 4060; Blue Bottle, Dragonfly and Mouse; Brauner VM-1; CAD VSM; Cole 4038; DPA 3541; Earthworks QTC-1; Electro-Voice RE 20; GT Electronics AM 62; Lawson L 47 MP and L 251; Lucid-by-Stayne MM 2000; Manley Reference Gold and Reference Cardioid; Microtech-Gefell M-930; Neumann TLM 103, M 147, M 149, U 87 ai and vintage U 47, U 67, M 49; Røde Classic; Royer R-121; Sanken CU-41; Sennheiser 421-II and MKH-800 P48; Sheffield; Shure SM-7a, SM-57, KSM32 SL and KSM44 SL; Sony C-800G; Soundelux U 95S, U 99 and ELUX 251 and Telefunken vintage 251.

    I participated in all of the tests and found the results as performed in real time to be nothing short of amazing. At the end of each day George Cumbee, owner of Classic Recording, and his engineering assistants Bob Williams and David Streit would announce the as yet unidentified microphones. All of the test participants would indicate their impressions of each microphone's performance and then the microphone would be identified. I found myself respecting microphones I have used before on vocals while simultaneously thinking that some may have performed better in other scenarios.

    The Results

    The test results as captured by the SADiE system are now available via CD release at the 3D Audio website, with shipment commencing in the first part of February.

    Fuston comments: "This CD is probably the only way some people will ever hear a Telefunken 251, a Soundelux Elux 251 and the Lawson L251 in the same setting on the same vocalist and the same song perfectly level-matched. It's a unique opportunity."

    As an added incentive, a random drawing among the first 1000 orders will be held and winners will receive either a Neumann TLM-103, Shure KSM32 SL, Shure KSM44 or an ADK Area 51 tube microphone. The drawing will be held in May 2001 (see 3D Audio's website for details).

    I think the CD should provide a great resource for those who, unlike myself, have not had the opportunity to reference each of these great microphones in one sitting.
    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio

    Making beautiful music SEEM easy since 1979.

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