Gear Talk: Microphones – Vocals

Well we are back for round two….this time it’s about vocals.  I wanted to do this group first because in the live setting I work within at my church, the vocals are what we build mixes around. Because our congregations look to our vocalist for not only the words and vocal rhythms  but also for the confidence to sing out themselves. It is extremely important for our listeners both in the room and online watching the stream to be able to easily and effortlessly understand what is being sung by the vocalists on stage, especially our worship leader for the weekend.

We make our front line band members all wireless and we are a shure house so all of our microphones that we use can be found within shure compatible microphones. We have a variety of capsules available to us but right now we have three main capsules. Those capsules are the sm58 (I’m betting you guessed this one), the KSM9, and the KSM8. We are currently testing the SE Electronics V7 MC1 and over the next couple weeks I’ll be throwing it at a few different situations and see how it stands up.  But for now, we will focus on the first three. I recognize that on paper, some of these mics perform differently but I am here to talk about what happens in real life, in my room, with the band that I’m working with so realize that things may play out a bit different depending on your exact setup and user.

Most weeks we customize the capsule to the singer but we also only have a limited number of each capsule so usually we just end up optimizing as best as we can. We use the sm58 as our microphone of choice for several situations.  The first of which is for new vocalists. I like to put this capsule in place when I’m unsure how someone will sing on stage. After a weekend on this microphone I can get a good feel about what that voice sounds like through a PA and then match it up to capsule that should serve to compliment it as best as possible.  It’s also the microphone we use when we have someone singing from the back row (sometimes we have a bass player or acoustic player singing from the back row). In either role the sm58 provides great rejection and even tones regardless of volume.  It’s not as warm of a sound as you might want but this isn’t a lead voice so we can add this back in if necessary or just go without.

The next capsule is the KSM9.  Since the release of the KSM8 we have used this capsule less and less but it still has a very important place in our space. We always try to match up bright microphones to voices that aren’t as bright.  The KSM9 is a great companion to those power female vocals that have no problems belting out the chorus line. The mic itself always has a very warm and smoothing tone to it which is great because within the microphone we can fix some issues making EQ either unnecessary or vastly reduced. It also does really well with rough handling.  This is definitely an improvement in many areas over the sm58 but it can struggle a bit with singers who don’t have the best mic presence as well as pick up a lot of stage volume, more so than the 58.  So you can be trading off added warmth for increased stage volume in some cases with some vocalists.

Next is the KSM8.  This is supposed to be an updated KSM9 as well as a brand new capsule. But what it just excels.  Here is a short video about what is new about this capsule! It is the first dualdyne capsule ever to be made.  Yep, you read that correctly, there are actually two diaphragms crammed into that capsule. I would say this particular mic’s biggest asset is the fact that it greatly minimizes the proximity effect. I love using it with our background singers as their mics aren’t on stands and they aren’t necessarily pro vocalists (many of them sing like they are though!). This means that more often than not, they are always in the sweet spot of the mic despite their enthusiasm in leading worship.  In our use this means that our vocals have cleaned up considerably, they are much clearer, and as a result mean that it is incredibly easy to lay the BGVs in the mix really well just right behind the lead vocal.  It has a reasonably flat response curve which means you’ll have to make sure and control the lower vocal spectrum as with our lead vocal I’ve had to do a bit more of an aggressive EQ curve to help manage that but I’ve really like having a deeper vocal if I want it.  Personally, I like mics and equipment that allow me to make the change at the sound board so that I can have full control over the sound at the board itself.

Having just received the V7MC1 from SE Electronics, I don’t have much to say yet.  But I will say, so far, I really like it on our lead vocalist Ben.  This capsule really makes his voice pop without much work. That means that it is quite a bit brighter than the KSM8 but we have the equipment to compensate for that if needed. What I have liked the most is that I don’t have to work to hard either with EQ or with our C6 plugin to make his voice pop, it just naturally raises to the top of the mix. I have also been able to throw a bit more gain at it before feedback than either of our KSM9 or KSM8 capsules which has been a nice option to have waiting if I need more power from our leader.

Well those are the capsules we generally use on our vocalists.  I know we are extremely blessed to have the resources to have 4 choices for capsules but we have come to realization that when you get to a certain level of quality it’s the little things that start to make a big difference.  The great thing is that both the sm58 and SE V7MC1 capsules are only $99 with the other two up around ~$350 or so.  As I’ve said before, it’s really early for us to say but that new V7 may be an awesome option for the more budget conscious techs when looking for something different on the other side of that vocal mic. The biggest thing to remember here is that if you have options and choices, make sure you are thinking about which mic has and should perform the best for each vocalist for every event that you do.

Be sure to speak up in the comments with any experience or thoughts that you may have!

2 Replies to “Gear Talk: Microphones – Vocals”

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