“I was 12 when I took my first recording class at Fullerton Community College. My dad was on staff there teaching stringed instruments, and it was a no-brainer for me to sit in on the class when he took a sabbatical to learn everything there was to learn about electronic music and recording. I’d already gotten great at programming a Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 and a Yamaha DX-7 with MIDI from Master Tracks Pro in my Apple IIe. And when I stepped into that control room and saw the ICBM sized Otari MTR-90 spooling 2″ tape at 30 inches per second, and VU needles and leds flashing everywhere with excited folks crammed in there loving the experience…I was hooked. The energy. The awesomeness. The smell. It was recording at its finest.
I mean a $120,000 tape machine a $95,000 mixing console, $45,000 in rack gear, $4,000 JBL speakers in a $35,000 tuned room. Then there were the microphones: U 87s. 414 ELBs, 421s, SM 58s and 57s, 451s. KM 84s, and of course the giant EV RE20. Dozens of them…to the tune of dozens of thousands of dollars. Do you remember your first time in the studio?
But I also remember thinking how expensive everything was, and wondering why it HAD to be so unattainable for stuff that (with the exception of the MTR-90) wasn’t too complicated.
Set the way-back machine forward 35 years to 2018 and the idea of a $120,000 tape machine that gives you a whopping 24 tracks for 15 minutes to the tune of 22 kHz is utter nonsense. A mixer that gives you 30 channels with automation and compression/limiting/eq on every channel is not only a 4-rack unit you can run from you iphone, but it costs 99% less than the one we used back in those days.
But some things don’t change: the microphone. I was asked last year during an interview for Cinema Sound what I saw on the horizon as the “new and cutting edge audio technology.” Well, there’s only so many ways you can record and perform sound waves. And we’re going to be having microphones and speakers for some time to come. Still, with modern manufacturing, are we any better off with modern microphones than we were back in the “glory days” of the U87 – or even the U47?
Well, yes. A thousand times yes. But not in the way you’d think. And while tube microphones are great when recorded into digital PCM machines, the biggest difference is value.
The Sony UWP system was one of the most rock solid wireless TX/RX systems I’d ever used when we employed them on Sound Advice, but at $900/channel, that’s a brutal cost for something that’s just sending a single channel somewhere else. And for $600 less, you can get two channels in the form of the Saramonic UW Mic9 system. Is it as good? No. But is it only 1/6th as good ($900 for 1 channel vs. $300 for two)? No way. The value of the UW Mic9 is off the charts comparatively. And for those of us who are independent media creatives, this is the most wonderful time to be making powerful immersive media, because the gear has come down so much. How about a shotgun mic? Is the Sennheiser 416 worth the $1,500? Yep. But is the TM-7 from Saramonic a way better deal at $400? Double Yep. And with a narrower polar pattern. Is it noisier and a little less robust? Totally. But I’ll take a little of that given that it’s at least a 400% better value.
And if you’re like me, you want the best value not necessarily the best piece of gear ever…especially when we’re not rich – yet.
So, if you’re like me – an independent creative who wants the BEST value for microphones, and you want to be able to listen to them and compare, take a listen to the Cinema Sound education Volume 3 Chapter 3 where I put up several different types of microphones and show you the difference right away. You can rent or purchase that chapter.
You can also access the Cinema Sound Microphone Archive for Free anytime.”
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