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Expanding Options: Condenser Mics In Live Applications
With their small size and light weight, they can be problem solvers in a wide range of applications...
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Attached & Hanging
The clamp-on technique for drums soon spilled over to other instruments. Now we have attachable mini mics for horns, acoustic guitar, upright bass, fiddle, and so on.

What are the advantages of attaching compared to stand-mounting?

—Less clutter on stage. There’s nothing between the musician and the audience.

—More consistent volume and tone. With a stand mic, the volume and tone changes when the player moves.

—Consistent sound from gig to gig. The musician always uses the same mic in the same position.

—Freedom of movement on stage. The player is not locked into a single position in front of a mic.

DPA Microphones is noted for its effective clamp-on mics, such as those found in the d:vote Series. They include a shock mount and windscreen (Figure 4). Another supplier is Applied Microphone Technology (AMT), which offers specialized models for horns, strings, woodwinds, drums and percussion, piano, and even accordion.

Figure 4: A DPA 4099 on a sax.

Some condensers mount right next to the instrument’s surface (Figure 5), outfitted with internal EQ to compensate for the tonal effects of close placement. For example, a flat-response mic in a guitar’s sound hole tends to sound boomy because of the sound hole’s resonance around 80-100 Hz. Mics designed for sound-hole placement are rolled off in the bass to compensate, resulting in a natural, non-boomy sound.

Another inconspicuous condenser for live sound is the hanging mic or choir mic. Suspended from the ceiling or mounted on thin stands, these mics nearly disappear in use. Thin boom stands are made by a variety of sources who usually also make choir mics.

Figure 5: A clip-on guitar mic.

So far we’ve covered mini models, but how about large-diaphragm condensers (LDCs)? Side-addressed designs with large diaphragms are the usual choice in the studio for vocals, and this type of mic is now affordable enough to take on the road. They’re a good choice on saxophone, trumpet, strings, and drum overheads.

There’s also been a return to the single-mic technique for bluegrass and “old-time” artists. The band members huddle around one or two LDCs and mix themselves acoustically by weaving toward and away from the mic(s). This application requires a low-noise mic with a good low-frequency response and a wide angle of pickup, and a large-diaphragm cardioid can do the job.

Figure 6: An AKG C535 EB cardioid condenser handheld microphone.

Road-tough condensers for vocalists are built with rugged steel grilles and thick handles to withstand drops and rough handling. Some examples are the Shure KSM9HS, Neumann KMS 104 and KMS 105, and AKG C535 EB (Figure 6).

In some models, the circuitry is encapsulated in waterproof conformal coating so that humidity and mouth spray are not serious problems. Especially for folk or jazz vocals, the uncolored, detailed sound of condenser mics is a treat to the sound mixer’s ears.

Condenser vocal mics come in wired and wireless formats, and analog or digital outputs. Many have an internal shock mount to reduce handling noise, and all have a large grille that acts as a pop filter. Some can handle 135-150 dB SPL with under 3 percent THD (check the mic’s data sheet). A capacitive pad can be used to attenuate the capsule’s signal so that it does not overload the electronics.

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