From Glastonbury to Coachella on the festival circuit to forays into late night television on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Gary Clark Jr. is taking his inspired fusion of blues, rock, soul, and hip-hop to the world.
Mark Corben, front of house engineer for Gary Clark Jr., is tasked with delivering that music to audiences across the globe, and has Earthworks microphones along for the ride.
In the Spring of 2016, Corben had the opportunity to try out the Earthworks SR25 cardioids for the first time and was instantly hooked. Since then, he has added the SR40V vocal microphone and DP30/C tom & snare microphone to his mic locker while touring with Gary Clark Jr.
“I wanted to try them out since first hearing about them. When I had the opportunity to do so, I fell in love with these mics.”
It was at Terminal 5 in New York that Corben first experienced Earthworks using SR25s as drum overheads. “I was just floored. I could finally hear the definition of the cymbals and the openness of the drum set. Then I was able to use a SR25 for an electric guitar cabinet, which has a lot of clarity and brings out a lot of detail. After that, I tried the SR40V vocal mic, which is just a wonderful thing. Then I got the DP30/C tom and snare mics. Once I had all these mics, everything became so much tighter and so consistent.”
Having a great drum sound really brings everything together, with Corben describing the Earthworks mics as game changers for the instrument.
“I have to say that the Earthworks drum microphones really make a difference. If your drum sounds are really washed, and you can’t hear cymbals, it detracts from the overall impact of the musical performance. Using the Earthworks SR25s for drum overheads and the DP30/Cs on toms was a real game changer. When I bring up the gain on these drum mics, it just happens. I’m not worried about a thing when using these mics for simulcast or streaming audio or anything like that because I know that everything is going to be there. Having the drums together makes everything else just fall in the pocket.”
Corben recalls the first time he first tried the SR40V on Gary Clark Jr.’s voice. “I could finally hear his articulation and could hear everything he was singing much more clearly, and could hear the characteristics of his voice more clearly. The SR40V is a magnitude more sensitive than other vocal mics we were using on him previously.”
The uncolored sound of Earthworks microphones is ideal when miking an artist like Gary Clark Jr., where the focus is really on the music.
“When I heard the Earthworks SR25 on Gary’s guitar, it brought it forward in a very clear way. The speed of the Earthworks microphones helps translate instruments and voice through the mix with much more clarity than anything I have heard before. It cuts through with more clarity and more articulation. Gary is the kind of artist where you want to hear exactly what he is doing, you don’t want to put him through too many filters or mess with it. You want it to be what it is. This is what we get when we use the Earthworks microphones.
“I don’t use reverb or delay in his mix for the most part, just some compression and high-pass filtering. Once I get the bass managed and get everything balanced and have it all in control, it becomes the music. The simplicity of it is key, as you are using minimalism for the sound and letting the music speak for itself. The Avid Profile mixing console is not known for its color. All I have to do is capture the sound correctly by using the proper microphones and let the music speak for itself. This is what I get when using the Earthworks microphones.”
“Gary’s guitar amp is a tube, hand-wired Fender Vibro-King, which is a very special amplifier that is very dynamic and completely changes tone when you push it with more volume. I use the Earthworks SR25 on this amp for most of our live performance and studio recording sessions. I have never had a problem with the SR25 getting swirly or brittle when miking guitar amps, which happens when you use some other types of mics on guitar amps. A lot of this has to do with the amount of sound pressure level a microphone will handle and the SR25 will take 145dB SPL, which is a bunch. I can just put the SR25 in front of the speaker in the amp and it works.”
Corben notes with his experience working with Earthworks and praises the continuation of Earthworks founder David Blackmer’s vision: “The people at the Earthworks factory are golden. I love that they are carrying on David Blackmer’s work. David was so brilliant; I wanted to give his microphone designs a shot. If you are a photographer, you always want to try out a lens first. You will never know how that lens looks until you put it on your camera and focus up. I can tell you that it’s sharp; I can tell you that the wide angle pushes everything in nicely, but you are not going to know until you actually use it. This same analogy applies to microphones—you can’t know what they are and what they do until you plug them in to try it.”
After a year with Earthworks microphones on the road and in the studio, Corben concludes: “These are the best microphones for clarity and depth. If you are an engineer and want to capture drums, there are no other mics I have found that are more accurate and better made than the SR25s. The DP30/C tom and snare mics are the best sounding, best made out there. If you want to hear all the detail of a vocalist, the SR40V is incredible. If you have a really good singer, the SR40V is your mic. Every time I hear these mics, it’s just like hearing them for the first time.”