I recorded two guitar licks directly into Pro Tools HD at 24-bit,
48kHz using a Creation Audio Labs MW1 and a stock early-nineties
American Standard Telecaster, set to the middle pickup position.
We then fed that output into a Mesa Boogie MKIV (Full power,
Triode and Simul-Class settings) head and a Boogie 4x12 cabinet with Black Shadow speakers in Moshay’s A-frame live room
(plugged into a balanced power source).
Using our ears to pick the best speaker, we then placed each mic
directly on axis, about two inches from the grill, just to the left outside
the center of the cone. We used a Little Labs IBP to run the signal from
Pro Tools to the amp, bringing the +4dB line level signal to guitar level.
Each lick was recorded first on the Boogie’s Channel 1 clean setting,
then on Channel 3 with some tube saturation. We used a Focusrite
ISA 828 on Medium impedance (which we felt imparted the least
coloration on the varied mic impedances), running the signal directly
into Pro Tools with the preamp’s A/D converters, all clocked with an
Apogee Electronics Big Ben. No patch bay was used.
The only adjustments made were to maintain a consistent signal where
the peaks hit around - 3–4 dB, using a 1kHz tone sent into the amp at
approximately -25dB. With all the various types, models and dynamic
ranges of the mics, it’s not a perfect science to get exact measurements
and levels, but we tried to keep everything as even as possible.
Royer R- 121
Neumann U 87 (Ai)
Certainly a classic, this reliable, rugged
dynamic mic has a frequency response of
40Hz–15kHz. Its relatively tight cardioid polar
pattern and ability to take high volumes
make it a first-call on many sessions. Due to
its aggressive mid-range growl, it’s a perfect
companion to blend with “darker” mics.
When it comes to bang for the buck, the
SM57 is hard to beat.
The R- 121 is a dynamic Ribbon mic with a
Figure- 8 polar pattern. Like other ribbons, it’s
warm, creamy and natural. Unlike most other
ribbons, it was built to take a max SPL rating of
135dB, making it a great cabinet mic. Also, by
turning it around and reversing the phase, the
back is sonically brighter at distances of two
feet and closer. We found its face-front sound
to be one of our favorites overall for warmth
and character—a perfect blend with an SM57.
Another legendary classic, this large diaphragm mic has three polar patterns (
cardioid, omni, figure- 8). We used an older model
in cardioid mode, but the new Ai version has
circuitry to increase the headroom by 10dB.
With the rear switch attenuated, the U 87
can take up to 127dB and has a frequency
response of 20Hz–20kHz. You can hear the
“beef” on both clean and distorted parts,
and very nice attitude on distorted sound.
Almost always thought of as a vocal mic,
sometimes you just have to put one up on a
cabinet. Like the SM57, its price, midrange
peak, 50Hz–15kHz frequency response and
ability to handle massive gain make it a mic
drawer classic. Essentially a 57 with a different grill and more girth, it sounded surprisingly good on the clean parts.
Earthworks QTC1 (Same as QTC40)
An omni? Sure, why not! The QTC’s small
diaphragm gives it a realistic and accurate
sound. A super-wide frequency range of
4Hz–40kHz and max acoustic input of 142dB
SPL make it a great option. It had a very
natural sound—what you heard in the room is
what came out of the speakers.
Sennheiser MD 421
A cardioid mic with a five-position bass roll-off (to help eliminate proximity effect), this
mic is a classic tone heard for decades now.
Its frequency response of 30Hz–17kHz and
ability to take very high SPLs give it a full,
round sound. It works great with other mics,
and by itself sounded warm and full, with
slightly rolled off highs.