Tuesday, December 15

New Gear: Studio Projects B1

Having already found an interesting little mic that colors acoustic guitar in a really flattering way (MXL 991), I was searching for a nice, even microphone for vocals so that I could use ProTools to scratch out some demos and eventually get myself out into the world, just like the hundreds of other artists on the internets. Admittedly, this is a bit like using a flamethrower to clear the snow off of your driveway, but I wanted scalability, and dagnabit, I got it! After some good advice, I started looking really seriously at the Studio Projects B1.

In my mind, the first thing I needed to decide was whether I wanted a good dynamic microphone, which could easily come with me on gigs or fill other live-sound needs (and would subsequently maintain some kind of constant between recordings and live sound), or a good condenser or ribbon (or tube, or any other variant) mic that was more fragile but better suited to controlled, studio use. To this day, I'm not sure that the choice I made is the same one I would make again, because for someone who is going to be playing out a lot more, that consistency would be really nice. But either way, I settled upon the B1, which is a Large Diaphram Condenser.

The differences in technology between condensers and dynamics is a topic in and of itself, but in an extremely simplified explanation, dynamic microphones are less sensitive, can take higher sound levels without distorting (where distortion, unlike in a tube amp, is a bad thing) and can also generally handle a lot more physical abuse; getting dropped, stepped on, not explode under Phantom power, etc. A condenser mic is more sensitive, which leads to more accurate sound (but can also lead to more background noise in a noisy environment) and is what Phantom power was designed for. Hence, while a good studio will have every kind of microphone you could imagine, you tend to see really nice condensers in a studio setting, whereas you would almost never use one live, or at least, not in a vocal application. But as with anything else in music, rules were made to be broken! (which can sometimes lead to broken microphones!)

As with everything I've bought while still being in making-some-money-but-primarily-paying-down-student-loans mode, I got a pretty good deal on this one, though even at the standard street price of about $100, this mic (supposedly) holds it's own against other similar microphones priced 10 times higher. I can't really comment on that myself, having only this and two other microphones in my microphone closet, but I will say that I got way more than I thought in terms of accessories. I think that this must be one of the newest versions. Some features include two different pads (-10 and -20 dB), two high-pass filters (75 hz and 150 hz), a shock-mount, a sweet wooden box to house the microphone, and a windscreen for when I'm recording, umm, bird-calls in the wild. I think virtually all of these were absent in v1, so I definitely profited from waiting a bit.

As for the sound? I need to play with it a lot more, but it seems pretty even, frequency wise. I did do a bit of recording on a tune I wrote a while ago called "Fair Warning", which I put up on my very own MySpace. Yay! The acoustic is done with the MXL 991 (12th fret, 45 degrees towards the soundhole), the vocals with the B1. And I don't have a pop filter, so I was being a bit...cautious, vocally. But I threw it into ProTools, jammed the obligatory reverb and eq on there (and a bit of compression on the vocals), and there you have it. And ignore the lyrics. They're quasi-temporary. Unless you love them. Then they're super-permanent!

My overall rating? Definitely worth the price, if you need something that can jam on vocals and acoustic (though I haven't tried it yet, but a lot of people have claimed to like it). And honestly, for $100, you'd be hard-pressed to find something better.

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