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Trying to decide which provides the most "natural" sound for recording vibes; Small diaphragm vs. large for condenser mics. I've attached two WAV files here in which I recorded myself with each of the two types (not actual tunes, just me improvising some lines and chords to try to capture the range and timbre of the instrument). File C-2 Mic test is a pair of Behringer C-2 pencil condenser mics. File CM2400 Mic test is a pair of Stellar Labs CM2400 large diaphragm condenser mics set for cardoid pickup pattern (I think Stellar Labs was a house brand of MCM Electronics). Both set of mics were positioned on stands at about ear level above the keyboard, piped through an ART Dual Pre USB interface (it provides phantom power) and recorded with Audacity. The vibe is a Musser M55. Same mallets used for both recordings.

I think the Behringers provide more "presence" and better accuracy for the high notes, which seems to comport with what I read about the response of small-D mics. The CM2400's sound to me a bit more in the "background". Any thoughts about the sound, or what you find in your own experience is welcome.


Randy_Sutin Fri, 10/20/2023 - 20:13

A couple years ago, Tony and I worked together to test a whole bunch of different mics, mic positions, preamps, cables, etc. all with the intent of informing ourselves about how we would prefer to record the vibes. If you do a search of this site for the words "mic wars" you will find the product of our research into that at that time.

spoiler alert: There is no "winner". It's all about style, your preferred sound, how the recording will be used and does the particular combination of technology get you where you want to be.

A good small cap condenser can be warmer, clearer and more responsive than a bad large cap and vice versa. In general, a small capsule will be more accurate at transient response and a larger capsule will respond to lower frequencies more accurately; that said, I can easily name at least 10 mics that go against that general description because of other elements of their design. ...which brings me to the two mics you tested against each other.

Condensor mics are widely considered to be a better choice for vibes than a dynamic mic. Ribbon mics are a whole other game plan, which can also be really cool, But, very low budget condenser mics and preamps, as you are using in this test bring their own frailty to the table and vibes is hard to record. As a result, both pairs of mics/preamps you are testing are distorting the signal a bit. Your preamp lacks a robust enough power supply to feed the spikes that vibes transients create, so it can't give the phantom power quite enough oomph to generate a clean signal. With that in mind, you might find that even a relatively low budget dynamic mic, like a Shure SM57, would do a better job for you because it doesn't rely on the phantom power.

We all deal with budget constraints. I don't own a pair of Neumann TLM170-R mics, which would be my choice if money weren't an object. Gary Burton swears by the Neumann U87, which are also too expensive for me to own. That said, I do have a pair of Neumann 184 which are excellent medium cap mics. I also really like my AEA R84 pair (ribbon mics). For super detail stuff I love my Earthworks SR-25. I say all this because my budget is obviously not as high as I would like, but substantially more than yours.

If you are looking to make great recordings on a budget, the first step is to figure out your budget. Post that here and I will be glad to recommend a pair of mics, some good cables and an interface that will fit that budget and get you going. If you're not comfortable doing that, I will offer this as a good low-end starting point:

- Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 interface. (around $200)
- Pair of Rode NT5 (small cap) or NT1A (large cap) microphones (around $450-500)
- pair of Mogami gold cables 15" (around $150)

If those mics are still too pricey for you, I understand. Get a pair of Shure SM57. You will never regret owning them and they are the mic of choice for recording lots of other percussion like snare drums, congas, cajon, etc.

Best of luck!!!

Paul Kaminsky Fri, 10/20/2023 - 20:46

In reply to by Randy_Sutin


Thanks for your detailed response. I will look for the Mic Wars post and consider the options you listed. Are you familiar with SE Electronics SE7? I’ve seen some good reviews on them. The mics and interface I used are indeed at the low(est) end of cost, and I don’t want to go too far up the scale.

Randy_Sutin Sat, 10/21/2023 - 11:10

In reply to by Paul Kaminsky

SE is an interesting company. They attempt to make clones of more pricey mics on a budget. Their designs are good; their quality control is not good. So...

If you want a pair of those, I would go to a store and try several pairs. Some will sound better than others. Don’t trust; verify. I have a different model SE which is very good but not at all like any others I’ve ever heard that are the same model. Listen carefully for noise and distortion. There will be some that are likely fine.

All of that said, your interface still may not handle them well. It lacks a robust power supply to handle the peaks a vibraphone creates.

Paul Kaminsky Sat, 10/21/2023 - 14:31

Your comment about the SE Electronics mics is well taken. As there is likely no store in my area (Nashville and environs) that would stock them (and I mostly shop online anyway), I'm inclined to take a pass on SE and "go RODE" at some point. In the meantime, I find that the Focusrite Scarlet 4i4 3rd gen is being discounted, so I've ordered one. Thanks again for your input.

jannickz Mon, 01/15/2024 - 02:02

Consider the type of music you are recording. If you are recording jazz vibes, you might want a warmer-sounding microphone, while if you are recording rock vibes, you might want a brighter-sounding microphone.
Experiment with different mic placements. The sound of your vibes can vary dramatically depending on where you place the microphones.