Mic Comparison – Four More Clips

Friday, June 26th, 2009

I posted a link to yesterday’s blog post at a couple of recording forums and one guitar site. I started threads at the Reaper Forum, on Gearslutz, and at the Acoustic Guitar Forum. It’s been interesting reading people’s reactions.

As I expected, some folks reject the validity of these controlled tests, stating that different mics respond to different positioning in different ways, and their performance in their optimal position is the important issue. I can only suggest that they try some controlled testing in those different positions. After all, if the difference really exists, it should be apparent when levels and positions are matched, right?

And as I expected, some people pointed out that mics with different patterns and mics with very different transducer technology, like ribbon mics, sound different from the cardioid condensers I used. I absolutely agree.

Also as I expected, some people suggested that my use of a single source, the acoustic guitar, is preventing me from hearing the differences, which show themselves on cymbals and vocals. As Dirty Harry was wont to say, “A man’s gotta know his limitations.” I don’t record those sources so I don’t use them for testing .

One comment that has come up a couple of times is that the mics I chose were too similar, all large diaphragm mics from the low end of the spectrum. So I pulled out my highest priced mic, a Schoeps CMC64 small diaphragm condenser, and stuck it in the array.

Variety is the Spice of Mics?

For a little more variety, I replaced the Rode and AT mics with the Shure KSM141 and KSM44. So this set of clips includes two large diaphragm mics and two SD mics, and the price spread ranges from under $200 to over $1500.

I followed the same procedure I illustrated in yesterday’s post, aligning mic diaphragms by eye, playing a test tone through a small speaker about 1 foot from the mics, then adjusting gain on the M-Audio Profire 2626 to match their levels as well as possible in Reaper. Then I recorded the test tone followed by the acoustic guitar clip.

Mics and Clips

So here are the mics:

CAD M179
Schoeps CMC64
Shure KSM44
Shure KSM141

and here are the clips:

download 20090626-F.wav
download 20090626-G.wav
download 20090626-H.wav
download 20090626-I.wav

As before, I’ll post the key to the clip identities in a future blog entry. Or if you post your opinion and preference in a comment here or on one of the forums I visit I’ll email or PM the information to you.

Philosophical Musing

Please let me take a moment to wax philosophical here. No one has reported doing double blind ABX comparisons on the clips so far. Several posters have offered opinions on the sonic qualities of the clips, but no one has confirmed that they can actually hear a difference! This seems to be human nature, but I think that skipping the double blind check is missing a really valuable learning experience.



This entry was posted on Friday, June 26th, 2009 at 8:36 pm and is filed under Audio, Comparisons. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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    93 Responses to ' Mic Comparison – Four More Clips '

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    1. Fran Guidry said in post # 1,

      on October 21st, 2011 at 1:25 pm

      Hi, Byron, sorry it took me so long, but I finally emailed you the key.

      Fran

    2. Tom said in post # 2,

      on November 22nd, 2011 at 5:16 pm

      I like F and G. Please send me the key.
      Tom

    3. Igor said in post # 3,

      on January 19th, 2012 at 3:47 am

      “Like you I started out looking for the “best” mic, and spent thousands of dollars only to find myself now believing that mics make a lot less difference than I expected.”

      At least you were honest enough to admit it. Many guys aren’t. Not only are they not honest enough to admit it to themselves, but they encourage others to make the same mistakes they did.

    4. Charles said in post # 4,

      on February 2nd, 2012 at 3:41 pm

      Hi Fran,
      Thanks for taking the time and effort to do these shootouts. I find them very helpful and entertaining. I see that this is over two years old, but since it looks like you’re still emailing the mic identities…
      F and I seem to share the most similarity with each other. Likewise for G and H. F and I sound a little smoother to me, where as G and H might have a little more high end detail. For me, I found F and I more pleasant, while G and H were bordering on harsh in this particular application. I’m guessing that F and I are the LD’s and G and H the SD’s:
      F- KSM44
      G- CMC64
      H- KSM141
      I- M179

    5. Fran Guidry said in post # 5,

      on February 2nd, 2012 at 5:05 pm

      Charles, I just emailed you the key.

      I don’t know if you pay attention to cognition and bias issues, but we humans simply can’t operate without bias, and all the rigamarole with matching and blinding is a very minimal effort to defend against the limits of our perception and decision making systems.

      These clips with the labels on them are worse than useless for comparative listening. The knowledge of the source will be a large part of the listening process and the decision will be made on grounds other than the objectively audible differences.

      Besides, its a lot more fun this way (grin).

      Fran

    6. William Bajzek said in post # 6,

      on April 4th, 2012 at 5:08 am

      Hi Fran,
      Right now I record through a CAD m179, through a Yamaha mixer, into my R09hr or my Canon T3i depending on whether I’m recording just audio or video. I’ve been thinking about lots of ways in which I could improve my recording setup lately, including replacing my Edirol R09hr, saving up for some Schoeps mics, etc. But your shootouts may have convinced me that I should just get a second m179 for stereo and be done with it. I think I hear a tiny difference in the treble on these four mics, but I can’t get better than 60% ABXing these. At least no difference that would make one far better for my classical guitar.

      I’ve never had any mics that cost more than $400 for the pair, but I always come back to the CAD. My mixer’s nothing amazing but with those two running line into my Edirol, I can get a noise floor lower than the average on professional CDs that I’ve heard.

      One thing I have noticed is that I felt like the audio in my youtube videos (http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9447EDDD2C1E1E17) all sounds dull to me compared to my Edirol recordings, at first. But the Edirol has a pretty strong treble boost to it. What I’m getting recording into the camera may just be more flat. It contributes its own noise floor, unfortunately, but for Youtube I don’t mind so much.

    7. William Bajzek said in post # 7,

      on April 4th, 2012 at 6:43 pm

      OK, I gave it another go a few more times, until I could get 80-100% each time. I don’t have a clue which mic is which, because I have only used the CAD, but here are my impressions, in order of my preference.

      f warm. my favorite
      i very similar to f with higher treble peak. a little deeper
      g a bit thin and boxy, but just slightly
      h harsh in the upper midrange. the most obviously different from the others.

    8. Fran Guidry said in post # 8,

      on April 4th, 2012 at 8:46 pm

      Hey, William, sorry I failed to respond with the key after your first post. I’ll email it to you right away.

      The statistics on ABX are interesting. In order to achieve a fair degree of certainty you need to have a sufficient number of trials and a sufficient number of successes – 13 right out of 16 trials is generally considered a demonstration of audible difference, while anything less could easily be achieved by guessing in a reasonable number of cases. The Hydrogen Audio forum seems to be a place where this gets discussed a lot.

      In any case, your observations add a lot of value to the discussion, thanks very much for participating. I know that it’s actually hard work to do these kinds of comparisons when the differences are so small.

      Fran

    9. Cindy said in post # 9,

      on May 17th, 2012 at 10:23 am

      Hello Fran, I’m very new to this, but I’m gonna be recording an acoustic guitar soon- which led me here.

      Personally, I>F>G>H

      I feel that “I” covers the spectrum and it’s still able to bring out the bright tone of the guitar. F on the other hand is a bit lacking of what “I” is able to produce, and G maybe missing a little mids, and H is very harsh and I feel that the sounds coming out are quite messy :/ But when I attempted to put F and G together, I actually quite liked the sound!

      P.S. I might be very off and I haven’t used any of those mics before so pardon me, but I’m curious to know the key! Thanks for the clips! 🙂
      Cindy

    10. Fran Guidry said in post # 10,

      on May 17th, 2012 at 1:52 pm

      Cindy, thanks for commenting. I’ve sent you the key.

      Fran

    11. Ton said in post # 11,

      on August 17th, 2012 at 11:07 am

      Hi there,

      I just bumped into this, doing some research about the M179. Thanks for the shootout. And, very nice playing!
      Hope you still read these comments, I would love to get the key.

      I liked the best, very tight lows, smooth highs. Of course I hope it’s the CAD 🙂 but my guess is the Schoeps. I liked H the less, a bit on the harsh side. Both F and G would be perectly usable. Haven’t worked with either of these mics so can’t tell for sure.

      Thanks mate, good job.

    12. Fran Guidry said in post # 12,

      on August 17th, 2012 at 12:44 pm

      I’ve sent the key via email. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      Fran

    13. Miško said in post # 13,

      on December 14th, 2012 at 6:04 am

      Hi, Fran, guys and girls.
      Tested using crap desktop satelites, el cheapo’s, but some difference still perceivable. Done ABX test in foobar2000.
      First impression:
      F a bit flat at first
      G a bit flat at first
      H right on better than F & G
      I At first impression this sounded the best, smooth mid, and transparent highs

      ABX-test:
      F against G: – G is brighter, more transient in the highs; however scored 3/6
      G against H: – G is brighter, more transient in the highs; however again scored 3/6
      H against I: – I is more lifelike, better transients and tonal balance; score 5/6
      G against I: – I is more natural, highs are less harsh and the whole sounds more as a… whole
      F against H: – F more natural strings, rounded, highs less pronounced; scored 6/6
      F against I: – I is more natural, rounded sound, more lifelike; yet scored only 4/6

      My favourite is I, followed by F, but that could be heavily under influence of cheap speakers.
      Notice: when the concentration is better the score seems to get higher. Perhaps.
      I might repeat the test with the good speakers and/or Nokia BH-905i headphones.
      The model names of this mikes tell me nothing. I am new to it. Thus rather impartial. I would expect that “I” is the most expensive, and “F” perhaps affordable best buy.
      I understand your guitar obsession, Fran, but the human voice is mentally and physiologically the easiest medium to distinguish. Educated sound engineers know this when trying out the studio monitors.
      Thank you form sharing this with us. I only have Zoom H2 and had thoughts about upgrading with H2n or H4n as I record choral music but the question is, is the H4n’s pre amp really so much better than H2n’s. Sony doesn’t impress me.
      Am I the last contributor here in 2012?

    14. Fran Guidry said in post # 14,

      on December 14th, 2012 at 10:02 am

      Thanks for your detailed comment. I’ve sent you the key via email.

      Just to mention, real confidence in detecting a difference comes with 13 correct our of 16 trials.

      Fran

    15. pang said in post # 15,

      on April 28th, 2013 at 2:58 pm

      Hi Fran,

      Could you send me the keys? It’s amazing to hear how similar these mics are to each other. I wanted to get a pair of m179 and I’ve been a little hesitant until now. Thanks for posting this.

    16. Fran Guidry said in post # 16,

      on April 28th, 2013 at 4:26 pm

      I sent the key via email. And since you mentioned the M179 specifically, I added that other folks have experienced issues with the M179 and their audio interface, preamp, or recorder.

      Apparently some devices that advertise 48v phantom do not implement it properly and fail to deliver the specified maximum current. And the CAD M179 is among those mics that do draw the maximum. This leads to poor performance, especially when pairs of M179s are employed.

      I think it’s a very useful mic, but I recommend confirming the max current capacity of the device you want to plug it into.

      Fran

    17. Stan said in post # 17,

      on May 23rd, 2013 at 7:56 am

      Hi Fran

      Found your website today. Great approach and testing. I was listening to the samples on bad speakers but I would say that g & h would be a SDC.
      I’m getting ready to buy a cad so this is very helpful to me.
      Shure KSM449
      Schoeps CMC64
      Shure KSM141
      CAD M17 ???
      Thanks for posting.

      Stan

    18. Sergio said in post # 18,

      on September 24th, 2013 at 8:45 am

      Hello Fran,
      I´m interested on this comparison because i´m thinking about buying a pair of Ksm141. I´ve been listening some mic samples in other blogs, and i want to try my ear training…

      F: Schoeps , The most equilibrate. Seems a km184 with sweeter sound.
      G: Ksm 141, very good bottom and high end definition (medium diaphragm). Soft and “hidden” mids.
      H: Ksm 44, Boosted higher-mids presence (a vocal mic response)
      I: Cad, noisier one, a bit worse high end

      F is the theoric better sound, which fix very good in the mix, but in some cases i could prefer G with more personality and in your face crispy sound.
      In order i like F, G, H, I
      I would like to hear a comparison including ksm32 and beyer mc930 could be very interesting.
      Thank you very much, and hope to get the key,
      Sergio

    19. Fran Guidry said in post # 19,

      on September 24th, 2013 at 10:27 am

      I sent the key via email. Thanks for participating.

      Fran

    20. John DeMoss said in post # 20,

      on October 4th, 2013 at 8:41 pm

      Thanks!keep running into this on different forums…
      can you send me the key?

    21. Fran Guidry said in post # 21,

      on October 5th, 2013 at 7:25 am

      Hi, John,

      I just sent the key via email.

      Fran

    22. Felipe said in post # 22,

      on January 16th, 2014 at 12:37 pm

      I think: H < I < F < G

      Can you send the key please? I need to decide if I buy a pair of new rode nt1 or m5 until monday (mostly for guitar)!

      Thanls

    23. Fran Guidry said in post # 23,

      on January 16th, 2014 at 10:25 pm

      Hi, Felipe,

      I just sent the key via email.

      Fran

    24. andrea said in post # 24,

      on April 3rd, 2014 at 1:49 pm

      hi fran

      I think the shoeps are clip F and KSM141 clip G! Could you email me the key?

      cheers

      andrea 🙂

    25. Joe said in post # 25,

      on June 17th, 2014 at 10:27 am

      Hi: Could you send me the key of mic tested on your condenser mic comparison june,26,2009? Also ,.. do you have any experience comparing the m179 to the e300s also from cad? as far as I read they have the same capsule but the few reviews about the e300s says that its better suited for vocals. I am interested in the m179 for vocals due to the variable pattern technology but most reviews say they are good for guitar but not so much for vocas. Some of the clips I found on you tube of the m179 for vocals sounded as good as anything so I wonder is the e300s have some special sound that sounds even better. Thanks for your help and great article.

    26. Fran Guidry said in post # 26,

      on June 17th, 2014 at 12:28 pm

      First I would say that 90%+ of what I read on the internet about microphones is a waste of time and energy.

      Second, that the difference between microphones is in general much much much less important than the source, the room, and the mic placement.

      Third, I hope you’ve listened carefully to these samples and made some notes about your preferences, since your self-education is the main point of providing the samples.

      I’ve never had any experience with the E300.

      I sent the key via email.

      Thanks for visiting,
      Fran

    27. GOs said in post # 27,

      on July 27th, 2014 at 2:11 am

      There’s nothing stupider than making us email you to get the key. I’ve listened to thousands of microphone shootouts over the years, and very rarely do a few idiots make you literally email them just to find out a key.

      I don’t want to have to fucking have an EMAIL CONVERSATION, and give out my email????

      As if we’re babies and we’re too literally retarded to manage to listen to some blind files before we decide to scroll down and check a key.

      If you want to not be an asshole, simply provide a “Key.txt” file for download so that someone can view the key whenever the time is right for them personally.

      You really think you’re accomplishing something by making them email you rather than download a text file? As if they’re going to cheat by looking at the text file, but not by emailing you?

      You must not be very smart if you haven’t figured out there is no logic in that and all you did was waste your own time.

      We are not idiots. Provide a key.txt.

    28. GOs said in post # 28,

      on July 27th, 2014 at 2:14 am

      Meanwhile this is yet another shootout that goes in the garbage bin cause some retard didn’t provide the key. Half the time a few years have passed and the guy isn’t even contactable anymore. That one’s happened various times.

    29. GOs said in post # 29,

      on July 27th, 2014 at 2:16 am

      I just ran into a few more of your tests on Gearslutz. Apparently every test you’ve ever done is worthless. Cause none of them have keys.

    30. Fran Guidry said in post # 30,

      on July 27th, 2014 at 9:02 am

      Since you’ve listened to thousands of mic comparos you won’t mind not having the keys to mine, right?

      In all the years I’ve been doing this you’re the first person to respond so rudely and the first to complain about having to email for the key. Believe me, I have no need to satisfy you, I was doing fine before you showed up and I’ll do just fine after you disappear. But with the attitude you display I’ll bet you don’t have a very pleasant life.

      Sorry ’bout that.

      Fran

    31. Frank Haselhorst said in post # 31,

      on November 27th, 2014 at 9:04 am

      Thank you for your patience (last posts in July) and hard work. Your “mission” has merit. I seem to be leaning more towards F. I would love to know the key if you are still providing it. Thank you – Love on.

    32. russ said in post # 32,

      on January 7th, 2015 at 2:27 am

      I enjoyed the test and would love to have the key. Thanks!

    33. Fergus said in post # 33,

      on January 7th, 2015 at 7:26 pm

      I’m becoming addicted to your clips, can you send me the key, thanks 🙂

    34. Scott Hendershot said in post # 34,

      on February 20th, 2015 at 10:06 am

      Thank you for doing this test. I own a CAD M179 but have not used it much. Would love to understand how it compares to the other mics here. Could I also have the key? (btw your email tool thinks I’m spam…)

    35. kamil said in post # 35,

      on March 6th, 2015 at 5:15 pm

      Very interesting, it’s be nice to have some vocal samples too. Thanks for doing this ! Can I have the key pls ? 🙂

    36. Fran Guidry said in post # 36,

      on March 7th, 2015 at 3:29 pm

      Keys have been sent.

      Fran

    37. Fran Guidry said in post # 37,

      on March 7th, 2015 at 3:32 pm

      I’m not sure what went wrong but several people requested keys recently and I was not notified as I usually am. I believe the problem may be that these folks did not enter an email in their comment, so I’m unable to respond as I usually do.

      Scott Hendershot, Fergus, russ, Frank Haselhorst, if you’d like the key please contact me at fran.guidry@gmail.com so I can send you the key.

      Fran

    38. Fran Guidry said in post # 38,

      on March 22nd, 2015 at 11:00 am

      I finally figured out that Gmail was putting blog posts in the spam folder instead of my inbox for the last few months. I believe I’ve responded to all the key requests and other comments and found a solution to the problem. My apologies.

      Fran

    39. Joachim Budweiser said in post # 39,

      on May 10th, 2015 at 10:34 am

      great shootout! i would guess:

      F = KSM44, little highmid bump, good transient-detail
      G = KSM141, most transient-details, very natural FR
      H = Cad M179, hyped, weak transients
      I = Schoeps, very natural FR, good transient-detail

      key please 😉 thanks!

    40. Fran Guidry said in post # 40,

      on May 10th, 2015 at 11:01 am

      Thanks for visiting and commenting. I’ve sent the key via email.

      Fran

    41. chris howe said in post # 41,

      on July 6th, 2015 at 5:08 am

      Would like the key if you are still doing this! I have been researching the KSM 141s for a while now. I’m also curious if my hunch that sample “I” is actually a large diaphragm mic. If it is the KSM as many seem to think, wow! But it just sound a little too big to be a small diaphragm, to me. Thanks if you are still following up on this! Cheers!

    42. Fran Guidry said in post # 42,

      on July 7th, 2015 at 8:13 am

      Key sent via email.

      Do you really think “big sound” comes from big mics?

      What makes a sound sound “big” other than volume?

      Fran

    43. Joachim said in post # 43,

      on November 28th, 2016 at 3:32 am

      Hi Fran, nice Shootout, old i know. Could you still please send me the key? Thx and many regards, Joachim

    Leave a reply






    About the Blog

      Howdy, my name is Fran Guidry and this is my Homebrewed Music blog.

      I play Hawaiian slack key guitar and recorded my solo acoustic CD at home. Most of the recording information I find on the internet seems focused on bands, drums, multitracking, and so on but my main focus is recording solo acoustic guitar. Lately I’ve been enjoying video recording along with audio, so that shows up in the blog as well.

      I’m also a guitar nut. I love big ones and little ones, handmades and factory guitars, cheap ones and expensive ones. So I’ll be sharing the fun of exploring guitars as well, along with the challenges of amplifying acoustic guitars for live performance.

      Welcome!

    Philosophy

      My recording philosophy is pragmatic, skeptical, not super critical. After all, the performance is by far the most important component of a track, and every aspect of any recording is a matter of taste.

      But I do like to know “about stuff.” Back in hifi days I learned about double blind testing. I learned that we humans can easily hear differences that don’t really exist. The more I’ve learned about our human auditory system, the more I’m skeptical of what people say they hear, especially if they claim that a particular microphone or preamp or cable has some magical property.

      I’ve only been recording since 2001, and when I started I found the usual places on the internet. I sought advice and accepted it, thought I would improve my recordings by using more expensive equipment. It didn’t work.

      Two things that did seem to lead to better recordings were experience and room treatment. Getting an appealing sound is the combination of many small details, and learning those details only comes from experience. Amd the sound of the recording space is obviously a big factor.

      I’ve only recorded seriously using digital technology, but I remember trying to record rehearsals and gigs back in analog days. I don’t have any nostalgia for analog recording and playback systems at all. I think even low end digital systems can capture marvelous recordings. So when I look at gear, I look for good specs: low noise, broad flat frequency response, wide dynamic range, low distortion. I’m not interested in colorful components, mics and preamps with a sound, I want the sound to be the sound of my guitar.

      But the last word is that I’m just learning and I hope you find something useful in my posts.