Mike McDonald has been recording bands in the Cleveland area for a short time now with his mobile Big Toe Recording setup and has recently been doing a bit of work out of Don Depew's 609studio.  Here's some of his "more pricey" picks for cool mics to have.

Beyer MC834

This large-diaphragm condenser mic has excelled in almost every application. It's got a wide, flat frequency response and is able to handle extremely high SPL's.  The tone is natural without being dull and crisp with being shrill.  It's a nifty choice for bass guitar amplifiers.  If at first listen, the bass doesn't poke through in the upper-middle frequencies, realize that most ears are used to hearing the usual dynamic mics (Sennheiser MD421, AKG D112, Shure SM57) with presence peaks in that range. A boost in that area at the amp helps considerable.  I've also had great luck with this mic on drum sets, guitar amps, vocal, piano...  This is a great "main mic" for those on a budget.  I got mine new for only $625 through Full Compass.  It's a great alternative to the similarly-priced and now all-too-common AT 4033.

Coles 4038

Speaking of all-too-common, this ribbon mic has soared in popularity in the last few years.  It's success is not unwarranted, however.  I have been attracted to ribbon mics since hearing an RCA DX 77 many months ago, and when I found out the Coles was used as the drum overhead at Abbey Road, it became a must have.  This mic imparts a thickness to anything it touches:  drums, acoustic guitars, guitar amps, vocals...  My favorite use is as a drum overhead. The high-end in the cymbals is smoothed out (or chopped off, as some drummers I've recorded have complained), and the drums themselves have an incredible amount of punch.  Steve Albini is a massive advocate of this mic on guitar amps, where it does shine brightly.  The cool thing about this, or any ribbon mic, is the contrasting tone as opposed to the brighter condenser or the more mid-rangy dynamic.  They give the recordist greater flexibility to mix with microphones, rather than with processing.

Shure SM81

I've never been too fond of these mics, probably because I used a pair for a year while recording classical ensembles direct to DAT with a  pair of headphones as my only monitors.  Man, after an hour of recording, I would suffer from a major case of ice-pick-in-ear syndrome.  (Switching to another mic preamp helped considerable, so maybe it wasn't entirely the mics' fault.)  However, I recently experienced Don Depew (609, Cleveland) using these on guitar amps and was blown away.  Aimed with the diaphragm parallel to the speaker cone, this mic yielded an absolutely huge guitar sound.  The bottom-end was intact and the mids and top were detailed, though still a little harsh at times.  Really great sound from an unassuming mic in an unexpected application.

Microtech Gefell UM 70k

This is a dandy of a mic with a cool background.  It's made by the East German half of Neumann and marketed as a piece of history to American boobs like myself.  It uses the M7 capsule, which was used in the U47 and other Neumanns.  This is a large-diaphragm, multi-patterned mic, which seems to emphasize the upper-mids highs.  It's my first choice for a vocal mic, because it allows the vocal to cut through without EQ.  I find it a little much top-end wise for use as a drum overhead mic, but it works great for percussion.  I basically use it for anything I want to emphasize or poke through better in a mix.  This particular model, the "k" version, seems to be only available through Full Compass.  It's got a difference in noise specs and is a few hundred bucks cheaper than the non-"k" version.  I should also add that in trying to discover what the "k" version was all about, I spoke with the guy who imports and helps develop these mics, and he was very cool and treated me like a person when most would have talked down to me.  More people like this should be in the recording game.


I must have waited on a thousand tables to get my pair of 414's.  I thought that owning these would make me "professional".  A few years later, I'm more of a professional waiter than anything else.  These just don't floor me.  They are on the dull side with no sparkle on top. ...

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