Love at first sight – make that love at first listen. Nadine, where’ve you been all my life?! Seriously, I play, record, and mix upright bass a lot. It is my Achilles heel. Especially since I have an affinity for my ‘70s Kay plywood dog house, which I consider the “Fender P Bass of uprights.” I also don’t ever change my strings. Needless to say, I’ve wrestled with the angel when it comes to achieving upright tone nirvana in my recordings. Nadine is a blessing to the upright bass. This mic takes the best of the thump and midrange clarity you want out of an unwieldy instrument, then sets it in the mix right where it belongs – plus, you don’t even need a mic stand! A few notable users include Christian McBride, Missy Raines, and Chris Wood. I had the good fortune to work with The Wood Brothers once, and their FOH engineer told me they ditched a competitive mic in favor of the Nadine that Ear Trumpet Labs had given them to try out.
The Ear Trumpet Labs Nadine is a medium/large-diaphragm hand-made microphone with a unique appearance, and an easy-to-use mounting system designed specifically for upright bass. It utilizes a permanently attached 14-inch Mogami cable and washer-mounted head to fit all sizes of upright bass. The “capsule and electronics are tuned for live use with excellent feedback rejection.” It incorporates internal shock dampers and comes with a 30-day full return policy and lifetime warranty. Ear Trumpet Labs had both live and studio applications in mind when they designed this mic.
The Nadine was simple enough to mount on my upright bass after watching a short instructional video on the Ear Trumpet Labs’ website. In the studio, I didn’t feel the need to use a DI to complement the Nadine – it has an awesome presence and thump with a slightly roomy sound even though it’s close mic’d. This could be an issue live, especially with loud drums. But man, you can really hear and feel the wood! One of the best design features is that the Nadine is mounted directly to the instrument, so your mic placement never changes. I for one like to move around once I’m in the groove, so this is awesome!
I had an opportunity to use the Nadine on a session with Hot Buttered Rum, a local San Francisco Bay Area Americana act. We were recording upright bass with drums and piano in the same room, so I saw this as a good test of the mic’s rejection ability. There was some bleed from the drums but not too much; just the right amount to make it sound live. I do think this scenario requires a sensitive drummer. The Nadine captured bassist Bryan Horne’s tone perfectly. The bottom end was round and bouncy, but not muddy, and I only had to scoop a small amount of low mid out to place it in the mix.
Following the session, Bryan took the Nadine on a gig. Here’s what he had to say: “I used it at one gig. I sent it to the house and not to my rig/cab and the FOH guy used it in the house. I wasn’t able to get the mic to my amp, just sent it to the house guy. If I could blend both mic and pickup together (you can do this with a Grace Designs FELiX2 acoustic instrument and mic preamp) and try that I think it’d be cool to try but I don’t have one of those yet.”
Once I got the mic back I tried just that with a Raven Labs PMB-2. I plugged my David Gage String Instruments Realist pickup into one channel, and the Nadine into the other, then the amp. The mic alone sounded excellent through the amp, and feedback rejection was good. I was able to get a fair amount of gain without a squelch, so I see this as a viable option for live performance. Blending the mic with the pickup created some interesting tone possibilities, ranging from boomy bluegrass thump to jazzy midrange. Clearly, Ear Trumpet Labs has worked hard to tune this mic for the stage, but as stated previously, the success of the Nadine in live settings depends largely on your drummer’s musicianship and your FOH engineer’s skills. I would be mindful of putting it in the monitors.
Just for kicks (pun intended), I put the Nadine in a bass drum to see what it would do. Since there’s no way to put this mic on a stand, I set it on a blanket inside the drum. The recorded sound was pretty punchy with a fair amount of attack. I did pick up a noticeable amount of the rest of the kit, but a low pass filter remedied much of that. So, it’s also useful as a kick drum mic if you are thinking of buying one, but don’t record a ton of upright bass. The Ear Trumpet Nadine is an incredible mic! If you play, record, or mix upright bass, you should own one.