Can a $1599 microphone match up to an undisputed classic? Hear it for yourself...

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of

Tuesday March 12, 2013

In my opinion, there is no such thing as a valid microphone 'shoot-out'. In the first place, I live in the Oxfordshire (UK) countryside and the only shoot-outs here are the ones that bag pheasants for the pot. It isn't a word we commonly use on this side of the pond.

Secondly, and more seriously, there are so many variables in the ways in which microphones are used, no one comparison test can identify which is the overall best microphone from a selection of close-running contenders.

But although a shoot-out can never come up with a definitive result, microphone comparisons are always useful. The microphone is the most fundamental and important tool of the recording engineer, and developing an appreciation of the capabilities of microphones is a vital skill. Such an appreciation can only truly be developed by using and listening to microphones in many sessions over many years.

Here's an audio file that I recommend you download and audition in your DAW, through your studio monitor loudspeakers. To listen on your laptop speakers wouldn't really do it justice. I suggest you do this before you continue reading...

Yes it's rather repetitive. But that's so you can listen carefully and make your own analysis. The file alternates line by line. The first line is Mic A, the second Mic B, the third Mic A again, etc. etc. to the end.

If you listen to the file enough times, you will start to hear subtle differences between the mics. I won't tell you actually what to listen out for because I don't regard my opinion as any better than yours, and these matters are utterly subjective.

To add some clarity, here's a spectrogram. Mic A is shown in green, Mic B in red...

It looks from this that Mic B has been recorded a little higher in level, but other than that there are only quite subtle differences in frequency balance. Mic B seems to be stronger in the low bass, and high top end.

Of course, you can't see everything from a spectrogram, but they can be useful in offering further information on what you should be listening for.

Which mic is better?

It is difficult to say which mic is better on this test. I would be inclined to say that they are impressively similar. I can't see that the choice would be make-or-break in any real life recording scenario. It's all down to which you prefer, and which you prefer working with. If you find that you have a preference, and can describe why, feel free to comment below.

Which mic is which?

Ah, now we get to the real question. I'll let my source answer the question for you, in this YouTube video, from where the examples came...

It's an interesting test, and a well-made demonstration. The inclusion of a third mic, in my opinion, complicates the issue, and since it isn't a genuine vintage classic it brings in, for me, one variable too many.

Personally, having had the opportunity to use several examples of the Neumann U47, I would be very happy to give the Lauten Audio Atlantis a try. Whether it would prove to be as good an all-rounder is a different question, but in this test it certainly stands up well.

P.S. You might ask whether, since the audio in my example file came from the YouTube video, maybe it has been messed about with in some way by YouTube's audio mangler. Well yes it might, and the original studio master .wav file might tell you something more, or something different. One thing is for sure however - your recordings need to sound good on YouTube these days, not just in your studio.

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