I played a private party last night; just a small birthday party for about 40 people; hired by a couple who saw me play at my restaurant gig. I went to the gig fully equipped with my Fishman SA220 SoloAmp packed up, my acoustic board, and Yamaha APX900 and of course, my cord and mic bag.
Much to my pleasant surprise, the couple had a friend who did pro sound, and he had already set up a PA, plus a mic stand where I’d be playing. What a relief! While I love my SA220, being able to plug into a board makes life so much easier.
Originally, he had put out a Shure SM58 stage mic. I hate those, so I was going to pull out my Sennheiser. But as Frank saw me inspecting the mic, he said, “I’ve got a Heil PR35 that you could use if you don’t like the 58.” I must’ve had an expression on my face to prompt him to offer that.
In any case, that got me smiling. I didn’t think that I had used that mic before, but then recalled a studio session where I used a PR35, and remembered how great it sounded with a nice, flat response, and wide dynamic range; perfect for the stuff I was recording at the time.
So I set up my gear, ran the mic into Harmony G XT harmonizer, and we did a sound check. O. M. G.!!! I couldn’t believe how responsive that mic was. It picked up everything. Whereas the SM58, and to a much lesser degree, my Sennheiser E85 have a bit of high cut, the PR35 caught some of the higher-frequency characteristics of my voice. Heck! I wasn’t even warmed up when I did the sound check, and it sounded magnificent.
Then it hit me that I could make my performances that much better by using a better mic. I played for 3 hours. Normally for that amount of time, my voice would be just a tad tired, but I found that I just didn’t have to work as hard with the PR35. It was super-sensitive, which I had to adjust to a bit and back off, but once I found the sweet spot, it was game over. Frankly, I actually thought that I was singing into a condenser mic, but without having to worry about feedback, which is so common with condenser mics.
On top of that, unlike my E85 which provides pretty good side and rear sound protection, though to really ensure that I don’t pick up sounds to the side I have to practically swallow the head, the PR35 has incredibly good side and rear noise protection. That came in handy as a party-goer took a liking to my songs and was singing, laughing and clapping a few feet to my right. I couldn’t hear any of his noise in my monitor!
Now while the PR35 is highly directional – the head should be right in front of your mouth – even a off-axis, you don’t get a loss of highs, which can be a real problem with cheaper stage mics. Of course, the mic doesn’t sound as good when you’re off-axis a bit, but the fact the frequency response remains pretty good even off-axis is pretty awesome.
In a nutshell, I’m going to save my pennies to get one of these. It’s not cheap at around $275 street, but it’s not super expensive like a Neumann or a DPA. And according to the PR35 product page on the Heil web site, I can even use this to record instruments and cabs! I can attest to its high SPL handling. There were some songs where I really got into the mic, and there was no overdrive whatsoever.
More expensive mics like a DPA d:facto have -160dB Max SPL, but it would be a stretch for me to ever play in a venue where I exceed 100 dB.
For more information, please see the Heil PR35 product page.