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Archive for April, 2018

I’ve now been gigging and recording with this mic for a couple of weeks straight and I just couldn’t be happier. I have to admit that it has taken me a little while to work out positioning in front of the capsule, as I’ve spent years practically swallowing other mics just to get a good sound. But with this mic, it requires a bit of space; about an inch for regular singing, and if I need to really lay into a vocal, I’ve got to be about eight to twelve inches away.

Also, while the mic is great for lower volume singing, where I find it really shines is when I’m in a band situation where I’m singing with a full voice. And in a band situation, the rear noise rejection is second to none, and this helps quite a bit with mitigating feedback, as I can position my mic near monitors and not worry about feedback.

As far as how it sounds, the tone is just a tad scooped, and the midrange mid-point seems to be on the higher side. But I love that because it picks up higher frequency characteristics. It also means that with this mic, I can punch through a mix. I have to admit that it was a little unsettling at first because that little higher frequency bump makes my vocals sound so clear. That’s not to say the lows aren’t there. They absolutely are. But compared to an SM-58 or even an e835, the richness of the sound is so much better.

Other than how good it sounds, the mic is very well-built. I see no problem with it enduring the rigors of regular gigging. As far as recording is concerned, it works fantastic! But I think I’m still going to save my pennies to get the PR-35 for recording. I’ve gigged with that mic in the past, and the sound quality is even better than the PR-22. However, it is not nearly as durable as it is coated with a silicon layer, and according to the sound guy who provided me with the mic, with a lot of use, the silicon wears off.

Circling back to the PR-22, this to me is the perfect all-around stage mic.

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I just read this excellent article on SonicScoop on the importance pre-production work and how many artists/bands haven’t done their homework prior to going into the studio or finding a producer. Then the author finishes up with two approaches to cutting an album: The “insane” way and the “smart” way. Of course, he advocates for the smart way, but more importantly, the underlying message of the post is simply this: Before you even think about going into the studio, know what you want to accomplish and also rehearse, play shows, rehearse, play shows, and repeat.

The point is to hone your skills at playing your music. Especially if you’re in a band, make sure the parts that each member plays are completely worked out. What you don’t want to do is spend studio time (read: MONEY) figuring stuff out. You want to know what you’re going to do going in; know how you’re going to sound. If you have any doubts, just don’t do it.

I’ve been wanting to cut another album after having done it myself over a decade ago. Friends have encouraged me to do this. But I’ve actually been reluctant because this time, I want to use different musicians other than myself. In order for me to do this, I need to get the musicians I ask to learn my music, and before we all head into the studio, I want everyone to practice together – a lot. Make sure the bass is playing where I want them. Make sure the drums are funky enough, etc.

And even before I go into the studio, I’ve got to find a studio and engineer that I can work with and who “gets” my music. I went back into the studio a few years ago and worked with an engineer who kept on making “suggestions” that were almost always contrary to the vision I had for my songs. That got annoying pretty quickly, and I had to shut him down pretty hard by telling him I knew what I wanted and I didn’t want his suggestions unless they had to do with the mix and production.

Then, as a drummer, he would “volunteer” his drumming on my songs as I recorded the drums in my demos with MIDI hits and loops.  Moreover, he just didn’t get the style I was after. Luckily, I didn’t have to pay for his work unless I used his drum tracks, and his drumming was just not that inspiring, so I never used them except for clicks.

But it just wasn’t the engineer. I also wasn’t fully prepared. I hadn’t done all the pre-production work. For instance, my songs were brand new, and I hadn’t performed them enough to really figure out how I wanted them recorded. I also didn’t go into the studio with enough material. That’s a huge mistake. You need to have enough to throw away. Even if you’re just doing an EP, which was what I was intending to do, you should have more material than what would fit on the album. Oh well… live and learn…

The point to all this is that before you go into the studio, there’s so much that you have to do to be prepared. Your performance needs to be a foregone conclusion long before you get into a sound booth, and you need to have lots of material. Nothing beats preparations. It’ll save you time and money in the long run. For those of us on a budget, that’s critical.

Here’s the link to the article again. I highly recommend you read it!

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5 Tone Bones - Gear has stellar performance, value, and quality. This is definitely top of the class, best of breed, and it's a no-brainer to add this to your gear lineup!

Heil Sound PR-22 UT (Utility) Dynamic Microphone

Summary: The “utility” version of the PR-22, this is the same mic, but with a single mesh (the regular PR-22 comes with three), and comes with a leatherette bag instead of a nice box; hence, the “utility.” Heil cut down on the packaging to provide an affordable tier for their popular PR-22 stage mic.

Pros: Wide frequency response, incredible rear rejection, and tons of overload protection make this an ideal stage mic. Plus, using this mic is much like removing a blanket over other mics. It’s not that the mic is tuned to higher frequencies; there’s just so much more sonic content that this mic picks up! Other mics may claim to have as wide a frequency response, but you actually hear the highs that you normally wouldn’t with mics in this price range and a little higher.

Cons: It is a nit, but not an issue for me as I always have my mic mounted on a stand, but as with other Heil mics, this is pretty sensitive to handling. But this is such a minor issue, I’m reluctant to mention it.

Price: $99.00 – $117.00 Street

Features:

  • Output Connection: 3-pin XLR
  • Element Type: Dynamic
  • Frequency Response: 50 Hz – 18 kHz
  • Polar Pattern: Cardiod
  • Rear Rejection @ 180 deg off-axis: -30 dB
  • Impedance: 600 ohms balanced
  • Output Level: -55 dB @ 1kHz
  • Weight: 14 oz.
  • Max SPL:  145 dB

Tone Bone Rating: 5.00 ~ I’ve been wanting this particular microphone for a long time, but already had a decent stage mic, so the will to get a new one just wasn’t there. But after my trusty Sennheiser e835 that has probably seen at least a thousand gigs and started to easily overload, it was time to replace it. I’m never going back to Sennheiser or Shure again!

As an active, gigging musician that relies on vocals, having a good mic is crucial to me. For more than a decade, I’ve relied on Sennheiser mics; specifically, the e835 as my main stage mic. It has served me well. But a couple of years ago, I did a gig where the sound guy asked if I wanted to try out a Heil PR-35. Being game for anything, I let him set it up. I didn’t know my voice actually sounded like it did.

From that point on, I resolved to get one. But it didn’t come cheap, as the PR-35 costs $265. However, I did a bit of research on other Heil mics and came across the PR-20, which has since been updated to the PR-22. And after listening to lots of comparisons, I decided to pull the trigger on the PR-22.

Wow! What a difference a mic makes! When I first plugged the mic in, the first thing I noticed was the much fuller sound of the PR-22. At the time, I had nothing to compare it to, but based on experience, there just seemed to be a lot more sonic content present in the Heil compared to my Sennheiser. And from what I could tell with the frequency analyzer in GarageBand, there really was a lot of stuff coming through.

But the proof is in the pudding, so I did a direct comparison between the two. In the following clip, I speak the same testing sequence with both mics. You’ll first hear the Sennheiser, then followed by the Heil, then back to the Sennheiser, then ending with the Heil. I positioned both about an inch from my mouth.

 

Both mics actually sound pretty good. But there’s definitely more going on with the Heil, especially in the lower frequency ranges. It sounds much fuller than the Sennheiser, though the Sennheiser sounds pretty good as well.

As you can see, from the picture of the tracks, while both are generally being picked up at the same level, there are more defined peaks in the Heil, plus some sharp peaks not present on the Sennheiser track. What this amounts to sonically is a lot more content.

The problem with the clip I provided is that GarageBand does a bit of compression despite the fact that I exported it to SoundCloud uncompressed. But irrespective of that, there is definitely more going on with the Heil than with the Sennheiser. The difference between the two mics with my headphones on through my audio interface is marked. The Sennheiser sounds thin, while the Heil sounds rich and full.

Frequency Response 

Take a look at the frequency response chart for each mic:

Heil PR-22

heil_pr22_frequency

Sennheiser e835

e-835-frequency-response

Just looking at the graph, it’s clear to see that overall sensitivity of the PR-22 is slightly higher than the e835. It’s not a significant difference as far as the numbers are concerned; however, especially when comparing the 1 kHz to 10 kHz range of both mics, this is where the PR-22 picks up much more content.

What first attracted me to the e835 years ago was its presence boost: That hump around 4 kHz. Sennheiser specifically called that out in its marketing. To me in actual usage, it made the mic sound so much clearer than the Shure SM-58, which sounded muddy in comparison. But with the Heil, the upper-mid to high-frequency sensitivity provide even more presence. And looking at the overall chart, there’s a lot more being picked up by the Heil in the same conditions.

In the Studio

What this means for recording is that I do a lot less EQ manipulation with the Heil than I do with the Sennheiser. In fact, re-recording a song with the Heil, the only EQ adjustments I made were to roll off the extreme highs (sizzle) and lows (muffles) and reduce a peak at around 220 Hz (it’s a trick I learned to make my vocals sound clearer). Contrast that with the Sennheiser where I actually have to roll off the extreme highs and lows, add a few dB of both lows (around 100Hz) and upper-mids and highs especially highs above 7 kHz because the mic records a bit muddy.

The net result is that I can produce a good vocal track with either mic. It just takes a lot more twiddling and tweaking when doing the EQ for the e835.

On Stage

But because there’s so much content that the Heil picks up, I have to adjust my mic technique and pull back just a bit. Proximity effect with the Heil is actually not as pronounced as I’ve experienced with other mics – especially the Shure SM-58 – but though Heil claims it’s not prone to proximity effect, all mics are prone to it. By pulling back ever so slightly, I allow the mic to pick up more mids, without sacrificing the lows.

Rear Rejection

Probably the best selling point of the mic is its rear sound rejection. While I was recording a test clip earlier, my daughter asked me a question. I had to stop recording, but after listening to what I recorded, I could hardly hear her voice, which means that the sound I was actually hearing from her voice was what bounced off the wall behind me. This makes the mic excellent for stage work and will be much less prone to feedback issues when placed close to a monitor.

Off-Axis

This is a very directional mic. While off-axis pickup is not bad, it’s not advised to stray over an inch from the capsule in any direction. I’ve been playing with the mic for the last couple of days, and for stage positioning. I found that pointing the mic a few degrees up, and placing the top edge the capsule level with my lower lip is the optimal position for me. And though I have good technique controlling my plosives (“b” and “p” sounds), positioning the mic there helps even more, and I don’t sacrifice any content.

But that said, the mic comes with a very nice foam capsule screen. I could sing straight on into the capsule with the screen on, and it protects quite a bit from plosives. It doesn’t eliminate them – nor should any screen do that – but it does help quite a bit.

Overall Impression

All that said, this mic is not for everyone. Because it picks up a lot more, it may not please everyone when they hear their voice through the mic the first time. I remember when I tried out the PR-35. I was blown away! I really didn’t know there was so much more in my voice. The PR-22 is not nearly as sensitive as the PR-35, but it’s pretty sensitive in its own right.

As far as I’m concerned, I’ve just had a defining moment with this mic. Mind you, it’s not really a super, high-end mic. But the sound quality rivals much more expensive mics. I’m a happy camper!

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