Studio mic shootout – how’s the Bluebird!

It’s always nice to get ‘a moment’, and we had a couple of moments yesterday.
The first one was when we had a spare moment, and decided to have a good old-fashioned microphone shootout.
The second moment was the ‘ah ha’ moment, when we nearly unanimously found a winner in the blind test.

Here’s what went down…

We took a handful of mics, plugged them into the Apollo that’s currently handling demo DAW duties, and off we went.

The mics were:

Blue Bluebird SL (cardioid condenser – includes shockmount & wooden box)
Aston Origin (cardioid condenser, includes internal mesh-knit pop filter)
AKG C214 (cardioid condenser, includes shockmount)
Rode NT2A (multi-pattern condenser, includes shockmount – it was set in cardioid position)
Sennheiser e906 (dynamic, supercardioid, killer guitar amp mic)

Source material:

We could have called it ‘saucy material’ because, rather than a singer, we got Jeff’s mellifluous speaking voice doing the heavy lifting for this test. He read out some reviews from our facebook page.
Of course, we get to hear Jeff talking all day long, so we sometimes forget that his honey-laden vocal folds are a really nice and rich signal source when we’re ready to do some of this ‘blind’ testing – but maybe he just suited the mic we all picked as the ‘winner’. More on that later…

A clear pair of stand-outs:

After Luke had hit ‘record’ and got 5 snippets for us to listen to, the rest of the available staff came in for a ‘blind’ listen test.
Of course, both Jeff and Luke knew which was which… but it was almost a blind test, as they’d simply recorded the material – this was also their first listen. The rest of the panel comprised Jackson, Artie, Ben and Julian.
Head and shoulders above the others were – Bluebird and Origin.
Last place was clearly the dynamic e906 (expectedly), which Luke only included in the shootout, because it was in his hand when ‘the moment’ came.
Fighting it out for 3rd place were NT2A and C214.
So, once we’d gotten to a pair of favourites, we flicked between Bluebird and Origin a few times, and most of us decided that Bluebird was the winner.

What our testing missed:

There were two main ingredients missing from our studio mic shootout.
1 – other mics
2 – a variety of sources and vocal styles, with critical thought given to mic placement and proximity
Seriously, it was a 15 minute exercise, with 10 mins given to set up and recording of 5 microphones, and just 5 minutes for listening and analysis. Would we have come up with a different result with more stringent aims and methodology? Quite possibly.
In fact, Aston Origin suited Jeff’s spoken word voice-over style very well, and nearly took the mantle. It just so happened that Blue BluebirdSL has a ‘certain something’ up in the top end and mids, while still keeping Jeff’s surprisingly rich lower register present and clear.
Some obvious microphones we missed were – Sennheiser MK4 (cardioid condenser, around the same $$ as the other mics), Neumann TLM102 (cardioid condenser, more expensive, but definitely worth testing next time as it’s an entry into the class of Neumann microphone heritage), and AudioTechnica AT2020 (cardioid electret condenser).
Some dynamic, end-address options that are perfect for voice-over work include Electrovoice RE20 and RE320, Shure SM7B, Sennheiser MD421 and Rode Procaster. We didn’t bother, because even writing this article has taken longer than the actual test took. Remember – it was just ‘a moment’ or two we had yesterday.

Different strokes for different folks:

We’ll definitely try this again soon, with some singing – including different voices and different styles.
Our aim was really to test Bluebird SL (relatively new to Factory Sound), against some of its contemporary VOCAL MIC FOR PROJECT STUDIO alternatives available.
What actually happened, is that we were seriously impressed, and we all walked away saying “we need to this more often”
Studio mic shootout is a worthwhile exercise for anyone who owns more that one microphone. Even if you think you know your own collection, listen with some fresh ears and fresh perspective. You may end up as surprised as we were!