Just checking back...
Used the new Mic yesterday... EVEN Better than we had hoped. The
Low Mid were missing before and it still sounded great, this one
sounds PHENOMENAL! Yanni wanted me to write you and make sure you
knew that he loves it, and how happy he is.
Hi Eve Anna.
I wanted to let you know about my recent experience with
purchasing my first Manley gear. I did a pretty big mic shootout in my
own studio looking for that "perfect" mic for my vocals. One that also
would sound great on acoustic guitar and grand piano would be nice,
too. I won't list the assembly of mics I got together, but it was a
good selection. My local Pro Audio dealer let me try the Manley Gold
for a day. This mic absolutely BLEW AWAY the competition! The other
mics were pretty good, and also expensive, but none could stand up the
the Manley Gold Reference. I have never heard a mic that captured so
much of the detail of what you put in front of it. In a mix, it both
stands out and lays right in with little or no EQ or compression. None
of the other mics could do that in this shootout. On acapella vocals,
no mic even came close to the Manley Gold. Not only does it sound
absolutely incredible, but it smokes the others in looks and sheer
quality of the build! I like it so much, I sold a great number of
other mics to get it, and I am seriously considering a second for
stereo grand piano, acoustic guitar, and other stereo recording. I am
so impressed with Manley gear that......
I just bought a Massive Passive never having used one. I simply went
off of the quality of the Gold Ref Mic and the word of mouth and
reviews. HOLY SMOKES!!!!! This is the coolest EQ I have ever used!
This thing makes anything sound better! I don't know how you did this,
but congratulations! I swear I'll never touch a another EQ again!
(well.... maybe occasionally) But in my opinion, this EQ outshines
anything else available for sheer beauty of sound. I also just bought
a VOXBOX and have put it side by side with some of its competitors
and......... It's another knockout! MANLEY WINS!!!!
I love your gear. Keep up the good work. Your incredibly well built
stuff gives just the sound I have been searching for.... and it looks
Hi there! I've praised you before for your wonderful gear, but I just
had to let you know that I used my pair of Manley Gold Refs the other
day on a string quartet, and once again, they far exceeded my
expectations!!!! Also, I had a couple other pairs of pretty
respectable, widely known mics for this job in place, and honestly,
the Gold Refs put the others to shame. The others were fine when
listened to on their own, but when comparing with the Gold Ref tracks,
the difference is not at all subtle. It kind of pains me to see
people talking about so many mics on forums and in other circles and
so rarely mentioning the Gold Ref. I mention it whenever I get a
chance!!! Everyone I know who has bought one on my recommendation has
absolutely fallen in love with it! By the way, you may or may not
know this, but Yanni (I know.....) used the Gold Ref for all the
vocals on his recent Yanni Voices album. Some incredible singers and
they sound killer on their voices. I used to work for him as a studio
consultant/keyboard guy and I kept telling him how great it was. Now
he's got a pair! If you go look at the videos for the songs on
itunes, there is the Gold Ref front and center for every singer he
uses! He actually used it for all the vocal tracking as well. Once
again, thanks for my favorite mic in the entire universe!
The singer was an alto with a voice as big as a barn. Enormous warmth and
depth to her voice. You've probably heard her on the radio (if you've
listened to the radio in the last 10 years).
We started with all the mics on stands adjusted to her vocal height. All
the mics were lined up with all the diaphragms in the same vertical plane at
exactly the same height. We started with all the mics going through the Neve
console were recording on. The reason for this is that I wanted to move
through the mics as quickly as possible. So all mics were plugged into the
console pre's and assigned to individual tracks, so that I could record the
results and let the artist come in and hear the results. This is a critical
step to involve the artist. Not only do they get to hear the options and make
their opinion known, it also involves them intimately in the process of
capturing their most valuable asset--their voice. So always record the mic
outputs onto separate tracks. It also allows you to go back and double check
your first impressions.
Also, double check and make sure all the mics are working before the
artist steps up. And put a noise source in the studio (like a portable radio
or metronome) and adjust the mics so that the output level is close from mic
to mic. Differences in gain of as little as .5 dB can affect your sonic
impression and judgment when comparing two pieces of equipment.
Now for the moment of truth. We ran the track to her phones and made sure
she was comfortable with the levels and then started.
1) The Neumann U67 ($4K and up)--a great vocal mic, and works well on female
vocalists especially. Nice and warm are typical characteristics.
She sang two lines through it and I stopped the tape. NEXT. It was way too
mushy for her. Warm but not defined. Sounded very covered. It took about 4
seconds to know it was wrong.
2) Telefunken 251 ($6.5K and up)--a great vocal mic that many artists won't
record without. the second engineer in Branson when we recorded with Andy
Williams said it was Andy's favorite mic.
She sang the first verse. It sounded better than the 67, much better. It had
an interesting mid-rangey character. The top end was better, but it sounded
very processed. I double checked the patching, because it sounded like there
was a compressor in the circuit. Nope. It just pinched down and compressed
the sound. Next.
3) Neumann M-149 ($4500)--I used this mic in a shootout with another female
vocalist just four months ago and it trounced everything in the lineup except
for a 4050, which was close but not as warm. I borrowed this one from a
friend because I thought it would be magic on this artist's voice.
First verse again. Nice midrange. OK on the top but nothing to write home
about. A little husky in the 200-400 range. Overall it sounded very nice. No
magic though. Oh well, sometimes it works, and then there are other times.
4) A-T 4060 ($1100)--the cheapest mic in the lineup, this is a great mic, as
you can tell by the fact that it's even in the running.
Ran the tape. Sounds dark. Dark and flat. Hmmm. I've heard lots of people say
that this is a bright mic. Judging by its cheaper siblings (4033 and 4050),
it should be. This one is the second biggest disappointment in the lineup. It
is definitely out. It sounds worse than any others except the 67. And one
other thing. It has the same squashy, compressed sound that the Telefunken
had. To some, that might be a compliment, sounding like a Telefunken.
5) Manley Gold ($5000)--I've never even seen this mic before, but the guys at
Underground Sound said I should check it out. It sure looks good on the mic
stand. and there's something psychologically inspiring about singing into
something that is gold-plated. Anyway.
First verse. Whoa! We have a serious contender here. Not to imply that I was
worried, though. This mic sounds a lot like her voice. Tons of presence.
Warmth for days. It's big and full but still has lots of top. Man, it sounds
good. Really good. I'm glad I had it here.
6) AKG C-12 ($6K and up)--This is considered by many engineers to be THE
vocal mic. I knew going in that this was the mic that the singer had used in
the past and knew she liked. The security blanket in the lineup, for the
artist and the engineer both.
Ran the tape. Nice. I must admit that there is something about this mic that
"likes" vocals. It has a sizzly top end that is exaggerated for sure, but not
to the point of being splatty. It is a definite winner. It sounds good enough
that I could use it flat to tape. Definitely a finalist.
7) Brauner VM-1 ($5K)--I've been more excited about this vocal mic than just
about any other mic in a long time. The last time I recorded Amy Grant, this
mic won out over 5 other primo mics, including Keith Thomas's C-800G that we
had sent over because she had used it for all the vocals on her last record.
It's bright but not sizzly. Very sweet mic. This was my expected winner going
Tape, please... Dang. It's really bright. Really crispy. Almost harsh. It's
glorious in its detail and sounds really nice overall, but it's just too
bright for her voice. This surprises me a bit, because I remember it being
warmer sounding than the 800G, which is admittedly a very transparent mic.
Sorry, don't call us. We'll call you.
Time for the artist to come in and give her impressions. And get the
producers take too.
And time for another page.
The artist and producer already had pretty good ideas of what they liked.
Artists can tell by what they're hearing in their phones whether or not
they'll like singing on a certain mic. They want it to flatter them in the
phones. "Don't give me the truth, just tell me lies."
We listened through and they rated each mic.
The 67 I had recorded over.
The Telefunken and 4060 were non starters.
The 149 was warm, but that was all.
The Brauner was just too bright.
(Is this starting to sound like Goldilocks and the three mics?)
The contenders were the C-12 and the Manley.
The C-12 had "the stuff" but it lacked the breadth on the bottom. The C-12
was a little sizzlier, but not in a way that I couldn't pick up with
equalization. The Manley had it all and seemed to complement her voice the
The consensus was that the Manley was the most flattering on her voice.
The one thing that I know for sure is that I'm glad I took the time to check
out as many options as possible. All these mics are great. On a given day,
any one of them would work fine on her voice. None of them sounded bad (well,
I'm being diplomatic). But there were startling differences from mic to mic,
and the winner was just slightly better than the second runner up (C-12).
The most important thing...the artist knew that I really cared about
capturing her instrument. I mean, how crazy is it to spend two hours on drum
sounds and then 10 minutes on the vocal sound when it's a vocalist's record?
She was sure that we were going to capture every nuance of her vocal
performance and make sure she sounded better than she had ever sounded
That makes for a good vocal performance, which is what it is all about.
Tear down all the other mics and let's start shooting out preamps.
In our last episode, Lynn Engineer and Larry Producer had decided with Amy
Artist that the Manley mic was the best. So now it was time to decide on
We lined up all four. Using 30 dB of gain on each.
1) The console pre in the Neve 8068 that we were recording on. This is the
pre we had used to decide which mic to use, so it was the benchmark. It
sounded very nice. Very usable. Everyone thought it was very nice sounding.
2) The Martech MSS-10. This unit belongs to a good friend of mine that I
greatly respect as a great engineer. He loves it and uses it exclusively. So
I was quite eager to hear it.
We plugged the Manley into it and rolled the tape. Ouch. Very bright.
Enormously bright. And very hard, even brittle in the midrange. We turned it
off after about 10 seconds. The sound was so piercing that I kept wanting to
turn it down, and even after turning it down, I kept wanting to turn it
I know the person who designed this preamp and have used his gear and
modified consoles for years. He's a genius. The only way I can describe this
reaction and this sound is that there must have been some mismatch between
the output and input impedance of the mic and the pre. It was really
unusable. (Again, that is for THIS voice in THIS studio with THIS mic on
3) The blue Focusrite ISA-110s. This unit, which I have owned since 1987
(the first ever piece of Focusrite gear in Nashville, by the way), was my
reference pre for years. There are few things that don't sound phenomenal on
it. I plugged the mic into it.
Sure enough, I was not disappointed. It sounded about 60% bigger than the
Neve pre. There was a depth and dimensionality that words can't describe. It
was warm and present and seemed to have "more of everything" than the Neve,
which we had all agreed sounded nice. We think we have a clear winner. It
probably can't get any better than this. But on to contestant #4.
4) The Buzz Audio MA-2. This 2 channel mic pre is very rare. (There are six
of them in the Western hemisphere. I should know. I imported them all
myself.) They were (and maybe still are, I have lost touch with the
manufacturer) made in New Zealand. I found out about them when a producer
returned from recording a project "down under" and we spent 6 hours trying
to match a vocal sound. We couldn't do it with ANYthing in Nashville. So I
spent months tracking down the builder and eventually bought six pair of
them. I can tell you more if you want to know.
So we lined it up and rolled the tape. Wow.
It wasn't like the Focusrite. It was warmer and bigger and had all the
presence of the Focusrite but it was smoother in the midrange. It made the
Focusrite sound more like the Class AB design that it is. (The Buzz is all
discrete Class A.) The midrange was silky, not forward. The warmth of the
vocal just came out of the speakers and wrapped around you like a big warm
hug. The sound was huge. It accented her enormous voice and brought out the
lower midrange richness that we were looking for like no other pre did.
So, the verdict?
The artist came in. Agreed with my conclusions on the first two.
Nice on #1.
Harsh on #2.
Now the hard part. Do we like the more focused, present but slightly forward
midrange from the Focusrites or the warmer bigger sound of the Buzz?
After some discussion, I convinced them that getting the midrange presence
of the Focusrite would be easier to accomplish by EQing the Buzz than to get
the warmth of the Buzz by low end EQing the Focusrite.
So the final verdict was Manley to the Buzz with 28 dB of gain.
We tried patching in my Tubetech CL-1A and it messed too much with the
sound. We tried patching in my Pultecs to do any EQing that we might need on
a cut to cut basis. It changed the sound too much too.
So the whole record has been cut with the mic feeding the pre feeding the
tape machine input. It sounds fabulous. It doesn't need a thing. My second
heard it today and was bowled over by the depth and warmth of her voice. I
think we captured the best her voice has to offer and she agrees with us. It
really does sound great.
Now to make sure we keep that sound in the mix. That's the task for this
3D Audio Inc
Music Mixing and Mastering