Manley Gold Reference Multi-Pattern Microphone Close Window  

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.

Thank You,

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 absolutely killer!

Best Regards,

Pete Lehman
Visible Sound, Inc.

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!

Best Regards

Pete Lehman

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).

The mic lineup was:

  • 1 Neumann U67 (vintage)
  • 2 Telefunken 251 (vintage)
  • 3 Neumann M149 (new)
  • 4 A-T 4060 (new)
  • 5 Manley Gold (new)
  • 6 AKG C-12 (vintage)
  • 7 Brauner VM-1 (new)

    The mic pre lineup was:

  • Neve 31102
  • Martech
  • Focusrite ISA-110
  • Buzz Audio

    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 in.

    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 most.

    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 before.

    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 preamps.

    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 down.

    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 THIS day.)

    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 week.

    Lynn Fuston
    3D Audio Inc
    Music Mixing and Mastering
    Franklin, TN