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MXL 603S vs Neumann KM84 on an acoustic guitar

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D. M. Gremlin
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D. M. Gremlin is offline

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MXL 603S vs Neumann KM84 on an acoustic guitar Reply to topic Reply with quote Go to the Bottom
PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2003 4:23 am Download Post

Here we go. I didn't do these tests, so I don't have any photos. These were done at Marshall Electronics. The two mics in question are the MXL 603S and the Neumann KM-84. (Yes, I know the link for the KM-84 goes to the 'KM-184' but the 184 is considered to be the successor to the KM-84) I've encoded them at 192kbps .mp3 format. The original .wav files are a little over 4 megabytes each, and if there is enough interest I'll post those as well for you with high speed connections to download.

MXL 603S --- Neumann KM84

I'm going to have to listen to this a few more times. On my first listen through, my instincts were 'Hmm, I think the Neumann sounds better' but after a few more listen throughs I'm not so sure. They're obviously different mics. There's a certain brightness about the 603S that the KM84 doesn't have, but the bass frequencies of the KM84 to my ears seem a little better controlled and less boomy. In my personal experience as an engineer, it seems that it is easier to boost the high frequencies than it is to tame boomy bass frequencies, especially when it comes to acoustic guitars, though either can be done.

This one is actually kind of a tough call. Now that I've listened to the clips a couple dozen more times, it seems that the guiitar melody stands out better with the 603S than with the KM84 though as far as overall warmth goes I'd have to give the advantage to the KM84.

In conclusion, I can't really say which one is 'better' than the other. It seems the two mics look similar and are of similar size but are quite different from one another. One obvious difference is price - the Neumann costs about $600 more than the 603S.

Feel free to post your opinions, I'd love to hear them.
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Re: MXL 603S vs Neumann KM84 on an acoustic guitar Reply to topic Reply with quote Go to the Bottom
PostPosted: Mon Nov 28, 2005 5:06 pm Download Post

This comparison was particularly interesting because I've used the Neumann KM-184's as a 1st choice for recording acoustic guitars for several years. ?Usually I would mic an acoustic with two mics, the 184 in conjunction with a large-diaphragm condenser mic (AKG 414 or Neumann U87). ?Typically the 184 is positioned a couple of inches out from the 12th fret, and the large-diagphram condenser somewhere between the sound hole and "back" (away from neck) of the body of the guitar. Placements varying depending upon the tone and resonance of the particular instrument.
?
Obviously this test is with one microphone, and we don't have the pictures of exact placement, but I generally agree with D. M. Gremlin's assesment of the clips that we have here. ?The 603 has a brightness and clarity that the 184 does not, while the 184 has more "pressure" in the low-mids, which could be considered "warmer." ?There is so much personal preference in tones. Personally I'm a big believer in clarity, but there's absolutely a point at which clarity becomes harshness.

Meanwhile, I thought both mics were pleasing, and having compared them side-by-side, it might likely come down to what the particular guitar sounded like, or what the style of song was, or whether the guitar was going to be solo (more full-range), or fit into a mix (tailored and needing to "cut"). ?Regardless, it's not the raw mic tone that's going to be used in most cases, but the miked sound with some amount of processing-- eq and compression, and possibly effects such as reverb and/or chorus.
I thought I would put these clips through some signal processing, and see which one was easier to work with and what a more "finished" version of each of these recorded clips would sound like. ?I imported both clips into Nuendo 3, and eq'd and compressed them. I used the Waves Renaissance eq, the Q4 Paragraphic, and the C1Comp for compression.

The settings I arrived at are similar but slightly different for each of the mics, while I used the same gentle compression setting for both. ?Boosting some high-end and compressing the clips brought out some noise in both of them, which I attacked with the Waves X-Noise plug-in. ?There was still a tough bit of noise on the very tail-end of the clips, so I imported those into CoolEdit Pro, used a bit of CoolEdit's noise-reduction, and one more final fade in Nuendo. ?In the final versions, there is still a very slight noise present, most obvious on the tail of the last notes. ?There is also some personal preference in compromising between natural tone/natural note-decay, and perfectly quiet tracks. ?My original vs. noise-reduced versions demonstrate one possible compromise, retaining a nice tail on the last note, and reducing the noise to an almost-imperceptible level.

In the final analysis, processing each clip to bring out the best in its sound, I do actually prefer the 603. ?That initial "brighter" sound let me boost the highs just a bit more, bringing out a clarity I really like. ?I also cleaned up the low-mids, getting rid of a great deal of "ringiness" or "boominess" in the lows of the guitar. ?On the 184, it's a darker-sounding mic to begin with, and I boosted the highs more than I did with the 603, yet the mic still isn't as bright, and to boost further started to sound very unnatural. ?It's possible that more high boost could have been attained with an analog eq, but we're sticking in the digital realm for now, and that's a whole different story! ?I still cleaned up a lot of "boominess" in the low-mids, and the 184 still has more sound of "finger pressure," or air moving, in the low notes. ?This could be highly desirable to many; personally I do prefer the flatter tone of the 603 on this particular guitar and passage.

I can't emphasize enough that while one person might prefer one of these mics over the other, the fact that there is even a debate to be had over the subtleties of the differences between them is extremely impressive! ?Again, we're dealing with microphones in vastly different price ranges, a studio standard vs. a much lesser-known mic, and it's highly noteworthy that they are even in the same league, tone-wise. ?Given access to both mics for a particular guitar or a particular production situation, I believe that I would have to consider the project at hand before selecting one as opposed to the other. ?Given a home studio situation where an MXL 603 is far more within budgetary reach than a Neumann KM184, I would have no problem relying upon the 603 for my recording needs. ?And again, I say this coming from a distinct initial bias toward the 184, a mic I've used and liked for years.

So... now that I've talked about it for some considerable time, please download the attached files and listen for yourself. ?The original sound clips can be found in the initial post in this topic, above. ?You can hear that while the original sound clips sound nice on their own, after some eq'ing, the originals sound like mud in comparison! ?I've posted four clips: ?each of the mics with the eq and compression, where you can really hear the noise on the note-tails, and then each of the eq'd/compressed clips treated with the noise reduction. ?I'm also including screen shots of the Nuendo project file window, and the plug-in settings for each clip.



The Extension 'mp3' was deactivated by an board admin, therefore this Attachment is not displayed.


The Extension 'mp3' was deactivated by an board admin, therefore this Attachment is not displayed.


The Extension 'mp3' was deactivated by an board admin, therefore this Attachment is not displayed.


The Extension 'mp3' was deactivated by an board admin, therefore this Attachment is not displayed.


project2b.jpg
 Description:
Nuendo Project File showing mic clips with eq's, compression, and noise reduction on inserts, and fades written in automation.

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 Filename:  project2b.jpg
 Filesize:  115.27 KB
 Downloaded:  1813 Time(s)


184xnoisea.jpg
 Description:
X-noise plug-in setting for 184 clip.

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 Filename:  184xnoisea.jpg
 Filesize:  53.25 KB
 Downloaded:  1887 Time(s)


603xnoisea.jpg
 Description:
X-noise plug-in setting for 603 clip.

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 Filename:  603xnoisea.jpg
 Filesize:  52.53 KB
 Downloaded:  1814 Time(s)


C1comp(both).jpg
 Description:
C1 Compressor plug-in setting used for both 603 and 184.

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 Filename:  C1comp(both).jpg
 Filesize:  51.46 KB
 Downloaded:  1853 Time(s)


184Q4a.jpg
 Description:
Q4 Paragraphic plug-in setting for 184 clip.

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 Filename:  184Q4a.jpg
 Filesize:  58.75 KB
 Downloaded:  1719 Time(s)


184REQa.jpg
 Description:
Renaissance eq plug-in setting for 184 clip.

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 Filename:  184REQa.jpg
 Filesize:  56.38 KB
 Downloaded:  1748 Time(s)


603Q4a.jpg
 Description:
Q4 Paragraphic plug-in setting for 603 clip.

Download
 Filename:  603Q4a.jpg
 Filesize:  58.02 KB
 Downloaded:  1769 Time(s)


603REQa.jpg
 Description:
Renaissance EQ plug-in setting for 603 clip.

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 Filename:  603REQa.jpg
 Filesize:  56.66 KB
 Downloaded:  1768 Time(s)

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