Hi, hello, and welcome back to the blog! Today, to finally close off the end of this month's focus on General Microphone Technical Aspects, I thought I'd share with you all some of the most helpful tech tips I've found useful over my career so far; the kind of ones I just instinctively do and can't live without.
Because these are more of a collection of thoughts and generalizations, you may already be aware of one or two, or you might not have thought of any of them, who knows! But, as always, if you have any others that you'd like to share after reading today, please let me know of course - you can never have too much information after all.
Anyway, let's dive in!
We've spoken very briefly on this before, I think sometime last year, however, I've never really highlighted it too much before and now seems like an appropriate time! In short, acoustic shadow is the time it takes for the sound source to reach the rear of the capsule, which in turn also affects the polar pattern and some of the subtleties that can be apparent from maybe the same capsules being housed within the mic but the body shape changing slightly, or even drastically.
This became perhaps a bit more important for me to understand as, well… I think it's obvious that working for a mic company it's probably best to know a thing or two about how microphones work, right? But I do think it's good to have this knowledge on hand, especially if you have well trained ears and you're hoping to find out a bit more about why mic's you know have a similar make-up and design sound a bit different to each other. A great example in our case would be the V67 and the Amethyst; they both have the exact same capsule design, but there is a notable difference in the low-midrange frequencies with the V67 sounding a little more bloomed as opposed to the Amethyst having a slightly tighter bottom end. Another slight difference is the shift in where the presence is in the upper-midrange, with the V67 having a light bump from around 2Khz to roughly 5Khz, and the Amethyst slightly higher starting at around 3Khz and ending just above 7Khz.
Sometimes, mic designers can also reimagine the capsule housing, or change the model of the mic to make it a version, or generation 1, 2, 3, and so on, adding features which inevitably change the size and design of the mic (this happened a lot during the 80's and 90's). Obviously, the result is that a mic from 'X’ decade compared to a newer or older model can have a slightly different footprint, even if the capsule has remained Identical.
Fletcher Munson Curves
Have you ever wondered why there's sometimes a 'loudness’ button on certain hi-fi systems, or in the car maybe? Or why headphones are typically made to include an over-hyped low and high frequency lift? Or maybe just why anything between 2-5khz is just very uncomfortable to listen to for long periods of time? All of these questions and more can be answered by studying Fletcher-Munson curves, originally founded by Harvey Fletcher and Wilden A. Munson in the 1930's. Their study was to find a way to measure where our hearing was most sensitive, and since that study, their curves have been incorporated into the International Standard Organization (ISO) after these tests had been done in a variety of countries.
Because the ISO sets the standard based on science, that's one of the main reasons why these curves are used so often to design headphones, hi-fi systems, amplifiers, and more; basically anything that is an amplifier for sound. The Loudness button, and the over hyped headphone designs are basically the same thing reconstituted; when looking at the curve, and hearing it in real life, the quieter something sounds when played back, the more bass you hear, and as you increase the volume, the overall spectrum becomes a lot flatter in comparison to the lowest SPL volumes. So, by boosting the high-end content and the lower midrange frequencies, our hearing perceives this to be offsetting the loss of those frequencies at lower volumes.
As for why 2-5Khz sounds harsh to us as humans, it's due to those frequencies resonating in our ear canal and particular parts of the inner ear, which can also explain why we can get hearing fatigue when we listen back to music at loud volumes as well. All of these answers can be attributed to one study done in the 30's, and I think that's astonishing,personally! I implore you to do some research for yourselves as there's no end to a lot of answers because of this study.
Accessories Change The Game
It might sound obvious, but the number of new engineers that aren't aware of the impact some accessories have on the quality of your recordings is more than you'd imagine, this tip is for you guys that might be still new to the game. When I say accessories, I mean the extras you might use when recording such as mic stands, or isolation foam under your speakers to help stop floor noise. In the case of microphones however, there's 3 in particular that have a monumental impact on your recordings: shock mounts, pop filters, and storage.
Shock mounts can come in a few different designs, but in general it's always best to use the one the company has intended so you get the best sound out of your mic. In the case of out microphones, every single mic we make (aside from the HH1) has a screw mount directly on the microphone so you can attach it to the stand directly - however, this leaves you susceptible to floor noise and rumble, as well as no extra protection in the microphone or the mic stand gets knocked or worse, completely falls over. We have a shock mount for every single mic we make, and even a universal shock mount for the entire vintage series to make things even more streamline; if you're not using one yet, I highly suggest checking them out.
Our Vintage Series Universal Shock Mount
With our Pop Filter, it's a little kept secret that we wanted to go all out on our design to make sure it really was the very best design available. Most pop filters are made using some number of fabrics or very thin and easily damaged metal which can become damaged just from the simplest of knocks; and even worse, they don't really do their job in the first place! With our design, we took the tricks of the past, such as the pencil trick, and modernized the design to not just stop the largest plosives, but disperse all sudden bursts of air when a singer is at the microphone to eliminate sibilance and plosives at any and all levels of pressure. A few Grammy winning producers who live on Q&A's with me have even said that when they travel to record, that they make sure they pack this in their suitcase without fail because it helps them so much (Thom Russo is by far my favorite person to tell me that fact!).
The JZ Microphones Pop Filter
Lastly, storage is a massive factor to how your microphone will sound over time, and it's a shame how overlooked that can often be. Unless you keep your microphones well kept when you're not using them, you can end up with moisture damage, dust and debris sitting on the capsule, and even exposure to the salt and humidity in the air can corrode the capsule of any microphone. We've created a solution for that as well of course in the form of our wooden, custom cut boxes which eliminate all the damaging factors you can think of and more - plus they look beautiful as well. Definitely check them out soon if you haven't got the best storage for your microphone right now; it'll without a doubt enable your microphone to sound as good as it is right now for the longest possible time.
Custom Cut Storage, with options to store 1 or 2 mics in each box