Triston Russell writes for The Audio Creator and tells of his life living with microphones and the pain it has caused him, in his wallet!
Microphone: A device that converts sound waves into electricity. OK – that’s my definition – but go to Wikipedia if you want the real science. Us voicey/producer people tend to become mic-nerds of the highest order, and if you get stuck sat to us at a wedding – you’ll be begging to be moved next to the creepy uncle who wants to dance when that sound from Dirty Dancing comes on at the disco.
I got my first mic at the age of 7, my first mixer at 9 and then it went downhill from there, selling and buying literally thousands on audio kit. But here’s the problem, most of them I use to record a single instrument: my voice. Not your voice, or a cello, violin or piano – but my own voice. And my voice hasn’t stayed the same, it’s changed over the years, it’s aged like a cheap wine. One day it will taste like vinegar, but right now it’s perfectly drinkable cheap plonk. Any recording engineer will tell you that certain mics will flatter certain instruments, you’ll use x mic to record Y instrument etc, and that’s true of voices. I remember when I was around 23 – errr- over 20 years ago – sitting in a booth in the Soho Soundhouse in Charing Cross road and doing a shootout between all the big guns, and I walked away with a RODE NT1A, and used it for 15 years. Loved it. It had a sizzle and a mid-boost that just made me sound punchy. But then about 3 years ago – I’m sitting with Mark in a studio and he had a Neumann TLM103 – and it made me sound like a man. A real man with testosterone, season tickets to a Blah Blah FC, and everything. And I thought – “I gotta get me one of these”. So after some open wallet surgery – I had my TLM103 to add to my RE320, NT1 and others.
But then the unimaginable happened. My life turned upside down. I’d just brought my “mic for life”, and then I saw a review of a mic called the X2. Mike @ BoothJunkie put it against a U87. What? A U87 for goodness sake – the finest mic ever created in the world ever. Period. And guess what – he and I listening – could barely make out the difference. OK, you’re thinking, “two mics sound the same, go away and stop wasting my time. No. this WAS A BIG DEAL. Stellar Audio Products’ X2 @ £200 sounding indistinguishable (with his voice) from the £2500 U87.
This was a fraud surely. Mike had been duped. Some clown had taken a TLM and put it in a new metal tube, given it a crap name, and he was inadvertently comparing two identical mics. But no. I got one myself – put up the two-hundred notes, paid the customs duties – and plugged it in. Listened. Recorded. Listened some more. Within a couple of weeks, my TLM – my mic for life – was on Ebay, I was up £800 quid, and I haven’t looked back. So a £2500 mic for £200? Well. For my single-instrument – according to my ears, yes. But for yours, or all of the strings, brass and other instruments you want to record, caveat emptor. That’s you’re actual latin for “make up your own mind, don’t trust people who write blogs”.
Triston Russell is an experienced voice artist and has appeared on some of the UK's most well known stations including Kiss 100, Virgin, KFM, Country 1035.