Different strokes

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Different strokes

When it comes to high-end audio, we can all agree that there's a huge obsession with which pieces of gear sound the way we hope for. Some of us prefer the warmth of tubes, while others the openness and clarity of solid state. Digital versus analog. And, don't get me going about loudspeakers where we're talking about night and day differences in sound: electrostats, versus dynamics, open baffle versus closed box, planars and ribbons versus domes.

In the recording arts we see the same divisions and strong opinions, but not so much for electronics and speakers as it is focused on microphone choices. And microphones are all over the map. Ribbons versus condensers and dynamics, phantom powered, FET or vacuum tube amplified, capsule types, and the list goes on forever.

We have our favorites for each application. For blaring horns we like the warmth and dynamics of ribbons. For the delicate overtones and speed of string plucks we prefer big capsule condensers. To capture the snap and crazy dynamics of a snare drum, we turn to dynamics.

The lists of microphones and the opinions of recording engineers are endless.

Sound familiar?

When we first started Octave Records we invested heavily in microphones (they, like high end audio, are expensive). We acquired the classic Neumans, Sennheisers, AKGs, Telefunkens, etc. And then we played with them for endless hours as we learned to assign the best microphone to the best applications.

Over time, winners began to emerge—our go to favorites.

Over the next few days, I'll wax on about a few of the ones that matter to me the most. Had I the time, it'd be fun to compare them side by side and let you hear the differences and, maybe at some point, I'll get off my keister and actually do that.

*It's not an easy task because when we are in the studio we are chewing through a musician's time and energy to make a recording. Adding layers of microphones gets in the way. My hope is that we might find a willing musician with time on their hands and a willingness to participate, but most of them have lives and gigs they go to. Studio time is used to make their music, not keep us audiophiles happy with our experiments. 

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Paul McGowan

Founder & CEO

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