Technical

Technical

For those who are into how the audio is captured, processed, recorded and delivered…

 

The Microphone – Hand-Crafted AKG C12 Clone

 

AKG C12 Clone Microphone

AKG C12 Clone

Voice actors love to talk about microphones, perhaps more than any other element in the audio recording chain, and each has his or her own favorite. Producers frequently ask which microphone a voice talent is using, with the most common question being, “Do you own a Neumann U-87?” The U-87 has become a favorite for voice recording, but it’s not the ideal mic for every voice.

I have had a Neumann U-47 and a Neumann U-67, and I’ve been recorded through Neumann U-87s, TLM-103s and M-49s as well as countless German, Austrian, American and Japanese microphones. Personally, I dislike the mid-frequency rise in the tube-type Neumann U-87s – it sounds “honky” to me – and not one of the Neumanns matches my voice as well as a microphone I encountered in an off-the-beaten-path studio in Valdosta, Georgia.

The microphone was a clone of the legendary AKG C12, which is arguably the most expensive and highly desirable vintage tube microphone on the market today. Remember the “We Are the World” video with numerous rock ‘n’ roll singers performing solos and in unison? They were all singing into AKG C12s. A used 1950s C12 in perfect condition now sells for around $18,000… if you can find one.

The first time I heard myself recorded through this particular AKG C12 clone, it was the most accurate reproduction of my voice that I’d ever heard, and I wanted one of my own. After a couple years of cajoling and begging its maker, I finally convinced him to craft one for me.

My AKG C12 clone was custom made by Lee Dyes – http://www.leedyess.com/– an extraordinarily talented audio and electronics engineer who meticulously duplicated the circuitry of the original C12, except that he used superior American and German components – 1% resistors, modern electrolytics, an NOS 6072 tube, an American-made dual mylar diaphragm capsule, and an AMI T14 output transformer which is identical to that of a 1954, 2nd generation C12.

This microphone sounds as close to a mid-1950s AKG C12 as any microphone I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing… only better. It’s a big, warm sound but quite exacting and precise from 17 Hz to 22 KHz with a clear and solid bottom end and a distinct high end sparkle without being sibilant. The T14 transformer tends to compress low end frequencies at high SPLs, but nevertheless delivers crystalline up-close, personable deliveries without becoming “woofy” like so many Neumanns I’ve used. While it has a 9-position polar pattern control on the power supply, I leave the pattern set in cardioid mode for voice recording. This beautifully crafted C12 clone provides that old school tube condenser sound in the tradition of the Neumanns and Telefunkens, but with greater clarity and lower self-noise.

Had I not gotten the AKG C12 clone would I have bought a Neumann U-87? No. My second microphone of choice is the Brauner VM1 Pure Cardioid, and I was ready to order one when Lee Dyes informed me that he was ready to build my microphone.

 

AD/DA Converter and Mic Preamp – PrismSound Lyra II

PrismSound Lyra II AD/DA Converter

This is the weakest link in most voice talents’ recording systems… not in mine. My microphone’s output goes directly into a PrismSound Lyra II AD/DA converter. The Lyra II uses the same converters as the legendary PrismSound Orpheus, Titan and Atlas products found in the world’s finest recording facilities. With near-identical bench-test measurements to the Orpheus, Titan and Atlas converters, the Lyra II is likely the absolute best two-channel recording interface on the market, capable of artifact-free resolutions as high as 24-bit/192 KHz. With a preamp section that has been compared to the John Hardy, Grace and the BAE, the sound is totally free of coloration. In short, it’s simply perfect.

The DAW – Mac Mini Server with Reaper Tracking and Editing Software

Apple Mac Mini Server

Apple Mac Mini Server

My primary computer is a Mac Mini Server with two 750 GB hard drives and 8 TB of outboard storage. I’m running the latest 64-bit version of Reaper tracking and editing software with plugins by Softube and other audio software designers, although I almost never adjust EQ and only add slight compression with the Softube Tubetech CL-1B compressor. Remote control of the recording software from my voice booth is accomplished with a PreSonus Fader Port. With this setup, I’m able to record in resolutions up to 24-bit/192 KHz, although most clients prefer files of 24-bit/48 KHz.

I subscribe to Source Connect for realtime, two-way voice recording capability.

The Voice Booth – Custom Crafted Double-Walled Fortress

(Booth and image coming in early May, 2017) It doesn’t matter that a voice talent has a $5,000 microphone and a $2,500 AD/DA converter. If the acoustical environment isn’t almost anechoic, the resulting audio recording will have coloration, room resonance and ambient sounds that degrade the audio track. My double-walled voice booth was modeled after several commercially-available isolation structures with a number of significant improvements.

The walls, floor and ceiling of my voice booth are over seven inches thick! They consist of five layers of sound reflection and absorption materials, each of differing properties. No component was left to chance. From the half-inch layers of tempered window glass, to the Roxul Safe & Sound inner wall insulation, to the solid core wood door with acoustic seals, to the sonically-isolated power and signal connections, to the isolated ventilation system, to the noiseless LED lighting, to the wall and ceiling-mounted microphone boom, computer monitor and video camera, no expense was barred in constructing the booth.

Located outside aviation flight paths and away from commercial and emergency traffic in a residential neighborhood, and at nearly 600 pounds standalone weight, the booth is, as they say, “dead as a doornail.” When I record, all you hear is my voice.

 

What You Get

You may or may not choose my voice, but if you do, you’ll get tracks as pristine as those from the finest audio recording facilities in the world.

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