Tube Mic Voiceover Test

Friday, April 16th, 2010 | by

Voice actor and artist Mark Keller helped us out with another voiceover test recently. He and engineer Mathew Trogner were checking out the MXL Revelation and sE Gemini II tube mics, and put them both into a shootout that would make just about any contemporary microphone cringe: the third mic in the lineup was Keller’s personal Telefunken U 47 (made in July, 1953)!

Mathew sent an HD video of Mark recording a VO demo on each mic. Just below that you’ll find the original WAV audio files.

The Contenders

Here’s a recap of the mics in the lineup:

The RevelationMXL Revelation is a new mic for 2010. Built around a K67-style capsule, a Russian EF86 tube, and a transformer, it’s an all-purpose multipattern workhorse mic that I think is a great fit for voice and drum overheads. Find audio samples in our MXL Revelation review.

The Gemini IISE Electronics Gemini II is an unusual dual-tube condenser with a fixed Cardioid pattern. It has no transformer, but no lack of warmth, owing to the use of a second tube in the output stage. This is a second generation Gemini mic, with remarkably low self-noise (12dBA). It’s not what I’d call a “colorless” or transparent mic, but for sources where it works, it really works.

The U 47Neumann U 47 is the grandfather of modern tube mics, and the standard by which all are judged — at least, all that aspire to greatness.

U 47 components varied, but all versions were transformer-coupled tube mics, and were quickly famous for their magical sound. The U47 didn’t attempt to reproduce a source, so much as improve it.

Signal Path

The mic pre was a Millennia Media HV-3R. The converter was a Digi 192. The tracks presented below were treated with 1-3dB of compression via Waves Renaissance.

Audio Samples

The soundtrack in the above video has been through 3-4 generations of lossy compression, so we have the original 16-bit, 44.1kHz WAVs here:

I think Mark makes all these mics sound incredible.

This is not a microphone?Beyond that, I’m going to withhold our observations about the mics… I’d rather see what you hear. Noise floor? EQ curve? Sibilance? Intimacy? How emotionally compelling is the midrange? Which one most makes you want to buy a V-Rod? Tell us in the comments!


Special thanks to audio engineer Mathew Trogner, Mark Keller, and the gang at Loudville Studios for making this happen!

Thanks also to MXL and Fingerprint Audio for the Revelation and Gemini II! We’ll send them back Real Soon Now. 🙂

More VO stuff

VO peoples might also be interested in Aaron Lyon’s recent VO mic shootout, featuring microphones from MXL, Rode, sE, Shure, and Neumann. See also my review of the Portable Vocal Booth and an earlier DIY foam isolation booth experiment.

Now, slip on your headphones and listen closely to those WAVs!

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Posted in Microphones, Reviews, Shootouts, Studios, Video | 11 Comments »

11 Responses to “Tube Mic Voiceover Test”

  1. Tom Test

    April 17th, 2010 at 8:04 am

    I like the MXL best! The Telefunken sounded muddy, the Gemini didn’t have the warm bottom end of the MXL. I’m listening through a good pair of Event monitors, by the way.

    I wonder how they would compare to my Rode NTK with an NOS Amperex tube in it – I LOVE how that sounds! Thanks for doing this.

    Best regards,
    Tom Test
    …who found you through Bob Souer’s blog, by the way

  2. Steve Faul

    April 17th, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    Well, I strapped on the AKG K240’s and this is what I heard:

    The MXL had a definite pronounced low end. Beefy. The one to use if you want balls or to mask mouth noises. An almost ribbon quality, but clear. I noticed the most room ring with the MXL. Wonder how the MLX 909 compares?

    The Gemini has a brighter tone that might benefit guys with darker voices. More mouth noise can get through, and this would be the one of the bunch that might need a de-esser. Less room noise. This would be a dandy radio production mic.

    To my surprise, the U47 was the most open and dry of the bunch. With all due respect to Tom, the U47 had the most midrange clarity to my ears, reminding me of an MHK 416 shotgun. (Maybe it’s my headphones.) But it desperately needed some compression; that might be the cause of the muddy response on loudspeakers.

    If I had to choose one for a session, I’d go with the MXL. That kind of low end without enhancement is a beautiful thing. But the U47 could come in handy if the mix is busy.

    Another great post. Thanks again.

  3. Mike Prewett

    April 19th, 2010 at 9:00 am

    After re-gaining the clips and listening to them over some solo guitar music and over guitar rock to simulate a commercial, I’d have to say the MXL probably gets my vote. It’s a bit bright and sibilant, but the low end definition is nice. The Telefunken doesn’t have the brightness or the sibilance but it lacks the low end definition. Oddly, the Telefunken made me think radio and the MXL made me think TV. The Gemini just sounds honky by comparison to these two.

  4. VF-14

    April 28th, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    If this had been the a “blind test” I would have easily picked out the U-47
    because I have one! It’s got a depth to it other microphones just don’t have. But that’s not the point. What sounded best on his voice to my ear on my regular monitors and some cheapie Dell computer speakers was the SE. I couldn’t fault the MXL either but there was something sweeter about the SE.


  5. Randy Coppinger

    May 3rd, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    (Listening to the WAVs on Air-15s in an acoustically controlled room with quiet air). Mark’s voice would probably sound great on any mic so kudos to him. None of these mics sounded anywhere near neutral, but the u47 seemed the most organic and solid of the 3. Also the least sibilant. The MXL had the most sizzle and would probably cut best in a busy track, but a tad bright for my tastes. Seems more inclined to p-pop than the others. The SE had hard sounding upper mids that I found unpleasant. Might not bug as much as in a busy track.
    And Steve Faul, I have never heard anyone call a u47 and 416 similar sounding! 🙂 They seem like opposites to me, but hey, everyone is entitled to their opinion.
    It would have been interesting to hear these mics with just a little more distance to Mark’s mouth, for less proximity effect. That might have sounded less muddy and more “forward”.
    Thanks for another great listening comparison.

  6. Ryan Johnson

    May 4th, 2010 at 5:32 am

    I listened once to each on earbuds at work and am going with immediate first impressions.
    All three sound great or maybe that is the guys voice? I think I prefer the SE for a balance of clarity and smoothness. The MXL almost sounded too beefy/boomy with the lows bordering on over exaggerated (talking just barely here). The U 47 sounded a bit thin/tinny compared to the SE?
    Nothing wrong with any of these and I think all would be fine choices, but I’m guessing the price for a good quality U 47 is above the $1300 range of the other two mics.

  7. Blake Jarsky

    June 22nd, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    I like the Gemini, then the U67, then the MXL. I’d be interested to find out what the signal path was like though.


    July 5th, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    Industry standards step aside, there’s some new sheriffs in town…. I never thought I would hear the day….

  9. Julius

    July 2nd, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    Is it just me, or do they really sound more distinctive from each other in youtube video, rather than wav files? Compression (128 kb/s in 480p and HD modes) seems to sharpen highs a bit so if the recording is sibilant, it will stand out more. All three sound good, differences are subtle, but I like Telefunken most of them. I can describe it’s timbre as a bit nasal, softer, less sibilant, while the other two sound brighter, harsher, more modern. But considering price and how subtle the differences are, I’d pick MXL.

  10. Archie D'

    October 4th, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    Among the 3 the MXL Revelation is the most sizzle full detailed sound I’ve ever heard with good bottom. You cut the bottom on vocals on mixing but you definitely can use this in some other Mic needs like the Kick Drum. The overall frequency response of the MXL is perfect for this busy production these days where the vocals SHOULD cut the mix.

  11. michael de albuquerque

    March 4th, 2012 at 4:08 am

    To start with, I have an SE Gemini Mk1. Listening to the WAVs I would have to say the U47 is the most pleasant balanced sounding microphone. i was hoping the gemini would compete, but it does not.By comparison to the u47, it sounds honky, and sharp/brittle on the top end. I’m sure my gemini sounds better but may it don’t. The MXL is closer to the U47 in sound for sure, It just looks terrible however, like cheap bling. The MXL looks so bad, totally cheap RNB video shlock.

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