Over my tenure at JZ, the most asked question is whether or not there are up to date comparisons that are available on the website, or anywhere else.
Well, we’ve been hard at work making some great examples that are as close scientifically in terms of the variables in the chain.
To start this off, we have male vocals, courtesy of someone I’m lucky enough to call my friend as well as recording him for almost 7 years - Luc Sweetman. He’s a seasoned vocalist and so was an obvious choice for this exercise.
Let's dive in.
It’s imperative to have constant factors when carrying out these sorts of tests as the smallest minute changes can create a big difference in terms of the sound we hear. To this end, I’ve listed the details that remained the same over the course of these recordings in case you’re interested, or you’d like to replicate these findings:
- Preamp Input Stage remained the same
- Preamp Output stage remained the same with a pad engaged to reduce THD
- Preamp (1073 Clone) itself remained the same
- Height of the mic within the Isolation
- No Interface gain at all
- Interface (focusrite 3rd Gen 18i20) stayed the same
- Linear recording with the same angle towards the vocalists voice each and every time.
No matter how accurate the process, human error dictates that there’ll always be some things out of our control. These may have a large effect on the sound, or a very small minor change; however, we’ve done our best to try and limit the things we simply can’t control during these tests. I’ve listed some of them below that we’re the most obvious, and hopefully you’ll agree:
- Varying slight movement of the vocalist during the performance is something totally out of an engineers control. We placed tape on the floor to line up the distance as close as we possibly could, and Luc refused to move even to take a drink between takes so he could remain as close to the same spot as possible each and every time.
- Due to no two takes being the same, the dynamics vary very slightly unless compression is used. In this case, to limit the distortion in the vocal chain, we opted to give the cleanest sound we could with a common preamp found in many studios; thus adding a compressor could impart artifacts that others can not replicate if they don’t own outboard compression.
First we’ll discuss the findings and then my recommendations (these are my own professional opinion, and subjective as it may be, the test results do support the opinions). You can hear these all in the video below, and I hope you agree with what I recommend.
The V67 is probably our most beloved microphone and for good reason. As you can hear, there’s a very pleasing midrange, but without low-midrange buildup which lends itself to pretty much anything I’ve ever put it on. It’s lowend is extremely smooth, and without frequency buildup - it almost allows vocals in particular male vocals to bloom rather than feel out of control. This mic has a very neutral top end, allowing you to brighten in the mix should you want to; but because of its natural sound, the sibilance and plosives rarely sound harsh or overpowering. Lastly, the upper-mid range is subtle, but where this microphone excels in terms of clarity with a small bump in it’s sonic signature focusing the vocals and imparting a vibe that’s commonly associated with revered vintage mic’s used throughout the most recent decades.
The V11 has by far the strongest lowend. It's different lower-midrange and low end, in terms of the aforementioned V67, and any of its brothers and sisters within the Vintage product line. This mic benefits from the vocalist being slightly further back in terms of distance I’ve found on past sessions, however it’s dependent on the tone of the vocals. However, just because it has a stronger lowend and lower midrange doesn’t mean it’s lacking in anyway - in fact, due to this quality, it’s the darkest sounding microphone in my personal experience, but doesn’t lack any of the pleasing ‘expensive’ frequencies in the upper top end and so is perfect for vocals, in fact, you’ll have seen me use this mic for my own vocals time and time again due to it excelling on voice overs and anyone with a thinner sounding vocal such as myself.
Due to having literally the same identical capsule used within it’s design as the V67, the sound is very similar but there are notable differences. The midrange focus is definitely shifted compared to the V67, not in a negative way, but just enough that it has a very slight change in tone, and ever so slightly brighter to my ear. The lowend and lower midrange is incredibly close as well, but again ever so slightly less than the V67 which, first assumptions come down to the housing of the capsule being much smaller than the V67. All in all, both of these mic’s are strikingly beautiful sonically, and could be used on similar sources and achieve similar results; but knowing that the Amethyst has a change in characteristics even if ever so small is beneficial especially if you own both.
The BB29 is unsurprisingly the brightest of the bunch. It’s transformer coupled output allows it to stand out from the entire range of microphones available from JZ. Not only is it the brightest, but it’s the only microphone specifically designed to have a more exaggerated frequency response whereas the other mic’s are much more natural. Because of this, you could be forgiven for assuming that it’ll only excel on certain voices, or sources in general but it’s far from reality; for me, while performing this shootout, it was the first time hearing the BB29 in person and it blew me away. The only notable or possible negative side effect of it being a bright sounding microphone is that it naturally is going to have stronger sibalience compared to others available in our range, but I found a good pop shield will eliminate this. Another way would be to angle the mic off axis very slightly
The BH1S is a beautiful sounding mic with more top-end than the vintage series, but not as much as the BB29. It’s an incredibly detailed mic, but low self noise, and very neutral in terms of imparting distortion which allows it to shine on vocals - although voiceover I may not reach for this mic immediately due to just how sensitive it is. The midrange is slightly exaggerated but in a musical way where I can see it working very well on pop or R&B vocalists, and having used it on several female vocalists, and soulful Male vocals, I can say without a doubt that it’s a close favorite in terms of it’s tonality.