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University of Massachusetts-Lowell - October 17, 2012

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Summary

For this UMass Lowell AES meeting, former Sound Recording Technology Graduate student Bradford Swanson shared a research project regarding the subjective comparison of vocal microphones on various sources. While most engineers learn to understand the differences between microphones through practical use, some microphone companies such as Shure and Rode have developed web applications for comparing timbral qualities of their microphones. Often, these online resources are less than ideal due to variations in performance between each test, and the lack of a scientific control. Brad's research involved developing a system by which microphones could be used/tested, with the results available for quick comparison all in one online resource.

Using the UML SRT mic locker, Brad created a system by which to compare the same exact performance of a singer on several different microphones at once. In total, he evaluated 43 microphones
arranged in 12 groups of 3-5 per performance. A diverse selection including dynamic, small/large diaphragm condenser, and tube condenser microphones were all part of the groups tested. Different settings for each individual mic were also tested.
Brad's presentation detailed the exhaustive process of recording the samples as well as the rigorous preparation required to ensure an honest and accurate scientific experiment. Long before the culminating research/recording session, Brad had to analyze the signal chain for imprecision and technical malfunction. If certain microphones did not perform up to snuff in these original tests, they were either fixed or disqualified from the study (hence the absence of the of UML's well weathered U87). Brad admitted that this project encompassed just a fraction of the available vocal microphones available to engineers today, not to mention the multitude of microphone applications that remain unexamined.

Brad's work can be found at http://bradfordswanson.com/mic/

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AES - Audio Engineering Society