Microphone vs EQ Plugin

Microphone vs EQ Plugin
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When I read reviews for microphones, I often hear things like, “too bright for my taste,” or “has hyped (whatever frequencies).”

My question is, why does this matter? In theory, if a microphone had too many highs, I can roll those off with EQ. Easy. I wonder what I’m missing here. Thanks for shedding some light. :slight_smile:


I’m torn on this one. Could you EQ mic A to sound like mic B? A lot of the times, yes you can. But sometimes no.

You can’t eq a polar pattern, and the way the mic picks up the sounds in the room contributes a lot to the way the mic sounds.

I’ve done some test with mics on vocals where I take two mics that sound radically different and record the same take. Then I try to EQ one to match the other and do a blind test to see if I can pick each one out. Sometimes it works really well and it’s almost impossible for me to tell the difference. Other times, it’s harder to do.

I do believe that 90% of what people think they like in a microphone can be accomplished by EQ.

And there’s something to be said for buying gear that you aren’t trying to compensate for. Not that it can’t be done, but if you mix for a living, you don’t have time to be dialing in crazy eq curves just to fix your gear. If you do this on the side and don’t have thousands to spend on microphones, spending time on your EQ won’t be as big a deal.


+1000 to what @bozmillar said.

The only thing I would add is to not let have the “exact right mic for your voice” hold you back from making music.

So much of the garbage that is spouted on the internet originates from people who are repeating what they have read/heard, or who like to sound important and “informed”. It’s fine for a full-time sound engineer to scour his fabulously stocked vintage mic locker for the perfect mic for the voice he’s recording, but most of us recording at home simply don’t have those options…

Having a microphone and recording something is far better than worrying about whether you have the right mic and recording nothing.


Hi Cristina,
Yes to what Boz and CR have said… when I started out, I angsted over buying a mic and wrongly equated price with quality. I thought I needed an ultra expensive mic but what I really needed was to explore how to use a mic. I ended up buying a Rode NT1-a as a relatively low cost condensor mic and would describe it as having a fairly ‘bright’ sound. It’s a great mic and can capture nuances that other mics seem to miss but… when I acquired an AT4040, I find that I’ve not bothered to get the Rode out of its box… I can use the other mic as a general all-rounder microphone and lazily use it all the time and just tweak the eq to suit my needs.


Thanks for the replies! I’ve had an Rode NT1A for years. I’m not necessarily looking for an upgrade, but just thinking about it. I’m interested in the AKG C414 because of all the polar patterns to play around with, and noticed a lot of talk like this:

The XLII boosts the highs above 3 kHz a bit, giving the sound source a brighter sound. This is great for vocals and results in good presence which cuts through a mix nicely.

The XLS is flatter and perhaps better for instruments and group vocals.

And I just kept thinking to myself, “what the hell am I missing, I can boost highs above 3kHz in the mix if that’s what I want.” There are even plugins to simulate tubes, and all kinds of things. I understand wanting to make it easier from start to finish–that’s great if you’ve got the money–but yeah it seems like there is a lot of talk as if having the right gear is the only way to get the sound you want. And because I’m not a pro, I don’t always know what to believe. :slight_smile:

I’ve actually been motivating myself to practice more, as opposed to buying more gear, by giving myself a tiny wage, (like $1 or $2 for every hour I spend working on music), that I can spend to buy new gear that I don’t absolutely need. It puts the emphasis on skill instead of gear. Anyway yeah thanks again for the info!


Yeah the most important thing is the sounds that you start off with… and getting them right. Plus practising the craft of it all. I’ve found that there is a lot of craft involved in using a mic ‘seamlessly’ for vocals. It’s a little ironic I guess, that I’m far happier with the sounds I’ve recorded in my tiny studio than sounds I’ve had recorded by others with fancy expensive gear. Capturing ‘the moment’ is a key ingredient for me.


You could check out other mics, for fun and interest, and only buy or upgrade if you find “the one”. I would say that the best mic for you is the one that sounds and works best with your voice, in your studio, and with your setup/workflow. Obviously this is very subjective, but figure out what it is you want from the mic and then try out as many as possible. You can audition them at music shops like Guitar Center (but be wary of the salesperson’s recommendations), or find friends and musicians that might let you borrow theirs for a few days to try. Think of trying mic’s out as “dating”, and if you find the one you really want to stick with as “marriage”. Maybe that will help define the criteria. :wink:

And consider that it’s not just the mic’s sound you may want to look at, though that is usually the main consideration, but the way that the mic’s polar pattern works or picks up on-axis and off-axis, how close or far you have to get to the mic for good signal gain, proximity effect, low cut filter switch, size/shape and ease of mounting, good shock mount included, warranty etc.

Not that I’d recommend it, but there are a few companies that make software plugins that emulate numerous mic’s. You use the mic you have, but using presets (or even manual tweaking) in the plugin you can make your mic sound like many other types of mic. This could be for testing or trying out, as an ear exercise too. Or you can use it as a virtual “mic locker” if you wish. I include this option as I think those algorithms are mostly EQ in nature. So it could be an alternative to trying to custom EQ a mic sound.


There’s more to mics than EQ, though.

Transient response, polar pattern as Boz mentioned, distortion (very minor in most cases but our ears are pretty sensitive), proximity effect, resonance, phase shifts, and all of these may vary at different volumes, frequencies, and angle on/off axis.

EQ effects introduce their own phase shifts, resonances and distortions too. So mangling one mic to sound like another will introduce these extra distortions.

Then there’s the practical considerations - a ribbon might blow if you put it near a kick drum, a C414 is quite expensive to put within stick bashing distance of a drummer, an SM57 might sound boring with a particular preamp because the input impedance doesn’t suit it, A U87 might push a nice preamp into subtle overdrive where an RE20 won’t…

How much all the above matters just depends on the particular situation you’re in and what you’re recording. But to directly answer your question, let me give this extreme example;

An SM57 will never sound like a typical condensor mic, because the diaphragm doesn’t move as fast - that’s detail which is lost and will never be returned by a HF boost.


You don’t mention if you’re using your Rode as a vocal mic, or an instrument mic, but it’s really not that important until you have prioritized things and knocked them out, such as room treatment, monitors, all that boring but essential stuff, so if at some point you go for a very expensive mic you’ll hear it properly.
There are some mics that just sound good for your particular application, but that’s more of a happy coincidence more often than not. Cirrus is also correct in saying the design of a specific mic can make it more useful for a specific task. If, however, you’re in the beginner category (since that’s where this is posted, no offense intended) worrying about mics should probably be pretty far down the list, and you already have a good one.
It might be fun to set up a few input templates with your Rode to emulate other mics, for instance, put a little spike in at 3k and take out some 400hz to simulate a hot sounding mic, and record with it that way to see what you end up having to do in the mix phase to make it work, but there’s also a lot of people who end up making very good recordings using the same cheap mic they’ve been kicking around for years.


Hi Cristina, to me this is the key point, which you touched on yourself: You want to capture the best quality sound at tracking, and there are going to be some mics that will do that better than others, the 57 being a great endmember example.

Having “brightness” in the tracked sound is a lot easier to EQ out if it’s too much than it is to try to add it if it wasn’t captured in the first place. You can’t boost what isn’t there.

Sounds like you have given this all the right kinds of thinking! Good luck!


I agree about there being other differences between mics, besides just EQ. It was mostly the sorts of comments I mentioned that I was scratching my head about. I actually have a variety of inexpensive mics, mostly because I wanted to try out different kinds and see what they sound like; ribbon vs dynamic vs large diaphragm condenser vs small diaphragm condenser.

I’m not exactly a beginner, but it felt like a sort of beginner’s question. I always feel like a beginner anyway. There’s just so much more to learn. :slight_smile: Thanks again for all the great replies!


Not a beginner question at all. I sometimes laugh at myself because I still search for new mics and I have no reasonable need to. Boz and others have nailed the answer to this. I’ve had 3 different versions of the 414. New, old, and oldest. They all sounded similar to me. I used to use them in stereo mismatched patterns and even a decca tree. I am not a fan of this mic. It is a good workhorse mic that never made me say wow. They can be a lot of money for an average workhorse. The best application I found for 414’s is toms. I also have the AT 4040 that emma mentioned and have used the Rhode nt1. They are both fine mic’s. I really like the AT4040 on kick. For years I’ve used a Wunder CM7 and an RE-20 as 2 primary vocal mics. I think the RE-20 is a sub $500 mic and the Wunder CM7 is a $4000ish mic. They both work well as vocal mics. The compression that happens in the CM7 is hard to get any other way. Even though I use plenty more compression after the mic it “primes” the signal in a cool way an eq curve cannot. The RE-20 has a slow transient response and can be just the thing. Again this cannot be done with an eq curve.

With all this said I’ve mixed a lot of vocals from other studios and I never have any idea what mics they use. The goal is to take what you have in front of you and make it awesome. There have only been a few mics that I could not get what I needed and had to retrack. I had an intern track vocals with a cheap apex ribbon mic and the ribbon is slack. It had this nasty ring that intern thought was cool sounding:pouting_cat: I disagreed:) I also used to have a really inexpensive condenser that had a brutal 300hz frequncy thing going on that no eq in the world could fix. I am sure this mic was broken as well.

This is the long way of saying that generally if you are using a modern, functioning mic of almost any price point in a good room with a reasonable preamp you should be able to pull something good out of it.


I did my whole last post and never said what I intended:clap:

The different polar patterns are not nearly as exciting as I thought they would be. My CM7 will do 9 patterns. I use cardiod 99% of the time.


From my experience, even if it is theoretically possible to mimic a mic’s EQ curve at the mix stage, having the right mic for the job in the first place makes for better results because you have less experimenting to do with EQ and you are already closer to the sound you’re after in the end.

And I second Paul999 on the polar patterns: if you don’t have a great sounding room, you will probably find yourself using cardioid all the time anyway.

That said, if you like the C414 but do not have the budget, you might want to give a try at the Lewitt LCT640: similar specs, great sound, lower price. I bought a pair for myself and I love them.


I’m sure cardioid is far and away the most common and useful pattern.

Omni is nice for defeating proximity effect if you want to get really close to the source but still keep it sounding open.

I also love 414s on toms, but use them in Hypercardioid to reduce spill (one of the things I like about these mics is that what spill you do get isn’t too bad sounding, unlike some other popular tom mics that look like Star Trek phasers and sound… well… phasey off axis).

Figure of 8 obviously comes into its own in M/S setups, but it’s also handy if you want to record two voices at once - with massed harmonies that can save time.


Hi Cristina I bought the XLII and a UA combo thinking I had a great thing. I had a young lady sing for my first attempt and I was so disappointed. That built in EQ boost was awful. TThis was when I first started recording and didn’t know much about EQ It has and amazing ability to capture the slightest sound including just rubbing your fingers together, but I don’t use it for vocals anymore. It is great for an acoustic guitar, but I don’t think it is worth all that money. I use a Sure beta if think 58. Paid $125 ha ha Just thought I would give my personal experience to you




That may be true, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the SM57 isn’t up to the job. If it is to be excluded from consideration you’d have to logically exclude the SM7B too.

I’ve used an SM57 many times for studio vocals - it sounds great to my ears. I mean, we should put this into perspective, a jaw-dropping vocal performance is going to sound jaw-dropping regardless of the mic. The characteristics of the mic play only a very small part in the process compared to the actual noise coming out of the talent’s mouth.

The “SM” in SM57 stands for studio microphone.


I wouldn’t dream of even insinuating that, good sir. Indeed, it is my go-to snare mic, guitar mic, and often use it on vocals myself.

My point is just that there’s more to a mic’s sound than EQ, and you can’t recover lost detail with an EQ. As to whether you want that detail in the first place… well, to use a visual analogy, sometimes you need to get a little Vaseline on the camera lense…


Yeah I was thinking of the C414 for vocals, also to use the figure-8 for M/S recording for acoustic guitar, and also to try the hypercardioid pattern for when I talk in videos and want a narrow focus. I still have a long way to go before I buy anything at all though. I think I can get way more out of my gear than I currently am, by improving techniques.


M/S is great in a great room. Not so much in anything else. I am not sure of where your room treatment is at. I made some moveable absorbers(Gobos) and getting them in close behind the mic and behind the performer does awesome things. This is what I consider the most essential tool. If you do it yourself your $2/hr practising money will buy you a few Gobos in under 25 hours:)