For audio samples comparing the Avantone CV-12, Audio-Technica AT4047, and Rode NT1-A, scroll to the bottom of the post.
More and more recording projects are starting out or completely produced in home project studios. But for most of us home producers, finding the “magic” that makes the sonic difference between our own music and big budget productions is often elusive. It seems we’re always looking for the missing link, whether it’s a new instrument, preamp, or room treatment.
It was this quest that led me toward a new studio microphone. Until a few months ago, I was using a well-regarded $220 mic, the Rode NT1-A. It’s a decent mic, but ever since I upgraded my interface from a Firepod to an Apogee Duet, the NT1-A was definitely the weak link in the audio chain.
After reading some recommendations, I started saving up for a used Avantone CV-12 ($500 new). As the funding was almost complete, I started to do a little more research and came across questions like, “Isn’t this mic the same Chinese-made mic as this other one that sells for $200?” Turns out, it pretty much was, except for a red paint job, fancy case, and better warranty.
Several online forum members suggested getting a cheaper, off-brand mic, then have it modified – change out the tubes and/or capsules, capacitors, etc. There’s even a guy in the eastern U.S. who has a special Rode NT1-A modification process, claiming the new capsule and head basket would make it sound like a classic Neumann (very expensive German brand) microphone. I listened to the samples, and the modified microphones definitely sounded far different than stock NT1-A’s.
But the more I listened to the modified mics, the less I liked the sound. There was a certain something in the upper midrange that didn’t capture the sophistication of more expensive-sounding mics (which explains the price difference, I guess).
So, I was back to square one. I went to gearslutz.com – which is a great forum for music gear info – and searched for best mics for $400. It was there that I found recommendations for the Audio-Technica AT4047 ($700 new). It was definitely a “character” mic, intended to impart a fat, vintage sound to recordings. It is FET-based (as opposed to a tube mic), and designed to somewhat emulate the classic Neumann U47 (hence the 4047 numbering).
I had never paid much attention to the AT line because their models are pretty nondescript compared to the ruby beauty of the Avantone CV-12. But the AT mics have exceptional value. I ended up getting a used AT4047 for a little over $400, and I loved it upon first listening. It’s not a bright mic, which is fine because I wanted something to beef up my vocals.
But, that’s not the end of the story. (I know, incredible, right? Now that I have you on the edge of your seat…)
In the months when I had my heart set on the CV-12, I had saved an Ebay search, so that anytime a CV-12 was listed for auction, Ebay sent me a notification. Three days after I received my AT4047, a CV-12 listing came up with a buy-it-now price significantly lower than the going rate. So, I thought, I’ll snatch it up, try it out, then flip it for profit (I didn’t realize how much Ebay and PayPal actually take out of the seller’s bottom line, so I ended up losing about $6 in the process). In the short time I had the CV-12, I did some testing against the AT4047.
Now, these two mics are not what I’d call comparable. Both could have their uses in a studio, but they sound very different. The point of the testing was merely to find out how each sounded on my voice. I’ll let you decide which you like better (I sold the CV-12, so you know what my choice was). The samples from the AT4047 and CV-12 are the same take, with the microphones arranged as in the photo. Though it was months later and a different vocal take, I also recorded a sample of the NT1-A.
If you want, download all four files, pull them into your audio editor and mute/solo different tracks to hear them alone, or within a mix. There is no processing on any of the mics, so experiment to see how they hold up to EQ and compression.
The song is called “Christ Is Risen,” by The Brilliance. It’s a track I put together to demo an arrangement for our church team. Happy listening!
(all files are 16-bit .WAV)