M201TG, M160, SR-5 review 1/3

I often compared the mixing process to magic and sometimes overestimated its importance, leading me to believe that the choice of microphone is not important. 

When I used to believe that it was possible to produce any sound desired through mixing techniques, regardless of any microphones used to recording.  

In hindsight, it was just a lazy self-justification for financial constraints and various environmental factors. 

The conclusion drawn from years of experience is that using the appropriate microphone is indeed the much easier and faster route to make great sounds.

Learning and honing mixing skills is obviously important, but it is only a means and should not be an end in itself.

Before reaching the conclusion of covering it up with the "magic of mixing," it is necessary to think more diligently about whether there is a way to get good sound more appropriately and effectively.

To create a magical sound or to excel in mixing, the most important first step is choosing the right microphone.

“What is the snare microphone for this song?”

This is a question I receive quite frequently, and it leads to the longest response.

The fact that listeners are more interested in asking about the microphone rather than the mixing techniques is a testament to the effort I have put into researching and perfecting my works on my own. It brings me great pleasure to see that this has been effectively conveyed to my listener.

Furthermore, choosing and positioning Snare's microphone is even more meaningful because it clearly takes more thought and care.

Of course, what is always a prerequisite when talking about microphones is that there is no fixed microphone, not only snare, but also any part of the recording.
It is an unchanging principle to choose a microphone that suits the mood and intention of the music, and then install it in the appropriate location and use it.

Despite this, my answer to above question these days overwhelmingly is three snare microphones (M201TG, M160, SR-5)

Multi-miking technique (Setting up three microphones in different positions simultaneously)

The M201TG and M160 are products of ‘beyerdynamic’, and the SR-5 is a product of ‘Stager microphones’. Categorizing each microphone by its purpose and type, they are as follows:


It's interesting to note that all three of them are hyper-cardioid directional microphones.

Although it wasn't the primary consideration during the selection process, it's possible that these microphones were ultimately chosen for their unique characteristics. Compared to cardioid microphones, these have less sound bleeding from the sides (reducing unwanted sound) and more sound picked up from the rear (more space).

Additionally, they offer a stronger proximity effect, which can result in a punchy sound.

Overall, the hyper-cardioid polar pattern of these microphones may have been the optimal choice for recording with a punchy and spacious sound.

Unusually, most Ribbon microphones are Bi-directional, while the M160 and SR-5 are Hyper-Cardioid.

  • M201TG (beyerdynamic)

The first impression of using the M201TG on top is that it has punchiness that is better than any microphones I have used on snare before, while maintaining clarity.

It is now a common experience that a client (especially a performer) immediately asks what this microphone is after a rehearsal.

The other microphone I used in the past had a good punch and significantly less bleeding from the hi-hat, but unfortunately, the clarity was too low.
Another microphone was very clear and the punch didn't drop much, but the hi-hat bleeding was too much.

The M201TG, however, managed to highlight only the positive characteristics and eliminate any drawbacks, making it the most balanced option for recording.

Above all, the true value of M201TG is its rich low-band natural transient characteristics.

Its transient response is not overly sharp or too smooth, allowing the dynamics processor to react very actively and enabling more musical expression. In other words, the noise gate's detection is clear and does not confuse the threshold settings, and the compressor works accurately as expected from slow to fast types, making it easy to achieve the desired nuances.

This cannot be simply attributed to the proximity effect unique to Hyper-Cardioid.

This is because even if the distance of the microphone is somewhat distant due to the style of performance or phase alignment, it is still possible to hear that the characteristic low-frequency characteristics are not greatly lost.

Especially in percussion instruments, the length of the decay is closely related to the energy of the low frequencies. While other microphones tend to sound thin and shorten in length when placed even slightly further away, the M201TG still produces an energetic sound, making it easier to place the microphone in the desired position for accurate recording.

Although it is expressed as a rich low frequency, it does not simply mean that it has a lot of low frequencies. Boosting around 150Hz to 200Hz for a deeper sound does not make it muddy, expanding the range of musical expression. (As a personal tip, I think the advantages of the M201TG microphone are maximized when the LF boost EQ is used before the compressor. This is because the dynamic processor changes the energy of the low frequencies, and the decay characteristics change accordingly.  Of course, there isn’t right answer, so take it as a reference.)

When it comes to snare sound, describing the sound character of M201TG as "Holy damping!" would be easy to understand. Ironically, the damping factor of M201TG's low frequency response is actually relatively low if we look at the literal definition. (The concept of damping factor doesn't really apply to microphones it was used only as a metaphor.) What is commonly referred to as "damping" results in a punchy sound with a natural decay that has sufficient length in the low frequencies.

Here is a frequency analysis of the Snare Top sound recorded with the M201TG microphone. The following examples show the sound of the snare drum tuned to a very low pitch. Just Keep in mind that the sound of the snare drum can vary greatly depending on the instrument, playing style, and type of drumstick used.

The hi-hat sound bleeding into the snare top mic is typically a target for removal. However, since I started using the M201TG microphone, I hardly ever worry about this issue anymore. The mic's basic tonal balance and hyper-cardioid directional pattern seem to be the reason for this.

Very occasionally, depending on the style of performance or the physical location of the hi-hat, I have been worried because it is too small.

In most cases, however, hi-hat bleeding is very suitable, making it easy to process and rich sound.

he M201TG seems to work well with almost any percussion instrument, not just the snare drum. I haven't personally used it for toms, as I prefer small diaphragm condenser mics for that purpose, but I anticipate that it would work great. As a somewhat unusual example, I've even used the M201TG for both the ‘GungPyeon’ and ‘ChaePyeon’ of Korean traditional percussion instruments, and it was incredibly effective.

Surprisingly, it also works really well with acoustic guitar. When placed at a reasonable distance to avoid the proximity effect, it can be achieved a very clear, silky, and punchy sound for pop or rock styles. However, in my opinion, there are other mic options that work even better for a natural, folksy vibe.

As a side note, the "TG" in beyerdynamic's microphone names stands for "Tour Gear." This suggests that Beyerdynamic places a strong emphasis on durability when designing their microphones, which makes sense considering the demanding nature of live performance environments.

Now, you might think that the windscreen included with the microphone would make it great for vocal use, but unfortunately, that's not the case. The microphone is actually sensitive to plosive noises and even handle noise, which makes it not ideal for singers.

On the other hand, rather than not being suitable, there are more appropriate microphones, so there's no reason to choose.

I don't know for sure, but I'd guess that it's because the TG microphones are designed for outdoor performances, where wind noise can be a problem.

This microphone is suitable for almost all instruments, (The manufacturer even recommends it for woodwinds.) so it can be considered and approached with a variety of options beyond just vocals. In particular, It's especially perfect for snare drums and is often the first choice for most recording sessions. Furthermore, it pairs well with the M160 microphone from the bottom channel that will be introduced, making it even more satisfying.

<to be continued>

M201TG Review (KR)