Strictly brand or strictly sound?

ACTSTech

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This was a curious discussion I had the other day.

Are you a brand person or a sound person?

Example: Most artists will put a Beta 87 on their rider even if they don’t know anything about hand held vocals. People seem to think Countryman E6 is the standard for wireless. I know several people who will only go by brand, where I have a mishmash of equipment.

This goes back to my PZMs, which I tend to prefer for micing grand pianos. Not that they’re the best choice, but I don’t have deep pockets to but some Earthworks and I have to make decisions on cost vs fear when they’re going certain places. Recording and live applications are different as well. Obviously, some people will prefer 414s, but in a piano that’s being amplified by a JBL entry-level system, does it matter?

So do you pick a product just because of name recognition and the weight it carries, or do you have some random toys that you just like regardless of other techies trashing them?
 

Colin

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Depends on how many riders I need to satisfy. "The standard" for anything tends to be simply the most established, broadly adequate, shrewdly marketed option, not the "cutting edge" or best for very many specific applications. Basically, if Sweetwater calls it "legendary" or "world's most popular" then it is probably rider friendly and okay sounding. I like having fun toys, and can be fun for visitors to have those unusual things to play with too, but don't usually have a lot of money to play with by that point.
 

FMEng

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Writing a rider is a different matter than buying equipment for your own use. A rider has to specify common, industry standard items. Most venues have a few SM58s. Not many will have a KMS105, so specifying one will create a problem. The goal isn't to have the best, the goal is to avoid the worst, because some venue will pull out a $30 Pyle. It seems like half the time, the artists have no idea what's in the rider.

For my own projects, I tend to be somewhere in the middle. I don't often have time to experiment with every mic in the box. I know that the go to mic for a snare is an SM57, so that's what I'm going to grab. Experimenting often happens when I'm doing a bigger job and having to use about everything in the box. Then, the oddballs get to come out and play.
 

jkowtko

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Redwood City, CA
Sound, and budget. Why would someone in this field be interested in brand names, especially when most of the time nobody in the audience even knows there is a sound system in the theater ... ;)
 
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Colin

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It seems like half the time, the artists have no idea what's in the rider.
And there's a certain category of performer that tends to come sans rider and tends to truly believe in the supremacy of the SM58, which they may request by saying "I need a ball mic" and for which the $30 Pyle is an acceptable sub... because it has a ball too. I have a 5 year old AT4047 that has never been used in performance because though plenty of jazz vocalists come through, somebody always says something about wanting those damn balls at their lips.

The less derisive way to put it is, performers give their best performance when they feel confident, and familiar gear, not necessarily sexy high end gear, tends to do that for them.
 

MNicolai

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Whatever works. All circumstances are different.

Riders are about standardization, reducing risk of trouble between venues, and speeding up the time it takes to load the show in and make it sound and look good.

Your personal kit, or the kit for a venue you manage are another matter entirely. You own the risk yourself if there are problems, but more importantly you have time to appreciate the differences between each component in the system and what makes the show sound good and what will make it suck.

The studio recording world is very different. There you have a highly controlled environment where you would actually be able to hear the difference, do A/B testing between different elements, and have enough time to use it to your advantage. Let's say a recording studio has 50 different microphones ranging from the usual suspects to high-end ribbons and condensers. Hand those to a sound op for a live gig and they'll spend the entire sound check and show just trying to acclimate. The load-in will be wasted on decisions that ultimately end up don't making the show sound any better than if every source on stage was mic'd with SM58's and 57's. Not to mention who ends up paying for the Neumann that gets accidentally gets kicked by the guitarist.

Brand loyalty does exist for a reason though. Although not infallible, it offers a helpful metric for reliability, consistency, support, and understanding.

I'm frequently spending other people's money. Taking risks on something untested that might be a little cheaper is fool's errand. If it's a lot cheaper, then it needs to be tested as much as it can be or someone involved in the process needs to take responsibility for owning that decision and whatever outcome it may have. Alternatives shouldn't be written off on the sole basis that they aren't a certain brand, but they need to go through a gauntlet that a more common brand may not have to jump through before getting signed off on.

I also do a lot of work with schools. Giving them 12 styles of microphones when 4-5 will do is just going to confuse them and give them grief. Better not to own a Beta 58 than own a few and try and use them with single-wedge monitors and get dragged into feedback and not understand why. Nonetheless, I want them to have enough that they can mic a drum kit differently than a vocalist.
 
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FMEng

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Use that AT4047 on a sax, trumpet, or trombone, which is what it's made for, and those jazz musicians will be happy. I can understand why a singer wouldn't want to hide behind one.
 

Colin

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Use that AT4047 on a sax, trumpet, or trombone, which is what it's made for, and those jazz musicians will be happy. I can understand why a singer wouldn't want to hide behind one.
Wouldn't you think? But if it's an instrument it has to be a SM57, because that's what an "instrument mic" is... see where I'm going here?

And they wouldn't necessarily be hiding behind the 4047 because they might be 30" back, 40 degrees off axis, reading their sheet music that fell on the floor, because they only play four shows a year in between teaching college students anything but mic technique. Or something like that. People want what they want sometimes for reasons other people would frown at, but if that's what they need to give a good performance, and without having a fit about their tech, then that's fine.
 

RonHebbard

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Wouldn't you think? But if it's an instrument it has to be a SM57, because that's what an "instrument mic" is... see where I'm going here?

And they wouldn't necessarily be hiding behind the 4047 because they might be 30" back, 40 degrees off axis, reading their sheet music that fell on the floor, because they only play four shows a year in between teaching college students anything but mic technique. Or something like that. People want what they want sometimes for reasons other people would frown at, but if that's what they need to give a good performance, and without having a fit about their tech, then that's fine.
But if it's an instrument, it has to be an SM57, because that's what an "instrument mic" is.
In the instance of your vocalist, isn't she / he's 'Voice' their "instrument"??
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 

TimMc

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Oy. I'm not sure exactly what the OP is asking but I've spent close to 40 years in audio, much of it providing gear for others to use so I'll offer some observations.

If you or your crew are the sole and exclusive operators/users of the gear you should buy whatever makes you happy, no matter how expensive or cheap-ass it is. The only people you have to please are yourselves and by extension, your clients who have no brand preferences.

If you are in the business of supplying services and equipment for those who have such brand/model preferences you need to have what they want to pay for. It's bad business to be in a position where you have to refuse money from a willing client because you cannot or will not supply the gear they want.

The shop I manage has a bunch of gear we'd not own if our inventory was based on my preferences - but it's stuff clients ask for, or, by their budget needs, require - and we make our profit from sending out gear and techs to satisfy clients.

Now about riders... so much depends on at what level of our industry do you supply products and services. At most levels the rider is a combination of "must have" and "we'd like to have." *Almost* everything is negotiable in some way, shape or form (why is a whole 'nother post) and the rider should be seen as a tool to launch discussions with the production manager about substitutions, venue limitations (yes, we can supply more boxes for the PA hangs but the structure won't support the load), and what has to be hired in.

From a "rider-friendly" standpoint you can do either or both of these: have a supply of industry standard and often requested mics like SM58 and SM57, Beta 98, etc., or Other Brands Similarly Respected like Audix, Sennheiser, or maybe AKG. Boutique mics, vintage mics, and brands that are not common in touring are best avoided when purchasing for your primary mic kit; you can add the fun stuff later. My personal kit has no SM58 or SM57 (because I manage a shop with dozens of them), but has AKG C-535, Heil PR31BW, Shure SM86, Oktava MK-012 and MK219, Shure KSM32, Audio Technica 4041... things that are not found in most regional or local sound company inventory (I do a lot of acoustic music mixing and symphony work).

It's a great time to be in audio - the mics, speakers, amplifiers and consoles are better than they've ever been.

Edit ps:
Example: Most artists will put a Beta 87 on their rider even if they don’t know anything about hand held vocals. People seem to think Countryman E6 is the standard for wireless. I know several people who will only go by brand, where I have a mishmash of equipment.
A lot of riders are edited by artist management, who knows nothing about most everything... but if they really want a Beta 87 (ouch) that's what they will receive or we'll negotiate a substitution in advance. As for the EXAMPLE of Countryman e6 - it's much easier to run sound when the microphones are the same model for the application. I don't especially care if they're 6's or 3's, e or i, or from another manufacturer so long as they're all the same. The mishmash of gear does not lend itself to being a service provider. I spent 10 years trying to convince others that my carefully selected and curated collection of microphones was what a show needed, when the reality was that I was pushing "what I have" instead of "what they need". It took a big swallowing of pride to realize that I'd be better off with SM58s and SM57s and save my "choice microphones" for when I was the only person who had a say. Then I got out of running my own company and started managing the businesses of others and learned that commercial decisions outweigh personal preferences.
 
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Colin

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But if it's an instrument, it has to be an SM57, because that's what an "instrument mic" is.
In the instance of your vocalist, isn't she / he's 'Voice' their "instrument"??
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
Tried that with a select few "voice players"? with whom I have such a rapport, and I also like to point out that the SM57 was good enough for POTUS from Nixon through Obama (though I suppose their voices are tools, not instruments?). Anyway, I usually just give them what they want without arguing, and go back to sit behind my SM57 VOG setup.
 

RonHebbard

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Tried that with a select few "voice players"? with whom I have such a rapport, and I also like to point out that the SM57 was good enough for POTUS from Nixon through Obama (though I suppose their voices are tools, not instruments?). Anyway, I usually just give them what they want without arguing, and go back to sit behind my SM57 VOG setup.
@Colin I understand your current POTUS has replaced his redundantly redundant Shure 57's with his trustworthy twitter tweeter.
I further understand his twitter tweeter is one of the few things he doesn't mind piercing his walls, although he possibly has a one-way check valve fitted. Go figure.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 

Colin

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@Colin I understand your current POTUS has replaced his redundantly redundant Shure 57's with his trustworthy twitter tweeter.
I further understand his twitter tweeter is one of the few things he doesn't mind piercing his walls, although he possibly has a one-way check valve fitted. Go figure.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
I think it actually might still be a 57, just a single one on a gooseneck now so he can be like 21dB louder than Obama (probably fired someone for not making it 45dB) when he twits through the press room tweeters. Scandalous to use a Mexico made mic though, and "a lot of people are saying" the SM57 is a Dem, too. Maybe he requested a vintage USA made version from the Nixon lectern.

But we digress.
 

Darin

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In my short time working live music gigs, I found that the artists who were TRULY serious about wanting specific models of vocal mics would provide their own rather than asking the venue to provide them
 

ACTSTech

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Oy. I'm not sure exactly what the OP is asking but I've spent close to 40 years in audio, much of it providing gear for others to use so I'll offer some observations.
I’m not exactly sure what I was asking, but I’m enjoying the response.

My first real job in doing sound required me to learn on a Yamaha mixer, because it was industry standard. We’d set up and try to meet the rider, but there was always some twist, like this person needs this specific mic or whatever, but I got really comfortable with what we had. And they are all similar, PM 4000, 5000, 5D, you had a level of comfort and familiarity. If you asked me, I would have said I was a Yamaha guy.

Fast forward, I took a part time job at a venue to sort of “slow down” and ran into resistance. My new boss, whom I was replacing, was an old time EV guy. Everything in the house was EV; mixing board, amps, mics, everything. Not that I couldn’t handle it, but it just wasn’t what I was used to. And after being there a while, and making recommendations to replace some of the components, with lots of pushback from him, I got frustrated. What I didn’t know, and where this sort of came from, was he was a good friend of an engineer from EV, who had been an engineer at Harmon. He felt that EV stood up to anyone else, and as an engineer, he explained why. So even though there were superior products, he was thoroughly EV, and I’ll admit, some of the equipment did have a nice sound.

Curiously, outside of the venue, he was into a lot of other lines. He introduced me to TapCo, which led me to Mackie. Neither outstanding, but kinda fun on a budget. After I left, I introduced him to Allen & Heath, and when his ancient EV mixer finally died, that’s what he went with as a replacement.

I guess, though I butted heads, it opened me up to saying just because there’s a name recognition and reputation, sometimes what works for you might be outside of your comfort zone. I’m getting a little tired of musicians only playing on certain lines because that’s who sponsors them when they sound like crap, or people requesting very specific equipment and not taking a substitute even when they don’t know how to fully utilize it. When their “tour manager/sound engineer/singer’s girlfriend” lays down a demanding rider and “must be” list, then starts sound check by mixing around the snare drum and hi-hat, I don’t care what the equipment is, it’s not gonna be a good mix.

I’ll end with this. I’ve worked in houses that are all one product. Some are great, some horrible. Bose might be great for your home, but not for your 2000 seat road house. Meyer might be overkill for your 300 seat black box. For me, a mishmash might be best.
 

TimMc

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The installation biz has a lot less emotional brand loyalty than touring and for the manufacturers, installations represent far greater profit.

My brand loyalty tends to extend to the products that make my employer a profit (I'm pretty brand-agnostic). All the majors make competent gear or they'd be driven out. EV has had a number of very nice sounding systems and individual components, too. At my "day job" our primary stage monitors are EV xW15a. Folks that ask for Clair 12AM will usually accept xW. We love our xW15a. :cool: But otherwise we're largely a Harman/JBL/Crown shop with some EAW lurking in the corners.

Back to the mishmash: Like I said in my first post, if you or your staff are the only operators of the gear, you're free to use whatever delivers the *result* your client is paying for. You're delivering a service, a solution to meet their needs, not acting as an a la carte rental house. I can see that some performers won't understand the difference. Figure out a way to make it profitable for you to accommodate them, or they can accept what you have. What I do at my day job is provide turnkey production to bands/promoters and venues, and for better or worse, want whatever it is they want. A phone call usually sorts out what is genuinely important from what is not. If what is genuinely needed will increase the cost to my client, ultimately they approve more production money or work out something with the act.

Early in my corporate AV work a client came to me with a request that seemed a bit odd to me. I knew better than to say 'no' and indicated I'd get with my superiors with their request. When I saw my supervisor I told him the client had this screwy thing... and he informed me that clients don't come to us with screwy requests, clients give us an opportunity to add anther line item to their invoice.

My advice is find a way to cross-hire whatever is needed that you don't have, mark it up for your trouble and add it as a line item to your invoice. Be a hero, and charge 'em for the cape and superpowers. ☑
 

ACTSTech

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My advice is find a way to cross-hire whatever is needed that you don't have, mark it up for your trouble and add it as a line item to your invoice. Be a hero, and charge 'em for the cape and superpowers. ☑
We did a show and provided backline for the musicians, and the tour manager insisted that the bassist MUST have an Ampeg head and stack but would consider “lesser” options if necessary. My boss told the promoter it would be pricey, the promoter said it was fine. Then he got the bill. Honestly, the bassist didn’t need it, and the promoter learned that sometimes the riders ask for the world but will settle for Luxembourg.
 

macsound

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From a corporate sales side, like booking an event at a hotel, it's a bit like renting a car. VW Jetta or equivalent. Ford Explorer or equivalent.
A rider might say Beta 87A and as a corporate sales guy you know it's a super-cardioid condenser vocal mic. If talent shows up and its a KSM9, it's probably ok. If it's a 58, there's going to be a conversation.
Same class and quality is what people are going for.

That being said, if you are specifically renting a product, like you call on the phone or the rider notes a couple items as non-substitutable, then you need to either call it out or say you don't have it.
Maybe the vocal mic is in the same class but the vocalist or engineer knows from experience that Y sounds the best, they're going to request Y specifically.
 

eadler

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Upstate NY
In my short time working live music gigs, I found that the artists who were TRULY serious about wanting specific models of vocal mics would provide their own rather than asking the venue to provide them
Yup. We haven't had anyone big enough to have a multi-page rider in a while, generally we have e-mail back and forths, but the ones that did have specific mics would often list everything they wanted in the rider and we'd reply something like "we have W, we can substitute Y for X, help us out on what you're really looking for with Z" and often when it came to specific mics they'd often have one available but just prefer if we could provide everything so there's no checking whose what is whose at strike. It's always great when you've got a relatively small kit and you're replying to a rider that's ultra-specific with "oh yea, we actually have exactly what you're asking for on-hand" (I recall once someone asked for a very specific piano model which happens to be same as the one piano we own).