I finally wanted to try a different vocal mic again. I've been using a Shure Beta 87A or an Audix OM5 for the most part over the past couple years. I also have an AKG C535EB that sees some use. The 535 was the mic that I was told I sounded best on when we did the shootout at the Bose conference in Ashland back in 2006.
I like the way the 87 cuts, but it also feeds back a little more than I like even with judicious EQ usage. The OM5 sees mostly L1 Compact duty when I go direct in since the 87 requires phantom power and the Compact doesn't have it. I prefer a condenser when I can get phantom power. I was looking for a similar cut to the 87, but I was also hoping for a little smoother response with less feedback. So on a whim when my Sweetwater rep called I asked for his recommendation on a good condenser mic comparable to the 87 with the other characteristics I wanted. I asked him about the Blue enCORE 300 since we have talked about this here on the forum, and he said he liked that mic but really thought I should go for something like the Neumann KMS105. I had tried one of those a couple times, and although I like them they don't fit my voice very well - very smooth, but sounds nasal on my voice without as much cut as I like. His next recommendation was the Audix VX10. Although I know Cliff Henricksen really likes that mic, I really didn't want to spend 5 bills plus, so he suggested the little brother to the VX10 - the VX5 for $270. The VX5 has a supercardioid pattern, so I thought it would be good at rejecting feedback. (That was another thing that made me stay away from the VX10 - it has a cardioid pattern and thus wider area pickup and more chance for feedback.)
The VX5 arrived a couple days ago just before I was leaving for a gig. I put the Audix presets on my T1 and headed out. I only had a little time to try the mic before the gig, and I really wasn't impressed with its sound with the VX5 preset. So I tried the VX10 preset and did the gig with that. It still didn't have the punch and cut I really like in the 87, so when I got up the next morning I A/B'd both the 87 and VX5 along with the OM5, 535, and an odd Audio Technica condenser I had lying around (can't remember the model name.) When I tried the KMS105 preset on the VX5 it came to life. I use this preset on the 535, so I figured I would like it on the VX5, and I was right. It had nice bite and warm low end with most of the qualities I really like. I haven't had enough time on stage yet with this mic, but my initial impression is that it is very nice and will be a good addition to my mic arsenal. It has a 10dB pad as well as 150 Hz rolloff, so I think my bases are covered.
The most curious thing to me was that the VX5 preset didn't sound very good to me. I trust Cliff's golden ears implicitly, and I remember when he wrote of traveling to Audix and creating these presets. It appears that the mic may have gone through a redesign since Cliff made the VX5 preset which may explain the difference. The mic used to have a mesh grill inside the ball windscreen, but it now has two foam windscreens inside the ball. This makes it less susceptible to wind noise which is great for my purposes, and it also may have changed the characteristics of the mic enough to make it need more high end EQ. that's my feeling anyway. So I'll use the KMS105 preset. I'm taking my the advice we so often espouse here to use whatever preset seems to sound the best.
So I have a new mic and hopefully a better way to express myself.
Have any of you tried the VX5 and what did you think of it?
Thanks for posting this. I've been really curious about the Audix VX5. Strangely, none of the bricks and mortar stores around here stock the Audix vocal microphones anymore.
My KMS105 is going on 8 years old, and still going strong, but I have been very impressed with the OM2 and OM3b (almost identical to the OM5). I use these with the Compacts and they do very well. But back to you...
Thanks for the detailed impressions. The way you framed your comments in the context of the AKG C535 (my long-time go-to microphone before the KMS 105), this really helped to get a sense of what you were hearing.
Do you prefer the VX5 (with KMS 105 Preset) over the AKG C535? I know that the VX5 will probably be a better performer on our stages simply because it is has the supercardioid polar pattern.
So aside from that - how's the the sound and responsiveness of the VX5 compared to the AKG C535?
I think I do prefer the VX5. I didn't answer right away because I wanted to do some more A/B'ing at the other two gigs I had today. The two mics are very similar in a lot of ways. The VX5 is a little more pronounced in the midrange and low end. I've always described the 535 as having kind of a fuzzy midrange if that makes sense. After singing on both of them today I find the VX5 a little more forgiving and able to smooth out peaks better. It's also a little less harsh in the high end. The thing I liked best about it was that it didn't pick up as many plosive pops. I did have to stay on the VX5 pretty tight which is my normal technique. You'd expect this with a supercardioid pattern. It also has a slight flat spot on the ball grill that helps locate the center of the mic with your lips.
Does that answer your questions?
Tom, since you've used the OM5, how do you think this one compares to that?
I'd have to same that it's about the same with the response of a condenser which is a little crisper and a little less robust.
Well, now you've got me thinking! I've been using a Shure Beta 58 for years and not thinking twice about changing, and certainly not a [gasp] condensor mic.
So, the Audix VX mics and the others mentioned are condensor mics, but have super tight patterns? Which is why they do not feedback or, presumably, pick up noise?
One of the things I most enjoy about condensor mics in live performances--always in super quiet venues--is that you don't have to be right on top of them.
I have my Model II et al set up and have been revisiting all of my settings recently (inspired by the happy addition of Fishman Aura 16 stompboxes for the guitars) and have been paying attention to my vocals. Really want them to have that extra something, too! Despite advice to the contrary, I have re-added a light touch of compression, after much A/B-ing on my most challenging songs. I find it just makes my vocals sound smoother, along with paying more attention to mic technique beyond 'eating the mic'.
Always something to learn. Sounds like I need to check out some other mics which might serve me better.
I eat the VX5 the same way I eat a dynamic mic.
I used compression until the Bose engineers told me to turn it off during my technique presentation at the Cuchara conference.
I just upgraded my older Aura pedals to the 16 capability. :-)
It would be nice to have a mic with just a bit more envelope.
Maybe I can turn compression off when I find the right mic!
Looking forward to trying the VX5 one day soon, I hope!
And congrats on the upgrade! I think it's very nifty that upgrading is possible. What a classy product!
Thanks, I will check out the Neumann as well.
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