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Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > Harmonica microphone comparison
Harmonica microphone comparison
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1642 posts
Apr 17, 2020
9:54 AM
Mostly when somebody is demonstrating some new and expensive gear they´re happy with, they fire up their vintage tube amp and then some pedals and then some whatnot and start blowing. We´re supposed to get the idea anyhow.

Here is a different and interesting comparison between four microphones, played in sequence. To me this is very helpful, since I own two of those mics and maybe, just maybe I don´t need to buy that LW mic, or the new Hohner that I´ve been sort of developing an urge for.
That Hohner is not included here -- but I sincerely wish that somebody would pull it out and make a comparison with it and, say, a GB, or Audix or something.

Last Edited by Martin on Apr 17, 2020 9:55 AM
3196 posts
Apr 17, 2020
1:21 PM
Of those 4 mics I have had only one, a Shure 545. Which I liked but it was kind of unwieldy, being the pistol grip type.

The first thing I would consider when mic shopping would be, is it high or low impedance? I'd also think about if it would be worthwhile to put an IMT on a low z mic to match its impedance to my tube amp, or vise versa if I was looking at a high z bullet into a modern p.a.

Things do creep into gadgetry pretty quick these days. There must be well over a dozen different purpose built pedals to run between a mic and amp. Then there are modeling devices and amps too.

I am not in the market for a mic currently. I've had many, wish I'd kept a few, but I have what I need. My playing style crosses into folk, rock, roots, and Americana and not "strictly" blues. And a lot of the blues we do is more Delta than Chicago.

My small arsenal is an EV m43u military build mic, modded by Greg Heuman to hi z and with a VC added, a Shaker dynamic, which will go either low or hi z, and a couple of Shure 585 hi z ball mics. Otherwise I sometimes just blow into my vocal mc, which is a Shure Beta 58. I have a SM57 I could have cut down and bulletized but I see no need. The one mic I've been curious about is the Bulletini and I may get one yet.
Music and travel destroy prejudice.




513 posts
Apr 17, 2020
4:47 PM
I have modern Shure Green Bullet, a Greg Huemann modified Shure SM57, a plain Shure SM 58 Beta, a Bulletini, again by Blows MeAway.
I use the 58 Beta for all mic stand work and the Bulletini for hand held. Haven’t used the other two in years.
Both the 58 and the Bulletini are magnificent mics.
John M G
356 posts
Apr 17, 2020
6:13 PM
Martin, I think that’s just about the best comparison test I’ve seen on the web, thanks for sharing it. A great job Alexey Kormin, thank you
I particularly liked the fact that each mic was clearly identified on the video when it was in use and that you could hear each mic at some stage against each of the other mics, well almost I think!
So who’s got these mics who’d be willing to do a similar comparison. An Astatic Crystal, Shure Black and Cream label CR’s, Mexico mfg. Shure CM’s, Bulletini, One of Greg’s Custom Wooden shell mics, EV RE-10, SM 57 and 58 and a Madcat Ruth Maddog Shaker?
Stay safe and well everyone
Cheers JG
2096 posts
Apr 18, 2020
9:02 AM
It is a very good mic comparison video.

It would be nice to hear more mics compared this way.

But, there are so many variables in such a demo.

You really should not pick a mic based on the sounds rendered in videos like this, even though it is a really good comparison video. Any of the mics in the demo, as well as those listed by John M G, might meet your harp mic needs. YouTube videos and even downloaded sound files are as much a product of recording techniques, production process, and data compression as it is the sound of the mic.

There are so many good mics that can be used in seeking the amplified harp sounds we each desire in our playing. I still use a few different mics with different amps depending on the music style/band/volume levels.

Some mics are better at feedback rejection on a loud stage, some sound great only at more reasonable lower volume levels. What works great for the sound you want when playing in your room or in a studio may not be functional on a loud stage.

Then there is the issue that different amps and PAs interact better with certain mics. The combination of player/mic/amp/venue space make a HUGE difference in the sound you produce.

There is no point in bearing the expense of buying one of each potential mic to try them out with each and every amp in order to find the "best mic" and "best amp" for you.

If you ever have a chance to try out other players' mics and amps IN PERSON at some future point when viral infection is not an issue, it would be a good way to do an audio taste test and see if a mic is amenable to your purposes.

Being able to write off occasional mic purchases against gig money over the years was a big factor in allowing me to try out several different vintage ebay mics. Some I still use on occasion, some are not in use presently.

Finding a few vintage mics I liked over years of playing and trying things out while building skills has been a good approach for me. It has been fairly reasonable in expense over time. I am still working on improving my performance skills. Due to hearing issues over the last few years I have gravitated toward quieter stage volumes and more "acoustic" playing.

For my "acoustic" (cleaner) amplified playing I have come to value my Ultimate 58 as I can sing back from the handheld mic and then play harp cupped on the mic using the same mic and adjusting mic volume levels.

I have come to believe that there are three skill sets that are more important in achieving our sound than the specific gear we use, though having reasonably decent gear DOES matter.

1) Work to develop and improve your own tone regardless of specific gear or any gear. For many of us this involves playing for quite a while. I don't think this journey of seeking to improve ever ends...

2) Work on mic handling and cupping technique regardless of the specific mic. This takes time, too. There are suggestions on mic techniques available in video posts from good players that you can explore to see if it may fit your musical approach.

3) Learn to adjust mics/amps/PAs with ANY gear you happen to be using in order to get as close to the sound you hear in your mind's ear. This is something learned through a lot of trial and error. You need to know the sound you want in your mind and then tweak whatever gear to get as close as you can to that sound.

Part of the challenge is for each of us to continue to seek our optimal "perfect" sound when we play without obsessing over the expectation that we might ever completely achieve it on a consistent basis.

Doug S.
486 posts
Apr 21, 2020
5:33 AM
Great post Doug.The three skill sets you named have to be developed in order to be successful on the Journey of Tone. But your last statement was so important for me to understand that I think it bears repeating.
"Part of the challenge is for each of us to continue to seek our optimal "perfect" sound when we play without obsessing over the expectation that we might ever completely achieve it on a consistent basis."
154 posts
Apr 22, 2020
4:53 AM
Very useful post.
There are lots of variables in this tone game - this comparison seemed to reduce as many as possible.

Almost Scientific!
155 posts
Apr 22, 2020
7:16 AM
Tomlin Leckie also does a good job of standardising conditions for mic comparison here:


Is that a Hickey Tomlin?
179 posts
Apr 22, 2020
8:28 AM
Nice comparison video, although I am confused as to why, if one is comparing mics, one would run through three pedals. There certainly are subtle differences between the mics, but the pedals would color the sound, no? And the real test would be a double blind (ABX) test, where you are presented the different mic sounds, playing the SAME notes, and then an "X" (unrevealed) mic that you would need to identify. Data shows that most people have biases in their listening based on volume, what is played at the moment, etc.
Enjoyed the "1980s workout movie montage" soundtrack, like a Rocky sequel sequence where he is getting stronger, running on the beach, lifting bags of cement, etc...lol

Last Edited by tomaxe on Apr 22, 2020 8:40 AM
276 posts
Apr 22, 2020
10:48 AM
That's an excellent mic comparison video by a skilled player (the skilled player ingredient is missing from many YouTube mic videos). Of all those mics, I liked the 545 the most (although the JR mic would probably be better in a live situation through a large amp due to its darker tone), and I liked the Fireball the least.
6597 posts
Apr 22, 2020
7:18 PM
It looks reasonable but I played it on my phone and could barely tell there were different mics involved. If I hadn’t been looking I don’t know if I could have noticed. It all just sounded like amplified kazoo.
1728 posts
Apr 22, 2020
7:35 PM
SuperBee busting with kazoo ??. Yeah, I think that's the harp attack -like square distortion to me. Not the point of the post of course. The comparison was exceptional as far as harp skill and production but like others have mentioned I would have heard the mics better with fewer pedals.
1729 posts
Apr 22, 2020
7:36 PM
SuperBee busting with kazoo :)
Yeah, I think that's the harp attack -like square distortion to me. Not the point of the post of course. The comparison was exceptional as far as harp skill and production but like others have mentioned I would have heard the mics better with fewer pedals.

Last Edited by Littoral on Apr 22, 2020 7:36 PM
6598 posts
Apr 23, 2020
3:22 PM
i think the worst of the processing was at the receiving end in this case, but its all processing. i can pick some differences but none i'd consider deal breakers. i really think Doug said a whole lot on this topic

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