Which model is right for me as a recording engineer?

Recording engineers, check out Edwina, Mabel, or Evelyn.

Mabel is a multi-pattern studio condenser. Try her on her own or with an Edwina for a great sounding mid-side mic configuration.

Edwina is a versatile workhorse microphone that sounds fantastic in the studio and has the added bonus of being able to be used live onstage. She’s our signature model, and much beloved by her fans. A matched pair of Edwinas can go a long way in a studio— try them on vocals, acoustic instruments, guitar amps, and drum overheads.

Evelyn, our newest model, is a weirdo and very cool looking. She’s perfectly spaced for the ORTF stereo recording technique, with all the warmth and versatility that people love in the Edwina.

STILL HAVE QUESTIONS?

Feel free to email us questions about your specific application and we can make a tailored recommendation for which mic will work best for you.

I’m not in the U.S.— how can I buy one?

We have international dealers in the U.K., Europe, and Australia— see our Resellers page for more info. If you live in the U.K., you will need to buy through Funky Junk U.K. If you live elsewhere, you are welcome to purchase from any of our other suppliers, or directly from us. If our website has any trouble calculating the best price on international shipping, please email us (sales@eartrumpetlabs.com) with the model(s) you are interested in, your preferred delivery address, and  your phone number so we can prepare you a shipping estimate and an invoice.

Which side of the mic is the front?

Good question. This is something that’s not necessarily intuitive when you first start working with your Ear Trumpet mic, and that’s okay! Once you figure it out you’ll feel like you’re in a secret club of great-sounding performers.

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On the models with silver faceplates (Edwina, Edna, Myrtle, and Evelyn) the silver screws are on the front of the microphone and the brass acorn nuts are on the back of the microphone.

On the mics made out of tea balls (yes, those were originally intended for loose leaf tea), the front is the side without a screw in the middle of the ball, and the back is the side with the screw.

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The Mabel has perhaps to most subtle indicator of all— the screw on the copper body of the microphone indicates the back. The Omni indicator (O) on the top of the mic should be on the left-hand side, and the Figure-8 indicatior (8) should be on the right.

So if you’re rushing to set up for a show and something doesn’t sound quite right, or there’s a bit more feedback than normal— double check that the mic isn’t backwards. It happens to the best of us.

(We’ve had people tell us that ours was the best-sounding mic on stage— even backwards!)

Do they need Phantom Power?

Yes— condenser microphones need phantom power to operate. In all situations with a PA or house sound it should be a non-issue since virtually all mixing boards provide phantom power. However, musicians toting their own combo amp or portable PA to small venues need to make sure they have phantom power for their mics. If your system doesn’t provide phantom power – many newer ones do – it means carrying a small external phantom supply and one extra mic cable. Phantom power supplies are inexpensive and commonly available. They are simple devices and don’t affect tone, so any reasonably sturdy one should do just fine. Even if you don’t bring your own vocal PA, sometimes things break, or don’t work as advertised, so it’s usually a good idea to keep that phantom box in your gig bag just in case. We sell one we like from Rolls ourselves (see below) but any 48V phantom power adapter will do!

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Rolls PB23 Phantom Power Adapter

Rolls single-channel 48 volt phantom power supply. We like the build quality of this model, and the fact that it's American-made like our mics.

 

Why use condenser mics for live performance?

I spend a lot of time thinking and talking to people about why I’m building condenser microphones rather than dynamics. The short answer is, I like the sound better, and I think when designed right condensers can be as good for live use as any mic out there.

Even though condenser mics are getting wider and wider use in live sound, there remains a common prejudice among many performers that dynamics are somehow inherently better for live use. Usually there’s a belief that dynamics resist feedback better and control bleed from other parts of the stage; coupled with an attitude that any differences in sound won’t matter through a PA. Well, differences between mics are very audible in live settings, especially with modern sound systems. I’ve heard a singer in a jazz club with a modest newer PA switch for one song from my Edwina to a standard 58 that was set up at the piano, and the change was unmistakeable – unmistakeably worse. Would you really not care what amp you use for your guitar because it will “probably sound terrible through the PA anyway”?

As for feedback and bleed, it’s all a matter of what the specific microphone is designed for, and how well it is implemented. Both are entirely controlled by the frequency response and polar pattern (directionality) of the mic, and especially the polar pattern across the frequency response. Most people look at polar patterns at 1K, which is in the middle of the mic’s response; but for feedback control the microphone really has to have the same off-axis rejection all across its response range. However, the polar pattern is never the same at all frequencies (except for a ribbon mic’s figure-8 pattern). Almost always, the high frequencies have worse directional control – and it’s usually the high frequencies that are the most problematic for feedback. Taming the off-axis high frequency response can be done through acoustic adjustments to the capsule and careful design of the headbasket, as well as controlling overly-hot high frequencies in the overall EQ of the mic circuitry. I make all these adjustments in my mics, and they have gain-before-feedback that is directly comparable to common stage dynamics like a Shure 58 or an Audix OM5, even in tough acoustic environments.

The big advantage of condenser mics is their sound. A well-built condenser capsule is inherently more capable of a smoother response through the full frequency range than a dynamic. This is simply due to the physics of their construction. The moving part of a dynamic capsule, which is driven by the sound in the air being captured, must have much more mass than the diaphragm of a condenser capsule. It will be much more difficult to make it respond to high frequencies, and it will have severe resonant peaks and valleys at various frequencies. A good dynamic capsule is very carefully designed to add a whole series of these acoustic resonances together, which combine to give a fairly smooth response. But it’s still inherently more irregular and “peaky” than a condenser and less responsive at very high frequencies. Worse high-frequency response is the same as saying that it reproduces transients less accurately. There are certainly some fantastic-sounding dynamics out there – many of which are designed for the studio and are no more appropriate on stage than a U87. But at any rate a dynamic capsule is a complex mechanism engineered to work in a specific microphone body and cannot very effectively be transplanted and modified, whereas I can control almost every aspect of the sound of my condenser mics.

All of this was brought home for me recently when Ear Trumpet Labs provided the microphones for the Portland Old Time Music Gathering. These were all-acoustic performances; these musicians care a lot about having the tone and quality of their instruments faithfully reproduced – they’d all much rather be completely unamplified, just playing in your living room. The Ear Trumpet mics were mostly used from a distance, usually with Josephine or Louise set up as a conventional bluegrass single mic, with Edwinas and Ednas available for spot micing instruments that needed it, or when the group was spread too far to the sides for the single mic to pick up everyone. Normally these performers are used to using a large-diaphragm condenser intended for studio use; they need the sensitivity and accuracy such a mic gives, but usually they can’t use stage monitors at all with such mics. The Ear Trumpet mics gave them the best of all worlds – the sensitivity to work from a distance, the accuracy to sound completely transparent, and the feedback rejection to be able to monitor. You really can have both great quality sound and the feedback rejection to make stage use easy – not to mention great looks!

Condensers mics need phantom power to operate— see this FAQ for more.

What supplemental gear works with your mics?

CLIPS

Our mics fit in standard Shure clips that you would use for a 58 and we include one with every order. They can be a bit tough to snap on – you can’t slide them in because of the flange at the bottom of the mic – but the Shure clips are really unbreakable and very secure once you snap the mics in.

POP FILTER

Most of our mics are used from far enough away that a pop filter is not really necessary (we have a lot of filtering built-in to the head basket) but we have designed a pop filter specifically for the Edwina, which is more frequently used for close vocals. See the product page here.

WINDSCREEN

The Røde Dead Kitten works really well with the Edwina; it will slip on over the headbasket without modification. It will fit over the ball on the Louise as well, but you need to do a little surgery to make holes for the springs to go through. They’ll look a little funky with those fur balls, but then our mics always do, and they provide very effective wind screening.

If you have additional gear you’ve found that works well with your Ear Trumpet mic, please let us know! We’d love to compare notes.

What’s the deal with single micing?

One of the great pleasures of playing in an acoustic band is gathering with other players and feeling the resonance and harmony of all the instruments and voices working together in that close acoustic space. When playing for a larger audience, when sound reinforcement is really necessary, you can keep that acoustic essence by gathering around a single mic in the traditional bluegrass style.

Many players run into some problems with this approach with modern PA systems and sound engineers. Partly it’s a matter of expectations: the technique originated as a way to get a little more volume from essentially acoustic performances, so a band could be heard in a larger hall – any increase in volume was a win, and audiences were used to the sound of unamplified instruments. These days a lot of engineers and even audiences approach performances with an expectation of much higher volume levels and get frustrated when they can’t achieve them with this technique. Ear Trumpet Labs mics can help a lot, but it’s important to understand limitations and some techniques to get the best results.

The first point to understand is that the distance from your instrument or voice to the mic is the first gain stage in your chain. It’s a negative one – the sound level is always quieter at the mic than at the instrument, and it drops with the square of the distance. So it’s twice as quiet from one foot as from six inches away, and twice again as quiet at two feet. In order to get the same signal level in the PA, the preamp has to add that much gain back. More importantly, assuming the level of sound on the stage from the PA (mains and monitors) is the same, the microphone has to be able to deliver that much extra gain without feedback. The farther you are from the mic, the harder it will be to get the same volume from the mains without running into feedback. So the first best technique is to really work on being able to pay close to each other and to the mic. Many people place the mic too high, getting it needlessly far from instruments like the guitar and banjo, especially if vocals aren’t a major part of the band’s sound. Picture lengths of string from each sound source to the mic, and try to balance them all and keep them all as short as possible. One foot makes a big difference.

The best tool for controlling feedback is using the directionality of the mic’s pickup pattern. ETL mics like Edwina and Louise are all cardioid pattern, as are most large diaphragm condensers. The main advantage of ETL mics is that the pattern stays controlled through the whole frequency range. In a cardioid pattern, the mic has its full sensitivity in the central 30 degrees in front of the mic; by next 30 degrees, or 60 degrees from directly in front, the level has fallen off 3db; by 90 degrees (at the side of the mic) the level has dropped 6db, or in half, and is dropping very rapidly. By 30 degrees around to the back side of the mic the sensitivity is much lower, and is at its lowest directly backwards. To fight feedback you want the greatest contrast between the sensitivity directed towards your instruments and that directed towards anything coming from the PA. So keep your players to the front of the mic, ideally all within the 60 degree arc. Place your louder instruments to the sides and the quietest in the center. Keep the mic at least some distance behind the main speakers, and keep your monitor (you should only need one) a little distance behind the mic (from the band’s point of view) – don’t put the monitor right at the foot of the mic stand.

The last thing to watch out for is the one you usually have the least control over, and that is reflections and bounce-back in the room. Any sound getting back to the mic from the PA is a potential source of feedback, and low ceilings and close, reflective back walls can bounce sounds right back from the speakers. If you can get curtains or a backdrop behind you on stage, it will help a lot. Sometimes it can pay to play with angling the mic a little up or down to get its peak sensitivity away from a problematic surface.

The single-mic technique can be really rewarding in conveying a truly accurate, warm acoustic sound to a large audience. However, performers most commonly use large-diaphragm condenser mics that are really intended for the studio because of their sonic accuracy and sensitivity to capture instruments at a distance. But using mics not designed for the extreme feedback rejection needed on a live stage can be problematic. Many modern LDCs have a quite hyped high end that can be beneficial in the controlled environment of a studio, but on stage it not only makes feedback control difficult, it doesn’t sound very natural. With ETL mics, some care, and practice, you can not only get great natural acoustic sound at better volume than you ever hoped, you can even get effective monitoring on stage, which most performers never imagined they could get with this technique.

What is Bricolage?

Bricolage is a term for the art known as “assemblage”: artwork made from found or re-purposed objects and materials. In Europe it also has taken on a meaning of DIY; hardware stores– known as “DIY shops” in the UK, a term I’ve always loved– are also frequently referred to with some version of the word bricolage. The core meaning of the root French word is, “fiddle, tinker” and, by extension,

To make creative and resourceful use of whatever materials are at hand (regardless of their original purpose)

I love this as a description of what we do here at Ear Trumpet Labs. We are tinkerers and artists. We are always up for doing custom work. When I started making microphones I was immediately drawn to the possibility of making the housings from all sorts of things. Early microphone designs from the 1930s and 40s strike a balance between beauty and functionality, while most commercially-available modern microphones seem painfully dull. I don’t reproduce old designs, I tinker with hardware, surplus scraps, and everyday objects until I find an assemblage that is both beautiful and functional. Some of our products recall the elegant mic designs of the early broadcast era; others evoke early industrial aesthetics. There are always more exotic designs in our heads and under development.

My approach to the acoustics and electronics of our microphones is bricolage of another sort. There is an enormous wealth of public information available on very high quality mic circuit designs. I pick and choose designs that suit each mic, the capsules used, and the mic’s purpose. I try to apply publicly available designs to found objects with a little ingenuity and a lot of care. 

We are committed to supporting the DIY community. I plan on posting more information here with advice and detailed instructions on how to construct your own mics for other bricoleurs-at-heart. For now, the schematic of our most common microphone circuit is here. This is essentially a variation on the venerable, versatile, and extremely clever transformerless FET Schoeps circuit widely used by commercial manufacturers and home builders alike, as well as for upgrades and mods of lesser commercial mics.