Re-amping Ritual, Rejoice!

In preparing the re-issue of our critically acclaimed but sold out 2003 debut album The Apotheosis, we decided to have a little fun and re-record a few of the old tracks, just a tad shy of 10 years later. And wow, has technology come a long way since 2002/2003. We now do basically everything ourselves. No wait, we literally do everything ourselves, apart from mixing and mastering. Most of us still remember fiddling about on little 4-track Tascam recorders that used ordinary cassette tapes, nowadays we do 8-track digital stuff in Protools in unimaginable sound quality without even batting an eyelid. Now, I’ve always been a big fan of re-amping.

The contenders. Left to right: Røde NT1000, Shure SM58, Audio Technica ATM25 (x2), Audio Technica ATM21, Audio Technica ATM31R, Audio Technica AT4033a, AKG D112.

The contenders. Left to right: Røde NT1000, Shure SM58, Audio Technica ATM25 (x2), Audio Technica ATM21, Audio Technica ATM31R, Audio Technica AT4033a, AKG D112.

Long story short, it means not recording a thundering amp while you play, but record just the instrument and play it back through an amp later. This has a number of advantages, but for DIY-types like us the biggest is having total control over your sound while you’re not playing. Essentially you get to be the bass player and sound engineer in one and you don’t have to play something, listen back, put down your bass, fiddle with your amp/microphone, put on your bass, play something, do it all over again, ad nauseam. Armed with a nice selection of microphones we set to with an Ampeg 8×10 loaned to us by Tom of the almighty Dead Head. I used my SVP-PRO (we are inseparable) and trusty Peavey power amp, and started experimenting with microphone placement and combinations.

D112, ATM25 and AT4033a in action. NT1000 to the far left in the corner, not in the pic.

D112, ATM25 and AT4033a in action. NT1000 to the far left in the corner, not in the pic.

The winning combination turned out to be the ATM25 off-axis, right on the edge of the cone at 45 degrees, edged back just about an inch, with the AT4033a at 70 cms (2.3 feet), just about in the vertical centre of the 8×10.

Tadaa.

Tadaa.

I used Audacity to make these cool plots, and the graphs clearly show the differences in microphone signals. At the end of the day, the D112 was too boomy anywhere near the speaker cone (the very proximity effect the D112 is ‘famous’ for), the ATM25 sounded simply more gritty, dark and… well, evil. The AT4033a complemented the ATM25 perfectly, topping off the ATM25’s low-end gurgle with a snappy, gnarly high-mid end. Interestingly, the Røde NT1000 stashed away in the far corned picked up quite some lows and mids as you can see by the huge hump below 100Hz, but I’m not sure we’re going to use it (there is quite an audible rattle in there somewhere from something vibrating).

layered-mics

Shoddily pasted graph showing the frequency responses of the different mikes in their different settings. Note the huge low-end response on the NT1000 condenser!

Here are some sound samples, straight from the board with just a touch of compression (1:2.5, 0.1msec attack, 2sec decay).

Røde NT-1000

Audio Technica ATM4033a

Audio Technica ATM25

AKG D112