Vintage Sound Without the Hassle
Top recordists Joe Barresi, Carmen Rizzo and Buddy Miller embrace the M-Audio Sputnik and Pulsar II microphones.
Sought-after producer Joe Barresi has been involved in countless landmark rock albums over the past 15 years, including projects with Weezer, Tool, Bad Religion—even the debut Queens of the Stone Age album that garnered rave reviews and launched the band to stardom. Recording hard rock artists in the studio requires a wide assortment of dependable microphones. With an appreciation for classic mics, Barresi recently adopted the Sputnik and Pulsar II to capture the full range of vocals and acoustic instruments with vintage warmth and clarity.
“I’m currently working on an acoustic EP with Bad Religion using Sputnik and Pulsar II for guitars and vocals,” relates Barresi. “The Sputnik sounds very round and open, without all the spittiness or sibilance I’ve found in most modern microphones, while the Pulsar II combines a nice thick sound with detail and body—great for recording acoustic instruments.
“Although I normally prefer the sound of older gear, I wanted to record this album using an assortment of newer microphones to see how they compared to their vintage counterparts. The M-Audio Sputnik and Pulsar II had a wide range of versatility in the studio and they are far more consistent sonically from mic to mic than vintage microphones. These products provide an extra palette of tools that are capable of delivering great sound in a modern world. I think it’s very important to keep in touch with new technology and not get left behind.”
Carmen Rizzo is a two-time Grammy-nominated producer and eclectic maestro of the independent music scene. He has co-written, produced and engineered with artists like Alanis Morrissette, Coldplay, Paul Oakenfold, Jem, K.D. Lang and Seal—while remixing tracks from BT, Prince and more. Rizzo also reached #1 on the iTunes world music chart with his own worldbeat/electronic fusion side project Niyaz (Six Degrees). He currently relies on the Sputnik condenser microphone for a wide range of projects at his multi-purpose recording studio.
Rizzo used the Sputnik extensively while scoring the soundtrack for his new HBO show, The Song Story. “Sputnik sounded great on just about everything,” he explains. “It has a way of capturing the full range of warmth and high end without sounding thin. New microphones often have high output but sound cheap on the top end and distort easily. The Sputnik just sounds amazing right out of the box.”
“Using Sputnik makes far more sense than struggling with vintage mics,” continues Rizzo. “It operates with no side effects and gives me full range without distortion. And unlike many vintage microphones, it actually works when you turn it on! Since hearing Sputnik on vocals I have retired my Neumann. Sputnik is now my microphone of choice, especially for vocals.”
Many fans of Americana singer-songwriter Buddy Miller can instantly recognize the distinctive sound of his home studio, where he recorded his 2005 Grammy-nominated album, “Universal United House of Prayer.” His signature gear setup has long included a Pro Tools system, as well as an assortment of top-shelf vintage microphones. When Miller added M-Audio’s Sputnik microphone to the mix, he was delighted to discover a new way to get beautiful, vintage sound—without the hassle of using a vintage mic.
When it comes to large-diaphragm microphones, Miller owns the cream of the crop. His collection includes an old Neumann U47, Neumann CMV563, Telefunken 251 and a Sony C37A. “I put the Sputnik up against them to compare—it sounds so close to my U47, it just was astounding,” he explains. “It has a sound that just fits with everything I've used it on so far. It exhibits warmth in the low-mids, and beautiful clarity and detail in the high end. Whether it's hit hard or hit soft, it picks up those details and doesn't overload.
“I also love the size of it because it's not a huge mic,” he continues. “The U47 is huge, as is the Telefunken and a lot of the other guys, so you can't always put them where you want them. Also, the Sputnik gives you a roll-off switch that you don't have in vintage mics.”
“Sputnik gives you that vintage sound quality in a new microphone,” he concludes. “So you don't have to be afraid that something's gonna go ‘poof’ every time you turn it on, or you're gonna be listening to noise in the tube, or find that you have to replace something. Sputnik's dependable, and it's beautiful-sounding.”
The new vintage
Though classic mics have a special place in the hearts of many engineers and artists, it can be challenging to use them in today’s high-pressure recording environments. For rich, soulful sound without the fuss, check out M-Audio’s award-winning line of microphones at Dolphin Music.