Posted on Wed, Nov 28, 2007
Awhile back, I picked up a pair of Apex 205 ribbon microphones for the stunning price of $80 a piece, brand new and shipped. I've had some time to get used to the sound, and I give them a definite thumbs-up with a couple caveats.
First, these things are a beast on electric guitar, as I'd predicted. I hate the SM-57 sound; it's so harsh and honky. I've been using my AKG C414 instead, and it gives a much smoother sound, though it lacks in balls. The Apex bridges the gap with silky highs and gutsy mids. They're nice for drum overheads, too, but since ribbon mics are insanely fragile, one whack with the stick would probably kill it. That's a dealbreaker when you play drums as sloppily as me. :D
While it was great on loud amps, and very good on drum overheads, it wasn't great on quiet sources. I have a nice preamp (Aphex 1100), but they're fairly noisy mics, so hiss was a problem on quiet things like acoustic guitars and vocals. Which was too bad, because the tone is awesome - it has very woody warm mids, unlike my other mics. Kind of a dynamic without the harshness.
At one point, I'd written it off as a one-trick pony because of the noise problem. But the other day, I realized that I had a noise reduction plugin. I loaded up "Shadows in the Moonlight", created a new vocal track, and sang it through the Apex. It was too noisy to use, but I recorded a few seconds of silence, inserted Waves Z-Noise, told it to analyze the silence, then remove that footprint from the audio. It worked like magic! With conservative settings, I killed the audible hiss without changing the character of the mic.
This is very cool because I do my best to get the audio right at the source. I no longer needed my usual 900hz boost, and I didn't need to de-ess, because the highs were very smooth already. All I did was add a hard high-pass and a light 2.5db boost at 4500hz to brighten it just a touch. Here's a comparison between the old AKG C414 version (first on the MP3) and the new Apex 205 version (second). Notice the C414 sounds scooped (despite the big 900hz boost) and too detailed for the song.
One minor flaw is that you need to get quite close to the mic when singing or playing a quiet instrument, and without a built-in high-pass filter, it's critical to use one elsewhere. I dialed in the 195hz setting on the Aphex for the first time ever, and still used a bit more in the software.
Also, I should mention that I did the filter removal modification as described by Deshead on one of the mics. Turns out, I like the original a little better. The modified mic seems a little boomier. I'm keeping it that way so that I have two sounds available, though.
So anyway, as I was saying, a new version of Shadows in the Moonlight available, complete with new vocals (using the Apex), and a couple new parts. Enjoy!