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Earthworks Mics Help Umphrey’s McGee FOH Engineer Chris Mitchell Eliminate Corrective EQ
Posted on Monday, July 6, 2015
Earthworks Mics Help Umphrey’s McGee FOH Engineer Chris Mitchell Eliminate Corrective EQ

Milford, NH – In the four years Chris Mitchell has acted as FOH Engineer for Umphrey’s McGee, he has mixed over 480 shows that are all available for purchase and review online. Over the past two years, Mitchell has been working to remove corrective EQ from his FOH mix with the help of Earthworks microphones.

 Mitchell first heard of Earthworks microphones in MIX magazine when the company was first founded 20 years ago. “I was a big fan of David Blackmer while at dbx, Inc., and seeing his name associated with microphones, attracted me. When I saw the engineering behind the microphones, (i.e. flat frequency response, quick transient response and extended high frequency response), it made perfect sense to me, so I have been intrigued with Earthworks microphones ever since.”

While most of Mitchell’s recordings are now done on the road, his first experience with Earthworks microphones was in a studio setting. “In 2001, I used the TC omnis for recording several blue grass bands. For these players, acoustic guitars were a big issue,” explains Mitchell. “When they walked in with a $50,000 guitar, they had just one request: they wanted the recording to sound just like their $50,000 guitar. This was simple. I miked it with my Earthworks mics and the recording sounded like the microphones weren’t even there.”

“After this I started using more of the TC Series, in addition to SR25 cardioids. After I got my SR25s I couldn’t look back. I had four SR25s, a pair of SR20s and a pair of SR30s.  Once I got into the SR series, it was hard to ever pick up an SM57 again.” Needless to say, Mitchell is a fan of Earthworks microphones. “If someone were to ask me what I think about Earthworks mics on drums, my comment would be: ‘You will have to pry them out of my cold, dead hands.’”

Mitchell has been working hard to eliminate the use of EQ over the past few years. “The old adage: ‘move the mic and not the EQ knob,’ rings very true with me. Once I started using Earthworks mics for drum overheads, they quickly became my favorite. This started me down the path of tighter, cleaner, more accurate transient response and less EQ. The excellent characteristics of the Earthworks microphones make it easier to use less EQ all around. I really like the Earthworks off-axis tonality of the drums. For example, the Earthworks DP30/C that I used on snare will of course pick up the hi-hat. When using conventional mics I had to position the snare/tom mics to pick up minimal hi-hat because of their uneven off-axis response, which would incorrectly reproduce sounds from the hi-hat, which also didn’t respond too well to EQ changes. In short, things that were being picked up by one conventional mic were fighting things that were being picked up by another. Once I switched over to the Earthworks mics, the flat off-axis and the very flat frequency response simply made EQ unnecessary and the sound of the drums started to open up. Then I could really get into things like close placement, time aligning my snare and toms to my overheads to make the sound of all these drum set elements microscopically tighter and cleaner. Without the Earthworks clean transient response and off-axis response, this would be impossible.”

“When using Earthworks mics on drums, if any particular drum mic is muted or goes away, (like Tom 1 mic goes away) then the sound of Tom 1 is being picked up with Tom 2 mic or the overhead mics, and it still sounds the same. It’s just a quieter version of the previous Tom 1 mic. So, the other Earthworks mics picking up Tom 1, off-axis does not reduce the highs or a produce a 250Hz bloom or any other undesirable side effect. It all still sounds so natural. The off-axis response of the Earthworks mics is incredible, I love it.”

“I have published an article on my blog entitled “How to Disappear Completely: My Year Without EQ” which, thanks to Earthworks mics, I was able to remove all my EQ filters. I have a theory that since Equalizers use regenerative feedback, that the use of EQ creates small time smears, which the analytical part of your brain can notice. So, if I can get away from using EQ, hopefully, I can get a truer, more lifelike reproduction of the signal.”

In April of this year, Umphrey’s McGee performed a concert in St. Augustine, Florida, and Earthworks microphones were on stage in full force. “At this concert we were using the following Earthworks mics: SR40V cardioids on vocals, SR25 cardioids on guitar amps. On drums we used a pair of silver SR30 cardioids as drum overheads, DP30/Cs on snare and rack toms. We also use an SR30/HC hypercardioid, a pair of SR20s and an SR40 cardioid on percussion.”

“The Earthworks microphone transient response is second to none. I can make a snare drum sound so natural and so pristine, you would never guess it is coming out of a PA system. One of the biggest compliments I get is: ‘It’s loud, but it doesn’t sound like it is coming out of the PA.’ This all that traces back to the use of Earthworks microphones, which makes this possible.”

“I also really like the SR30/HC used for our percussionist on timbale. Behind the timbale player is the drummer playing his snare drum. I have measured sound level from that snare drum at 125dB SPL (A-weighted). The SR30/HC does a great job of rejecting the snare drum sound behind it, yet picking up the timbale in front.”

“I get a lot of compliments on our guitar amp sound now that we started miking our guitar amps with Earthworks SR25s. My guitar player has been a ribbon mic fanatic, as he likes the high frequency drop off associated with ribbon mics, and felt that warmth was necessary for a rock