MA-300 and MA-101fet prove ideal choices for vocal, fiddle, and acoustic guitar
For multi-Grammy® Award winning American country, bluegrass, and Americana singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale, Fall 2016 is shaping up to be one wild ride. On September 21st, Country music legend George Strait presented the artist with the coveted WagonMaster Lifetime Achievement Award at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Then barely a week later, Lauderdale’s new album, This Changes Everything (on the Sky Crunch Records label), was released. The album has received critical acclaim and central to its production were microphones from the catalog of Burbank, CA-based Mojave Audio.
Tommy Detamore, the acclaimed engineer, producer, musician, and owner of Cherry Ridge Studio in Floresville, TX assumed a prominent role in the production of Lauderdale’s new album. Having performed with, engineered, produced, and mastered over 150 albums for artists including Ray Price, Micky Dolenz, Dallas Wayne, Ronnie Milsap, Bill Kirchen, and The Texas Tornados to name but a few, Detamore can work with any microphones he chooses—and for This Changes Everything, he chose to use both Mojave Audio’s MA-300 and MA-101fet extensively. He discussed the project and his reasons for using the Mojave microphones.
“This album is something that Jim and I have wanted to do together for a long time,” Detamore reports. “That is, to record some of his more traditional country-styled compositions while giving them the type of production and overall sound that is typical of what you might hear on any given Saturday night at a Texas dance hall or club. So we took the band in to Arlyn Studios in Austin to record the basic tracks with chief engineer Jacob Sciba. The next week, Jim came down to my studio (Cherry Ridge) near San Antonio to cut his vocals. From that point forward, I proceeded with various overdubs—background vocals, fiddles, and acoustic guitars—at Cherry Ridge, and I also handled the mixing and mastering there.”
According to Detamore, Mojave Audio’s MA-300 captured Lauderdale’s lead vocal performances. “The MA-300 was the first mike I put up for Jim,” he explained. “I just had the feeling that it would be the right choice. Jim has such a wonderfully distinctive quality to his singing. It’s what I would call a ‘mercurial’ voice, both in terms of phrasing and tone. It’s pure genius, so whatever mike you choose, it has to be up to the task of capturing all of the nuances—and this is where the MA-300 shines.”
“I have some other nice vintage Neumann and AKG large-diaphragm condenser mikes available,” Detamore continued, “but there’s something about the Mojave MA-300 that works well on so many people. It has that nice combination of roundness in the low mids, coupled with a clear, natural, yet un-hyped high end that works for me so many times. For Jim’s vocals, I used the mike in cardioid and ran it straight into a Seventh Circle Audio N72 preamp, which basically uses a clone of the Neve 1073 circuit.”
Detamore elaborated on the MA-300. “I also like the fact that the MA-300 has a natural dip in its response centered around 1K. Many times, this can be a problem area with vocalists. In such cases, EQ is required to tame the ‘pierce factor’ and achieve a smoother sound. It’s nice to have that sort of response built into the mic. The MA-300 also tends to de-accentuate the 3K area stridency that some vocalists produce when they sing hard. I attribute that to the JAN 5840 tube and the Jensen transformer in the MA-300’s circuitry.”
For Detamore, these MA-300 characteristics also make it a solid choice for capturing the fiddle. “Some fiddles can get harsh when played aggressively,” he said, “but the MA-300 can be made to mitigate that issue nicely. Plus, it can help add some body to a thin sounding instrument.”
Detamore also discussed the virtues of using Mojave’s MA-101fet for capturing acoustic guitar. “In country music, what you frequently want in rhythm acoustic guitars is sheen and clarity,” he explained, “and not a whole lot of low end ‘woof’. In this genre, the acoustic guitars can sometimes play as large a role as the cymbals of the drum kit in providing the necessary ‘top’ in the mix. The MA-101fet is a great choice, as it has a gentle rise starting around 5K in cardioid. Occasionally, I will double-mike an acoustic guitar in mid-side mode if I’m looking for a larger sound, particularly if the song arrangement is sparse and ‘stripped down’. The MA-300, with its variable polar pattern, and the MA-101fet, with the cardioid capsule, work marvelously together in mid-side.”
Before shifting his focus to the business of the day, Detamore summarized his experience with Mojave Audio microphones. “It would be all too easy to just say that Mojave microphones represent great ‘bang for the buck’, which they certainly do. But that shortchanges the fact that these mics can hold their own against the toughest competition. To prove my point, here’s a little secret. Due to some time and logistical constraints, there is one vocal track on Jim’s new album that was recorded with a well-known $15,000.000 vintage tube mike. Can anyone tell which track that is? I honestly don’t think I could if I didn’t already know.”