Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Monster 7 Red Microphone by Sire - review

Sire Monster 7  Red

I’m doing a review here of the Monster 7 microphone built by Sire, a company known for its very high quality basses built to Marcus Miller’s specs at a crazy price point to quality ratio.  I received the mic for free from the company and was asked to share my thoughts about the mic.  There was no requirement that I give a positive review for the mic so these thought are my own and represent my honest assessments of the mic.

OK, now some background.  I play as a side player on acoustic guitar and on fretless bass with a number of different folk, play fretless bass in a church band at Cambridge Drive Community Church in Goleta, CA (outside of Santa Barbara), and produce a small acoustic music series at the church called Cambridge Drive Concerts.

No microphone reproduces exactly what goes into it.  Each adds a little bit here and takes away a little there, giving each model its own sonic signature.  As a result, no microphone is perfect for every singer.  Some sound better with a given voice than others.  Then there are other characteristics such as pick-up patterns, susceptibility to pops and handling noise, gain available, how robust the construction, proximity effect, etc. etc. that also contribute to how well a mic works under given circumstances. 

So I have a couple of personal mics and we have a couple of other choices for the 4 singers in the church band and the performers at our series.  My first test was to line up 5 different mics and then have the 4 singers from the church band go down the line, singing through each.  They shared their opinion of which mic they preferred for themselves and the members of the church band shared their opinions.

Heil PR35, AKG 535, Monster 7, Heil PR20, ECM-80

The line up was a Heil PR35, AKG 535, Heil PR20, the Monster 7, and a Gauge ECM-80 - all some pretty good mics.  Just for information we have more than one of a couple of those mics and in addition have an Audix OM3 and an old Ibanez mic from the 70’s built to compete with a Shure SM58 that we left out of the line-up.  Other than the Monster, the price points range from the mid $100’s up to about $375.   We have a very high quality sound system through which we were testing the mics.

The four singers are each fairly different.  There are two males: both baritones but with fairly different tonalities; and two females: a richer alto voice and a thinner soprano.

The first surprise was that for 3 of 4 singers, the Monster was either the first or second choice.  It sounded very good with each voice.  Only one singer (one of the males) strongly preferred a different mic above the Monster.  For the other singers it was always I like the _____ and the Monster the best.  The listeners agreed in large degree with the thoughts of the singers.  The Monster sounds most similar to the AKG 535 or the Heil PR35 from our choices – two excellent mics at the higher price points.  Indeed, those two mics re always my first choices for the concert series.  The Monster does have significantly less handling noise or susceptibility to plosives than the PR35 and slightly better than the 535.  Sire says it has a cardiod pick-up pattern and it seemed very similar to the Heil in that respect.    

In the end, we ended up chosing a Monster on the lower female voice, the Heil PR 35 on one of the males (although we may cycle it out and replace it with a second Monster),  the AKG for the higher female voice and the other male singer strongly preferred the bigger low end of the Heil PR20. That is the line up we used this past Sunday and will going forward with the possibility of swapping the PR35 out for the other Monster 7.

My second test was at a fundraiser concert for a wonderful singer/songwriter who has been struggling with the financial burden of a serious illness.  We had 10 acts – male and female singers, some of whom are touring pros, a couple of professional producers, a couple of journeyman performers, and one who is a highly skilled amateur.  We had three set ups on stage – the two primary set-ups had Monster 7’s as the vocal mic and the third (at the grand piano) had the Heil PR35.  I asked the performers to let me know what they thought about the mics.  One did.

Again, it was apparent that everyone sounded good with the Monster 7 although I did notice a bit of thinness on one of the thinner female voices.  She may have benefited from something with a more hyped low end.  It was nothing that I couldn’t fix with a little EQ adjustment though.  That is exactly what I did - bring the bass up a tiny bit - and all was good.  We did have problems with plosives from a few of the performers.  I didn't pay close enough attention to tell if that reflected some difference between our two Monsters, if the problem was there with both, or if it was just a reflection of less than perfect technique on the part of the singer.  The Monster was still less susceptible to plosives than either Heil.  One of the female performers said that she felt the Monster was very sensitive to distance and that she had to be right on top of it and on axis for it to sound good.  I didn’t notice that as being more so than any other mics we have.

Here's a little video from the concert... the singers are on Monster 7's and the recording was done on an Iphone (thanks Lars!).  The primary singer/guitarist is Rebecca Troon with vocal back-up from Penny Nichols and Susan Marie Reeves with Dale LaDuke on accordion and me on bass.  It gives a taste of the mics...

All in all, I think the Monster 7 Red by Sire is a great mic and would be worth considering at any price point in those represented by our possible choices.  I believe they will be marketing the mic in a box of two for something like $130.  At that price point, it really is a no brainer…  I should say that the mics that were provided to me came without clips.  The mic is a bit fatter than an SM58 so you may need to go with a clothespin type clip or search to ffind one that fits.  I found a clip designed for some kind of wireless mic that fit very well.  Add another $20 for two clips and you're set.