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Audio-Technica’s Gary Boss on Auditioning Mics and Open vs. Closed-back Headphones

David: Hi, I’m David Weiss from We’re at Brooklyn MixCon 2016 at Converse Rubber Tracks. I’m very privileged to be with Gary Boss of Audio Technica.

Gary, good to see you.

Gary: Good to be seen!

David: Yeah, good. You brought a lot of stuff to Brooklyn MixCon. What should we know about?

Gary: Well, it’s kind of cool, because the event itself is really exposing me to people who are just beginning mixing, so it’s kind of cool to talk to those cats. I always like to talk to those guys. As well as very experienced folks. So I kind of have an assortment. We like to do our product development cradle to grave. We want them right out of school until they’re seasoned professionals.

So I brought stuff from my 20 series, my 30 series, and my 40 series on the studio side of things, but we know there’s this huge in-breeding between live mics and studio mics, so I have a wide selection of live mics, and in fact, in the vocal room, behind us here, I’ve kind of a neat little demo where we actually have a $150 mic, a $700 mic, and a $3,000 mic that people can demo.

So you don’t usually get that opportunity to check out different microphones at different price points, so people can start to say, “Ah, you know, the differences are subtle, but I definitely hear the value of that higher end microphone.”

The other thing we have is headphones have been going gangbuster for us. So we have everything from some open back references, and real cost-effective closed backs as well.

David: Right, terrific. So yeah, the whole signal path is represented.

Gary: That’s right.

David: Which is the newest model here?

Gary: Well, we actually have two. So, the M50 is the one that kind of took the world by storm, and we sell boatloads, and they’re beloved. We have this whole troop of people that are just fanboys of that headphone. So that’s great, and then what we did is we introduced two newer headphones, and they’re 70s, so we have an M70 which is a closed back, and then we have an R70 which is an open back.

Again, these are the flagships, as you’d call them, of our product line. So those are the flagships of the M-series and R-series.


David: Got it. And for those who don’t know, when do you reach for an open back headphone, and when do you reach for a closed back?

Gary: Well, closed back is a tracking phone for sure. So you know, with an open back, you’re going to get a lot of spill out of the headphone, and you don’t want that in your microphones, so you’d never use a closed back for tracking, but then open back is when you’re going to have a controlled environment, like say you have a mixing room which is very quiet, it’s not in a bedroom that you have the TV on or something.

But what they typically do is they give you a little more linear response, the bass tends to be a little more linear, and they give you a little more air, and as an added benefit, the open backs tend to be much more comfortable, because they let your ears breathe a little bit. Here’s a little known fact, they have these little velour pads where you always see on the closed back, we have our leather pads.

What we’ve found out is people always want to put those velour pads on closed back. It actually changes the frequency response of the headphone by putting velour pads, so people who buy aftermarket pads for our M-series headphones, they’re actually changes the specs of the headphone, believe it or not.

David: So one more question about the mics then. Is there one mic here that you would say is your do-it-all mic? If you’re starting to build your studio around the mic, what’s the one here you might start with?

Gary: That’s a good point, because in our lower price points of our studio mics, we purposely make them as a kind of not too overly colored, so they will work on a wide variety of things from overheads, to vocals, to guitar amps. So in my 40 series, that would be my 4040, which is my best selling microphone. That goes about $300, and that’s kind of our first step into a professional mic locker.

Then on my 20 series, that’s kind of my first microphone, and we have a 2035 in there, which is a standard fixed cardioid pattern. Works great on everything. About $150. I’ve had numerous people come in here and tell me, “Oh, I got one of those, I just bought that, it’s great.” So you know, it’s a really great place to start a mic collection.

David: You’re talking about evaluating microphones. What do you advise people to listen for when they’re judging? If a microphone is right for an application, or right for…

Gary: Well I mean, it’s like anything. You know, picking microphones is such a personal thing. People will come up and, “What’s your best microphone?” I can’t answer that question for you. Only you can answer that question. I can tell you, this is another little tip, if you’re going to listen to a microphone, I would have your friend talk into the microphone, and you listen to the voice, because everyone goes up and they listen to their own voice, but the reality is you’re getting so much of your sound in your head already, it’s pretty difficult to hear differences in microphones.

The other thing I like to do is I’ll take the microphones and I’ll gain them up really high, and I’ll listen to the ambience, because to me, I can evaluate a microphone just by listening to how it’s picking up just the broadband noise in the room, and you can really hear tonal characteristics between the microphones that way without ever really talking into them. So just a couple of tips.

David: Well I’m really glad I asked that, because that’s some really cool, useful, practical information. Thank you for that. Gary Boss, Brooklyn MixCon, Audio Technica. Great to see you. Thanks.

Gary: Thanks man, I appreciate it.


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