Top Tip: when 2 become 1

Doubling up vocal mics, I’ve been doing for some time and now everyone is jumping on the bandwagon.   Here’s some reasons to try it:

It is the easy path to vocal doubling.  We all know manual double tracking beats ADT or similar but it is hard and laborious.  Software can get passable results from a single line but I find the watery chorus effect that is often generated a bit distracting.  Also, the start and end of vocal lines are rarely tight and usually one performance lags behind another.  Unless you are doing harmonies, two mics is the way to go.

You can independently process the two vocals.  This is particularly useful if you want to use big reverb settings in the context of a rock track.  One track can provide the definition and attack and the other can be soaked in reverb and panned apart.  Same with parallel compression, you can fatten one of the leads without pumping the vocal too far to the front of the mix.

You can sidechain.  Probably this would be using a lead to trigger backing vocals or vice-versa, but possibly another instrument like keyboards.  Experimentation is necessary to find the best results.

You can add texture simply through using two different sounding mics.  The classic combo is an LDC and a dynamic (the SM7b is widely favoured).  The condenser adds air and light and the dynamic the meat.  You could try a ribbon and dynamic for a very rich dark sound (be ready to reach for the EQ if necessary).  You can even try heavy hi-lo passing and bouncing the result to a new mono track to produce a mic sound that is a unique blend.

And the pitfalls: phase should not be a problem if you precisely align the capsules of the mics either horizontally or vertically but check when tracking to be on the safe side, and ensure the vocal booth is sufficiently tamed to prevent unwanted reflections hitting the condenser particularly.  Play by the rules and you can end up with some immense sounding vocal tracks – they do this in pro studios for a reason.  And remember, play safe by using one mic whose sonics you are familiar with, and don’t feel obliged to use both in the mix if they don’t fit!

The LDC is an ADK51 and the other mic an SM57 with double foam windshields fitted. The capsules are closely aligned side by side to minimise phase problems.


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