Success in the Miking
Chris Everard, whose book 'A Guide to Home Recording' is shortly to be launched by Virgin Books, was handed Roland's DR-131 and DR-181 microphones and asked to put them through their paces.
What makes a good microphone? There is no simple, direct answer to this question. The situation a microphone is being used for is as important as the mike itself. Much is dictated by the microphone's frequency response. If a mike is incapable of relaying signals above, say, 11K, then this is not going to be a mike you use for cymbals!
If a microphone is to be used on stage, it should be able to suppress handling noise, as this can in some cases (i.e. Rod Stewart) obliterate any meaningful subtleties the performer(s) (Scottish or not) are trying to inject into the sound.
Two microphones which possess comfortably all the positive criteria, are the DR 131 and DR 181, from Roland. These two microphones are a great credit to the Roland name and offer extremely good quality performance at silly prices.
They are both recommended for vocal and instrumental situations alike and are almost identical in frequency responses. They are the sort of mikes, which, as soon as you plug them in, portray an immediate feeling of quality. Extensive studio tests have shown they perform identically on everything from cellos (yes, cellos!) to splash cymbals. When it comes to vocals, one would have to spend much nearer the £200 mark to improve on the performance of the DR 181, which was crystal clear, very smooth and extremely faithful. In fact, having said this, side by side, a DR 181 and a £200 odd quid mike would be impossible to tell apart!
Both these mikes have mid range lift between 2.2 and 5K. The only thing which audibly sets the 181 in front of the 131 is its efficiency at suppressing the previously mentioned handling noise, present mainly in stage performances.
The large head diameter of the DR 181 (56.5mm) suggests it would be good for bass drums — and indeed it is. However, these mikes excel when it comes to relaying faithfully guitar signals from amps.
The 131 has a brushed aluminium/steel casing which is very fetching and distinctive. Another hint at the DR 181's intended use is the choice of body covering, which is a sort of matt, gunmetal green. Microphones with this sort of body finish are intended for stage use, as the non reflective finish is there to minimise stage light reflection(s).
I would beg to differ with Roland's possible design directions on these microphones. The DR131, if used in a holder, would excel in stage applications, its extra 10Hz low frequency threshold helping it on its way.
The 181 would also do anyone proud on stage, but if you're not the sort of person who has £10,000 to spend on a top notch P.A., the subtle nuances and improved clarity of the 181 would be lost on stage. For sure, this must be a microphone bought with studio applications as a primary objective.
These microphones are excellent 'all-rounders' — do not, under any circumstances, buy another microphone without auditioning the Roland DR131 & DR181.
Roland Newslink - Summer 1985
Gear in this article:
Feature by Chris Everard
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