British Mercury Prize-winning U.K. band ∆, better known as Alt-J, will return to the U.S. in December for a tour of the FM radio holiday shows along the West Coast and through the Midwest. Live sound and studio recording engineer Lance Reynolds, a Chicago native who works with the band whenever they tour North America, will once again be taking along a collection of microphones from sE Electronics.
Reynolds first had an opportunity to try out a variety of sE models in June when Alt-J were in the U.S. to play the Governors Ball Festival in New York City. But it wasn’t until the band returned for a tour in August that he was really able to evaluate the microphones. "I had some sE4a's and the sE1a," Reynolds recalls. "I also tried the sE2200a II and the sE4400a."
It all started with the sE X1. "I was looking for a low cost large diaphragm microphone that I could take on the road and now be so worried about it getting beat up and destroyed, because the road can do that," says Reynolds, who had been touring with a large diaphragm mic that retails at over twice the price. "I thought, I'll contact sE and see where it goes. And it went much farther than I had even expected. I ended up trying and liking all these other sE mics."
The sE X1 has had quite a workout, according to Reynolds. "I've used the sE X1 as an overhead, I've used it as an audience mic and I've tried it on guitar and bass cabinets. It seems to be all-purpose, and seems to work on just about anything you put it on." Lately, he says, he has been using the sE X1 as an audience mic for the in-ear monitor mix: "Often times, a little pencil mic is too focused. The sE X1's give it the bigger picture."
The sE4 small diaphragm instrument microphone also demonstrated its value on Alt-J's U.S. jaunt in August and September. "We have a couple of toy glockenspiels, and I used two of them on those, and they were nice. I've also tried those on hats and overheads, and they're perfectly fine for those, too."
He also tried the sE4400a on a couple of the four-piece band's instruments. "I tried it on a guitar amp; mostly as a recording source, but ended up using it a lot as an overhead, like a drum 'picture' type thing. To my ear, the sE4400a is similar to the sE X1 and the sE2200a, but it has a smoother top end and just seems bigger."
And speaking of guitar amps, Reynolds had an opportunity to briefly try the Voodoo VR1 ribbon mic with Alt-J: "I put it on a guitar amp and it sounded beautiful, it just sounded huge - almost too big for my live mix. Those are amazing mics! I think I'm going to keep at least one of the VR1s just for myself. I think I can afford to treat myself to one nice ribbon. That's one thing I've never had in a mic collection."
Reynolds has most recently been touring the U.S. as FOH with English singer-songwriter Kate Nash, carrying a couple of sE X1s and an sE4a - again using them on overheads and glockenspiel.
Reynolds is perhaps best known for holding down the house mix position with Irish rock trio Ash, with whom he has worked since the band's 2004 "Meltdown" album. Ash return to the U.S. at the end of January 2014 for a tour beginning on the west coast and continuing through the south before setting sail on the Weezer Cruise between Florida and the Bahamas. "I'm hoping to make the VR1 my Ash guitar secret weapon."
Summing up, Reynolds comments that he was very pleased with all of the sE Electronics microphone models that he tried out: "All the sE Microphones seem to do what they need to do on anything that I've put them on."