I’ve always been a big fan of ‘lo-fi’ and coloured microphones. In the studio, these are great tools to add a unique vibe to music productions or to create samples full of character and originality.
The Shure 520DX, better know as the ‘Green Bullet’, is definitely my favourite character microphone.
Originally designed in 1949, the 'Green Bullet' is mostly known as a blues harp microphone. However, with a very reduced frequency response, creamy saturated mids, compressed dynamic range and omni-directional pattern, this microphone also captures percussive sounds like no other!
I bought my Green Bullet in 2013, and used it for the first time to capture some unique beat box samples for the Beatbox Pack. After this, I started experimenting with it for various recording sessions, and it quickly became my favourite character microphone. Recently, I’ve been using it as an additional microphone for the virtual instruments ORGANIC TRANSITIONS, EASY BONGOS and GYPSY ZITHER. I also compiled a lot of unreleased drum and percussion one-shot samples recorded with the Shure 520DX in a small drum pack called BULLET DRUMS.
What makes the Green Bullet special:
- Unique frequency response: instant retro vibe
- Reduced dynamic range: adds punch to transients, makes the sound easy to mix, with an already compressed quality
- Smooth and progressive saturation: the mic will distort in a pleasant and musical way, it's a big part of its sound
- Omni-directionnal pattern: you can use it at various distances, and even use it as a characterful room mic.
- Built-in cable with instrument jack: Plug it in your favourite DI, in a guitar amp, or use pedals and effects to further tweak the sound! I like to plug it into the DI of a UA LA610 to get a smoother sound, or an API 512C for a drier and punchier response.
- Great price: while I wouldn't recommend it as a first microphone purchase, it's a very affordable microphone to add to your collection
Other things to know:
Due to its design, the Green Bullet is quite noisy. You might want to use a gate, denoisers or filters to reduce the amount of noise.
The 520DX has a volume control located where, in previous versions, there were threads for stand-mounting of the microphone. To mount it on a stand, you’ll need to use a DIY approach and a bit of gaffer tape or velcro, or purchase an additional shock mount with the correct diameter (62mm). I’ve been using a cheap MXL schockmount that’s been perfect for this.
- Blues Harp - plug it in a guitar amp to get that typical sound
- Retro percussions (bongos, cowbells, congas…) - get more saturation by positioning the mic really close to loud instruments, or lots of retro room sound with more distance
- dirty old-school drums - Get a crazy cool sound by putting it in the ‘knee’ position: right in the middle of the kit, above the bass drum, in front of the drummer’s knee
- Additional room mic - I love to combine a flat high quality microphone (like a DPA 4006) with a Green Bullet for the room when recording all kinds of acoustic instruments. I’ll mostly use the flat mic as the main signal, and dial-in a bit of the Bullet mic to add more mid frequencies and make the sound more ’solid’ and help it cut through a dense mix.
- instant retro vocals, vocal effects and funky backup vocals - I like to give the mic to the singer when we’re almost done with the recordings and overdubs. I’ll often just record a couple of takes over the whole song, and let the singer improvise and try things out.
- Sound Design - plug it in guitar pedals, analog synth inputs, cheap multi-effect units…
What about you?
What's your favourite 'character' microphone? What do you use it for? Make sure to share your thoughts and post a comment bellow :)