Chino, CA—April 2016… From his early work with the likes of Frank Zappa, Poco, and Etta James to more recent projects with The Madden Brothers, Morrissey, and Spoon, multiple Grammy-winner Joe Chiccarelli is known for delivering exceptional quality and fresh, creative music. It’s not surprising, then, that he uses Manley Reference Cardioid tube microphones not only for vocals—an application for which Manley tube mics are justly prized—but for drum overheads and other instruments, as well.
“I have a Manley Gold Reference tube mic and two Reference Cardioid tube mics,” Chiccarelli relates. “The Reference Cardioid is my go-to mic for drum overheads. I’ve used them on drums in every session at Sunset Sound in the past three or four years. I used the Reference Cardioid on drums for Jason Mraz, Christina Perri, Alanis Morissette, Morrissey, Divine Fits, Young the Giant—pretty much anything I’ve done here. They are always my first choice for drums.”
Gold Reference mics employ Manley’s own large-diaphragm capsules, which are executed to precise tolerances. Their all-tube circuitry is built around two 12AT7 triodes in cascade, forming an entire gain-block. The Gold Reference sounds much like many vintage European tube mics, such as the U47, sounded when new. The Reference Cardioid shares the same electronic attributes as the Gold Reference, but has a center-fixed, cardioid-only capsule with a thicker gauge, gold-sputtered diaphragm. Both are large-diaphragm condenser mics.
“I like large diaphragm mics,” Chiccarelli explains, “and I particularly like Manley’s tube mics because they’re super open on the top end, so I get all that air and room ambience, depending on where I place them. In addition, they handle lots of SPL; I never have to worry about padding them or think about overload issues. No matter what the style of music or how intense the drumming is, they always get me through. I also use Reference Cardioids on piano for their openness and silky top end.”
For vocals, Chiccarelli sometimes choses the Reference Cardioid and other times goes for the Gold. “I just worked with a band from The Netherlands, RoMi Cage, that sounded just fantastic on the Reference Cardioid, as well as the Gold,” he recalls. “I used the Reference Gold for Christina Perri’s voice, as well. Again, it’s all that air, it’s that ability to take dynamics that are subtle or huge and not overload.”
Manley’s Reference Gold mic, Chiccarelli, explains, “is very open and revealing and so precise. Sometimes you need a microphone that doesn’t add color, especially when you have a singer that has a pure, gorgeous, open voice that needs to be captured without unnatural colors in the midrange. The Gold is the most transparent mic on the market. Nuance in the upper end is also important. A couple of years ago I did an album with singer Michele Pillar, and we tried a variety of mics on her voice. The Gold sounded the best for her, hands down; nothing came close, even the classic tube mics.”
Another aspect of the Reference Gold that appeals to Chiccarelli is its hot output. “There’s so much output from that microphone, sometimes I feel like I don’t even need a mic preamp,” he insists, “so it keeps the noise down.”
Chiccarelli is as much a fan of Manley preamps and signal processors as he is of Manley mics. “Over the years, I’ve used just about everything,” he notes. “I often use the Manley Massive Passive EQ, ELOP® stereo electro-optical limiter, and Variable Mu® limiter/compressor during mixdown. The Enhanced Pultec EQ is used all the time on vocal sessions—and for bass, as well. We used Manley gear on The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, and many other projects at Blackbird Studios in Nashville.”
Plainly, Chiccarelli is sold on the Manley sound. “I use Manley gear for both tracking and mixdown,” he confirms. “Manley tube mics and processors are on pretty much every project. I really love their products—and their people! Their commitment to building gear with top quality tone is outstanding.”