Woodland Hills, CA—December 2016… John Feldmann has an impressive list of accomplishments as frontman of the iconic ’90s pop-punk band Goldfinger and as A&R for Maverick, Warner Brothers, and Red Bull Records. But he’s best known for producing such powerful artists as Good Charlotte, The Used, Mest, 5 Seconds of Summer, Blink-182, Hedley, and The Veronicas. One common thread, according to Feldmann engineer Zakk Cervini, is an emphasis on vocal production.
“John is a very vocal-centric producer; the vocal is the most important thing,” Cervini explains. “We always have a giant sea of tracks, with lots of guitars, and the vocal is like a little shark in the sea swimming above the tracks.” Getting vocals to cut through that sea of tracks and yet sit well in the mix isn’t easy. “It’s mainly the microphone,” insists Cervini. “We use the Manley Reference Cardioid as our main vocal microphone 90 percent of the time. I’ve never heard a mic with such high-end clarity; nothing really sounds like it. It gives us an amazing, high-fidelity sound. We use it on acoustic guitars, as well, because its high-end response really adds ‘air.’”
Other vocal mics simply haven’t delivered the sound Feldmann wants. “Most other mics we’ve used on our tracks are too muddy in the 200 Hz range,” muses Cervini. “They don’t really fit. But the Manley Reference Cardioid cuts through. Its frequency response, with that great high end, brings the vocal out.”
Even with contrasting voice types, the Reference Cardioid consistently delivers the goods. “It works great on really aggressive vocals, which we do a lot of,” Cervini expounds. “We use it a lot on screamers. But it also works very well on female vocals, which we also do a lot of. We use it for everything.”
Feldmann and Cervini recently chose the Manley Reference Cardioid when recording Andy Biersack’s vocals with Black Veil Brides. “His voice is really low, a powerful, baritone voice, and the Reference Cardioid’s clear high end works really well for him,” Cervini reveals. “We used it on One Ok Rock, a heavy rock band from Japan, and the mic sounds great on their singer’s voice too.”
The Manley TNT tube mic preamp is another valuable tool in Feldmann’s productions. “We record to digital and mix ‘in the box’ but we track through a lot of analog stuff to get the tone we want, and the Manley TNT preamp is great for that,” Cervini confirms. “We especially like the TNT preamp on drum overheads, mostly for the same reason we like the Reference Cardioid mic: It adds a nice sparkle. The TNT captures the highs of the cymbals really well and still gets a good overall picture of the drum kit. It EQs the sound nicely on the way in.”
As much as he appreciates the TNT preamp, the Reference Cardioid microphone is clearly Cervini’s favorite Manley product. “I’ve never heard a mic that sounds like it,” he enthuses. “It’s one of a kind.”