Best Microphones For Miking Flugelhorn


The flugelhorn is a beautiful instrument. It resembles a trumpet and has the same length of tube. However, it has a conical tube rather than a cylindrical tube, giving it a much warmer and gentle sound than the trumpet. So how do we capture the truest sound of the flugelhorn? It all starts with a great microphone. Let’s look at the recommended flugelhorn microphones:

  • Coles 4038: Broadcasting microphones lend themselves well to the flugelhorn. If we’re really trying to capture the warm sonic character of a flugelhorn, there’s no better microphone than the Coles 4038 (link to check the price on Amazon). This BBC-designed microphone is top-notch and well worth the price. It works particularly well in capturing the sound intended by the hornist.
  • Cascade Fat Head 98: Sticking with ribbon mics, the best budget option for a flugelhorn mic would have to be the Cascade Fat Head 98 (link to check the price on Amazon). This microphone sounds beautiful on brass instruments and it’s a fraction of the cost of a Coles 4038.
  • Electro-Voice RE20: There’s a lot of good points for different microphones for flugelhorn in live situations. If you do not feel comfortable bringing your ribbon mic on stage with you, I’d recommend another fantastic broadcasting mic: the Electro-Voice RE20 (link to check the price on Amazon). This is an excellent mic for nearly any instrument in a live setting, and particularly for flugelhorn.
  • Shure Beta 98H/C: My recommended clip-on flugelhorn microphone is the Shure Beta 98H/C (link to check the price on Amazon). This is a wonderful close-mic clip-on option for live flugelhorn and can easily connect to a wireless transmitter. The Beta 98H/C sounds amazing and does an excellent job at isolating its flugelhorn from the rest of the stage noise.

Let’s go into further detail about what makes the Coles 4038, Cascade Fat Head, Electro-Voice RE20, and the Shure Beta 98H/C such great flugelhorn microphones in this article.


Disclaimer:

“Best” is a dangerous word. There is really no such thing as a “best microphone” for any situation. The microphone(s) listed in my Recommended Microphones And Accessories” page are simply my recommendations. These recommendations are based on my own experience and are mindful of budget. It would be easy to suggest an ELA M 251 or U47 for most scenarios. However, these tube mics are very expensive, putting them out of a hobbyist’s price range and making it difficult for professionals to make their money back on the gear.

Another important note is that the microphone or equipment you choose is not the most important part of recording audio. In fact, there are many factors that are arguably more important than the choice of microphone. These include:

  • Performer (whether a musician, speaker, or otherwise)
  • Instrument
  • Microphone technique/placement
  • Number of microphones used
  • Natural sound of the room
  • Content (whether that’s the song, discussion, or otherwise)
  • Signal chain (including mic cable, preamplifier, console, and/or interface/computer)

With that being said, some microphones and gear suit some instruments better than others, prompting this series of articles under “Recommended Microphones And Accessories.”


What Does A Flugelhorn Sound Like?

To make a better microphone choice, it’s important to understand the sound of what we’re miking. The flugelhorn sounds like a softer, mellower trumpet. They’re similar shape (though a flugelhorn is conical while a trumpet is cylindrical) and the two instruments share the same range of available notes. The flugelhorn, however, has much less upper harmonics than the trumpet, making it sound warmer and gentler.

So what does a flugelhorn sound like? Well, it sounds different depending on the position we listen from!

  • From the player’s perspective (“behind” the flugelhorn), the flugelhorn sounds warm and full, but a bit dull.
  • From the audience perspective (some distance from the flugelhorn), the flugelhorn sounds nice and full as is characteristic of the horn.
  • Near and in front of the bell, the flugelhorn sounds brighter and not as full. We wouldn’t want to listen to a flugelhorn from this position, but we often place our microphones in this vicinity out of necessity.

So if we are to close-mic a flugelhorn, we want a microphone to decrease the brightness and add body to the sound if at all possible. Doing so will capture a more natural sound of the flugelhorn.

It’s also very important to note (as an engineer and performer) that flugelhorns are very directional. The low frequencies of the flugelhorn are projected in all directions while the higher frequencies get more and more directional (pointing out of the bell).

Frequency Range Of Flugelhorn (B♭)

  • Overall Range: 164 Hz ~ 6,000 Hz
  • Fundamentals range: 164 Hz – 932 Hz (E3-B♭5)
  • Harmonics range: 328 Hz ~ 6,000 Hz

The flugelhorn is basically a conical tube closed at one end. Physics states that a flugelhorn should have a fundamental frequency 2 times the length of the tube and only generate odd overtones.

Because the flugelhorn is a conical tubed brass instrument, it contains both odd and even harmonics.


What Factors Make An Ideal Flugelhorn Microphone?

Let’s discuss a short list of the critical specifications that make up a great flugelhorn microphone:

  • Gentle high-frequency roll-off: A smooth roll-off of high frequencies helps achieve the “warm” sound of a flugelhorn. Extended high-frequency responses often yield too bright or “airy” a sound for flugelhorn.
  • Directionality: Pick a microphone with some directionality. When recording flugelhorn, off-axis colouration can actually be your friend. By positioning the microphone at various points around the bell, different timbres of the flugelhorn may be captured.
  • Sensitivity: Select a microphone sensitive enough to pick up the nuances in the mellow sounding flugelhorn. This helps to capture the fullest sonic picture possible!

And For Live Applications, A Few More Considerations:

  • Durability: Choose a microphone that can withstand some physical abuse. Chances are, at some point, your live microphone will encounter some rough times.
  • Price: Pick a microphone you can afford to replace. This is important for performers and crucial for venue owners and audio technicians.
  • Cardioid Directional Polar Pattern: Select a cardioid directional microphone to work well with fold-back monitors and on noisy stages.
  • Size: Though not a major factor, size does play a role in microphone placement live.
  • Mounting: Is it best to position the mics on stands or clip them to the flugelhorn? There are pros and cons to both.

So we have a general idea of what we’re looking for. Let’s discuss the recommended flugelhorn microphones through this lens:


The Coles 4038

Coles 4038

The Coles 4038 studio ribbon microphone is a BBC design for broadcast and recording applications. The legendary 4038 provides a beautifully flat frequency response and incredibly accurate transient response. It sounds absolutely amazing on brass instruments and is my top recommendation for a high-end flugelhorn microphone.

Frequency Response Of The Coles 4038

The frequency response of the Coles 4038 is given as 30 Hz – 15,000 Hz ± 3 dB. The 3048 frequency response graph is as follows:

Image from Coles 4038 Specification Sheet

Ribbon mics are our best bet to capture the warm tones of a flugelhorn naturally and accurately. The Coles 4038 is a top-of-the-line ribbon microphone and sounds great on flugelhorn in a studio (and live) environment.

The Coles 4038 (like most ribbon mics) has a gentle roll-off of high frequencies. This helps to maintain the “warmth” of the flugelhorn sound. Even when the 4038 is placed in a “bright” position (like on-axis in front of the flugelhorn bell), the response remains natural sounding.

Although slight, the natural boosts and cuts in the 4038’s frequency response really do play a big role in capturing the best sound from a flugelhorn!

For more information on microphone frequency response, check out my article Complete Guide To Microphone Frequency Response (With Mic Examples).

Directionality Of The Coles 4038

Like most ribbon microphones, the Coles 4038 has a bidirectional polar pattern. This bidirectional pattern is accurately maintained in both horizontal and vertical planes, helping to ensure a consistent tone if the flugelhorn happens to move off-axis during recording.

This directionality is partly due to the odd shape of the 4038 microphone grille.

The bidirectional pattern of the 4038 picks up the early reflections to its rear, and does an excellent job capturing the sound of the room along with the horn. Cardioid mics are a bit dull and phasey sounding when used as rooms. Omnidirectional microphones often reproduce too much of the reverberation of the room.

Bidirectional microphones exhibit the greatest amount of the proximity effect. If the 4038 makes the horn sound too muddy, try distancing it from the bell. By the same token, if the 4038 makes the horn sound too thin (which likely won’t happen), move it closer to the bell.

For more information on the bidirectional microphone polar pattern, check out my article What Is A Bidirectional/Figure-8 Microphone? (With Mic Examples).

Sensitivity Of The Coles 4038

The sensitivity rating of the Coles 4038 is given as -65 dB re: 1 Volt/Pa. This is a low rating even for ribbon microphones. I’d recommend using the 4038 in conjunction with a high-quality pre-amp capable of supplying enough clean gain to bring the signal up to line level.

However, if we think of sensitivity as the ability for the Coles 4038 to capture the nuances of a flugelhorn’s sound, we see that although its output is low, the 4038 is quite sensitive.

The diaphragm of a Coles 4038 is 0.6 microns thick, which is very thin compared to other ribbon microphones. This gives the 4038 an extremely accurate transient response since the ribbon diaphragm will move in reaction to very small variations in sound pressure level.

The responsiveness of the 4038 ribbon makes it an ideal microphone for capturing the little details of a hornist’s performance.

For more information on microphone sensitivity, check out my article What Is Microphone Sensitivity? An In-Depth Description.

Durability Of The Coles 4038

Because the Coles 4038 is a ribbon dynamic microphone (with a very thin ribbon 0.6 microns thick), it’s a bit fragile. Dropping or hitting this mic may damage the ribbon element (diaphragm) or the 4038, and so caution should be practiced when using this mic in the studio and in live settings.

Price Of The Coles 4038

At over $1,000 USD, the Coles 4038 is the most expensive mic on this list. What you’re paying for here is a very high quality microphone that outperforms its “budget” counterparts and sounds amazing on most sound sources (notably the flugelhorn).

For more information on the price of microphones, check out my articles How Much Do Microphones Cost? (With Pricing Examples) and Top 20 Most Expensive Microphones On The Market Today.

Size/Mounting Of The Coles 4038

The Coles 4038 is an odd-shaped, but small microphone. It can be mounted close to or far from the flugelhorn. If possible, keep the microphone upright so that the ribbon element does not sag.

I wouldn’t recommend clamping the 4038 to the bell of a horn due to its weight, fragility, and the risk of sagging the ribbon element if not positioned correctly.

For more information on microphone mounting, check out my article How To Attach A Microphone To A Microphone Stand.


The Cascade Fathead 98

Cascade Fat Head 98

The Fat Head is my top “budget” microphone for capturing the sound of a flugelhorn. This mic has a symmetrical ribbon design and outperforms the other ribbon mics in its price range.

Frequency Response Of The Cascade Fat Head 98

The Fat Head has a frequency response of +/-5dB between 60 Hz and 12,500 Hz. Here is the frequency response graph:

Image from Cascade Fat Head Mic Report

The curve is fairly flat in the fundamental frequency range of a flugelhorn. This makes for an accurate capture of this important frequency band.

As we get to the upper notable harmonics of the flugelhorn (~6 kHz), the Fat Head has a slight boost in sensitivity. This helps the flugelhorn to stand out a bit in the mix and accentuates some of its character.

Finally, the high-end roll suits the flugelhorn beautifully. The flugelhorn sounds warm and full of body when recorded by the Fat Head, which is exactly what it should sound like (in most cases).

Directionality Of The Cascade Fat Head 98

The Fat Head, like the vast majority of ribbon microphones, exhibits a bidirectional polar pattern. Here is the graph of the Fat Head polar response:

Image from Cascade Fat Head Mic Report

The bidirectional pattern of the Fat Head picks up the initial sound of a flugelhorn and the early reflections to the rear of the mic. The Fat Head’s polar response also exhibits quite a strong proximity effect, making the mic more sensitive to bass frequencies as it moves closer to the sound source. Experiment with the positioning of the Fat Head relative to the flugelhorn to find your “sweet spot.”

Durability Of The Cascade Fat Head 98

The ribbon element on a Fat Head is 2.5 microns thick, 1 3/4″ long, and 3/16″ wide and is made of pure aluminum. These dimensions insinuate a durable ribbon. However, the Cascade Fat Head is, after all, a ribbon mic. I wouldn’t suggest exposing this microphone to physical abuse.

Price Of The Cascade Fat Head 98

At about $200 USD (at the time of writing the article), the Cascade Fat Head 98 is at the top of its price range in terms of performance and when it comes to capturing the sound of the flugelhorn.

I think this is an excellent budget ribbon mic for any project studio to pick up.

Size/Mounting Of The Cascade Fat Head 98

The Fat Head is a relatively small microphone, allowing it to fit inconspicuously in many positions. However, because it’s a ribbon mic, I’d suggest placing it upright so that the ribbon element doesn’t sag.

When using the Fat Head in a live setting, be cautious not to knock it over or put it in harm’s way. Though it’ll probably be fine if it’s bumped, there’s always a chance for the ribbon to sustain irreversible physical damage.

The Fat Head 98 would be an awkward microphone to clamp to a flugelhorn bell. I wouldn’t recommend doing this.


The Electro-Voice RE20

Electro-Voice RE20

The Electro-Voice RE20, like the aforementioned Coles 4038, is a standard broadcast microphone. I recommend the RE20 as a stationary microphone for capturing flugelhorns in live settings. The RE20 is also a stellar choice in the studio.

Frequency Response Of The Electro-Voice RE20

The RE20 is rated as having a frequency response between 45 Hz and 18,000 Hz. Here is the frequency response graph:

Image from the Electro-Voice RE20 Specification Sheet

Note that the frequency response graph of the RE20 also shows us what it picks up at 180-degrees (the opposite direction of where the microphone is pointing).

First, I’d recommend applying the high-pass filter when using the RE20 to capture flugelhorns live. This will help reduce the amount of stage bleed in the microphones and give more gain before feedback.

The high-frequency roll-off helps somewhat to keep the warmth of the flugelhorn sound of in live and studio settings.

Directionality Of The Electro-Voice RE20

The RE20 is a cardioid microphone with the following polar pattern diagram:

Image from the Electro-Voice RE20 Specification Sheet

For more information on the cardioid microphone polar pattern, check out my article What Is A Cardioid Microphone? (Polar Pattern + Mic Examples).

As we can see from the graph, the RE20 does a great job at rejecting sound from 120-degrees to 240-degrees off-axis across its entire frequency response. The RE20 has roughly 16-18 dB rejection at 180-degrees.

The RE20 doesn’t have a great amount of off-axis colouration, which helps to maintain the sound of the flugelhorn if it happens to move slightly off-axis from the microphone.

Speaking of colouration, the RE20 also does not exhibit any proximity effect, even though it’s a cardioid mic. This is because of its Variable-D technology. What this means is that there will not be an excessive bass boost as the flugelhorn gets closer to the microphone. This makes it an excellent choice in live settings where the rule of mic placement seems to be “closer the better.”

More importantly in live situations, this cardioid pattern allows for placement in front of monitors with little risk of microphone feedback.

Sensitivity Of The Electro-Voice RE20

The RE20 has a sensitivity rating of 1.5 mV/Pa. This is low, but not out-of-the-ordinary for a dynamic microphone.

The RE20 is exceptionally reactive to sound pressure relative to other moving-coil dynamic microphones. The performance of the RE20 is due to its large Acoustalloy diaphragm in combination with an exceptionally low-mass aluminum voice coil.

This reactivity to sound waves makes the RE20 an excellent choice in capturing the nuances of the flugelhorn sound.

Durability Of The Electro-Voice RE20

The Electro-Voice RE20 is a robust microphone. It’s a moving-coil dynamic mic with a solid outer body and no complicated/fragile internal circuitry.

I’d never suggest dropping or hitting your RE20, but it should be able to handle the “rigours” of live performance. In the studio, an RE20 should live a long, prosperous life.

The Size And Mounting Of The Electro-Voice RE20

When performing live, it’s important to see the performers. Microphone size and mounting plays a role in this.

The RE20 is a fairly large mic (~812” long and ~218” at its widest diameter), but it shouldn’t be a visible distraction on stage. It doesn’t require a pop filter to protect its capsule from flugelhorn plosives, and also has a built-in shock mount, so we can get away without mounting it inside a bulky external shock mount. This means the overall size of the mic when positioned is relatively small.

The Price Of The Electro-Voice RE20

The Electro-Voice RE20 can be purchased for under $500 USD (as of the writing of this article). This may seem like a lot, but the price is worth it for live flugelhorns. The RE20 is also extremely versatile, so I’d say it would be money well-spent (even if you never end up using it on flugelhorn).


The Shure Beta 98H/C (Budget Live Recommendation)

Shure Beta 98H/C

The Shure Beta 98H/C is an amazing choice if the hornist will be moving around on the stage. It easily connects to a wireless system, too! This miniature condenser mic sounds great and effectively isolates the flugelhorn from other noise in live settings.

Frequency Response Of The Shure Beta 98H/C

The frequency response of the Shure Beta 98H/C is given as 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz. The Beta 98H/C frequency response graph is as follows:

Image from Shure Beta 98H/C Specification Sheet

As we can see above, there’s quite a presence boost in the Beta 98H/C with almost a 5 dB boost around 6-7 kHz. Although this doesn’t necessarily coincide with the flugelhorn formants, the boost will help the flugelhorn stand out a bit in a live mix.

The only issue I have with this presence boost is that it may interfere with the presence of the vocals. Otherwise, this graph looks pretty good.

Directionality Of The Shure Beta 98H/C

The Beta 98H/C is a cardioid microphone. However, it’s graph shows a bit more of a supercardioid polar response:

Image from Shure Beta 98H/C Specification Sheet

It’s important to use directional microphones in live settings to help isolate the various sound sources. As we can see above, the 98H/C is pretty directional. And so clipping the mic to and pointing it at the flugelhorn bell should effectively isolate the flugelhorn from the other instruments.

The cardioid pattern helps to tremendously reduce the risk of microphone feedback when the hornist (and flugelhorn) are in front of a foldback monitor. With that being said, caution should be used at higher frequencies as the mic become more sensitive to the rear. I’d even suggest engaging a low-pass filter on the mixer when using the 98H/C live on flugelhorn.

Sensitivity Of The Shure Beta 98H/C

The sensitivity rating of the Shure Beta 98H/C is given as –56 dBV/Pa (1.6 mV). This is a low rating for a condenser microphone, but this is an advantage in live settings since the mic won’t be as sensitive to extraneous sounds outside the flugelhorn.

Like many Shure microphones, the 98H/C has a cartridge shock mount system to effectively absorb mechanical shock and minimize handling noise. This is ideal for live settings, again, to further help in isolating the flugelhorn from the other instruments.

The condenser diaphragm itself is sensitive enough to pick up the character of the flugelhorn bell. In close-miking live settings, this is often all we can ask for.

Durability Of The Shure Beta 98H/C

Shure is an industry leader in microphone durability. So, of course, durability was thought of when they designed the 98H/C. The mic has a dent-resistant steel mesh grille and enamel coated metal alloy construction to resist physical abuse and the wear and tear that comes with aging.

Price Of The Shure Beta 98H/C

At roughly $200 USD, the Beta 98H/C won’t break the bank. And with its reliability and durability, it’s a great investment.

Size/Mounting Of The Shure Beta 98H/C

The Beta 98H/C has a simple clamp to attach it to the bell of a flugelhorn. The mic capsule is at the end of a gooseneck and ratcheting swivel joint. The microphone is extremely easy to position and a gooseneck angle brace helps in retaining that microphone position.


Let’s Recap

So these are four of the best microphones for capturing the sound of a flugelhorn. Of course, there are many microphones that sound amazing on flugelhorn, but in considering price and setting, these are my top 4 recommended flugelhorn mics. Let’s recap:

  • Coles 4038: Best sounding mic on flugelhorn.
  • Cascade Fat Head: Best “budget” microphone for recording flugelhorn in a studio.
  • Electro-Voice RE20: Best live microphone for flugelhorn.
  • Shure Beta 98H/C: Best clip-on microphone for flugelhorn.

Honourable mentions:

  • AKG C414 XLII
  • AKG D112
  • Royer R121
  • Neumann U87
  • Sennheiser MD441
  • Shure SM57
  • AMT P800
  • DPA d:vote Core 4099

For all the My New Microphone mic/gear recommendations, please check out my page Recommended Microphones And Accessories.

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