In a career that has seen a steady progression from young guitar prodigy to respected veteran blues-rocker, Joe Bonamassa has come to understand the importance of having the right equipment. That sensibility extends beyond guitars and amps, to the Beyerdynamic microphones and wireless systems that help bring his sound to his fans.


“I’ve been singing through an M88 for years now, going back to my first band, Bloodline,” says Bonamassa. “It’s an incredible vocal mic. Then, when I started playing bigger stages and needed a guitar wireless, Beyer was really the only one where I can’t tell the difference in sound between the wireless and a cable. I’ve even used it in the studio on my last two records. It’s really that good.”

Front of house engineer Warren Cracknell agrees. “Being the tone guy Joe is, he never really found a wireless he was happy with. But leading up to his big show at Albert Hall in April 2009, he really needed the ability to roam that huge stage without worrying about his cable. We brought in through wireless after wireless into rehearsals, all the major brands. Nothing was working until we tried the Opus 900 from Beyer. We plugged it in and Joe went, ‘There it is!’ We A/B’d it to the cable and there was no difference. No signal loss, no tonal change, no coloration. He’s been on it ever since.”

In fact, the Opus 900 is so good at “passing for copper” that Bonamassa has used it for tracking guitar when recording at Black Rock Studios in Santorini, Greece. “We first used is so I could play and listen in the control room. “Neither I nor my producer, Kevin Shirley, could tell the difference from a cable,” says Bonamassa. “In fact, most of the guitar parts on that album (Black Rock) were done on the Opus 900. Some wireless systems have weird impedance effects with the pickups, but not the Beyer. It feels the same, it’s just as immediate, and it doesn’t compress my tone. It’s extraordinary. Plus, it lets me be in the room with the drummer, which really helps me get a good vibe in the studio.”

While Bonamassa’s Opus 900 is a stock model, the same is not true of his vocal mic. “After I became an official endorser, the guys at Beyer started talking to me about doing a custom M88,” says Bonamassa. “They were showing me some of their vintage mics, and when they showed me the old M69 from around 1965, I just fell in love with the aesthetic of it. So they actually took the guts of the M88 and put it inside an M69 body and put my ‘JB’ logo crest on it. It’s really a cool look. I sing on it every night.”

The capsule inside Joe’s custom mic is also customized to his voice, with minor tweaks designed to accommodate the different housing and to make Warren Cracknell’s job a little easier. “We asked for a couple minor changes, and the folks at Beyer were great about that. The sound is totally M88, but with a couple minor EQ changes I usually do at the desk now incorporated directly in the electronics. It sounds fantastic.”

Cracknell incorporates Beyer mics on virtually every input. The Opus 99 dynamic bass mic is used on kick drum, bass cabinet and Leslie bottom. The snare drum is captured with an Opus 66 on top and an Opus 88 beneath, while an Opus 53 condenser handles the hi-hat. The other cymbals – overhead left/right, plus the ride – are all miked with Beyer MC 930 condensers, which Cracknell admires for their smooth, crisp response. All three toms use clip-on mics: Opus 67s on top and Opus 88s on the bottom. “I love the Opus 67 on top. It’s got a very tight pattern, which prevents bleed. In fact, I don’t use gates on the top tom mics at all,” Warren explains. “I do gate the tom bottoms. Basically, I use a side chain from the Opus 67 on top to open the gate for the Opus 88 on the bottom. The 67s sound great by themselves, but adding the 88s underneath helps us get the big three-dimensional sound we want, augmented by the MC 930s overhead. That gives us a monster drum sound, with plenty of headroom to spare.”

The Opus 66, 67, and 88 models all share the same clip-on hardware, which is a real selling point for Cracknell. “The Beyer clips are the best I’ve seen. They snap on and they stay,” he says. “It’s all about keeping the sound coming from one place, from one spot, and the Opus clip-ons stay in place better than anything else out there.”

Rounding out the stage are Bonamassa’s four guitar amps, two of which are miked with the Beyer M201 TG, a compact, high-sensitivity dynamic mic with a classic sound. The other two cabinets are miked with Sennheiser MD 421s and a Palmer PDI-03 speaker simulator. For the organ, the top of the Leslie cabinet uses an Opus 66/M 160 combination, while a Palmer PDI-02 DI handles the electronic keyboards.

Bonamassa will be busy through the end of 2010, with October dates in Europe followed by a U.S. tour that starts in mid-November. In the meantime, the much-anticipated Black Country Communion project will be released on September 21. This hard rock “supergroup” includes Bonamassa along with vocalist/bass player Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, Trapeze) drummer Jason Bonham, and keyboardist Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater, Alice Cooper).

“We hope to put together a Black Country Communion tour in 2011, and you can bet I’ll be bringing my Beyer mics,” says Bonamassa. “When I say I endorse Beyer, it’s not just about the gear; they’re good people, too. The folks there have become my friends and given me the support I need around the world. That’s very cool, and it means a lot to me. I feel very fortunate to be working with them.”

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Originally posted 2011-02-06 03:05:43.