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Big Mick talks about his work with A-T mics

11-01-2003 Legendary front-of-house (FOH) engineer “Big” Mick Hughes has been involved with bands since he was a teenager carrying gear for the original Judas Priest. Over the years, Big Mick has worked for some of the biggest names in the business including Def Leppard, Ozzy Osbourne, Slipknot, Steve Vai, UB40, and Rob Halford. Most of the past 19 years, though, Big Mick has been the FOH with San Francisco-based heavy metal phenomenon Metallica. He’s been working with Metallica ever since November of 1984, during the band’s early days playing clubs, bars, and theaters, through to today’s standing-room-only concerts in stadiums, arenas, and festivals. In the nearly two-decade association between Metallica and Big Mick Hughes, he has established many of the production benchmarks by which today’s heavy metal bands are judged. One element in that equation has been Big Mick’s choice of microphones and his unique relationship with leading microphone manufacturer Audio-Technica. “I’ve been using Audio-Technica for years because of the way A-T mics sound,” stated Big Mick, who is currently using a wide selection of Audio-Technica mics to capture Metallica’s signature sound. “I’ll continue to use some of my ‘old standard’ A-T mics, but recently I have added some of the new Artist Elite® mics to my setup, including the AE5400 and AE2500. The AE5400 on vocals has stunning tone with great highs,” commented Big Mick. In addition to the AE5400, Big Mick is using ATM35’s on toms and cymbals, AT4051 on snare bottom and hi-hat, ATM23HE on snare top, as well as AE2500’s and AT4050’s on guitar cabinets. In addition, Metallica guitarist James Hetfield has recently switched to Audio-Technica’s Artist Elite 5000 Series Wireless System with the AEW-T1000 transmitter. “The AE2500 is absolutely stunning on guitar cabinets,” says Big Mick. “When I first tried the 2500, I listened to each element individually and said that’s not very big. But when I combined the two (dynamic and condenser), it’s absolutely crushing. The summation of the two is so much more than the individual elements — it’s bizarre. I use the 2500 with flat EQ and only high and low pass filters employed. It’s a very, very big sound. On drums, the ATM35’s are perfect for toms and cymbals. It’s a good-sized mic, has great transient response and a nice punchy open sound. On the Roland JC-120 stereo jazz chorus, I’m using two AT4050’s that are miking each 12" speaker — they’re full-bodied mics and two of them give a really fat stereo image. However, if I had more channels on the desk, I’d probably be using two 2500’s on each — but that’s a little self indulgent!” Big Mick is also using the AE2500 on Lars Ulrich’s drum kit. “I’m also using the dual-element AE2500 on kick. I position the mic very close to the beater, about 3" away, and then I predominantly lean on (turn up) the condenser element. When I A-B’d the 2500 to what I had previously been using, I realized the other mic (compared to the 2500) had no mid-range, it was all sculpted out. The 2500 lets me get the attack of the beater and the resonance of the shell.” Recently, James Hetfield’s guitar radio setup has been switched to Audio-Technica’s Artist Elite 5000 Series Wireless System with the AEW-T1000 transmitter. “To date we’ve had no problems with the wireless, and James moves quite a bit onstage,” Big Mick commented.