New Studio Microphones In 2004A WEALTH OF OPTIONS FOR ANY RECORDING JOB 3/01/2005 7:00 AM Eastern
When your business is recording, the phrase “You can never have too many mics” has always been true. Every style and model of mic has a distinctive sonic character; selecting the right tool for the job can make all the difference between a good recording and a great one. And lately, there are more options than ever for the discerning engineer: The market has been flooded with new mic choices, from high-end tube and refined ribbon designs to inexpensive Asian imports. To help navigate the expanding world of microphones, Mix presents the newest product offerings.
To avoid discussing “vaporware,” we examined products that debuted during 2004 (Check out Winter NAMM releases in our show report on page 40) and are available and shipping now. The focus is on mics that are suitable for studio recording rather than broadcast or live sound — although some models could serve in these capacities. It should be noted that not all manufacturers unveiled new studio mics in the past year, including beyerdynamic, Coles, Crown, Groove Tubes, Lawson, Manley, OKM, Schoeps, Shure and Stedman. However, this year's class offers a wealth of interesting new products. Let's get started.
With a 50 to 16k Hz response and the ability to handle SPLs exceeding 140 dB, the Audix (www.audixusa.com) i5 is designed for instrumental recording and employs a VLM (very low-mass) dynamic capsule in a black-finished, zinc-alloy body. The i5 has a cardioid polar pattern and ships with a heavy-duty mic clip and carrying pouch.
Sennheiser's (www.sennheiserusa.com) 900 Series comprises 11 mics for studio recording and live sound. The 902 is optimized for miking kick drums, bass guitar amps and other low-frequency sources from baritone sax to tuba. The 903 handles extremely high SPLs and is suited for miking snares, timbales and such. The 904 and 905 are designed for drums, while the 906 is a good choice for miking guitar amps.
The R88 from Audio Engineering Associates (www.wesdooley.com) is a Blumlein pair of large-ribbon geometry (LRG) elements enclosed in a single housing. Its motor design is derivative of AEA's R84 motor with improvements in the high-end response. The R88 is optimized for natural frequency response and precise stereo imaging. The LRG design inherits the extended bass of the company's R44 and R84 microphones. The R88 is well suited for recording woodwinds, strings and cymbals, and is also a good choice for orchestral and choral recording, horn sections and drum overheads.
New from Nady (www.nady.com), the RSM-2 features a 2-inch-long, 2-micron-thick aluminum ribbon design and 165dB SPL capability. The mic has a figure-8 pickup pattern and is built of turned-brass construction. The RSM-2 is available with either a platinum or gold-finish grille and includes a soft carrying/storage case.
Designed for stereo and distance miking applications, Royer's (www.royerlabs.com) SF-24 is a good choice for recording choirs, pianos, harps and stringed instruments, as well as large ensembles or various sections within — including brass and woodwinds. The SF-24 can also serve as a single-point stereo overhead drum and percussion mic. Housed in an ingot iron case that forms part of the magnetic return circuit, the SF-24 has two matched ribbon elements placed one above the other, each aimed 45 degrees from the center in the classic Blumlein configuration. The package includes a shock-mount, mic sock and protective case.
SOLID-STATE CONDENSER MICS
Available solo or in matched pairs, ADK's (www.adkmic.com) Vienna and Hamburg mics are pressure-gradient, fixed-cardioid condensers with upgraded capsules and European JP-MOD upgraded electronics. The Vienna mic employs a 1.07-inch diameter, 5-micron-thick, edge-connected, gold vapor deposited diaphragm. The Hamburg model uses a 1-inch-diameter, 6-micron-thick, center-connected, gold vapor — deposited diaphragm. Both models' electronics are low-noise, European-designed Class-A discrete FET+ bipolar and are transformer-coupled. The electronics utilize proprietary configurations “tuned” to the capsule.
AKG's (www.akgusa.com) C 414 B/XL II and C 414 B/XLS models build upon the popularity of the company's C 414 by integrating new features, including an improved capsule shock-mount to minimize structurally transmitted noise from chassis vibration, new switching functions and a more modern design. Both models provide control switches with status LED for selecting the five polar patterns, along with three pre-attenuation pads and three bass cut/roll-off settings. There are also an overload indicator function, status indicators and a positioning aid. Further, an optional remote-control device to switch all of these functions at the mixer is available. Both versions are available in stereo pairs and come with a hard case, a shock-mount/stand adapter, the PF80 external pop filter and the W 414 external windscreen.
The Apex (www.apexelectronics.com) Model 435 is a 1-inch-diaphragm, single-pattern condenser that offers the same performance as the company's multipattern Model 460 but in a cardioid-only design. The 435 has a relatively compact 6-inch-long brass body with anodized finish and features an internal -6dB/100Hz LF roll-off switch for handling rumble or breath noise. It ships with an Apex IMC-3 “cat's cradle” shock-mount.
Taking a different turn from its extensive line of instrument-specific mics, the SV (Studio Vocal) model from Applied Microphone Technology (www.appliedmic.com) is a large-diaphragm cardioid condenser with a stated frequency response of 20 to 20k Hz. It's finished in distinctive, bright “Hummer yellow” and ships with a shock-mount and a protective case.
The AT2020 cardioid condenser from Audio-Technica (www.audiotechnica.com) is designed for the project studio/home recording user. With the ability to handle high 144dB SPLs and a custom-engineered low-mass diaphragm that provides excellent transient response and extended frequency response (20 to 20k Hz), it's a good choice for a wide range of recording applications. A stand mount and protective pouch are included.
A front-address mic designed for studio/broadcast vocals, the AVS77 from Avlex (www.avlex.com) includes an integrated foam windscreen and a swiveling U-bracket stand mount for ease of placement. This 1-inch, 3-micron-diaphragm cardioid condenser has a bass roll-off switch and a -10dB pad for 145dB max SPL handling.
The B-2 Pro from Behringer (www.behringer.com) is a dual-diaphragm studio condenser. Key features include selectable cardioid, omni and figure-8 patterns; low-cut filter; and -10dB attenuator. The B-1 cardioid condenser has a 1-inch capsule and a 20 to 20k Hz response with a pronounced vocal presence boost, switchable highpass filter, -10dB pad and 148dB SPL handling. The B-5 is a gold-sputtered — diaphragm condenser featuring interchangeable capsules for cardioid and omni pickup patterns. The B-5 has a transformerless FET input, -10dB pad and a low-cut filter.
BLUE Microphone's (www.bluemic.com) Bluebird is a large-diaphragm cardioid condenser utilizing Class-A discrete electronics. Designed for a variety of applications, ranging from vocals to close-miking of drums, the Bluebird bundle includes the Bluebird Accessory Pak: a quality 22-AWG mic cable, shock-mount and metal mesh pop filter. Blue's 8-Ball is a cardioid condenser priced within reach of the home studio user. Featuring Blue's Class-A discrete, low-noise amplifier circuit, the mic is ideal for applications as varied as drum overheads to acoustic and electric guitars or vocals. A standard thread swivel-mount at the base of the mic lets users pivot the 8-Ball back and forth for easy positioning.
The Phantom V from Brauner (dist. by TransAudio Group, www.transaudiogroup.com) is a phantom-powered FET design that can be switched between omni, cardioid and figure-8 patterns. The Phantom V has a 10dB pad and features a sound tailored for voice-over or vocals; it's also well suited for miking stringed instruments and distance or room miking. It ships with a protective case and shock-mount.
CAD's (www.cadmics.com) e100
The CM-87S large-diaphragm studio condenser from Carvin (www.carvin.com) features a cardioid pattern with a gold-sputtered, 6-micron-thick diaphragm and low-noise FET electronics, all suspended in a machined casing. The CM-87S' low-cut switch reduces rumble and handling noise. It's designed for vocals and acoustic instruments, but 135dB SPL handling (145 dB with -10dB pad) opens it up to instrument and percussion miking.
Cascade's (www.cascademicrophones.com) M37 is a small-diaphragm (21mm diameter) cardioid condenser that's ideal for drum overheads, hi-hat, snare or acoustic instruments such as guitar and piano. SPL handling is 137 dB. The M35 is a large-diaphragm condenser with a 1.07-inch diaphragm and Class-A FET electronics. The M35 is a good choice for recording toms, horns and in other critical applications. It is finished in satin nickel and ships with shock-mount and case.
The DPA (www.dpamicrophones.com) 4006 is an omni condenser with an extended 10 Hz to 20k Hz response and a transformerless preamplifier. The 3521 stereo mic kit comprises a pair of 4021 compact cardioids. The 4021's condenser electronics use an ultrasmall, thick-film mounted FET preamplifier. The 4021's 5-meter cable is side-mounted, making it well-suited for situations in which the microphone needs to be mounted directly on the musical instrument or on a stand.
Both the RE410 and the RE510 handheld cardioid condenser microphones from Electro-Voice (www.electrovoice.com) are suitable for studio or live sound applications. The RE410 offers a high-compliance shock-mount for minimizing handling noise and a multistage pop filter to eliminate plosives and breath noise. The RE510 is a self-biased condenser vocal microphone with a multistage pop filter and selectable low-end roll-off that provides a wide dynamic range. Both mics include the company's Warm-Grip
Now powered by DPA microphone technology, the Holophone (www.holophone.com) H2-PRO surround sound microphone is specifically designed for capturing discrete 5.1, 6.1 and 7.1 channels of surround sound. The H2-PRO is compatible with all standard analog and digital I/O devices that accept up to eight channels and provide phantom power, including disk-based recorders, multichannel preamplifiers, standard multichannel I/Os and all mixing consoles. The microphone head comprises eight elements with eight discrete outputs. Frequency response is 20 to 20k Hz, ±2 dB (on the seven main channels), a sub/LFE channel output offers 20 Hz to 110 Hz, ±2 dB.
The JM47 from JoeMeek (dist. by PMI Audio, www.pmiaudio.com) is a condenser mic with a FET impedance converter and transformer output. The element uses a center electrode design, which claims to provide a smooth extended frequency response without low-frequency boominess. The JM27 is a medium-sized diaphragm condenser with a cardioid head. This feeds low-noise, FET-type electronics. Both mics' diaphragms are made of microfine mylar with gold-sputtering, and both models have machined brass bodies.
Designed for critical recording or measurement applications, the C617 is the second generation of Josephson's (www.josephson.com) high-voltage, metal ½-inch diaphragm omnidirectional mics and is supplied with a Microtech Gefell MK221 capsule. Response is 10 Hz to 20k Hz, ±1 dB. The C617's FET front-end circuitry is a further refinement of that found in the company's C606 and is combined with a balanced bipolar Class-A symmetrical output.
The KAT 4 Convertible Microphone from Korby Audio (www.korbyaudio.com) is a system of hot-pluggable, interchangeable capsules designed and hand-built by Tracy Korby. The four capsules included are re-creations of an ELAM 251, Neumann U47, AKG C-12 and a modified Neumann U67. The hot-swappable capsules allow the user to change heads without needing to power down. The microphone's amplifier is hand-wired using hand-selected discrete components.
M-Audio's (www.m-audio.com) Nova cardioid condenser has a 1.1-inch evaporated-gold diaphragm mounted in a solid brass capsule, along with Class-A solid-state electronics for low noise/low distortion. Response is 20 to 18k Hz. M-Audio's Pulsar is a medium-diameter capsule microphone optimized for recording acoustic instruments such as guitars, piano, strings, brass and woodwinds. Its 6-micron evaporated-gold diaphragm is mounted in a solid brass capsule and body. Class-A electronics round out the design.
The Microtech Gefell (www.gefell-mics.com) M300 is a miniature pencil, cardioid studio condenser. The mic combines a 16mm, gold-evaporated diaphragm with the company's new M3 ceramic capsule. The M300 provides optical isolation for low noise. The M960 is a compact, large-diaphragm, omnidirectional microphone with a large gold capsule that has been corrected for the diffuse field to record the acoustic ambience of a performance by hanging the mic above and ahead of the source. The M296S is an omnidirectional microphone that features a pure-nickel diaphragm. The microphone utilizes a ceramic housing to ensure temperature-stable performance and uniform sensitivity at all frequencies.
The second offering in its Silicon Valve
The CM 95 from Nady is a small-diaphragm condenser microphone with low-cut and 10dB pad switches. It features a transformerless design for minimal self-noise and increased dynamic range, along with a turned-brass housing and internal shock-mount for increased reliability.
Neumann's (www.neumannusa.com) 2004 TEC Award — winning TLM 127 is a multipattern, large-diaphragm mic that features low self-noise and extremely high SPL handling. The dual-diaphragm capsule, derived from that used in the TLM 103, offers multiple polarity from the microphone, a switchable -14dB pad and a highpass filter. Cardioid and omni-switchable patterns are available right on the mic, with a full range of five patterns available via optional remote control and the power supply using standard XLR cables. The package includes a shock-mount and wooden case.
Peavey's (www.peavey.com) cardioid Studio Pro CM1 is designed for studio and live use. Its medium-format condenser element is designed to handle SPL levels up to 136 dB. Frequency response is 50 to 16k Hz.
The NT2-A from RØDE (www.rodemicrophones.com) is a large-capsule (1-inch) condenser with variable polar patterns, variable highpass filter and a variable pad. Three 3-position switches on the mic body provide the ability to step from figure-8, cardioid or omni patterns; from a flat response to either 80Hz or 40Hz highpass filter; and a pad adjustment of 0, -5 or -10dB attenuation. The NT2-A uses the company's type-HF1 dual-diaphragm capsule.
The CL7 studio condenser microphone from Samson (www.samsontech.com) features a large 1.1-inch capsule with 3-micron gold-sputtered diaphragm and a cardioid pickup pattern. The CL7 has a switchable highpass filter (12 dB/octave at 100 Hz) and a switchable 10dB pad for handling signals with high SPLs. A swivel stand-mount and carry case are included.
Designed with NHK's Science and Technical Research Laboratories, Sanken's (www.sanken-mic.com) CO-100K is a small-diaphragm omni condenser. Its 100kHz bandwidth makes it a good choice for full-spectrum recording for SACD, DVD-A and future hi-res formats. The CUW-180, featuring two 180-degree capsules that are independently adjustable, is a versatile tool for a variety of stereo and surround recording applications. For stereo recording, such as common X-Y configurations, the position of both capsules maintains optimum on-axis response and phase coherence. For surround applications, two CUW-180 mics can capture four channels of left/right and surround left/right program simultaneously, with four independently adjustable signals.
The SE3 is SE Electronics' (www.seelectronics.com) flagship small-diaphragm pencil microphone, offering Class-A FET, true condenser design with a fixed cardioid pick-up pattern. The SE3 sports a low-cut filter and 10dB pad switches. Response is 20 to 20k Hz. The mic includes a shock-mount and deluxe travel case.
Sennheiser's 900 Series of condenser mics comprises 11 microphones serving a variety of applications that encompass live sound use and studio recording. The 901 employs a half-cardioid boundary layer and is optimized for miking kick drum and grand piano. The 908B is optimized for brass instruments, while the 908D was designed for miking drums and percussion. The 914 is optimized for miking cymbals, acoustic guitar or for use as drum overheads.
While far from new, the C-38B from Sony (www.sony.com/proaudio) has a storied history. Originally introduced in 1965, the C-38B was the world's first FET mic. For the first 40 years of this mic's existence, it was unavailable in the U.S. market — until now. The large-diaphragm C-38B reissue features a frequency response of 30 to 18k Hz and provides selectable unidirectional/omnidirectional directivity. The C-38B is ideal for vocals, as well as recording wind instruments, electric guitar or bass, and all types of drums, due to its 140dB SPL handling.
TUBE CONDENSER MICS
Housed in a unique purple body, the SVT from Applied Microphone Technology is a multipattern tube condenser with a frequency response of 20 to 20k Hz. The mic ships with a shock-mount, cable and protective case.
Cascade's V55 is a classic vacuum tube design that uses a specially selected Mullard 12AT7WA/CV4024 tube. The cardioid pattern mic has a 1.07-inch (35mm) gold-sputtered diaphragm and offers transformer-balanced output. The system includes a vintage-style power supply, shock-mount and flight case.
The CharterOak (www.charteroakacoustics.com) SA538 is a tube condenser with dual 1.07-inch, 6-micron-thick, gold-sputtered mylar diaphragms. Response is 20 to 30k Hz. Polar patterns include cardioid, omni, figure-8 and intermediate stages, selectable from the power supply. Identical in appearance to the SA538, the SA538B is a side-terminated, dual-diaphragm tube mic with a flat 18 to 20k Hz response.
DPA's Type 4041-T2 uses the MMC4041 1-inch modular omni cartridge with the MMP4000-T2 tube preamplifier. The cartridge can be unscrewed from the electronics to swap with other preamplifier modules. Frequency response is rated from 10 to 20k Hz with a 4 to 6dB soft boost around 8 kHz that matches the response of DPA's acclaimed Type 4040 hybrid mic. The 4041-T2 is powered via the standard HMA5000 Microphone Amplifier (not included with the 4041-S) and offers a transformerless audio path with a maximum noise floor of 10 dBA and 144dB SPL handling.
A re-creation of the classic U47, the FLEA (dist. by Independent Audio, www.independentaudio.com) F-47 is hand-assembled in Slovakia using old stock, new Telefunken tubes with a German-built capsule. The F-47 has selectable cardioid and omni patterns, and is available in various tube configurations including UF14, EF14 and EF14 Wermacht. Other options include M7 or KK47 capsules and a long or short body.
Microtech Gefell's UM75 Anniversary Commemorative is a large-diaphragm, multipattern replica of the UM57 tube mic. The microphone employs omni, cardioid and figure-8 patterns, and uses the original M7 capsule found in the legendary Neumann UM57. Further, this special-edition microphone uses the vintage EF86 tube, custom-wound transformer and the original hammered metal-gray patina finish. Only 75 microphones will be produced.
Nady's TCM-1150 features a gold-sputtered, 1-inch dual-diaphragm and a tube preamp. The TCM-1150 provides nine polar patterns (omni, cardioid, figure-8 and six intermediate stages) selected from the power supply, and an easily replaceable 6072 vacuum tube.
The CT40 and DT40 tube microphones from Pearl Microphone Labs (dist. by Independent Audio, www.independentaudio.com) combine the company's classic rectangular dual-capsule and Nuvistor vacuum tube for a flat, yet warm sound. The CT40 has a fixed cardioid pattern; the DT40 can be configured for five different patterns. The frequency response for both is 20 to 25k Hz, and are supplied with flight case, power supply, cable and shock-mount.
The Soundelux (www.soundeluxmics.com) e250 tube condenser has a broad cardioid pattern optimized for close vocals. The company's Stable Bias circuitry design prevents the mic's sound from changing with dynamics. Its response is 20 to 18k Hz. The Soundelux E49 is a remote variable-pattern tube mic (continuous from figure-8 to cardioid to omni) that uses Soundelux's KK47 large-diaphragm capsule and a unique head grille. The microphone also features the Soundelux SteadyState fixed-bias — type tube amplifier for low noise and distortion, and is recommended in situations in which neutrality is valued. The E49 has a double shock-mounting system: a capsule-to-electronics shock assembly and a separate external shock-mount.
Based on the renowned Ela M 251E, the Ela M 251F from Telefunken USA (www.telefunkenusa.com) is the identical mic in a “no frills” package. The three-pattern (cardioid/omni/figure-8) Ela M 251F houses the same handcrafted components and vintage tube, but comes with an updated power supply. Available for the first time since 1961, the Ela M 270 stereo tube microphone is now offered in limited quantities. The company's U47M is a re-creation of the classic U47 microphone. Utilizing a German M7 capsule custom-made for Telefunken USA and hand-built in the U.S., the Telefunken U47M is offered with an optional choice of vacuum tubes. A re-creation of the original C-12, the new M-12 is a nine polar pattern mic that features the NOS 6072 tube, T-14 transformer and the TK-12 capsule. The new cardioid-only Telefunken Ela M 14 tube microphone features a single-sided TK-12 — inspired capsule, a NOS GE JAN6072a tube and a custom transformer.
An updated re-creation of the classic U47, Wunder Audio's (www.wunderaudio.com) CM7 uses an original M7 capsule. Users can choose a 40 to 50-year-old M7 capsule that is newly re-skinned to the original specifications, and there is a choice of PVC or 4 to 6-micron mylar diaphragm. (Thinner diaphragms are also available.) The tube is either a hand-selected vintage Telefunken VF14 or EF14. New Tuchel connectors are used and are identical to those found on the vintage U47. Components include high-end caps, resistors and Mogami audio wire. The CM12 uses the T14/1 output transformer that was standard in the classic C12/24/ELAM. The CM12's capsule is a CK12. The CM12's tube is a NOS GE 5-star 6072, and all internal point-to-point wiring uses Mogami cable.
Roger Maycock is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.