Recording

CAD M9, August 2002

CARDIOID TUBE MICROPHONE 5/14/2004 8:00 AM Eastern

When everybody in the audio biz goes one way, CAD always comes up with something different. This time, that something is the M9, a cardioid tube mic combining a 1.1-inch diaphragm capsule with the servo-valve technology used in its flagship VX2. The front end is driven by a single 12AX7, followed by a high-speed, low-noise, dual op amp that drives long cable runs with ease.

From the M9's impeccable fit, finish and feel, you'd never know you were dealing with a product retailing at $599 including aluminum flight case, power supply, 30-foot 7-conductor cable, and shockmount. The latter's die-cast construction and sturdy elastics are light years ahead of the usual “free shockmount” that accompanies most other under-$1,000 mics, and the unit is great at isolating the mic from external vibrations.

This side-address design has recessed switches for its -16dB (non-capacitive) pad and a subtle, quite gentle (-6dB/octave @ 100 Hz) bass roll-off filter. The power supply is simple, with AC switch (selectable for 120- or 240VAC use), removable power cord, 7-pin XLR input and standard 3-conductor XLR output (pin 2 hot).

The M9 is plug-and-go, although on power up, I was greeted by a cacophony of pops and hiss until the tube stabilized about a minute later. Then the noise disappeared completely, leaving just the sweet sound of this mic. I started with a tracking date on a Taylor acoustic guitar, with the mic about a foot from the soundhole. The result was well balanced and bright, capturing the entire top end with tons of warm bottom and detail. I had similar results cutting solos on my Gold Tone Banjitar (6-string banjo). Normally, large-diaphragm tube mics aren't my first choice on close-in stringed instruments, but the M9 really surprised me here with well-formed transients and lots of zing. Owwweee!

Next up, for overdubbing female R&B vocals the M9 really shined, with its extended top end adding a smooth breathiness to the track and a warm—but not overdone—proximity effect up close. The tightness of the M9's cardioid pattern is great for isolating the mic from other sounds, but requires the vocalist to stay on-axis with the mic. This, however, was only a problem when close-miking singers moved around a lot. The M9 was equally nice on male vocals, where its slight presence bump around 5 kHz helps bring baritones and bass singers out in a mix, while providing a smooth balance of lows and highs.

The M9 performs like it costs a lot more, and its clean, flexible performance fits in well, either as a first “good” mic for the novice or as a new flavor in a well-stocked mic collection.

CAD Professional Microphones, www.cadmics.com