Recording

CAD VSM, July 2000

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

Made entirely in the USA, the VSM (formerly dubbed the VSM 1) tube condenser mic features CAD's patented Optema capsule, a 3-micron, 1.1-inch diaphragm, an input stage with a hand-selected, "burned-in" 12AX7 tube and a solid-state output stage. The pickup pattern is cardioid.

A -3dB-at-80Hz highpass filter and a -8/-16dB pad are standard.

With an attractive silver gray body with matte-black trim, the VSM has an art-deco look and includes a custom flight case, a well-designed shock-mount, power supply and cable. The case holds the VSM mounted in the shock-mount as a single unit, saving the hassle of taking the shock-mount on and off during setup/breakdown. The rugged external power supply is switchable to 117 or 220 VAC. The 30-foot, 7-pin mic-to-power supply cable is high-quality Gotham cable with gold-plated Neutrik ends.

The VSM's frequency response is rated at 10 to 20k Hz (impressive, especially to my dog, Bud). The mic has very low self-noise, especially considering it's a tube mic. The numbers support what I heard, or more specifically, what I didn't hear; S/N is rated at 79 dB at 94dB SPL.

The VSM is neutral sounding with a clear mid-high response. There are a few subtle bumps and dips in the midrange but nothing unacceptable. The low end is light and unobtrusive, surprising for a tube mic. Its generally flat response yields the sense of a mellow high-end rise starting at around 11 or 12 kHz that's quite pleasant. There is, however, a smearing proximity effect starting around six inches and closer, making the VSM's sweet spot just beyond that point, and about seven inches from the capsule was ideal.

The VSM is particularly complementary to edgy voices, as it tends to smooth out the sound. Sibilance is handled beautifully; tracks recorded with the VSM should need only minimal de-essing. Certain types of percussion instruments (shakers, cuicas, bean pods, etc.) also record very well. The mic imparts an airiness to their transients that sit nicely in the mix. It's not my first choice on acoustic guitar-I prefer a smaller diaphragm like Neumann's KM54 for better presence-but the VSM would do in a pinch. For overheads, I suspect this mic would work great, but, unfortunately, I only had one VSM for review.

With a list of $1,299, the VSM is a great value, offering VX2 technology in an affordable package. I'd even recommend it over some models that cost much more, but if a large-diaphragm condenser mic with heavy tube color is what you're looking for, the VSM probably isn't for you. Its strong point is its uncolored sound, its translucent quality: not things everybody will like, but qualities that help define it as a welcome addition to mic lockers in project and pro studios alike.

CAD Microphones, www.cadmics.com

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