Over the years, the Netherlands-based SD Systems has developed a
number of microphones designed for the needs of reproducing specific
jazz and orchestral instruments. The company's latest offering is the
STM 99, a modular system intended to provide high-quality miking of
saxophones onstage or in the studio.
Priced at $1,395 (individual mic capsules, mounts and accessories
are also available separately) with a foam-lined wood box, the STM 99
system consists of three interchangeable mic capsules (cardioid, hypercardioid and omnidirectional), a 5-foot cable connecting the mic
body to a 4-inch preamp section (with a standard XLR output), a removable foam windscreen and three
mic mounts. Among the latter are a stand mounting clip (for using the
STM with other insturments), an on-axis mount that centers the capsule
about five inches in front of the sax bell and a clip-on mount with a
flexible 6-inch gooseneck.
All of the mounts include shock-mounting hardware that suspends the
mic capsule via elastic bands, isolating the mic from thumps, bumps and
other vibrations. The on-instrument mounts have thick rubber coatings
at the point of contact, which adds to the shock resistance while
protecting the instrument from scratches. Either mount holds securely
while allowing for easy removal after the gig. A minimal screen over
the capsules provides for an open sound, which, unfortunately, exposes
more of the diaphragm to smoke, dirt, etc. For live applications, I
suggest using the foam windscreen for additional protection. Also, the
threads on the capsules are very fine, and caution should be used when
changing capsules to avoid cross-threading.
In use, the system offers an extraordinary degree of flexiblity,
both in mounting and placement options, as well as in capsule choices.
The omni capsule had the best LF response of all and was especially
nice on bari and tenor saxes; the omni also exhibits a rising top end
that added an airy, breathy quality. The cardioid had the flattest
overall response of the three (especially in the upper registers) and
was ideal for altos and sopranos, where the omni's HF rise could get
The choice here, however, depends on the sound of the sax itself and
the type of music or track it was in—for example, as a spot mic
on an orchestral or light jazz piece the cardoid may not be right,
while that same tone for a screaming rock solo could be spot-on. The
sound of the hypercardioid capsule was somewhere between the omni and
cardioid in character and, due to its tight polar pattern, would be my first choice on a busy,
high-SPL stage where isolation or feedback is problematic. The
availability of the on-axis mount or the gooseneck clip also allows for
more variation in the audio palette, offering either a down-the-throat
growl or a smoother, more ambient effect.
The need for an on-sax mount is obvious onstage, but I'm surprised
at how many sax players refuse to stand still in front of a mic while
tracking in the studio. For such players, the STM 99 is ideal. But
whether onstage or in the studio, the STM 99 offers an elegant solution
to an old problem.
Dist. by Advanced Sonic Concepts, www.advancedsonicconcepts.com