With autumn in the air, it's only natural to start thinking about the warm stuff: spicy apple cider, pumpkin pie and — of course — large-diaphragm condenser microphones. Once upon a time, large-diaphragm condensers (LDCs) existed only in the rarified air of elite audio equipment such as the Neumann U47. Such studio treasures brought warmth and definition to the voices of the Golden Age of recording, and are still coveted and capable of setting a facility back a pretty penny. However, thanks to mass manufacturing, prices of new LDCs have gone down to as little as $100. As a result, some affordable and terrific-sounding LDCs are popping up in new places. Originally earmarked for vocal use, they're now used in a wide variety of applications — both in studios and onstage — capturing acoustic guitars, strings, drums, amps, or room or audience ambiences.
Although potential uses for LDCs are on the rise, other options concerning these mics are shrinking — but not in a bad way. Upscale models have variable polar patterns — cardioid, hypercardioid, omni, figure-8 — but these choices also increase complexity, adding moving parts and cost. An alternative is the fixed-pattern version, such as AKG's recently released C 214, a cardioid-only version of its venerable C 414.
Also watch for LDCs' potential for expansion into the digital realm. The Neumann TLM 103 D has just arrived, and with AES42-compliant live and studio preamp/mic controllers from DiGiCo and RME now available, it's clear the market is anticipating that this trend will continue both in the studio and on the road.
Focusing on recent releases, Mix surveyed manufacturers worldwide for their entries in the field of large-diaphragm (1-inch or more) condenser mics. All of the microphones included in the charts that follow were introduced in the past 18 months. Obviously, there's been a lot of activity in this area; our charts list details for more than 100 models. Whatever your next project will be, there's certainly an LDC out there that's just right for warming up your next recording.
David Weiss is Mix's New York editor.