While more typical dynamic moving-coil, ribbon and condenser mics dominate most collections, it’s nice to have some specialty utility operators in the locker. The MBNM 622 E-PZ and Solomon LoFReQ microphones reviewed here couldn’t be more different, but they share the ability to go places and do things more common transducers won’t, or can’t. They are also affordable, which makes them even more enticing for anyone looking to add some unique color to their recordings.
The MBNM 622 E-PZ is a light and capable stereo mic. It uses two electret-boundary mics mounted on a circular, aluminum disc mounted on either side of a half Jecklin Disk. This model’s disc uses some simple, thin foam mounted on its surface to reduce mid- to high-frequency reflections. The Jecklin disk is not new and is defined by Wikipedia as a “sound-absorbing disk placed between two microphones to create an acoustic ‘shadow’ from one microphone to the other.” It was invented by Swiss radio engineer Jürg Jecklin as a spin on a description from Alan Blumlein’s 1931 patent on binaural sound. Each of the mounted transducers includes an XLR connector at the back, making it easy to mount it to any flat surface and run cables to and from the array to your panel or preamp. Phantom power is necessary, and the output of the 622 is enough, so I never had to apply much gain to get it in the range I like to record.
My first use for the 622 was to gaff tape it to a wall in an 18-foot tall live chamber. I prefer a stereo mic in this situation because of the ease of setup and usually go with an AEA R88 ribbon or C24 condenser mic. For this session, the room to the chamber was left open to the large room where the drummer was set up. As long as you leave the door only halfway open to avoid chamber leakage back to the room, it works very well to give you an isolated and natural reverb to play with in the mix. My first impression was that the 622 was a bit thin in this application. The stereo image, however, was very pleasing and did what I’d expect of the boundary mics and disc.
Next, and in another studio, I taped the 622 to the floor about 9 feet back from the front of a drum kit for use as a stereo room mic. Once again, the 622 excelled in stereo imaging and as before, it was a bit thin in the low end. With some added EQ to the bottom end, the 622 sounded much better, offering a more full-range image to the kit. Transients were well represented, providing plenty of punch on the kick, snare and tom hits. The mic’s view of the room was plentiful as the omni capsules rendered a 360-degree aural view pushed into half-omni by the boundary.
On another session, a 1969 Hofner Electric guitar, a one-off with Serial #0001, was sent through a Peavey Delta Blues amp. On the front of the cabinet, I used an RCA BK5B and Neumann U87 and on the open back of the cabinet a Royer R-121. I flipped the 121 backward to naturally correct the polarity of the rear mic. Out in the room, in Studio A we opened all the wood panels to make the room more live and taped the 622 to one of the movable panels covered in FlutterFree sound diffusion. This makes the room as live as it can be all the way up to the 20-foot ceiling. The signal-flow for all the mics was then through five Shadow Hills Golden Age preamps. The 622 mic was taken as an extra sweet step through a pair of Chandler RS124 compressors strapped together for stereo operation. The RS124’s attack was set to medium with a long release. The combination of all the mics together was beautiful, with the 622 bringing the room into the blend of close mics. The compression flattened the room a bit, bringing the far reflections closer in time to the amp mics. No EQ was needed on any of the mics, which blended easily into a unique and full-range stereo picture. What the compressed 622 brought to the track was undeniably large sounding and perfect for this application.
The MBNM 622 E-PZ is a unique stereo microphone that provides a unique set of features. If you’ve never heard what the Jecklin disk brings to a stereo recording, this may be an easy and affordable way to bring this flavor to your sonic palette.
PRODUCT: 622 E-PZ
PROS: Easily mounted in places where other mics can’t go. Jecklin Disk imparts a unique stereo picture.
CONS: 622 can lack low frequency in some applications.
The LoFReQ’s design includes an integral pad for reducing its naturally hot output.
The LoFReQ from Solomon picks up where the discontinued Yamaha Subkick left off. Lending to the plus column is its svelte design, just 7.1×3.5 inches and 4 pounds, making it easy to mount on a stand and place closely to the outside of a kick drum, even when there’s a second outside kick mic on duty. The LoFReQ, whose gain and impedance is designed to match a Shure Beta 52, is solidly constructed and includes an integral pad. This solves the problem that homemade or commercially available speaker mics have with providing too much gain at the output. It comes in four models including black, white, black/white (Trooper), and a Daru Jones signature model for a bit more money ($249.95).
As you might guess, I first used the LoFReQ outside a kick drum. When I use a speaker mic, my usual go-to is the Yamaha Subkick, which always presents some problems. Although it’s a great product, the turnkey hardware mount and speaker is imposing, especially on a smaller diameter kick. Being that it needs a companion, most often inside the drum, it made placing the occasional extra outside mic impractical. Also, the Subkick has too long a release for my taste, especially at medium to quick tempos.
The LoFReQ solves all these problems. There is no hardware other than the mic itself, which is just 7 inches in diameter, about the size of a 45RPM record, if you remember those. It also uses a smaller speaker that tightens the transient response. The integrated pad is a great idea and takes the addition of an attenuator off your setup to-do list.
On a few sessions, I paired the LoFReQ with a Shure Beta 91, Beta 52 and AKG D12VR all with great results. The level is perfect, needing little or no help from a preamp, the bloom at the back is short, making it tuck in nicely with the kick in mic, and the footprint is small, making the placement of an additional kick out mic an easy thing to do.
Next, I tried the LoFReQ under a low tom for an overdub session. The top mic was a Josephson e22s condenser to capture that attack. The LoFReQ picked up the ball at the bottom of the spectrum making the drum speak as prominently as I liked, just by increasing the LoFReQ’s fader. Another possible application is to use a mic of this type on a bass cabinet, but the frequency response is too narrow and pointed at 50-60Hz and the octaves above to make this musical.
The usability and price of the LoFReQ make it a mic-locker essential. Like an SM7, Aston Spirit, or other reasonably priced and great sounding transducers, it’s a must-have microphone that works great in the studio or onstage. Get one.
COMPANY: Solomon Mics
PROS: Provides a great way to capture low frequencies around a kick drum or tom.
CONS: None found.
Kevin Becka is Mix magazine’s technical editor.