Cardioid Studio Condenser
David Josephson is the best mic builder you've never heard of. Here's a guy who has created capsules for ultrahigh-end, world-class mics from other companies, yet he likes to keep a low profile. And Josephson mic aficionados seem to like it that way, with these mics maintaining their cult status among those in the know. One fan is producer Steve Albini, who years ago asked Josephson to make a side-address, no-compromise condenser that had a vintage European sound, yet was compact and tough enough to survive a drum stick strike. The result is the e22S.
The mic's KA22S capsule is derived from Josephson's Series Six line, with a ⅝-inch diameter, gold-evaporated polyester diaphragm. This is mated to a C609 Class-A discrete FET cascode front end and a custom Lundahl amorphous-nickel core transformer. There are no pads, highpass filters or frills. This baby's built for performance — race cars don't have power seats, air conditioning or cruise control. Retail is $1,480, with a storage pouch and a slick little shock-absorbing clip-mount.
Designed for drum miking, the mic's small size lets you deal with tight spaces and place the mic for optimum pickup, without getting in the drummer's way. Better still, the side-address design means that the sound from the drum can reach the mic directly on-axis. Also, the mic's body stalk gives the engineer about six inches of “reach” over the drum for prime positioning. Used on toms (top or bottom) parallel to the heads, the result was dark with ample resonance. Slightly changing the mic angle added more attack; moving the mic outward toward the rim emphasized overtones — all in all, a huge palette of possibilities from which to choose.
On snares, I appreciated the e22S' 144dB SPL handling, as it offered a punchy, open sound with no need for pads. Keeping the hi-hat out of the snare feed was no problem: The tight, consistent cardioid pattern exhibits an apparent lack of rear lobing and tons of rejection of sources behind the mic, putting the focus on what you need to capture. Here, even slight changes in placement or angles were clearly noticeable, with plenty of variation in attack, texture and resonances from which to capture just the right snare sound. If you've spent years using dynamics on snares, the e22S will be a real ear-opener.
The real surprise was using the e22S on everything from guitar amps to acoustic guitars and banjos to upright bass. The mic's nice balance of lows with uncolored mids and a smooth, slightly rising top end was just right, whether on 12 strings or the sweet sustain and resinous draw of bowed bass. Noise is rarely an issue with a mic an inch from a snare head, but on acoustic instruments, a Millennia HV-3 preamp spotlighted the mic's low 12dBA self-noise, although cranked guitar cabinets seemed to prefer the transformer setting on a Groove Tubes Vipre. One of our editors even tried them for distance miking of a large choir (using a spaced pair on stands in front of the vocalists) with excellent results.
Overall, the e22S is a winner. It's built to withstand tough drum miking conditions, yet delicate enough to capture nuances of string harmonics. At $1,480 each, this mic isn't in the budget league, yet for a mic you could use every day on every kind of source, the e22S starts looking pretty affordable.
Josephson Engineering, 831/420-0888, www.josephson.com.
— George Petersen
Field recordists take note: DPA Microphones has developed a new wind-protection system with a twist. Push and turn the Windpac's dirigible fabric, and its internal steel ribs pivot and fold until the blimp is flatter than a short stack of pancakes.
The mic suspension is also unique. It can hold one or two mics up to a bit over 1 inch in diameter. You can even mix and match two different-sized mics without custom clips. (I paired my Sennheiser MKH-20 omni and a Schoeps figure-8.) The tension on its four suspension points are individually adjustable, holding my heaviest mic — a stereo Shure VP88 — without sagging.
A mono jumper cable (included) is well-integrated with the suspension, leaving no path for wind or mechanical noise to sneak in. I used the optional $74 stereo jumper cable (dual XLR3-F to one XLR5-M) for most of my testing. It would be nice if DPA offered an XLR-5-to-XLR-5 jumper for single-point stereo mics. [According to DPA, a 5-pin XLR cable is in the works. — Eds.]
The gray fabric covering is sheer but sturdy. I torture-tested a swatch of the material and found its melting point to be about 200° C. Tearing it is harder than you'd expect. Even after being snipped with scissors, a small hole resisted to becoming a larger rip. If you do manage to shred the covering, it's a replaceable part. The blimp comes in long and medium sizes — your choice, same price ($849).
My first Windpac outing was to gather the fluttering of wings. On a cold, gusty morning near Oakland, Calif.'s Lake Merritt, I loaded the Windpac with an M/S Schoeps pair at the end of a pole and went birding. The assembled system is extremely light and the results were great — no wind or handling noise as I boomed my way through a circling flock, and there was plenty of delicate detail in the sound.
In handheld operation, there's no pistol grip, but the pole-mount features a large ring to slip your finger through (gloved, if it's cold). The rig is well-balanced, even though you are holding it from the end rather than the middle of the blimp.
In a controlled test in front of a large high-speed fan, I found the Windpac's wind noise rejection to be equal to that of my stereo Rycote (sans fur). Note that the assembled Windpac is less rigid than you may be used to. For example, opening the back flap of the windscreen to adjust the cabling within may release the blimp's grip on the suspension, turning the job into a two-handed task.
My only criticism is that the 4×5×6-inch suspension doesn't fold up. But I love the light weight, the collapsing blimp and the universal mount that lets you use almost any mic. All in all, the DPA Windpac incorporates new thinking about an old problem. Well done.
DPA Microphones Inc., 303/823-8878, www.dpamicrophones.com.
— Rudy Trubitt
SONIK CAPSULE: STUDIO DRUMS
Sonic Reality's line of Sonik Capsule instrument libraries includes drums, acoustic/electric guitars, pianos, bass, brass, strings, organs, woodwinds and grooves/loops. Bundled with IK Multimedia's SampleTank 2 LE, Sonik Capsules can be used cross-platform (Mac OS X and Windows XP) as a plug-in sound module within Logic, Pro Tools, Cubase, Digital Performer, SONAR and other DAWs supporting VSTi, RTAS, AudioUnits and Dxi formats. This is all possible via the Universal Format Outputter (included with Sonik Capsules), which provides seamless integration with SampleTank and other software samplers such as Reason, Battery, Kontakt, HALion and EXS-24.
Studio Drums is mapped out in the Sonic Reality iMAP (used in Sonic Reality's other drum libraries) and standard general MIDI. The layout makes “keyboard” drumming feel more natural. Having some acoustic drum experience, I experimented with fills and offbeats and preferred the iMAP.
Studio Drums (and all Sonik Capsules) are thoughtfully engineered to take advantage of SampleTank's extended flexibility. For example, 30 built-in DSP effects can be incorporated to audition and match the recalled drum set into different spaces. Also, STRETCH (SampleTank Time REsynthesis TeCHnology) offers users complete control over tempo, pitch and harmonics, using a three-synth engine architecture for smoother, more flexible resampling. Traditional resampling is also available.
The drum sets come in a 4GB directory, arranged as complete kits or drum separates for loading different kits, including brush, modern, jazz, dance and heavy rock kits or separates of snares, kicks, toms, hats and cymbals. The snares were expressive, the kicks had detail and body and I was impressed with all of the different toms. (Different stick attacks on the toms are excellent.) The only disappointment was the cymbal samples, which are admittedly hard to pull off, but I could suspend my disbelief with all of the other components.
Using Studio Drums with Pro Tools 6.4/Mac G5 and SONAR 4/Windows XP, the included SampleTank 2 made the experience smooth on both platforms, but I recommend having at least 1 GB of RAM. The dynamics and expression of Studio Drums inspired me to create: I easily laid drum tracks, grabbed a guitar and the sounds flowed. For $99 (retail), users can have a fantastic-sounding drum set for their writing and recording needs.
Sonic Reality, 800/232-6186, www.sonicreality.com.
— Tony Nunes
AVS 2000 PRO & PRO 7000
Studio AC Power Units
The AVS 2000 PRO automatic voltage stabilizer and the PRO 7000 balanced power source — together with clean, reliable monitor amplification — provide the foundation of what Monster Cable believes is the essential “backbone” of any studio environment.
The AVS 2000 PRO is intended to be the first line of defense against power abnormalities, surges and spikes that could damage unprotected equipment. Additionally, its automatic voltage stabilizer produces a steady 120 volts, thanks to a microprocessor that constantly and automatically corrects fluctuations between 80 and 140 volts.
From the huge toroidal transformer and heavy-duty 8-foot power cable to its six rear panel outlets (four switched, two unswitched), the AVS 2000's design gives the user the sense that no corners were cut. Three large digital meters monitor input/output voltage, voltage correction and current draw. Six LEDs offer additional status information on ground, abnormal power and other essential information.
The 7000 PRO balanced power conditioner is intended to be connected to the AVS 2000 PRO's output. After providing an additional 3,145-joule capacity of spike/surge protection, the 7000's two triple-shielded transformers balance the power to cancel hum and noise that may exist on a standard unbalanced feed. Outlets labeled Analog and Digital receive their feeds from each of these two transformers. In addition to these, five stages of Richard Marsh — designed filters further reduce EMI and RF interference by rejecting internally generated noise in your components that could pollute your studio's AC environment.
The 7000 PRO mirrors the visual design of the AVS 2000 and includes the same heavy-duty AC cable, but has 12 outlets on the rear panel. These are broken down in groups: two analog, four digital, two computer and four high power (for power amplifiers). A large digital readout shows input voltage and current consumption. Eleven status LEDs indicate that all functions are operational. The 7000 PRO also automatically shuts down in the event of abnormal voltage being present at the input.
I tested the unit in my project studio where the power has been known to drop lower than 110 volts in summer peak-hour periods. I know many project/home studio owners who restrict their work hours during these times due to gear that fails when subjected to brutal voltage extremes. I first tested the AVS 2000 PRO by recording the output on a voltage meter for more than three hours. Even late at night when the voltage traditionally sags, the AVS 2000 kept tolerances within a very civilized ±0.7 volts.
With Monster's PRO 7000 and AVS 2000 PRO to my system, I noticed that the performance in my Pro Tools|HD3 Accel studio improved. The noise floor, soundstage and resolution all seemed to be slightly better. I would imagine that the worse the condition of your power, the greater the potential for improvement.
Power stabilization and conditioning can sonically improve the performance of audio gear, and you owe it to your equipment to make sure that it has safe, clean and reasonably stable AC. The combination of the Monster PRO 7000 ($1,495) and Monster AVS 2000 PRO (1,699) does this well at a price that most pro studios can afford.
Monster Cable, 415/840-2000, www.monstercable.com.
— David Rideau