PMI Audio, the USA distributors of JoeMeek and Trident-MTA gear, now offers a new family of studio mics. The line's rather unassuming “Studio Projects” name may be a bit misleading. While the SP mics are inexpensive, their sound and construction quality belie the low price.
All Studio Projects mics are side-address, large-diaphragm condensers of similar construction, and include the cardioid-only C1, the multiple pattern C3 and the T3 — a multipattern tube mic.
The C1 is attractive and housed in a heavy cylindrical aluminum case about eight inches long and a little over two inches wide. No roll-off or pad switches are provided. (They are included in the C3 and T3 models.) The mic has a serviceable — if not ultra-rugged — elastic band shockmount and a nice “flight”-type case. My main complaint with the latter is the rather ugly and irregular cutting of the foam padding in the flight case.
Center electrode microphones with gold-sputtered membranes and transformerless FET circuitry have become almost a de facto standard for this type of microphone. The folks at Studio Projects have wisely stayed with this tried-and-true recipe. Frequency response is listed at 20-20k Hz, self-noise at 17 dB (A-weighted) and sensitivity at -37 dB. Again, typical measurements for a mic of this class. The C1 can handle SPL levels of over 130 dB, a little better than most mics in this category. This allows the C1 to be used in situations that would overload other microphones of this type.
I plugged the C1 into a PreSonus MP20 preamp and recorded a male vocal. My initial reaction was, “I've heard this sound before.” What I didn't realize at first was that I was hearing the mic without the usual touch of broadband, upper-end tweak that I typically apply to add a bit of “air” to lead vocals. Without any tweaking at all, I achieved the desired timbre. Curious about this, I asked my friend Morgan Pettinato at Eastcoast Music Mall to run a TEF analysis on a C1 he had in stock. The resulting graph revealed a smooth, broad and rising curve in the 10 to 12kHz range. The C1 was inherently adding the “air” that is sometimes needed with some other large-diaphragm condenser mics. Lest I leave you with the impression that this mic is overly colored, that is not the case at all. The small upper-range bump is subtle and pleasing — a definite plus in many applications.
An overdub session with a tenor sax let me try the mic on higher SPL sources. Saxophones are often recorded with ribbon mics, but the C1's extended high end and high-SPL handling had me curious. This time, I ran the mic through the JoeMeek Studio Channel VC1QCS, but used the unit's insert jack to bypass its compression/EQ sections to track with the preamp section alone. The VC1QCS utilizes Ted Fletcher's new “current sensing” technology, which matches the mic's impedance to the pre, previously done with transformers.
I placed the C1 about three feet away from the sax, slightly lower than head level, in about the same position I would normally place a ribbon mic. The result was immediately gratifying. The sax came through with outstanding warmth and clarity, and, again, no EQ was needed. Next I tried the mic about six inches from the bell. This produced a biting sound that would be great on rock sessions. Even with this close proximity to a wailing sax, the mic never came close to overloading. The saxophonist — a veteran player in the New Orleans recording scene — repeatedly asked me if he could borrow or buy my C1 test unit!
The Studio Projects C1 lists for $300. I purposely saved that bit of information 'til the end of this article. It would be too easy for some people to dismiss this mic based solely on price. On price alone, the C1 is an obvious choice for a small studio on a budget, but more importantly, its excellent sonic quality and high-SPL handling make it a great choice for any studio looking for a quality, large-diaphragm condenser mic — or several.
Dist. by the PMI Audio Group, 23773 Madison Street, Torrance, CA 90505; 877/563-6335 (toll-free); fax 310/373-4714; www.pmiaudio.com.
Pete Leoni is the technical director at QPerformance, a division of Eastcoast Music Mall. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.