Electro-Voice RE500, August 1998

May 14, 2004 12:00 PM



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The Electro-Voice RE500 is a cardioid, true condenser microphone. Designed for live stage vocal performance, the mic may also be used in broadcast and home recording applications.

On the technical side, the RE500 is an externally biased true condenser microphone with a frequency response of 80 to 18k Hz. The diaphragm is ultrathin, gold-sputtered, environmentally stabilized and ultralow mass. The electrode is a precision-cut, single-piece ceramic disc, layered with gold. The mic operates from 12 to 52VDC phantom power and retails for $375.

The RE500 incorporates useful live performance design features such as a warm grip handle and a black, nonreflective, micromatte finish. The 8-ounce, 6.5-inch mic handles comfortably, especially for first-time performances when sweaty palms may be an uncontrollable factor.

To minimize wind and breath noises, the RE500 offers a three-stage wind and pop filter and incorporates a fixed lowcut filter set at 80 Hz. The mic also incorporates a shock-mounted transducer, which, combined with the low-cut filter, esults in extremely low handling noise.

In home recording and broadcast situations, the mic’s wide dynamic range and low self-noise will be best appreciated. The RE500 also features a “presence rise,” a frequency lift above 1 kHz. According to EV, this is designed to “...enhance the sound quality (and) lend an open, transparent detail to the recorded sound.” Unfortunately, this little boost makes for some tough times in monitor-land, but more on that later.

When I received the RE500, I took it home, plugged it into a mixer and listened to it through Sony MDR-V600 headphones. From the first word, I detected some sort of high-frequency boost. To confirm this, I grabbed my old standby, a Shure SM58 (the industry standard for stage vocal microphones) and A/B’d the two mics. Relative to the 58, the RE500 had a bump around 4 to 5 kHz, and another between 10 and 12 kHz, with a noticeable high-frequency boost throughout the higher register of the spectrum.

The microphone sounded clear and defined through headphones. But I was curious to see how the RE500 would respond in a more demanding environment, so I went to JK Sound, a San Francisco-based rental company, and ran it through some of JK’s standard PAS SW1.2 floor monitors, a coaxial design offering a natural sound with a flat frequency response. The microphone that sounded clear and defined through headphones now sounded harsh and bright and resulted in some excruciatingly painful feedback when the microphone was opened up. It took quite a bit of equalizing to get the RE500 to respond at a real-world volume without feeding back. Once I had finished hacking away at the equalizer, I proceeded to test the microphone. The RE500 lacked body and a solid, well-defined low end. I have a low-end-heavy voice, and the RE500 didn’t capture the “body” I am used to hearing. My results were similar through various other speaker systems.

Next I took the RE500 home to conduct some extensive tests in a more controlled (and less demanding) environment. My first reaction to the microphone had been positive, and I was pleased with the overall sound of the RE500. But headphones are not the ideal monitoring system for microphone testing, so I recorded some vocal passages to analog tape. The RE500 responded well and vocals were clear and present. With the built-in high-frequency boost, there was no need to add any EQ to get “air” into the vocal mix. However, the RE500 may accentuate sibilance more than other microphones. Apart from that, the RE500 performed quite nicely in a home studio environment, and I have no doubt that it would do the same in a broadcast environment.

The RE500’s design and construction are solid and well-thought-out, and the mic is comfortable to hold and well-balanced. But in the live setting, for which it was designed, the RE500 falls short. The gain before feedback was only fair, and the mic lacks body in the lower frequencies, which are important when trying to get vocals to cut through in a monitor mix. However, the RE500’s low noise and clear, crisp response are well-suited to studio recording. In its goal to create a live performance condenser microphone with a “studio sound,” Electro-Voice may have missed the mark, yet at $375, the RE500 provides an alternative for anyone seeking an affordable, versatile condenser microphone for the studio.

Electro-Voice Inc., www.electrovoice.com

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