Hot Mic Picks from 2003 Tradeshow Coverage

May 20, 2004 12:00 PM

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If you're like us, you're addicted to microphones—new or old, condenser or dynamic—and with an ever-increasing supply of interesting new debuts, we're constantly scouring the world for interesting new mics.

With this in mind, we thought it would be fun to spotlight the microphones that our editors have selected as hits of major pro audio conventions over the past few years. These tradeshows are presented in reverse-chronological order (with the most recent events first) and direct links are provided to each manufacturer for quick access to more information.

AES Fall 2003
New York City—October 10-13, 2003
Reported in the November 2003 Mix

The 1965 Sony (www.sony.com) C-38 was the world's first FET mic, which after a few minor changes—windscreen shape (C-38A) and the ability to accept either 9VDC battery or phantom power (C-38B)—sold more than 65,000 units worldwide. Now, the famed dual-pattern (cardioid/omni) condenser C-38B is back as a faithful $2,200 reissue.

Telefunken North America's (www.telefunkenusa.com) Ela M 270 re-creates perhaps the rarest tube mic of all time: a stereo version of the Ela M 251. The handcrafted 270 is not for everyone, but listing at $19,995, it's nice to dream. The company also announced its Ela M 14 (a cardioid-only tube mic with CK12 capsule), priced at $2,995; the Ela M 12, a C12 replica priced at $6,495; and the U47M, which reprises the classic Telefunken U47 in several versions with various tube options from $5,500 to $7,500.

Another U47 clone came in the form of Wunder Audio's (www.wunderaudio.com) $4,000 CM7, with an EF14 tube and 6-micron diaphragm on a German M7 capsule.

Dirk Brauner (dist. by www.transaudiogroup.com) showed VMA, an upscale (!) version of his $5,000 VM1A tube studio mic. Priced about 30% higher than the original, the new model has a switch that kicks in alternate circuitry for a choice of original or a more “vintage” sound.

Thinking stereo? AEA's (www.wesdooley.com) R88 puts a matched pair of large, figure-8 ribbon capsules (angled at 90°) in a single housing for Blumlein or M-S stereo recording. Price: $1,895.

Neumann (www.neumannusa.com) celebrated its 75th anniversary by unveiling a 300-page “coffee table” book with 500 color photos detailing its history. Neumann also showed the mid-priced, TLM 127 large-diaphragm, multipattern condenser mic with a remote pattern-switching option and impressive 7dBA self-noise.

PLM (dist. by www.independentaudio.com) unveiled the DT40 (five-pattern) and CT40 tube mics, based on Pearl's classic, large-diaphragm, rectangular condenser capsule, paired with Nuvistor tubes.

The Lawson (www.lawsonmicrophones.com) AIR mic is a hypercardioid condenser model specifically for vocal recording, with a new large-diaphragm capsule designed by Gene Lawson.

New mics at SE Electronics (www.seemics.com) include ICIS (a $999 tube model with fixed cardioid pattern) and Gemini, a $1,499 cardioid with dual 12AU7s.

The DigiMic? Not exactly—BLUE Microphones (www.bluemic.com) teamed up with Digidesign to offer a special-edition mic, supplied exclusively with future Digi product bundles. Dubbed the Bluebird, the new mic is a large-diaphragm, cardioid condenser with low-noise Class-A electronics, Blueberry hi-def cable, shockmount and pop screen.

Audix (www.audixusa.com) has updated its SCX-1 small-diaphragm condenser mics. The new SCX-1PR bodies have multiposition pad and bass rolloff switches for more versatility.

Summer NAMM
Nashville—July 18-20, 2003
Reported in the September 2003 Mix

New mics were everywhere! Yamaha (www.yamahadrums.com) redefines the term large-diaphragm mic with its Subkick, which uses the microphonic properties of a 10-inch woofer mounted inside a 10-inch maple tom shell that sets up in front of any kick drum, outputting ultralow frequencies to a standard XLR jack. This signal can be used alone or combined with a traditional kick mic for more variety.

M-Audio's (www.m-audio.com) Luna mic is a striking design, featuring a large lollipop-style top with a cardioid 1.1-inch condenser capsule. Peeking under the “stem,” I was impressed to note its all-discrete, Class-A FET electronics. Luna's now shipping at $249/retail.

Audix's (www.audixusa.com) OM-11 is essentially a re-issue of its classic OM-1, which is not only a great dynamic vocal model, but one of my all-time fave snare mics.

SE Electronics (www.seelectronics.com) unveiled its H3500 cardioid studio mic with a huge body that houses its large-diaphragm condenser capsule. Retail is $599. SE also showed its $249 half-rack Ghost TB101, a single-channel tube preamp/DI/compressor/3-band EQ.

Trident Audio's (www.oram.co.uk) M-101 is a large-diaphragm, multipattern condenser that's UK-made and features custom John Oram-designed electronics.

CAD (www.cadmics.com) adds two side-address condensers to its popular Equitek mic line. The e1002 is a supercardioid model, and the e2002 is a three-pattern (supercardioid/omni/figure-8) mic; both feature onboard re-chargeable batteries that provide a huge current reserve or allow up to six hours of remote use without phantom power.

NAB 2003
Las Vegas—April 5-10, 2003
Reported in the June 2003 Mix

Sanken (dist. by Plus24, www.plus24.net) showed cool new mics: The CS-01 short shotgun has a bargain $799 price; the $1,850 CO-100K omni condenser has a true 100kHz bandwidth; and the $2,650 CUW-180 is a stereo condenser with twin cardioid capsules mounted on 180° swivels.

European AES
Amsterdam, The Netherlands—March 22-25, 2003
Reported in the May 2003 Mix

Neumann (www.neumannusa.com) celebrated its 75th anniversary, with a cool Sound Engineering Contest 2003 (the winner received a chrome-plated pair of M149 tube or Solution-D digital mics) and debuted the BCM104–the first in a line of broadcast mics–and the TLM127, a mid-price studio mic. Shipping this summer, the TLM127 is a low-noise (7dBa), large-diaphragm, multipattern condenser with an onboard switch for cardioid or omni and a remote-pattern switching option to be offered in the future.

No preamp required! ADK Microphones (www.adkmic.com) unveiled its Stealth Pro Audio line, featuring a studio mic with onboard Class-A, line-level output electronics. The first models are due later this year, with a 192kHz digital out version in early 2004.

Musikmesse/Pro Light+Sound 2003
Frankfurt, Germany—March 5-9, 2003
Reported in the April 2003 Mix

Neumann (www.neumannusa.com) kicked off its 75th anniversary celebration with the 2003 Sound Engineering Contest—an interactive CD-ROM with 75 questions in categories ranging from mic technique to identifying guitars/amps/drum machines, or spotting classic songs by examining their waveforms. Fun? Sure, but the best part would be taking the first prize: a one-of-a-kind chrome pair of M149s or Solution-D digital mics and a trip to the Berlin Neumann factory for the company’s huge anniversary bash this fall.

Schoeps (www.schoeps.de) expanded its acclaimed Colette modular system with the CMC6 xt, a microphone amplifier for any MK Series axial capsule, providing bandwidth beyond 40 kHz.

Oktava (www.oktava.net) unveiled the MKL5000, its first multipattern tube mic, with a large-diaphragm capsule mounted above the mini-bottle-style housing.

Intended for 5.1 surround recording, Microtech Gefell's (www.gefell-mics.com) new INA 5 support is a multimic mount for five cardioid mics. MG recommends its low-noise M930s, but it works fine with any quality studio cardioids. Mics can be placed anywhere along the INA 5's arms for adjusting the field.

New versions of AKG's (www.akgusa.com) popular handheld mics (the D3700, D880 and TEC Award-winning C900) will be available later this year in versions with "M" suffixes, equipped with a removable, wired XLR module that's interchangeable with wireless TM40 transmitters, instantly converting the mics to wireless operation. By allowing wired mics to become wireless, the system permits rental houses, tours or musicians to maintain smaller inventories: If a big wireless job comes in, existing mics are easily converted; likewise, musicians don't have to buy two mics when they go wireless. Brilliant!

Winter NAMM
Anaheim, Calif.—January 16-19, 2003
Reported in the March 2003 Mix

NAMM's coolest mic-design award has to go to BLUE Microphones' (www.bluemic.com) Ball. This phantom-powered dynamic mic (yes, you read that correctly) is unique-looking even among BLUE mics, especially with its spherical design resembling a blue baseball. The Ball is a cardioid pattern, and stated specs are impressive, listing a 35 to 16k Hz response and 146dB max SPL.

The AT3060 tube microphone from Audio-Technica (www.audiotechnica.com) operates on standard 48V phantom power—and doesn't need a separate power supply—for fast, easy setups. The mic features a new, large-diameter diaphragm, cardioid-condenser element, a hand-selected tube and a large coupling transformer. It's available in spring 2003; MSRP: $599.

MXL Microphones (www.mxlmics.com) V69 Mogami Edition is a large, 25mm diaphragm, cardioid-condenser mic with 12AT7 tube electronics and all-Mogami internal wiring. The $399 (!) package ships with flight case, shockmount, power supply, windscreen and Mogami multipin mic-to-PS and XLR audio-output cabling.

The Evolution 609 and legendary MD409 dynamic mics have long been a favorite on electric guitar, amps and vocals. Now, Sennheiser (www.sennheiserusa.com) offers the E609 Silver, a side-address supercardioid mic with a punchy tonal character that's tailored like the original MD409. Retail: $199.95.

Audix (www.audixusa.com) premiered The Micros, the world's smallest condenser mics with integrated preamp and detachable cable. The 0.6-ounce M1245 is less than two inches long with an 80 to 20k Hz response; the 1-ounce, 3.5-inch M1290 has a 40 to 20k Hz bandwidth. The mics require standard 48VDC phantom and handle 150-foot cable runs without signal loss. A variety of polar patterns are available, from cardioid, hypercardioid and omni, to shotguns. Retail ranges from $379 to $429.

ADK's (www.adkmic.com) A-48 Vintage Valve is a 9 polar-pattern remotely variable tube mic with a transverse-mounted 12AX7 tube and a new 1.07-inch diameter, 5-micron diaphragm. The $1,295 price includes power supply, multipin cable, shockmount and a flight case.

Electro-Voice's (www.electrovoice.com) N/D967 supercardioid vocal mic has an ultratight pickup and exclusive, low-profile grille to put the performer's voice as close as possible to the mic element for up to 6 dB more vocal, lower feedback and greater rejection of unwanted sounds. Due to popular demand, E-V reintroduces the N/D367s, a cardioid handheld with a response tailored especially for the female voice. Both mics feature high-output N/DYM dynamic elements.

Samson's (www.samsontech.com) new low-cost ($59 and up) drum mics include models voiced for snare, toms, kick and overheads. We liked the secure, shock-absorbing drum-mounting clips provided free with the snare and tom models. Break the (weight and hassle) bonds of mic stands!

Speaking of stands, SE Electronics (www.semics.com) debuted the Ghost line of affordable ($299 to $399), supertall, long-reach studio booms. Features include nonslip, ratcheted height adjustment; a removable dolly with locking wheels and a center hook to hang sandbags/waterweights for extra stability.

Studio Projects (www.studioprojectsusa.com) is now shipping its LSD2, a stereo condenser with 270° rotatable, large-diaphragm (1.06-inch) capsules and low-noise FET electronics. Retail: $999.






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