Category Archives for "Microphones"

New Music Gear Monday: Von Erickson Skull Microphone

skull microphoneSometimes style and image is a higher priority than the actual sound of a device, and if that describes your place in the music business, then you’re going to want to check out the Von Erickson Labs Skull Microphone. Von Erickson already makes jewelry based around a certain creepy zombie theme, so a microphone was an easy reach for the company that knows what its audience wants.

The Skull Microphone looks like a venerable Shure Model 55 only in the shape of a skull. While there’s no mention as to exactly which diaphragm is being used, the specs are pretty good. It has a frequency response of 60 to 17,000 Hz and a supercardioid polar pattern, which is not expected from the mic of that shape that we know and love. It’s also manufactured in the U.S., which is always good.

There’s not much more to say expect that the Skull Microphone is available in three styles – Bright Chrome, Dark Chrome and Satin Gun Metal, and sells for $375. Come on, you know you want one.

Thanks to my buddy Steve Harvey for the heads up.

New Music Gear Monday: Aston Starlight Laser Targeting Microphone

Aston StarlightFrom the beginning of recording time we’ve been aiming microphones at the source by eye when first setting up. For the most part they’re pretty forgiving if we don’t point them exactly perfectly, and a quick listen will tell us if we need to adjust. But wouldn’t it be cool if there was a more precise way to position a microphone? Now there is with the new Aston Starlight laser targeting microphone.

The Aston Starlight is a small diaphragm condenser mic that features a built-in class 2 laser (the same strength as what you’ll find in a laser pointer) to show you exactly where the mic is pointing. I know that Sennheiser experimented with some prototypes of something similar 7 or 8 years ago, but the Starlight is the first mic to actually go into production with this technology. The laser can be turned on or off with a chassis mounted switch.

It would be cool enough if that was the only unique feature of the mic, but there’s a lot more. The mic features a sintered metal head over the diaphragm, and a 100% stainless tumbled steel chassis, making it virtually indestructible (just like the old E/V mics). The sintered head is made up of micro ball bearings that can be manufactured in such a way as to tune both the capsule and the cavity around it.

There’s more. The Starlight also contains a unique voicing circuit that gives the mic 3 different sounds. When Vintage is selected on the 3 way switch, the mic has a lift in the bass frequencies and a gentle rolloff in the top end. The Modern position provides more of a flat frequency response, and the Hybrid gives a combination of both. There’s also a 3 position bass rolloff switch, and a pad switch that provides both -10 and -20dB pads.

The Aston Starlight is also priced very reasonably. The mic has a street price of $349 while a stereo pair goes for $699 and includes a stereo bar. You can visit the dedicated page at AstonMics.com or check out the video below.

New Music Gear Monday: Mojave Audio MA-1000 Microphone

Mojave Audio MA-1000There are lots of great microphones available today that either try to directly copy one of the vintage classic mics, or use it as a starting point for an updated version. So why does the world need another one? Well, when it comes from the mind of the super inventive David Royer, its something that you have to sit up and take notice, which is why the Mojave Audio MA-1000 large diaphragm condenser mic should be on a “must try” list for anyone in the market for a new high-end microphone.

The MA-1000 is part of a new Signature Series and goes for that old Austrian/German sound by using an original new old-stock 5840 tube, a 1 inch 3 microns thin 251-style capsule, and a custom-designed transformer built by Coast Magnetics. Like most tube mics, the pickup pattern can be continuously controlled on the power supply, and the mic itself features both a switchable 15dB pad and 6dB per octave bass roll-off centered at 100Hz.

This mic sounds big and you notice it as soon as you push the fader up. It’s has the same bass extension that we’ve come to expect from those classic large diaphragm condenser mics that we’re all so fond of and can’t afford. And it has the same air that we equate with some of the best vintage mics but with even better definition as well. I absolutely fell in love with the MA-1000 in omni for vocals and dialog recording. Don’t get me wrong, a little proximity effect can be nice and you can easily dial it in with the pattern control, but if you want a vocal free from big pops and a muddy bottom, omni’s the way to go, and with the MA-1000, it’s about as good as it gets.

The thing about vintage mics is that they’re so expensive and most of the time they’re somewhat trashed after 50 years of service, so most don’t sound as good as they used to. The MA-1000 is only $2,495 and for that  you get something that will beat the pants off of most vintage mics (and their knock-offs for that matter) and be at its best for a long time.

The Mojave Audio MA-1000 comes with a very substantial carrying case (the folks at Mojave really went overboard here), a shock mount, and Mogami multi-core mic/supply cable. You can find out the details on the dedicated Mojave Audio page, or watch the video below.

New Music Gear Monday: MXL DX-2 Dual Capsule Microphone

MXL DX-2Most directional condenser microphones have dual capsules, but they’re almost always identical, and it’s how they’re placed that makes the mic directional. That said, what if you created a mic that had 2 capsules, but one was a large diaphragm and the other was small so you could get a combination of the sound of the two instead? That’s exactly what the new MXL DX-2 dual capsule instrument microphone does.

The DX-2 is meant for guitar amps, and as such, it’s built with a flat face that makes it side-addressable.  That means that it’s easy to hang over an amp or speaker cabinet without the need of a microphone stand, although it is possible to mount it on a stand as well. While that’s pretty cool in itself, the real coolness comes from the two condenser capsules, one large and the other small, inside the mic. On the rear of the mic is a crossfade control that allows you to go from one diaphragm to the other and everywhere in between. This allows you to dial in the exact sound without changing mics, and provides a wider tonal palette than most mics that you might use for this purpose.

Besides the difference in size, both capsules also have different pickup patterns, with the large being super-cardioid while the small diaphragm features a wider cardioid pattern. Those patterns probably won’t mean much with the mic being that close to the source, but it does change the sound, as you can hear from the video below.

What’s interesting is that according to the video, you do get some cancellation between the mics at a certain point when the mics are mixed together, but that could also make for an interesting sound as well.

The MXL DX-2 is very affordable at only $149 retail and has recently become available for shipping. Check out the video below to hear what it does and the website for more information.

New Music Gear Monday: Audio-Technica ATM350a Instrument Microphone

audio-technica atm350aWe all have our favorite mics for recording specific instruments in the studio, but when it comes to miking them live, everything is out the window. Mostly that’s because mounting many mics can be a pain. While you can afford to spend time getting the placement just right in the studio, when it’s live everything is fast, fast and faster, so that becomes the primary consideration, although it still has to sound good. Thankfully, Audio-Technica has taken all this into consideration with introduction of its new ATM350a instrument microphone.

The ATM350a is a small diaphragm cardioid condenser microphone that’s able to take high SPL levels (up to 159dB SPL!), which is essential for a mic that’s tightly placed on an instrument, and is basically an upgrade of the previous ATM350. Where the new version shines though, is the fact that it comes with an array of mounts that makes it able to easily fit on almost any instrument, from string bass to drums to piano to horns and almost anything else you can think of.

Each version of the mic comes with a specialized mount for a particular instrument, although there are also multiple mounts provided in each kit.  The ATM350U kit with Universal Clip-on Mounting System, for instance, includes the ATM350a Microphone, an AT8543 Power Module, an AT8491U Universal Clip-on Mount, an AT8490 5″ Gooseneck, an AT8468 Violin Mount (hook-and-loop fastener), and a protective carrying case. Other kits include one with a 9 inch gooseneck and a magnetic mount intended specifically for piano miking, one for drum miking with a very cool universal mount, one for woodwind miking, and one that includes a wireless transmitter. The mounting hardware is also available separately.

The Audio-Technica ATM350a retails for  between $299 to $349, depending upon the package. There’s more detailed info on the company’s website, and on the video below.

New Music Gear Monday: Townsend Labs Sphere L22 Modeling Microphone

Sphere L22 modeling micRemember a few years back when “modeling” the sound of a vintage piece of audio equipment was looked on with suspicion? Well, those days are over as we now have successful plugin models of just about any piece of popular gear that even the hardened pros are impressed with. One of the last avenues for modeling has been microphones, however, but even there the walls are breaking down, and the new Townsend Labs Sphere L22 promises to change our perceptions on how we think about modeling microphones forever.

The Sphere L22 is a dual diaphragm large condenser microphone that can record quite nicely on its own, but really shines when the modeling software kicks in. It comes with models of the world’s most popular and desired vintage mics, including the U47, U67, U87, M49, C12, C451, 4038 (the Coles ribbon mic), and even the venerable SM57. There are also nuances like capsule variations built in, in case you happen to prefer the sound of a U47 with a K47 capsule as opposed to a M7 capsule, for instance.

Any of these models can be chosen even after the recording has been completed thanks to the software utility that interfaces nicely with a Universal Audio Apollo, or as a straight up AAX, VST or AU plugin. You can even decide to use the mic as a coincident stereo mic, thanks to its two capsules, or use different mic models on each output. The software allows you to vary the polar pattern, the pickup axis, the high pass filter, and even amount of proximity effect you want to adjust, which has to be a microphone first. There’s also an output control, phase reversal and a mode control.

Townsend Labs is right in the middle of an Indigogo crowdfunding campaign that’s already been very successful, raising more than 400% past its stated goal. There’s still time to get in on it for a special deal though, as there’s about 3 weeks left before the September 1st deadline. You can get a single Sphere L22 for just $1199 (that’s $600 off retail) and a pair for just $2199. This includes the L22 microphone, 10 foot breakout cable, carrying case, shock mount, hard mount, protection bag, and the software plugin. Check out the Sphere L22 Indigogo campaign page to learn more, go directly to the Townsend Labs site, or check out the video below for more info.

New Music Gear Monday: Microphone Parts DIY Microphone Kit

Microphone Parts S-12 kitThere are so many great boutique microphone manufacturers these days, that’s it’s pretty easy to buy a pretty good mic for a reasonable amount of money. The quality of the classic microphone clones continues to get better while the price seems to keep coming down. That said, if you’re willing to put in a little work yourself and you’re not afraid of a soldering iron, you can build your own classic clone with a DIY microphone kit from a company called Microphone Parts for even less.

Microphone Parts sells the parts to upgrade about 40 inexpensive condenser mics from companies like AKG (the Perception series), CAD, MXL, Carvin, Nady, Rode and Studio Projects, and the suggested mods generally include a new capsule and various circuit components ranging from capacitors to transformers. These are do-it-yourself mods that require an hour or two of work by the mic owner, but most conclude that it’s well worth the effort and the relatively modest cost.

Selling mod kits is just one step removed from providing a full microphone kit though, and Microphone Parts offers their take based on proven designs by Schoeps, Neumann, AKG and Telefunken to give you a kit for just about every style of classic large diaphragm condenser mic you can think of, including the C12/ElaM 251, 414, U87, U47 and M49.

The prices of the kits range anywhere from $329 to $569, and for around $200 more the company will even build it for you. Many of the kits also provide some interesting options that range from the color of the body to different harmonic variations depending on the components you select to use.

There are lots of great reviews online, but be aware that these kits require some intermediate-level electronic skills and tools, as it’s up to you to identify the parts correctly and solder them as required. A few hours of your time is a small price to pay for a good mic at a reasonable cost though, and the Microphone Parts DIY microphone kit seem like a winner. I’m so pleased that electronics kits are back in vogue!

New Music Gear Monday: Audio Technica ATM230 Tom Microphone

ATM230It doesn’t matter what microphone you like to use on toms, because chances are that it’s going to pick up a lot of the cymbals as well. This is pretty typical because most of the mics that end up on toms have a cardioid pattern. The problem is that there aren’t too many true hypercardioid mics available to limit that cymbal bleed, especially in a package that fits conveniently out of the way of both drummer and cymbals. That was before the recent introduction of the Audio Technica’s ATM230 purpose-built tom mic though.

The new ATM230 is that elusive hypercardioid mic built into a small package, with a response that’s tailored to capture both the stick sound and body of all rack and floor toms. What’s even better is the fact that it comes with an integral isolated tom mount, so you don’t need an expensive 3rd party mount or mic stand.

It’s a dynamic mic so it’s inherently rugged, and is made of metal so it can stand up to stick hits (I hate it when my expensive condenser mics take a hit), and it’s reasonably priced to boot.

The Audio Technica ATM230 has a street price of $139 and also comes in a three pack for $349.