Audix's recently released i5 ($179) is a multi-purpose, unidirectional dynamic microphone. The company touts it as a versatile, affordable workhorse along the lines of the ubiquitous Shure SM57. Like the SM57, the i5 is designed for both recording and sound-reinforcement purposes.
The Audix i5 is a cardioid, dynamic mic that performs well on a variety of sources.
Eye on the i5
With its sleek black finish and durable, cast-zinc-alloy housing, the i5 looks like it can take a beating. The absence of plastic parts makes it less prone to occupational hazards such as drummers who accidentally miss the mark. Two rows of ports encircle the top of the i5, and a sturdy black mesh grille protects the element. An internal pop screen further reinforces the grille. The Audix logo and model number are etched into the black finish. The mic package includes a zipper pouch and stand adapter.
The i5 features a tight-cardioid pickup pattern and can handle more than 140 dB SPL. Those qualities make it well suited for stage work and situations where decent off-axis rejection is required.
The i5's frequency response ranges from 50 Hz to 16 kHz. The mic's response graph shows a rise in the low end between 80 Hz and 300 Hz, peaking around 3 dB at 150 Hz, with another pronounced rise between 2 kHz and 10 kHz. Beyond 10 kHz, the response slopes off steeply. The i5 exhibits a slight dip between 500 Hz and 700 Hz. The specs show that the i5 has low-end punch and high-end definition. Those attributes were evident when I tried the mic out in a variety of situations.
I used the i5 in the studio on snare drum, toms, electric and acoustic guitars, flute, percussion, congas, saxophone, vocals, and bass cabinet. I brought it on several sound-reinforcement gigs, as well including a rock concert and a musical-theater event. Though it would not necessarily be my first choice for some applications, the i5 performed admirably in all cases.
In the studio, fellow drummer and engineer Steve Orlando helped me test it on snare drum and guitar cabinet during a session with his band, the Jingle Punx. I also used the mic for a couple of jazz-recording sessions, running the signal through an Allen & Heath board. Additionally, I did some controlled tests in my home studio. At the live gigs, I ran the mic through either a Mackie 1604-VLZ or a Crest V12 console.
Overall, the i5 exhibited an open, beefy sound. Although it was a bit on the dark side due to its low-end emphasis, the mic had plenty of definition. At the rock concert, the sound was a bit boomy on a particular vocalist and on snare drum. Engaging the highpass filter tamed the sound a bit for the mix. But in other cases, such as the Jingle Punx session, the heavy bottom end was a boon. Orlando praised the i5 for its smooth bump in the highs, saying it wasn't overly bright or spitty-sounding on the snares.
In additional studio tests, the i5 sounded punchy and rich on a chunky, fast electric guitar and exhibited clarity and a rich low end on steel-string acoustic guitar. I was also impressed with the i5 on congas and toms. The mic accurately captured their roundness, tone, and attack.
The i5 was beefy enough to do justice to a bass cabinet; the sound it captured was full and defined. The mic was acceptable on alto sax, but it wouldn't be my first choice for that application because its high end sounded a bit brash. After listening to several of the recorded results, Orlando commented that the i5's response seemed about halfway between an SM57 and a Sennheiser MD 421.
Finally, when used onstage for a play with musical accompaniment, the i5 gave presence and definition without brittleness to flute, percussion, and spoken-word vocals.
Audix's new mic is indeed versatile, performing well in almost every application. Its durable all-metal housing can withstand rigorous use, and its big, open sound enhances many sources. Factor in its affordable price, and you've got one attractive product. If you're looking to add another multipurpose workhorse to your mic collection, you won't go wrong with the i5.
Overall Rating (1 through 5): 4