Microphones in Audix USA's Micros series are high-quality diminutive condensers that can be used for studio and stage applications. According to Audix, the Micros are the smallest condensers with integrated preamps and detachable cables currently on the market.
This review focuses on the M1245 and M1290 cardioids. Six other Micros models also are available: the M1244 cardioid, which is similar to the M1245 but has a higher maximum SPL rating and lower sensitivity; the M1244-HC, M1245-HC, and M1290-HC, which are all hypercardioids; the M1290-O, an omni model; and the M1290-S, a supercardioid.
The M1245 and the M1290 (see Fig. 1) are strikingly slender — the diameter of the microphones is roughly half as big as that of a typical small-diaphragm condenser's. At 3.5 inches long, the M1290 is about the same length as many small-diaphragm condenser mics. The M1245 is only 1.7 inches long, which is impressively small.
Both mics feel solid and well made. They have a front-address design that picks up through several screen-covered holes in the housing, and each mic has a male mini-XLR connector on the other end. The mics are marked clearly with the brand name, model number, serial number, and polar pattern.
Micro series mics come standard with a rosewood case, an MC-Micro mic-stand adapter clip, a windscreen, and a 12-foot mini-XLR-to-standard-XLR cable. You can also choose from a selection of optional accessories, including clips, stands, mounts, and cables (see the sidebar “Micro Accessories”).
I reviewed a pair of the M1245s and a pair of the M1290s. Although they weren't matched pairs per se, there was no discernable difference between the mics in each pair when tested on a variety of full-frequency sources. That indicates good quality control.
CAUGHT IN THE TRAPS
Because Audix is widely respected for its drum mics, I began by using the M1290s as drum overheads and the M1245s as tom mics for a session with a garage-rock drummer. The mic on the rack tom was held in place using Audix's optional Dvice-Micro clip, which has a spring-loaded mechanism for clamping onto the rim of the drum.
Clamp-on drum miking is unquestionably convenient, but getting the mic into the right position can be a challenge. Although the Dvice-Micro clip has a flexible goosenecklike shaft, you can move it just so far. You mainly control the angle at which the mic points at the drum. For the M1245 on the floor tom, I used a regular boom stand and the MC-Micro adapter clip, which enabled better control over positioning.
I supplemented the Micros with three additional mics (on the snare, on the kick drum, and in the room), and I was able to get an excellent drum sound in my studio's large, live room. The M1290s, positioned as overheads in a spaced-pair configuration, picked up the sound of the room quite well. They produced realistic imaging and fantastic detail, especially on the decay of the cymbals. With only a tiny amount of room mic in the mix, I achieved a live and open drum sound.
Some mics sound muddy and washy as overheads in this particular room, but the M1290s were clean in the low mids, thus avoiding the need for any EQ. (Given their excellent performance as room mics, their small footprint, and the convenience of the optional hanging mounts, the M1290s would likely be a good choice for live recording situations.) I stopped grumbling about the problems positioning the M1245s when I heard how great the toms sounded in the control room. They were round and full, with plenty of stick attack, but not boomy.
After the drums, I tried the Micros on a variety of other sources. First, I used the mics on a small Gallien-Kruger combo bass amp, an application for which they weren't well suited. The M1245s captured none of the bottom of the bass (because they roll off at 80 Hz), and the M1290s (which roll off at 40 Hz) offered some low end, but the overall sound was too flabby and distorted to be usable.
The Micros fared much better on an electric guitar played through a Bedrock tube amp and a 4512 cabinet. I started with the M1290, slightly off-axis, placed approximately nine feet from the speaker. I then tried the same positioning with an M1245, an Oktava MK012 small-diaphragm condenser, and a Shure SM57 dynamic mic. The M1290 had a much nicer low end than the other mics. Sometimes it got a little too boomy in the low mids, but overall it had the best sound of the four mics at that distance.
When the mics were moved in close — on-axis and about two-and-a-half feet from the cabinet — the SM57 revealed why it is so popular for miking guitar. None of the condensers had comparable presence and definition. For the perfect guitar tone with these four mics, I would probably use the SM57 close to the cabinet and the M1290 as a distant mic to fill in the lower frequencies. The M1245 sounded very similar to the MK012 overall, with a little more grit on the more overdriven guitar sounds.
I also performed the key-jingling test to check the high-frequency response of each of the Audix mics. That revealed a natural high end that allowed the high mid and ultrahigh frequencies to be heard clearly without the harshness that some condenser mics impart. On a Chinese gong, which can have an especially harsh initial attack, the Micros sounded almost compressed, but in a nice way. The tail of the gong, which lasts about 45 seconds, was clear to the end, with all of the nuances in resonance present — a testament to the low self-noise of the Micros.
After the gong, I tried the Micros on the bass marimba in my studio. This particular marimba is very resonant in the low mids, and it's tricky finding mics that don't accentuate that range. In a spaced-pair stereo configuration, the Micros captured the best marimba sounds I have ever recorded. Each pair had its strong points: the M1290s had slightly better ambience with a little more attack and mallet sound, and the M1245s were a little smoother in the problem area of the lower mids. Both pairs gave me gorgeous tones without any of the sharpness that I usually have to dial out when miking this instrument.
During regular sessions at the studio, I tried the M1245 and the M1290 on a variety of acoustic instruments, including trumpet, bass clarinet, and banjo. In all cases the mics provided passable results, but I ended up opting for other mics to track the instruments. Keep in mind that the mics I chose generally cost at least twice as much as the Micros, and that in the heat of a session, you usually opt to play it safe with your trusty standbys. But if I had wound up recording with the Micros in these situations, I'm confident they would have yielded usable, solid-sounding results.
Overall, I found the Audix M1290 and M1245 to be well designed and extremely useful. Not only are they excellent on drums and percussion, but they are also versatile enough for a number of other miking applications.
At close to $400 each, they aren't the cheapest mics, but they are still a great value. Whether they're your first small-diaphragm condensers or an addition to your existing collection, the Audix Micros are well worth a listen.
Eli Crewsis an engineer and musician based in Oakland, California. You can contact him through his studio's Web site,www.newimprovedrecording.com.
Audix offers a wide range of accessories for Micros-series mics. To attach a Micro to a mic stand, you can choose the SMT-Micro ($22.95), a rubber-insulated shockmount, or the Hanger-Micro ($19.95), a clear-plastic mount that hangs from the mic cable and has a hinge to facilitate precise positioning.
For attaching the Micros to percussion instruments, Audix offers two solutions. The Dclamp-Micro ($29.95) is a wing-nut-style clamp that attaches to drum or hand-percussion lugs. The Dvice-Micro ($29.95) is a spring-loaded clamp that attaches to drum rims.
You have two choices for low-profile microphone cables: a 25-foot CBL M25 ($19.95) and a 50-foot CBL M50 ($29.95). Both have a mini-XLR (male) connector at one end and a standard female XLR connector at the other end.
M1245 and M1290 Specifications
ElementcondenserFrequency ResponseM1245: 80 Hz-20 kHz; M1290: 40 Hz-20 kHzPolar Patterncardioid (M1245 also available as a hypercardioid; M1290 also available as an omni, a hypercardioid, and a supercardioid)Connector Typemini-XLR (adapter cable included)Output Impedance250 žSensitivity14 mV/Pascal @ 1kEquivalent Noise Level19 dBASignal-to-Noise Ratio75 dBMaximum SPL>138 dBHousingmachined brassPower48-52V phantom powerDimensionsM1245: 0.47" (W) × 1.70" (L)
M1290: 0.47" (W) × 3.50" (L)WeightM1245: 0.6 oz.; M1290: 1.0 oz.
Micro M1245 and Micro M1290
cardioid condenser microphones
AUDIO QUALITY4.0VALUE4.0RATING PRODUCTS FROM 1 TO 5
PROS: Easy to position due to small size. Low profile makes mics attractive for live recording. M1290 exceptional at capturing room ambience. Smooth-sounding high mids. Wide range of accessories.
CONS: Not well suited (especially the M1245) for capturing bass or other low-frequency sources.