Described as “metallic wine red” in color by Avant Electronics, the CR-14 is one of the least expensive ribbon mics available. Nevertheless, the purchase price includes a padded wooden box, an aluminum carrying case, a spider-style shockmount (shown here), and a five-year warranty.
Avant Electronics is a new company offering a variety of Chinese-made microphones and mic accessories, from tube and FET condensers to the subject of this review: the Avantone CR-14 dual-ribbon mic. What's immediately striking about the CR-14 is its price — at $249, it's one of the lowest-priced ribbon mics on the market. Nonetheless, the CR-14 comes with a padded wooden box, an aluminum carrying case, a spider-style shockmount, and a five-year warranty.
The mic fits tightly into its padded, spring-loaded clamp. The black grille and red body, encased in chromed edging, gives the CR-14 a pleasant appearance, and it looks well built.
According to Avant Electronics, the dual-ribbon design should yield a stronger output — and therefore a better signal-to-noise ratio — than a passive single-ribbon design, as well as provide a smoother frequency response. (The overall frequency response is 40 Hz to 15 kHz, ±3 dB.) As far as the signal-to-noise ratio is concerned, the CR-14 is fairly quiet, though I found it still exhibits the lower output you'd expect from a passive ribbon design, based on my experience with older beyerdynamics and newer Royer models. As with any ribbon mic, you'll want to use the cleanest high-gain preamp you can get your hands on.
Above the Drums
I began by using the CR-14 as a drum overhead, pointing it toward the snare from a height of 7 feet above the drum riser. The result was a characteristic ribbon-style “smoosh” that, with a bit of compression, helped me to achieve a Ringo-esque drum sound with minimal addition of snare and kick mics.
When a roaring guitar amp and the drum set were playing together in the same 425-square-foot room, the bidirectional CR-14's side rejection proved to be a major bonus. By placing the amp in the mic's null area, the mic captured the drum set almost exclusively. Considering the price of the CR-14, this use alone adds to its value.
In addition, the mic exhibits a different sound characteristic on each side of the ribbon: on the back side, the upper mids are more pronounced. The distinction was clear when using a pair of CR-14s side by side but facing opposite directions. This is a plus, because you get greater timbral variety for your microphone dollar.
Ribbons on Strings
Next, I placed the CR-14 on a guitar amp in tandem with a Shure SM57. (It's a common technique to record a guitar amp with a ribbon mic and a dynamic mic on separate tracks, and then blend the two when mixing.) I angled the CR-14 about 30 degrees off-axis at a distance of 10 inches from the speaker to avoid the proximity effect and the emphasized bass that develops a couple of feet away from the speaker cabinet. The brightest response came when I faced the back side of the mic toward the edge of the speaker cone, although I tried the front of the mic in that position as well. Both positions were pleasant and full sounding, producing a nice guitar tone and picking up more bass than the SM57.
I also placed the SM57 on the front speaker, with the rear side of the CR-14 pointing at the back of the open cabinet, in order to retain the phase relationship between the two mics. Here, the CR-14 exhibited a distant, airy sound, which was a natural match when blended with the solid, up-against-the-speaker sound of the SM57.
Testing the front and rear response of the CR-14 about a foot away from an acoustic guitar, the mic captured a nice round sound that was free of the clicky pick sound that can sometimes compromise a condenser mic's response. A single CR-14 could be an economical choice for an acoustic duo, with the two instruments placed on opposite sides of the mic.
To get the most mileage out of the CR-14, you will want to experiment with mic placement and find the most complementary preamp. Overall, the CR-14 is a good value, and having an inexpensive figure-8 mic can be a plus if you're just starting to put together a mic collection.
Value (1 through 5): 4