When it comes to live sound, few people possess the engineering pedigree of Bob Heil. With credits including the Who, the Grateful Dead, and Jeff Beck,
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The Heil Sound PR 40 is a large-diaphragm dynamic mic with a wide frequency response and a supercardioid polar pattern.

When it comes to live sound, few people possess the engineering pedigree of Bob Heil. With credits including the Who, the Grateful Dead, and Jeff Beck, and innovations such as the Heil Talk Box and the reinforcement rig for the Quadrophenia tour, the former theater organist and ham-radio enthusiast has firmly cemented his place in rock 'n' roll history. So when Heil Sound recently released a trio of dynamic microphones, a lot of ears in the audio industry perked up.

The biggest and most expensive of the three new mics is the PR 40 ($375). It has a 1.12-inch diaphragm in a housing that weighs just under a pound. The mic comes with the useful SM-3 mic clip, which includes a Teflon bushing that tightens around the shaft of the mic using a thumbscrew. (The spider-style SM-2 shockmount is available for an extra $100.)

My review mic arrived in a red wooden box that was a bit on the flimsy side, but the mic now ships in an aluminum case. The PR 40 is assembled and tested in the United States and comes with a one-year warranty.

Although it looks like a side-address condenser mic, the PR 40 is a front-address (end-firing) moving-coil dynamic. Its frequency response is from 28 Hz to 18 kHz (-3 dB), which is a wider range than your average dynamic mic's.

Even with its extended low range, the PR 40 has a marked lack of boominess. Heil Sound says this is due to the reduction of the proximity effect, despite the PR 40's having a supercardioid pattern, which typically yields an artificial-sounding low-frequency boost when a mic is placed too close to a sound source. As a result, the PR 40 is ideal for close-miking. In addition, the off-axis rejection of the tight polar pattern offers good isolation when, for instance, you are tracking a full band in one room or are miking drums and want to reduce the bleed from the cymbals and hi-hat.

Big Sound

I used the PR 40 and its sibling, the PR 30 ($299), in my studio for a couple of months and was impressed with the performance of both. (The PR 30 has a 1.5-inch diaphragm, and the low end of its frequency response is measured at 40 Hz.) The PR 40 captured the sounds of drums, trumpet, trombone, electric guitar, electric bass, and vocals with flying colors and sounded particularly good in the low end when used on a kick drum. I even liked it as a room mic on drums and as an ambient mic on a 4-piece horn section.

The only time I wasn't totally sold on the mic was in front of a male vocalist with a high, reedy voice. The PR 40's presence rise between 2.5 and 8 kHz and its lack of proximity effect didn't flatter this particular singer's voice. For another male vocalist who was singing in a lower register, however, the PR 40 proved its mettle as a strong vocal mic.

Standout applications for me were on a large marching bass drum struck with a mallet and on electric bass through a 4 × 10 cabinet. The low end captured in those situations was large without being overwhelming. In both instances, the PR 40 yielded just the right amount of attack, making the instruments come to life in the control room monitors.

Built to Last

My lasting impression of the PR 40 is that it sounds a lot like my favorite large-diaphragm dynamic mics but with an unmatched presence and clarity. I feel certain this mic will find its way into many studio and live-sound setups.

With its rugged build, wide frequency response, and affordable price, the PR 40 is a solid deal for anyone looking to expand their dynamic mic collection. I, for one, plan to use the PR 40 for years to come.

Value (1 through 5): 4
Heil Sound
(distributed by TransAudio Group)