M-Audio''s Pulsar II Matched Pair comes with clips, windscreens, slipcovers, and a stereo bar that makes it easy to set up an XY configuration.
M-Audio's Pulsar II small-diaphragm, cardioid condenser microphone nicely rounds out the company's line of low-cost transducers. Ideal for mono-miking acoustic instruments like guitar and violin and for capturing stereo images from drums and grand pianos, the Pulsar II aims to do the job in home studios that high-end pencil condensers, such as the Neumann KM184, have done for years in pro studios.
The Pulsar II has a ¾-inch-diameter, 6-micron-thick Mylar diaphragm, a solid brass backplate, and Class A FET electronics, with switches for a -10 dB pad and for bass rolloff (12 dB per octave at 80 Hz). M-Audio has improved the SPL handling of this second-generation mic by 2 dB over the original version to 134 dB, or 144 dB with the pad engaged.
For stereo situations, M-Audio offers the Pulsar II Matched Pair ($399.95), a boxed set with two mics that are guaranteed to have a closely matched frequency response — within ±1 dB from 20 Hz to 20 kHz. The mics come in a sturdy, velvet-lined oak box accompanied by a cloth bag, a windscreen, and a clip for each mic, as well as a stereo bar with mic riser, which lets you mount both condensers on one stand and turn them inward for XY recording.
Because the Pulsar II is touted as having the sonic characteristics of some popular pencil condensers I've used, I wanted to check out the matched pair on an instrument I know well: the acoustic guitar. I set up the mics on the stereo bar in an XY configuration, with the pad and rolloff switches off. Positioned 6 to 8 inches from the 12th fret of my Martin D-15 mahogany dreadnought, I aimed the capsules wide to form a 110-degree angle, expecting to get a little more bass from the guitar's lower body to mix with the brighter sound from the mic pointed at the neck.
That arrangement usually works well with the D-15, which has a slightly boxy sound compared with many standard dreadnoughts, but in this case the Pulsar IIs seemed to add to the boxiness. I narrowed the angle a bit, moved the mics a little farther back from the instrument, and pointed both capsules more toward the sound hole, which greatly improved the sound. It's nice to know that the Pulsar IIs don't require hours of repositioning to get the right sound, which is something that cannot be said for many other low-cost condensers.
Hoping for an equally quick return, I set the mics up as drum overheads during a rare visit to my studio from a live drummer. As he played along with an up-tempo jazz standard, I recorded the Pulsar IIs while testing other mics on his kick and snare. I liked the ambience that the pair captured straight out of the box. Their slight midrange coloration offset some of the excessively bright overtones that are hard to control in my ersatz drum booth.
Overall, I was impressed by the Pulsar II Matched Pair's readiness for stereo recording. The Pulsar II's sonic characteristics are adaptable to multiple recording situations, as the mic works well solo or paired.
The Pulsar II Matched Pair performs as promised and represents a bargain in small-diaphragm mics for studio and live work.
Value (1 through 5): 4