Each year, EM examines a specific type of microphone in a roundup, not only to find out what is currently available in that category but to see how the technology has evolved. But thanks to the most recent AES and NAMM shows where new products are announced, the microphone market, as a whole, has seen significant changes across the board. So, we felt it would be interesting to reflect that trend in our roundup.
For this article, we chose 16 products that were announced over the past year which we think are worthy of your attention. Not only do they span a wide range of prices, they represent the variety of ways our readers use microphones—from multimedia work and podcasting to high-end production.
Audio-Technica 3000 Series Wireless Mic System
(Price varies based on features; audio-technica.com)
Audio-Technica has introduced the fourth generation of its 3000 Series Frequency-Agile True Diversity UHF wireless mics, which have been designed to give you maximum flexibility within the crowded UHF spectrum. The system is available in two frequency bands: The DE2, which covers 470 to 530 MHz, and the EE1, which ranges from 530 to 590 MHz. The 60MHz tuning range of each model is two times greater than in previous generations of the product.
Once a frequency is selected via scanning by the 3000 Series receiver, it can be synchronized with the transmitter using the IR function. A second frequency can be selected and stored as a backup, and then engaged by pressing a button on the transmitter, itself.
The 3000 System includes an ATW-R3210 dual-mode receiver, and either the ATW-T3201 body-pack transmitter or the ATW-3202 handheld transmitter (the latter offers reduced handling noise). Among the six interchangeable capsules available for the ATW-3202 are the ATW-C710 (cardioid condenser) and ATW-C510 (cardioid dynamic). The transmitters run from AA batteries and can be recharged using Audio-Technica charging docks.
The 3000 Series is available in several configurations to cover a wide range of uses. Visit the company’s website for details about each one.
Audio-Technica 5000 Series Wireless Mic System
(Price varies based on features; audio-technica.com)
Now in its third generation, the 5000 Series Frequency- Agile True Diversity UHF Wireless line provides the highest level of wireless sound for an Audio-Technica product. Its tuning bandwidth is 148MHz, covering ranges from 470 to 590 MHz (the DE1 model), as well as 580–608 MHz and 653–663 MHz (the EF2 model)
You also have the option of choosing a standard receiver with two balanced analog outputs or a model with a digital, Dante connection. The receiver chassis can hold a pair of independent receivers and provides antenna power, IR sync, frequency scanning, a ground-lift switch and a headphone jack. By utilizing its antenna cascade-output capabilities, you can connect 8 receivers to a single antenna and feed 16 wireless channels.
The 5000 Series is packed with high-end features that make it suitable for venues ranging from houses of worship to concert halls and stadiums. The information available at Audio-Technica’s website can help you determine which system is right for your needs.
The AT5047 is a large-diaphragm, cardioid condenser mic with a difference:
Like the element created for the AT5040, the AT5047’s diaphragm combines four rectangular diaphragms (each, 2-microns thick) that are matched and summed to create a transducer with the largest surface area of any Audio-Technica microphone. The diaphragm assembly is also decoupled from the body of the microphone with an internal shockmount. As a result, the capsule design, combined with the low-noise spec and transformer-coupled output, provide a wide dynamic range (142dB) that is suitable for voice and acoustic instruments.
The AT5047’s stated frequency range is 20 Hz to 20 kHz, and it can handle max SPLs of 148dB. The mic is hand assembled using discrete components, put through rigorous quality-control testing, and ships with the AT8480 shockmount and a hard-shell case.
The latest release from Beyerdynamic is Fox, a sleek looking USB microphone. This large-diaphragm condenser offers 24-bit/96kHz resolution and promises a frequency response of 20 Hz to 20 kHz. Its max SPL rating is a respectable 130dB.
Fox provides zero-latency monitoring and includes a built-in stereo headphone output, in addition to its USB port. Onboard controls include a gain switch, a mute button, and knobs for setting a monitor mix and for headphone level. The mic comes with a pop shield (seen here in the photo), a desk stand, and a USB cable.
Blue Microphones Raspberry Studio
Designed for people who are new to recording, the Raspberry Studio bundles a USB electret-condenser mic with pro-level software. The mic offers resolutions of 24-bit, 44.1 and 48kHz and supports Mac and Windows OS, as well as iOS and Android products. The Studio package includes a table-top mic stand, a USB cable, and a Lightning cable for iOS devices. (Note that Android users will need the OTG accessory cable, which is available separately.)
The mic’s frequency response is stated as 20 Hz to 20 kHz, and it can withstand 120 dB SPL before distorting. On the mic itself is a USB port and headphone jack.
Inside, Blue added the Internal Acoustic Diffuser, which was designed to increase the mic’s cardioid directivity while reducing noise and reflected sound.
The Raspberry Studio includes a pair of familiar software products: PreSonus Studio One Artist (in this case, the Blue Microphones Edition) for recording and mixing, and iZotope Ozone Elements for mastering. The software provides Quick Start templates that will automatically set up tracks and effects processing for common applications such as recording music and voiceovers or podcasting.
Blue Microphones Blackout Spark SL
Spark SL, one of Blue’s most popular studio-grade microphones, is now available in a new color. Marketed to podcasters and gamers who want to move up from a USB mic, the Blackout Spark SL is a cardioid, condenser microphone with pro-studio features, such as Class A JFET electronics and switches for a low-cut filter (12 db/octave at 100 Hz) and -20 dB pad. And, of course, it has an XLR jack (requiring +48V phantom power) instead of a USB port. The Blackout Spark SL comes with a shockmount and a wooden box for storage.
Intended for use as a studio vocal mic, the SV33 is a front-address, cardioid condenser with the largest diaphragm of any of the company’s mics. But like other Earthworks models, it has an extended frequency range—30 Hz to 33 kHz.
With vocal applications in mind, the SV33’s design reduces the proximity effect while providing a wide sweet spot in front before off-axis coloration occurs. The mic uses Class A circuitry. It is rated for max-level SPLs of 145 dB and can operate with either +24V or +48V phantom power.
Lewitt LCT 441 Flex
($399 street, lewitt-audio.com)
Featuring a 1" diaphragm, the LCT 441 Flex is a condenser mic offering 8 polar patterns: In addition to omni, figure-8, cardioid, wide cardioid, and supercardioid, there are 3 reversed patterns: reverse cardioid, reverse wide-cardioid, and reverse- supercardioid. These last three allow you to change the pickup of the mic radically without having to actually move it.
Buttons on the front of the mic are used for selecting the pattern, and the status indicator tells you when the mic is powered up and when it is clipping. Press one of the pattern-selection buttons for 5 seconds to get a randomly selected polar pattern—perfect for testing your students! The microphone also has a key-lock feature that makes the buttons inactive so the settings are not accidentally changed.
The LCT 441 Flex comes with a pop filter that attaches magnetically, a windscreen, a shockmount, and a storage bag.
Lewitt LCT 540 SubZero
($699 street, lewitt-audio.com)
Lewitt’s goal with the LCT 540 SubZero was to create a microphone with an accurate transient response and greater sensitivity than the human ear. Designed for vocal recording, this cardioid, condenser mic has a 1" diaphragm, a low electrical noise spec (-1 dB), and a wide dynamic range (132 dB). The frequency response is 20 Hz to 20 kHz, and the max SPL handling is 136 dB.
Onboard features include three pad settings (off, -6 dB, -12 dB), three low-cut settings (linear, 80 Hz, 160 Hz; 6dB/octave), automatic attenuation, and a clipping indicator that can display the clip history. A hard-shell case, storage bag, magnetic pop filter, and windscreen are included.
MXL POP LSM-9 Dynamic Stage Microphone
The Pop LSM-9 is MXL’s newest dynamic vocal mic for stage use. It has a fixed supercardioid pattern and a metal body that minimizes handling noise, and it is available in four colors: blue, yellow, green, and magenta
Neumann U87 Rhodium Edition Set
To mark the 50th anniversary of this influential mic design, Neumann has issued a limited edition of Rhodium-plated U87s. Neumann chose this expensive elemental material for its high level of light reflectivity. The production run is slated for 500 units, worldwide.
Inside you’ll find the classic U87 capsule and the upgraded electronics of a U87 Ai, providing increased sensitivity and an improved signal-to-noise spec. And it has the requisite polar-pattern selection (omnidirectional, cardioid, figure-8), low-cut switch, and -10 dB pad, The Rhodium Edition Set comes in an aluminum case with the EA 87 shockmount and a pair of black gloves to keep fingerprints from marring the plated finish.
Royer Labs R-10
($499 street, royerlabs.com)
One of the most highly anticipated mics of the past year has been the Royer R-10, a passive ribbon transducer priced just below the $500 mark. The exciting part is that it includes the same internally shock-mounted ribbon assembly as the classic R-101.
The difference, however, is in the housing, the 3-layer windscreen. the transformer and, as you might expect, the sound. The R-10’s response is similar in quality to the Royer R-121 in the mid and upper registers, but with a bit more low-end.
Like other Royer mics, the R-10 utilizes an offset ribbon design that gives the mic the ability to withstand high SPLs (160dB!), making it suitable for stage and studio in front of guitar amps, brass instruments, and percussion. The offset design also results in a brighter frequency response from the back of the mic—perfect for those times when you want to reduce low-frequency buildup at the source.
Despite its relatively low price, the R-10 is handmade in the company’s Burbank, Calif., facility. The purchase price includes an aluminum case, a mic clip, and a 5-year warranty. (The first re-ribboning is free within the first year if you activate the warranty upon purchase.) The R-10 is also available as a matched stereo pair for use in a Blumlein configuration.
Sennheiser MK 4 Digital
As a USB condenser mic, the MK 4 Digital has a decent set of pro-level specs: a 1" diaphragm, a fixed cardioid pattern, a 20Hz to 20kHz frequency response, a max SPL rating of 140 dB, and self-noise measured at 10dB(A).
But what makes this microphone unique is that it has a built-in Apogee A-to-D converter that provide 24-bit, 96kHz resolution. That definitely places the MK 4 Digital a notch or two above the competition.
The mic works with Mac and Windows OS, as well as iOS devices, and includes USB and Lightning cables, a mic clamp and a storage pouch. You also get Apogee MetaRecorder, an iOS app that captures high-resolution audio and lets you tag the files with metadata and export XML files for use in Final Cut Pro.
Sterling Audio ST151
An affordable condenser mic meant for a broad range of studio uses—vocals, acoustic guitars, piano, and percussion. Its capsule has a 1" diaphragm with a fixed cardioid pattern and is hand-assembled.
The ST151 pairs Class A electronics with a custom-wound transformer, yielding a frequency response of 20 Hz to 20 kHz and an SPL rating of 134 dB. The mic comes with a stand mount and storage pouch.
Sterling Audio ST155
The next level up in the Sterling Audio line is the ST155, a Class A FET condenser that adds several useful features for studio work—a switchable high-pass filter (75 Hz, 12dB/octave) and a -10 dB pad. The specs and build quality of this large-diaphragm condenser mic are similar to those of the ST151, but this model has a greater amount of SPL handling—144 dB with the pad engaged. And the ST155 ships with the company’s premium SM8 shockmount and an aluminum case to carry everything.
Sterling Audio ST170
The ST170 is an active ribbon mic priced for the personal studio. Designed for use on drums, guitar amps, brass and woodwinds, the mic has a figure-8 pattern, handles up to 132 dB SPLs, and capture a full frequency response of 20 Hz to 20 kHz.
Because of its active electronics, the mic requires +48V phantom power. The benefits include a hotter output than a passive ribbon design and no impedance-matching issues. Consequently, the ST170 will sound good even if it’s used with budget-priced USB audio interfaces. It comes with an aluminum case and the SM5 metal shockmount.
Visit emusician.com to read a review of the ST155 and ST170, as well the ST169, Sterling Audio’s affordable, multipattern tube microphone.