The Trion 8000 ($399) is the top model in CAD's Trion series of externally biased condenser microphones. This multipattern tube mic ships with a suspension shockmount, a 25-foot 6-conductor cable, a 115/230 VAC power supply with a ground-lift switch, and an aluminum carrying case. The mic has a large-diaphragm (1.12-inch) gold-vapor-deposited capsule mounted in a lollipop-style grille on a bottle-type brass body. It is powered by discrete Class A electronics, with a transformer-coupled output and a 6J1 pentode tube housed within the body. A switch on the mic lets you select omni, figure-8, and cardioid patterns.
The 8000's output level is similar to that of other new low- and mid-priced tube condensers I've tried, and it's much louder than my circa-1970 Neumann UM57. Also like many newer tube mics (including the multipattern sE Electronics Z5600A I own), it has a fairly substantial and noticeable rise in frequency response at about 15 kHz.
TRY IT ON FOR SIZE
I used a close-spaced pair of 8000s, with one routed through an RME Fireface 800's preamp and the other through an API 312. In either case, the 8000 had extremely low self-noise. Through the API, it sounded as if the preamp's input and output transformers imparted some low end of their own, and the lower mids sounded more robust.
With the mic switched to the cardioid pattern, vocals sounded crisp but not overly bright. The proximity effect was quite pronounced through both preamps, but was noticeably more pronounced through the API. In figure-8 mode, the 8000 should be a good mic for vocal duets, as the response was quite similar on both sides of the capsule.
I placed the 8000 in front of a drum kit, about three feet from the ground and four feet from the kick drum. The mic emphasized and muddied the sound of the kick and toms more than the UM57 (with the CAD and Neumann both in omni mode), and much more than a Red Type B (with the CAD in cardioid mode and a cardioid capsule on the Red). The 8000's output transformer may have caused the low-end exaggeration I heard. Although the 8000 wouldn't necessarily be my first choice, I liked the aggressive bite it gave the kit when placed in front of the kick.
When I tried recording cymbals with the 8000 in an overhead position, however, it sounded a bit brash because of its 15 kHz bump. That same bump would ultimately affect my decision about whether to use the mic on cymbals or any other metallic, percussive instruments — or even a strident piano or raspy violin. At the very least, I mightneed to spend more time carefully placing the mic to abate the pronounced high end.
I felt completely comfortable using the 8000 on instruments containing a lot of mid frequencies, as long as they weren't too rich in high-frequency transients. It recorded a Hammond M3 and a Wurlitzer 200A electric piano quite accurately, and it easily stood up to any other condensers I've used. Mellow acoustic instruments such as clarinet and classical (nylon stringed) guitar also sounded great.
I noticed one curious design choice: the hinge on the 8000's suspension mount positions the mic upright rather than upside down. Upside-down mounting is standard for tube mics to prevent the tube's heat from rising into the capsule and changing its response. This unusual design shouldn't be a major problem, because you can chain mic mounts or contort a boom stand to reverse the mic's position, but you can't easily take the suspension mount apart and reverse it.
I had originally requested two mics for the review, but CAD ultimately needed to send three complete packages and a fourth power supply. After several days of use, one of the mics simply stopped working in the middle of a session, and I had to ask for a replacement. Then, two power supplies arrived DOA, blowing their supplied fuses the first time I powered them up. CAD assured me that the problems were isolated to a single faulty shipment, and that only about a dozen mic packages in all had to be replaced.
That issue aside, the Trion 8000 is a multipurpose microphone that sounds quite good on vocals and a variety of instruments. It can handle high SPLs without flinching, and its 25-foot cable is much longer than those provided with other comparably priced tube mics. The 8000 delivers ample versatility at a good price, and its three polar patterns only enhance its flexibility and value.
Value (1 through 5): 3
CAD Professional Microphones