The Violet Design Amethyst Vintage is a large-diaphragm, cardioid condenser mic that works well on voice and on rhythm instruments.
The Violet Design Amethyst microphone is a high-quality true condenser with a somewhat unconventional look. According to the manufacturer, the isolated quasi-lollipop head provides a more acoustically transparent setting for the capsule, which results in a sound that is decidedly more natural than other microphones' at this price point.
Latvia-based Violet Design offers two versions of the large-diaphragm cardioid mic. I reviewed the Amethyst Vintage ($1,399), which has a dual-diaphragm 1-inch center-terminated capsule, whereas the Amethyst Standard ($1,079) has a single 1-inch center-terminated capsule. Both have 6-micron-thick gold-sputtered Mylar diaphragms and a solid-state, transformerless Class A output section. Neither mic has a pad or a highpass filter, and their self-noise is very low at 7 dB (A weighted).
The Amethyst Vintage ships in a velvet-lined cherrywood box and comes with a five-year warranty in the United States. Other than a European mic-stand thread converter, the mic does not include accessories. The stylish and effective ASM shockmount ($171) is optional. Although it is possible to mount the Amethyst Vintage directly to a microphone stand, in all but the most serene settings, you're going to want to use the shockmount: resonances transmitted through the stand added an undesirable lower midrange thickening during my review of this mic when it was placed on a K&M folding stand and Atlas wheeled boom stand.
The Amethyst Vintage's published frequency-response chart shows a subtle boost from about 1 to 5 kHz, and a slightly higher presence boost that peaks around 15 kHz. However, the mic has the kind of dimensionality that you might normally expect to hear from a high-end tube microphone.
Although Violet Design recommends using the Amethyst Vintage on female vocalists, the mic provides a modern, up-front sound on male voices. The vocal tracks easily cut through a mix, yet never sound harsh, strident, or sibilant.
With its maximum SPL rating of 134 dB, I had no qualms about placing the Amethyst Vintage in front of a Marshall JCM-800 half stack. The microphone was great in this application; the amp sounded tight and punchy with a very clear transient attack, especially when using the Marshall's clean channel.
I also used the Amethyst Vintage to mic an FBB Custom fretless bass running through a small Polytone bass combo with a 15-inch Gauss speaker. The recording sounded rich and smooth. Although the mic delivered almost as much low end as a vintage AKG D12e, the instrument's upper midrange frequencies were rendered much more realistically.
The Amethyst Vintage yielded a clean and deep sound when placed approximately 1.5 feet in front of a 20-inch Premier birch kick drum. The resulting timbre combined rather nicely with that of an Audix D6 placed inside the drum.
Suspended 3.5 feet above a drum kit, the Amethyst Vintage captured a sound that was both immediate and warm. This is the kind of overhead microphone that can really glue a drum kit together, making it sound coherent and powerful.
MAKING THE CUT
The combination of excellent sound, solid build quality, and a generous warranty make the Violet Amethyst Vintage easy to recommend. While not exactly inexpensive, it's an excellent value in today's competitive mic market.
Value (1 through 5): 4