STUDIO PROJECTS LSD2 - EMusician

STUDIO PROJECTS LSD2

Electronic Musician reviews the Studio Projects LSD2, a stereo large-diaphragm condenser microphone. The LSD2 houses two capsules vertically aligned in close proximity. Sound hits the capsules of the LSD2 at virtually the same time, which helps eliminate phasing issues that can arise when mics are positioned some distance from each other.
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Studio Projects' LSD2 is a stereo large-diaphragm condensermicrophone with a unique design. It essentially consists of two StudioProjects model C3 mic capsules stacked vertically in the upper half ofthe casing. Because sounds hit the capsules at virtually the same time,this microphone avoids the phasing issues that can arise when mics arepositioned some distance from each other.

The LSD2's top mic housing rotates 270 degrees in relation to thefixed bottom capsule. That lets you point the capsules in the samedirection, rotate one capsule 180 degrees (to point them in oppositedirections), or arrange the capsules anywhere within the 270-degreerange. Each capsule can be set independently to a cardioid,omnidirectional, or figure-8 pattern, which allows you to control thewidth of the stereo image and use a variety of XY-coincident mikingtechniques, including Blumlein and middle-side (M-S). In addition tothe independent pattern switches, each capsule has a -10 dB pad and ahighpass filter.

The LSD2 does not require a special power supply; it operates onnormal phantom power. However, a proprietary cable connects to the LSD2chassis with a 7-pin connector and fans out at the other end to two XLRconnectors. The included 25-foot cable is generously long, andadditional XLR cables can be connected if longer cable runs arerequired. (Each channel of the LSD2 requires its own phantom power andpreamp.) The LSD2 comes in a nice carrying case that holds themicrophone, the cable, the included well-built shockmount, and a foamwindscreen. It's an elegant package.

PRODUCT SUMMARYStudio Projects
LSD2
stereo large-diaphragm condenser mic
$999.99
FEATURES4.5AUDIOQUALITY4.0VALUE4.0RATING PRODUCTS FROM 1 TO5

PROS:Provides a mono-compatible stereo signal from any source. Rotating topcapsule allows easy adjustment of stereo spread. Variable patternsallow a variety of miking techniques. Excellent sensitivity. Soundsespecially good in omni and middle-side configurations.

CONS:Highpass filter is fixed at too high a frequency (150 Hz) for manyapplications. Slightly noisy on extremely quiet sources with lots ofgain added.

ManufacturerStudio Projects/PMI Audio Group(distributor)
tel. (877) 563-6335 or (310) 373-9129
e-mail sales@pmiaudio.com
Web www.pmiaudio.com

HIT THE RED BUTTON

I happened to be playing electric guitar when the LSD2 review unitarrived, so I decided that my first task was to capture an ambientstereo image from my electric-guitar rig.

I keep two small amps — a Vox and a Marshall — set tobasic clean sounds and positioned on stands about three feet apart. Iuse various preamps, pedals, and effects units for overall tonecreation. Each amp responds differently, creating a cooler stereo soundthan two identical amps. In front of the grilles of each amp, I'vepermanently mounted a pair of Shure SM57s pointed at the speakers.However, close-miking alone doesn't always result in the ideal soundfor many guitar tones. I had experimented a few times with a stereopair of condenser mics placed about six feet back, but had always feltlukewarm about the results. Based on my previous experiments, I wasn'treally expecting too much from the LSD2 in this particularapplication.

After reading through the instruction booklet, I learned that thetwo switches on the front of the LSD2 control the bottom capsule, whilethe identical switches on the back apply to the top rotating capsule. Iset both capsules to cardioid patterns with no rolloff and positionedthe LSD2 at ear level where I stand when working on the guitar sound. Iangled the mic toward the Vox on my left, rotated the top capsule sothat it pointed at the Marshall, and hit the Record button.

After playing a few licks, I gave it a listen. The sound was almostidentical to what I heard when standing in front of my rig. Thereseemed to be a hole in the center of the image that hyped the stereospread a little, so I switched both mics to the omni position andrecorded a little more. I liked that sound even better. It was moreeven across the stereo spectrum (though the stereo effect was lessexaggerated) and more natural in tone, although the added ambience fromthe omni patterns revealed the sound of my hard drives purring away inthe background. (I was recording in a single big room partitioned withgobos and panels.) Blending in the SM57s with the LSD2 capsules set toomni created a huge guitar sound with more clarity and depth. It wasimpressive.

ON THE OTHER SIDE

I was now ready to try some different miking techniques withdifferent settings. I had to record some quick versions of songs on anacoustic guitar for a rehearsal CD. Rotating the LSD2's top capsule tothe 270-degree position properly aligned the capsules for middle-siderecording. That provided an ideal configuration for recording a soloacoustic guitar.

In M-S recording, a cardioid microphone is pointed directly at thesound source, and a bidirectional microphone is placed perpendicular tothe cardioid microphone. The figure-8 pattern picks up the sides of theroom, with the pattern's null points aimed directly at the source anddirectly opposite the source. The figure-8 signal is then fed to twoseparate mixer channels and panned hard left and right with one channelswitched out of phase.

Adding the cardioid mic's signal and blending the three channels totaste results in a stereo sound that is also mono-compatible. (Whensummed to mono, the out-of-phase figure-8 signals completely canceleach other, and you're left with the cardioid signal only.) M-S is agreat choice for single-point sources — such as acoustic guitar,voice, or cello — that you want to capture in stereo withoutspecific left-right imaging. (Sources such as piano and drum overheadsare better recorded with another coincident-pair technique if you wantto hear the imaging of the source.)

The guitar sound that I recorded with the LSD2 in an M-Sconfiguration was nothing short of brilliant. I could hear the airaround the guitar, and on practically every monitoring system I tried,it sounded like someone was playing the guitar right in front of me. Inmono, the guitar was solid and clear without any phasing artifacts.

SPREADING OUT

I decided to record a more common stereo acoustic guitar sound bysetting the capsules to cardioid and spreading them out. Again, thereseemed to be a little hole in the center phantom image — itdefinitely sounded like two separate mics pointing in differentdirections. However, that's not the fault of the LSD2; it's often thesound you get with two cardioid mics creating a stereo sound field. Iplayed with the spread of the capsules a bit, and the sound improved.No matter how widely I spaced the capsules, the combined mono sound wassolid and pure. The proximity of the two capsules makes good on themanufacturer's claims for mono-compatible stereo recording.

I then switched the two capsules to the omni pattern and theacoustic guitar sound just fell into place. The hole in the center wentaway, and the tone improved dramatically. Of course, I was also gettinga sense of true left and right, and any movements I made while playingaffected the sound. I also heard more room sound in the recording, so Imoved the mic in a little closer, and it sounded even better. The omnipattern let me get in closer to the source and minimize the room soundwithout the proximity effect of the cardioid pattern.

In the end, I preferred the M-S sound for the acoustic guitar. Iwasn't interested in capturing a left-right perspective as I would beon piano or drum overheads, and I liked that the M-S stereo image wasrock solid. Moreover, it just sounded the best for this application,although I really liked the omni-pattern recording too.

A few days later, I took the LSD2 to another studio and tried it onan acoustic piano. This particular piano was extremely bright, and theLSD2 did a nice job of catching the strident sound of the hammers. Igot a completely acceptable sound using the LSD2's cardioid patterns,although it took several adjustments to get the capsule spread justright. Setting both capsules to omni and opening the piano's lidcompletely to eliminate reflections produced the best sound. (I'vebecome so accustomed to using cardioid patterns that I had forgottenhow unnatural the resulting sound could be compared with a goodomni-pattern microphone.)

MAKE A WISH

While working with the LSD2, I did notice a few things that I wouldhave liked in the design. There are no markings on the rotating capsuleto indicate its current position; I would prefer a graded scale thatshowed the degrees of rotation to aid in matching previous settings.Although you can configure the capsules at a 90-degree angle for M-Srecording, for example, you have to eyeball the setting. Thankfully,rotating the capsule all the way locks it and aligns the capsules at270 degrees. However, being able to repeat particular settings would beespecially helpful when using the more sensitive cardioid patterns.

Another small complaint is that the highpass filter is set at 150Hz. Although the rolloff is a mild 6 dB per octave, the setting is abit high for my taste. I would rather it be a little steeper and at alower frequency, such as 80 Hz. I chose not to apply the built-infilter and instead used outboard EQ or a plug-in to filter thesubsonics. Also, though the LSD2 is not particularly noisy, there issome audible noise when boosting the mic to high gain settings. Inthese days of high-resolution DAWs and whisper-quiet mics, any apparentself-noise is noticeable.

STEREO STANDOUT

I really like the LSD2. For stereo recording, it's a capable andversatile multipattern microphone that maintains phase coherence andmono compatibility. It wouldn't be my first choice in a single-channelcardioid application; there are plenty of great-sounding, affordablecardioid mics on the market. But when it comes to stereo recording, theLSD2 shines, especially in omni and M-S configurations. The LSD2 soundsgreat up close on instruments, and it's also ideal for recordingambience. And to top it off, the price is right.

LSD2 Specifications
Element(2) condensers(vertically coincident)Diaphragm1.06"dual-membrane 6 µm mylarPolarPatternscardioid, omni,figure-8FrequencyResponse30 Hz-20kHzMaximumSPL146 dB SPL (1%THD at 1 kHz)Self-Noise18dBASignal-to-NoiseRatio76dBPower24-52.5V phantompowerCircuitTypetransformerlessLow-CutFilter6 dB/octave at150 HzPad-10dBDimensions10.75" (H)× 2.1" (diameter)Weight1.8lb.

Composer, producer, and keyboardistRob Shrockrecently worked on projects for Aretha Franklin, Ronald Isley,and American Idol II. He has recorded and performed with BurtBacharach, Elvis Costello, Dionne Warwick, David Foster, and a host ofothers.