The Buyer’s Guide To Microphones

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We couldn’t list every mic out there, even though we have extended the Buyer’s Guide this month. However, here’s pretty much everything we’ve reviewed over the last four years, plus the ubiquitous Shures…

Aston Origin






Price £249
Type Large-diaphragm condenser, cardioid

This was Aston’s first microphone and it was designed with ruggedness and quality in mind. It features a mesh-knit stainless-steel pop filter and a built-in shockmount-type system, so you shouldn’t need an external one.

We say: “On vocals, the Origin had a stunning clear quality, with plenty of depth and a smooth, natural high end. On guitars, it sounded instantly usable. On piano, the lack of a shockmount made this positioning much easier and the resulting tone was rich and warm. Superb for a variety of tasks.”

Contact www.astonmics.com

Aston Spirit






Price £349
Type Large-diaphragm condenser, multi-pattern

A very well designed and rugged microphone from Aston and one designed to work well on an array of instruments, drums and vocals.

We say: “It performed well at just about everything we threw it on, matching and even outperforming some much more expensive microphones in the process. If you already have a few mics and are just looking to expand your selection, the Spirit is virtually a must-have. Aston Microphones has brought the Spirit back into British microphone manufacturing.” (See what we did there?)

Contact www.astonmics.com

Aston Starlight






Price £349
Type Small-diaphragm condenser, cardioid

This is Aston’s latest release, a small-diaphragm condenser with three voicings; modern, vintage and hybrid. It also has a twist – a Class 2 laser, designed to quickly identify exactly where the mic is pointing.

We say: “We found the mic was great for drums, especially with the onboard laser system. Every studio needs a pair of small-diaphragm condensers, and by offering three voicings in the Starlight, Aston is making a solid case to be the first mic you reach for when you do. Aston is taking the mic world by storm and the Starlight will continue this trend.”

Contact www.astonmics.com

AKG C7






Price £209
Type Vocal condenser, supercardioid

The AKG C7 is aimed at live singers looking for a step up from the dynamic mics that tend to be used on the road. This has been designed to give you the detail of a condenser, but work live.

We say: “Another wonderful-sounding mic from AKG, the C7 is open, natural and detailed. If your vocal mic isn’t getting you close enough to the studio sound you want in your performances, then check the C7 out.”

Contact www.soundtech.co.uk or www.akg.com

AKG C314






Price £598
Type Condenser, four patterns
The C314 is designed as a flexible pro mic. It has four pickup patterns to choose from. A slider switch on the back selects between omnidirectional, cardioid, hypercardioid and figure-8. It worked particularly well with vocals.

We say: “On vocals, the C314’s low-noise/high-detail attributes came to the fore. It’s a smooth yet up-front tone that helps to push vocals to the front of a mix, especially with those onboard effects.”

Contact www.soundtech.co.uk or www.akg.com

Audio-Technica AT5045






Price £1,299
Type Small-capsule condenser, cardioid

It might be pricey, but this mic has been designed as a small capsule condenser to get into places other mics might not and then offers the detail and realism you would get from a much larger design.

We say: “It excels on acoustic instruments and vocals and is an outstanding all-round instrument-recording mic. It demonstrates how Audio-Technica is now making some of the world’s finest microphones.”

Contact www.audio-technica.com

Audio-Technica AE2300






Price £249
Type Dynamic instrument, cardioid

This has been voiced as a more flexible ‘instrument’ mic, and specifically for guitar cabinets, brass and percussion. In our tests, we certainly concluded that it’s a great mic for guitars.

We say: “The AE2300 is particularly versatile, and the addition of the switchable low-pass roll off makes it a perfect candidate for guitar cabinets. It has the makings of a modern classic and is a bit of a bargain.”

Contact www.audio-technica.com

Audio-Technica ATM230






Price £140
Type Dynamic, hypercardioid

A very specific mic designed for use with toms. It has a solid low-end, presence peak in the upper mids, and steep roll off beginning around 12kHz. It comes with a built-in stand mount, and a drum mount.

We say: “We’re always on the lookout for new and interesting-sounding dynamic mics, and this doesn’t fail to deliver. The ATM230 is limited by its voicing, but uses could also be found on percussion other than toms.”

Contact www.audio-technica.com

Audio-Technica ATM510






Price £85
Type Dynamic, cardioid

AT launched this mic to compete with the Shure SM58 and it certainly does the job. In our tests in a head-to-head with an SM58 on vocals, the ATM510 demonstrated a more clear upper midrange. The slightly nasal character of the SM58 was replaced with a more open, smooth-sounding vocal.

We say: “If you’re a vocalist looking to buy your own mic to tour with, then the ATM510 should definitely be on your shortlist. This is certainly a mic with class. The ATM510 is a great-sounding microphone – easily a match for the Shure SM58.”

Contact www.audio-technica.com

Lewitt LCT 640






Price £879
Type Condenser, multi-pattern

Lewitt’s LCT 640 TS microphone features a unique Dual Output mode, which enables you to change your mind on which polar pattern you used on a recording after the band has gone home, or even in the mix.

We say: “If you enjoy experimenting with recordings, this would be an excellent addition to your arsenal. And, if you are looking to invest in your first multi-pattern condenser, this is a great-sounding mic and an interesting option for your cabinet.”

Contact www.jhs.co.uk

Lewitt LCT 940






Price £1,499 (street)
Type Valve or FET condenser with nine polar patterns

Standard condenser microphones fall into two component categories – valve and Field Effect Transistor (aka FET). The LCT 940 contains valve and FET circuitry, and the really exciting thing is that users can choose between a valve or FET signal path or blend them to taste.

We say: “The LCT 940 is a very usable and likeable microphone with few drawbacks. Given the level of flexibility and the high build quality, we think it offers excellent value for money. It would also be a canny choice if you need only one high-end mic.”

Contact www.jhs.co.uk

Avantone CV-28






Price £420
Type Valve condenser, multi-pattern

The CV28 allows users to swap capsules to achieve up to three pickup patterns – cardioid, hypercardioid and omni. The small capsule helps it do a fine job as an instrument microphone and the omni capsule makes it suitable for use as a room mic.

We say: “We started testing with the CV28 in cardioid mode and it blew us away. The tone was very full but also incredibly detailed and natural. There is a trace of a lift in the treble, but this just provides a bit of ‘air’ and there’s no trace of harshness or metallic ringing.”

Contact www.scvdistribution.co.uk

Neumann TLM 107






Price £1,089 (street)
Type Large-capsule condenser with five patterns

The TLM 107 is a compact, multi-purpose, large-capsule condenser with five patterns and degrees of filtering and attenuation. It’s a flexible mic aimed at ‘demanding home recording applications’ and has an ‘impressive level stability and low self-noise’.

We say: “With the TLM 107, Neumann has come up with an affordable ‘Swiss Army microphone’ in the spirit of the AKG C414. It’s unmistakably a Neumann tone, but tweaked in the top and bottom for more contemporary music-production requirements.”

Contact http://en-uk.sennheiser.com or www.neumann.com

Neumann U47 FET






Price £2,735 (street)
Type Large-diaphragm condenser, cardioid

This is essentially a reissue of the classic Neumann mic and is identical in pretty much every way to the original.

We say: “This is no half-baked reissue. Neumann has done a proper job and the results are superb. It looks and sounds like the real deal – because it is. Rather than thinking of this as a reissue, consider it more of a resumption of production.”

Contact http://en-uk.sennheiser.com or www.neumann.com

Peluso P-28






Price £720
Type Small-diaphragm tube condenser, cardioid

The P-28 was designed with elements of the Neumann KM54 and the AKG C28 in mind, so promises a “warm rich tone, capturing the low-frequency detail and high-frequency air of the classics.”

We say: “Regardless of where you place it, it sounds good and it’s as impressive for clear and breathy vocals as general instrument recording. The P-28 more than fits the bill.”

Contact www.pelusomicrophonelab.com or www.kmraudio.com

Peluso P-49






Price £1,499
Type Large diaphragm condenser, with nine patterns

The Peluso P-49 is designed with the characteristics of the vintage Neumann M-49, a microphone with a production run stretching from 1949 until 1974.

We say: “Although there is much love for the iconic U47, the M49 was a technically superior microphone and Peluso has captured much of its essence. In summary, it gives you all
the vintage Neumann flavours you could want or need.”

Contact www.pelusomicrophonelab.com or www.kmraudio.com

Røde NT-USB






Price £129
Type USB condenser, cardioid

We’ve not included many USB mics in this round-up, as they don’t tend to match the quality of what some might call ‘the real thing’. However, RØDE doesn’t put its name to things that don’t make great recordings…

We say: “Sound-wise, the mic punches well above its weight. With vocals, there’s a pleasing presence at the bottom end. It has a great tone, offering an air of authority and a ‘BBC’ feel. It will give your recordings a pro sound for very much a non-pro price.”

Contact www.sourcedistribution.co.uk or rode.com

Røde NTR






Price £899
Type Active ribbon, figure 8

This is an old-school ribbon microphone more suited for great vocal recording, with a very solid build, great design and low noise floor.

We say: “Recording acoustic instruments and quiet singers presents no difficulties. Vocal tests revealed extremely smooth and natural results. We were astonished by the NTR’s RRP. A very high-quality, old-school ribbon microphone with outstanding build quality and an extremely attractive price.”

Contact www.sourcedistribution.co.uk or rode.com

sE Electronics SE5






Price £399
Type Small-diaphragm condenser, cardioid

Unlike the sE4, the sE5 doesn’t come with interchangeable capsules, and is instead presented with a single cardioid capsule. It’s available individually or as a matched pair – the latter is what we received for review.

We say “The new sE5s may not have the flexibility of the older sE4s, but sE has worked hard to make the newer mic as great as possible. They capture transients effortlessly, and have a slight lift in the top end, which will brighten up any source. A matched pair of SDCs is an essential purchase for every studio at some point, and the sE5s are an inexpensive option.”

Contact www.seelectronics.com

sE Electronics V3






Price £60
Type Dynamic, cardioid

The sE V3 is one of two dynamic mics from the Chinese manufacturer (the other being the V7, which costs £25 more). Despite being the cheaper of the two, we actually preferred the V3 on the vocal recordings we made.

We say: “For live vocals, the V3 is going to make a great alternative to the Shure SM58. Don’t be fooled by the price tag, as this stylish-looking microphone is a serious option for vocal recording and well worth auditioning.”

Contact www.seelectronics.com

sE Electronics X1 A






Price £99
Type Large-diaphragm condenser, cardioid

The X1 A is essentially an update to the original X1, aimed squarely at musicians and entry-level engineers looking for an all-purpose large-diaphragm condenser microphone. sE has managed to bring the price down, too.

We say: “It can be very easy to make negative assumptions about inexpensive mics, and the X1 range has done an excellent job of deflecting that with some exceptional qualities at low prices. The X1 A isn’t going to replace any of the classic mics in our mic cabinet, but it would make for a great first microphone for anyone starting out.”

Contact www.seelectronics.com

sE Electronics X1 D






Price £199
Type Large-diaphragm condenser, cardioid

Another of the X1 range, this one specifically for drums and percussion duties. The X1 D has a fixed side-address cardioid capsule, integrated switchable 10dB pad and high-pass filter.

We say: “The decision to make the X1 D a full-frequency mic makes it far more useful as a generic percussion microphone. The fast- transient nature means you capture everything, and the signal can be shaped as you require, without coming pre-shaped for a kick, and also means you can get a more vintage-sounding kick without much work.”

Contact www.seelectronics.com

Sennheiser MK8






Price £690
Type Large-capsule condenser, five patterns

The MK 8 is jam-packed with features. The mic is equally suited to vocals, acoustic guitars, guitar amplifiers, grand piano, strings, wind instruments, drums and percussion.

We say: “It has a great up-front presence and a generally crisp character and ably held its own against more expensive mics. A fine-sounding studio workhorse with a clear modern tone, that offers plenty of user control.”

Contact http://en-uk.sennheiser.com

Shure MV5






Price £85
Type USB, iOS condenser, cardioid

A general-purpose USB mic with settings for music, podcasting and video chats.

We say: “We found Flat mode a bit… flat, but the fact that both Voice and Instrument modes sounded so good probably didn’t do it any favours. The Instrument setting sounds detailed, natural and realistic. Voice mode is louder, punchier, brighter and more forward. Both are excellent, and your choice will depend on the application.”

Contact www.shure.co.uk

Shure MV51






Price £189
Type USB, large-diaphragm condenser, cardioid

Also retro in vibe, the MV51 is again aimed at desktop musicians. But this time, there are five onboard DSP preset modes configured for Speech, Singing, Quiet/Acoustic, Loud Music/Band, and a Flat setting which has no equalisation or compression added.

We say: “The tone is definitely brighter and more condenser-like, but it’s a mixed blessing. On vocals, it sounds full, present and clear, but in our test recordings we found the MV5 to have a more natural and realistic tone on acoustic instruments.”

Contact www.shure.co.uk

Shure KSM8






Price £429
Type Dynamic, cardioid

A Dualdyne microphone that attempts to eliminate a couple of niggles which are inherent with Shure’s classic SM58 vocal microphone; and it largely succeeds in outdoing and outperforming Shure’s stalwart mic.

We say: “With the KSM8 battling for your attention, you owe it to your voice to at least give it a try. Looking to upgrade from an SM58? Put the KSM8 on your list.”

Contact www.shure.co.uk

Shure MV88






Price £149
Type iOS, compact condenser, bidirectional, cardioid

The last in our trio of Shure digital mics is a dedicated iOS model. This means you can combine the MV88 with the onboard iOS camera to shoot video with high-quality stereo sound, or flip the camera and mic around to enhance your Skype and Facetime chats. Of course, you can use it to record music, too…

We say: “Depending on settings, it coped with instruments and vocals with equal aplomb. All in all, this is a serious recording device.”

Contact www.shure.co.uk

Shure SM58






Price £92
Type Dynamic, cardioid

Where the SM57 is ubiquitous for instruments, so the SM58 is for vocals. “The legendary SM58 is an industry-standard, highly versatile cardioid dynamic vocal microphone, tailored to deliver warm and clear vocal reproduction. The SM58 is consistently the first choice for vocal performances around the globe.” So old we’ve not reviewed it!

Contact www.shure.co.uk

Shure SM57






Price £92
Type Dynamic, cardioid

This has been around for such a long time that we haven’t actually reviewed it, either. We’ll let Shure describe it… “The legendary SM57 is an industry-standard, highly versatile cardioid dynamic microphone tuned for the clean reproduction of amplified and acoustic instruments.” Who are we to argue, when this mic has proved itself a worthy choice over so many recordings?

Contact www.shure.co.uk

Telefunken DD4






Price £1,010
Type Various dynamic

Telefunken has a strong calibre when it comes to microphones. The DD4 collection is made up of four dynamic microphones, tuned specifically for drums. You get the M80-SHB, a pair of M81-SHs, and finally an M82 for kicks.

We say: “These microphones could also be used very capably for all manner of other recordings: from vocals, to guitar or bass cabinets, and are sure to add some new options. And should you not have the budget for the whole thing, each mic is also available individually.”

Contact www.telefunken.com

Sontronics Mercury






Price £1,349
Type Valve condenser, variable patterns

The Mercury is dual-capsule: this means it has back-to-back pick-up capsules protected within the metal grille, offering the capability of multiple patterns – omni, cardioid and figure-of-eight, offering you maximum all-round usability.

We say: “The Mercury is a classic mic in the making. The level of detail and warmth in the sound reproduction make this an inspiring tool to use for recording – a beautifully designed microphone for the modern producer.”

Contact www.sontronics.com

Sontronics Aria






Price £1,049 (street)
Type Valve condenser, cardioid

Designed for vocals, Sontronics’ Aria looks classy and has an impressive range of accessories. It’s designed as a one-stop shop for vocalists…

We say: “The Aria isn’t a cheap microphone, so it may have been seen as an extravagance if it was only suitable for vocals. Fortunately, it’s a very capable all-rounder, too, with the silky and shimmering highs providing impressive detail resolution for delicate acoustic-guitar picking, percussion and even clean electric guitar.”

Contact www.sontronics.com

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