6 of the Best: Microphones (2018)

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We round up some of the best products recently reviewed in the magazine. This month, we have six of the best microphones for a range of studio and live tasks and, of course, budgets…

Best All Rounder: Sontronics Mercury


microphones

Price £1,349
Contact Sontronics

The Sontronics Mercury is a variable-pattern valve/tube condenser microphone. It’s dual capsule, so it has back-to-back pick-up capsules protected within the metal grille, offering omni, cardioid and figure-of-eight patterns to choose from.

We said: “The level of detail and warmth in the Mercury’s sound reproduction make it an inspiring tool to use for recording. The sound is subtly driven and open. With a shimmering air that pushes through the mix, the Mercury needs very little signal processing to sound amazing. It’s a beautifully designed microphone for the modern producer. A classic in the making.”

Best For Live: AKG C7




Price £209
Contact Sound Technology | 01462 480000

This mic is aimed at live vocalists looking for a step up from the usual choice of dynamic mics for use on stage. So rather than being a dynamic, like most live mics, it’s actually a condenser.

We said: “Comparing the C7 to a standard SM58 reveals a much more flat and detailed response,” said reviewer Mike Hillier. “The AKG C7 is a wonderful-sounding mic that’s 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. It doesn’t have quite the open top endof a high-end studio mic, but it runs some close. Another great-sounding microphone from AKG.”

Best For Pairing: Aston Microphones Starlight




Price £349 each (£699 pair)
Contact Aston Microphones | 0845 500 2500

With its looks and laser credentials, you could easily mistake this mic for a lightsaber. It’s actually a small-diaphragm condenser with a cardioid capsule and has three voicings; Modern, Vintage and Hybrid.

The laser we mentioned is designed to target what you’re mic’ing up for accurate recording – a neat and novel feature. Though the Starlight is great as a single mic, it’s really as a matched pair where it comes into it’s own. Aston hand-match the Starlights to guarantee perfect parity.

Our very own wookie, reviewer Mike Hillier, tested the mic on both acoustic guitar and drums, and loved the results…

We said: “We compared the Starlight with a Neumann KM 184. Using the Modern voicing, the two mics were almost impossible to tell apart.” And on drums, we said: “The mics produced an extremely focused and detailed representation of the kit,” and concluded: “Every studio needs a pair of small-diaphragm condensers and by offering three voicings, the Starlight is making a solid case to be the first mic you reach for when you do.”

Best Top End: Chandler REDD




Price £4,599
Contact Nova Distribution | 0203 589 2530

The latest product from the collaboration between Chandler and Abbey Road is a mic with circuitry from the famous REDD47 preamp. Unlike previous Chandler hardware, it’s not modelling vintage hardware per se – but the result is an incredible-sounding mic.

We said: “For studios with a little budget, having the REDD Microphone in your locker is the kind of thing that drives artists to your facility – and as an investment, could pay off substantially.” We concluded: “The Chandler REDD Microphone is one of the most glorious-sounding microphones we’ve had the pleasure of testing. It really is a superb piece of kit, even though it comes at a considerable price.”

Best Valve Instrument Mic: Lauten Audio LA-320




Price £439
Contact Synthax | 01727 821870

Lauten Audio’s LA-320 is a valve mic with both a high- and low-pass filter built into the onboard PCB. Reviewer Mike Hillier tested it on vocals and guitar, with great results.

We said: “On vocals, it had a very smooth and focused high end,” and then on slide guitar, “it helped to add an incredible depth to the part, for a larger-than-life recording of an instrument we often have trouble with.” Moving onto other instruments, Mike noted: “The low-pass filter came into its own on the guitar-amp recording, and if your budget can stretch to a pair of these, we imagine they’d make strong overhead mics for recording a drum kit. It’s a worthy mic for the price point and performs well under a variety of circumstances.”

Best Clip On: Audio-Technica ATM350a




Price £320
Contact Audio-Technica | 0113 277 1441

This is a special clip-on mic system which combines a small-diaphragm condenser microphone with a variety of mounting options. You get modules including a universal clip, drum-mount clip, magnetic piano mount, velcro violin mount, and a velcro woodwind mount. In our tests, we were provided with all of the various adaptors, enabling us to try out the ATM350a on as many sources as possible.

We said: “The advantage of the ATM350a is that, with the right adaptors, it’s a perfect addition to the arsenal of anyone who works with a wide array of instrumentation. A versatile system for a variety of tasks, which takes up very little space.”

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