Though it’s not been that long since our last round up of the best microphones we’ve reviewed over the last 12 months, there’s simply been too many for a single list, so here’s half a dozen more of the best and most versatile, suitable for a huge variety of tasks…
Best Budget Pair: Lauten Audio LA-120
Price £319 [Pair]
Contact Lauten Audio via Synthax Audio | www.synthax.co.uk
The LA-120s are part of the Lauten Audio Black range, a set of mics designed at a low price point so you can buy the lot and have all the tools you need for a variety of recording situations. This is a pair of small-diaphragm mics with cardioid and omni-directional capsules, great for use as drum overheads or on acoustic guitar.
We said: “The low-end response produces plenty of bold body in the guitar, and we were impressed with the smooth response through the mid-range and high-end, which gave the guitar a professional sheen. If you do find yourself using the LA-120 on a snare – more likely in a studio environment – expect a very fast, transient rich response with plenty of crack, and more depth than many mics designed specifically for snares. The LA-120s could easily find themselves being used in much larger studios because of their incredible versatility.”
Best Neumann-a-like: Warm Audio WA-47
Contact Warm Audio via Nova Distribution | www.nova-distribution.co.uk
This valve condenser has nine valve switchable polar patterns and is modelled after, you’ve guessed it, the classic Neumann U47. Actually it’s a Neumann with bells on, as having all of those patterns combines the functionality of the U47 and its sibling the U48 into a single, all-in-one package. So, does it deliver the goods? You bet it does…
We said: “Our first impressions with the WA-47 plugged into our LA-610 preamp, left us picking our jaws up from the floor. From the opening take it was clear that this mic was something more than just another generic 47-style tube mic. The bottom end was simply enormous, prompting our vocalist to exclaim, ‘I’ve found the mic for me’ almost immediately. There really is very little reason not to want to get your hands on the WA-47. It’s inexpensive and sounds like it’s worth a million dollars. Not many of us will ever be able to afford a real Neumann U47, and while this might not be quite the same, it does put you in that ballpark.”
Best Stereo Ribbon: Golden Age Project R1 ST
Contact Golden Age via Runway Pro Audio | www.runwayproaudio.com
This is a dual/stereo ribbon mic, that looks to emulate classic RCA ribbon designs. Its two ribbon elements are arranged in a Blumlein figure-of-8 configuration used to produce an accurate, stable stereo image which, because of the ribbon design, should be smooth, rounded and expansive. It’s an ideal mic type for drum overheads, some vocals, brass, electric and acoustic bass and other instruments.
We said: “If you like your acoustic instruments to be captured with a touch of rose-tinted sweetness, rather than strictly sterile and neutral, and you want to make stereo recordings without the hassle of dealing with two microphones, Golden Age Project’s R1 ST should be high on your audition list. It is a lovely ribbon mic with vintage looks, coupled with a bright, modern sound. It allows stereo recordings to be easily made, yet is equally at home with many standard mono sources.”
Best Mic Modeller: Townsend Labs Sphere L22
Contact Townsend Labs via Source | www.sourcedistribution.co.uk
This dual-diaphragm, large condenser microphone has two outputs so each can be recorded separately and then combined later on to change the sound of the recording. Townsend Labs have paired it with software that makes the most of this, enabling you to then model 10 classic mics including the Neumann U47, M49, U67 and U87; an AKG C12; Telefunken ELA M 251; Sony C800G; AKG C451; Coles 4038 and Shure SM57. 10 mics in one, then…
We said: “The software takes a little experimentation to get used to, but overall we were impressed with the quality of the mic models in comparison to their real-world counterparts. The Sphere L22 is a great quality microphone in its own right, but the opportunity to experiment with different options after the recording is over is invaluable. It’s the perfect solution for those wishing that they had a larger microphone collection.
Best Hi-End Detail: Audio-Technica AT5047
Contact Audio-Technica | https://eu.audio-technica.com
This is a transformer-coupled cardioid condenser mic. Instead of a single circular capsule the AT5047 houses four rectangular capsules for a flatter and more natural sound with less bleed, considerably lower self-noise, high sensitivity and an incredibly detailed on-axis response.
We said: “The AT5047 is a beautiful-sounding, detailed microphone. It really excels at neutral, honest mic’ing techniques – those which aim to get the most out of the instrument itself, rather than hyping, or enhancing the recording. It’s certainly highly recommended for those who are elevating into high-end, professional recording. So if you’re after a new main vocal mic, then this has to be a consideration in your research. It’s one of the smoothest vocal microphones on the market.”
Best Mid-Priced Condenser: Lewitt LCT 440 Pure
Contact Lewitt Audio | www.lewitt-audio.com
This large-diaphragm condenser mic is a great contender for recording acoustic guitar or vocals, or a combination of the two.
We said: “On guitars it has an honest tonality, with a stronger bottom end, flatter, less-hyped mid range and smooth, open top. It is also great for just a guitar and voice, where the extra bottom end won’t be getting in the way of other instrumentation. However, the broader, flatter response of this microphone also makes it easier to EQ. On vocals it sounded full-bodied and rich, with a more open airiness at the top-end, which flattered without sounding overly ‘enhanced’. The LCT 440 Pure is a great option, providing an open, balanced signal which could easily be used to record all manner of instruments and voices without any trouble. For sheer versatility, the LCT 440 Pure has it. An excellent choice.