sE’s latest mic aims to satisfy the every need of the project and home studio owner. Mike Hillier sounds it out in his review of sE Electronics’ Magneto
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Announced at this year’s Musikmesse, the sE Magneto is the latest large-diaphragm condenser to emerge from the sE stable. Designed and manufactured at sE’s cutting-edge factory in China, the Magneto utilises a new back-electret capsule design and joins the X1 and X1R in sE’s entry-level range.
Mics at this price point don’t tend to come with too many accessories, and in this case you don’t get a fancy wood box or flightcase or even a shockmount, just simple foam packing and a swivel clip. Other than the colour, the mic housing looks a little like the X1’s; however, closer inspection reveals that the grille has been slightly remodelled, with more of a rounded taper than the X1.
To keep the price down the electronics inside the Magneto are fairly simple – built-in pads and high-pass filters are omitted. It should be able to handle high SPLs without distorting, though, having a quoted max SPL of 140dB – 15dB higher than the X1. The back-electret design means the capsule itself has a constant static charge, but phantom power is required to power the internal preamp, although because it isn’t charging the capsule, the mic can operate with as little as 12 volts.
Down to Business
On male vocals the Magneto has an open, natural character. The high end is smooth and unhyped, while the mid frequencies display none of the nasal qualities prevalent in many low-budget condensers. If you’re upgrading from a dynamic such as the Shure SM58, the Magneto will be a huge leap up in quality on vocals. The signal is clearer, more open and considerably more lifelike. This is typical of large-diaphragm condensers, which are commonly used for vocals in the studio as they cut through the mix with less EQ than dynamic mics, and in general reveal far more detail in the vocal.
Many entry-level condensers exhibit a boost in the top end, which in isolation can make one mic seem like a better choice than another. The bright, open character seems to enhance vocals in isolation, but often makes them harder to place in the mix. The Magneto doesn’t make this mistake and has a more restrained sound, which while not particularly exciting on its own will make for less brittle-sounding mixes when used for recording multiple tracks.
On acoustic guitar, the Magneto again produced a very usable, open and natural sound. Pointed towards the 12th fret as a mono mic, it captured plenty of string detail without too much fingering noise, and we were able to angle the mic to capture just the right amount of body without any boominess coming from the sound hole. However, the low end didn’t have the boldness that we often associate with large-diaphragm condensers, and there was a slight muddiness in the low-mids that we had to notch out with EQ.
Similarly, on an electric guitar cabinet there seemed to be a slight muddiness in the low-mids, but other than that the Magneto produced a strong, forward tone, capturing all the detail of the amp. Paired with an SM57, both pushed right up to the grille, the tone became bigger and bolder, and would provide a fantastic, solid foundation for a rhythm track.
For small home and project studio owners working to a very tight budget the Magneto represents a great investment – its open, natural and balanced character will work well on a wide variety of sources. While it doesn’t have the high-end sheen of some large-diaphragm condensers or the low-end weight of others, its neutral, reserved flavour means it can be used to layer multiple instruments without problematic frequency build-up in any area. This makes it a greater starter microphone, keeping you going until you can build up a mic cabinet where mic selection becomes varied enough that layering is no longer a requirement.
However, once you do have a more extensive mic cabinet the Magneto is likely to get less and less use. It is a workhorse, a jack-of-all-trades – and that is both its strength and its weakness. There may always be a better mic for the task, but whatever task you give it, the Magneto is likely to perform admirably.
+ Neutral sound
+ Great workhorse
– No shockmount
– Doesn’t stand out
Considering its price, Magneto is an excellent mic, easily outperforming similarly priced mics and even some costing twice as much.