Gadget Inspector: Mic Checka

  Putting together a home studio, or even upgrading the one you have, can be overwhelming no matter what your level of expertise.   With technology advancing on what sometimes seems like an hourly basis, by the time you’ve moved into a comfort zone with your favorite pieces of gear, the “new and improved” versions […]


Putting together a home studio, or even upgrading the one

you have, can be overwhelming no matter what your level of expertise.


With technology advancing on what sometimes seems like an

hourly basis, by the time you’ve moved into a comfort zone with your favorite

pieces of gear, the “new and improved” versions have already hit the streets.

With so many manufacturers vying for your time (and, of course, your money),

it’s almost impossible to keep up with who is doing what.


The Gadget Inspector spent three days at the winter NAMM

show last month, checking out the latest in all things music – from mics to

mixers and everything in between. Over the next three columns, we’ll overview

some of the most reasonably priced and eye-catching new products on hand, as

well as a few standards you should be aware of. 


But remember: At the end of the day, it’s all about what

sounds and feels good to you.


Audio-Technica has long been recognized as a leader in the

world of microphones and innovations. Their AT2020 USB cardioid condenser mic

is perfect for podcasts and home and studio recording. The 2020 was designed

for computer-based recording and is Windows and Mac compatible. It weighs under

one pound, and comes with a pivoting, threaded stand mount, adapter, protective

pouch, and USB cable—all for $169.


Prefer a small-diaphragm cardioid condenser? Opt for the

AT2021, which is ideal for acoustic instruments, overheads, piano and vocal

groups. Or pick up both mics as the AT2041 Studio Pack for $249.     


The AT3035 is your pick if you need extended frequency

response sensitivity, or extremely low self-noise is your greatest concern. Get

it for only $349.


Miking a band? The ATM450, part of the Artist Series, is a

cardioid condenser with side-address stick design. It’s excellent for overhead,

acoustics and percussion, and retails at $369.


The ATM250 DE (dual element) cardiod/hypercardioid is

perfect for kick drums, thanks to its two polar patterns. It retails for $549.  


When it comes to gear, you may think that it don’t mean a

thing if you ain’t got that bling, but thanks to Rode, you can keep your

spending to a minimum without compromising sound. Guys like Snoop Dogg and

Bootsy Collins, who can afford anything they want, love Rode because of product

quality. The company also offers full 10-year guarantees on its mics.


Rode’s M-3 condenser mic hit the streets in August 2007.

This $199 gem is known for its flexibility: thanks to its full frequency

response and cardioid pickup patterns, use it live and in the studio for

vocals. You can also mic instruments, including drums. Dual powered, it

operates on standard 48V or 9v battery.


The NT1-A is reputed as the world’s quietest studio

condenser mic, with only 5 dB(A) of self-noise, thanks to its advanced

circuitry. Rode spends a lot on research and development; millions went into

creating and perfecting the NT1-A, bringing a previously unachieved price point

into the market. Rode tells us that hip-hop artists swear by the NT1-A because

of its price and sound quality: it’s only $229.


In the higher end, the K2 dual 1” condenser mic offers fully

variable polar patterns, from omni to cardioid to figure 8. It’s high-end

miking for $729.


The multi-award-winning NTK cardioid mic, with valve

circuitry, goes for $529.


Like it or not, R.E.M. was right: “It’s the end of the world

as we know it.” Next year, UHF bands will be history. With UHF mics sharing

spectrum space with television stations, and “white spaces” soon to be up for

auction, if you’re using one of these mics, expect it to be not only

nonfunctional but also illegal in 2009.


Sabine has a solution. Their wireless mics are in 2.4 GHz

realm and immune to interference and auctioning. They are license-free and

globally accepted. The Sabine SWM7000 series allows up to 70 simulteous

channels, functional worldwide.


The SWM7000 series isn’t cheap. You can climb into the low

four-figure price range for mic and receiver, with built-in audio processors,

but it’s a lot of value for your money, no question: mic modeling, feedback

control, compressor, de-esser—everything is built into the receiver. Sabine is

the only company to offer this space- and time-saving concept.


Additionally, unlike most wireless systems, which require an

endless cycle of buying, disposing of and changing batteries, Sabine’s systems

are rechargeable while in the transmitter, just like your cell phone. Never

changing batteries helps the system pay for itself, and it also means fewer

batteries in landfills, so you’re doing our planet a favor at the same time. We

like it when manufacturers “think green.”


Avant prides themselves on making high-quality mics that

anyone can afford while still putting food on their table. They have a mic for

every need, a kit for every artist, and a price range that screams “too good to

be true,” and yet … see for yourself.


A common complaint about drum mics is their plastic casing.

Avant’s got heavy-quality drum mics and they’re all hot-rodded, meaning you

don’t need much EQ out of the box. They offer separation between the kick, tom,

snare, hi-hat and overhead. The CDMK-7 kit retails for $449. It’s a seven-mic kit with

PRO-KLAMP drum rim mic mounts. Say goodbye to all the clicks and clacks of

loose equipment.


 The AK-Type VII Omni

mic is Avant’s most expensive drum mic, at $699, but it’s great for drum

overheads at a third of the cost of many other brands.


If ribbon mics are your thing, the CR-14 is a dual ribbon

featuring that unmistable, dark, ribbon sound, but expanded in range to also function

as an all-around mic, thanks to the dual elements. It even has that “retro”

look. You can pick it up for only $259.


The CV-28 tube is a small-capsule, front-firing mic

specifically designed for acoustic instruments. It sells for $399.


The CV-12 vocal mic comes with 6072A tube installed. Avant

understands that people like to tweak their gear. The ECC81 and ECC83 tubes are

included and interchangeable so you can change your gain structure. Power

supply, cable, mount, power cord, box and case: $499.


The CU-2 is Avant’s new cardioid USB mic. While most USB

mics have a 19-27 mm capsule, Avant’s has a 35mm for better bass response. It’s

ideal for DJs and Internet streaming, and it’s only $199.


So many mics, so many choices, so much to learn—and we’ve

only scratched the surface. But when making music is your passion, education

never stops. Where do you go when you’re just starting out and the onslaught of

information is overwhelming? Rode Microphones can help. Go to and learn all

about microphone techniques, recording, sound theory and more. Best of all,

it’s free. That’s right: FREE. Go to their website, get your free student I.D.,

log in and get started.   


Next time, we mix it up all over the convention center