Low-cost condenser mics with big diaphragms have been proliferating like rabbits. Even some of the high-end mic manufacturers, such as Neumann, AKG and Audio-Technica, have come out with high-value models at reduced prices.
Product PointsApplications: Studio
Key Features: Multipattern; 10 dB pad; low-cut filter; ships with 30′ mic cable, shockmount, windscreen, power supply, flight case.
Contact: Carvin at 800-854-2235, Web Site.
One such microphone is the Carvin CM98ST tube condenser mic ($499). It connects to a remote power supply, where the user can switch the mic’s polar pattern anywhere among omni, cardioid and figure 8 in nine steps.
The CM98ST is actually a complete kit. It includes a classy foam-lined aluminum flight case, the microphone, a shockmount, foam windscreen, power supply, mic pouch and cables. The power supply connects to the mic with a 30-foot, gold-striped, seven-pin cable. A regular mic cable is provided as well.
This is one handsome, well-made microphone. I was impressed by how heavy and solid the mic is. Reminiscent of a Neumann U 47, it is a satin metal cylinder that is 7 inches long and 2.25 inches in diameter, decorated with a gold ring. Inside the open grille screen are dual, back-to-back, 1-inch gold-sputtered, 5-micron diaphragms that are shock mounted. The housing also includes the vacuum tube impedance-matching circuit. A seven-pin connector protrudes out the bottom.
On the mic’s front surface is a low-cut switch (6 dB at 120 Hz), which reduces excessive bass caused by close miking. There is also a 10 dB pad switch to prevent distortion of very loud sound sources.
The included spider-type shockmount suspends the mic to prevent thumps. Attaching the mic to the shockmount is a matter of screwing the mic into a ring. The mount has a swivel mic stand adapter.
According to Carvin, the CM98ST’s frequency range is 20 Hz ? 20 kHz, dynamic range is 133 dB, and impedance is 300 ohms. No other specs or data sheet are furnished.
I tried the Carvin CM98ST on vocals, acoustic guitar, piano, sax and drums. Here are my impressions:
• Vocal at eight inches with cardioid setting: Clean, non-boomy lows. Bright upper mids; lots of presence. Sibilants (s and sh sounds) are slightly harsh. No breath pops. Very little off-axis coloration.
• Vocal at eight inches with omnidirectional setting: A little more low end and smoother highs than with the cardioid setting.
• Vocal at eight inches with bidirectional setting: Less bass than cardioid, with slightly harsher sibilants. Front and back of mic provide a similar tone quality.
The remaining tests employed the cardioid setting.
• Vocal at four inches: Nice warmth without any boominess. Low-frequency pops are audible, but are almost eliminated by the foam windscreen.
• Vocal at four inches with low-cut filter: Thin sounding.
• Acoustic guitar with mic one foot from the 12th fret: Clean bottom end and crisp; well- defined plucks.
• Acoustic guitar with mic six inches from the sound hole and low-cut switched in: Boomy.
• Piano: Miking over the sound board near the hammers, the sound is bright with a good amount of presence.
• Sax: One and a half feet away, about a third of the way down from the top: Articulate, with plenty of breathy “edge.”
• Over drums: Clean, clear tom attacks and crisp cymbal hits.
In general, the CM98ST is handy when you want an instrument or vocal to cut through the mix. It has very low self-noise and a clean, distortion-free character. The sound of the mic is bright rather than smooth and natural, but the brightness is still a useful trait. I would probably not use the CM98ST on jazz vocals or classical recordings. But it works great for pop music.
This is a quality microphone with many included accessories at a low price. The mic’s off-axis attenuation is minimal but this may not be a problem during overdubs. If you need a clean, bright-sounding tube condenser mic, the Carvin CM98ST is worthy of serious consideration.