Does the world really need another handheld condenser microphone for the live stage? If it comes from Earthworks, the company renowned for its superb reference and omni mics, the answer may be yes. The SR69 represents a foray into the rough neighborhood of live sound for Earthworks, a manufacturer whose microphones are known for being extraordinarily flat and uncolored.
The SR69 ($350) makes a strong first impression. The microphone, a handheld cardioid condenser that comes in a variety of striking colors, weighs a remarkably light 135 grams. The aluminum chassis has a ported cover that unscrews revealing the diaphragm. A foam windscreen is attached to the outside of that cover.
The foam windscreen is a calculated part of this microphone’s design. Without it, the SR69 has a nearly flat response from 50 Hz to beyond 20kHz, with just the slightest bump between 500 Hz and 1 kHz. With the windscreen on, the microphone has about a 2 dB high frequency roll off above 6 kHz. The windscreen is also critical in helping to reduce plosives and it plays a role in the microphone being able to handle an input of 145 dB SPL.
Sonically, the SR69 makes as much of a first impression as it does physically. The first thing I did with the Earthworks was to replace a Shure Beta 58 in a public address setup. Thinking that this lightweight studio microphone would have a fraction of the punch and output of the Beta, I made no gain adjustments before attaching it to the cable.
Hello! To my surprise, the SR69 has a remarkably high output. It has a bit of mid punch that makes the microphone cut through the din of a loud band and it certainly sounds less scooped in the mid range than other popular vocal microphones.
All the vocalists who tried the SR69 enjoyed using it, with several being downright enthusiastic. One singer expressed a little dismay at the “lack of substance” when handling such a lightweight microphone, but most users enjoyed the featherweight status.
I noticed the SR69 has very little handling noise – a surprise for such a pixie. Even though the SR69 was rough enough to handle the rigors and sonic demands of a loud bandstand, it retains a certain amount of refinement. It delivers a superb vocal image that is brimming with uncolored detail and clarity.
I particularly liked how the SR69 sounded at a distance of several inches from a singer’s mouth. It didn’t lose all the body of its sound when someone would back off a bit while it was not overly bassy when used intimately.
Removing the windscreen opens the SR69 up to a whole new persona. While I wouldn’t recommend it for vocals in this state, it was excellent for acoustic guitar. In fact, the sounds I got with the Earthworks rivaled those of my expensive pencil condensers. With its honest tonal representation, I expect that the SR69 would be excellent at reproducing a wide range of acoustic instruments in the studio or on stage.
In the SR69, Earthworks has created a microphone that is superb for live vocals. It is highly effective in the hostile world of a raucous stage, but it still has a refined sonic image. Add this to the fact that the SR69 can record or amplify a wide range of acoustic instruments and you have an impressive package.
For handheld live vocal use, this mic is not cheap. But when was the last time you could use a $175 live vocal microphone to record a great acoustic guitar track in the studio? Superior performance and versatility make this microphone an excellent bargain.
Contact: Earthworks at 603-654-6427; www.earthwks.com.