The Electro-Voice (E-V) RE20 is a must-know microphone for every audio professional. After all, nearly every broadcaster in America owns between two and 20. They are regularly placed in front of kick drums, bass and guitar cabs, not to mention the majority of radio/TV announcers. The RE20 could arguably be one of the most popular microphones ever, neck-and-neck with the ubiquitous Shure SM57.
Thus, we will review the RE20’s modern update, the E-V RE320, in a purely comparative manner, to help you decide if it’s right for you and your own applications. For an even broader perspective, let’s also throw in real world comparisons with its sibling microphone, the E-V RE27.
Aesthetically, the RE320 looks very much like an RE20 — featuring that striking, classic vented chassis — with an updated look due to its black semi-gloss finish. As in the E-V RE27, neodymium magnets are present, though switchable high-pass filters — present in the RE20 and RE27 — are not. Another significant difference of the RE320 is its selectable EQ filter voiced for kick drum miking, which offers a low-mid frequency scoop.
I first tried the RE320 in a live environment, inside a number of kick drums at a Charlotte rock club, with filter engaged. Its performance in a word? Punch. The RE320 translated a lean bottom, plenty of high-mid bass drum shell tone and a well defined “thwack.” The venue’s FOH engineer said he liked it, as it offered “more highs than a Beta 52.” Onstage, the monitors loved it; my biamped monitor rig there is huge, and the RE320’s absence of flab way down low made for the tightest, punchiest onstage kick that I can recall.
In the studio, I found the RE320 to have a sonic signature best suited for rock recording, where higher-end note definition is arguably as crucial as thump and the fundamental. In order to create audio clips for my evaluation (and for PAR’s valued readers), I placed the RE320 inside a 22-inch Pork Pie kick drum (with damping rings on heads, but no pillows or blankets inside), but obviously no other mic could fit through the resonant head’s small hole. I did sneak in a Shure Beta 91 (also a favorite for rock kick), placing it in the bottom center of the drum, for less than coincident, but very usable, placement. In webclips 1A and 1B, the additional bottom and sculpted mids from the RE320 is notable, while the Beta 91 offers pronounced top.
Divakar Shukla of Charlotte’s WEND 106.5 FM evaluates the new RE320 alongside the original RE20. On loud electric guitar, the RE320 does a fine job; it offers more bottom than a SM57, less high-mids and more muscle through the low mids. High SPL is no problem for the RE320 and, to my ears, it seems more faithful than colored in direct comparison to the SM57. Where one might normally use a Sennheiser MD 421 on guitar, the RE320 will excel with more flatness and more excitement. Understandably, the kick drum filter was all wrong on this app, as it removed precious tone.
For a broadcasting applications test, I pulled in the big guns. With the help of onair personality Divakar Shukla and station engineer Dave Mitchell, we ran the RE320 through a gamut of broadcast tests at the 100 kW WEND FM in Charlotte. The RE320 and an RE20 were placed three inches apart and three inches from Divakar: in an equilateral triangle, directly on-axis, with no pop filters employed. Technically “improper” (as most announcers angle themselves across the mic head, preventing plosives and excessive mouth noise), this placement was required for accuracy in evaluation; some popping Ps may also be informative about the mics’ explosive performances.
We found the RE320 to have a little more bottom than a RE20, with some scooping at 300 to 800 Hz and nearly the same top end (RE320 and RE20, webclips 2A and 2B, respectively). Divakar and Dave loved the RE320 and became further enthused when they heard the RE320 with the kick filter engaged (webclip 3A) in direct comparison to the RE20 (webclip 3B). Both commented how the RE320 with filter sounded more finished, “as if we had our usual processing turned on,” they said. [These webclips are unprocessed — Ed.]
Compared to the RE27 (with a hotter output than the RE20 or RE320), the RE20 has less top end and flatter mids; the RE320 sounded a lot like a RE27, at least with its kick filter engaged. Nonetheless, Divakar and Dave still ultimately preferred the RE320 with kick filter over the RE27, citing its “fullness and warmth,” further revealed in webclips 4A (RE320) and 4B (RE27) as well as webclips 5A (RE320 with filter) and 5B (RE27). Divakar even says of the RE320, “That’s the way I’m supposed to sound.”
Assuming you like the RE20, you can’t go wrong with the RE320 at $299 street. Its additional bottom end seems useful on both kick and VOs; its top end is just as smooth and broadcast-worthy as the RE20; its Variable D proximity effect control is tuned just right; and the RE320 can handle all the abuse of rock ’n’ roll. Throw in its eminently useful mid-scoop filter (that is equally at home on kick and voice) and it seems the RE320 is a black beauty of a RE20, with lots more versatility and nary a negative.
Price: $499 list
Contact: Electro-Voice | 800-392-3497 | electrovoice.com
Rob Tavaglione owns and operates Catalyst Recording in Charlotte, NC.