Even if the name Bob Heil doesn’t ring a bell I’m sure that you are aware of some of his designs. Since entering the pro audio field in the 1960s, Mr. Heil has developed hundreds of audio products for groups such as The Who and The Grateful Dead. He is perhaps best known for The Heil Talk Box which was made famous by Joe Walsh, Peter Frampton and Bon Jovi. In 1995 Mr. Heil received the “Live Sound Pioneer Award” from the Audio Engineering Society.
Product PointsApplications: Studio, broadcast, live sound
Key Features: Cardioid pattern; dynamic element; internal sorbothane shockmount; internal pop filter
Price: XPR-30 – $199, PR-40 – $209
Contact: Heil Sound at 618-257-3000, Web Site.
Without a doubt, these things are important and impressive but as the years pass I’m convinced that Mr. Heil is going to be remembered more than anything else for leading the dynamic microphone industry into the 21st century. Heil Sound’s new PR-30 and PR-40 professional quality dynamic cardioid microphones are designed for commercial broadcast, recording and live sound reinforcement applications and they sound great.
The PR-30 ($199) and PR-40 ($209) are fairly similar in appearance. They both weigh 15 ounces and feature a steel body with a zinc die cast bottom ring and are finished in an attractive anodized champagne matte. By utilizing the power of a unique dual wound voice coil coupled with a neodymium magnet structure a magnetic field ten times more powerful then that of traditional dynamic microphones is created. The result is two dynamic microphones that are as rugged and durable as any production dynamic microphone yet they rival the performance specifications of most condenser mics.
The PR-30 has a frequency response of 40 Hz to 18 kHz and the PR-40 has a response of 28 Hz to 18 kHz. Both mics have an input impedance of 600 ohms balanced and feature low-mass quilted aluminum diaphragms. The output level of the PR30 is -52.9 dB @ 1 kHz and the PR40 is -53 dB @ 1 kHz. Both mics are cardioid and end firing with uniform front to back discrimination and both boast an amazingly smooth flat response over a wide frequency range.
By mounting the dynamic element of the PR-30 and PR-40 into a special sorbothane shockmount system the Heil engineers have created a very rugged microphone with extremely low handling noise. The cardioid pattern on both mics offers the greatest rejection at 180 degrees off axis and creates virtually no off-axis coloration while providing the greatest possible rejection of unwanted audio. Both of these microphones provide the look, feel and performance of a condenser microphone without the need for phantom power, the fragility, or the background noise characteristic of condenser microphones.
The PR-30 and PR-40 include the SM 3 5/8″ -27 mount assembly. The SM 3 is an all-metal mount that should make the cheap plastic mounts that are included with virtually every other dynamic microphone sold today ashamed. An optional shockmount is also available.
Heil Sound engineers have managed to design a microphone screen that provides better “pop” protection than anything I’ve ever encountered. Instead of the typical single metal screen that makes an external pop filter necessary, Heil Sound uses two screens. The inner screen has smaller openings while the outer screen has larger openings. The two screens work together to break up the breath pops and divert them from directly hitting the microphone diaphragm. In addition, very coarse acoustically transparent foam is mounted on top of the element. This unique combination of treatments allows the PR-30 and PR-40 to handle pops remarkably well.
I must admit that I wasn’t too anxious to put the PR-30 and PR-40 to work. I have an extensive collection of dynamic microphones of which I’m very pleased with their performance. Another dynamic option is not something that I’ve been actively pursuing. How surprised I was. In every instance I was impressed with the performance of the Heil Sound microphones. The two microphones sound amazingly similar with only subtle differences. I found the PR-30 to sound slightly more focused with a hint of mid-range presence. Where both mics sound extremely flat, the PR-40 seems to have a broader frequency response on both the bottom and top end.
The first thing I put the mics to work on was a variety of guitar amps while tracking a song for a movie soundtrack with the band Third Day at Atlanta’s Southern Tracks. In every instance both mics had a tight, well-defined bottom end, a smooth mid-range and an extended high-frequency response that never seemed harsh. I used the mics again on sax (PR-40) and trumpet (PR-40) while recording Jeff Coffin of the Flecktones and session ace Mike Haynes on the same track and had wonderful results. In both instances I didn’t use any EQ at all.
The mics work extremely well on percussive instruments. On the kick drum I preferred the sound of the PR-40 and on snare drum I preferred that of the PR-30 but both mics worked well on both instruments. I also had good results using the PR-30 and 40 on tambourine and shaker.
I don’t typically like the sound of dynamic microphones on acoustic guitars but this was not the case with the Heil microphones. Their performance on acoustic guitar was very much like that of condenser microphones. Though I still prefer the sound of my Neumann KM 86i or my Sony C-800G, the Heils are definitely acceptable especially the PR-30 which provided slightly better results than the PR-40.
The microphones also worked well on vocals. I have long been a fan of vocals recorded with an E/V RE20 and the best way to describe the performance of the PR-30 and PR-40 is like a better RE-20 (and at a fraction of the price!). While recording spoken dialog I found both the PR-30 and the PR-40 to provide extremely natural speech articulation without the need to EQ.
I found the PR-30 and PR-40 to be two of the most natural and pleasant sounding dynamic microphones that I have ever encountered. I would be equally impressed even if they had a price tag two or three times greater.