At last year’s AES Convention, the KMF Audio Stereo Microphone’s unusual design ($7,000 tube version, $2,500 solid-state version) caught my eye. The Stereo Microphone looks like a small metal shoebox with two foamtipped antennae sticking out of the front end in opposite directions. This 1.5 lb. box, which includes the preamp, connects to a similarly sized power supply with a single cable. When I listened to KMF’s sample recording of the Stereo Microphone in action — a jazz trio led by legendary drummer Peter Erskine — it caught my ear, too. I inquired and was able to try out the tube version (there is also a solid-state version).
The first recording duty was in the Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress with the Harlem Quartet performing on the Library’s priceless Stradivarius instruments: an ideal concert situation with a wealth of musical depth and nuance to capture! We set up the KMF along with our Holophone H2Pro and the Library’s ORTF pair.
The microphone immediately impressed me with its detailed sound. The layout of the instruments was easy to discern, yet the blend was sublime. The warmth and power of the Strads rang through, and the character of the hall was evident. Each of our three mic setups showed a different facet of this incredible meeting of musicians, instruments, and hall. It was difficult to decide which configuration to use for the concert recording. The KMF microphone is mounted directly on its sizable preamplifier, so, regrettably, we were not able to leave it out for the concert, as it obscured sight lines for the audience.
Back at home, we checked out the KMF in a more studio-oriented setting: to record a flute and jazz trio in our chamber music hall. We first positioned the mic as an overall pickup, where it provided an impressively clean sound and a definite sense of the space the players were in. The imaging was distinct without being clinical, and the balance that the players had worked out was carefully maintained. We repositioned the KMF in front of the flutist and found that it captured the shimmer of her tone in a very pleasing way. There was not much isolation from the other instruments — not surprising for an omnidirectional mic system. Nor did it matter, since the sound of the piano and drums was still excellent. Finally, we moved it to the drums, where the KMF had a clear, open sound, capturing the snap of the hi-hat and the crispness of the snare attacks with ease.
In every circumstance, the KMF did an outstanding job. The unique design and careful attention to detail on this microphone make it a welcome addition to the pantheon of high-end stereo microphones.
Scott Burgess is the audio production manager of the School of Music at Central Michigan University.
Contact: KMF Audio | kmfaudio.com