They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and that old adage certainly applies to the Nady RSM-2 ($249). When Pro Audio Review sent me one recently and I took it out of its box, I thought I was experiencing deja-vu. “Wow, an R84 clone,” I thought. Yup, right down to the attached stand mount and cable and an amazingly similar protective padded cylindrically-shaped “sock” to cover it up when it’s not being used. OK, so AEA’s is maroon, and Nady’s is black. As you can judge from the picture, the RSM-2 has a cool look of its own, but nothing like the “art deco pharmaceutical capsule” shape of the R84, as I called it in my PAR review (8/03). It appears to be well-built, with good “fit and finish.”
Product PointsApplications: Studio
Key Features: Figure 8 pattern; ribbon element
Contact: Nady Systems at 510-652-2411, Web Site.
In an instant, I had mounted my own R84 and the new Nady on two identical stands and hooked them into the two channels of my Dan Alexander mic preamp — the one built with original Neve parts (reviewed PAR 1/03), patched it into the monitors in the studio, and proceeded to talk into each on in turn. “Geez, they even sound similar.”
Made in China (and apparently identical to the T.bone RB 500 mic available in Europe from Germany’s huge Thomann cyberstore), the Nady RSM-2 arrived in a big cardboard box inside which it was surrounded by two large pieces of charcoal gray formed foam which can actually serve as a “box” of their own. It was wrapped in its foot-long padded black “gym bag” for protection — with swivel yoke mount and cable attached, and the graphics on the box told me it was available with “gold” and “platinum” grilles. My review sample was platinum.
The RSM-2 features the classic low-tension 2-inch long, 2-micron thick aluminum ribbon design and produces the expected “large, mellow ribbon” sound with smooth, natural and extended lows and highs. Also typical for a ribbon mic, it gives fast and accurate transient response and has a very high 165 dB SPL capability. Its pick-up pattern is also the classic “velocity” figure eight type, and the proximity effect is quite pronounced.
It just so happened that I had scheduled a classical voice and piano session the following Saturday morning for an amazing young singer, Nazira, so I seized that opportunity to set both the Nady RSM-2 and my AEA R84 mics up right next to each other, for later comparison during mixdown. I used a pair of vintage AKG C60 tube mics with nicely matched CK1 capsules on the piano, and recorded the session at 88.2 kHz through my MOTU 896HD into Digital Performer 4.52 on my trusty ol’ PowerBook running the new Mac OS X 10.4 “Tiger” I had just put on it the day before. Sure, I like to live dangerously! I kept both ribbon mics connected to the Dan Alexander preamp, while the AKG tubes went right into the MOTU mic preamps. Nazira sang five takes of Purcell’s famous seventeenth-century song, “Music for a While,” while the PowerBook took it all down with nary a hiccup.
After lunch, I copied the files to my desktop DAW Mac and while we edited and mixed down, I got a chance to compare the two mics carefully. Their levels were within a dB of each other and the sound was definitely “from the same family line.” However, it didn’t take us very long to pick the winner. The AEA mic sounded just like the listener was in the room with her, while the Nady sounded like… well, a microphone. Sure, on quick A/B comparisons, they sounded almost the same, but it didn’t take long for both of us to notice that the R84 had “higher highs, lower lows,” and much more of its special signature “you’re right there” quality. The Nady was a little bit honkier in the midrange, much less open in the highs, and its low end sounded considerably thinner than the R84’s. But we must remember that the RMS-2 goes for something like one-third the price of an R84! If one were to listen to it by itself, you’d be amazed at how nice it sounds. Really!
Over the ensuing week, I had the opportunity to try the RSM-2 on piano, male voice, violin, recorder, and percussion, and always came away with the same impression. It’s a good all-around mic (as long as you have a good preamp with suitable input impedance and 60 dB of gain), but the most special thing about it is its price. If the R84 is a ribbon mic with “lots of pizzazz,” the RSM-2 is one with a little bit of “the blahs.”
I could never have imagined that a $200 street-priced ribbon mic could sound this good. These are truly “interesting times” for home studio enthusiasts, who can now build up entire mic collections with amazingly good “cheap Chinese mics.” I’d recommend the Nady RSM-2 to anyone who wants the “ribbon mic sound” on a budget. Heck, get two of ’em!