I had the opportunity recently to try a few different mics by a relatively new company called SE Electronics. SE Electronics is making a line of affordable microphones that are of high quality. The line consists of several different types of condenser/tube microphones.
Product PointsApplications: Studio
Key features: SE1A – small capsule condenser; Z3300 – large capsule, multipattern condenser (cardioid, omni, figure 8), -10dB pad, 100 Hz rolloff; Gemini – dual-tube condenser
Price: SE1A – $199, or $449 for matched stereo pair in wooden case with stereo mounting bar; Z3300 – $599 Gemini – $1,499
Contact: SE Electronics/Sonic Distribution at 617-623-5581, www.seelectronics.
For review I used the SE1A ($199), a small capsule cardioid condenser; the Z3300A ($599), a multipattern (cardioid, omni, figure 8) condenser and the Gemini ($1,499), a cardioid tube microphone. The Z3300A is a Class A FET 48V phantom powered large capsule condenser that incorporates twin 1.07-inch gold-plated diaphragms. It has a 10 dB pad, and a 100Hz low-frequency rolloff. The Gemini dual-tube condenser uses two different vacuum tubes in a large diaphragm transformerless design. It contains a 35mm gold diaphragm and two tubes: a 12AU7 and a 12AX7. All three microphones came in very nice cases: either nice wooden boxes with sturdy closures, or briefcase-style metal cases with lots of padding inside.
I tried the microphones in several different applications. First, with the pair of the SE1A small capsule condensers, I used them as drum overheads in a spaced pair setup. I compared them with the AKG C451B microphones. I found them to not have quite as much bottom end as the C451Bs, but they sounded absolutely wonderful with all the drums spot-miked. If you are in a situation where you are able to mic up all the toms, snare, and kick, these are the mics for you. I absolutely loved them, and have used them as my overheads ever since.
I have also tried one as a hi-hat mic, with great results. On acoustic guitar, they are very open-sounding, and I was able to get them very close to get a little bit of proximity effect to add to the bottom end. I placed one on the neck, and one on the body, just above the sound hole, and those two different sounds combined together were great. I also switched the setup to an X-Y stereo pair, again getting a great sound.
The Z3300A was used on a few different applications. First, on mid-range and high-range male vocals, it sounded great. It was used in cardioid, with no pad and no rolloff for both sets of vocals. It definitely had a lot of brightness, but also a great round low end to add to the vocals. I used the Z3300 on a saxophone and the artist commented that he has always had trouble finding a mic that works well on that particular instrument, and he thinks I may have found it with the Z3300, in cardioid, with the rolloff and no pad. I used the mic about halfway between the bell and the mouthpiece, tilted slightly downwards.
I also used the Z3300 on acoustic guitar, in omni so as to not get any proximity effect, and it sounded great as a mono guitar mic. As a room mic for electric guitar amp, it also sounded very nice. I just wish I had two of them to use them as a M/S pair! I imagine that they would sound great in that setup on acoustic guitar or drum overheads.
I used the Gemini tube mic as a mono overhead for the drummer, and compressed the mic quite a bit to tape. The drummer I was working with loves the “trash” mic sound added into the spaced pair, and the Gemini was great for that. It was also very warm sounding on vocals. It is a very large and heavy dual-tube mic, and the one thing I did not like about the Gemini was that the shockmount would not hold it up. Even with the screw tightened all the way, it was not a sturdy enough shockmount for the mic, so I always had to plan my setup around the mic being tilted down on the stand. [Editor’s Note: SE has since replaced the shockmount with a new design.] Even so, the mic is definitely worth being used, and would always be my “trash” mic of choice for drums.
Of the three microphones, the pair of SE1A small capsule condensers are definitely my favorite, especially for the price. The Z3300 is also a great deal for a multi-pattern condenser with pad and rolloff. Like I said, I would love to own two of these to use in many different applications in a stereo pair. The Gemini is a great value for the dual-tube design, again my only complaint is the shockmount. I would highly recommend any of these mics to a studio looking to expand their collection inexpensively, while still getting a great value. I look forward to hearing more SE Electronics products in the future.