In collaboration with the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences, one the country’s leading pro audio teaching facilities, PAR has introduced a regular series of in-depth reviews conducted at the Conservatory’s state-of-the-art teaching faculty in Phoenix.
A large-sized addition to the sE Electronics array of microphones is the Z5600A ($899). The size has to be the first thing I mention, because it’s the first thing I noticed about this microphone. It’s not the heaviest microphone I’ve dealt with, but it ranks up there towards the top. This thing is not for the faint of mic stand.
The Z5600A was a welcome sight when I opened the box. I’ve always had good luck with sE Electronics mics, and was hoping that this would not be an exception. As I pulled the heavy silver briefcase out of the box, I realized that this was no ordinary microphone. (It was heavy enough that I was hoping Christmas had come early this year, and the good people at sE Electronics had decided to send me some extra mics!) I opened up the case to find a nice wooden box containing the Z5600A, a sturdy shockmount, the power supply, and cables. The case itself is very durable, lined in heavy gray foam. The wooden box containing the microphone is also lined in the same foam.
The microphone looks impressive the second you take it out of the box. It has a powder gray finish on the body, with a heavy wire grille. The power supply is a 115V/230V switchable supply with a power switch and red LED indicator. The power supply is also where you choose any of the nine polar patterns available. This mic offers omnidirectional, cardioid, figure 8 and six intermediate patterns.
The shockmount is as nice as any I’ve ever used. The shockmount screws onto the mic itself, instead of just clipping on to it, or the mic resting inside of it, which puts me much more at ease when hanging the mic upside down. The shockmount also had nice quality elastic covered bands, instead of just the ‘rubber band’ style I’ve seen so much. The rubber sometimes dries out easily and breaks, as opposed to the sturdier covered elastic. The cable to go from the mic to the power supply has an 8-pin army connector, and also screws onto the mic. Again, these little details are much appreciated, as I find cables that simply get shoved into the mic get damaged so much easier.
The Z5600A is a vacuum tube mic, using a replaceable 12AT7 tube in its circuit, and has a 24k gold-sputtered diaphragm that measures 1.07 inches. The frequency response is 20 Hz – 20 kHz, and the mic has an impedance of <200 ohms. The maximum SPL for 0.5% THD@1kHz is 130dB, and it has an equivalent noise level of 16dB (A-weighted). I did have to go to the sE Electronics website (www.seelectronics.com) to find out all this information, as my Z5600A shipped with almost no documentation. All I received with it was a one-page ‘Precautions’ manual, which also included the ICIS and Gemini microphones. The website also contained some frequency response charts. As I mentioned previously, this is a rather large and heavy microphone, and you should take care in choosing a sturdy mic stand.
One of the first applications I tried the Z5600A for was a drum overhead. I was recording drums in a fairly small room with low ceilings.
I switched back and forth between cardioid and omni, moving the mic to different parts of the room. I preferred both patterns when the mic was above the kit, a few feet over the drummer’s head, facing down towards the kick drum. It captured the set overall very nicely. In a case where I was strapped for gear and tracks, I would use this as a single overhead in that position, with an inside kick mic, and be satisfied.
I spent the next few sessions using the mic for vocals, voiceover work, acoustic guitars, and some percussion. It proved to be a great all-around mic to have in the studio. Although not my mic of choice on all of the vocal tracks, it was always up to the job. (Of course, there is no mic out there that’s good for ALL vocalists, right?) On acoustic guitars, I just had to be careful not to get it too close, as there is no low-cut switch to compensate for proximity effect. And obviously, switching to the omni pattern solved that problem as well. The mic did pick up all the detail of the strumming and picking though, which I really try to capture in my guitar recordings. And on percussion, which involved tambourines, shakers, and bongos, it was nice as well, picking up all of the high end of the tambourine and shakers, and well as the slap of the bongos.
For a retail of $899, I would say this mic is a great deal. You can tell that sE put some thought into all the accessories, instead of just throwing some random parts together. I would say the only downfalls are the lack of a low-frequency rolloff, and an attenuation pad. But nonetheless, highly recommended for project or professional studios.
Contact sE Electronics at 617-623-5581, www.sonic-distribution.com.
On a vocal track, the mic’s warmth and proximity effect added a nice breathy intimacy.
-Paul Richards, Digital/Recording Instructor
The mic’s nine polar patterns make it one of the most flexible microphones in this price range.
-Jeff Thomas, Recording Instructor