Freedom of choice is a beautiful thing, whether we are talking about the right to pursue happiness, the ability to drive an inefficient car, or perhaps just having a microphone with five patterns, four low pass filters, four high pass filters, and four pads. Freedom of assembly is great, but please don't forget my shock mount and a flight case. If I'm being honest, I'd really like a foam windscreen as well. In this age of (perhaps) dwindling freedoms, it's nice to know that finding a microphone with the above features is easy, so long as you select the new Studio Projects CS5.
The first thing that you will notice about the CS5 is its weight, almost two pounds of solid feeling, satin finished goodness. The second thing you'll notice are all of the rotary thumbwheels. I've never seen a microphone with four thumbwheels on it before, though I'm sure someone will write in to tell me about a microphone with 5 thumbwheels. The plethora of thumbwheels kind of reminded me of a Fender Jaguar, or one of those Italian celluloid top electric guitars of the 1960's — in a good way, of course!
The CS5's self noice is a fairly subdued 12 dB (A-weighted), frequency response is stated as 20 Hz – 20 kHz with no deviation stated in the specifications, though the included frequency response charts seem to show a maximum deviation of about +6dB at around 12k whilst in omni mode. For the most part the frequency charts show this microphone to be on the more linear side, especially in wide-cardioid mode. The sensitivity is given as 14mV/Pa. The diaphragms are six micron in thickness and measure 1.06 inches and the CS5 is a bipolar output transformerless design.
The included polar patterns, pads, high-pass and low-pass filters are as follows: Cardioid, Wide Cardioid, Hyper Cardioid, Omni; -5dB, -10dB, -15dB, and -20dB Pads; 50 Hz, 75 Hz, 150 Hz, and 300 Hz high pass filters @ 6dB/octave; and 15kHz, 7kHz, 5kHz, and 3kHz, low pass filters @ 6dB/octave.
The CS5 comes in a nice aluminum "flight-lite" case and includes a clever shock mount and foam windscreen. Interestingly, stereo pairs are not available. According to the manufacturer, this is because all CS5 microphones are within 1 dB of each other, basically allowing any two CS5's to act as a matched pair.
The fit and finish of the microphone is very nice, and the thumbwheels feel sturdy in their mounting and positive in their action. If there were no label on this microphone, it might be difficult to guess who manufactured it, and in what country (China) it was manufactured.
The shock mount is quite different than the traditional shock mount normally included with most microphones. I immediately appreciated that the shock mount screws into the microphone, which has some felt at the bottom to eliminate any metal to metal contact. I think it would be impossible for this microphone to fall out of the shock mount as long as it was screwed in securely.
Due to the shock mount's unique design, it's possible to position the microphone anywhere in a 360-degree sweep without unscrewing the microphone from the shock mount or mic stand, since the microphone can be rotated around the spine of the shock mount. Isolation-wise, it was comparable to most "normal" shock mounts, but fell shy of the acoustic isolation offered by the very best. Because of the shock mount's low profile, it also lends itself well to Blumlein setups using a standard dual microphone bar.
I found the CS5 to deliver good results as a drum overhead microphone when placed about two feet in front of a Premier birch jazz sized drum kit. It was great to be able to compare polar patterns with the flick of a switch, though you should be aware that any changes to the functions controlled by the thumbwheels will introduce a very loud pop. So you'll absolutely want to make sure to mute the preamp or console before making any changes. The tonal balance of the microphone is more neutral than is commonly the case, which is actually a nice change of pace. Cymbals sounded natural, especially so when the microphone was set to wide-cardioid.
Moving the microphone further into the room indicated that the CS5 is pretty good at resolving the ambiance of a room. I also noticed that the CS5 tended to track dynamic changes faithfully. I would have liked to have heard a pair of CS5's used as room microphones, but I only received a single review unit. That said, I would expect that a pair of CS5s would be very nice to have around.
I also got a great "trash" drum track by setting the filters to their most extreme positions, which basically just leaves you with midrange. A ton of compression later, and I had a keeper track. Would it have been easier to use the Shure CB radio microphone I normally use to get a track like this? Sure, but it is cool that the CS5 can also play dirty.
A 1980 Les Paul played through a SonicCord Toad amplifier sounded really nice after I engaged the the high-pass filter (at the 300Hz setting) to clean up the sometimes overblown bottom end of that particular guitar and amp combination, (with the Toad's 15-inch vintage Sunn speaker). The CS5 seemed to have no problems with level even with the amp really cranked up, and the level pad disengaged.
Fast Facts Applications
Project Studio, Professional Studio
Large diaphragm multi-position condenser microphone, shock mount, multi-position pad, high-pass filter, low-pass filter
Studio Projects/PMI Audio | 877-563-6335 | www.studioprojects.com Since the CS5 is flatter than many common mid-level vocal microphones, there wasn't the hyped response that users may have come to expect with a modern vocal mic. That said, I appreciated the way that the CS5 seemed to be faithful to the source. The included filters were also handy for getting a little bit more vibe from the microphone. According to the microphone's designer the 15k low pass filter position is the optimal setting for use on vocal source. I did find that enabling this setting did warm things up ever so slightly. I ended up leaving the microphone in this position for the rest of the vocal session.
The included windscreen pushed the microphone into being a little bit on the dark side, so I found the use of an external multilayer windscreen to be a better choice. Still, it's always nice to have a foam windscreen available for those "special" clients …
The proximity effect was not as noticeable as with some microphones I've used, which, in most cases, is a plus. I also found that the microphone wasn't particularly susceptible to p-pops and other nasties.
Used as an ambient room microphone, the CS5 captured the timbre and the transient attack of a Rainsong acoustic guitar in a pleasingly realistic way, especially for finger-style playing. There was a nice sense of "air" present in the output of the CS5; it seemed to make the guitar breathe within the recording. With the microphone in the same position, a variety of hand percussion instruments (including tambourine, guiro, bar chimes, and cowbell) sounded present and clean, with no obvious smearing of the transients.
The Studio Projects CS5 is an interesting microphone. Certainly it's the perfect microphone for people that like to tweak settings. Its multipattern versatility and clever shock mount make it a natural for M/S setups. With more settings than any microphone that I've used (in recent memory at least), and a street price of $499 (!), the CS5 represents good value in the (more crowded than ever) marketplace.