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Review: Earthworks FMR500 Podium Mic

The FMR500 FlexMic is a world-class podium microphone.

Earthworks specializes in frequency-flat and extended frequency response world-class microphones designed and hand-built at the company’s Milford, New Hampshire headquarters. Particularly useful in classical music, acoustic instrument and precision-oriented audio capture applications, Earthworks’ small diaphragm condenser microphones are deservedly respected for both performance and build quality, making them especially ideal for institutional use where they are often employed for decades. Look no further than Earthworks’ limited 15-year warranty to illustrate their mic lines’ expected lifespans, often in heavy and demanding applications.

The FlexMic Series of podium microphones provides an expected combination of these aforementioned Earthworks attributes—notably sonic fidelity and world-class construction—as well as some pleasant surprises, too. The FlexMic Series comes in a range of lengths—26.8 to 12.5 inches; models with either a full-flexible gooseneck or featuring gooseneck ends with a rigid center; and cardioid or hypercardioid polar patterns. FlexMics handle a notably high level of input—145 dB maximum SPL—and resist plosives due to a well-designed and attractive metal windscreen.

The FlexMic review unit I received—the 18.3-inch long FMR500 cardioid condenser podium microphone, available for $559 street—provides great intelligibility and notable vocal range detail on spoken word sound sources, whether on- or (considerably) off-axis, while it simultaneously offers high gain before feedback. With a nearly razor-flat frequency response to 20 kHz on-axis, the FMR500 even maintains a relative “flatness” up to 90 degrees off-axis; at approximately 3 kHz, response evenly and progressively rises 3dB until it falls off dramatically at 10 kHz. As such, even multi-source “gather ‘round the mic” performances with the FMR500 should work very well, making this a most flexible podium mic, earning its well-chosen moniker.

Particularly in house-of-worship (HOW), theater/auditorium and educational environments, intelligibility is often a major concern. Untreated parallel walls, high ceilings and generally reverberant spaces directly battle spoken word sound sources, many of which are delivered (and dialed in) by untrained public speakers. That said, I found the FMR500 a best-in-class example of intelligibility by way of purity and clarity, gain before feedback, and more.