Review: Earthworks QTC50 Omnidirectional SDC And SR20 Cardioid Handheld Condenser Microphones

To record flamenco guitarist Romero for that NBC Olympics session, we used both the updated Earthworks QTC50 small diaphragm omnidirectional condenser and updated SR20 handheld cardioid condenser microphones into my 1024 four-channel Earthworks ZDT (Zero Distortion Technology) preamp, which I’ve had and relied on for years.
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To record flamenco guitarist Romero for that NBC Olympics session, we used both the updated Earthworks QTC50 small diaphragm omnidirectional condenser and updated SR20 handheld cardioid condenser microphones into my 1024 four-channel Earthworks ZDT (Zero Distortion Technology) preamp, which I’ve had and relied on for years. Earthworks is celebrating its twentieth anniversary, and I’ve been using its mics for almost that long, so I know them well.

Flamenco/world music guitarist Romero records cues for 2016 Olympics broadcasts on NBC Networks via Earthworks QTC50 omni microphones at the Clubhouse Studios in Rhinebeck, N.Y.

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The SR20 has a 50 Hz-20 kHz frequency response, with a self-noise of 16 dB, down from 22 dB. Its sensitivity is 20 mV/Pa, up from 10 mV/Pa and the Max Acoustic Input is 139 dB SPL, down from 145 dB SPL. What that means is the sensitivity went up while the noise floor went down, getting about 4 dB hotter for the same acoustic input. They gave up a bit of maximum SPL because the sensitivity per acoustic input has increased.

Similar improvements apply for the QTC50, which has a frequency response of 3 Hz—50 kHz (far above the range of human hearing, though benefits of such extended response are debatable). The QTC50’s self-noise moved from 22 dB to 20 dB, sensitivity went from 30 mV/Pa to 20 mV/PA, and Max Acoustic Input went from 145 dB/SPL to 139 dB SPL. The ATC50 is now a bit hotter and, being that I’ve used this lineage of omni microphones for so long, it’s truly noticeable.

In the Clubhouse’s live room, I placed one QTC50 on the neck of Romero’s guitar and another on the body, turned up the 1024 preamp, and we were stunned in the headphones—I’m not kidding. It’s the combination of a well-designed omni mic with a hotter output, the near-silent ZDT preamp and a fine acoustic space allowing the guitar to breathe. Recording the Cajon and flamenco claps, we used the SR20 pair, placed far left and right in the room, with the QTC50 pair on the front and rear; in all, it was superb.

Earthworks Audio
earthworksaudio.com/microphones