One of my favorite handheld dynamic microphones of all-time is Electro-Voice’s PL80a, the brand’s top supercardioid dynamic; it is uniquely frequency-sculpted to better translate vocals in common live environments, allowing them to sit notably snug yet prominently in a mix. At $99, it’s affordable, flexible and sturdy; it works great in just about any microphone application—live, recording, budget VO, etcetera.
For that reason, I was quite eager to try E-V’s new ND Series of live microphones, which features four handheld vocal and four instrument models, all of which are dynamics except one small diaphragm condenser, the ND66 ($199 street, not reviewed here). Far from average dynamic microphone fare, these ND models are packed full of interesting proprietary technology.
First unveiled at NAMM 2016, the ND Series is centered on a new E-V large Mylar diaphragm; the company combines it with next-level design elements first born in the N/Dym Series, an already impressive line of microphones. In use, standout features include beautifully voiced, surprisingly feedback-resistant handheld microphones and equally flattering, feature-rich instrument models that are a hoot to position on drums, guitar cabinets, instruments and so on. In my review kit, I received the ND96 ($199 street) supercardioid, ND86 ($159 street) supercardioid and ND76 ($129 street) cardioid vocal microphones, along with the ND44 ($129 street) “tight” cardioid, ND46 ($159 street) supercardioid and ND68 ($199 street) supercardioid “low frequency” instrument microphones.
Within the trio of handhelds, notable features include a four-point shock-mount suspension system that works well at abating handling noise, a >140 dB maximum SPL and “flattering, not flat” frequency responses that bring out the best tonalities in vocal signal transduction. The ND96 usefully provides a two-position presence switch; one setting is relatively flat, while the other emphasizes lows and further dips “honky” mids so well that I left it engaged across a broad range of male and female vocalists of various types and styles. The grilles of the three handhelds thankfully look and feel different from each other, so the engineer in typical lowlighting settings can easily grab the right one.
I was even more impressed with the instrument models within the ND Series. Not only do they sound great, they are well-voiced frequency-wise for their applications. Visit the E-V website for detailed frequency response and polar pattern data. Mounting and positioning features make the mics unique and truly valuable in the pro-audio marketplace. For example, the ND44 comes with the DRC-2 drum rim clamp, a simple yet completely functional mount that is among the best I’ve seen. It also has a low-profile pivoting head that allows precise angling to the right spot on a snare drum. The larger MD46 also comes with a pivoting head, yet it locks into place, making it resist movement even when heavily vibrated; this and other ND features are thoughtful refinements of the N/ Dym Series.
Finally, the “kick drum and low frequency” ND68 actually handles up to 144 dB SPL, and is open and punchy yet phat and voluptuous—most everything I desire in such a microphone. It has a big frequency bump between approximately 1-10 kHz before dropping out at 11 kHz, and impressively reaches down to 20 Hz (@-5 dB) too—all the right stuff.
In total, the ND Series provides thoughtful new ways to better capture live sound without reinventing the wheel. Live sound, band-oriented studio, theater and house-of-worship-based audio engineers should love these microphones and will appreciate their affordable prices.