Designer: Siwei Zou of sE Sound Engineering
Description: Pressure gradient ribbon microphones with 2-micron aluminum ribbons: one passive (VR-1), the other with active electronics (VR-2) Defining trait: Extended 20 Hz to 20 kHz bandwidth via a patent-pending “mechanical device” (a diffuser that attenuates direct sound and enhances high-frequency reproduction).
Specifications: Figure-of-eight polar pattern, less than 300 ohms impedance VR-1 (less than 200 ohms VR-2), 17 dBA selfnoise (20 dB VR-2), maximum SPL of 135 dB, 1.6mV/Pa -56 ± 1.5 dB sensitivity.
Test application #1: Drum kit in both hihat and ride-cymbal positions, each two feet from source through a Sytek MPX4A preamp.
My tests found the VR-1 required approximately 20 dB more gain than the VR-2 in similar SPL positions. Both mics handled the high SPL well, exhibiting no audible distortion. Both models exhibited extended low-frequency response, largely flat midrange response, high-end response extended to just below typical condenser microphone levels and normal transient compression generally found in ribbon microphones. I would define their performances as classic, with moderately extended highs.
This particular test revealed that the VR-1 supplied for testing had its polarity reversed and an almost too snug XLR connector requiring caution when disconnecting. [According to Jonathan Pines, director for strategic operations at Fingerprint Audio (U.S. distributor for sE Microphones as well as Rupert Neve Designs), both the reversed polarity and snug XLR issues have been corrected in all shipping Voodoo ribbons; the models supplied for this review were pre-production models. — Ed.]
Test application #2: Acoustic guitar with placement two feet from neck/body of instrument through an AMS-Neve 4081 mic preamp.
My tests found similar frequency response between the two, with slightly more high-end response from the VR-2 and slightly higher noise floor from VR-1 (due to the additional mic preamp gain). Overall response could be defined as smooth, classic and in need of minor corrective EQ around 200 Hz (cut) and 10 kHz up (boost). [Hear it via audio webclips #1A and 1B. — Ed.]
Test application #3: Stomp tambo (tambourine attached to wooden box and struck with foot for “kick drum with jangle” sound), positioned with both the VR-1 and VR-2 as close to coincident as possible with each mic in each other’s side null — about 8 inches out — aimed on-axis with instrument. My tests revealed that both mics picked up significant low-end thump and ample high end, with more high end translated by the VR-2. [Hear it via audio webclips #2A & 2B. — Ed.]
Product-to-Product Comparison: These Voodoo ribbons aren’t as “bright” as the Audio-Technica AT4081, although the VR-2 is close and slightly hotter in output. Compared to a passive AEA R92, the VR-2 is the brighter one, but similar in low-end response. The Voodoo ribbons are balanced “top to bottom,” closer to the Blue Woodpecker or the Coles 4050, although distinctly different from each. [Based on manufacturer-supplied specs, the Voodoo ribbons are nearly flat (within +/- 1 dB) in frequency response between 20 Hz to 18 kHz, 2 dB down at 20 kHz, and offer a notably tight polar pattern. — Ed.]
The sE Electronics Voodoo ribbon microphones are “small form factor” transducers, easy to place due to their smaller-than-average size as well as a very versatile shockmount. This shockmount allows numerous configuration options, including very close “flush mounting” with the source. This secure, near-perfect shockmount is hindered only by its crucial plastic collar (which prompts extra care in handling).
Both Voodoos exhibit the useful combination of an extended “condenser-like” top end, but with the substantial bottom-end response and compressed transients of traditional ribbons. The VR1 offers slightly less high end and a slightly more classic ribbon sound. The VR2 offers a substantially hotter output and more high end, but is nearly sonically identical. Reasonably priced with a “zero downtime/free replacement” warranty (within three years of purchase) the Voodoos are worthy competitors in today’s ribbon mic resurgence.
Prices: $799 and $1,199 list
Contact: sE Electronics | seelectronics.com
Fingerprint Audio (U.S. distributor) | fingerprintaudio.com