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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > Oct 2019 > SMALL DIAPHRAGM CONDENSERS


In the first of a new series, we take several of the most widely used budget smalldiaphragm condensers to task at Bristol’s Invada Studios to find out which stands tall as the best all-purpose microphone for guitar and vocal recording

We’ve reviewed a great number of microphones over the years, so the thought of putting some of our faves head-to-head to compare and contrast them was one that we just had to make happen. Over the course of the next few months, we will work our way through all types of microphone at various price points to give you the best possible overview of what’s currently available, so you can confidently make the right mic purchase for yourself.

Our first instalment features five small-diaphragm condenser microphones at the low-budget end of the spectrum (all of which are under $200), with UK prices ranging from £135 to £152. As an ultimate point of reference, we compared the five contenders with our classic Neumann KM 84 i, arguably the greatest small-diaphragm condenser mic of all time.

As we wanted to provide aural evidence of our findings, we decided to record a short piece on acoustic guitar (beautifully played by engineer James Trevascus) at Invada Studios. We tested all the mics in other ways, too: however, as acoustic guitar is one of the most common instruments to be mic’d with small-diaphragm condensers, it seemed like the natural choice. Besides which, you really don’t need to hear any of us reciting poetry or – heaven forbid – singing.

The first idea was to test each mic – set up identically – in turn. We also adopted this method for the human voice and percussion tests. For the acoustic-guitar recording (included on the DVD) however, I opted to set up the mics in close proximity to each other and record a single instrumental pass. That way, variations in performance, which might distract the ear from the character of the mics themselves, were avoided.

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About MusicTech

The art of writing songs is something that is all too often ascribed to some mythical gift that manifests itself within people at a certain age, with little thought given to the long periods of trial and error, dedication to the craft and persistence to forge a career in the industry that mark out many successful songwriters. In this issue, we have a thorough exploration of the topic, featuring a dissection of the building blocks of every hit song, as well as industry insight from a range of experts who illuminate the professional songwriting world of 2019. We discuss maintaining a career balancing writing with being an artist in your own right with Ed Harcourt and learn from Bernard Butler, Paul Statham and others about their approaches to educating the next generation of hit-makers. Elsewhere in the issue, we continue our journey through the world of synthesis. This time, we focus on wavetable and vector synthesis as well as a foray into the birth of drum machines and their intrinsic relationship with the synth world. We also put several of our go-to budget small-diaphragm condensers to the test in our very first microphone shootout. In our review section this month, we get rhythmic with IK Multimedia’s UNO Drum and wallow in the sonic delights of the Dreadbox Nyx V2 among many other new pieces of kit. Of course, we also have a range of tutorials and tips, too. I hope you enjoy the issue.