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SONTRONICS STC-1S CONDENSER MICROPHONES (MATCHED PAIR) REVIEW

August 29th, 2012 master No comments

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Here is a first for me; I am going to look at a matched pair of stereo microphones. there are many on the market today such as the sE Electronics SE-1A and SE-2A mics, but I have been informed that one of the best value for money matched pairs are the Sontronics STC-1S condenser mics. I have a very sexy black pair of these and I am hoping that by the end of this review I will have a greater understanding of their use and suitability.

Sontronics are a UK based company that launched their brand at the NAMM show in 2005. their microphones are designed in the UK but hand made in Shanghai, which allows them to produce top quality at a great price. They now have a great reputation and a large range of affordable, but professional quality products, which are used by famous artists and recording engineers around the world.

The STC-1 is a small diaphragm condenser microphone. It is available either as a single STC-1 mic or as an STC-1S stereo pair. You can purchase them in either silver (in a brushed nickel finish) or in black (with a satin finish and gold lettering). I know I have the black set but they do look very professional!

The mics come in a stylish wooden box with a classy velvet interior, which is excellent for protecting them in storage or during transportation. They also come with mounting clips, windshields and a stereo mounting bar.

The two STC-1 mics feature a cardioid polar pattern and its frequency response runs from 20 Hz – 20 kHz. They also each have an attenuation or pad of -10 and -20 dB, which is very effective for preventing overload from loud signals. Additionally there is a filter with a low-cut of 75 Hz, which is great for removing rumble, and there is a further 150 Hz filter to add definition to the recording of instruments such as a guitar.

I do like the way the switches are recessed into the body of the STC-1 mics. I suppose this will prevent you from accidentally switching them. You can move them with the tops of your fingers and the switch settings are smartly engraved in so that they will not wear off with constant handling.

The STC-1 microphones are particularly good for the recording of acoustic instruments. You could use them for recording the sounds of things that you find in your home. Imogen Heap recently did this and used a whole manner of objects to make different percussive sounds!

If I were to record in stereo with two mics, I would want those mics to be very similar – but is that possible? the manufactures have a difficult process to go through in trying to match up two mics that are very close in performance and find pairs that have similar characteristics… but they do manage it. If they did not manage to do this, the mics would be taking in the sounds very much like we do when we have a bad cold and our hearing on one side is partly blocked. So a carefully matched pair with a similar frequency response is very important.

The stereo pair is particular great when used as overhead mics to record an acoustic drum kit. They are also good outside in live environments with a very good narrow sound rejection from the cardioid pattern.

Engineers seem to like small capsule condenser mics because they do not flatter and colour the sound like so many large capsule ones. I suppose to many of us, the idea of a mic that does flatter to improve the sound of our own voice is very welcome but when you are recording live drums for example, you don’t want any colourisation occurring. This is where a stereo matched pair of small capsule condenser mics such as the Sontronics STC-1S is an ideal choice.

The Sontronics STC-1s have on-board class-A preamps and I found that these allowed the microphones to pump out a very good signal with no unwanted noise. I like to think of this in more basic terms and say that the STC-1S microphones have a very good range of usable volume without distortion at high levels or noise at low levels, plus you also do not hear any bumps in frequencies. because of this, having these built-in preamps offers particularly great advantages when recording quieter sounds.

I particularly like the high-end of the STC-1 mic, which has a very pleasing pro-shine about it without going over the top and sounding too bright. with this much power, it seems sensible to put on the attenuation pad when you record loud instruments like drums or electric guitars, otherwise you will be going into overload.

There was no manual with my set but there is sufficient information on the Sontronics website and they do a great job of giving you help, advice and tips on matters such as mic positioning, polar patterns and filters, etc. there is also a good Youtube clip demonstrating the STC-1S microphones by the founder and MD of Sontronics himself mr Trevor Coley – check it out below!

One thing that caught my eye was something called the ‘proximity effect’, which I know I have read about in various articles. to give you an immediate idea as to what this is about, you just have to think about the sounds made by DJs on late night radio shows when they change their voice to something deep and sexy. Sontronics state that this is what you experience when a cardioid (or ‘pressure-gradient’) microphone is moved closer to its sound source and its bass response increases. People like announcers and Radio DJs use this to their advantage, as it adds a deeper sound to their voice. If, however, you prefer to avoid the effect, you can use a low-cut filter – the STC-1s have a very useful variable filter (0, 75, 150Hz) and a pad (0, -10, -20dB) built-in, which clearly demonstrates just how versatile they are.

I got my old Rogers snare drum out and tuned it up as it hasn’t seen the light of day for a while. I must say that it was in need of a bit of ‘TLC’. I recorded some stereo close mic singular strikes with a variety of tunings to get some different snare samples. the results were very pleasing and useable. the mics accurately produced all of the metallic ring and snare buzz and natural acoustic ambience.

Ok, let’s try some cymbals – I have some classic Paiste Formula 602s. I recorded different velocity hits on my 16 and 18 inch crashes and set the mics up as overheads. again, the results produced a very pleasing recording with the cymbals sounding deep and rich – I was impressed with this and research shows that many recording engineers use Sontronics STC-1s as overheads. Although they will often use other microphones (sometimes other Sontronics mics) on other parts of a drum kit, the consistent fact is that they commonly choose the STC-1s for overheads and now I can hear why.

Fortunately a friend of mine wanted me to record some acoustic guitar for him so this was an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. he had one of those Taylor 210, 6-String Dreadnought Acoustic Guitars. I can’t say I know much about guitars (or the recording of them) but this had a lovely sound so I thought that was a good start. he suggested I set up the Sontronics STC-1s at an eighty degree angle with the 75Hz filter on. His experience was invaluable and we proceeded to record the track for him. On playback, he was very pleased with the recording and felt that it was an accurate representation of his performance, capturing all of the harmonic content that he wanted to hear and I had to agree and I was very pleased with the job accomplished.

There are also two capsules available for the STC-1s; an omni-directional capsule and a hyper-cardioid capsule. Switching capsules is easy - you simple unscrew the capsule on the mic and screw in a new one!

Unfortunately I did not have these capsules (which can be purchased separately) with my set so I cannot test them but I have researched them and I think I would check out the omni-directional set, which may very well be the best out of the three. It has been said that whilst the highs detail is still present, they provide a more defined bass sound with a better, smoother response. It maybe also worth noting that the omni capsules rely on sound pressure, so you cannot get any proximity effect with them.

Each capsule is available in black or silver and they are very reasonably priced and supplied in their own ringbox with magnetic closure. Whilst these capsules are compatible with the Sontronics STC-1S matched pair, once fitted they are not considered to be ‘matched’ – only the capsules that the matched pair ship with fulfil this specification.

For all you technical guys out, here are the specifications:

Response: 25 Hz – 20 kHz

Sensitivity: 12mV/Pa -38dB ±2dB (0dB=1V/Pa 1,000Hz)

Polar pattern: cardioid

Equivalent noise level: 16dB (A-weighted) – Max SPL for 0.5%

Power source: phantom power 48V

Connector: 3-pin XLR.

I have been really impressed with the Sontronics STC-1 microphones as they seemed to provide exactly what I was looking for. They are also built extremely well, look very professional and are very versatile. Generally you get a very good sound from them, which is pure and open, but perhaps they score even higher in the higher frequencies where it’s smooth and not at all brittle like on many other mics.

The specifications are great, providing you with a High Pass Filter, Attenuation Pad and easily interchangeable capsules. the response is very impressive and they have very powerful pre-amps. On top of all of this, the price is extremely reasonable for something that will take your live and recorded sound to a whole new level, so what are you waiting for – grab yourself a pair today!

For more information on Sontronics STC-1 microphones, click the links below or give us a call on 01202 597180.

Sontronics STC-1S Matched Pair (Black) - More Info/Buy

Sontronics STC-1S Matched Pair (Silver) - More Info/Buy

Sontronics STC-1 (Black) - More Info/Buy

Sontronics STC-1 (Silver) – More Info/Buy

Sontronics STC Omni Capsule (Black) – More Info/Buy

Sontronics STC Omni Capsule (Silver) - More Info/Buy

Sontronics STC Hyper Capsule (Black) - More Info/Buy

Sontronics STC Hyper Capsule (Silver) - More Info/Buy

SONTRONICS STC-1S CONDENSER MICROPHONES (MATCHED PAIR) REVIEW

Paradigm Shift e3m

January 27th, 2012 master No comments

Paradigm is well known in the hi-fi audio realm for making some of the most affordable, excellent-sounding speakers under $1000, the Mini Monitors. Recently, Paradigm announced a more affordable line of speakers and—in a first for the company—earphones. The line is called Paradigm Shift, and the e3m, at $129.99 (direct), is the most expensive of the three earphone pairs the company unveiled at CES 2012. Fans of the signature smooth bass response of Paradigm speakers will not be disappointed, as the e3m offers plenty of clean, robust low-end that never distorts, even at top volume. Some listeners might prefer a bit more brightness or high frequency presence, but the response is not so muted in the highs that it could be called muffled. Overall, the e3m is a strong debut for Paradigm in the earphone realm.

DesignOffered in white or black (ours was black), the e3m features earpieces with aluminum housings for the 8-mm super-neodymium drivers. They’re metallic-covered at the base, where the ear tips slide on, and black on the ends, with the Paradigm Shift logo emblazoned in silver on each earpiece. Red plastic, hidden by the eartips, marks the right earpiece. one tip in each ear tip pair—there are three differently-sized pairs included—also has red on it to keep things straight. The earpieces provide a secure seal and decent passive noise reduction, with the cable extending straight down from the ear. (Paradigm will also offer earhooks as an accessory for the Shift earphone line—rubberized sleeves for the cable that fit over the top of the ear, for those who prefer to wear the earphones upside down, with the cable shooting up and behind the ear.) The cable is covered in black, tangle-resistant cloth. It’s not tangle-proof, but it should be easier to keep the e3m’s cable more tidy than a typical earphone cable.

Along the right ear’s cable, there is a small compartment housing a microphone and a single-button control system for answering calls. it works with most modern, popular phones, including the iPhone, but since it’s not designed for one phone in particular, it doesn’t handle any of them particularly gracefully. Paradigm Shift e3m inlineOn the iPhone 4S, for instance, the single button needs to be tapped rapidly twice to skip a song, and three times to accomplish other tasks. The three-button iPhone controls included on most earphone pairs these days are far more efficient. The trade-off is that Paradigm’s earphones will also work with most smartphones. still, it feels like a control system from a few years back, and will likely annoy iPhone users who are familiar with the modern controls on other earphones. The 3.5mm connection is straight and narrow, which makes it ideal for mobile phones with bulkier cases. The e3m also comes with a compact, padded travel case.

PerformanceOne thing newcomers to the earphone realm often get wrong is bass performance—not just how much or how little bass to include in the earphones’ sound signature, but also how well the drivers will handle deep bass at higher volumes. It’s refreshing to see Paradigm get this right on the first try. Not only does the e3m offer exemplary bass response with articulate but powerful lows, but there is never any distortion. Even on tracks with seriously deep bass, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” and even at maximum volume, the e3m’s remain clean.

Bass response isn’t everything, though, and one thing audiophiles might find lacking is the high frequency response. When bass is intense and the higher frequencies lack the same amount of presence in the overall response, the result is often described as muddy or muffled. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the e3m sounds muffled, but there is less of an emphasis on the higher frequencies and crispness of vocals and percussion than you will find in similarly priced-models, like the Shure SE215 (4 stars, $119) and the Bowers & Wilkins C5 In-Ear Headphones (4.5 stars, $179.95). Both of those pairs won Editors’ Choice awards and offer a much crisper high frequency response without sacrificing the low end. The e3m, however, sounds almost refreshing for dialing back the highs a bit—a sound sometimes attributed to vinyl and referred to as “warmth.” if you’re seeking the opposite of warmth, the Etymotic ER-4PT (4.5, $299)—another Editors’ Choice—though far more expensive, is an industry standard for flat response, and has a distinctive crisp response with subtle, less intense low-end.

So, we’ll call this a matter of taste. if you favor crisp, super-articulate highs, the e3m is probably not for you. if you’re looking for a warmer sound, favoring the bass frequencies without getting muddy, the e3m may be just what you’re looking for. if all the aforementioned options are all out of your budget, perhaps you should check out another PCMag Editors’ Choice, the AKG K 325 (4 stars, $79.95)—at about $50 less, it’s a steal, and still delivers laudable bass response and overall clarity.

 more Headphone Reviews:•   Paradigm Shift e3m•   Altec Lansing A1 Custom Single Driver Earphone•   Phiaton PS 20 BT•   Polk Audio UltraFit3000•   Klipsch Image ONE Headphones•  more

Paradigm Shift e3m

Rode Limited Edition Classic II Microphone

November 2nd, 2011 master No comments

Rode Classic II limited edition

Press Release: to commemorate the Classic and Classic II tube microphonesRØDE has announced a custom edition of its Classic II, exclusively limited to an edition of 500 worldwide.

The release of this microphone coincides with RØDE’s decision to retire the RØDE Classic lineage, following a celebrated 15 years as the Australian microphone manufacturer’s flagship model. 

At the heart of the microphones’ ‘classic sound’ is the 6072 twin triode valve, as found in most of history’s most revered transducers. the transformer, custom designed by Jensen to perfectly match the 6072, pairs with the valve to provide the signature classic warmth. 

Both the Classic and Classic II capsules are hand assembled dual pressure gradient transducers, sputtered with pure gold. the microphone body is machined from solid brass and polished by hand before coating with stain nickel. 

This new limited edition Classic II microphone is the most exclusive offering that RØDE has ever presented –– only 500 microphones will be crafted, and then the RØDE Classic badge will be retired into audio history. 

For the very first time the RØDE Classic is finished in a lustrous matte black, with the ‘15 Years of Classic Sound’ logo proudly etched onto the microphone’s brass body to signify the microphone’s esteemed status as one of the most revered tube microphones of the last 30 years. 

A second of the extremely rare 6072 twin triode tubes is supplied in a custom made, etched aluminium storage cylinder to ensure that this microphone’s classic sound will last for many years to come. A leather bound embossed collector’s coffee table book documents the history of RØDE’s flagship microphone. 

RØDE’s reputation of providing outstanding product support and warranty is exemplified in the microphone’s lifetime warranty. upon online registration the owner will receive a fully personalised titanium warranty card featuring their name and the serial number of their microphone. 

The microphone’s aluminium case and power transformer are also finished in black, and marked with the commemorative logo.  the included 30’ (10m) cable features double-shielded, oxygen free copper wiring with heavy duty plugs and sockets. A suspension shock mount and stand mount are also included to complete the package. 

For more information on this extremely limited collector’s edition please visit http://rodemic.com/classic

RØDE Classic II Limited Edition: RRP £2149 inc VATExpected availability Mid-December in the UK.A video announcing the new product is also available here – http://vimeo.com/30055403

RØDE Classic II Limited Edition: RRP £2149 inc VAT

Expected availability Mid-December in the UK.

A video announcing the new product is available here http://vimeo.com/30055403

Rode Limited Edition Classic II Microphone

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