|In the winter of 2008 I decided
to listen to every small diaphragm mic in the world.
Besides my blissful ignorance as to the amount of SD mics extant (I've listened to more than 90 and I'm still not finished), I also figured that even the highly coveted and expensive models such as the DPA 4011, Sanken CO-100K, Gefell M296 and Schoeps CMC64 were within my reach. After all, I've bought and sold gear on eBay for years and have learned a little something about something. Hell, if I couldn't buy the mics I'd at least find a way to borrow them.
By January of 2009 -- after having listened to more than two dozen mics on my own -- it occurred to me that maybe others would want to hear about this project, so I hit up Tape Op editor Larry Crane about doing an article for the magazine. Crane was reluctant , since he's not a big fan of shoot-outs and tends to grab whatever mic's closest in the studio. I assured him I could keep it to a 900-word overview.
I really meant it at the time and for the record I did turn in a 900-word first draft. Kinda brief. More like an outline than an article. It took me 100 words just to name the mics and another 200 to name the studios, manufacturers and individuals nice enough to spare an SD mic for the shoot-out. Nine hundred words really didn't cut it and the screed Tape Op eventually published was twice as long and still had to be cut for space.
I don not have to cut for space here. I've even written this new intro to precede the old one. Sure hope I'm not getting too greedy, Internet attention spans being what they are.
What follows is the expanded, unabridged, even biggerassed version of the original Tape Op article and what we learned during the course of the shoot-out, a term I'm using loosely since the mics were recorded separately during a period of six months. Besides my findings, I'm including comments offered by some members of the listening panel as well as further thoughts from myself on the subject. After all, I'm still listening to SD mics for this never-ending work in progress.* I'm also going to include some info I didn't include in the original article, such as which mic was picked most overall by the 21-member listening panel.
That said, mics in every price category did well. Remember, the test was done on acoustic guitar only and on one specific Collings C-10 at that. Had the test been conducted using stereo SD mics on classical music, who knows what would have happened. In that scenario, I'd bet that the pricey heavy hitters -- Schoeps, DPA, Neumann, Sanken, Sennheiser, Gefell and Josephson/Gefell -- would rule entirely. But that's just a guess.
Now. On to the uncut version of the intro that was originally (and partially) published in Tape Op magazine.
* If you have an SD mic you think I should hear, please get in touch with me by sending an email to bizdeceptivesounddotcom. (Don't forget the "at" after biz.)