Beyond the 57: 3 Versatile Studio Mics

There are a lot of microphones out there that have earned the mantle of "industry standard." Mics like the Neumann U 47 and Shure SM57 may dwell at opposite ends of the price spectrum, but their reputation as essential all–arounders means that when professional and novice recordists are looking to add reliable all–purpose mics to their setups, fallbacks like these are usually at the top of their list of potential buys.

Yet while these mics (and others like them) have carried their reputations for decades, there are still plenty of new designs hitting the market that are capable of similar do–it–all deployments.

Today we're looking at three newer mics that score high marks on the versatility meter.

Mesanovic Model 2 Ribbon Microphone

The Mesanovic Model 2 has been around for a few years now, and its reputation continues to grow as more and more recordists give this ribbon a whirl.

It's no mystery that ribbons have made a serious resurgence in the past decade following a couple generations of dormancy, and the Model 2 takes advantage of many of the ribbon mic innovations to come around since their advent in the 1920s. The result is a mic that delivers that classic, smooth ribbon sound with the reliability and durability that comes with modern mic building techniques.

Early era ribbon mics built before the days of modern neodymium magnets were, by necessity, larger than their modern counterparts and with longer front to back audio paths around their ribbon motors. These designs often sucked out some high–frequency content, giving ribbon mics a reputation as delivering less than crystalline highs compared to the state–of–the–art German condensers of the day.

By comparison, the Mesanovic Model 2 features a remarkably short path with newly designed resonator plates that give a 3db boost around 12 kHz. This short path heightens the highs while maintaining the vintage ribbon mids and low range, resulting in one of the most versatile ribbon mics on the market today.

Mesanovic mics are built by hand in Detroit, and come with a lifetime warranty, along with an undeniably sleek form factor. The mic company also makes an active version called the Model 2A, a stereo version called the Model 2S, and an active stereo version, the Model 2AS.

What makes it unique: Smooth ribbon sounds with extended high–end.

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Soundelux USA U195

The Soundelux USA U195 is the third iteration of a now classic design by David Bock, renowned studio tech and microphone designer. This wholly flexible, handmade large diaphragm condenser mic follows the Bock Audio 195 and earlier Soundelux U195 produced in the 1990s, with thousands of specimens in the wild all together.

The U195 was designed as an all–purpose FET condenser. It can stand up to high–SPL situations quite well, making it a worthy U 47 FET replacement for kick drums, bass amps and powerful vocalists at a third of the price.

Along with an output pad for louder sources, the U195’s bass response is highly tailorable with low–frequency rolloff and “FAT” switches. When all three are used at once in front of a kick drum or bass amplifier, the effect is quite similar to what you’d get from boosting and attenuating lows concurrently on a Pultec-style EQ — a more pronounced and forceful bottom end that stays controlled and tight and doesn’t beat the daylights out of your mic preamp.

While it would be easy to permanently delegate the U195 to kick drum duties, experimenting with it on any and all acoustic instruments tends to yield tremendous rewards. Its notable, yet pleasing presence boost centered around 12kHz lends itself extremely well to stringed instruments and will only sound “harsh” if the instrument you’re recording started out that way.

What makes it unique: Fat mode for when you just need some more bass in your face.

Aston Spirit

While the two mics we've covered thus far are true would be at home in any professional, purpose–built studio, there are plenty of versatile recording mics to be found on the lower end of the price spectrum. It's this exact pitch that's the microphones of the newly formed Aston company straight the top of the list of best values in recording gear.

The Spirit is the second mic from the UK firm, expanding on the original Origin with an extra pad level, and selectable Omni, Cardioid and Figure–of–Eight polar patterns. The Origin also boasts a slightly higher max SPL at 138dB.

Generally speaking, the specs and frequency curve of the Spirit is similar to many LDC mics.

While most at home with acoustic instrument and vocals, these sturdy British mic can handle just about any source.

Aston uses a unique, highly durable mesh head with a built–in pop filter in a spartan metal chassis. Picking one up, you can just tell that this British–built mics have a sturdiness and build quality not usually found in the sub $400 bracket.

In this price range, it's difficult to argue with the sheer performance delivered by this microphone. It's an easy choice for any home recording novice looking for their first condenser, or even a studio just looking to add a new vegetable to their microphone salad bar.

For another offering from Aston, be sure to take a look at their laser–equipped Starlight pencil mics, released at NAMM this past January.

What makes it unique: Rugged, UK–built LDC at a remarkable price point.

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