5 of the best live microphones on the market

PSNEurope takes a look at some of the best live microphones available on the market...
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When you consider the technical complexities of the professional audio industry as a whole, a feature on microphones makes for a broad topic. Narrow it down to live microphones, and, well, you’ve hardly narrowed it down. 

From handheld mics to instrument mounts – many of which boast wireless-enabled features – we present PSNEurope’s round-up of just some of the latest mic products on the market, from a host of leading manufacturers across the globe. 

In compiling our mic guide, we spoke to senior figures at several established brands to find out what sets their product apart from the rest. Focusing on a single, or range of products from their latest lines, we’ve also included a product specification for you to compare the models piece-by-piece. Testing, one two, one two… 

AKG - C636

“The new AKG C636 master reference handheld condenser microphone is the successor to the acclaimed C535 microphone, which brought studio quality sound to the live environment,”says Nick Boggon, marketing manager at Sound Technology. “In addition to a custom-tuned capsule with hand-selected components, the C636 is engineered to address three common problems singers face on stage: feedback, handling noise and pop noise. 

“The C636 essentially eliminates feedback by combining a uniform cardioid polar pattern throughout the entire frequency spectrum, with a specially designed suspension and grille for the capsule. This unique approach to housing the capsule avoids unwanted sound reflections on the back of the capsule, ensuring feedback and spill over rejection. 

“The C636 innovates by integrating the world’s first double shock suspension system, greatly reducing unwanted handling noise. The capsule sits on a highly absorbent rubber bearing that eliminates any structure-based noise, while an adjustable balancing network cancels vibrations over a wide frequency range. “A multilayer protection system prevents unwanted pop noises. The protection system consists of the grille, a foam layer behind the grille and a magnetically attached computer-modelled mesh layer on top of the capsule, providing singers with a clear, plosive-free vocal performance. This threelayer protection system is virtually unique to AKG and sets the new standard for pop noise suppression in the market.” 

• Frequency range: 20 Hz to 20 kHz

• Polar pattern: Cardioid 

• Dimensions: 185mm (l) x 51mm (d)

• Cable length: n/a 

• Weight: 450g

Audio-Technica ATM350a

Audio Technica

“Audio-Technica’s ATM350a cardioid condenser microphone is designed for remarkable versatility and rock-solid mounting on a wide variety of instruments, and is well-suited to a tough life on the road,” says an Audio-Technica spokesperson tells PSNEurope.

“The ATM350a capsule delivers crisp, well-balanced response and handles high SPL levels. As such, it’s ideal for a range of dynamic instruments including piano, drums, brass instruments and more. A wide frequency response and 12dB/octave low frequency roll-o­ at 80Hz add to the flexibility of the ATM350a, while the cardioid pickup pattern helps to minimise spill from other sound sources on busy stages.

“In addition to its sonic prowess, the ATM350a’s biggest asset is the array of high-quality mounting options available for the microphone. Universal clipon mounts come in both long and short gooseneck options, while the clever drum mount allows access to tuning rods and adds suspension to isolate the mic from shell vibration. A magnetic piano mount and simple-to-use woodwind velcro strap mount round out the ATM350a’s hardware option list. 

“And, as with the rest of Audio-Technica’s Artist Series live-oriented wired microphones, the ATM350a is covered by a lifetime warranty.” 

• Frequency response: 40 Hz to 20 kHz 

• Polar pattern: Cardioid 

• Input: 159 dB SPL maximum 

• Output: n/a • Dimensions: 37.8mm (l) x 12.2mm (d) 

• Cable length: 4m 

• Weight: 14.5g

Audix - OM Series

Audix

“The OM Series Dynamic vocal microphones each have unique characteristics, designed for certain voices or stages,” says Audix’s marketing manager Abbey Masciarotte. “The most essential element of a good live microphone is the sound quality it delivers for your voice and application. “No matter which OM microphone you choose, all Audix microphones provide superior off-axis rejection, as well as industry-leading SPL handling and gain before feedback, particularly on stages with very high noise environments. Audix OM Series microphones provide clear, authentic vocal reproduction without the need for lots of EQ. All you need to do is turn it up!” 

• Frequency response: 50 Hz to 16 kHz 

• Polar pattern: Hypercardioid 

• Maximum SPL: >140 dB 

• Dimensions: 176 mm (l) 

• Cable length: n/a 

• Weight: 307g Turn

DPA d:vote 4099

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"The award-winning Dvote 4099 Instrument Microphone gives a much more natural sound than any internal microphone or pickup,” says DPA’s vice president of marketing Anne Berggrein. 

“This condenser microphone rejects unwanted noise and accurately captures the true voice of an instrument, making for a product with high versatility that can be used in a range of live performance environments. “Designed with a supercardioid polar pattern, for high rejection and superior gain before feedback, the mic retains a highly uniform frequency response. It features an enhanced shock mount design and detachable cables, as well as a versatile gooseneck extender that provides stable and repeatable positioning. 

"With a wide range of instrument clips available, it is easy to find one that would work well with any instrument. These clips allow the mic to be easily repositioned or moved to another instrument and it won’t blemish or scratch the finish of your instrument. The flexible design of the Dvote also supports a wide variety of mounting and positioning possibilities. 

“For musicians who like to record sound on the go, the new Dvice MMA-A Digital Audio Interface lets you quickly attach your Dvote and ensures high-quality audio and video recording via your mobile device.” 

• Frequency range: 20 Hz to 20 kHz 

• Directional pattern: Supercardioid 

• Maximum SPL: 142 dB 

• Dimensions: 45mm (l) x 5.4mm (d) 

• Cable length: 1.8m 

• Weight: 46g 

Earthworks SR40V

“Earthworks’ SR40V is designed specifically for live vocals,” the company’s Eric Walker tells PSNEurope. “On the surface it is a 40kHz hypercardioid, but, as with other Earthworks microphones, the SR40V delivers fl at extended frequency response, as well as fast clean impulse response and textbook perfect polar response. 

“In combination, these factors provide a silky clean, transparent on-axis sound with no harshness at all, a very forgiving consistent area of pickup combined with extreme on axis rejection that delivers more gain before feedback than any other mics we know of. 

“The package has a good heft to it and feels comfortable in the hand. It is painted with a baked epoxy finish that is intended to take the abuse that happens on the road. It is well protected from plosives and has notably low handling noise. 

“For the artist, the SR40V delivers the sound of their performance to the FOH without colour, also making the job of the FOH engineer relatively easy. Many users have reported needing little or no EQ with the SR40V. “However, if you do choose to EQ, almost always very little is required. The bottom line is, you don’t have to fight with the mic to get a good sound. When you do use EQ, it is to adjust for the source – it’s not because of the failings of a conventional microphone.” 

• Frequency response: 50 Hz to 40 kHz 

• Polar/directional pattern: Hypercardioid 

• Maximum acoustic input: 145dB SPL 

• Output: XLR (pin 2+) 

• Dimensions: 184mm (l) x 27.5mm (d) 

• Cable length: n/a 

Read the 7 best live mixers round-up here

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