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Getting Started With Small Diaphragm Condenser Mics pt. 2

Following up on the first part of our discussion on small diaphragm condenser microphones, we’ll look at mics over the $1000 price mark.

sE Electronics RN17 - $1199

Working with legendary recording equipment engineer Rupert Neve, sE Electronics recently produced the RN17 with a groundbreaking Neve-designed hand wound transformer. The result is a depth that rivals a high-end ribbon mic.

SDC Mics

The RN17 sounds rich and has a very high frequency response due to its 15mm diaphragm–the smallest of its kind. That, combined with the Neve transformer, produces a satisfyingly silken sound. Though it’s only a few years old, don’t be surprised if this mic quickly becomes a standard in studios for instrument recording.

Telefunken ELA M 260 - $1495

For nearly fifty years, the Telefunken ELA M260 tube condenser has been one of the most popular and consistent mics for recording engineers. While its probably best for stringed instruments, it’s been used for all kinds of applications, including vocals.

Unlike most competitors, the M260 ships with three polarity capsules–cardioid, omni and supercardioid–essentially giving you three mics for the price of one.

While it may not offer the high detail and clarity of newer competitive mics, in terms of organic musicality you would be hard-pressed to find a more trusted and prolific all around mic than the M260.

Neumann KM184 - $1600

Since the Neumann KM84 was released in the 70’s as one of the first high-end small diaphragm condenser mics after the invention of phantom power, it has become a staple to many recording studios for its warm, detailed sound.

The KM 184 is Neumann’s updated version of their classic. It’s a little darker than the original, but is still bright in high range. As a benchmark for its rich and flexible sound, it’s the most used mic in the music industry for recording acoustic guitar. Other popular applications include hi-hats, drum overhead and other acoustic instruments.

For great sound and all around quality, the KM184 is as good as it gets.

Schoeps CMC 6 MK4 - $1698

For decades, Schoeps microphones have been trusted as some of the finest in the world. Engineers and producers have traditionally loved them for their detail and precision, while maintaining musicality. For some, the CMC 6 with the MK4 capsule is hands down the best mic for recording guitar. Others swear by it for vocals.

The CMC 6 MK4 has an incredible range of applications due to its nice blend of precision, musicality and neutral response. That range is further expanded with the variety of additional capsules that can be purchased. With its longstanding reputation for quality and its versatility, the CMC 6 MK4 is a superior mic for any studio.

DPA 4011A - $1700

For all around flat response and great sound, many engineers like the DPA 4011. It performs well under many applications and some artists have even adopted the 4011 as their go-to vocal mic for live performance.

It certainly competes with the Neumann KM184 in detail and quality. If you need versatility and can afford the extra cost, you can’t go wrong with the 4011.

Honorable Mention

Finally the sE Electronics 1A and the Rode NT5 deserve a nod for their bang-for-your-buck. At around $200, both mics offer a lot of quality and detail. They are a testament to how far the industry has come in terms of technology and accessibility. If your budget won't accommodate one of the aforementioned models, you will be surprised at the sound you can get from a matched pair of one of these.

Wrapping Up

A small diaphragm condenser mic will drastically expand the precision and flexibility of your studio's recording capabilities. If you're recording acoustic instruments, using a SDC is, nine times out of ten, the way to go. Even if they're pricey, the investment will be worth it as you create richer, brighter and more spacious recordings.

Finally, if you're head is spinning from all the choices–and trust us, we get that–go with the Neumann KM184. There's a reason it's so popular. It's a winner. You won't be disappointed.

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