Monday, May 13, 2013
REVIEW: Electro-Voice RE18
A few years ago, one of my classes took on the task of identifying the best hand-held vocal mic available. We had an opportunity to look at Neuman's KMS 104/105s, Sennheiser's e 965, Shure's KSM9, EV's RE-410, and the usual suspects of dynamics (SM58, SM57, etc.). The end result of that test was that we recommended the school buy several of the Sennheiser microphone.
After the test was completed, we continued to play with the Neuman and Sennheiser in a variety of live applications. One result of that activity was the paranoid-seeming warning in my shootout write-up: "WARNING! There is one big downside to using condensers in a live environment that should be discussed before you ever consider this adventure: cables and phantom power. The live environment is not conducive to cable integrity and 48VDC can deliver a driver-shattering blast when it is toggled off and on through a defective mic cable. Before using a hand-held condenser on stage, you should be very careful in selecting the mic cable for this application and consider the talent and cable-abuse-tendencies of the performer. If there was ever a good time to consider quad-star mic cables, this is probably it." As much as I love condenser microphones in all of their musically accurate glory, cheap cables and live sound and condensers do not mix well.
The school's live stage equipment is pretty abused and marginally maintained, so my recommendation to buy the e965s was probably less enthusiastic than it might have been after a few near-catestrophic phantom-popping events. One result from those moments was that I included a pair of my personal RE-18's in a later comparison. While I have always loved these microphones, it was eye-opening to hear my ancient (1980's vintage) microphones stood up to the best modern technology. At first, all of us had difficulty telling the Sennheiser from the EV. The clarity of both microphones was head-and-shoulders above the usual SM58 muddle, but the RE-18's lack of proximity and sibilance control was noticably better than the Sennheiser. Handling noise was also better in the EV. In the hands of one of the school's best vocal instructor/performers, the EV performed like a studio microphone; providing incredible isolation from the stage instrumentation and near-transparent reproduction of her voice.
If you look at the RE-18's spec sheet, you'll find that the manufacturer provided a collection of specifications that are uncommon in today's market. My favorite nearly-non-existent specification is "off-axis reponse." This is never a pretty chart, as much as we'd like to imagine cardioid microphones are really cardioid. As ugly as it is, this chart (left) is about as good as it gets in vocal microphones. With as little as 15dB of off-axis rejection in the upper-range and 50-150Hz and as much as 20-30dB in the upper mid-range to 10kHz, the RE-18 is a very directional microphone. There is no specification for shock-isolation, but the RE-18 is multiply rubber-mounted from case: everything from the step-up transformer to the element are shock-mounted and handling noise is all but non-existent.
If you would like a general description of the RE-18, S.O. Coutant does a fine job on his excellent microphones website: http://www.coutant.org/evre18/index.html. However, the best sonic description I can provide is "clarity." Voices through the RE-18 cut through the mix without equalization or a particularly high level. Like the condenser hand-helds, the RE-18 does not provide the low-mid honk of the SM-58 and that is what many live engineers have come to describe as "presence" on their way to hearing impairment.
Wirebender Audio Rants
Over the dozen years I taught audio engineering at Musictech College and McNally Smith College of Music, I accumulated a lot of material that might be useful to all sorts of budding audio techs and musicians. This site will include comments and questions about professional audio standards, practices, and equipment. I will add occasional product reviews with as many objective and irrational opinions as possible.