Monday, August 19, 2013

REVIEW: Studio Projects C4

sp-c4Here's what Studio Projects has to say about their C4 Condenser microphone:

"The C4 is small diaphragm condenser microphone fe aturing interchangeable capsules, switchable -10dB pad/high pass filter and a linear low-noise, solid state amplifier body. The microphone’s modularity makes it a useful multi-purpose tool intended for all-around use on stage, on location and in studios of all caliber. "

No brag, just the facts.  Musictech College hooked on to the Studio Projects microphones in 2002 to provide students with access to a high quality small element condenser mic that wouldn't cost the school an arm and a leg when a student found a way to misuse the mic as a drum stick (or a drum practice pad),  The street price of a C4 pair is about $370.  The C4 kit comes with a pair of microphone bodies, two each cardioid and omni capsules, shock mounts, and a solid storage case.  A lot of bang for the buck.  The mics met the school's requirement, but the real test was did they meet the instructor's expectations.

The answer was a resounding "yes." 

We've found the C4s to be one of the most useful and accurate microphones we've used.  For the price, I've never run into a better recording tool.  These microphones are quick, clean, and precise.  Used in close proximity to strings, acoustic guitars, or other moderate acoustic output instruments the C4s deliver a very credible representation of the instrument's actual output.  Louder stuff requires the use of the C4's 10dB pad, but if what you hear is what you want on tape, the C4 is up to the task.  

The omni capsule is specially precise.  Without a proximity effect and with a very flat frequency response, the omni C4 is a wonderful tool for recording an acoustic environment.  The cardioid C4 capsule is more "effected," but it is still a very smooth and accurate microphone, even when compared to studio standards like the SM81 or the 451B.  It's hard to find a more uncontroversial recommendation than the C4 stereo condenser combination. 

Of course there's always a downside.  One downside to the C4 is the capsule replacement.  Like most microphones of this style, the capsules thread on to the microphone body very carefully.  The aluminum body and fine threads combine to make a very precarious initiation to mechanical devices for those who are not hand-to-eye skilled.  In our school environment, we have few requirements for omni microphones which is a good thing because the students would have destroyed our C4s a year ago if there had been a need for them to replace the capsules. 

Another picky fault of the C4 is its tolerance for humidity.  It has none.  In the early summer months, Minnesota gets warm and wet and so do our studios.  Several times this spring, the humidity gauge in our main studios indicated 75%+ humidity and the C4s gave us a little indication of non-ideal conditions, too.  Under these conditions, the C4s provided us with random low frequency sputtering noises that sounded a bit like intermittent cable connections, failing capacitors, or other pre-amp oriented noises. When the humidity dropped below 70%, the C4s quieted down.  This isn't unusual behavior for small element condensers, so I'm not really picking on the Studio Projects offering, in particular.  However, as a comparison, replacing the C4s in this situation with a pair of Shure KSM141s resolved the noise generation.  Some microphones are more tolerant of mildly hostile environments than others.

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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.