Monday, September 2, 2013

REVIEW: Studio Projects LSD2

lsd2This is an unusual review, even for me.  I don't usually report on the actual guts of a microphone.  This mic  offered a rare opportunity, since it was defective and seemed to be hardly worth reviving.  The Studio Projects LSD2 is a large element condenser microphone.  It is, as best I can tell nothing more sophisticated than two Studio Projects C3 microphones in a single package.  Often, economically, it doesn't make sense to buy a stereo microphone unless you are unable to figure out mic stands.  The C3 costs about $269 (street).  The LSD2 costs about $700 (street), or 1.33 times the cost of two C3s. 

If you are a dedicated M-S or X/Y stereo recordist, you can make a lightweight case for owning a flexible stereo mic.  Often, I don't think the case holds up under serious scrutiny.  First, the price disadvantage is overwhelming.  Second, this is not a high-end, precisely matched instrument.  Third, the LSD2 is extremely fragile and somewhat undependable.  If you like the sound of the B3/C3, I think you're better served by buying four or five copies of either of those microphones for the flexibility and reliability.

The top element is connected to the electronics through a cheesy commutator/slip-ring mechanism.  The brushes are simply thin bent copper sheet metal and they do not move equally easy in two directions.  However, the element will be required to rotate in either direction, resulting in damage to the brushes and unreliable connection from the element to the electronics.  This is the biggest flaw in the ointment, but not the only one.

The previously reviewed Studio Projects’ B3 mics are notorious for unreliable switches.  The two slide switches that allow selection of polar pattern and response/padding are among the cheapest, most fragile switches I've ever experienced.  There are four of these switches on the LSD2.  If the contact ring doesn't get you, the switches will.

The mic is exceptionally heavy, putting a serious burden on any boom stand.  The Studio Projects shock mount is not up to the demands of this overweight mic.  In fact, the SP shock mount is a disappointment for any microphone application.  The keyed connector housing of the mic must be carefully misaligned with the slot in the shock mount housing, or the mic will slip from the mount and crash to the ground.  The wingnut doesn't tighten the clip down tight enough to hold the mic steady.   

On the upside is the sound.  Read my review of the Studio Projects B3 for more detail about the sound of that microphone.  The C3 is substantially better. This dual element condenser holds it's polar pattern for considerably further than typical distance.  M-S can be used for good sized rooms, as can Blumline and X-Y.  I've found this not to be true for a large number of programmable polarity mics at all price ranges. 

Supposedly, Studio Projects has fixed the problem with the connector ring.  If they have, this is certainly a price-attractive microphone for studio applications.  If they haven't, it's awfully expensive for a short  term solution.

NOTE: This package has expanded to other brands since this review was first written and posted (Avantone CK-40, Pearl Microphone Labs DS-60, and others). There are at least two companies labeling almost this exact package in their own brand . I suspect the faults and weaknesses I found in the LSD2 will be copied to the other brands, too.

Turns out, there is a fix for the commutator problems, assuming careful handling afterwards. For a school, I still think a stereo microphone is a poor choice due to the abuse it will assuredly see. However, the brushes are poorly stressed during the Chinese manufacturing process and the slip-ring is not lubricated. When I pre-stressed the brushes almost twice as far as the original bend and applied 100% Caig CalLube (now called deOxit FaderLube IT) to the contacts and slip-ring, the noise level on the upper element vanished to the same level as the lower element and, after three years of regular use in live recording situations, the microphone never failed to give good service.  Reassembly is tricky and if you are not spectacularly careful you can re-stress the brushes during assembly and lose any advantage gained from the process.


Anonymous said...

The advantage to these mics is footprint. A single mic is preferable to a stereo rig in many real world applications. Sitting on a stage it is more inconspicuous, and I have had less objections to it than a pair of mics on a stereo bar or whatever. You can stick center stage in front of the singers mic stand and it doesn't especially stand out.

Thomas Day said...

This is a pretty large mic, if footprint is a real objection. In either its red (Avantone) or silver (Studio Projects) configuration, it is awfully conspicuous for a stage application. Personally, I'd rather use a small pair of condensers for X-Y or the Schoeps minature mics and mounts for MS.

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.