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#3068943 11/06/20 05:54 PM
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[re-posted from Pro Audio Workshop, because I'm lazy. Thought they might have some comments on construction, and y'all here might be interested in a mighty good sounding $200 large capsule side address condenser mic]

I had another impulse microphone purchase yesterday, based on a review I read from a reviewer that I trust. Apparently this mic has been around for a year or so, but I hadn't heard of it. There are several reviews out there, along with some poo-pooing on Gearslutz, with the theme that it sounds a lot like a U87, and only costs 200 bucks.

It's the Stellar X2 from ToneZone.

I don't want to try to review it here because I don't do a lot of work any more so don't have the opportunity to try it on varied sources, but I'll tell you that on my spoken voice, it really does sound darn close to the first of my U87s that I picked out of the closet I think that's a good start. It feels like a quality microphone, nothing cheap looking or feeling about it with the exception of the sticker that covers one side of the Anvil-ish case that it came with. I plan to peel that off once I decide to keep the mic.


It's made from parts coming from various places (just like cars) with final testing in California. It's a single pattern cardioid with what looks like about a 1-inch center terminated capsule. The manufacturer says they get their diaphragm mylar from Japan and have a gold-sputtering source that they claim produces a thinner and more even coating than others. There are two circuit boards inside, with no surface mounted components, a few Wima capacitors, and 1% resistors. I don't know what the transistors are or where they came from, but it looks like all discrete components. Transformerless output, of course (wha'cha expect for $200 and good quality?) and the case is steel and doesn't ring when tapped.


Based on some replies from the manufacturer to criticisms on Gearslutz, which weren't about performance at all but that you could build a similar one yourself (quoting a capsule and body source), both the capsule and their version of the Schoeps mic amp circuit have gone through a few revisions from what the GS reviewer's version, so if you go to Gearslutz for your reviews, take that, and the manufacturer's polite and detailed replies, in stride.


It seems like one of their intended applications is as an upscale voice mic for professional podcast producers and out-of-work voice-over artists setting up to work at home. My hands are messed up with neuropathy these days so I can hardly pick (or even hold one) but I'll probably strum into it in the next couple of days, and will likely keep it for those times when I run out of U87s (which means needing more than two) or using them for their omni or figure-8 patterns.


Tonezone at heart is a distributor of a bunch of decent quality brands of home hi-fi equipment. The microphone is apparently a division or subset of the distributor. They also make a similar model ($250) that they're aiming toward those who prefer the U47 over the U87 for certain things, and they're also working on a multi-pattern version. I don't know who's involved with this company, but they sound like they're more seriously into understanding microphones than importing ready-made designs.


They sell through Amazon and also have their own eBay store for direct sales. Today's my last day of the free month trial of Amazon Prime, and I ordered the mic about 10 AM, and it was on my doorstep when I got back from my walk at around 4 PM. Amazing.


https://techzoneaudioproducts.com/products/the-new-stellar-x2-large-capsule-condenser-microphone or

https://techzoneaudioproducts.com/collections/tz-collection

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The chart for the polar patter is "interesting".
I've not seen one like it before. Are they just drawing alternating left and right sides of the specific frequency patterns with the assumption of symmetry?

That's my guess, in which case it's looking like most of them do. Seems like it would be nearly impossible to make a mic with deeply asymmetric patterns and no real point to doing so.

Just curiosity since it does look a bit weird. Keep us posted as you give it a spin.

In that price range I would probably get one of the S-25 or T-25 mic kits from Microphone Parts, it would be fun and interesting to build a kit mic.
I do think it's great that microphone technology is advancing due to breakthroughs in precision manufacturing, your mic looks like a good step forward and competition in that realm benefits all of us who love microphones.


It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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Originally Posted by KuruPrionz
The chart for the polar patter is "interesting".
I've not seen one like it before. Are they just drawing alternating left and right sides of the specific frequency patterns with the assumption of symmetry?

[img]https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0297/1523/4954/files/Stellar_X2_FR.jpg?v=1596400674[/img]
Hey! I have the right UBB codes surrounding that link. How come it doesn't display in the message? Aw, click!

You got it. Regardless of how it measures, they draw the polar pattern symmetrical because ultimately, it comes out of the marketing department, not the engineering department. By allocating only 180 degrees to the off-axis response they can put more space between the curves so they're easier to read. Except did you notice that they didn't put any numbers on that polar patter? Who knows how many dB there is between each circle? The engineering department, I guess. And they only draw patterns for four frequencies when there are eight frequencies listed on the plot.

A way of showing off-axis response that I like better than a polar plot is a family of frequency response curves at different angles off axis. Hardly anyone publishes those these days, probably because they're too easy to interpret. And besides, everyone's used to seeing a polar pattern.

Quote
Seems like it would be nearly impossible to make a mic with deeply asymmetric patterns and no real point to doing so.

I don't know of any manufacturer who intentionally makes a mic with an asymmetric polar pattern, though singers who grab the mic in a way that covers up the rear vents do it all the time. Screws with the frequency response, too, but looks good on TV.

Quote
In that price range I would probably get one of the S-25 or T-25 mic kits from Microphone Parts, it would be fun and interesting to build a kit mic.
I do think it's great that microphone technology is advancing due to breakthroughs in precision manufacturing, your mic looks like a good step forward and competition in that realm benefits all of us who love microphones.

I've heard some very good reports about the mics built from those kits. Are they offering bodies yet, perhaps ones that they're having made to their specs? Early on the idea was that you had a "donor" mic and put their guts in the donor's body. The MXL-990 (which is still in current production and comes out with a few new body colors now and then) was a popular donor. I have one of those, and it's a serviceable mic as is. Nothing great, though the 991 that came in the kit with it is excellent on old time banjos.

I sprung for the TZ because I seem to have missed out on the $100 King Bee blowout. Difference is that I've known about the Bees since they came out several years ago, and I just read about the TZ the other day. Impulse buy, like I said, but easy to return if I find anything I don't like about it to never use it.

Last edited by Mike Rivers; 11/07/20 02:00 AM.
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Originally Posted by Mike Rivers
[quote=KuruPrionz]

I don't know of any manufacturer who intentionally makes a mic with an asymmetric polar pattern, though singers who grab the mic in a way that covers up the rear vents do it all the time. Screws with the frequency response, too, but looks good on TV.

I've heard some very good reports about the mics built from those kits. Are they offering bodies yet, perhaps ones that they're having made to their specs? Early on the idea was that you had a "donor" mic and put their guts in the donor's body. The MXL-990 (which is still in current production and comes out with a few new body colors now and then) was a popular donor. I have one of those, and it's a serviceable mic as is. Nothing great, though the 991 that came in the kit with it is excellent on old time banjos.

I sprung for the TZ because I seem to have missed out on the $100 King Bee blowout. Difference is that I've known about the Bees since they came out several years ago, and I just read about the TZ the other day. Impulse buy, like I said, but easy to return if I find anything I don't like about it to never use it.

I worked in a Motown Tribute band with a singer who would not stop gripping his mic with his hand up over the back part of the grille. With stage monitors it created this nightmare where Milt would complain to the sound guy that he couldn't hear his vocals and "turn up the monitors!!!" Of course, he was turning the mic into more or less an omni so you couldn't turn up the monitors. At one point I got off the stage, went back to the mixer and cranked Milt's mic up. It blasted him to oblivion with feedback. I turned it back down, went back up on the stage and told him to hold the mic down lower or he would never get the monitors louder.

He still wouldn't do it. laugh

Mic-Parts still offers a range of upgrades for donor mics including your MXL but they have lots of complete kits now too. If I am not mistaken the T-25 kit was recently on sale for $199. I should have grabbed one, now they are sold out again and the price went back up. That is their simplest build, it has the same capsule as the mic you just got and a transformer in the circuit (there's those pesky transformers again!!!!).

Yes, the King Bee super deals are gone now, even used ones are fetching well over $200 and one sold recently on eBay for $349, the original list price. I have one, wish I'd bought 2 - or a dozen so I could sell 10!!!

The Worker Bees are still $89 at Sweetwater, I just picked up a pair of those and I'm getting the best acoustic guitar sound I've had so far. I recorded my Rainsongs - 6 and 12 string and a nice Yamaha nylon string and they all sounded just like the guitars on playback. So those are still a screaming bargain. I don't think they are as good as the King Bees but probably the best new $90 mic to be had for love or money.

It's occurred to me that I could record a band with the Worker Bees in XY, the King Bee in the center of them, mic the vocals, the kick, go direct with the bass and mic any soloists. I have 8 inputs so I could mic up to 5 individual tracks in addition to the room mics. Roll the bass off on everything but the kick and bass guitar and you wouldn't have bass robbing phasing problems. I dunno, we have enough recording services in town already so I'll probably just keep it all at home and private. I've got a paying gig now, a pre-paid gig and another paid gig pending so that's plenty.


It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.

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