Avant Electronics CK-1 Microphone
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June 1, 2007

 Review by Joel Patterson 

Product Price
$149

Product Features
•Compact, elegantly styled li'l beauty

•Includes shockmount (with roll-off engaged, no handling noise, none)

•Three pickup patterns

•80 Hz roll-off, -10 dB pad


Product Specs
•TYPE: True Condenser

•POLAR PATTERNS: All three

•FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 25Hz to 20kHz +/- 3dB

•MAXIMUM SPL: 130 dB (0.5% THD @ 100 Hz)

•S/N RATIO re 1Pa: 75 dB

•POWER REQUIREMENTS: Standard 48 Volt Phantom

•OUTPUT IMPEDANCE <=200 Ohms

•WEIGHT 5 oz.


First Impressions
Where do you even start? These guys have figured out the secret of giving you crisp, clean top end without any harshness, even if you CRANK that top end. You just get clarity that grows more and more vivid. The sound as it lives in the air, the immediacy of it beyond just the sound of it. And a healthy heaping of solid low end, murk-free, not flabby a bit. A pair of these would empower you do anything--maybe not be God, but easily be the God of any acoustic instruments, vibrations or accidents. Listen--you get three easily swapable capsules (omni, cardioid, hypercardioid) along with a -10 dB attenuation switch and an 80Hz high-pass filter. That means there are twelve different configurations for this one mic, not that you or anyone like you is ever picky about this kind of stuff. Get your head together, darling. This is sparkling, clear audio that grabs you.

If you see a CK-1 mounted somewhere, your first impression is one of boldness, of opulence, of swagger. Not for these guys the wimpy anonymity of brushed aluminum tubes or blackened cylinders straining for invisibleness. This design is all about glory. I read a book once that explained color schemes and how they're used in advertising. I forget what they said about red-- maybe something about the Marines or stop signs. Actually, if I remember, it was all about the napkins and towels you should take for your beach picnic--it was imagining a deliberateness about these things was was just a little absurd. Where was I?

In Use
The switches for the pad and roll-off are flimsy as hell--but they get more smoother feeling as they're exercised, and I haven't broken one yet and oh yeah... the warranty is for five years. FIVE YEARS, as David Bowie once said. That's just the warranty, that doesn't tell how many lifetimes this thing will last, or outlast. The general absence of any proximity effect until you are right ontop of it lends a gorgeous spaciousness and even temper to the sound, unforced and unhurried, revealing and "sweet." Testing the CK-1 just for fun revealed a whole world of music right under my nose. You will hear things that you didn't know were there. The whirring, spinning, singing of the G4, the paddlewheelish whoosh of the HD-24. Yet spin it around, in hypercardioid mode, and the HD-24 is a distant gurgle. The side-rejection in this mode is totally amazing. Now it's foley of a squeaking chair, and the chatter of birds out the window. Its sensitivity is calibrated precisely to accentuate the here and how, where far-off things are properly indistinct, blending into the scenery. But its reach is quite far. I set the capsules in cardioid and used a pair to mic a small "performance riser" infront of a stage for an extravaganza at a private grade school. Anything in that zone--be it Casio keyboard, guitar, cello, or conga/hi-hat kit for a vast choral "Fly Me To The Moon," everything was crystal clear, from the slap of the skins to the jingle of tambourine, the soulful strumming (which was played well off center, and with the player's back to the set of CK-1's.) No problem, it was all accurate, natural and "intimate."

I used this set as a pair of general overheads in a concert hall renowned for its lush sound-- four stories tall with walls that curve into the ceiling, I know you know this design. I affixed the omni capsules and then just dangled the mics at the end of the Mogami cables that were strung up on guy wires. That was easy! The pair of mics "felt" the hall in a real good way. Especially you could feel the whole heft of loud percussive passages, the "blastings." Horns make a sound that really moves air, you can feel it as well as hear it--the pair of CK-1's caught this texture nicely as French horns battled it out with trombones, the delicious punch of the kettle drums, the sheer force of the choir, screaming. I didn't feel like there was anything wanting from this stereo signal.

Using these as drum kit overheads in omni on a crowded stage for a jazz band situation worked perfectly, with pad engaged, about 6 inches from cymbals' edge, delivering the shimmer of cymbal and the throbbing of toms in a continuous, spontaneous way. The attacks were sharp, and the follow through was sharp too, crystal clear. Sorry if I keep saying things like "crystal clear," but keep in mind this is not just shallow, promotional hackwork--this is the real deal, real critical evaluation.

Some people say you shouldn't use your customers as guinea pigs, but I say if there's valuable information to be gained, why not? So I set the CK-1 pair, widely spaced with the hypercardioid capsules facing the stage of a recital hall in Connecticut. I won't tell you about the practically deaf old couple who ran the place, or the surly tech guy, you wouldn't believe me if I did. Or maybe you've run into surly tech guys? Just outlandishly rude, and to you a total stranger, and you are thoroughly convinced you will NEVER come back to this place again? Anyway, valuable lesson learned: the lowcut filter effectively subtracts any and all handling noise. Clumsy audience members can bang into the mic stands and you won't hear it. Compared to the MK-012's at this concert, the CK-1's were brighter, a little, but they handled troublesome sibilances better. They also had more "immediacy," an emphasis on detail. The 012's aren't emphasizing anything, they're telling it like it is. But then to solo each set and monitor a truck that rumbled by outside: The CK-1's definitely had more of the gutteral chug-a-chug-chug of the rumble, the part you feel. Whereas the 012's were more analytic, softer, not so scarey-like. No danger, the truck is outside. The CK-1's were more like: Lookout! A truck!

PROS
•Wide, wide frequency response

•Open, natural, accurate sound

•Is that a CK-1 in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?


CONS
•Sonically, tends towards brightness (possible con)

•Wooden case has teenie weenie hinges, may not be built for the long haul


Conclusion
This is the one I would take to the desert island-- a multi-faceted, superbly detailed, sensitive mic that will work on ANYTHING in a pinch, and/or it could be the primary source for the most vital component. It's nice to have a new weapon in my arsenal, whatever makes me a better warrior. This is one microphone, at a very attractive price point, that really does bring the power to the people. Right on!



Buy the Avant Electronics CK-1 FET Pencil Microphone at Front End Audio