October 11, 2007
Review by Chris Garges
•Type B phantom powered body
•Spider-style shock mount
•RED Quad mic cable
•9 different RED capsules to choose from
•Acoustical Operating Principal: Pressure gradient or pure pressure (depending on capsule)
•Directional Pattern: Cardioid, omnidirectional, Fig. of 8 (depending on capsule)
•Frequency Response: 20Hz — 20kHz
•Sensitivity (1kHz into 2.5kOhm): 27mV/Pa
•Rated Impedance: 50 Ohms
•Rated Load Impedance: Not less than 1kOhm
•Noise Level A-weighted (IEC 651): Not more than 7.5dBV — 14dBV (depending on capsule)
•Max Output (1% THD into 2.5kOhm): 12dBV = 3.1V
•Max SPL (0.5% THD into 2.5kOhm): 138dB
•Dynamic Range (2.5kOhm load): 130dB
•Current Draw (Typical AI +48V): 1.8mA
RED is a relatively new force in the world of professional microphones and it seems that their flagship models are classic bottle-type designs that feature interchangeable capsules. Part of the intrigue about these particular microphones is that in addition to RED's own variety of capsule designs, the microphones will work with any capsules compatible with the Neumann-Gefell bottle-type bodies, including capsules from BLUE. This makes for extremely versatile microphone sets just by switching capsules. Included in RED's new series are the "Type A," which features tube electronics, and the "Type B," which features a solid-state design. RED sent me one of their "Type B" solid-state bodies and three cardioid capsules, along with a shockmount and microphone cable to review for Studio Auditions.
The packaging includes nice foam-padded individual wooden boxes for the microphone body and for each additional capsule. The basic "Type B" setup comes with the microphone (in its wooden box), packaged in a larger cardboard box. Also located inside the cardboard box, but underneath some cardboard bracing, was the nearly impossible-to-open hard plastic shell that included the shockmount and cable (crazy blister pack). I didn't see it initially and thought that the microphone had shipped with no mounting hardware. I tried to fit the "Type B" body in several shockmounts available to me (including mounts from Audio Technica, Neumann, and several Chinese models) and none would fit. Just after I called Warren at Front End Audio (who set up the review) about getting a replacement shockmount, I found the additional packaging inside the box and got to checking out the mic.
The build quality of the mics themselves seemed excellent and it's obvious that there is a strong focus on quality control at RED. The mics feel hefty and solid and even though it's relatively easy to switch the capsules, the connections don't feel flimsy or shoddy at all. I did experience a bit of a problem with the RED shockmount that I've had with several Chinese shockmounts in the past. The wing screw that adjusts the angle of the microphone binds easily and either won't hold the microphone upright or locks it into place in a manner that makes it almost impossible to adjust. During one session, I found myself thinking I was going to break the shockmount trying to free the wingscrew and although I didn't, there's not much doubt in my mind that I could have if I'd been in more of a rush or less careful.
RED sent me their R8 capsule, which is a modern-sounding, versatile capsule design that comes standard with the "Type B" body, their R7, which is their take on a classic M7-ish sound (U-47) with a forward midrange and thick low mids, and their R6, which features a sort of classic AKG-type sound (C12) with a bright, present top end and full-sounding bottom. I knew all of this going in to the review, but with the exception of the R7, I had a hard time remembering which was supposed to be which and that helped me select appropriate capsules based entirely on what I heard and not so much what I expected to hear.
I got the opportunity to use the RED "Type B" in a variety of circumstances. One project in particular featured a solo artist (who played almost all of the instruments himself) and was recorded in his house. This seemed like an ideal test for the "Type B" and I tried to use it on as many sources for this one project as was appropriate. I found that with the variety of capules, the "Type B" was an extremely versatile microphone and quite useful on this particular session.
As a mono drum overhead, the "Type B" faired extremely well and after listening to the three capsules (all of which had their charm), I settled on the R8. It represented a powerful drum sound with a nice balance of the kit and pleasant frequency response overall. I also got to use the R8 on a few different ambient drumkit applications in a bright room, where the microphone really represented the actual space very nicely. After several uses, I found that I really, really liked the R8 as an ambient microphone for lots of sources like drums, guitar amps, keyboard amps, and vocals. In a number of different rooms, the R8 always added a nice spatial element and blended well with whatever close mic I was using to achieve a nice stereo balance.
The R8 capsule also worked well as an acoustic guitar microphone when the instrument was providing support in a dense arrangement, but it was the R6 that really shined for me on acoustic instruments. The detail and clarity, along with its smooth response made for a very pretty acoustic guitar mic. I also used the R6 capsule for some mandolin recording on a fairly assertive player on a rock tune and the mandolin fit right in without sounding peaky or unbalanced.
All three microphone capsules had pleasing qualities for recording different vocalists. On the above-mentioned solo artist session, I used all three capsules interchangeably. I've recorded that particular vocalist a number of times and he's one of those guys who sounds great on almost any microphone, so having the various RED capsules available made for a good comparison in terms of overall character.
In most of the vocal recording that I did with these mics, the R7 capsule exhibited exactly what one would expect. Nice, rich low-frequency response, a present midrange, which could help make mumblers a bit more intelligible, and a smooth top end. It has a very classic sound, not in what I would consider a "hi-fi" fashion (or "hi-tech" fashion), but a very pleasing one, nonetheless. It was usually the winner, but not always.
The R6 also had a classic sort of sound in a much clearer and pretty sort of way. Where the R7 sounded forward and tough, the R6 was a little more refined-sounding. Still, it had lots of clarity in the bottom end and a very articulate top end with maybe a little less focus on a forward-sounding midrange.
The R8 certainly had its own character as well. It was much more modern-sounding with a flatter and more accurate sort of representation. It sounded less like there was an attempt to shape some kind of EQ from the mic choice and was useful for a number of vocal recordings as well. I found that using the R8 for background vocals was helpful to set them back a bit from the lead vocal if the lead had been recorded with one of the more colorful mics.
•Excellent versatility between these 3 capsules (6 more available)
•Excellent build quality
•Captures drums, acoustic instruments and voice very nicely
•Priced within reach of most (well below its competition)
•Shockmount wingscrew design seems flawed [RED reports an update is in the works – Ed]
I only got to hear three of the capsules (out of the nine that they make), but I think the "Type B" setup is one really, really versatile microphone set. At a street price of about $699 for the standard Type B/R8 combination, $1199 for the Type B with a "premium capsule," and around $600 and up for each additional capsule, one could have a number of really great mics available to them at a fraction of what a similar collection of other mics would cost. I think a pair of "Type B" mics with several capsules would be a very formidable force for any recording setup.
at Front End Audio