SE Electronics SE4

Small-diaphragm Condenser Microphone

Published in SOS March 2009
Bookmark and Share

Reviews : Microphone

The SE3 was a popular mic, but it only came in cardioid flavour. The new SE4 gives you more options...

Paul White

SE Electronics SE4

SE Electronics are now well-established as manufacturers of good quality, affordable mics. Their SE4, reviewed here, is an end‑address small-diaphragm condenser model that replaces the earlier SE3. In terms of electronics, it remains pretty much faithful to that design, but a re‑engineered housing allows it to accept new interchangeable hypercardioid, cardioid and omni capsules. The cardioid capsule comes as standard, with the others (which, incidentally, do not fit the SE3) available separately. The capsules can simply be screwed into place after first removing the cardioid capsule; a centre contact supplies the signal feed and the metal casework provides the ground connection.

Overview

The mic body features a switchable 10dB/20dB pad, which is set via a three‑way toggle switch, plus a low‑cut filter. A transformer output, FET preamp design is used, with the usual balanced output on a conventionally wired XLR connector.

Both individual SE4s and matched pairs are available, but because of the additional work involved in closely matching the hand‑made capsules, a matched pair costs a little more than buying two separate, unmatched single capsules. Our review kit comprised a stereo pair, which comes as standard with just the cardioid capsules fitted, packaged in a newly designed black and silver aluminium flight case, and there's provision within the cases to store up to two additional capsules per microphone. Both single and stereo versions come with an inclusive suspension shockmount, and the stereo version also comes with a T-bar for mounting.

Outwardly, the capsule design looks virtually identical for all patterns — other than the polar‑pattern logo embossed into the surface, of course. There are two rows of circular vent‑holes on the side, protected by a fine, internal mesh, with a similar fine mesh protecting the face of the capsule. The housing itself is nicely machined from solid metal tubing. I was rather hoping there would also be a figure‑of‑eight capsule available, but at the time of the review none had been announced.

Both the capsules and the mic body have a satin metallic plated finish, with the body also featuring SE's distinctive grey centre‑section and red logo. With a diameter of just over an inch, the mic is slightly fatter than many 'stick' models, and at approximately seven inches it's slightly longer too. Many such mics have capsules around half an inch in diameter, but the SE4 measures closer to three quarters of an inch. All other factors being equal, smaller diaphragms should theoretically have a more accurate off‑axis response than large‑diaphragm models, but at the expense of a slightly worse noise performance — and microphone design is all about juggling such compromises, which are imposed upon us by the laws of physics.

All three capsules have a quoted 20Hz‑20kHz frequency response, with a sensitivity of 12.59mV/Pa (0dB=1V/Pa 1kHz), and the noise performance is presented as an EIN (Equivalent Input Noise) figure of 14dBA. The 200Ω output impedance is typical for this type of mic, and all three capsules can handle SPLs up to 135dB before the distortion exceeds 0.5 percent — so they should be untroubled by all but the very loudest sound sources. Looking at these figures, the specifications are all fairly typical for a capacitor mic with a diaphragm of this size, and although you can buy quieter mics, a noise figure of 14dBA EIN is unlikely to give you problems unless you need to record very quiet or distant sounds. The mic has a nominally flat response, but with a presence bump up at 10kHz that's subtle enough to add a suggestion of air to the high end without being overplayed.

In Use

Like the earlier SE3, the cardioid capsule comes as standard, but on the SE4 it can be swapped for a hypercardioid or omni capsule, both of which can be purchased separately.Like the earlier SE3, the cardioid capsule comes as standard, but on the SE4 it can be swapped for a hypercardioid or omni capsule, both of which can be purchased separately.

My studio tests confirmed that the SE4 behaves very much like the old SE3, but with the obvious benefit of the switchable capsules. I don't often feel the need to use a hypercardioid mic in the studio if there's a cardioid available, although they can be useful tools for close-mic drum recording and other applications where you need separation. The omni pattern, on the other hand, is far more useful than most people give it credit for, particularly for 'natural' recordings, as it doesn't exhibit the proximity 'bass boost' effect. The mic's gentle presence lift helped to pull up details like the transient of a picked guitar, but I found that the extended low‑end response also balanced this with warmth and solidity.

The SE4 represents a significant step up from the cheaper SE1. It's very well suited to recording acoustic guitar (particularly using the omni capsule with an acoustic screen behind), where the presence peak really brings out the zing in strummed parts, without sounding harsh or thin. In fact, it's good on most other acoustic instruments, come to that, including hand percussion. It fits the bill nicely as a drum overhead mic and a pair also makes a fine job of general‑purpose ensemble recording, such as choirs. I like the build quality, too: the mics are reassuringly solid, with very tidily assembled electronics, and the supplied metal shockmounts grip them firmly.

Conclusion

Although multi‑pattern mics offer an alternative to interchangeable capsules, these are normally large-diaphragm models, and because the patterns are created by summing two back‑to‑back cardioid capsules, the resulting pattern is seldom as pure and vice‑free as that of a single‑diaphragm capsule designed to do the same job. This is especially true of the omni pattern, where a small-diaphragm, dedicated omni mic is likely to have a significantly more even off‑axis response.

The SE4 slots into the price range just above the more crowded, budget end of the mic market, at a point where the user still wants something cost effective but is prepared to pay a little more for the quality they need. Although there's some strong competition out there — and you can get a mic that's technically better in some respects if you have much more to spend — the SE4 holds its own, doing a great job at a sensible price.  .

Alternatives

The Rode NT55 offers strong competition and comes with cardioid and omni capsules as standard, but without the shockmount. There's also the CAD E70, the Sontronics STC1, Oktava's MK012, and the Studio Projects C4. Moving up the price scale, you could consider JZ Microphones' BT201, or the classic AKG option based on the C451 design.

SE Electronics SE4 £195$399
pros
Same SE3 quality, but now with interchangeable capsules.
Affordable.
High‑quality accessories.
cons
No figure‑of‑eight capsule available at the time of writing.
summary
A capable and sensibly‑priced instrument mic that benefits from interchangeable capsules.
information
SE4 single mic £194.35, SE4 matched pair £412.85; capsule kit (both capsules) £194.35; capsule kit (matched pairs) £412.85; individual capsules £109.25 each. Prices include VAT.
Sonic Distribution +44 (0)845 500 2500.
SE4 single mic $399, matched pair $849; capsule kit (both capsules) $399, capsule kit (matched pairs) $849; individual capsules $199 each.
Sonic US +1 617 623 5581.

SOS Readers Ads
GRAB A BARGAIN

£530,929

of Second-User Gear for sale now — don't miss out!

Audio-Technica AT4047 MP

Multi-pattern Condenser Microphone

Thumbnail for article: Audio-Technica AT4047 MP

Audio-Technica have added multiple polar patterns to one of their already successful designs, bringing increased versatility in the studio.

Audio-Technica AT4047 MP | Media

Multi-pattern Condenser Microphone

Audio files to accompany the article.

Audio-Technica AT4050 ST

Stereo Condenser Microphone

Thumbnail for article: Audio-Technica AT4050 ST

There's more to this variation on Audio-Technica's flagship microphone than the simple addition of a second capsule...

Peavey Studio Pro M2

Condenser Microphone

Thumbnail for article: Peavey Studio Pro M2

Paul White explores the capabilities of the understated-yet-powerful Studio Pro M2.

Schoeps VSR5

Microphone Preamp

Thumbnail for article: Schoeps VSR5

Schoeps make some of the most revered mics on the planet, so when they release a commercial version of the mic preamp they use for testing, you have to take it seriously...

Schoeps VSR5 Mic Preamp

Test Measurements

Thumbnail for article: Schoeps VSR5 Mic Preamp

The following charts, made using an Audio Precision Analyser, accompany our review of the Schoeps VSR5 microphone preamplifier.

Blue Encore 300

Handheld Condenser Microphone

Thumbnail for article: Blue Encore 300

Designed as a hand-held live vocal mic, this mic has a cardioid pickup pattern, and seems very robustly engineered.

Cartec EQP1A

Mono Valve Equaliser

Thumbnail for article: Cartec EQP1A

British 'boutique' outboard manufacturers seem to be rather thin on the ground these days, but if this Pultec clone is anything to go by, newcomers Cartec look set to make a big impression.

Prodipe TT1

Dynamic Microphone

Thumbnail for article: Prodipe TT1

Prodipe say they wanted to offer a high-quality, live-sound, cardioid-pattern dynamic mic at a very affordable price.

Sontronics Saturn

Multi-pattern Condenser Microphone

Thumbnail for article: Sontronics Saturn

Sontronics mics usually sound as distinctive as they look - and this one looks more distinctive than most!

MXL Revelation

Multi-pattern Valve Microphone

Thumbnail for article: MXL Revelation

Hot on the heels of the impressive Genesis cardioid valve mic, MXL have unveiled their flagship multi-pattern model, the Revelation. Does it live up to its name?

MXL Revelation | Audio Examples

Multi-pattern Valve Microphone

These audio files accompany the SOS September 2010 review of the MXL Revelation microphone.

Samson Go Mic

USB Microphone

Thumbnail for article: Samson Go Mic

USB mics are nothing new, but the Samson Go Mic is probably the smallest and cutest I've seen to date. This metal-bodied mic,...

AKG Perception 820

Valve Microphone

Thumbnail for article: AKG Perception 820

Does AKGs Chinese-made Perception 820 maintain the Austrian companys impressive reputation?

AKG Perception 820 | Audio

Audio Examples

Hear for yourself how this mic performed during the SOS tests.

Audio-Technica AT4080 & AT4081

Ribbon Microphones

Thumbnail for article: Audio-Technica AT4080 & AT4081

A-Ts brand-new transducer technology has produced a robust design intended to deliver high signal levels as well as that prized ribbon character...

Earthworks DP25C & DP30C

Snare & Tom Condenser Microphones

Thumbnail for article: Earthworks DP25C & DP30C

Despite the ubiquity of the SM57 for use on snare, there are other options — and Earthworks aim to help you capture a more natural sound.

MXL Genesis

Cardioid Valve Microphone

Thumbnail for article: MXL Genesis

We put MXLs Genesis through its paces alongside a much pricier model, to find out just how good a tube mic can be at this price.

MXL Genesis Mic | Audio Files

Hear For Yourself

To accompany our July 2010 Genesis review, we recorded a series of standard tests with the review mic alongside a more established mic (in this case, the AKG C12 VR).

WIN Great Prizes in SOS Competitions!

 

Home | Search | News | Current Issue | Tablet Mag | Articles | Forum | Subscribe | Shop | Readers Ads

Advertise | Information | Privacy Policy | Support | Login Help

 

Email: Contact SOS

Telephone: +44 (0)1954 789888

Fax: +44 (0)1954 789895

Registered Office: Media House, Trafalgar Way, Bar Hill, Cambridge, CB23 8SQ, United Kingdom.

Sound On Sound Ltd is registered in England and Wales.

Company number: 3015516 VAT number: GB 638 5307 26

         

All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2014. All rights reserved.
The contents of this article are subject to worldwide copyright protection and reproduction in whole or part, whether mechanical or electronic, is expressly forbidden without the prior written consent of the Publishers. Great care has been taken to ensure accuracy in the preparation of this article but neither Sound On Sound Limited nor the publishers can be held responsible for its contents. The views expressed are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publishers.

Web site designed & maintained by PB Associates | SOS | Relative Media