M-Audio Pulsar II

Small-diaphragm Condenser Microphone

Published in SOS November 2008
Bookmark and Share

Reviews : Microphone

A decent mic collection should include small-diaphragm condensers for their transparent, uncoloured sound. Does the updated Pulsar deserve a place in yours?

Paul White

M-Audio Pulsar IIThere's no shortage of 'built in China' microphones these days, mainly due to the low manufacturing costs there. Design and quality control, though, are of huge importance when manufacturing abroad, and judging by their previous microphones, this is something that M-Audio take seriously.

They've recently updated their original Pulsar small-diaphragm condenser, now called the Pulsar II, and I tested a matched stereo pair of them, which came in a nicely compact wooden box, complete with stand mount, foam shield and stereo bar. Shockmounts would have been nice too, but would no doubt have added to the cost.

Design & Construction

The Pulsar II is a simple end-fire, cardioid 'stick' microphone, and is equipped with a 3/4-inch diameter, six-micron gold-sputtered Mylar diaphragm. The capsule is housed in a brass body that's 22mm in diameter, with an overall length of 132mm, and weighs 115g. There's an integral shockmount system to isolate the capsule from any body vibration.

The Pulsar II's frequency-response plot shows a nominally flat 20Hz-20kHz frequency response (-3dB), with the slightest hint of a presence hump around 7kHz. Like most such microphones, the preamp is based on a Class A FET (Field Effect Transistor) transformerless circuit, with a balanced XLR output. It uses 48V phantom power but can work on as low as 30V.

The mic puts out 13.8 mV/Pa (-37dBV re 1V/Pa) and it can cope with levels up to 134dB — at which point the distortion rises to 0.5 percent — although switching in the 10dB pad via a recessed slide-switch in the side of the body extends this to 144dB. A second slide-switch operates the low-cut filter, which comes in at 80Hz with an 18dB/octave roll-off. The microphone self-noise figure is 15dB, A-weighted, which is 2dB quieter than the original Pulsar and quite respectable for a mic of this type at the non-esoteric end of the price spectrum.

The cosmetic finish of the Pulsar II looks professional and smart, with black paintwork complemented by bright metal parts around the capsule and output XLR. As you'd expect from a small-diaphragm stick mic, instrument recording is its primary intended function, but it should record vocals perfectly well if you're not seeking added 'character'. M-Audio recommend it for acoustic instruments such as guitar, piano, brass, woodwind and strings, They also suggest using pairs as drum overheads, and for room ambience and most types of hand percussion.

In The Studio

The Pulsar II matched stereo pair comes boxed with a range of accessories, including a stereo mounting bar.The Pulsar II matched stereo pair comes boxed with a range of accessories, including a stereo mounting bar.Other than spoken word — which I found the Pulsar II handled with no problems, as long as I used a pop shield — I tested the mic mainly with acoustic guitar: I usually find guitar recording to be quite revealing of this sort of mic. As ever, the choice of mic position is as important as just about any other factor when miking, but the resulting sound always turned out to be crisp and transparent, with no obvious tonal leanings. This lack of obvious character is by no means a bad thing, because mics of this type should ideally sound as transparent as possible (that's what makes them so useful!). Of course, that can also make it rather difficult to tell them apart on occasion, especially in this kind of price range.

I also tried using the Pulsar II to record a range of percussion instruments, and discovered that it picked these up well, capturing the transients nicely and giving plenty of definition to the sound. Given the performance on percussion, a pair of these mics should also work pretty well as drum overheads (although I didn't have a kit set up on which I could test them during the course of this review) and I'd certainly be happy to use them for that. In fact, I wasn't able to find anything that these mics were actually bad at!


If you're looking for a mic of this type, you really want it to be versatile and clean-sounding — and the Pulsar II certainly satisfies both these criteria. If you've a larger budget available, you'll be able to get a mic that has a better on-paper spec, but the fact remains that this little mic is capable of great results in a variety of situations — and perhaps just as importantly you won't need to break the bank to get hold of one. 


Some other small-diaphragm condensers in the same price range and worthy of consideration are the SE Electronics SE3, the Rode NT5, the Oktava MK012 and Sontronics' STC1.

M-Audio Pulsar II £129
Good spec for a sensible price.
A good all-round instrument mic for anyone on a tight budget.
Pad and low-cut switches included.
No included shockmount.
The Pulsar II makes a sensible addition to the M-Audio mic range and has a slightly better spec than the original Pulsar. It has a lot of worthy competition but it is nicely engineered, and can produce creditable results across a range of instruments — and the price is right, too.
£129; matched pair £259. Prices include VAT.
M-Audio +44 (0)1753 659590.

SOS Readers Ads


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 | Blog | 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


We accept the following payment methods in our web Shop:

Pay by PayPal - fast and secure  VISA  MasterCard  Solo  Electron  Maestro (used to be Switch)  

All contents copyright © SOS Publications Group and/or its licensors, 1985-2016. 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