It's over 90 years since the electronics factory that eventually became the Russian mic company Oktava was founded in the city of Tula, and a quarter of a century after the company's microphones first began to circulate widely in the West — the first ever Oktava coverage in Sound On Sound, Paul White's review of the fixed-pattern MK219 cardioid condenser mic, was in the April 1994 issue.
Despite the unsophisticated aesthetics of the early models that made it out west, which, as Paul hinted in that first review, seemed to owe more to Soviet tractor production methods than microphone manufacture, the MK219 always sounded great for its price (£265 in 1994 in the UK), and the physical appearance of later editions was much improved anyway. Production was eventually discontinued in the early 2010s, but by then the mic was already the focus of much on-line DIY modification activity amongst aficionados; there was even a company in the USA (Oktavamod, sadly no longer with us) that existed solely to buff and tweak the performance of Oktava mics including the MK219.
Recognising the popularity of the design, Oktava recently announced the new MK119 at the Frankfurt Musikmesse in early April, demoing it and several other recently launched mics (including the MKL112, MK115 and MK117) with the company's updated 2019 styling in a soundproof booth they bought all the way from Russia. Like the MK219, the new mic is a large-diaphragm cardioid condenser featuring the original capsule design used in the MK219, but features upgraded electronics and a new round body similar to, but slightly slimmer than the existing MK319. The 10dB pad and 50Hz rolloff switches included on the MK219, which were renowned for being unreliable, are not included on the 119. Oktava suggest the new mic is best suited, like its predecessor, to recording vocals, piano, acoustic guitar and stringed and bowed instruments.
Pricing has yet to be confirmed for European sales outside Russia, but early indications are that the cost of the MK119 in the UK could be just a little more than the 1994 UK retail price of the 219. Given the 25 years of inflation that have elapsed since the original review, that is progress...!Best of all, the pricing remains keen at $279 in the US, which, allowing for inflation, sales tax and exchange rates, actually works out at *less* than the MK219's 1994 UK retail price. Given the 25 years that have elapsed since that original review, that is progress...!