If you're looking for a workhorse dynamic mic, Audix offer a good alternative to the usual suspects.
Large-diaphragm capacitor mics are almost always the best bet for vocal recording, and they certainly attract all the admiring looks, perched glamorously in their shockmounts. For a number of instrument recording tasks, though, and for many live applications, the dynamic mic is often more suitable. Dynamic mics are still the first choice of many engineers for drum miking, guitar-cab miking and for certain wind instruments, while on stage they tend to get used for just about everything from lead vocals to percussion. I was particularly keen to try this new model from Audix, as I've always been impressed by the performance and build quality of their microphones.
The typical price you'll find the i5 sold for is not dissimilar to that of Shure's SM57, which has been something of an industry standard in this area for longer than most of us care to remember. That being the case, Audix's expectations of this mic must be high, as you can only sell against such a successful brand by being cheaper, better or different in a way that is useful.
Physically, the i5 is a conventional 'end address' mic, built into a cast zinc-alloy case, with the usual end-mounted, balanced XLR output. Other than the metal grille and the gold XLR pins, the entire mic is finished in satin black. A plastic swivel stand-mount, with a metal thread-adaptor, is included along with a nylon zip-up carry case. The mic's capsule seems quite rigidly mounted, though the handling noise isn't excessive, and the protective basket can be unscrewed to reveal a thin foam screen between the capsule and the mesh.
The i5 certainly has the right physical shape to get into awkward places, especially if you use right-angled XLR connectors — it is slightly shorter than the average dynamic cardioid microphone, which, for example, makes it easier to position around drums than some of the alternatives.
Because it is designed as an instrument mic, rather than as a dedicated vocal mic, it doesn't have the sharp, low-end roll-off that most vocal mics have built in to counter the 'proximity' bass boost effect when singing close up. Indeed, there's a slight bass hump at around 150Hz, augmented by a broad presence boost from 3kHz to 8kHz, giving the frequency response curve a slight smile shape. The frequency response is fairly typical for this type of microphone, extending from 50Hz to 15kHz before rolling off, and the sensitivity is 1.9mV/Pa at 1kHz — again, fairly standard. The mic can handle SPLs of up to 140dB, so there are no normal environments too noisy for this mic, and the cardioid response is tailored to help avoid feedback in live situations.
My first practical test was to use the i5 at a live gig for miking a guitar combo, which it managed superbly. It nailed the tone of the amp and helped cut through the mix without making the sound too aggressive. In the studio it worked well on both hand percussion (djembe, in this case) and kit drums, where it made a decent tom mic and also proved capable of good results on the snare drum. Though not designed as a kick drum mic, its weighty and reasonably extended low end means it could be used in this application if required, and you'd still have a reasonable expectation of getting a decent result (though you may have to be a bit heavy handed with the EQ to get enough really deep punch from it).
I wouldn't normally use a dynamic mic for recording acoustic guitar, as the high-end response isn't really up to it unless you want to suppress the extreme highs for artistic reasons, but the i5 does make a decent stab at the job, providing you have a sensitive, quiet mic preamp. The i5 is also a very competent vocal mic for stage use, while those studio singers who prefer the solid sound of a dynamic model may choose to use it that way in the studio. It doesn't have as much obvious presence as some dynamic mics I've used, but this makes it easier to achieve the sound you want using moderate amounts of EQ. The handling noise and propensity for popping is no worse than for any other dynamic mic I've tried, and overall the i5 gives the impression of being a very accomplished all-rounder, with a subjectively neutral sound.
As a studio mic, the i5 will fill in for just about any dynamic mic application you can think of, though I'd still choose a dedicated kick-drum mic where available. Live, it seems equally happy with vocals or instruments. The combination of solid build quality and good all-round audio performance could well make the i5 the 'go to' dynamic mic of the Audix range, and perhaps of your mic cabinet more generally.
- Sensibly priced.
- Practical shape and size.
- Rugged construction.
- Good all-round performance on voice and instruments.
The i5 is a versatile workhorse of a mic, equally at home in the studio and on stage.
£79.99 including VAT.
Stirling Trading +44 (0)20 8963 4790.
+44 (0)20 8963 4799.