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Byetone VM95 & VM97

Dynamic Microphones By Paul White
Published August 1995

If you've ever wondered what happened to the Iron Curtain, Paul White's theory is that it was melted down to make budget Russian mics! Here he takes a look at the latest two to defect to the West.

The Russian mic market continues to expand further, as UK mic distributor AS McKay have tenaciously tracked down yet another ex‑Soviet audio manufacturer — this time Byetone from St Petersburg. The product name may be indescribably naff, but the products themselves are solidly built, have a good standard of finish, and work rather well. They're also stunningly cheap, at just over £60 each.

At A Glance

The two mics on review are the models VM95 and VM97, the main difference between the two being that the VM95 is a supercardioid mic while the VM97 is a conventional cardioid. At least, that's what the documentation says, although the VM97 body also bears the legend 'Super Cardioid'. Tonally, the mics are very similar — the only cosmetic differences are that the cardioid VM97 has a chromed lower body section, while the VM95 is finished in dark grey metallic paint all over. Both mics are extremely heavy at 350g apiece, and though this helps reduce handling noise, you might find them a touch on the weighty side for prolonged hand‑held use. On the other hand, if you tend to play at rough gigs, the extra weight could come in handy!

These are strictly no‑frills mics designed for general‑purpose and vocal applications. As you might expect with a mic of this type, the frequency plot shows a broad presence peak combined with a gentle LF roll‑off below 150Hz to help improve vocal articulation and reduce the effects of unwanted low frequency sounds. There are no switches, no free stand adaptors and no leads, but you do get a neat zip‑up carry bag, and a spec sheet printed on what looks like recycled Pravda.

The top of the mic unscrews, allowing the tough, foam‑lined, wire‑mesh basket to be removed for cleaning. A flexible mounting is used to damp capsule vibrations caused by handling noise, and the mic output comes via a conventional XLR connector, which, unlike some Russian connectors, mates and locks perfectly with a decadent western mic lead.

Testing, Testing...

On paper, the cardioid VM97 has a slightly more extended HF response than the 95; the former's response extends from 60Hz to 19kHz, while the 95 only reaches 17kHz. In reality, the HF response of both mics starts to roll off above 15kHz. Even so, in speech tests, the top end was clear and well‑detailed. I compared both the tonality and sensitivity of these two mics with my trusty old SM58, and found the Russian contenders to be only marginally less sensitive and tonally similar, but with perhaps slightly less warmth and a more open top end.

Handling noise was acceptably low, though in the studio, stand‑mounting would be more normal. As is to be expected with any cardioid, the tonality warms up considerably when you work closer to the mic, due to the proximity effect. The tonality also thins out noticeably when you move too far off axis (again, as you would expect from a cardioid). When you move the sound source directly behind the mics, the best rejection is in the 500Hz to 1kHz part of the spectrum. In practice, the mics were no more susceptible to feedback than most other dynamic models I've used.

In Short...

I was very pleasantly surprised at the performance of these mics, especially when their low prices are taken into consideration. Most of the dynamic mics I've tried in this price range have been a bit of a compromise; they either sound coloured or they're quite insensitive, but the Byetones (I can't help but smile at the name) have a transparent, natural sound with just about the right balance of tonal warmth, HF detail and sensitivity. OK, they don't sound quite as refined as a good £200 dynamic mic, but then they wouldn't actually disgrace themselves in a direct shoot‑out either.

Some of you occasionally take us to task for being too kind when we review products, but I really can't find anything to complain about here given the performance, price, and build quality. If anyone builds a better dynamic mic for 60 quid, please send it in and I'll gladly review it!


  • Solid, stylish construction.
  • Very inexpensive.
  • Good sound.


  • A bit heavy.
  • No included stand clip.


Ideal budget vocal or general‑purpose dynamic mics that don't suffer from a budget sound.