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Hebden Sound HS3000

Modular Condenser Microphone By Hugh Robjohns
Published July 2005

This British multi-capsule mic brings Calrec know-how to the home studio.

Hebden Sound are one of very, very few British microphone manufacturers. In fact, the only other one that springs immediately to mind is Soundfield, and the roots of both can be traced directly to Calrec Audio — the manufacturer of highly specified analogue and digital broadcast mixing consoles. Calrec had been making high-quality studio condenser mics since the 1960s, and produced the first Soundfield mics in the 1970s. They went through various acquisitions and buy-outs in the early 1990s, following which the Soundfield mic became a business on its own, based now in Wakefield, and the studio condenser microphones were taken on by former Calrec test engineer Keith Ming in 1994. He built the CM1000 and CM2000 series under licence from Calrec, and marketed them under the Hebden Sound brand.

Following Keith's death in 2000, David Anderson — the former head of microphones at Calrec and an experienced independent acoustic consultant — took over the helm. He had already amassed considerable microphone design experience at his own company, Bridge Microphones, and on taking over Hebden Sound realised that the existing CM1000 and CM2000 series of studio condenser microphones had received almost no development since their inception. The first new product under Anderson's guidance, the HS3000 series, is the result of a lot of new input and development, particularly in terms of the manufacturing, which is now undertaken in Sheffield under David's strict supervision.

For this review, I was supplied with a pair of HS3000 condenser mics, complete with pairs of removable cardioid and omni capsules, a pair of shockmounts, and a pair of stand adaptors — all cosseted in a compact but sturdy metal flightcase. Although not supplied for this review, Hebden Sound also manufacture compatible subcardioid and hypercardioid capsules for this microphone range.

The published specifications claim a frequency response of 20Hz-20kHz (but without tolerances being given), self-noise of a rather disappointing 17dBA, and maximum SPL of 135dB (but without a distortion figure). The output sensitivity is given as a healthy 25mV/Pa, and it should be noted that the impedance-converter electronics have a bandwidth extending up to 100kHz to minimise intermodulation artefacts.

The microphone body measures 160mm long and 23mm in diameter, of which the top 28mm is the removable capsule. The mic is surprisingly heavy at 290g and feels very solid and sturdy. Replacing the capsule is very quick and easy — the capsule screws onto the body, and the screw thread is sufficiently coarse to ensure that cross-threading is unlikely. The capsule contacts the preamp circuitry through a spring-loaded and gold-plated centre pin and the threaded barrel itself.

The mic was supplied with a standard clip and a simple shockmount, both made by Beyerdynamic and badged as such — and both with 3/8-inch thread adaptors. The shockmount comprises a plastic tube, each end of which carries a pair of interlocking rubber loops forming a cross shape. The microphone is inserted in the centre of these interlocked loops, something that is rather more easily said than done! On completion, though, the arrangement seems to work pretty well, and it is a shame that the mic can't be left in its shockmount in the case.

Options & Pricing

  • HS3000 preamp body, £199.75.
  • HS10 omni, HS20 cardioid, HS30 hypercardioid, or HS40 subcardioid capsule, £229.13.
  • HS3010, HS3020, HS3030, or HS3040 microphone kit, £428.88.

Includes HS3000 preamp body; HS10, HS20, HS30, or HS40 capsule; shockmount; and a metal flightcase.

  • HS3010P, HS3020P, HS3030P, or HS3040P twin-microphone kit, £857.75.

Includes two HS3000 preamp bodies; a pair of HS10, HS20, HS30, or HS40 capsules; two shockmounts; and a metal flightcase.

  • HSMC mic clip, £11.75.
  • HSAVM shockmount, £41.13.
  • HSFlight metal flightcase, £58.75.

Available in both single and twin versions.

All prices include VAT.

On The Session

Testing the HS20 cardioid capsule initially with spoken voice at close quarters, it became immediately apparent that a good pop shield was required — not surprising really, given the visual transparency of the front grille. If there was any kind of air movement from an air conditioning system, a foam windshield might be needed too, although none was supplied in the kit.Hebden Sound HS3000Photo: Mike Cameron

With that minor technicality dealt with, the mic performed very well, delivering a smooth, open, and airy sound to both male and female vocals, with just a hint of a broad presence peak. I also found it gave good results on acoustic guitar — even the challenging 12-string — and on a wide variety of other instruments, although it seemed more critical of relative angle than many mics. This can be attributed to its fairly narrow but tidy cardioid response.

The HS10 omni capsule also has a very respectable polar response and a fixed high-frequency lift to make it flat in a diffuse sound field. Close on-axis miking is not recommended if you want to keep your tweeters! Rigging the mics fitted with the cardioid capsules either as a coincident pair or as an ORTF pair produced great-sounding stereo, with stable and precise imaging. The bass was reasonably well extended when distant-miking, and the top end crystal clear and detailed. Some experimentation with mutual angles was required to optimise the imaging, because the polar responses are a little narrower than standard, although at the prescribed 90 degrees this helped to subdue central sources quite nicely.

Switching to spaced omnis, I was impressed with the full, spacious sound, which demonstrated the lovely bottom octave you only get from good omnis. Again, the high end was bright and crisp without being sharp or aggressive, and the HS3000 proved to be a very competent player. Its relatively poor noise performance became obvious when compared to my reference Sennheiser MKH20s, which were a good 6dB quieter, but although the Sennheisers sounded slightly cleaner and a hint more transparent, I didn't feel the need to swap mics on purely sonic grounds. That in itself is impressive, given that the German mic costs more than twice as much here in the UK!

The HS3000 mic is built very well indeed and should provide a reliable lifetime of service, and the ability to change the capsules makes it more flexible than many. However, at this price the new Hebden Sound mic faces some very stiff competition indeed — not only from the Chinese, but from all the other better-known manufacturers as well. Having said that, the HS3000 can look that competition squarely in the eyes from the point of view of its sound character, and the only weak point is its noise floor, which is a little higher than that of most equivalent designs. This won't be the slightest problem for any close-miking applications, or when working with loud sources — which probably covers 95 percent of most people's needs — but distant-miking of quiet sources certainly isn't its forte. It's nice to see an all-British microphone being promoted again, and the HS3000 series represents very good value for money, even given the very tough marketplace European manufacturers currently face.


  • Smooth, open, and airy sound.
  • Excellent build quality.


  • Self-noise higher than most.


A solid performer with a Calrec pedigree, this mic has a classy sound which should help it stake out its territory in a competitive UK market.


See 'Options & Pricing' box.

Hebden Sound +44 (0)114 201 3687.

+44 (0)870 094 0057.