A new bargain capacitor mic threatens to stop the drain of hard currency into the coffers of ailing ex‑Eastern Bloc states. Paul White checks out the American‑made CR3A.
Over the past year or so, the received wisdom seems to have been that the best 'good but cheap' mics are the ones put together by impoverished Eastern Bloc workers prepared to work all day for a lukewarm bowl of turnip soup and a dry crust, but Langevin has blown that myth clean out of the Volga with the introduction of their CR3A microphone, hand‑built in the USA. The CR3A is a large‑diaphragm capacitor mic with a fixed cardioid pattern and an FET preamp styled quite unashamedly on Neumann's legendary U87.
Outwardly, the mic sports a satin black paint finish with the legend screened in red. To extend the range of the microphone when used with very loud sound sources, there's a 10dB pad and a high‑pass filter that comes in below 100Hz to reduce low‑frequency sensitivity, both of which are activated by small slide switches on the mic body. Internally, the construction and wiring seem perfectly sound, if not exactly elegant. A conventional balanced matching transformer is used to couple the internal preamp to the XLR socket (the phantom power requirement is the standard 48V). Finally, the large diaphragm capsule utilises a polyester diaphragm covered with a 7‑micron gold film.
Unusually for a mic of this type, two stand adaptors are included in the price. One is a simple but perfectly acceptable shock‑mount, while the other is a rigid mount that fastens to the mic body in place of the screw collar at the base of the body. A basic but functional plastic case is included in the kit, as are frequency response plots for both mics.
Technically, the CR3A has a very flat frequency response up to a little over 2kHz, which means that critical mid‑range information is handled accurately, but above that, there are a couple of small peaks in the response, the first of which occurs at around 2.5kHz, providing a presence lift of around 2dB. The other peak is slightly greater in amplitude, but occurs at around 12kHz, where the human ear is less sensitive.
Off‑axis, the mid‑range is less smooth, which suggests that this mic might best be used for the close‑up, on‑axis recording of vocals or instruments where room reflections are dominated by the direct sound. Used with more distant sources, the proportion of reflected sound received by the mic will be greater, and if the off‑axis response is coloured, this reflected sound will not be captured accurately. Even so, it's often the case that the subjective sound of a mic bears little relation to its printed response plot, so how does it sound in real situations?
I compared this mic against other capacitor mics of a similar type, and found the sensitivity to be roughly similar. Used close up, the CR3A has the familiar natural yet flattering tonality typical of most large‑diaphragm mics, but because of the cardioid response, there is a noticeable amount of bass lift due to the proximity effect when the mic is used at small distances. There is plenty of detail in the sound, but also a lot of warmth, which can make for a very 'big' vocal sound. As ever, you have to balance the character of the mic against the strengths and weaknesses of the voice being recorded. If you need to add confidence and projection to your vocal parts, this could be the mic to do it for you.
Acoustic instruments are also handled sympathetically, though the mic does sound appreciably better when used on‑axis than off. Having noted that fact, large‑diaphragm mics tend not to be used so often for miking distant sound sources anyway, largely because small‑diaphragm models perform more accurately off‑axis, thanks to the geometry of their capsule design.
Leaving the best until last, when you realise how inexpensive this microphone is, even without taking the included shock‑mount into account, it has to be one of the better bargains currently available. Its price and performance are both comparable with the popular Oktava MK219, so if you've yet to buy your first capacitor mic, and you don't want to spend too much, your choices are pretty clear.
- Transducer: Capacitor, cardioid, pressure gradient type
- Frequency Range: 40Hz to 16kHz
- Maximum Sound Pressure Level: 122dB (@25Pa), 132dB w/pad
- High‑Pass filter: 6dB/octave @ 100Hz
- Signal to Noise Ratio: 67dB (DIN 45‑590) @ 1 Pa
- Maximum Output: 300mV
- Full, confident sound.
- Bargain basement price.
- Shock‑mount included.
- Inaccurate when used too far off‑axis.
A bargain first‑time capacitor mic, which can also turn in a professional performance on vocals and acoustic instruments.