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Nevaton MC51

Capacitor Microphone By Paul White
Published May 1995

Paul White intercepts another incoming Russian microphone, this time from Nevaton Ltd in St Petersburg.

You might be forgiven for wondering why it is that so many Russian mics are appearing on the market at the moment, but the truth is that AS McKay, the company currently importing Oktava mics, specialise in trade with former Eastern Bloc countries, and certain members of the family have a special interest in recording equipment.

The Nevaton mic under review is a current (as opposed to vintage) model, built in St Petersburg, but unlike the unashamedly utilitarian Oktava 219s, the Nevaton MC51 could easily be mistaken for a serious European mic. An examination of the insides shows a decent standard of engineering and workmanship, again noticeably ahead of the Oktavas, but perhaps less elegantly finished internally than you'd expect a Western European mic to be.

The MC51 is based around a large‑diameter, dual‑diaphragm capsule which may be switched to provide four pickup patterns: Omni, Wide Cardioid, Cardioid and Figure‑of‑Eight. The pattern selector switch is a thumbwheel affair built into the body of the mic, just below the grille, and a similar switch on the other side brings in a a 10dB pad. A recessed red LED on the business side of the mic serves the dual purpose of showing that the phantom power is turned on and that you're singing into the right side of the mic.

Technically, the mic appears to use transformerless preamp circuitry, and the capsule construction is conventional in that the diaphragms are made of ultra thin, gold‑coated plastic. Standard 48V phantom power (plus or minus 4V) is required to power the mic, and the overall current consumption is around 10mA. The capsule itself is supported on top of a stalk inside the two‑layer wire grille, the outside layer of which forms a conventional protective basket, while the inner layer has a finer mesh to help keep the capsule free from dust.

The mic's frequency response is quoted as being 20Hz to 20kHz, but as no limits are specified, this on its own is meaningless — the response could be 20dB down by these two points for all this tells us. However, printed response curves are supplied for the four different pattern settings, and these show the response to be essentially flat between these two extremes, with the exception of a gentle presence rise above 10kHz. For example, in wide cardioid mode, the response is flat within 3 or 4dB from 20Hz to 10kHz, and the presence peak is in the order of plus 4dB at around 12kHz.

You can learn a lot from a spec sheet, but you can still be surprised when it comes to the listening test. In the studio, the MC51 comes over as having the classic honesty of a good capacitor mic, but it also has the open, detailed top end often associated with transformerless mics. As with most well‑behaved capacitor models, it performs very well with vocals, sounding both full and detailed, though most engineers will have a selection of mics to choose from so that they can match vocal characteristics to mic characteristics for the best results. (The reason I include this comment is that I'm frequently asked what's the best vocal mic to buy: the answer to that particular question depends largely on the vocalist.)

Tested on instruments, the MC51's detailed sound really works in its favour, especially when you want a sound to cut through a mix. The mic works particularly well on acoustic guitars and ethnic instruments — my rainstick has never sounded so good — and I've also attended a session where one of these mics was being used on a grand piano to good effect.

There's no doubting that this a very good microphone, but why should you buy it instead of one of the other equally good capacitor mics on the market? At around £500, the MC51 costs more than the Oktava 219 or the AKG C3000, both of which are excellent‑sounding, low‑cost capacitor mics, but the advantage of the MC51 is its multi‑pattern capability. Normally you'd expect to pay rather more for a switchable‑pattern mic. Of course, not everyone needs a variable‑pattern mic, but it's useful to have at least one in the locker for those occasions when you want to do something out of the ordinary, such as setting up an MS stereo pair or working in omni mode instead of cardioid.

During the brief time I've spent working with the MC51, I've thoroughly enjoyed its warm, revealing sound and its versatility. It costs just a little more than a budget fixed‑pattern capacitor mic, but at the same time, it performs as well as some of the top‑name capacitor mics costing over twice as much. To sum up, it's a strong all‑rounder, it's attractively priced and it doesn't look like a piece of shrapnel! If you're after a new mic, make sure that this one gets a look in before you make up your mind.

Brief Specification

  • Polar Patterns Cardioid; wide cardioid; omni; figure‑of‑eight
  • Frequency response 20Hz‑20kHz
  • Sensitivity at 1kHz 12 +/‑2 mV/Pa
  • Max SPL 140dB (150dB with 10dB pad)
  • Equivalent Noise 17dBA
  • Phantom Power 48V (+/‑4V)
  • Nominal Impedance 50 Ohms
  • Connector balanced XLR
  • Dimensions Head diameter 51mm; body diameter 30mm; total length 219mm


  • Good quality of finish.
  • Rich, detailed sound.
  • Four switchable patterns.


  • Rather basic carry case and no accessories.


A versatile and nice‑sounding capacitor mic that stands comparison with top European models.