Paul White takes the necessary Steppes to check out this innocuous looking mic and discovers a competent all‑rounder.
This time last year, few people had ever heard of Oktava, but since their attractively‑priced (and terminally ugly!) MK219 found its way onto the UK market, there have been so many complimentary articles and reviews in the music press that it now seems that every other page contains some reference to Oktava or one of their products. Despite a few initial teething problems with quality control and supply, the MK219 has been widely acclaimed as an exceptional sounding mic at a price significantly below that of its nearest competitor, but Oktava are more than just a one‑mic company — they build a whole range of dynamic, capacitor and electret mics, many of which are ideally suited to music recording.
From the casework of the MK011, it's evident that it is designed for hand‑held as well as stand‑mounted use, but whereas most hand‑held mics are dynamic, the MK011 houses a true capacitor capsule. The down side of this is that 48V phantom power is needed to run the mic, but the benefits are significant, especially when you bring the mic off‑stage and into the studio.
Capacitor mics have the advantage of a much wider frequency response than dynamic models, often reaching in excess of 20kHz, but they also exhibit greater sensitivity, which really helps for capturing quieter sounds without noise becoming a major problem. For example, most dynamic mics work fine for live vocals, but when it comes to something like the acoustic guitar, the likely outcome is a slightly dull sound with audible background hiss as the mixer input stage struggles to boost the signal to a usable level. With a typical capacitor model, the mixer can be used with a much lower input gain trim setting, with an attendant improvement in signal‑to‑noise ratio.
Featuring a medium diameter, cardioid capsule, the MK011 has a frequency response flat from 40Hz to 20kHz within +/‑ 2dB. This contrasts with most dynamic vocal mics, which have a deliberate presence hump of several dBs in the response at between 3 and 5kHz. With a sensitivity of 10mV/Pa, the mic isn't quite as sensitive as the best capacitor studio mics, but it still beats the pants off a typical dynamic.
Constructionally, the mic is machined from what looks like aluminium (which seems to be anodised), but other than that, the finish might best be described as perfunctory. A conventional mesh basket protects the capsule, and though this ostensibly doubles as a pop‑shield, an additional, separate pop shield should ideally be used in the studio. There are no pad, roll‑off or on/off switches, and the solid‑state integral preamp incorporates a transformer, which, as well as providing the necessary impedance matching, may well have some influence on the overall sound of the mic.
I was fortunate enough to get hold of two of these mics to review, which allowed me to explore the possibility of using them as a stereo pair. After conscripting acoustic guitarist Rob Parrett to help out, I made my first tests on a nylon‑strung acoustic guitar, an instrument that occasionally gives rise to problems because of its relatively low volume and mellow tone. As it transpired, setting the mics up as a spaced pair produced an instantly usable sound, with one mic picking up the depth of the body tone and the other the detail and articulation from the neck. There seemed to be no obvious coloration, yet the sound was bright and lively without being thin.
Tested with vocals, the mics again sounded reasonably flat and honest, and though this isn't always what you are looking for, it does at least provide a good starting point — though I have to confess to preferring the subtle flattery of the MK219 in this application.
Given the affordability of these mics, combined with their fairly neutral tone, I think I'd assign them to the 'general purpose' slot in the mic locker, and I'd almost certainly buy two if the budget allowed. They are accurate enough (and quiet enough) for recording acoustic soloists, ensembles or choirs in stereo (XY or spaced), while in the studio they are suitable for most acoustic instruments, vocals, percussion and drum overheads. Because of their conventional appearance, I don't think the 011 will achieve the same fame as the MK219, but that doesn't make it any less worthy. Given that you could spend nearly as much on a dynamic or budget back‑electret mic, the MK011 presents a very attractive proposition. Check it out — I think Ural be impressed!
Though you have to provide your own lead for the 011, the mic comes complete with plastic carrying case, stand clip and XLR plug (should you fancy making your own lead).
According to the data sheet which is also included (though it's currently in Russian), the microphone is suitable for a broad spectrum of applications, including television, film, radio and theatre. Strangely, that same data sheet completely fails to mention recording studio applications — but that didn't stop us checking it out in the studio!
- Good all‑round performance.
- Bargain price.
- Perfunctory finish.
As well as being a competent all‑rounder, this microphone is attractively priced, making it practical to buy two for stereo use.