Samson seek a share of the budget microphone market with their highly competitive large-diaphragm condenser.
The Samson C01 is the latest in a long line of Chinese-built, low-cost studio capacitor microphones, but, rather than simply badge an off-the-shelf model, Samson seem to have had this one built specially for them.
The overall case style is not dissimilar to the Superlux and Red5 Audio mics we reviewed earlier this year, but here the cardioid capsule is 19mm in diameter rather than one-inch (25mm), though it still features the same three-micron thick, gold-sputtered diaphragm construction. There are no pad or low-cut slide switches on the mic, though there is a LED that illuminates when phantom power is applied, indicating which side you should sing into. With the main body finished in matt silver, the mic's basket section has a dark grey metallic finish, as has the included swivel mount. Externally, the standard of engineering is impressively classy and the mic comes in a nicely designed, rigid, foam-lined plastic case. An optional SP01 shockmount is also available.
The frequency response of the mic shows a gentle drop-off below 80Hz, plus a gentle presence/air boost centred around 10kHz. The response is quoted at 40Hz to 18kHz (the graph indicates that levels are down by around 6dB at these points), which is more like the Rode NT1 than the models mentioned earlier. Sensitivity is quoted at 33dB/Pa and, in practice, this was comparable with the other capacitor mics I tested it against and, indeed, a little higher than some. The maximum SPL handling is 136dB, which simply means loud sounds won't upset it.
Tonally, the C01 has the bright, open sound associated with this type of microphone and, in direct comparison with my Rode NT1, it sounded slightly more airy at the top (as the frequency response curve suggested it might), but less solid at the low end. However, when I checked the ambient noise level, (at similar levels measured at the preamp output), the Samson seemed to generate several dBs more noise than the mics I compared it with, including my Rode NT1. In a typical close-miking situation, this proved not to be a problem, but it means the C01 would be less suitable for singers with quieter voices or for any sounds recorded at a distance.
Overall, the C01 has almost everything going for it, from UK price to quality of finish and sound, with only slightly higher background noise than expected betraying its budget nature. To be able to buy a good-sounding capacitor microphone for anything like this price is astonishing, but, in critical applications where slightly higher self-noise may be problematic, it may be worth spending a little more on something quieter.
C01 condenser microphone £79; SP01 shockmount £29; C01 + SP01 set £99. Prices include VAT.
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