This low-cost mic combines smart styling with a solid, neutral sound.
Samson's CL7 fits into the category of 'yet another low-cost Chinese-built capacitor mic', but that shouldn't prevent you from considering it, as it offers a very respectable level of performance for very little money. Despite its budget provenance, the CL7 looks to be nicely engineered and styled, with all-metal construction, silver bodywork, and a black double-layer protective basket. As its appearance suggests, the CL7 is a side-entry, large-diaphragm capacitor mic designed for project-studio vocal and instrument recording. It features a diaphragm with a 1.1-inch diaphragm, coated with gold to a thickness of three microns. The polar pattern is a fixed cardioid, and the mic requires nominal 48V phantom power (36-52V in practice) to operate. The capsule is shockmounted, and the diaphragm is centre terminated.
While many mics use machined body parts, the CL7 has a die-cast body shell that has a somewhat Art Deco feel to it. I was curious to look inside, but could find no obvious means of access. A swivel standmount is included, as is a rigid plastic case with a foam lining, but costs have been cut by not including a shockmount, camera-style case, or wooden box in the package.
According to the specifications and published frequency-response plot, this mic has a useful working range of 30Hz-20kHz, with only the gentlest of presence peaks around 5kHz and a small amount of 'air frequency' boost at around 13kHz. This produces a nominally flat sound with just a hint of high-end gloss, and because it isn't over-coloured it should be usable with a wider range of vocal styles and instruments than a mic that imposes a specific character. For close vocal use or miking instruments that don't have extended low-frequency ranges, there's a low-frequency roll-off switch, and there's also a 10dB pad to extend the mic preamp's headroom when in close proximity to very loud sound sources. Both these switches are recessed toggles located just below the basket. As the maximum SPL is 147dB, there should be few sounds too loud for this mic to handle.
The other key specs are consistent with other mics of this type, specifically the 12dB EIN noise figure and the overall sensitivity. Very little technical detail is provided on the circuitry of the mic, and you can't get inside to take a look by simply unscrewing the outer case. However, it seems to be a transformerless FET design, which is typical for a mic of this type. Overall the mic measures 2.125 x 7 inches and it weighs 1.1Ibs. In other words. it feels substantial enough, but isn't likely to make your mic stand sag!
When I reviewed the Samson C1 capacitor mic, which used a back-electret capsule, I found it to be slightly noisy, but the CL7 compares well in this respect with its contemporaries, and it is certainly quiet enough for all typical studio applications. Tonally it is surprisingly solid and neutral, with plenty of definition, and it works nicely on acoustic guitar as well as vocals. Furthermore, as it has a well-extended low-end response (when the low-cut switch isn't being used), it also has sufficient range to work with bass instruments.
While more expensive mics may offer greater transparency, the CL7 is capable of making very high-quality recordings, and any imperfections it may have are likely to be outweighed by the acoustic imperfections of the typical home-studio recording environment. In other words, while more money will always buy you more microphone, once you get past a certain quality level, the mic may no longer be the weakest link in your recording chain.
To put things into perspective, the CL7 costs rather less than a good dynamic stage microphone, yet will give far better results on most sources when used in studio conditions. Its performance is comparable with that of other decent budget Chinese capacitor mics, but the cost has been kept down by offering simpler packaging and by selling the shockmount as an option. As an entry-level capacitor mic, the CL7 is a bit of a bargain in the UK — though certainly not without competition from other Chinese-built brands. It is also good enough to be used as a secondary mic in much more serious recording applications, so it will still be useful when you eventually progress to a more up-market main mic.
- Clean, well-balanced sound.
- Nicely styled.
- Shockmount optional.
A decent entry-level capacitor mic capable of making good vocal and instrument recordings.