Wednesday, July 31st, 2013 | by Jon Mattox
I like great sounding microphones. And I especially like great sounding microphones that are versatile, and work well on many different sound sources. The Vintage 11 by JZ Microphones is one such microphone.
The Vintage 11 is a large diaphragm condenser that indeed has a unique “vintage” sound do it. Not by duplicating the design of an old European model, but by creating a modern design in a class of its own. The unique look of the Vintage 11 further conveys that this microphone is not attempting to copy an old Neumann, Telefunken, or AKG mic.
I’ve had the opportunity to test the Vintage 11 extensively in my recording studio on a wide variety of instruments and applications. Being able to test out new gear in one’s own studio is ultimately the best way to evaluate how well a new piece gear works.
As a vocal mic, the Vintage 11 stands strong. I was able to compare it to one one of my favorite go-to vocal mics, an old Neumann U 87. During an intimate and emotional male vocal session, the Vintage 11 created a bit more presence with the voice, and captured a bit more of the low-mid frequencies, making the vocal sit just right in the music.
On a another session, I compared the Vintage 11 and the U87 while recording a female vocalist who had a high soprano vocal range and an intensely loud pop/dance vocal style. There were no considerable differences between the two microphones. The producer, artist, and I were very pleasantly surprised by the performance of the relatively inexpensive V11.
Drums & Percussion
I did a shootout comparing the Vintage 11 with the U87, and a vintage AKG 414 all as mono overheads on a drum set. The Vintage 11 again captured a bit more of the lower mid frequencies, which were clearly heard in the kick drum. This shootout also revealed that the Vintage 11 is a little less bright in the higher frequencies of the cymbals compared to the other two mics. I later heard this high end frequency dip on other bright-sounding sources.
This is actually welcome news for many percussion instruments, because often times in mixing I’ll add low pass filters to overheads, shakers, and metallic sounds to help them sit better in the mix. The market is full of mics with exaggerated and harsh high end frequency boosts, so the Vintage 11 stands out from the crowd. My recordings of shakers, maracas, and other percussion instruments with high-frequency attack sounded natural and pleasant to the ears, with no need for a low pass filter.
The V11 also sounded great as a room mic on drums and percussion.
We put the V11 up as a room mic when recording a guitar cabinet, with an SM57 as the close mic. The production called for an ambient, textural type of guitar part. The Vintage 11 track complimented the SM57 track well, creating a warm and smooth combined sound.
Recording violin with the Vintage 11 further demonstrated just how versatile this microphone is. Due to its lack of boosted high frequencies, getting a warm and silky string sound was simple, requiring few positioning adjustments. Bowing noises were not exaggerated as they often can be with other mics. It was a beautiful sound, and blended well with the music.
Ease of Use
During some of the sessions, I noticed that repositioning the mic sometimes required reversing the mic within its mount. This requires removing two thumbscrews from the bottom of the microphone.
This would happen when I needed to radically change the angle of the microphone. For example, the V11’s mount does not pivot far enough to position the microphone parallel to the ground. It is easy to remove the thumbscrews (no tools required), flip the mic around, and re-tighten the screws, but this introduces unwanted delays to a session.
The Vintage 11 has a lot of value packed into it. It sounds great on a variety of sources, and compares favorably to more expensive studio microphones. I would recommend the Vintage 11 to anyone needing one good, versatile condenser microphone for their studio. I would also recommend the Vintage 11 to engineers looking for more sonic variety in their mic locker. The unique frequency response of this mic makes it a useful complement to many popular condensers.