Chameleon Labs TS-1
Detachable-Capsule Pencil Tube Condenser Microphone
The TS-1 is a small-diaphragm tube condenser mic with detachable capsules. The TS-1 kit includes cardioid and omni capsules; a hypercardioid capsule is also available.
Further, Chameleon’s ADP-1 adapter allows AKG’s CK series capsules to be used on the TS-1 body, providing a variety of additional capsule styles and pickup patterns — see below for a list. Of the original CK capsules, all should work except for the CK5 as it had a shorter pin length.
Chameleon’s capsules are made in China to meet performance specifications from the designer. The gold-sputtered diaphragm measures 3 microns in thickness and 17mm in diameter.
The mic and power supply were designed by Terry Setter (the ‘TS’ in the model number), who began the project at the request of Chameleon Labs. Setter purchased and gutted some SDCs from ADK to serve as a workbench, and spent a year on the circuit and power supply for the mic that would become the TS-1.
One of the key components in the mic’s architecture is the 5840 tube, which is supplied by Chameleon to the Chinese manufacturer. According to Setter, this particular tube is shock-rated for 400 g, meaning that if you drop the mic, you’re more likely to break the metal housing than the tube inside.
If you want extraordinary clarity and realism, there’s nothing like a plate-loaded circuit.
Another component is that the circuit is plate-loaded rather than using a cathode-follower design. The transformer is of Chinese origin, made to Setter’s performance specs.
The power supply is the third innovative component contributing to the mic’s sound. Unlike common low-end Chinese PSUs with 4-stage filtering, or higher-end supplies with 6-stage filtering, the Chameleon power supply is overbuilt with 7-stage filtering. It’s unregulated, “like great supplies of yesteryear.” It incorporates a toroidal transformer.
Setter says of the power supply, “the next level of refinement would be very costly,” and likely not yield results audible to most users. “I tried to put everything into that thing that can be put in, and manufactured reliably using readily-available parts.”
The final piece of the architecture was the capsule. After months of circuitry experimentation, Setter determined that the prototype’s performance was being held back by the ADK capsule. Working with Chameleon’s contacts at the manufacturing plant, a high-end 17mm capsule was identified as meeting Setter’s needs.
The finished prototype was then shipped to the manufacturing plant, beginning a second year of design iterations and refinements, with the final result being the mic as is shipped from Chameleon today.
Unlike most Chinese-made microphones, the TS-1 does not appear to have been cloned or copied; it remains one of a handful of unique small-diaphragm tube condensers on the market.
Can the TS-1 be modded?
“You can always mod,” Setter laughed. But the physical size of the mic body and PSU are limiting factors. Setter added that his personal TS-1s are stock.
I love the TS-1 Microphones. Seems like every session I do, I find an instrument that they sound great on.
The TS-1 kit includes: the mic preamp, two capsules (cardioid and omni), power supply, shockmount, 7-pin cable, power cord, foam windscreen, flight case, and a 1-year warranty.
The Chameleon Labs TS1 … puts in an impressive performance, combining versatility with a subjectively pleasing sound quality … Its applications parallel those of Neumann’s KM184 and similar small-diaphragm mics, though it has its own tonality, the tube adding a touch of warmth and somehow smoothing the highs without sacrificing brightness or detail… I’m very impressed.
In 2010, the company launched a new large-diaphragm capsule head for the TS-1. Inside the headbasket is a 35mm OD, 28mm dual-diaphragm capsule that can be switched between Cardioid and Omni pickup patterns.
The Chameleon Labs TS-1 is also known as: TS1.
|Pads & Filters||Impedance||SPL/Noise|
|n/a||200 Ohms (Low)||Max SPL: 130 dB
Self-noise: 19.0 dB(A)
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