TapeOp Issue #47/May, 2005 | by Pete Weiss
Where have I been all these years that I’ve never tried out an EV 635A? These things have been seen everywhere in the broadcast world for the past, like, forty years. You’d know the mic if you saw it; looks almost like a cartoon of a hand-held mic, sort of flashlight-like with a thinner-than usual barrel and a little knurled screw in the middle of the grill.
I recently picked up a few cosmetically beat-up examples of these for five bucks apiece (I know, I know…) at a music store’s “bargain table.” I felt sheepish asking the guy if I could quickly plug them in to see if they worked. He gave me a look like, “Dude, they’re five bucks apiece fer cryin’ out loud…” Long story short: they worked fine, and I’ve been trying them on all sorts of sound sources.
Turns out they’re omnidirectional dynamics, and built like tanks. A friend told me they were designed this way with news reporters in mind — omni so that interview subjects’ speech wouldn’t be lost due to being off-axis while ambience is picked up for that “on location” sound, and sturdy for dependability in rough locations.
Sound-wise, they’re not as “peaky” as a lot of dynamic mics. There’s a milky-ness that could almost be compared to the rounded character of a ribbon mic. And, due to being omnidirectional, the 635A doesn’t exhibit a proximity effect. These qualities work in its favor.
I’ve found them to be a great alternative to “the usual” for guitar cabinets — aggressively midrangey without being annoying and hyped. [Over at WMBR Radio, we’ve often used the 635A and other EV broadcast mics on guitar amps for this exact reason. –AH] Close mic’ing a snare with them was a bit more boxy than I liked, but acoustic guitar overdubs sounded natural and not too shiny. I tried them as drum overheads a few times with generally good “vintage-sounding” results; the room ambience they picked up was appealing, and they seemed to tame the cymbal harshness a bit. And they excel as room mics, especially when compressed a bit. I even dig them for vocals now and again; I had particularly good luck when tracking a vocal with the 635A and using that track as a double with one recorded with a brighter, more modern condenser.
These mics were definitely a pleasant surprise to find. They’ve become sort of a secret weapon in my mic cabinet; I find myself going to them if an old standby isn’t cutting it. A quick search on eBay indicates they seem to be plentiful and often inexpensive, and street price for a new 635A is $100. You owe it to yourself to at least check one out. ($172 MSRP; Electro-Voice)
Read more about the E-V 635A omnidirectional dynamic microphone.