TapeOp Issue #25/September, 2001 | by Andy Hong
I can’t recall a time when good-sounding mics have been so readily affordable as they are now. I purchased three Oktava MC012 condenser mics for less than it would have cost me to buy three SM-57s. The biggest music retailer in the US regularly advertises this mic for $99, but if you’re friendly with the salesperson you can probably get it for less.
Its low cost is the first reason why the MC012 makes a great close mic for drums. If the drummer hits it, there’s no need to remortgage your house. The MC012’s less-than-delicate sound is the second reason. Its proximity effect seems to be “just right” for toms. Placing the mic right above the edge of the drum head tends to bring out the boom of the strike and the oomph of the resonance, without putting too much emphasis on the ring. For snare drum, I usually use an Earthworks omni mic against the shell, but if I need some extra boom or oomph, I’ll supplement the shell mic with an MC012 on the top head.
I’ve tried the MC012 on guitar amps and I’ll say that I’m not a fan, as I tend to prefer a clean midrange emphasis on guitars. The same character that makes the drums big tends to muddy up the electric guitar. As room mics, they work better — and on acoustic guitars, as long as you keep them pulled back from the body, they sound broad and not at all tinny. Your mileage may vary — especially because Oktava’s build-consistency is all over the map. I went through the store’s entire stock of MC012 mics and hand-picked the components (capsule, pad, preamp, clip) to assemble three mics with the least number of physical aberrations. Even still, the grille on one mic has already come loose and the clamp on another mic doesn’t rotate forward fully. Therefore, it won’t be a surprise if one MC012 sounds different from another MC012. My three MC012s all share the same character, but their sounds do differ slightly in the top end.
Despite the flaws, the MC012 is an amazing deal given its extreme affordability and its decent sound. If you’re willing to pay more to get better build quality, check out The Sound Room, US importers of hand-matched and hand-qualified Oktava mics. I bought my MC012s from the local music superstore for $80 each.
Read more about the Oktava MK-012 small-diaphragm pencil condenser microphone.