Say what you like...
BPM StudioTechnik CR73
Berlin’s hottest new condenser mic
The BPM StudioTechnik CR73 may be a mouthful to say but, once you've sung into it, you may wonder why anyone ever spends more than £500 on a microphone. Chris Kempster takes a liking to Berlin's latest condenser mic
In the field of microphone manufacturing, Deutschland tiber Alles. The Americans make some neat industry standards at the budget end of the market, the Danes and the Austrians have their own niches, the Japanese do what they're best at and turn out a nice line in affordable replicas. But when it comes to innovation allied to ultimate constructional integrity, the discerning mic user chooses German.
Names like Sennheiser, Neumann, and BeyerDynamic are virtually 'household', and now that Germany is one nation once again, these industry giants are being joined by a number of smaller concerns such as Microtech Gefell and the company responsible for this impressive-looking creation, BPM.
Based in Berlin, BPM was formed only a couple of years ago by a former sound-engineer and songwriter. Udo Nekemeier is a big fan of the way jazz recordings were made in the 1950s and '60s, and his dissatisfaction with contemporary microphones led him to start making his own. Not surprisingly, he's including valve technology in his range of mics, and we'll be looking at a tubed-up model in an upcoming issue. The CR73 reviewed here, however, is strictly solid-state.
Made with a gold-foil capsule, this mic oozes class, although that's in no small way due to the fact that it looks a dead ringer for that mother of all large-diaphragm condenser mics, the Neumann U87. The CR73 will be competing with the Neumanns of this world for a place in front of the vocalist, and that's no easy task. However, a glance at the retail price of the CR73 indicates that if its performance is good enough, it'll pick up a fair amount of business; depending on the configuration of Neumann you go for, you could have three BPMs for a single U87. And, like all good condensers, the CR73's use doesn't begin and end with the vocals; already it's being used in a wide range of situations in Germany, from recording rock to acoustic jazz.
BPM mics come complete in aluminium flightcases with cut-foam interiors. Although not as attractive as some of the inlaid wooden presentation boxes on the market, these are a lot more practical - I know which box I'd rather have protecting my mic when travelling from one session to the next. Along with the mic, the case includes a popshield, a cable, and a pretty impressive-looking cradle. Totally conventional in design, this cradle holds the mic firmly and provides a reasonable amount of protection against vibrations.
"Used in pairs, it throws up a stable and transparent stereo image"
The mic itself is made out of a metal alloy, with the two sections of the casing meeting just below the capsule housing. This join was slightly loose on the model we tested, but we're assured this won't occur on production models.
There are two switches on the CR73, the first of which allows you to select between a flat frequency response, one with bass roll-off, and one with a -10dB pad. Again, this is standard stuff, but not all mics in this price bracket can boast this flexibility. The other switch determines the polar pattern, with a choice of either cardioid or omnidirectional patterns. A figure-of-eight pattern would have been nice - the U87 has one, as do a number of the other pretenders to its throne - but something, I guess, has to give somewhere.
The massive grille at the top houses the gold-plated capsule which, with a diameter of about an inch, shines through like a brass gong in the morning sun (off to Morocco for our holidays are we then, Kempster? - Ed).
To get an idea of what the CR73 sounds like, flip on this month's RE:MIX CD - all the voiceovers were recorded with it. Once you've done that, dig out last month's RE:MIX, on which an AKG C3000 was used for the voiceovers. And there you have it: a comparative test in the comfort of your own home. Who says trying out microphones is a long-winded business?
Using the CR73 on its cardioid setting, we found it to be very directional. Despite a constant barrage of traffic noise from the street outside our studio, very little came out on tape. In fact, in this respect it comfortably outperformed the C3000. This is an important consideration when you don't have the luxury of a soundproofed studio, which, let's face it, a large number of musicians don't.
"The designer is a big fan of '50s and '60s jazz recordings, and his dissatisfaction with contemporary mics led him to make his own"
The CR73 presents us with a full and well-rounded sound, but it has quite a bright edge to it that makes its source material well-defined but which also, perhaps, deprives the mic of some of the classic 'warmth' which producers and engineers seek when choosing a large-diaphragm condenser for vocals. The low-noise circuitry ensures that its output is very clean, and the level of its output is quite healthy, too.
Used in pairs, the CR73 makes a fine job of recording acoustic ensembles, where its clear, well-defined sound throws up a stable and transparent stereo image. This, more than anything else, demonstrates the inspiration behind this mic: the days when you'd record everything down to a stereo tape recorder with no close-miking at all - just a stereo pair at the front of the stage.
Microphones have, to some extent, remained aloof from the revolution in recording technology in the last decade. Because their designs have changed very little over the years, and because engineers tend to specify their favourite mics time and again, prices have stayed pretty high - until recently, that is. Now it seems that every week there's a new condenser that brings studio quality to the people, and the arrival of this U87-lookalike is one of the most striking examples of the trend so far.
I don't know how BPM manage to sell this mic for £449, but don't worry about the whys and wherefores, get out there and check this mic out - it offers spectacular value for money.
Price inc VAT: £449.00
More from: Small World Distribution, (Contact Details)
Gear in this article:
Review by Chris Kempster
mu:zines is the result of thousands of hours of effort, and will require many thousands more going forward to reach our goals of getting all this content online.
If you value this resource, you can support this project - it really helps!