Tandy PZM Microphone
Tandy's PZM mic has become a legend in home recording circles because of its outstanding performance and low price. It's not perfect, but, used correctly, can produce impressive results in many situations.
The PZM's looks are unusual. It comprises a square metal plate, above which is suspended a small, electret microphone capsule. Being an electret, power is required for the preamp; a small battery box is located in the cable. The mic will operate for long periods from a standard AA battery; a slide switch selects on, off or standby modes.
There's logic behind the layout of this mic, as it works on a different principle to normal mics. The backplate reflects sound back to the capsule in such a way as to usefully add it to the direct sound arriving at the capsule. Not only does this increase the efficiency of the mic, it avoids the colourations encountered when a conventional mic picks up direct and reflected sound in a non-coherent way. For the mic to work efficiently at low frequencies, it must be mounted on a surface large enough to reflect the long wavelengths involved — the metal backplate is far too small.
For optimum performance, the surface should be around 1 metre square (a rigid board, or the mic may be fixed to a wall). The resulting pickup pattern is hemispherical; sound quality is pretty consistent regardless of the distance of the source from the mic. This is in contrast to most conventional mics, which tend to sound more 'confused' at long distances. The PZM has a bright, open sound and is useful in a variety of recording situations from acoustic ensembles to vocals.
It should be borne in mind, though, that this is a budget mic, and its Achilles heel is its relative insensitivity compared to upmarket studio mics. The sensitivity can be increased slightly by using a 9V battery instead of the 1.5V battery supplied (solder on a clip and tape the new battery outside the case), but even so, very quiet or distant sounds require a lot of mixer gain, which brings up background hiss. You'll also need to use a pop shield for vocals, as it's quite susceptible to popping. Despite its limitations, this is an excellent mic for general-purpose recording, while a pair provides the ideal opportunity to explore stereo recording techniques on a low budget.
Tandy PZM mic £34.99 inc VAT.
Any Tandy shop — see your local telephone directory.
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Review by Paul White
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