Beyer M400 and M69 Microphones
Beyer Dynamic of West Germany are one of the major European microphone manufacturers, with an extensive range of condenser and dynamic (both moving-coil and ribbon) models to cover most applications in the PA and recording field. Beyer offer a number of moving-coil designs in particular that are both versatile and competitively priced, including the M69 and M400 that are the subject of this month's review
The M69N(C) is a hyper-cardioid mic intended mainly for recording studio applications, although its very rugged and surprisingly weighty construction should make it equally at home in more physically demanding environments. The body of the microphone is finished in a functional matt black, complemented by a chromed wire-mesh ball-end which has a rather flattened top. The slim, 1" diameter shaft houses a three-pin male XLR connector at its base, with the output being low impedance (nominally 200 ohms), and balanced (Pin 2 'hot', Pin 3 'cold', Pin 1 earth, in accordance with the European 'standard').
The M69 exhibits well controlled polar characteristics, with the specified hyper-cardioid pick-up pattern displaying the expected null points around 120 and 240 degrees, and the off-axis response apparently suffering no particularly harmful irregularities. This mic's tight directionality should be an asset in achieving good separation in close-miked work, and in effectively resisting feedback in live performance PA usage.
The M69's nominal frequency response is an unqualified 50 Hz to 16 kHz, but such figures are of no great significance in themselves, for in practice the actual curve is usefully 'tailored' in the upper midrange, whilst the bottom-end response is extensively modified by variations in the working distance. Most cardioid mics display this type of 'proximity effect' to some extent, and in the M69 close-up use results in about 10dB of boost at 100 Hz.
At greater working distances, however, the response is rather more smooth, but it is also gently tilted, with 100 Hz being about 6dB down, and 5 kHz 6dB up, relative to 1 kHz. This imparts a subjectively pleasing impression of clarity and detail to the sound, with a well controlled low frequency area, and very little of the 'brittle' and harsh qualities often found in mics that have been tailored to give a presence boost. The M69 is able to sound pleasingly smooth and well balanced in a number of instrumental recording applications, although the lack of extension at both frequency extremes makes it less suited to the more demanding wide range sources such as piano, or drum kit overhead use.
Hand-held vocals displayed good articulation and a pleasant warmth, but handling noise, although not excessive, seemed to contain rather a high degree of HF content for this type of mic. Some 'popping' was evident on explosive breath sounds when used close up, and I would recommend the use of Beyer's optional accessory popscreen (PS88) for the recording of vocals with this mic. An alternative version of this model is available, designated M69N(C)2, which features a built-in 'voice-music' switch, offering a low frequency roll-off effect of 12dB at 50 Hz to counteract the proximity effect if desired.
The M69 possessed reasonable sensitivity for a moving-coil model; microphone sensitivity is quoted in a number of different ways, sometimes making comparison between different manufacturers' specification rather difficult without knowledge of the necessary calculations. However, I always employ the common method of specifying the output voltage, in millivolts, produced by a reference sound level of 74dB SPL (roughly equivalent to the level of conversational speech at a distance of about eight inches). This produces a figure for the M69 of 0.23mV (equivalent to -73dBV). For comparison, some previously reviewed moving-coil models include the Sennheiser MD441 at 0.18mV (-75dBV) and AKG's D202 at 0.16mV (-76dBV), whereas a typical condenser mic will offer a much higher sensitivity, with a figure in the region of 1.0mV (-60dBV). The Beyer M69 certainly has a healthy enough output level for the type of task to which it is suited however, as this consists mainly of close-miked applications.
Due to the rather limited time that these mics were available for this review, I was unable to make a practical evaluation with quite as many different sources as usual, and my previous experience of this model was limited to their use as tom-tom mics in a multi-mic kit balance, where they certainly performed very well. However, Beyer's Applications Chart recommends the M69 for use with the smaller brass instruments such as trumpet and trombone, as well as reed instruments like clarinet and saxophone. From my experience of similar models I would expect this mic to perform adequately with these instruments in less critical circumstances, but I do not feel able to agree with Beyer's suggestion of use with acoustic guitar, for I found it to be lacking the necessary sensitivity and frequency extension to do justice to the subtleties of acoustic stringed instruments. Conversely, although electric guitar is not among the recommended applications of the M69, I found it to be well suited to the miking up of guitar and other instrument amplifiers.
The Beyer M69 is a versatile microphone, which is able to give a creditable performance in a variety of applications, and bearing in mind also the very reasonable price, the model certainly merits consideration as a general purpose microphone for small studio and home recording work, or high quality sound reinforcement.
Beyer's model M400 N(C)S 'Soundstar MkII' is a moving-coil super-cardioid design which conforms to the traditional shape of the hand-held vocal mic, with a tapered matt black anodized body, contrasting with a chromed spherical ball-end that seems very tough and rigid.
The 'S' in the model designation denotes the presence of a light-action on/off switch, which can be locked in its 'on' position by a second, semi-recessed switch, in order to prevent accidental operation. This is a sensible system for this type of mic, for it is able to ensure uninterrupted operation when necessary, whilst also offering the convenience of an easily activated on-board control for situations where it can be desirable for the performer to be able to switch the mic off when it is not actually in use. The appropriate male XLR connector is fitted, wired Pin 2 'hot', with the balanced output being nominally low impedance (200 ohms). Although undoubtedly robust enough to withstand the rigours of professional use, the M400 is quite a lightweight unit which is nicely balanced and sits very comfortably in the hand.
This model is certainly sufficiently sensitive for a 'performance mic', with an open-circuit voltage of 0.2mV for 74dB SPL (-74dBV), giving a very healthy output level when used for close to the mouth vocals. The super-cardioid polar pattern has a reduced side area pick-up sensitivity compared to a true cardioid, and this enables the M400 to offer excellent resistance to feedback and rejection of spill in PA applications.
The frequency response, which is nominally 40Hz to 16kHz, has obviously been extensively tailored to suit the envisaged usage of this mic, by significantly rolling off low frequencies below 200Hz, and providing a rising response through the midrange up to around 7kHz.
When used for close-up vocals, the bottom-end roll-off counteracts the rise in bass frequencies caused by the natural proximity effect, resulting in a well balanced response that is never excessively 'boomy', and which offers an emphasised upper midrange area to achieve the definition and clarity needed for a well articulated vocal sound. The built-in blast filter seems to work efficiently, for I encountered no problems with 'popping' on explosive consonants, whilst handling and impact noises were similarly well controlled in normal use, with not too much obtrusive middle and high frequency content. The M400 also incorporates a 'humbucking' coil for the suppression of external field interference; many manufacturers use this technique with relatively low output moving-coil mics, for it can achieve a significant improvement in the rejection of induced noise (Beyer specify greater than 20dB at 50Hz for their system).
However, the tailored response and inherent colourations that are desirable for achieving a good quality vocal sound with a PA system, must inevitably also impose some limitations on the effectiveness of this model in recording applications. With wide range acoustic sources, where the qualities of smoothness and neutrality are required and where slightly more distance mic placements are often favoured, the M400 can tend to sound rather thin and lacking in warmth, with the emphasised presence region perhaps contributing to a subjective impression of a 'hard' colouration.
More pleasing results, however, were obtained with this model in close-miked applications, once again displaying a particular suitability for tom-tom pick-up in a multi-mic kit balance, and also proving highly effective with instrument amplifiers, and guitar amps in particular, where additional colouration and presence can be more of an asset than a problem.
Brass and reed instrument use is again specified by Beyer for this mic, and whilst I was unable to verify this in the time available, I felt that a smoother response might often be preferable for the recording of this type of instrument, although the mic's characteristics should be well suited to sound reinforcement work with these sources.
Both these Beyer models are ruggedly constructed and versatile in performance, and might prove a particularly attractive proposition for a performer or band in need of microphones that are suitable for on-stage use with a PA system, but which can also double as recording mics for home studio use.
The M69 and M400 are each supplied with a rigid 'de-luxe leatherette presentation case' which is foam-lined and should provide more than adequate protection against damage in transit. A fairly indestructible looking swivel stand adaptor is provided, complete with dual thread adapter, and also an individual frequency response plot to reassure the purchaser that his model conforms to specification.
The M400 is supplied complete with its own 7.5 metre lead, consisting of a fairly reasonable two-conductor and screen cable, fitted with the necessary female XLR connector to mate with the microphone, and terminated at the other end with a mono, and therefore unbalanced, ¼" jack plug, (the conversion of this cable for balanced operation if necessary, would simply require the substitution of a 3 pin male XLR connector in place of the jack plug, with the blue, 'hot' wire connected to Pin 2, the white wire to Pin 3, and the screen to Pin 1).
Neither of these mics could really be described as expensive; the M69 is listed at £88.68 inc VAT, and the M400 (with switch) at £101.38 inc VAT, and although no clear preference for either model emerged from my recording tests, the extra effectiveness of the M400 in hand-held applications might be considered by some users to more than offset the difference in cost.
Both models actually offer fine performance and versatility at a competitive price, but if serious recording work is to be the purchaser's sole application, then I would certainly recommend that they should be evaluated alongside some of the other models in the Beyer range, such as the excellent M201, which I feel may offer a superior recording performance for a comparable outlay.
For availability details please contact: Beyer Dynamic (GB) Ltd., (Contact Details).
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Review by Dave Lockwood
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