The range of audio products available from Cutec extends through a four (soon to be eight) track tape machine, mixer and effects units to now include a range of three cardioid dynamic microphones; the CDM2, 4 and 6. They are all low impedance, being rated at 600, 500 and 600 ohms respectively and incorporate on/off slide switches which in the case of the CDM4 and CDM6 are recessed into the microphone body.
The CDM2 is a low cost cardioid microphone, ruggedly housed in a matt black body with a strong matt black mesh pop shield. It has a permanent two wire (signal and screen) lead terminating in a moulded standard quarter inch jack plug. The quoted frequency response of this model is 80Hz-12kHz, however, these figures are fairly meaningless without some indication of the peaks and troughs encountered en route from the lowest to the highest frequency. 80Hz-12kHz is a fairly limited range so far as music recording goes but results on speech recording were found very acceptable with a clarity that was aided by the roll-off in the low frequencies.
Being as robust as it is, the CDM2 would lend itself very well to journalistic use and should cope well with the hazards of life spent rolling around in the bottom of a holdall on location. The windshield is effective in reducing popping and breath noise which would indicate that it should behave well outside in situations exposed to the elements where wind can often cause problems.
The CDM4 is the mid-priced model of the three. Its body is mottled metallic grey and it also features a hefty pop shield. It is supplied complete with detachable cable, XLR at the mic end and standard jack at the other. The lead is of unusually good quality to find supplied with a microphone in this price range.
The quoted frequency response for this microphone is 60Hz-15kHz and again the most we can really surmise from this is that it probably has a wider response than the CDM2 because the bottom figure is lower and the top one is higher. In practice, the CDM4 has proved to have a flatter frequency response than either that of the CDM2 or CDM6. For general recording purposes this would normally be a most important factor if your aim is to get a sound as close to the sound of the original as possible back off tape. This is not always the case, however, as some microphones often have their frequency response tailored to suit specific applications as we shall see in the case of the CDM6.
The CDM4 was also given a thorough bashing as a vocal microphone put through the PA at a small rock gig and fared very well indeed. Feedback was not a problem which is a good indication that there are no nasty peaks in its response and its pop shield was able to cope with 'B's and 'P's from almost point blank range.
The CDM6 is at the top of Cutec's range of microphones and certainly looks the part. Its pop shield is even heftier than those of the aforementioned models and its body has an attractive pinky-coppery-grey turned look to it which is very smart. This model also comes complete with detachable XLR to jack cable which is even thicker than that supplied with the CDM4. In fact, the upgrades follow through the range, cables getting heavier, pop shields mightier, bodies heavier and frequency ranges wider, very obviously giving improved quality each time.
The frequency response of the CDM6 is quoted as 50Hz-19kHz. This increase in the top end is very obvious and made more so by a rolling off at the bottom. Although the CDM4 is only quoted down to 60Hz, and this one goes down to 50Hz, the CDM4 sounds fuller in the bass. This goes back to the point about referencing the levels at different frequencies to give a more accurate picture of what is going on.
Although listening to the results of a microphone is always the best option, the most useful guide in print is probably the frequency response curve shown graphically with frequency along the bottom and level in dB up the side. The ideal for faithful reproduction would be a straight line from 20Hz to 20kHz indicating that signals at any frequency across the audible range would come out of the microphone with the same intensity, relative to each other, as when they went in. In practice, the top and bottom ends generally curve downwards indicating that the highest and lowest frequencies will be reproduced less strongly than the middle frequencies.
Coming back to the CDM6 we would see a bump at the high frequency end of the curve at around 4-10kHz giving what is known as a presence lift. A 'presence lift' is useful in vocal microphones to help give the voice definition. The CDM6 would also show an earlier slope downwards at the low frequency end than the CDM4. This is because the CDM6, meant primarily for close-miked use, has had its low end tailored to allow for the proximity effect. This is the phenomenon whereby, as the sound source approaches close to the microphone, there is a rise in the bass response. This proximity effect is desirable to a degree as it can add warmth to a vocal but if the frequency response extends too far down then the enhancement of these frequencies can muddy the sound.
The CDM6 is much less prone to handling noise than its two companions and this, together with its previously examined frequency characteristics, would indicate that this model lends itself towards hand-held vocal use.
At the same gig as the CDM4 was helping out with the backing vocals, the CDM6 actually took some stick from the lead vocals and fared very well indeed. There was no feedback problem and the extended top end helped the vocals cut through over the music. The other vocal microphones used were the old industry standard Shure SM58s and to bear up under that sort of competition is good going.
Although this Cutec range of microphones is obviously geared towards the budget conscious end of the audio market they have not compromised on quality to build down to a price. Rather it seems they have put in as much as they can for the money. The CDM2 will not burn a hole in the pocket at £18 but is solid enough to go on listening to people for years.
A large proportion of home recordists will also play live and vice versa. For them the CDM4 at £28 and the CDM6 at £41 would provide economic dual purpose tools with those biased towards recording opting for the CDM4 with flatter response, and the performer going for the generally more rugged CDM6. The more predominant top end of the CDM6 is useful for PA work whereas it could prove a little too sibilant for recording vocals, although it gave a good edge to a steel strung acoustic guitar and the vocal sibilance could be countered to some extent with EQ.
Whilst I would be the last to condone skimping on microphones when setting up a recording system, if the budget really is tight then each of these microphones, especially the CDM4, offers pretty good value for money.
The Cutec COM2, CDM4 and CDM6 retail for £18, £28 and £41 respectively including VAT.
Details from: MTR, (Contact Details).
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Review by Martin Sheehan
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