Beyerdynamic MC834 Capacitor Microphone
Beyer's new baby is a highly specified cardioid microphone, but unlike many large diaphragm models, it has a proclivity for truth rather than flattery. Paul White checks it out.
Beyerdynamic are best known for their dynamic microphones, but in recent years, their MC740 switchable-pattern capacitor mic has established something of a reputation in recording studios, helping to change the established perception of their products. In developing the MC834, they've taken a different approach, introducing a cardioid-only model which satisfies a great many pro-audio needs at a significantly lower cost.
Like the MC740, the MC834 features a large-diaphragm capsule which achieves low self-noise at the expense of a slight deterioration in off-axis response. As cardioid microphones are normally used on-axis, the degree of compromise is not a problem, and in any event, this criticism applies to all large-diameter capsule designs.
Designed to withstand SPLs up to 150dB, the MC834 is fitted with switchable 10dB and 20dB attenuation. For vocal use, there is a three-position LF rolloff switch providing either a flat response or a 6dB rollof at either 60Hz or 120Hz. Unusually for a large-diaphragm mic, the frequency response is surprisingly flat rather than being tailored for 'character'. On axis, the response is virtually flat from 40Hz to 20kHz with just a slight rise (which never exceeds about 2dB) between 12kHz and 17kHz. The response is excellent up to around 45 degrees off-axis, and still acceptable at 90 degrees, albeit with some attenuation of high frequencies.
Physically, this microphone follows a fairly conventional construction, with the capsule and basket mounted on a cylindrical body which houses the transformerless electronics, much of which is built using surface-mounted devices. All the metalwork is finished in black, the legend being picked out in white; the cylindrical body may be removed to give access to the circuitry by simply unscrewing the retaining ring behind the XLR socket.
As with the vast majority of large diaphragm designs, the microphone is a side-entry type, and because of its large diameter, it needs to be mounted in an elastic suspension cradle such as the Beyerdynamic EA 834. The basket assembly appears to be foam lined, making it virtually impossible to see the capsule, and though the basket can be disassembled, the small size of the retaining screws implies that this is not a job to be lightly undertaken by the user.
The attenuator and rolloff switches are tiny thumbwheel devices, the current setting being displayed through a small window cut into the side of the handle.
Phantom powering is possible from any suitable source in the range 12 to 48 volts at 4mA or greater, an internal DC to DC converter being used to provide the necessary voltages to polarise the capsule and drive the electronics. The output impedance is nominally 180 ohms, yielding a signal-to-noise ratio of 69dB. An open-circuit sensitivity of 20mV/Pa (+/-2dB) is quoted.
Beyerdynamic have built a versatile and beautifully-engineered microphone which would make a good all rounder for someone wanting just one decent mic that can handle everything. If bought specifically as a vocal mic, then I strongly recommend (as I do with all vocal mics), that you try it for yourself to see if your voice and its characteristics make a good team. In comparison with the MC740, the newcomer is noticeably different in character. Despite having a surprisingly flat response, it comes over as having a bright, lively sound that cuts through a mix but without being too harsh or abrasive. The MC740 has a generally warmer tone, though on paper, it has a more pronounced presence peak. The MC834 is certainly sufficiently sensitive for all typical studio applications, and its transparent tone makes it ideal for a variety of secondary tasks such as drum overhead miking, acoustic guitars, general percussion and so on. In fact, the high SPL levels that this microphone is capable of accepting should enable it to tackle just about any job where a good cardioid mic is required, including miking notoriously loud sources such as brass, electric guitar and snare drums.
As a vocal mic, the suitability of the MC834 will depend, as always, on the tonal character of the singer and on the result you're seeking. As a backing vocal mic, it could be very useful in creating a sound which retains its integrity within a mix, but without crowding out the low-mid section of the audio spectrum. Likewise, it may be ideally suited to a singer with a thick voice who needs the clarity and penetrating power of an up-front mic rather than a very warm-sounding model which will only compound his or her problems. The other side of the coin, as always, is that someone who has a very thin voice might not feel they are getting sufficient help from this particular model, though working close to the mic does bring the proximity effect into play, which adds a lot of weight to the sound. Ultimately, the response of this mic tends towards honesty rather than flattery so it's really a case of what you put in — you get out.
Ultimately, the MC834 is a very professional microphone — it's the fact that it has a fixed cardioid pattern which means it can be priced within reach of the serious amateur rather than just the professional.
Beyer MC834 £821.32; EA834 suspension £116.32. Prices inc VAT.
Beyerdynamic GB Ltd, (Contact Details).
Review by Paul White
Previous article in this issue:
Next article in this issue:
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!