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Picture of Sontronics Saturn microphone, angled away from the camera, on a black background

LEGACY PRODUCTS

Find out more about some of our gone but not forgotten microphones…

"The SATURN sits right next to me, permanently ready to go. That way at least I know the recording will sound good even if some of my playing doesn't!"

STEVE PRICE, Oscar-winning Film Composer

(Fury, Suicide Squad, The World's End)

 

  • Quick Guide to Condenser Microphones
    Some of the most commonly used microphones for recording vocals and instruments are condenser (also known as capacitor) microphones, which working by converting energy from soundwaves into an electrical signal. In the head of the microphone is a capsule that is made up of a front diaphragm (or transducer) and a back plate with an attached electrical wire, usually in the centre, as found in our Mercury, but sometimes at the edge, known as ‘edge-terminated’, as with our Aria. The diaphragm is made from a disc of very thin film, usually Mylar, covered in a layer of gold. When sound pressure from an audio source reaches the capsule, the thin diaphragm moves. The resulting changes in electrical value or capacitance are transmitted through the wire from the capsule to the electronics inside the microphone. At this point, the very weak signal from the capsule is amplified by components in the microphones internal circuit. Condenser microphones are extremely sensitive and therefore able to capture their subjects quickly and accurately. Their wide frequency response enables them to produce very natural recordings that are true to the original sound. For these reasons, condenser microphones are most often used in recording studios and other professional applications where absolute accuracy is critical. Some condenser microphones employ two capsules, back-to-back, to allow the microphone to pick up sound from 360° around it. By changing the way that the combination of the two capsules pick up sound from all around means that multiple polar patterns such as omnidirectional and figure-of-eight can be employed. Find out more about polar patterns here. Sontronics condenser mics: Aria • DM-1B • DM-1S & DM-1T • Orpheus • STC-1 • STC-1S • STC-10 • STC-2 • STC-20 • STC-3X
  • Quick Guide to Dynamic Microphones
    The capsule inside the head of a dynamic microphone also employs a diaphragm, but rather than being mounted on a backplate with a connecting wire, the diaphragm in a dynamic mic is attached to a tiny copper coil set within the field of a permanent magnet. When sound waves reach the diaphragm, it vibrates and therefore moves the coil, so creating a varying current in the electromagnetic field. Although the coil is tiny, its mass means that the capsule in a dynamic mic responds more slowly than that of a condenser mic, and therefore it does not capture as much subtle detail, especially in the highest and lowest frequencies. Some dynamic microphones use low-strength magnets which means they have poor sensitivity and a low output level, and therefore can sound dull. You will also need a lot of additional gain to obtain a useful signal. However, all of our Sontronics dynamic mic capsules use high-power neodymium magnets, which improve not only output sensitivity but also frequency response. Dynamic microphones tend to be more sturdily constructed than condenser or ribbon microphones, making them far less prone to accidental damage. They are often designed to provide high signal levels before feedback occurs, and these factors have led to dynamic microphones being used for stage vocal performance and many other live sound reinforcement applications. Sontronics dynamic mics: Corona • Halo • Podcast Pro • Solo
  • Quick Guide to Ribbon Microphones
    A ribbon mic is another type of dynamic microphone, but instead of a coil attached to a diaphragm it features a microscopically thin, corrugated aluminium ribbon suspended in a magnetic field. Commonly a ribbon microphone is open to sound at the front and back, giving a figure-of-eight or bi-directional pattern (See more on polar patterns here.) Ribbon microphones have a very specific frequency response directly related to the mass of the aluminium ribbon and its inability to oscillate at very high frequencies. As such, the high-frequency response tends to roll-off quite early in the audio spectrum, usually around 7kHz. This character makes ribbon mics excellent for use on acoustic instruments (such as violin or flute) due to the microphone’s limited ability to reproduce many ambient or reflected frequencies, delivering a very authentic, 'natural' result. Ribbon microphones are particularly good for miking electric guitar amplifiers, since the speakers’ output and the microphone’s frequency response are closely matched. Over time ribbon microphones have earned a reputation for being extremely fragile and historically it was inadvisable to use them with very loud or low sound sources. Their low sensitivity and poor output levels meant that high levels of gain were required to reach a reasonable output level, and this led to difficulties in achieving a respectable signal-to-noise ratio. However, our Sigma 2, Delta 2 and Apollo 2 ribbon microphones solve and avoid these problems through the addition of a 48V preamplified circuit, giving them a significant boost in sensitivity and the ability to reproduce stable and consistent results without the noise problems of ribbon microphones from history. The aluminium ribbon used to make each capsule, or ‘motor’, is made from some of the lowest-mass material available, delivering both a class-leading frequency response and a very high output sensitivity. Furthermore, these three microphones, particularly Delta 2, have been engineered to withstand everyday use in both studio and live sound applications. It is important to note that that the ribbon element itself, much like the tyres on a car, will experience gradual wear and tear over time, eventually stretching beyond useable limits and requiring necessary replacement. You can find out more about ribbon servicing and replacement here. Sontronics ribbon microphones: Apollo 2 • Delta 2 • Sigma 2
  • Quick Guide to Valve/Tube Microphones
    A valve/tube microphone most commonly refers to a condenser microphone which uses a small vacuum-tube in its amplification electronics. The vacuum tube is an antiquated electronic component which was superseded in the 1950s by the ‘solid-state’ transistor. Compared to the outdated tube, the transistor was developed to be a far more reliable device which could be consistently and accurately mass produced in huge numbers. However, despite the improvements and efficiencies brought on by the transistor, the vacuum tube continues to hold its place in the hearts of many an audiophile, thanks to some very specific and some non-specific characteristics. One of the key characteristics of a vacuum tube is that is adds harmonic distortion to the signal. This is not a ‘heavy-metal overdrive’ type of distortion, but something very subtle and delicate and very pleasant to the human ear. When subjected to high sound pressure levels (SPLs), vacuum tubes exhibit natural compression, resulting in an output signal full of energy and tonal balance. The low-frequency response can often appear to sound stronger than the high-frequencies, leading to valve/tube microphones being described as sounding ‘warm’. It’s worth noting that the majority of the iconic and most coveted vintage studio condenser microphones were all valve/tube models, and therefore there can be no doubt that there is also a degree of nostalgia which continues to influence the popularity of the vacuum tube to this day. Since vacuum tubes require high-voltage power supplies to operate, this naturally increases the level of the microphone’s ’self-noise’, a very common issue associated with vintage valve/tube mics. However, the high-quality modern electronic circuits we use in both Aria and Mercury are expertly designed to provide you with the classic vacuum tube tone but with a minimum of self-noise. A vacuum tube has a finite lifespan and will need to be replaced if the microphone begins to exhibit noise or if its sound response changes in any way, often indicated by a loss of low-frequency output. Find out more about this in the *Valve Mics section* [hyperlink to this section] of our Support pages. Sontronics valve mics: Aria • Mercury • Mercury Vintage Edition
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