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Author Topic: Manley Reference Cardioid Microphone impressed me  (Read 5304 times)

Glenn Bucci

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Manley Reference Cardioid Microphone impressed me
« on: November 06, 2015, 11:46:31 am »

The Manley Ref Cardiod mic I recently used in my studio provides a modern tube sound that is more on the clean side. It provides a polished sound on vocals more than the Brauner Valvet which is another great microphone.
I found it pleasant on male and female vocals. I ran it through a Portico pre with the silk button off.

Though the capsule is made in China by Feilo, it does not have a shrill sound in the top end which many tube microphones with Chinese capsules can have.  Manley advised they went to the plant in China to make sure consistency was very high with the capsule.

Everything else on the mic is done at the Manley factory. I also tried it with a Manley Voxbox which removed some sparkled top end with a smoother sound. The price of $2,700 made the mic attractive as many quality mics are above this cost.

If you have any questions about the mic and its uses, feel free to ask
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klaus

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Re: Manley Reference Cardioid Microphone impressed me
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2015, 12:36:07 pm »

Thanks for your user report (I edited out hearsay that sounded more like a Manley promo).
Now if you could please enlighten us what a "polished sound on vocals" means?
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Klaus Heyne
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Glenn Bucci

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Re: Manley Reference Cardioid Microphone impressed me
« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2015, 01:42:39 pm »

Polished sound: it sounds more like a finished product. It has this smooth top end with a nice sparkle that is not harsh. Sometimes you need to work with EQ and effects on a vocal track to get to this point. The mic gets to that finished line quicker.
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Piedpiper

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Re: Manley Reference Cardioid Microphone impressed me
« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2015, 03:57:54 pm »

Maybe be even more specific on what you consider to be a finished product. What kind of things would you normally do in the mix to make a more "neutral" mic sound "finished"?
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Jim Williams

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Re: Manley Reference Cardioid Microphone impressed me
« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2015, 11:34:23 am »

Does that Chinese factory make capsules for others we might want to know about?

$2700 seems a bit high for a chi-com sourced capsule mic.
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Glenn Bucci

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Re: Manley Reference Cardioid Microphone impressed me
« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2015, 10:21:58 pm »

This is the first microphone I've heard with a capsule made in China that I really liked. I was told by EveAnna Manley that it is one of their biggest sellers and they have received much praise from many studio owners. 

I was going to pull the trigger on another microphone from a Germany company but when I heard the Ref mic, I actually preferred the sound it provided. I also had no concerns of low quality, not up to par, short cuts, or shrill top end I found with many capsules made over there.

To prevent unwanted vibrations from being picked up from the capsule, they mounted it onto a neoprene rubber shock mount. Frequency response is from 10Hz to 30 kHz. Don't know much about the company in China just that Manley has been working with them for over 20 years and was told they got it right.
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klaus

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Re: Manley Reference Cardioid Microphone impressed me
« Reply #6 on: November 12, 2015, 01:17:24 am »

I am curious as to the details of the frequency response you cite (as if I have ever had any trust in such numbers telling me anything about the quality of a mic): what is the dB response @ 30kHz, with reference to 0dB @ 1kHz?

As you may know, there is a lot of fudging going on with published responses- many mic manufacturers bypass the acoustic transducer (capsule) and measure just the mic amp's (electronic) response by itself. I regard this as highly deceptive-you should not publish specs of a mic that is not operated in the real world the way it was measured. Take the U67: its amp response is almost 10dB down at 9kHz. But that is meaningless, until you connect the K67 capsule with its 9dB boost at that same frequency range

None of the overall frequency response graphs of LD condenser mics (including capsule!) I have seen reach anywhere near as high as 30 kHz .
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Klaus Heyne
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Jim Williams

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Re: Manley Reference Cardioid Microphone impressed me
« Reply #7 on: November 12, 2015, 11:18:24 am »

Add "smoothing" programs to the measured response curve and that can make any measurement look great. I can do that in the Audio Precision here, smooth out the bumps until it's a flat line. Doesn't make it so, it just looks better on paper.

Without microphone measurement standards, it's all a crap shoot.

Like Klaus, I've never seen a 1" capsule that is flat up to 30k hz.
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David Satz

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Re: Manley Reference Cardioid Microphone impressed me
« Reply #8 on: November 13, 2015, 12:33:22 am »

Klaus, the specifications that are usually obtained with a well-shielded, fixed capacitance (or "test head") in place of the capsule are for dynamic range--mainly the self-noise level and the overload point. With professional condenser microphones the amplifier circuitry, rather than the capsule, is nearly always the limiting factor for headroom, while the two main sources of noise are (at high frequencies) the amplifier's first active device and (at low frequencies) the 1/f noise due to the capsule's capacitance, which the fixed capacitor has in the same measure--so this practice seems well justified.

The frequency response of a microphone's amplifier can also be measured via a test head, and manufacturers typically do that in-house for QA, repair and research purposes. But no manufacturer that I'm aware of (and I've paid a lot of attention to such things for many years) has ever published an amplifier's frequency response as being the frequency response of their complete microphone. To do so would be absurd, especially when there are other, (for better or worse) widely accepted ways to make a microphone's frequency response "look better".

--best regards
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klaus

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Re: Manley Reference Cardioid Microphone impressed me
« Reply #9 on: November 13, 2015, 04:07:44 am »

Hello David,
I am surprised by your conclusion that publishing a mic's actual response- the kind that will tell the customer what he can actually expect in the field, is "absurd". Leaving aside noise and headroom measurement protocols (they were not subject of this thread or any of its posts), it seems that you advocate to continue the misleading publication of amp-only frequency response curves by manufacturers, because you believe to do the right thing and publish the realistic, overall response would invite manipulation.

Don't you think that what you advocate is about as deceptive as it gets? I certainly do not know many users who realize that the published frequency response of a mic is bogus: the astronomical 30kHz response of the thread-starter quickly becomes 16 Khz, down 3dB at best, once the capsule is included.

The other scandal about this approach is: frequency response figures for every other audio gear are always input-to-output, not some insertion point inaccessible and irrelevant to the user.

I would therefore be happy if microphone manufacturers who use this slight of hand would at least disclose it. Something like: "frequency measurements represent mic amp only".

You are also incorrect when you say that no manufacturer publishes the response of the complete microphone. Every Sennheiser MD421, 441, etc. I have ever seen came with a B&K paper strip of the tested response of the actual microphone.
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Klaus Heyne
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boz6906

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Re: Manley Reference Cardioid Microphone impressed me
« Reply #10 on: November 13, 2015, 08:51:55 am »

Klaus, I think you may have misread David's response.

He said:

"But no manufacturer that I'm aware of ... has ever published an amplifier's frequency response as being the frequency response of their complete microphone. To do so would be absurd, "

Are there mic manufacturers who use amp response measurements as the mic's overall response?

In my experience, a 'frequency response' or 'range' or 'bandwidth' claim without specifying actual level in dB is indeed misleading but all too common.  And they all do it, Neumann's spec for their M149 is:

"Frequency range 20 Hz ... 20 kHz"

Don't get me wrong, I love the M149, sounds great.

Or the AKG C414-XLS:

"Audio Frequency bandwidth 20 to 20000 Hz "

Truly meaningless specs...
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josephson

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Re: Manley Reference Cardioid Microphone impressed me
« Reply #11 on: November 13, 2015, 11:24:18 am »

Klaus wrote to ask me to respond to this thread. Maybe I can help clear up some questions and stir others up a little. I've learned a few things in 30+ years of making microphones and the capsules that go inside them -- one of those things is that "impressed me" or "made me smile" is a more relevant specification for the user or buyer than so many dB at 30 kHz.

There is an international standard for measuring studio/stage microphone performance, IEC 60268-4. Juergen Breitlow of Neumann and I wrote the last two revisions. No manufacturer uses all of it in their specification sheets, only pieces of it. Many manufacturers use it internally, to very close tolerances, but do not publish the results or the tolerances within which a given production item will fall. Ten microphone companies sent a group of one microphone from each company, around to each others' labs. Most of the results were very close, so we can all do the measurements. But even if every manufacturer reported the full measurements, it would still not tell you much about whether a microphone would "impress" the user. There are far too many other variables than even the full set in the IEC standard. Contrary to popular belief, they are repeatably measurable, and if you fully characterize a microphone and you know what to look for, you can predict fairly accurately whether it will "impress." Flat response on-axis, or response to 30 kHz, is almost irrelevant.

When I started my company more than 25 years ago, and started the AES microphone standards effort 20 years ago, my friends with more experience were patient with my enthusiasm for better microphone specifications. What they didn't tell me, I had to learn myself. The precise variations, in every possible direction and with certain other variables make much more of a difference than "flat" response. The exact variations, which must be analyzed in both time and frequency domains, are what give a microphone its "sound." Certain variation families are time-consuming to realize in manufacturing, and microphone companies that have developed a formula that results in "impressed me" within a cost that people can afford, are not about to give away their secrets!

So sorry Klaus, please stick to your old luthier's approach of listening to the microphone for "impress." That's valid. Looking for flat response at 30 kHz or even 15 kHz is not absurd, but it's not very useful in predicting whether a microphone will work well as a recording instrument. As usual there are exceptions. Indeed, ruler-flat response for an omni is useful, and easily achieved. You may decide that flat response on-axis is what you want, or flat response to a uniform reverberant sound field, as in some sphere-mounted mics, is what you want. Both can be called "flat" but they are different. If flat response were a predictor of usefulness, we could use inexpensive electret capsules that are indeed flat, some of them to above 30 kHz, and in all directions. We don't, because they don't sound very good.

We usually don't want to use omnis, because we want to exclude sounds from certain directions. The rooms we record in aren't flat, and we want to mute some of the more annoying room responses. Physics is not our friend here -- it is quite difficult to make things uniformly directive, so we focus on making things nonuniformly directive in ways that are musically useful. That's a very hard concept to describe in a datasheet!

Asian microphone factories I visited in the 1980s were focusing on copying the K67 design because it was easier to get close to "impress" than with some other designs. But, they still don't get all the way there, not because they can't but because the cost, even with inexpensive labor, is too high. Other designs (both simpler, like the M7, and more complex, like the CK12) take more work to get closer to "impress." Predictably, the lower cost examples in the market aren't very close. Longevity and sample-to-sample variation are other hard targets to hit. You may find one capsule that sounds fine and 50 from the same batch that don't, and it may sound fine today and not in a year. And yes, we can pick out the good one from the lot if we know how to measure it -- which isn't in the IEC standard and no one will teach you how to do it.

Back to numerical specifications, indeed stating a frequency response, range or bandwidth is meaningless without further qualification. My company specifies frequency response range +/- 2dB, referenced to a design center curve.For the less expensive mics, we publish the curve. For the better ones, we don't, and we're still talking about on-axis and a few selected other directions. We know which directions are troublesome and we measure and adjust there to be sure all users have a consistent experience; some other microphone companies do the same. Others can't afford to. Few microphone makers will agree to an acceptance limit, in other words a range outside of which the microphone is considered defective and they will replace it.

To some of the other questions, yes it's nearly impossible to make a large diaphragm condenser mic (as we usually define them) flat to 30 kHz. I don't see any claim that the Manley Reference Cardioid does that. Its data sheet claims response to 30 kHz and I'm sure it does have some, so it's up to the user to ask what is really being claimed. David Satz has pointed out that it's absurd to measure just the electronics. I don't know whether Manley is doing this, but it doesn't matter -- like many companies, they're not giving a tolerance. And sorry, even with a tolerance or with a chart from an individual microphone is no guarantee of its sound -- unless you are also recording on-axis in an anechoic room. Not only is that response strip smoothed, as Jim Williams points out, but it's only in one direction. And the variations off-axis are much more troublesome than the easily measured ones on-axis.

Here is the basic problem: we have a largely uneducated user community, most of whose members believe they can judge the quality of a microphone by the flatness of its response (or its low noise floor, or high overload point.) Sadly, they can't, but the market teaches that they respond to those claims. They begin to learn when they listen to classic mics, current response curves for which are not available, and hear that they sound good. First realization: "good" is not necessarily "flat." It goes on from there.
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soapfoot

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Re: Manley Reference Cardioid Microphone impressed me
« Reply #12 on: November 13, 2015, 11:58:22 am »

outstanding, very informative post, Mr. Josephson.

Thank you so much for contributing that.
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jaykadis

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Re: Manley Reference Cardioid Microphone impressed me
« Reply #13 on: November 13, 2015, 12:21:42 pm »

Yes, thanks indeed. I have been teaching my students that microphones are like musical instruments - quite variable and far too complex to characterize simply. Certainly measured characteristics are of some importance but only as single data points that cannot be used for valid comparisons of full overall performance.


The issue is further complicated when consumers judge microphones by their appearance...

klaus

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Re: Manley Reference Cardioid Microphone impressed me
« Reply #14 on: November 13, 2015, 01:46:08 pm »

Klaus, I think you may have misread David's response.
He said:
"But no manufacturer that I'm aware of ... has ever published an amplifier's frequency response as being the frequency response of their complete microphone. To do so would be absurd"

Thank you for pointing out my misunderstanding of the meaning of David's sentence.
David: My apologies.
KH
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Klaus Heyne
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klaus

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Re: Manley Reference Cardioid Microphone impressed me
« Reply #15 on: November 13, 2015, 01:58:10 pm »

David, thanks for untangling the complex issue of published mic specifications, where hearing, testing and marketing intersect.

Here is the basic problem: we have a largely uneducated user community, most of whose members believe they can judge the quality of a microphone by the flatness of its response (or its low noise floor, or high overload point.) Sadly, they can't, but the market teaches that they respond to those claims....

I don't believe the user community should be held responsible for that outcome. That would be like saying: Volkswagen Diesel car owners are responsible for falsified emission tests because they want low-emission, high MPG cars.
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Klaus Heyne
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Kai

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Re: Manley Reference Cardioid Microphone impressed me
« Reply #16 on: November 14, 2015, 04:39:59 am »

Indeed, ruler-flat response for an omni is useful, and easily achieved. You may decide that flat response on-axis is what you want, or flat response to a uniform reverberant sound field, as in some sphere-mounted mics, is what you want. Both can be called "flat" but they are different. If flat response were a predictor of usefulness, we could use inexpensive electret capsules that are indeed flat, some of them to above 30 kHz, and in all directions.
There is not "ruler flat" mic out there, not even the mentioned omnis.
"Flat" in the sense a manufacturer mean's it is just his own definition.

Here's an example: The most used mic's for measurement are the Bruel&Kjaer 4133/4134 omnidirectional capsules. They are used as reference for measuring other mics.
Now look at their directivity chart as published by B&K:
You see the frequency response variations relative to the angle of sound, a variation of 14dB @ 20kHz !
(BTW: this is not the actual frequency response, but needs to be combined with the "actuator measurement" of the mic for the final result, which is again not ruler flat).

This alone show that for the normal user frequency response measurements are simply misleading, as he's not able to interpret what he sees.

Best
Kai
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David Satz

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Re: Manley Reference Cardioid Microphone impressed me
« Reply #17 on: November 15, 2015, 02:22:44 pm »

Kai, I'm quite sure that you know this, but for the sake of the discussion: If you'd chosen a pressure capsule one-half the diameter of the one whose curves you showed, the disparities in its response for different angles of sound arrival would have begun an octave higher. The microphone would have had "truly" omnidirectional response for one further octave of its range, and the net disparity within the audible range would be distinctly less.

If one believes that an omnidirectional microphone should be "as omnidirectional as possible," that change would definitely represent an improvement. And at least in theory, this halving of size could be repeated until the capsule was 100% omnidirectional up to the limit of human hearing or even beyond. By then, of course, it would be too noisy for many professional recording applications--but let's set that aside for the moment.

More to the point, most engineers who record music with omnidirectional microphones don't really want microphones that are completely non-directional at the highest frequencies. Such microphones might be seen as "theoretically perfect" in a certain way, but the ones that exist aren't generally considered any better-sounding on that account. Manufacturers never see much demand for them for music recording purposes.

On the contrary: Rolling off the high-frequency content for reflected sound is integral to the way in which omni mikes are nearly always used when recording music. There's even a fair amount of professional music recording practice--with many wonderful-sounding recordings over many decades to show for it--that's based on increasing the high-frequency directivity of pressure microphones even further, and provoking that directivity increase to begin at frequencies lower than where would it begin otherwise. This is most often done by embedding the transducer in the surface of a sphere; the Neumann M 50 is the best-known example of this technique. As a side benefit, the microphone then gets something of a "presence boost" in the front hemisphere, prompting the use of even greater miking distances--which (in a good acoustical environment) improves the "blend" without giving up "focus."

Those benefits can be gained only by setting aside any misplaced, Platonic idealism that one may have about omnidirectional microphones. When people have an impulse toward that kind of on-paper perfectionism, hooray--but it's important to realize when that impulse is beneficial, vs. when it would get in the way of making good recordings.

--best regards
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klaus

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Re: Manley Reference Cardioid Microphone impressed me
« Reply #18 on: November 15, 2015, 02:40:35 pm »

Of the things that impress me most about astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson is his ability to explain complex scientific phenomena in terms I can understand.

Before this thread drifts too far off into opposite direction, could someone please channel Tyson and condense the last two posts so that the average reader of this forum can understand what is argued here?

Thanks,
KH
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Klaus Heyne
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David Satz

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Re: Manley Reference Cardioid Microphone impressed me
« Reply #19 on: November 16, 2015, 12:52:24 am »

OK, I'll try:

(1) Kai said that no pressure transducer of typical size (e.g. with a 1/2" diameter capsule or larger) can be truly omnidirectional at high frequencies. Off-axis, it will always have some high-frequency rolloff relative to its on-axis response.

(2) I agreed, but said that this disparity between on-axis and off-axis high-frequency response can be lessened, and the frequency at which it begins can be moved upward, by making the transducer smaller. If you take that far enough, the on-vs.-off-axis response disparity can even be moved up out of the audible range entirely--though doing so also brings a noise problem that can be significant for some types of recording.

(3) While it might be conceptually attractive to use microphones that are perfectly omnidirectional all the way up to 20 kHz, and such microphones are available, most engineers don't seem to prefer them for most music recording (even in situations where their higher noise levels are acceptable). Rather, a high-frequency rolloff at the sides and rear of the microphone seems to be generally perceived as an actual advantage for most music recording. And there has long been a special demand for pressure microphones in which the narrowing of the pickup pattern begins even lower than the size of the diaphragm alone would dictate--e.g. with noticeable directivity even in the upper midrange--which is even farther from the ideal of a "perfectly omnidirectional omni."

(Does that help?)
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klaus

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Re: Manley Reference Cardioid Microphone impressed me
« Reply #20 on: November 16, 2015, 04:30:25 am »

Yes.  Very much. Keep at it!
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Klaus Heyne
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soapfoot

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Re: Manley Reference Cardioid Microphone impressed me
« Reply #21 on: November 16, 2015, 06:21:42 am »

Mr. Satz also pointed out that many of the technologies that have become extremely desirable for certain applications-- like the Perspex sphere in the M50 (and similar spheres that are add-on accessories to other omni mics)-- are specifically designed to increase directional response at high frequencies, technically moving the mic even further away from textbook "omni" response than it otherwise would be. This can be subjectively desirable in some applications, such as ensemble recording in the diffuse field, where it can be perceived to increase "reach," or emphasize the source itself above the reverberant sound
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Kai

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Re: Manley Reference Cardioid Microphone impressed me
« Reply #22 on: November 16, 2015, 05:36:59 pm »

...add-on accessories to other omni mics)-- are specifically designed to increase directional response at high frequencies...
There are certain advantages omni's have, e.g better low bass response in the mid and far field, that no cardioid or figure of eight mic can achieve and the lack of proximity effect in the nearfield.
So it might be desirable to use an omni, but still maintain a certain amount of directivity in the high mid and treble range. This is what those (mostly globe-form) accessories are made for.
They usually boost the treble too.

There is another fundamental difference between omni and cardioid/eights mics:
omnis are recording air pressure, cardioid/eights air movement.
If you look at room resonances as standing waves, where the cardioid/eight sees a maximum, the  omni sees a zero and vice versa.
So if one has problems with rome modes it might help to switch the mic type.

BTW: there is a 1/2" omni with almost perfect omnidirectivity up to 20 kHz:
The AKG CK5 CK22 capsule for the C451 system.
I doesn't sound very good for recording IMO, I think AKG build it for measurement purposes mainly.

Regards
Kai
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soapfoot

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Re: Manley Reference Cardioid Microphone impressed me
« Reply #23 on: November 17, 2015, 09:10:13 am »

There is another fundamental difference between omni and cardioid/eights mics:
omnis are recording air pressure, cardioid/eights air movement.
If you look at room resonances as standing waves, where the cardioid/eight sees a maximum, the  omni sees a zero and vice versa.
So if one has problems with rome modes it might help to switch the mic type.

VERY important point here; one I had never considered. Thanks for that, Kai.

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Jim Williams

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Re: Manley Reference Cardioid Microphone impressed me
« Reply #24 on: November 17, 2015, 11:08:45 am »

BTW: there is a 1/2" omni with almost perfect omnidirectivity up to 20 kHz:
The AKG CK5 capsule for the C451 system.
I doesn't sound very good for recording IMO, I think AKG build it for measurement purposes mainly.
Regards
Kai

AKG also made the CK-22, an omni with non-directional characteristics. It is a side slot omni with a metal coverered capsule front, rather unusual looking. The signal enters the slots and hits the rear of the capsule, not the front. It is exceptional for pipe organ recordings.
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Kai

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Re: Manley Reference Cardioid Microphone impressed me
« Reply #25 on: November 17, 2015, 04:32:40 pm »

AKG also made the CK-22, an omni with non-directional characteristics.
This is the one I meant, my rememberance had let me down.

Funny, I have some of those and recording the ambience sound of a pipe organ in an all marble church in Carrara, Italy is the only thing I ever found this ones useful.

Even as a measurement mic it's not very impressive, as it's not as linear in the upper range as I'm used to from my Bruel & Kjaer capsules.

BTW: another omni I'd like to mention is the B&K / DPA 4004 and 4007. They are smaller then usual, so directivity is appearing higher then with 1/2" capsules and is well controlled.
They are noisier then bigger ones, but very useful for high level sounds.

Regards
Kai
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