Sep 18

INTRODUCING THE SONTRONICS STC-1S MATCHED PAIR CONDENSER MICS

Here is a first for me; I am going to look at matched pair of stereo microphones. There are many on the market today such as the sE Electronics SE-1A and SE-2A mics. I have been informed that one of the best value for money matched pairs are the Sontronics STC-1S Condenser Mics. I have a very sexy black pair of these and I am hoping that by the end of this review, I will have a greater understanding of their use and suitability.

Sontronics are a UK based company that launched the Sontronics brand at the Namm show in 2005. Their microphones are designed in the UK but hand made in Shanghai which allows them to produce top quality at a great price. They now have a high reputation and a large range of affordable but professional quality products which are used by famous artists and recording engineers around the world.

WHAT ARE THE SONTRONICS STC-1S

The STC-1 is a small diaphragm condenser microphone. It is available either as a single STC-1 mic or as an STC-1S stereo pair. You can purchase them in either silver (in a brushed nickel finish) or a black (with a satin finish and gold lettering). I know I have the black set but they do look very professional. The mics are housed in stylish wooden box and inside they sit in a classy velvet housing to protect them perfectly. They come complete with mounting clips, windshields and a stereo mounting bar.

The two mics come standard as a cardioid polar pattern and its frequency response runs from 20hz – 20 kHz. The features of this mic include an attenuation or pad of -10 and -20 db which is very effective for preventing overload from loud signals. Additionally there is a filter with a low-cut of 75 hz which is great for removing rumble and a further 150 hz filter to add definition to the recording of instruments such as a guitar.

I do like the way the switches are recessed into the body of these mics. I suppose this will prevent you from accidentally switching them. You can move them with the tops of your fingers and the switch settings are smartly engraved in so that they will not wear off with constant handling.

These microphones are particularly good for the recording of acoustic instruments. You could use them for recording of sounds for things that you find in your home. Imogen Heap recently did this and used a whole manner of objects to make different percussive sounds.

WHY MATCHED PAIR?

I suppose you almost get it but maybe don’t quite understand it. Yes my first thoughts were that if I were to record in stereo with two mics, I would want those mics to be very similar – but is that possible? The manufactures have a difficult process to go through trying to match up two mics that are very close in performance and find pairs that have similar characteristics but they do manage it. If they did not manage to do this, the mics would be taking in the sounds very much like we do when we have a bad cold and our hearing on one side is partly blocked. So a carefully matched pair with a similar frequency response is very important.

The Stereo pair is particular great when used as overhead mics to record an acoustic drum kit. They are also great outside in live environments with a very good narrow sound rejection from the cardioid pattern.

WHY DO ENGINEERS USE SMALL CAPSULE CONDENSER MICS?

Engineers seem to like small capsule condenser mics because they do not flatter and colour the sound like so many large capsule ones. I suppose to many of us, the idea of a mic that does flatter to improve the sound of our own voice is very welcome but when you are recording live drums for example, you don’t want any colourisation occurring. This is where a stereo matched pair of small capsule condenser mics such as the Sontronics STC-1S is an ideal choice.

PREAMPS

The STC-1’s have on-board class-A preamps and I would say these are excellent because these mics really pump out a very good signal consistently with no unwanted signal. I like to think of this in more basic terms and say that these have a very good range of usable volume without distortion at high level or noise at low levels. You also do not hear any bumps in frequencies. This is a great advantage having a powerful preamp when you are recording quieter sounds. I particularly like the high-end which has a very pleasing pro-shine about it without going over the top and sounding too bright for your needs. With this much power, it seems sensible to put on the attenuation pad when you record loud instruments like Drums or Electric Guitars otherwise you will be going into overload.

THE PROXIMITY EFFECT USING THE SONTRONICS STC-1S MICS

There was no manual with my set but there is sufficient information on the Sontronics Site and they do a great job of giving you help advice and tips on matters such as mic positioning, polar patterns and filters etc. There is also a good You Tube clip demonstrating the STC-1s by the founder and MD of Sontronics himself Mr Trevor Coley.

One thing that caught my eye was something called the ‘proximity effect’ which I know I have read about in various articles. To give you an immediate idea as to what this about, you just have to think about the techniques used and the sounds made by DJs on late night radio shows when they change their voice to something deep and sexy. Sontronics state that this is what you experience when a cardioid (or ‘pressure-gradient’) microphone is moved closer to its sound source and its bass response increases. People like announcers and Radio DJs use this to their advantage, as it adds a deeper sound to their voice. If, however, you prefer to avoid the effect, you can use a low-cut filter. Which is a good point as the STC-1s have a useful variable filter (0, 75, 150Hz) and pad (0, -10, -20dB) switches built which clearly demonstrate just how versatile they are.

TESTING

I got my old Rogers snare drum out and tuned it up as it hasn’t seen the light of day for a while. I must say it was in need of a bit of ‘TLC’. I recorded some stereo close mic singular strikes with a variety of tunings to get some different snare samples. The results were very pleasing and useable. The mics accurately produced all of the metallic ring and snare buzz and natural acoustic ambience. OK let’s try some Cymbals – I have some classic Paiste Formula 602’s. I recorded different velocity hits on my 16 and 18 inch crashes and set the mics up as overheads. Again, the results produced a very pleasing recording with the cymbals sounding deep and rich – I was impressed with this and research shows that many recording engineers use Sontronics STC-1’s as overheads. Although they will often use other microphones (sometimes other Sontronics mics) on other parts of a drum kit, the consistent fact is that they choose the STC-1’s for overheads and now I can hear why.

Fortunately a friend of mine wanted me to record some acoustic guitar for him so this was an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. He had one of those Taylor 210, 6-String Dreadnought Acoustic Guitars. I can’t say I know much about guitars (or the recording of them) but this had a lovely sound so I thought that was a good start. He suggested I set up the Sontronics STC-1’s at an eighty degree angle with the 75Hz filter on. His experience was invaluable and we proceeded to record the track for him. On playback, he was very pleased with the recording and felt that it was an accurate representation of his performance capturing all of the harmonic content that he wanted to hear and I had to agree and I was very pleased with the job accomplished.

OMNI AND HYPER CAPSULES

There are also two capsules available for the STC-1s; an Omni-directional capsule and a Hyper-cardioid capsule. You simple unscrew the capsule on the mic and screw in a new one. I did not have these capsules which are additional extras with my set so I cannot test them but I have researched them and I think I would checkout the Omni-directional which may very well be the best out of the three. It has been said that whilst the highs detail is still present, they provide a more defined bass sound with a better, smoother response. It maybe also worth noting that the Omni capsules rely on sound pressure, so you cannot get any proximity effect with them.

Each capsule is available in black or silver very reasonably priced and supplied in its own ringbox with magnetic closure. Whilst these capsules are compatible with the Sontronics STC-1S matched pair, once fitted they are not considered to be‘matched’.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

For all you technical guys out, here are the specifications:- Response: 25Hz–20kHz / Sensitivity: 12mV/Pa -38dB ±2dB (0dB=1V/Pa 1,000Hz) / Polar pattern: cardioid / Impedance:

CONCLUSION

Well I think these are great as they seem to provide exactly what you want out of them. They are built extremely well, look very professional and are very versatile. Generally you get a very good sound from them which is pure and open but perhaps they score even higher in the higher frequencies where it smooth and not at all brittle like on other mics. The specifications are high providing you with a High Pass Filter, Attenuation Pad and easy interchangeable capsules. The response is very impressive and they have very powerful pre-amps. On top of all of this, the price is extremely reasonable for something that will take your live and recorded sound to a whole new level, so what are you waiting for – grab yourself a pair today.

There is only one place to buy a Matched Pair of Sontronics STC-1S Condenser Mics – just click this Orange Banner for a great price and great service:-

Absolute Music

Leave a Comment

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.