Review in Keyboards & Home Studio Magazine (France), December 2004

Review in Keyboards & Home Studio Magazine (France), December 2004

 

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translated from French magazine Keyboards, December 2004)

 

direct from Place Vendome*!

At last, human-looking microphones! It has become very difficult to recognize a microphone from another: they all have obscure, mathematical names! Violet Design has decided to change this situation with their range of condenser microphones, with small or large capsule.

by Pierre Emberger & Olivier Marot

Far from "metallic" colors and too trivial designs, Violet Design seems to manufacture noble objects. Here are the members of the microphone range we're about to present to you : The Amethyst, The Globe, The Pearl and The Finger. Each name means a specific focus, and an uncommon look and design. The "mathematics" era is over, here comes the "Aesthetics" era! This autumn, fashion shows are going to be astonishingly original…

Some clues

Every Violet Design microphone is made in Latvia. All models present the typical characteristics and personality of condenser microphones, with two product variants: "Standard" and "Vintage". Looking at the manufacture's specifications, all these microphones have a cardioid polar pattern, have a high maximum sound pressure level (between 133 and 140 dB SPL), an output impedance of 50 ? (neither too low, nor too high). Let's examine them one by one…

The Amethyst

Here's an outstanding design! This violet microphone is supplied with a beautiful wooden box, with grey velourized fabric inside. Its head is square; it hides a cardioid capsule with a circular membrane. Not so outstanding, in fact… The "Standard" variant shows a certain sound coloration, and seems to behave more rapidly than the "Vintage" variant, whose frequency response is completely flat, with a slight accentuation in the high end. These two microphones are in fact very different. The diaphragm's diameter is 1-inch, as is frequently the case on such microphones, fits perfectly with voice, but as well with piano, guitar, string instruments, and big ensembles. During our tests, we were amazed by The Amethyst's quality, with a preference for the Vintage variant. In AB configuration (distant pair), the microphones' behaviour is perfect. Its unusual suspension, with an eyelet on each side of the microphone, does't allow every placement, for example for drums recording. If you can place it right, use The Amethyst on drums, at a distance of 2 inches or more from the sound source : you'll get excellent, crystal-clear recordings. Once more, we preferred the Vintage variant in this application. It's better not to play too loud on snares and hi-hat, as the microphone's maximum sound pressure level is (only) 134 dB SPL. In short : a very good microphone for voice recording or stereo pairs.

The Globe

Again, an outstanding design ! The Globe is Violet Design's highlight. It has a double diaphragm, and a cardioid directivity. It's magic : we don't know what hides in this microphone, but it always gives excellent results, mostly on voice, even if the singer is very close to the microphone (pop screen needed !). What can we say more about a microphone so close to perfection ? Tested with a Class A tube preamp, the Globe shows its biggest quality. Its frequency response is perfectly flat, with a little boost around 12k and another, wider, around 4k. Its sound is exactly between the "Vintage" versions and the "Standard" versions, more responsive, we mentioned earlier. The Globe Fits with any kind of situation : voice, piano, guitars, choirs, string ensembles, brass, woodwinds, stereo pair… In short, The Globe will be the jewel of your microphone collection. We're slightly disappointed not to have variable directivity, as there's a double diaphragm, but this little remark apart, we take off our hat to The Globe !

The Finger

This cigar-shaped condenser microphone has a medium-sized capsule, with a cardioid directivity. Its dimensions are quite normal. Before testing, we took a look at its frequency response : it is very flat too, with a little boost around 10k and a slight dip in the low-end. It has a very neutral sound, and should become a reference in the future. A new star is born : the Finger is a must for stereo recording, overheads, hi-hat… For voices, Violet Design suggests to make tests with the singer placed between 50 cm and 150 cm away from the capsule. The maximum sound pressure level is high (140 dB SPL) : the Finger is not afraid of high-power sound sources or close proximity to the capsule. A little regret : we would have appreciated a 10 dB pad !

The Pearl (Standard & Vintage)

Available, as The Amethyst, in two variants (Standard & Vintage), this model looks really very different from any other microphone in the world ! Beside its astonishing design, it's really the "pearl" of the range, for voices, in the studio or on stage (why not ?). Of course, you must supply phantom power, but it's worth the trouble ! Its mid-sized capsule, oriented in the body's axix, houses a single diaphragm ; the directivity is cardioid. The Pearl seems to be a Finger's variant, optimized for high sound pressure levels. After testing them, we found these microphone are of a very high quality, but there again, we preferred the "Vintage" version, more neutral and clear-sounding. The "Standard" variant shows slightly coloured high-end and low-end, for a "modern" sound, more dynamic and responsive. We recorded brass with the Pearl : placed a few inches away (10 to 30 cm), it had no problem to deal with the high sound pressure level. We appreciated the results we got in close-miking (or not so close !) applications, on many instruments. A very versatile microphone, indeed ! And a big achievement for its designers…

And now?

We won't cheer these mircophones just because they're beautiful, and praise them as the best available just because they're expensive. All these microphones exist because they justify their existence by their sound, their personality. And obviously, some very famous-branded microphones, with their sober and impersonal look, their metal grey finishing, yes, the ones you presently have in your studio, hooked on their suspensions, seem now very common. You dreamed them, Violet Design made them. Mister Jeweller, I'll buy one, it's a present!

* Note : the Place Vendome is an old elegant square in central Paris, created under King Louis XIV's reign. It once was the symbol of monarchy ; it is now the heart of Parisian jewelery (Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels…). Cars are not allowed to drive there, and there are many "de luxe" shops and 5-star hotels. I'm afraid one can't find yet Violet Design microphones for sale on Place Vendome. But who knows?

Vahe Manoukian is a Los Angeles based recording engineer, composer and sound supervisor for film...