Every now and then a microphone comes along that stands out from the crowd and pops its head above the rows of shiny silver tubes out there and shouts "Hey look at me". A couple of months ago we reviewed the Lewitt LCT 640 which not only looks great, it also bucks the current trend by being clear and transparent and deliberately avoiding those little scoops in response designed to flatter.(see review). Over the years the quest for audio perfection has led to the production of mics that can capture the whole sound spectrum of the human ear from 20hz up to 20k and so for Placid Audio to produce a mic with a published audio spectrum of 20hz to 3k it sounds like an act of folly in our shiny Hi-FI digital wonderland. But in fact the Copperphone is one of those very rare mics that actually make you want to go out and make some music and the more I use it the more convinced I am that we need more mics that have their own particular sound.. It’s a creative tool and can really get the juices running.
I recently went out to record a live concert in my home town with the Hull Philharmonic orchestra backing 3 local groups in a gig billed as the Eclectic Proms and for me the surprise find of the session was the Placid Audio Copperphone. (session review)
Unlike full range, high fidelity microphones, the Copperphone operates within a really limited bandwidth of frequencies which lends a “vintage” quality to the signal (think 1930s/1940s recording). It's been compared to the sound to AM radio or a telephone and while initially you might think that this is a crazy idea in fact it does something that almost no other mic does in that it adds some layer of creativity onto your recording taking it in a definite direction that makes you think about your sound. Of course if you are recording a Barbara Streisand album then the Copperphone isn’t going to be for you but if you are one of the thousands of singer songwriters with a home studio then all I can say is that you should just get one before everybody else does.
Placid Audio, the makers, claim the sound is achieved through a combination of vintage telecommunications components and a mechanical filtering effect. The microphone’s element is rear ported into a hollow resonant chamber and as sound passes through the diaphragm and into the hollow chamber, upper mid range frequencies are accentuated while low and high frequencies are reduced. I don’t care really how anything actually works but the difference on the night between songs sung into the SM58 and songs done on the copperphone were like chalk and cheese (hear)
The Copperphone is a cardioid dynamic mic so no phantom is needed, though as with all dynamics there isn’t a ton of gain and in practice it's not that directional and you need to get used to the response as it’s easy to get it overloading into feedback. It’s also quite prone to mic stand vibration but with a bit of practice you learn quickly how to get it working for you. In a mic with only the mids left in you'd think that it might be dull but it has a real presence that sits it into a big mix .
I’ve not had chance to really put it through its paces yet but other reviews suggest it can sound pretty funky on just about anything and I want to get it into as many studio sessions as I can.
OK the Copperphone might be a one trick pony but it’s a great trick and at the price $250 it’s got to be worth a go. A few years ago I remember getting sEs tube ribbon (see review) and realising that while it was never going to be the reach for, do it all, studio mic (that’s the ADK TT) there are things that the sE mic did that other mics just couldn’t get. It's time we had a lot more distinctive mics with character and I see from their website that Placid Audio do a range of other mics that look fantastic and have that same retro funky sound. Check them out....... ( Placid audio website)