Audix i-5 Microphone: Affordable Versatility
Audix i-5 Microphone: Affordable Versatility
Audix is renowned for producing quality microphones tailored for drums and percussion: take the D1, D2, D3, D4, and new D6 dynamic mikes, or condensers like the micro-D, the SCX-one, and others. Not content to rest on its laurels, the manufacturer has come up with yet another promising addition to its burgeoning quiver of transducers. Meet the i-5, a multi-purpose unidirectional dynamic microphone that just begs to lurk over a snare drum — or a variety of drums and percussion instruments for that matter.
But wait! There’s more! Not only is the i-5 recommended for drums and percussion, it’s purported to make the transition to brass, reeds, flute, electric guitar, and vocals as well. So if you want a do-it-all mike in your cabinet, this one is hopping up and down for attention. The latest addition to the Audix fold is touted as a general-purpose workhorse in the vein of that industry standard we’re all so familiar with, the Shure SM57. The new mike lists at $179 and carries a super affordable street price under $100, which makes it rather attractive to the budget-conscious musician right off the bat. Let’s take a closer look.
Keep It Simple, Sweetheart
In this world of confusion, who wants to muddy up the waters with something complicated? Well, I reckon there may be a few folks, but I must say there is beauty in simplicity. One look at the i-5 says “simple.” Its straightforward design features a slightly tapered, all-metal cylindrical housing made of a durable cast zinc alloy. Audix’s logo and the model number are cleanly etched in white into the black e-coat finish.
The address end of the mike is encircled with two rows of ports, and a sturdy woven-mesh grille reinforced with a foam pop filter underneath shields the capsule. The fact that there are no plastic bits incorporated into the construction is good news to heavy hitters who may inadvertently bash a mike with a stray stick in the heat of battle. This mike looks like it can take a wallop and live to tell the tale. It comes nestled along with a stand adapter in a padded zippered pouch emblazoned with the company logo.
Even the guts of the mike exude simplicity — the i-5 is transformerless — and what you see when you take a peek under the hood is a low-mass capsule, a few wires, and an XLR connector. According to Audix, the coil of the capsule is wound so that the output impedance and voltage level are sufficient to interface with a preamp input without the need of an output transformer (oftentimes, less components in the signal path are favored for less signal coloration). A nice touch is that the XLR connector pins are gold plated, making them resistant to schmutz and tarnish, ensuring a good connection.
With its tight cardioid pickup pattern and high SPL-handling capabilities (in excess of 140dB), the i-5 is tailor-made for drum miking, stage work, and situations where good off-axis rejection is essential. Its frequency response is indicated as 50Hz—16kHz. The chart shows a low-end boost between 80Hz and 300Hz, which peaks about 3dB at 150Hz, plus another pronounced rise between 2kHz and 10kHz. There is a slight dip between 500Hz and 700Hz, and the response slopes off steeply above 13kHz. This indicates a mike made for low-end oomph and high-end definition to enhance presence in a mix.
Stage And Studio
I took the i-5 on the road for both live and studio sessions, using it on different snare drums, toms, frame drums, small percussion toys, and congas. Snare drums, save for an Ayotte maple 13" x 5" with wood hoops, were all 14" x 5" and included a brass Pearl, a DW solid maple and a DW mahogany, a Beni solid maple with die-cast hoops, and a DW brass snare with wood hoops. I checked out the i-5 on the toms of a vintage Gretsch kit and an Ayotte wood-hoop drum set.
For the live stuff, I conducted some controlled tests as well as bringing the mike out on a few gigs, including a rock concert and a play with live music. The studio tests were conducted largely at Ex’pression College for Digital Arts and included sessions for punk band the Jingle Punx, metal band Pain Of Exile, and a jazz ensemble. With the assistance of fellow drummer/engineer Steve Orlando, and sound arts student Mandy Clark, I got to listen to what the i-5 has to offer. Here’s the lowdown.
Bright And Dark
Overall, the i-5 exhibited lots of character with a sound that was open and beefy. While it was a bit on the dark side due to its low-end emphasis, it still had plenty of definition and captured lots of tone. The highs were tight and crisp and the bottom end was big. In one case, I found the sound to be a bit boomy in a live setting on a 14" x 5" brass snare drum. While the i-5 has a rather tight cardioid pickup pattern and provides good off-axis rejection, the fact that the snare was part of a big rock kit with a booming 22" kick drum most likely contributed to the low-end resonance. I ended up engaging the high pass filter, which tamed the sound and helped the snare sit more tightly in the mix.
In other cases, such as the Jingle Punx session, the heavier bottom end was a big asset. The i-5 proved darker sounding than an SM57, but the Jingle Punx dug that. “The i-5 went up and it never came down,” quipped Orlando. We were impressed with the i-5’s smooth high-end bump, observing that it wasn’t overly bright on the snares. This characteristic effectively enhanced the cut of a fairly thick sounding mahogany snare drum on the Pain Of Exile session without putting a cleaver through the skull with hyped brashness. That drum would’ve otherwise sounded rather muddy in the mix. This broad boost also gave presence and definition without brittleness to some large frame drums and percussion toys, such as woodblocks and crashers, in a medium-sized theater.
On toms and congas, the i-5 captured plenty of roundness, tone, and attack. The mike sounded accurate and natural in this application, and compared to an SM57 on rack tom, the i-5 had more of an open character. Orlando commented that the i-5’s response characteristics lie somewhere between that of a Shure SM57 and a Sennheiser MD421. This makes it one versatile mike indeed, able to handle the highs and the lows with aplomb without skimping on tone.
Audix succeeded in creating a hardy, affordable, great sounding dynamic microphone that shines on snare and does justice to toms, hand drums, and other percussion. It has good definition, captures lots of tone, and has a big low end, and its durable all-metal housing can take the abuse of live stage work. Its beefy, open sound does justice to many sound sources, not just on stage, but in the studio as well. So if you want to expand your microphone options without putting an appreciable dent in your bank account, check out the i-5.
Model: Audix i-5 Dynamic Instrument Microphone
List Price: $179
Transducer Type: Dynamic
Frequency Response: 50Hz—16kHz
Polar Pattern: Cardioid
Output Impedance: 150 Ohms
Sensitivity: 1.9mV (ref 1k@1Pa)
Capsule Technology: VLM Type B
Off Axis Rejection: >23dB
Maximum SPL: 140dB
Cable/Connector: 3-pin gold-plated male XLR connector
Polarity: Positive voltage on pin 2 relative to pin 3 of output XLR connector
Housing: Cast zinc alloy
Weight: 6.5 oz/183 grams
Finish: Black E-coat