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Earthworks Z30X & TC30K Microphones Tested!

The positioning of the mikes seemed to make a much larger difference than any other factor (such as EQ settings). Also key was the amount of power you put through them at the preamp stage, which had to be nailed just right. Variations in gain seemed to have a great effect on both pairs – too much and they seemed bassy (mostly the cardioids, while the omnis simply yielded too much of everything); too little gain and the three-dimensional imaging faded dramatically. But with the right gain and positioning, it was like you were in a very sweet room with the instrument, or the speaker, or the band. Used live, both pairs of mikes seem to have their own unique sound – very pleasing. The sound is remarkably uncolored, yet seemed to pop out in a way that wasn’t evident live.

The omnis had to be moved closer and closer to the stage as the crowd came in, and the cardioids became the mikes of choice at this point. Miking an acoustic guitar, bongo and vocal act, the Z30X’s were stunning, and the handling noise of both was so low that I swore I had a gate in the line between the mike and the DAT onto which I was recording it all. Saaa-WEET!

I gleefully noted that the Earthworks mikes are very well behaved off axis. The rejection behind 90 degrees is extremely thorough, as crowd and front-of-stage sounds faded quickly as the cardioids moved closer to the recorded source.

Finally, the last test was performed at my home studio. I miked all manner of things, from a toy accordion to a 12-string acoustic guitar, vocals, a rushing stream about 100 yards from my porch, and of course, my drums. Again, the realism in the omnis and the point source accuracy with the cardioids was spectacular. Two omnis positioned right (about ten feet from the kit at about 2 and 10 o’clock) with one fat tube condenser mike in the middle of the kit just between the cymbals is about the easiest and nicest sounding drum recording setup I’ve achieved – particularly with the omnidirectional TC30Ks. I simply walked around the source listening for a place where it sounded good, and put a mike there. Of course, this won’t work for keeping the drum sounds on separate tracks, but in a pinch, with a great drummer, this is a good chance to capture a live essence simply not achieved with close miking. I used the Z30Xs as overheads, both as an X/Y or over sets of cymbals. They yielded a clean, tight, natural image.

During a live rehearsal, I used the Z30Xs as snare and bass drum mikes, and was duly impressed. The separation from the rest of the kit was exceptional and uncolored. Even more impressive is that the Z30X is flatter at 90 degrees than most mikes are from most any angle. However, explosive sounds on vocals seemed to be much more of a problem than on larger capsuled mikes, but quickly disappeared behind a pop screen.

If you need more live applications and are a bit fearful of taking such audiophile instruments out, watch for a new mike appearing shortly from Earthworks. Called the SR71, it will be a cardioid, intended for live sound, which will be more rugged and more affordable than the studio mikes I tested. The company says the SR71 will maintain almost all of the sonic quality of the Z30X cardioids.

E.T. Phone Demo Home. All in all, I loved the Earthworks mikes. They are useful for a lot of chores, and fill in a large part of the sonic palette that is requisite for any recording engineer or mike collector. So what if they’re shaped like extraterrestrial swizzle sticks? A pair of the TC30Ks yielded a stereo image so realistic that I nearly soiled myself in sheer, drooling sonic ecstasy. Earthworks really seems to know what they’re doing. The helpful literature and spec sheet included with all the mikes, and craftsmanship they exhibit, all adds up to the kind of dedication that makes buying their products a no-brainer.

Specs

TC30K
Pattern: Omnidirectional
Power Requirements: 48V Phantom, 10mA
Noise: 27dB SPL equivalent
Max Acoustic Input: 151db SPL with 5K Capacitor coupled load
Output: XLR intended to drive balanced input (pin 2+)
Weight: 225g

Z30X
Pattern: Enhanced cardioid
Power Requirements: 48V Phantom, 10mA
Noise: 22dB SPL equivalent
Max Acoustic Input: 145db SPL with 5K ohm load
Output: XLR intended to drive balanced input (pin 2+)
Weight: 225g

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