A few weeks ago, the UPS man dropped of a couple of boxes. Most of you know that I have a bit of a mic fetish, so I was excited to see the boxes contained the Miktek C7 Large Diaphragm FET Condenser mic and the C5MP Small Diaphragm Condensers (the MP standing for Matched Pair).
The C7 is really a studio mic, so I won’t spend a lot of time on it in this review. I did record some vocals with it, and I used it as my mic for a few episodes of Church Tech Weekly. The C7 sounds really, really good. It’s very smooth, with plenty of detail, and when switched to cardioid mode, the proximity effect has a pleasant warming effect without being muddy.
The C7 has three cool sliding switches, one that selects omni, cardioid or figure-8 patterns; a -10 dB pad; and a high-pass filter. The overall construction is very solid (it weighs several pounds) and comes in a cool, aluminum attaché case that holds the fine wooden presentation box for the mic and the very sturdy shock mount. Speaking of the shock mount, I found it to be less isolating than I like; if I tapped the mic stand, I could clearly hear it transmitted through the audio chain. And because the mic threads into the bottom of the spider-mount, it’s a bit of a pain to put in and take out.
At a retail price of $850 or so, it’s not cheap, but it’s less than an AKG C414, and sounds every bit as good, if not better. I’m not sure how much I would use it on a live stage, at least in my setting, but it is a great-sounding mic.
While the C7 may not have as much application for us live sound guys, the C5MP really does. I tried it out on several instruments and found it’s a pretty versatile set. The first weekend I had them in, I put them up as overheads for my drums. I did this primarily because I’ve been wanting to try my PR-30s on the B3, but needed something for OH. The C5’s sounded pretty dang good overall, though I’ve gotten pretty used to the tighter pattern of the PR-30s.
My OH mic’ing style has gravitated more toward using the overhead mics as cymbal mics and less as kit mics, something the PR-30s are great at. The C5s however, have a more open pickup pattern, and did a great job of capturing the entire kit. I initially found them a bit bright, but I think that’s because I’m used to the PR-30s. In my room, with my PA and my drum kit, I prefer the PR-30s; however the C5s would not be a bad choice—not at all.
I also tried them on the piano. I’ve used a set of Rode NT-5s (which the C5s resemble quite a lot) on piano successfully in the past and thought the C5s would work well. It took a lot of fiddling, but eventually, I found a location on our piano that sounded pretty good. A while back, I tried out various piano mics when I had the DPA SMK-4081 on hand, and I called up the tracks I recorded with those mics.
I was impressed by two things immediately: First, the SMK-4081s sounded amazing, and took no time at all to make them sound that way. I put them where Bruce told me to, and they worked. Done. The C5s sounded good eventually, but it was a lot more work. I tried various combinations and positions, even giving the stereo bar a go. Eventually, I settled on a high mic up near the hammers and a low mic at the far end of the sound board.
The following week, somewhat on a lark, I decided to give them a shot on our percussion player. He normally brings three congas, but we typically mic them with two mics—Sennheiser e904s—which I don’t like, but at the moment don’t have anything better.
I mounted up the C5s on the included stereo bar and set them up in an X-Y pattern in the middle of his conga set up. It didn’t take long to discover that this was a great-sounding solution. He even received several compliments on the sound of the congas from people in the congregation that week. I panned them just a little left and right which lent great spread to the image, while the mics captured both the initial smack and the lower resonance of the congas.
We were quite impressed. The stereo bar, once we got it set up was cool. Getting there however, was a pain. First of all, the included shock mounts are stupid-hard to use. You have to shove the mic through two rubber sleeves to get it into the mount, which was difficult enough. Once in the shock mounts, I discovered that the base of the mounts interfered with the stereo bar, making it impossible to rotate the mounts far enough for a proper X-Y positioning. I had to switch to the standard clips, which worked OK, but it sure would have been nice to have better shock mounts.
Like the shock mount for the C7, the ones for the C5 are a bit over-engineered, overly complex (and thus costly) and could be greatly improved by making them simpler. The ones for the C5 are so hard to use that I would probably either A: never use them or B: leave the mics in and figure out some way to store them safely that way.
And that is the rub with the C5s; they’re great sounding mics, but at $1,300 a pair, a bit spendy—especially when compared to a matched set of NT-5s that come in at around $425. Yes, the C5s sounded really, really good. But 3 times as good as the NT-5s? It’s hard to say given that I didn’t have a pair of NT-5s on hand, but on a live stage, I’d be hard pressed to say it’s worth it.
Ultimately, I think I see the Miktek C7 and C5MP for what they are; studio mics that sound really, really good. I wouldn’t hesitate to use them for many tasks, but I would have a hard time spending the money to buy them as a primarily live sound guy in a church. Are they top-notch mics? Yes. Are there better values out there for what we do? I think so. But at the end of the day, it’s your (or your church’s money), so you decide.