Hands-On Review:CAD e100 and e300 Microphones


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Silky condenser mic sounds at easy prices

By Donald Sheldon

 

Silky condenser mic sounds at easy prices

The latest incarnation of equitek series microphones from Conneaut Audio Devices (CAD) is here–good news for those who want to make professional recordings on a tight budget. When equitek microphones first came on the scene in the '90s, they broke new ground as the first large diaphragm condensers on the market under $1,000. These latest versions feature a number of revisions that, though they are fairly minor, when taken as a whole add up to substantial benefits for the end user. And what's more, the price has gone down.

 

e100: Swiss army knife

 

The e100 is a medium-sized, multi-use condenser mic that excels in a wide variety of live and studio situations. A friend of mine who toured with the Army band said the e100 performed superbly in nearly every imaginable application–as a principal vocal mic, in front of bass and guitar amps, and overhead for horns and percussion.

 

The e100 has a sleek rectangular body finished in black urethane with a brilliant golden grille. The grille bulges out slightly to provide more clearance for the enclosed capsule, adding protection in case the mic is dropped or receives an errant blow from a drumstick. The mic now includes a revamped shockmount with a custom triple cantilever system to effectively isolate the capsule. A stainless/brass triple pop/EMI filter gives the e100 total ballistic stability, high SPL capability, and plosives control. The capsule assembly is machined of solid brass to ensure precise polar pattern control with sophisticated laser-trimmed op-amp circuitry for increased management of fast transients. An on/off switch is included, as is an auto power shut-off feature.

 

A hi-pass filter allows you to tailor high-end response and a 20dB pad permits recording of hot signals like drums and percussion without overdriving the mic. The e100, along with the e300 and other equitek series mics, has a unique design that uses two rechargeable 9V nickel hydride batteries to provide a large current reserve for fast transients and high sound pressure levels and enables remote operation for up to six hours. The mics still make use of phantom power to trickle-charge the batteries virtually eliminating the need to ever replace batteries over many years. A plastic case with plenty of interior foam keeps your mic safe from the vagaries of the road.

 

e300: big and bold

 

 

The e300 impresses right out of the box with its formidable size, weight, and overall heft. The large size of this robust mic provides more than visual impact–the open architecture gives it a big, open sound. The sound is tantalizingly transparent with airy, detailed high end and mids, complemented by a rich, silky smooth low end and breathtaking upfront presence. All these factors come together to make the e300 a superb vocal mic. The 1.1" 24k gold sputtered, externally biased, dual diaphragm condenser capsule features selectable patterns (cardioid, omni, figure 8) for extraordinary versatility. The capsule is also hand dampened for consistent frequency response. A regulated bypass voltage generator supplies precise output sensitivity; sophisticated laser-trimmed op-amp circuitry offers improved handling of fast transients. The e300 also includes the recent enhancements found on the e100–on/off switch with auto power shut-off, hi-pass filter, pad, and rechargeable 9V nickel hydride batteries. From top to bottom, the e300 gives you classic vocal studio microphone performance without the accompanying enormous price tag.

 

Sound check

 

I put the e100 and e300 to the test in my home studio, recording vocals and instruments ranging from an acoustic guitar to drum set. First I laid down some acoustic guitar with the e100, and it delivered a clean, accurate sound. The strings separated beautifully on the recording. Next up was a percussion track with a pair of Moroccan clay hand drums. The –20dB pad was great for getting the mic up close without break-up or distortion. Both the percussion and drum set recorded with the e100 came through with excellent detail and brilliance. On vocals, the e100's response was exceptionally clear, smooth, and sensitive. The built-in pop filter prevented distortion well, even when I got right up on the mic. My overall impression of the e100 is of a very thoughtfully designed and well-made mic that brilliantly performs a lot of different jobs in the studio or on the road. You should definitely check out the e100.

 

I broke out the e100's beefier older sibling, the e300 mic. This mic captured the guitar's sound flawlessly, with all the upfront sonic presence and character that you only get with a serious large-diaphragm mic. The e300 imbued vocals with exceptional brilliance and warmth. The E300's slight bump in the mids produced a warm and wide presence that sat beautifully in the mix. I loved the e300 for the drum set, producing heft and fat in the lows and mids while preserving the crystalline metallic tones of the cymbals.

 

A history of excellence

 

Conneaut Audio Devices is no newcomer to the mic field–their heritage goes back over 75 years as an offspring of Astatic Microphones, a company that has been manufacturing and developing high-quality mic products since 1931. CAD's microphone products have earned applause from top engineers and producers.

 

Jimmy Bralower, top producer and musician with Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, and other greats, says, "The e100 and e300 are made for the digital recording environment–crisp and clean with a bit of attitude built-in. Everything I put through them sounds great in my tracks." Rusty McFarland, the two-time Grammy winning producer/engineer/musician with B. B. King and James Brown, said, "I LOVE these mics! I'm taking them with me to every session I do from here on."

 

If CAD's equitek mics are earning raves like these from top pros, imagine what you can do with them. And at prices that represent some of the industry's best values, you don't have to be wealthy to put them to work for your music.

 

CAD e100 and e300 microphones: Detail and presence that are almost surreal at down-to-earth prices.

 

Features & Specs:

 

e100:

  • Externally polarized condenser element
  • Supercardioid pattern
  • Frequency response: 10Hz-18kHz
  • Sensitivity: -33dBV (22mV) @ 1Pa
  • Impedance: 200 ohms
  • Self noise: 14dB-A
  • Maximum SPL: 145dB
  • High-pass filter: 6dB/octave at 80Hz
  • Pad: 20dB
  • Requires 48V phantom, 8mA
  • On/off switch with auto shut-off

e300:

  • Externally polarized condenser element
  • 3 switchable patterns: cardioid, omnidirectional, figure 8
  • Frequency response: 10Hz-18kHz
  • Sensitivity: -36dBV (16mV) @ 1Pa
  • Impedance: 200 ohms
  • Self noise: 12dB-A
  • Maximum SPL: 145dB
  • High-pass filter: 6dB/octave at 80Hz
  • Pad: 20dB
  • Requires 48V phantom, 8mA power
  • On/off switch with auto shut-off