Stellar Professional Microphones CM-6 by theozzy
This is the first valve condenser microphone I have owned. It is a budget microphone by valve microphone standards ($300). There has been a lot of talk and hype about these on gearslutz and elsewhere about how they can hold a torch to much more expensive mics. It comes in a nice flightcase with PSU, 5 pin XLR, windshield and shockmount. The build quality of the accessories is a bit on the cheapside and the mic itself is not perfect – the threads that hold the body of the mic on are degrading a bit now after 6 months use and it never fully tightens to the body. But for the money you must expect some corners to be cut, particularly as they come straight out of a Chinese factory, built to a spec order. There are other small companies doing this too. There’s one that has just started in the UK called the Opal OM7 that looks very similar to the CM-6, but sounds different probably as it is built to different specifications. By way of comparison I have used many microphones and own a smallish selection of lower end stuff – EV PL20, little blondies, all the shure dynamics, Audix I5, ATM25 etc, but I have used a lot of high end mics.
I would describe the CM-6’s overall character as modern sounding with somewhat of a ‘hifi’ sound in cardioid mode and it has that big 3D larger than life sound – that is quite big and ‘blossoming’ in the low end and low mids, a slight recess in the mids (600Hz to 3KHz) and quite a big top end boost from about 5KHz up to 20KHz. On a singer that can sound quite honky and harsh in the mids, this mic really supresses those traits. This mic never sounds woody, boxy, nasal ie all those descriptions of when the mids are too prominent. That is one of its strengths, it’s ‘smile’ EQ profile really suits anything that is a bit harsh in the mids, but therefore won’t suit other sources. I tend to work with one singer most of the time and previously I was using an Audio Technica AT2020 budget condenser on her. The singer has a massive dynamic range – a very powerful vocalist, who can become harsh in the mids and be quite sibililant. The stellar copes with ease on her, taming the mids and warming up the bottom end, but unfortunately because of the large presence and high peak, it really emphasizes the sibilance in her voice. It was so bad that I contacted the Stellar mics owner, to see if he would recommend a valve change to dull the top a bit. He suggested changing the stock valve for a Valvo E80F. I got one from ebay and burned it in. The results are the ‘smile’ EQ curve is lessened somewhat – the mic now sounds a bit flatter, although it still has all the lovely qualities of a valve mic. This has reduced the amount of sibilance somewhat, but with this singer being very sibilant anyway, it is tricky. I have experimented a lot with microphone positions and I have found that with the capsule at upper lip height, then angle the mic downwards about 40 degrees then twist off-axis a slight fraction, this reduces the sibilance to a manageable level and picks up lots of chest which is nice. I still have to use a de-esser at the mixing stage though. The other selectable pickup patterns on the PSU give the mic slightly different characters as well as a different pick up response. In figure of 8 mode the mids really come forward and saturate. In omni the mic opens up in sound, flattens up and saturates less. It has a very low self noise. I have found the mic sounds very nice as a drum room mic.
At the end of the day, this is a very nice sounding microphone, especially considering the price, it will suit a lot of sources and flatter them in that way that only valves can. But as with all microphones, some tools suit some jobs better. I will probably try something different in the future for the singer I mainly work with.