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iSK Starlight LDC Microphone

iSK Pro Audio Starlight

4.15 4.15 out of 5, based on 4 Reviews

At $129 USD the iSK Starlight LDC is bound to become a favorite choice for a lot of people. With premium electronics, a well matched capsule, integrated shock mount and stylish appearance, this great sounding mic is sure to gain popularity very quickly.


19th September 2015

iSK Pro Audio Starlight by TurboJets

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.5
iSK Starlight LDC Microphone

I recently received 3 different iSK microphones from Kris at iSK Pro Audio who is the new distributor in North America for iSK mic's; the Starlight, Pearl and the TDM-1. The Starlight was so strikingly cool looking I decided to give it a go first.

The Starlight comes in a really impressive aluminum flight case with a die-cut soft foam insert to cradle the mic in and a foam "plug" that covers the top of the capsule housing for further protection. They also include a metal screen pop filter which mounts very easily. The mic features an integrated and impressive shock mount that uses hefty and durable hairband type bands and it's actually bigger than I thought it would be with a rather long body made of brushed aluminum to house the microphones circuit board. Aesthetically it's quite striking as I mentioned, incorporating chrome and nickle for the grille and frame which really sets off the dull finish of the brushed aluminum body.

So how does it sound? iSK advertise the mic to feature premium electronics and that was apparent to me right away when I first listened to it. Thanks to Michael Joly I learned a long time ago what a difference premium electronics can make to low-cost microphones and the Starlight presents a nice clean signal for capture. I used a very straight forward signal path that will be appreciated by anybody doing home recording and looking for lots of bang for their buck. The mic was mounted on an On-Stage mic stand and connected to a Focusrite 2i2 which was connected to a modest Acer Aspire laptop, nothing fancy. The cable I used was a 15ft Mogami Silver Series cable.

I saddle up to the mic with my trusty Martin OM-16GT for a little strumming about 18 inches from the mic and the Gain on the 2i2 set just shy of the 3:00 position. The first thing I notice was how little self noise there was from the Starlight. iSK advertise 13dB A self noise and they're not exaggerating in the least. Its quieter than my ADK A6 (15dB A) and much quieter than my AT 4033 (17dB A) and I can't tell you how happy that makes me.

I brought up a new song I've been tracking lately that features a strummed acoustic guitar part, muted those tracks and recorded the part using the Starlight. The first thing I noticed was how well it sat in the mix right away with no need to cut anything at all. With the Starlight having a fixed cardioid pattern I was sure that I'd need to dip the mids a bit at around 1.5kHz but the mids were so smooth and appealing there was no need. Low mids around 500Hz to 750Hz were so clean I didn't need to make any adjustments there either. The low mids are solid, yes, but there's no mud at all, it's a nice clean response that sounds more natural than anything else in my mic locker right now. The lows are tight and natural but keep in mind this is an OM model guitar. The high's are not bright or brittle and they don't even sparkle, what I hear is actually like a sheen instead. Again, premium electronics and components are no doubt responsible for this. So the track cut through the mix very well with a pleasing proximity effect that helped the instrument stand out on its own in the mix as if I had intentionally carved a space for it (which was not the case).

When I solo'd the track to hear the capture on its own I was pleasantly surprised again by the natural and clean frequency response. There was the desirable meat in the low mids that you expect from an LDC but with not even a hint of mud or distortion and the high's had that sheen to them without sounding crisp, harsh, brittle or too bright; just natural.

For the second instrument to test I chose vocals since the Starlight comes with a nicely made pop filter and my voice is usually problematic to record because its what I consider to be a little thin. The Starlight's solid low mid response added a little body to my voice without creating too much build-up in that range within the existing mix which really surprised me. The lows again were tight and the high's had a sheen that was actually flattering. When I solo'd the vocal track I couldn't hear any pops or sibilance at all. Let me say that again, no sibilance at all. What? This mic sells from iSK Pro Audio for $129, how can there not be any sibilance? You'll have to ask them I guess. For reference, my mouth was 14in.-15in. from the pop filter and the Gain on my 2i2 was set at 12:00. The proximity effect was just right to allow the vocals to cut through the mix without my having to create a dip at around 1kHz like a usually do.

I'd also like to add that I tracked the guitar again using the Starlight paired with the iSK Pearl SDC with the Starlight 18 inches away pointed toward the 12th fret and the Pearl 18 inches away pointed toward the bridge with 3 feet between them. When I panned the Starlight 82% L and the Pearl 82% right I got a really sweet stereo image, the mics blended very well together. I'll talk more about the Pearl after I do another session that focuses on just that mic.

In short this isn't just a really nice mic for the price, it's just flat out a darn nice mic with lots of redeeming qualities. In my opinion it easily competes with microphones in the $500 range and I'm looking forward to future sessions with it. Again, $129 for the whole kit is nothing short of remarkable for how it sounds.

21st September 2015

iSK Pro Audio Starlight by Silent Sound

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 3 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4
iSK Starlight LDC Microphone

I'm an electronics nut, so the first thing I did when I got this mic was open it up. All the components look high quality. The caps are all film and electrolytic, and the resistors are all metal film. By the way, don't open up this mic, you have to desolder some wires to get inside there! There even appears to be some inductors, which you don't normally see in these cheap Chinese LDC's.

The body of the mic makes sense, but you can't swivel the mic within the shock mount, so that can make placement somewhat more difficult sometimes. But the think body should limit resonance and reflections and there's plenty of shock absorption. It also doesn't have a high pass filter or pad. Those are easy to do ITB and most preamps have those options anyway, so that's not really a big deal. Switches add to cost and subtract from sound quality anyway.

The sound of the mic is very bright. But it's a smooth bright. It's not harsh like many other Chinese mics. It has a very strong presence bump that gives a nice contrast to many of my other more neutral or darker mics (Audio Technica & Oktava). It was even brighter than my MXL 2003a, which is among my brightest mics. Bright is a term that's often maligned around here, and that's understandable. Bright usually means harsh. But bright can be real nice too. And this mic is smooth. I recorded a female vocalist with a breathy tone with it and it lifted her voice up against the other instruments very pleasantly and naturally. I've always avoided bright mics until now because the good ones were expensive, and the cheap ones were harsh. But this one is a nice surprise!

But the best thing about this mic is the value. It's hard to find anything that's not harsh in this price range from an LDC. It's not only good for a cheap first mic, but I would also recommend it for anyone looking for a smooth yet bright LDC on a budget.

27th November 2015

iSK Pro Audio Starlight by Puffer Fish

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.5
iSK Starlight LDC Microphone

I recently acquired an iSK Starlight vocal microphone and had the opportunity to try it out and compare it to a number of microphones. Here is what I found:

So there Starlight microphone comes in an aluminum case, has a built-in shock mount and its own little pop filter. It also ships with a thread diameter adapter for fitting onto different mic stands, has extra springs for the shock mount and an extra set screw for the pop filter fitting. There are no frequency plots for the Starlight mic which is sort of a bummer, but then it simply means one needs to listen rather than make assumptions or guessing as to how the mic will perform.

The microphone looks pretty good and has a resemblance to the Blue Dragonfly. I have never used the Blue Dragonfly, so I can’t say how closely the two mics operate and sound and if the iSK Starlight is an overt rip off or not.

I was just a bit skeptical of the built-in shock mount the pop filter. I could not help but wonder if the microphone was heavy on bling at the expense of quality of operation. But I tried to keep my skepticism under control so I could give the Starlight mic a fair set of test.

As it turns out, the pop filter is actually a metal screen—-the type of which seems to do a really good job of controlling pop sounds from singers in my experience. The pop filter on the Starlight microphone works very well in that regard. The tricky part was getting it to settle into its holder and lock down the pop filter in place with the set screw. The post of the pop filter is etched to for the set screw to grip against. It took a little bit of effort to place the set screw without cross threading and to at the same time lock the post of the pop filter in place. It was not impossibly difficult, it is just one of those things a user needs to do with some care.

When the Starlight mic was placed on a stand, it seemed to me that the built-in shock mount worked as it is supposed to. Okay, so quality of construction concerns over the mechanical parts of the mic were satiated. Oh yes, it it really do not take very long to pull the mic out of the case and set up the mic body, pop filter and shock mount onto a solid mic stand. Certainly no longer than it takes to set up any other large diaphragm condenser with a pop filter and shock mount.

As for the SOUND of the iSK Starlight…

I first set the Starlight up with a Behringer B2-Pro. The B2-Pro is a similar price point and it is a pretty decent value microphone. An engineer friend and I did some vocal testing. To our ears, the Behrigner B2-Pro sounded less direct and not as pleasing in its upper frequencies. The B2-Pro simply sounded more harsh. The Starlight had a pleasing directness to its audio capture. The Starlight in no way sounded dull, but it did not exhibit any of the harshness of the B2-Pro to our ears.

Next we set the Starlight up with a MXL 2003A. The 2003A sounded like it had less life to the audio it captured. It sounded less direct and the articulation of higher frequencies did not seem as smooth. The iSK Starlight microphone again sounded more direct and tighter with a more pleasing frequency reproduction. It sounded very good, in fact.

Lastly we decided to go out on a limb and compare the iSK Starlight to a Shure SM7b. Why not? The Starlight had proven itself to operate quietly, have a tight cardioid pattern that rejected room sound very well and it exhibited a smooth top end with a pleasing mid and low frequency capture from male vocals. To our very great surprise, the Starlight and the SM7b sounded very similar. So we adjusted the rolloff and frequency bump switches on the SM7b to listen for the differences. With the low frequency roll off, to my ears I preferred the iSK Starlight—in that setting the SM7b was sounding a lot like an SM57 with the same old ugly midrange honk to my ears. With the high frequency bump on the SM7b, I again preferred the Starlight—-there was nothing wrong with the SM7b like this, just in that setting with the vocalist, I thought the Starlight was a better choice.

I thought both microphones (SM7b and Starlight) had a similar tight, focused vocal capture with smooth high frequencies that were never lifeless or harsh. The low frequencies were well developed, not boomy but providing a large, robust voice. The one notable difference between the SM7b and the Starlight is the amount of gain needed for each to operate—it should come as no surprise to anyone who has used an SM7b before that the Starlight requires substantially less gain from a mic preamp to operate

The iSK Starlight mic stacks up well to what I had the opportunity to compare it against thus far. I will be keeping this mic and it will indeed get used for vocals in the future. I think it is a killer value. KILLER. And with its tight, focused cardioid pattern and pleasing frequency response for vocalists, I think it could easily stand up against many other microphones I have yet to shoot it out against. My next test will be against my very quiet Shure KSM44 to find out how they fair against each other. And it might be helpful to learn how the Starlight sits against my modded LDC with the RK-47 capsule and against my collection of Oktava MK-219 mics. And over time I will love to hear the iSK Starlight against some Neumanns as time and opportunity permit.

The one thing I want to add is I have no point of reference for consistency of product from iSK. The U.S. distributor (iSK Pro Audio) is doing some quality control, from what the owner Kris indicated. I like to think if I bought another Starlight it would sound similar to the one I own now.

2 weeks ago

iSK Pro Audio Starlight by radler

  • Sound Quality 2 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 3 out of 5
  • Overall: 3.5
iSK Starlight LDC Microphone

I was excited to try this, but it doesn't work as well as I'd like for pro voiceover work. I'm an alto with a sibilant voice, so I got this one based on tons of positive reviews saying it had low sibilance. It's okay for that, but it sounds kind of muddy all the way through to me.

Personally, I think the $29 Pearl does a much better job than the Starlight in pretty much all aspects except for looks. The Starlight sure is pretty, but the Pearl sounds clearer, warmer, less sibilant, and just all around much better to me. I think the Pearl may have slightly more self noise due to the pencil condenser form factor, but the Pearl is an actual LDC (believe it or not).

I decided to sell mine when I compared it to the CAD E100S, which just sounds a lot clearer and cleaner to me, and it actually handles my sibilance better too. Between the E100S and the Pearl, there just wasn't a reason to keep the Starlight.

 
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