iSK Pro Audio Starlight LDC by TurboJets
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.