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Isk Little Gem

iSK Pro Audio Little Gem

4.25 4.25 out of 5, based on 7 Reviews

Small diaphragm condenser with omni, cardioid, and hypercardioid capsules.

22nd September 2015

iSK Pro Audio Little Gem by Silent Sound

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 3 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.25
Isk Little Gem

The iSK Little Gem is a small diaphragm condenser that comes with 3 removable capsules (omni, cardioid, and hyper cardioid). It's a well build little pencil mic that sports some nice components in the circuit. There are no ceramic caps or carbon film resistors here, as typically found in cheaper mics made in China. Instead, it's all metal film resistors and film or electrolytic caps. You could view it as a Chinese SDC that was modded at the factory. The mic body looks really cool too and the threads on the capsules seem nice and robust and shouldn't strip out easily.

I was able to compare it to my modded MXL 603. With the cardioid capsule (which my 603 only has the cardioid capsule on it) they sounded very similar. The 603 sounded a tad more open, but that was likely due to all of the material I had removed from the capsule's headbasket in the mod I preformed. Otherwise, they were extremely similar, which is saying something, because I probably spent close to what the Little Gem cost brand new to buy the components to upgrade the circuit on my MXL 603. The Little Gem has a bright, yet smooth sound. It's very detailed, without getting harsh or fatiguing. It's excellent for a dull acoustic guitar or snare, and with a second one, could work well as a pair of drum overheads. With three capsules to choose from, you've got a lot of ground you can cover with just this one mic.

But the real selling point of the Little Gem has to be it's price tag. At around $40 brand new, you get a quality SDC with good components and a three capsules, plus a mic clip, foam windscreen and storage pouch. That's a lot of microphone for $40! In it's price range, I doubt you could find anything that could touch it. Actually, it would be hard to even find a mic in it's price range. Even at 4x it's price, you're going to have a hard time beating it!

This mic would be an excellent choice for a first pair of SDC's. It would also be a good choice for someone looking to expand their mic locker and fill a role of a quality, bright, SDC, but not wanting to spend a small fortune to do so. There are better mics out there, I won't lie. But there may not be a better value in mics out there.

  • 1
27th November 2015

iSK Pro Audio Little Gem by Puffer Fish

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.5
Isk Little Gem

This microphone comes with three capsules: an omni, a cardioid and a hyper cardioid set as well as a little zippered vinyl pouch to hold everything and a foam wind screen for the mic. The wind screen falls off the microphone very easily and I expect it to disappear by accident sometime when I am using the mic.

I found that when I first loaded the capsules, one of the three capsules had stubborn, not well machined threads that needed some care while threading onto the body. I simply threaded the capsule a little bit, unthreaded it and then proceeded to thread it onto the body further, gently, repeating the process until it fit snugly in place. No big deal, I have had similar experiences with other budget small diaphragm condensers.

To my ears the Little Gem sounds pretty darned good. I had the opportunity to try it out in a number of circumstances and could compare it to a few different microphones from other manufactures to listen for how it stacked up against some other options.

To start, I did some simple listening in my mixing room at home. I hooked up the hyper-cardioid capsule on the Little Gem and listened to it side by side my Microtech-Gefell M310. The Little Gem sounded brighter than the M310, which came as no surprise because the two manufacture’s frequency plots already told that story. While I prefer the less bright top end on my Befell M310, I thought the Little Gem hyper-cardioid was completely useable and I feel like it could be a back up to my M310 for booming film and video work in a pinch. The Little Gem and the Gefell M310 needed similar levels of gain from their mic preamps.

I set the Little Gem up with its cardioid capsule against my Line Audio CM3. Of course the Line Audio CM3 is actually a wide cardioid capsule, so it was not a perfect comparison. Again, the Little Gem had a brighter top end to my ears and the frequency plot told the story with the CM3 frequency plot as very flat and the Little Gem with a bump in the high frequencies. No surprises. The CM3 needed substantially more gain than the Little Gem to produce the same levels on meters. The CM3 is indeed a gain hog. I would say the Little Gem has an expected level of gain required for operation.

The really interesting tests came when I was able to place the Little Gem up with a couple Rode NT5 mics. One NT5 had the stock cardioid capsule. The second Rode NT5 had the OktavaMod ‘Rodster’ capsule. The Little Gem was loaded with the cardioid capsule from iSK. The iSK cardioid capsule stood up very well to the OktavaMod ‘Rodster’ capsule. The OktavaMod capsule seemed to have a little better control of the low frequencies, but otherwise sounded very close to the iSK Little Gem cardioid capsule. The stock Rode cardioid capsule for the NT5 sounded very dull with pesky, harsh peaks in the high frequencies and limp, cardboardy low frequency capture. In my humble opinion, the iSK Little Gem cardioid capsule blows the stock Rode NT5 cardioid capsule away.

Sadly time has not permitted me the opportunity to compare the iSK Little Gem omni capsule to anything. I really wanted to hear the Little Gem omni capsule compared to the Rode NT5 omni capsule. In my experience, the Rode NT5 omni capsule sounds very good and I expect the Little Gem omni to be very close in quality to the Rode NT5 omni capsule.

I did have the opportunity to use the Little Gem with the hyper-cardioid capsule on a film set recently. It sounded good. For my taste, I will continue to use my Gefell M310 for that task rather then the Little Gem. I simply do not want to hear the high frequencies emphasized in any way while I am booming for film and video, that is just my preference. And I feel like the Gefell M310 has a particularly pleasing off-axis rejection where sounds from off-axis re very un-colored which is quite useful for boom work. The Little Gem did indeed do well regarding handling noise, so I had no complaints there.

And finally I should mention that I plan to acquire three more of the Little Gems. They are a great bargain in my opinion. I plan to use four of them on a choir so I can get better coverage with a bunch of child singers who do not always project very well. The Little Gems should work well in that setting.

I can't know if there is consistency from mic to mic from iSK. I will find out better when I acquire more Little Gems and set them up side by side.

2nd December 2015

iSK Pro Audio Little Gem by kennybro

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 5
Isk Little Gem

Five stars all around on the Little Gem condenser by iSK. This is a well-made microphone, with great all around fit and finish.

Cosmetically, it is a very nice looking mic, unobtrusive in any setting. I used a pair of them as desk mics for a TV interview show, and they blended into our austere set nicely. Sonically, they performed excellently, easily beating out our usual AT lav mics. I used the hypercardioid capsules, and direct voice pickup was excellent while rejecting off axis sound and a significant amount of the cavernous ambiance of our large studio. Very happy with the results. The show airs on ION TV in Chicago, and I'll post a Youtube link after the air date.

I also used the Little Gems as a drum overhead, first as a single mono OH, and also a pair in stereo both as XY and in the Glyn Johns configuration. The mics performed beautifully in all situations. My regular overheads are AKG 452EB, and these Little Gems held their own in that context. They won't replace the AKG's, but I would not hesitate to use them in a professional recording situation. They simply sound great. At the price point, iSK are the best deal currently available in microphones, IMO.

I recorded three original songs, attached as 320Kbps mp3 files. Bang Bang is the Glyn Johns config; Sorry Baby is the XY and 22 days is the mono OH. I might mention that these songs were recorded with all iSK mics; 2B Beauty for vox and acoustic guitars; TDM on snare, all guitars and harmonica; BDM on kick and on a bass amp speaker. Keys are all direct. No other mics were used. All songs were recorded quickly about two hours for each, and mixed rough all in one day. Pres are SCA N72's and Sound Devices. No comp on inputs. Minimal EQ if any; Absolutely no pitching of the voice (should be obvious ) ;some comp on the master.

edit: New version 22 Days re-recorded and uploaded. 12-16-15. Same basic procedures. Drum mics, BDM kick, TDM snare/hi tom, Little Gems in Glyn Johns over. All guitars TDM. All vox 2B beauty.

Attached Files

BANGBANG.mp3 (8.81 MB, 5920 views)

SorryBaby 2B.mp3 (7.34 MB, 5829 views)

22Days.mp3 (8.07 MB, 5592 views)

  • 4
23rd February 2016

iSK Pro Audio Little Gem by szegedin

  • Sound Quality 1 out of 5
  • Ease of use 2 out of 5
  • Features 1 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 1 out of 5
  • Overall: 1.25
Isk Little Gem

With a mic this low on the scale, it's not a question of whether it's a good mic, but whether it's a good value. Unfortunately for ISK, you can buy an MXL 991 MXL603 or CAD gxl1200 or Samson C02 used for $30 on ebay or guitarcenter all day long.

The cardioid capsule on this mic sounded very much like the MXL 991 I tested it against, but the ISK had a little less low end (and high end) and more self-noise. In Australia they sell this mic with just the cardioid capsule for $25, and that would be an okay value, if there was any use for it. But it's not good enough for anything. You can go to ISK's site and download hi-res WAV files of it and judge for yourself. Just don't tell yourself it's gonna sound better on your setup.

This mic with the three capsules sells for $60 on ebay, and I have to say that's not a good value, though no fault of the distributor. It doesn't help that it takes as long to ship from Canada as it would from Hong Kong.

The omni capsule had much higher self-noise, to the point where it was utterly unusable. The supercardioid sounded a lot like the cardioid but with even less low end. It's just poor-sounding and I can't imagine what it would be good enough for. There is an example on the internet somewhere with that mic used on a surfing video. You can hear how inadequate it is. This mic also has extremely obtrusive handling noise transmitted through the mic stand. It could ruin your whole day.

Another reviewer gushed that this mic has high quality components like it was "modded at the factory!" I can't confirm that. I opened it up, and the circuit board and the caps are tiny. It really is a tiny mic.

The fit and finish of the mic was poor. Like another user, I had one of the capsules that didn't want to screw on, but with repeated use it 'broke in'. The cheap black paint used to brand it flaked off immediately the first time I shoved it into the clip.

You have to be careful of some of the reviews on the internet, when a product is new and there are just a few reviews out there which may not be unbiased. The other factor is that the mic will be worthless in resale.

There's a certain "floor" to the market for a usable professional mic, and the MXL 991/603 is it. The ISK is at a level that would have been standard in the 80s, but there is nothing I would use this mic for. Had to return it.

5th March 2016

iSK Pro Audio Little Gem by Gduron

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 5
Isk Little Gem

I couldn't help myself but to give the Little Gem a "5" on all scores.

Out of the box, the microphone comes very nicely packaged including a pouch, a mount clip and three interchangeable capsules. The microphone itself has a bit of weight considering its small size and the paint job feels and looks similar (if not the same) as Audio Technica line of mics - very classy overall.

I've been using this mic primarily on acoustic guitar and some percussion, so far I am very impressed by how good this microphone sounds, I find all three capsules to be very useful with the hyper cardiod been my favorite as it sounds smoother with greater bleed/ambiance rejection which works extremely well if you are recording vocals + guitars at the same time.

I would describe this microphones tone to be clean, detail/honest and sounds just great through colored preamps - very "Shure-ish" - Im liking what I'm getting paired with a Daking and BAE 10DC combo... during my test, I found this mic sounding really solid anywhere from 5 inches to about 2 ft away from the sound source, I never got any boominess or sharp peaks/harshness even after trying various positions within that 5" - 2' range. I completely forget this is an under 70$ mic while in use.

If you have spent tons of cash on a recording rig with quality options and just refuses to spend more on gear because - 1. you don't make enough in return 2. you have exhausted your possibilities and now you blindly/arrogantly believe "it's not the tools, but the person utilizing the tools" 3. your marriage might come to an end by a next big ticket purchase 4. all of the above ( yep, me ).... Then this is a microphone I highly recommend.

If you are just out looking to buy a versatile all-around SDC on a budget, then this IS definitely the mic you want to have

31st March 2016

iSK Pro Audio Little Gem by no genre

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 5
Isk Little Gem

I don't write many reviews. This is my first. One is not many.

While I have heard a number of different SDC mics in studios during my life, I could not say for sure which ones. And if I could remember which ones, it's been so long, I would not be comfortable making any comparisons. My comments will only be about what I experience first-hand with the Little Gems. And please remember, this is all quite subjective, your mileage may vary.

The iSK Little Gems fill a need, for me. I enjoy them very much. I have a pair of the iSK Pearls, a single MXL 991, and the latest pair (for me) of iSK Little Gems. That's it for my SDCs, right now.

The Little Gems have - what I would characterize as - a refined kind of sound. They are clean and articulate, with no upper end harshness (although the high end is well represented), to my ears, and serve quite well for tracking acoustic guitar. I have used the Uni-directional and Super-directional capsules for that application with better than satisfactory results. Not much luck with the Omni capsule, but I'm sure that is a result of room acoustics, and lack of operator (me) knowledge. The room acoustic part will change soon, it's on my to-do list. And hopefully with experience, my music will benefit from the Omni cap, too.

While the Little Gems are less bright than the MXL 991 or the Pearls (the 991 and Pearls have a similar sound, to my ears, with the Pearls' sound being preferable to me), they (Little Gems) sit well in a mix and retain an honest representation of my acoustic guitars.

The fit and finish - on my pair of Little Gems, and all iSK products I have experienced first-hand - is fine to excellent. No complaints from me in that regard. None.

Having the ability to use any of the Little Gem's three patterns by a simple capsule change is very appealing, to me. All three capsules change without a hitch, on my pair. I had no issues with threading as mentioned in a couple of the other reviews.

Final thoughts:

Kris - at iSK - is one of the good guys. I own their 2B Beauty tube mic, the Starlight LDC, a pair of Pearls, their HD9999 headphones, and the Little Gems. I am very happy with them all. The Starlight blows me away, btw. And in their price category, represent good value, from my perspective. Even the reviewer here who was unhappy with the Little Gems confirms Kris's good nature: the reviewer stated he was able to return the mic.

If you are looking for a single or pair of SDC mics, with multiple pattern options, and you need the lower end *price* option, these deserve serious consideration, imho. In the future, I may purchase a higher-end pair, but I do not see myself getting rid of these. Two thumbs up, from me.

24th December 2017

iSK Pro Audio Little Gem by CJ Mastering

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75
Isk Little Gem

This "little pencil mic comes with 3 different capsules Cardioid, Super Directional, Omni Directional, a "little" shock mount, winds screen cover and storage bag. The body of the mic feels like its solid brass that is painted black. Its Frequency Response is stated to be between 30hz-18khz. They run about $49 and for the price, its well worth it. I would have paid a lot more for it and i have more expensive mics that will be left in my mic locker because i will be selecting this ISK mic instead of them.

First, I love the dynamic range of the microphone. It enables it to be used for a flute all the way to room mics for drums. The detail it gives is because of its flat frequency response. This along with the 3 different capsules enables it to be used for very quiet sound sources all the way to loud sound sources, including drums in my opinion. Its why i selected to test it for my hi-hat and acoustic guitar.

For the Hi-Hat: I liked the fact that the mic did not sound harsh and rigid. It had a very good high-end sheen that made it perfect for my hi hat. If i had another little gem mic, i would have used them for my overheads also, as i'm sure it would sound great for that application also.

For the Acoustic Guitar: the first thing i noticed was that the sound was very accurate and true. It picked up exactly what i was hearing when i was playing the acoustic guitar. For a $49 mic, this was unexpected. I used it near my sound hole and i tried it around the twelfth fret also. Again, I wish i had a matching pair so i can use them together. I would have gotten a nice stereo sound from using them at the same time (12th fret and sound hole)

I suggest getting 2 of these, as you will not be disappointed (in sound quality and your wallet).

CJ Jacobson
Mastering Engineer
Online Audio Mastering Studio - Award Winning Mixing and Mastering

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