FLEA Microphones 47 SUPERFET by christianmurphy
After spending a while looking for a sub £2k mic for vocal duties (more specifically for one vocalist in particular) I got it down to the Superfet 47 and a telefunken AK47MKII. As an FYI, we'd already been through an SE Z5600A II, Sterling ST5060, C414, SM7b and a hired Neumann U47. So I'll use the shootout as a way of reviewing the Superfet...
Of all the above mics the Neumann 47 was best, although the SE a close second, so I was fairly set on a tube mic. However as I tend to move around quite a lot, a mic without a power supply appealed to me, and as the Flea was going for a 47 vibe in FET format, I couldn't resist putting it in the running. I got the superfet and ak47 mk II on hire and headed to the studio.
Vocalist wasn't available for a couple days, so first up was mono drum OH. AK47 was bright, really bright. I didn't dislike this, but it's not really the sound I like from overheads, usually choosing a pair of coles 4038, I wasn't surprised that it hadn't blown me away. The superfet however has a less hyped top end, so cymbals whilst still being bright and shimmery, had less brashness, and therefore let the low mid transients of the drums punch through. Overall superfet won here.
Next up was electric guitar, and generally the results were similar. The AK47 was again pretty harsh in the top end, where the superfet was smoother, and although transients were a little more smeared, they just handled them in a prettier way.
I generally like a very bright poppy vocal, and after the previous two tests, I had in my head the Flea wasn't going to cut it on vocals (for my tastes), but I was wrong.
This is where I was splitting hairs between the Telefunken and the Flea. The telefunken was an out of the box sound. Not much needed at all, especially in the top end. Bright, poppy, crisp, enough low. It just had that polished vocal sound right out the pack.
The flea however was surprisingly true to a valve based 47. Open but not hyped top end, and this mid push that put it at the front of the mix in a different way to the ak47. At first I was hesitant as it didn't have the top end sparkle I like, so I reached for some EQ. I tried a mix, but for me the litmus test is how it takes bog standard EQ. Boosting around 9/10k shelf with logics standard EQ and there it was. It's not that I was adding something that wasn't there, it's just the forward sound lower down the range is more prominent, so gain matching means there's just less of the top. Bringing that out and they were pretty much neck to neck. Even sending to plenty of trained ears, we all struggled to pick a favourite.
The edge for me was where it worked in the mid range, and this will depend on your source. The AK47 didn't necessarily add honk, but it didn't mellow it either. The singer has a mid range push on vowel sounds, especially 'AY' and 'EE' sounds. The AK47 hit the ear a little hard, where as the flea kind of smoothed them out for a slightly mellower sound. I would've been happy with either, and if I was working with lots of different vocalists, maybe the immediately polished sound of the Telefunken would be easier to please singers with when tracking. The distortion characteristics seem to be lower in the range of the superfet vs the ak47, so this might be something to consider.
However for a mic that was better in two other areas, does not need a power supply or spare tubes, the Superfet one out in the end. All tests were done with Apogee Element pre's, which work fine with the mic. I do plan to flash it through a few other pre's before deciding on a match. The mic is vibey, not old u47 vibey but there's definitely character.
If you want to own a versatile mic that is going to work on plenty of vocals, you'll struggle to do better in this price range...