TechZone Audio Products Stellar X2 by shepke
TechZone Audio Products has two new LDC microphones on the market that should be of considerable interest to both the project and professional recording studio; the Stellar X2 and the Stellar X2 Vintage. The X2 is built around a K67 style capsule and the X2 Vintage around a K47 style capsule. But unlike most typical Chinese “clones” these mics are built using high quality components sourced from Europe and Japan, with PCBs assembled in China to strictly established standards and subjected to extensive testing and quality control in the US. Detailed manufacturing and assembly information is available at their website.
Both mics have a similar sonic fingerprint, which I would describe as warm, well balanced and slightly midrange-forward. Although they could not be described as “bright" in the usual sense, they are certainly not “dark" mics either. There is a noticeable clarity in the upper mids and highs that never predominates but is clearly present. Actually, to my ears, they come creditably close to the Neumann U67s and U47s that inspired them. I know this claim is likely to trigger incredulity and even outrage in some circles given their low price point; $199.00 for the X2 and $249.00 for the X2 Vinatge; and I am not claiming that they are somehow “as good as” or “interchangeable with" these legendary Neumanns, but I will claim that you would be hard pressed to find a another microphone that will get you this close for much less than $1000.00.
There is a significant difference between the two mics despite their basic family resemblance. The frequency response of the X2 has a very slight boost of about 2dBs centered at around 1.5K, another narrow boost of 3-4 dBs centered at 5k, and then a broader boost of 5dBs peaking at 12K and culminating with a fairly sharp roll off. The X2 Vintage on the other hand has a single, gradual boost of about 4-5 dBs from 1 to 10K, peaking at around 5K, and then a gradual roll off above 10K. This gives them a subtle but distinct tonal difference. The X2 is slightly more present in the upper mids in a way that I found especially suitable for male vocals. The X2 Vintage has more emphasis in the midrange fundamentals overall and is especially resistant to sibilance in a way that lends some pleasant thicken to a vocal and attenuates the sharpness often characteristic of female voices. Both mics are noticeably smooth throughout the entire midrange in a way that I would call refined and flattering to both male and female voices without either muddying things up, losing a sense of overall crispness, or dulling transient response. This characteristic, I think, is the single greatest strength of both microphones.
I’ve been experimenting with these mics for about 2 months (principally on vocal recordings ranging from 1 to 8 tracks) and I found it very easy to get a sound I liked directly to capture without the need for much EQ or compression. They both performed particularly well when blending multiple harmonies or background vocals. The X2 Vintage in particular was a breeze to use and required very little processing to get a good balance in a mix of multiple parts. This is something that a lot of other inexpensive large capsule microphones have not been able to deliver for me without a lot of fiddling and frustration. In addition, their low self noise (13dB for the X2 and 10dB for the X2 Vintage), along with their surprisingly high output, will leave you with nice clean tracks to work with.
I haven’t used the X2 or X2 Vintage much for recording instruments and purchased them principally for vocal work. But in this capacity I think they are unrivaled at this price point and set a new standard for affordable LDCs. I‘m not going to argue that they will somehow replace a U87 or a U47 (and if you own these classics you are certainly fortunate), but The X2 and X2 Vintage large capsule microphones will get you a lot closer than anything else this affordable. And that, my fellow recordists, is the point.