sE Electronics Z5600a MkII by SidewinderStudio
This is a review of the sE electronics Z5600 MkII valve large diaphragm condenser mic, which has been used in the studio for just over 2 years now. We've used the mic on a variety of sources, more of which shortly - but first a quick overview of what the mic has to offer...
The Z5600 MkII was an update on sE electronics first model, the Z5600, with the differences being primarily that the MkII benefits from a pad switch and high-pass filter on the mic body. The mic itself is a fairly large and beautifully made piece of gear - the quality of manufacturing is evident as soon as you remove the mic from its protective foam-lined wooden case. Incidentally, the whole package comes with a steel protective flight case, the mic in the wooden case inside, along with the multi-pin cable and the power supply, as well as the shockmount and fittings...
The power supply has 9 mode selections from figure of 8, through cardiod and omni and has a nice touch of being selectable between these positions, so you can blend the tonality that each position has to offer.
The shockmount is a pretty sturdy affair and lends itself to being mounted in a variety of positions - from good old fashioned straight on top of the stand to mounting upside down on booms... However, because this mic is substantial, you do have to make sure any boom fittings are well-balanced or you could end up with the musician supporting the mic with the top of their head as happened during one of our sessions (as the mic slowly gravitated downwards, resting gently on top of one guitarist ...
Once the mic is all connected, it's best to turn on the power supply and leave for a little while, so the valve gets fully warmed up. The whole set-up is pretty straight forward and it doesn't take long to get the mic into a position where you can start getting good results.
Once the mic is plugged in and warmed up, it's very easy to start getting great results. The Z5600 MkII, in our experience has been very easy to get great results from and we've used it for acoustic guitars, male and female vocals, percussion and violin and double bass.
Each instrument was easy to get a genuine sound from, representative of what most people imagine these instruments should sound like. Also, because of the power this microphone has, it's very easy to get good results from placing in different positions, to see which tone it captures.
As most of you will know, the actual placement depends on your room and the sound you are after but this mic gives a good account in general and offers excellent results even when placed a foot or more away from the source. Even at that distance, thanks to the mic's sensitivity, you can still capture a strong signal.
We've had great results on acoustic guitars - 12 string guitars sound amazing through this mic as well as normal steel and nylon strung guitars. We recently did a test against a Neumann TLM 103 with the acoustic and the Z5600 MkII gave a much clearer and airier sound, which to be honest, considering the Neumann was twice the price of the sE, we were not expecting at all!
This mic has been used on countless sessions flawlessy, being on at times, for up to ten to twelve hours. We once had a problem with some whining coming from the power supply but sE graciously and quickly offered to replace the item, even though it was more than a year after we purchased the mic and the new unit has performed without any issues.
You can hear the mic on music by people like Matt Monaghan, Chloe Lawrence and many other demos we've done, for voice and guitars and so on... Just check out this link if you want to see and hear the mic in action! Chloe Lawrence rehearsing "Share Your Xmas Day With Me" in the studio - YouTube
All in all, this has been a great purchase. It's easy to use and most importantly, sounds great on whatever we've pointed it at. It's never hard to get good results and depending on your source and position, usually it doesn't even need much in the way of EQ. We've tested this mic against some of the competition in our mic locker and we always go to this one first. It sounds great and it's very quiet. We are looking at getting another as we've found we wanted this mic on loads of things at once!
If you want a great value all-rounder that gives good results, this mic is definitely worth looking at seriously. Although it's not super cheap, it's hardly big bucks if you're serious about recording - either as a home-based project studio or commercially. We use this mic all the time and the talent loves it too! Check it out for yourself.