Zoken DSM-1 by Bobro
I am honored and humbled to have the opportunity to test and review the Zoken DSM-1 LDC studio microphone, the first commercial offering since WWII by the legendary Zoken family.
Those of us who are true aficionados of vintage gear, for whom anything newer than shellac is already some new-fangled soulless contraption, are well acquainted with Zoken gear, a name like "Neve" in the times of wax cylinders. So of course it was with great excitement that we were waiting when Pan Zoken personally brought us this new microphone. (The serial number of the microphone we tested is 002; unfortunately 001 was damaged when it fell off the tractor).
Bespoke cases have not gone into production, so the mic we tried came in a makeshift case (a vintage metal KISS childrens lunchbox). The appearance of the microphone is best described as "unique", which is probably a good thing. When I find my camera I will take a picture of the microphone.
Now, as we have learned from reading Gearslutz, mic pres and AD converters can make or break the sound of a microphone. So we tried a number of different combinations, from an 8,000 euro Dane Lavatory ADDA to a Digidesign 002. In the end we decided to use an interface familiar to most professionals, the stock preamps and conversion of the AmTools HD64/384 system.
We tried vocals, a bit of which you can hear in the attached audio file. We also tried kick drum, accordian, and kazoo. In every case the mic simply shines when it comes to vintage warmth.
The resistance to plosives and sibilance is extraordinary- even if a vocalist wants to eat the mic, which no sane person would do, the mic can take it.
As far as proximity effect, the vocalists did not come within one foot of the microphone, yet as you can hear in the example, the mic can stand toe to toe with any better-known vintage classic when it comes to natural body.
Sounds great, you might be saying, but how much am I going to have to shell out for such a handmade work of art when it comes to market? Significantly less than 3,000, promises the Zoken family.
Now some might say that the mic sounds a bit wooly. Well, that's part of vintage warmth, and if you work with it a while, you'll cotton to it. In spite of the warmth, the sound really stands out in a mix!
Others might gripe that they could get the same sound by wrapping a 50-dollar Chinese LDC in two socks and using some hamfisted EQ. While this criticism is technically true, to those complainers we can say, but is it expensive?
All that being said, the sound speaks for itself.