Studio Projects B1
Reviewed by Doug "Jazzooo" Robinson
| Inexpensive but impressive mic|
Here I am again, singing the praises of two other Studio Projects microphones. It's almost old news now that Studio Projects is on the leading edge of designing and manufacturing inexpensive mics which manage to compete favorably in most blindfold tests, even when sitting next to mics with more prestigious logos and the price tags to match. Here are links to my review of Studio Projects' TB1 tube mic and also to a mic shootout I performed where the company's C1 rose to the top of the heap for most applications.
As I understand things, the B series was intended to compete with the bargain basement Marshall mics. I originally questioned this approach since I thought it would also cannibalize Studio Projects' own C series, a relatively more expensive but still budget-friendly line of mics. When I tested the TB1, though, none of this mattered: It was a sound that I wanted for my own vocals and for my wife's lovely tenor. (When I'm not using it as a vocal mic, it sits between my two mounted toms and sounds great. very present and realistic.)
For the first part of this new test, since I already owned a C1, certainly SP's most famous product at this time, and the B1 seemed like a direct knockoff of that mic, I decided to test them side by side. Both are cardioid-only mics. While their sound was similar, there was still enough of a difference to make some people lean one way or the other.
The first test I ran was of my Gibson acoustic guitar. I can't emphasize how usable both mics were. The C1 seemed to have a bit more expensive-sounding silkiness to it (maybe a little more in the 12 kHz range in addition to a little more at 4kHz). The B1, while it lacked that silky dimension, was all the other things I look for in a mic: crystal clear, present, and even. No single frequency jumped out at me. I just couldn't believe that this mic goes for $79. As I A/B'd the two mics, I could always tell them apart but I never had a clear preference. I believe that this will be a tough call. For solo guitar, I would probably take advantage of the C1's slightly richer sound, but the B1 might cut through a dense mix a little better without much EQ.
Those tests were performed from about 10" away. When I stepped back a couple of feet, the mics became indistinguishable to me. I will definitely keep this in mind the next time I want a roomier mic to complement a close-mic'd performance.
On my vocals kind of a scratchy, high tenor voice once again both mics were different but usable. I am charmed by the sound of the C1 on my vox. It sounds, well, expensive. (As I mentioned in previous reviews, I'm also using it on my snare drum with the pad engaged and loving its realistic sound.) The B1 gave the C1 a run for its money by sounding a little flatter in the 12 kHz range and still a little crisper lower down. I would definitely reach for this mic on a soft singer like my wife. Whether it would do as well as my TB1 or my AKG414s would depend on the material. But once again, the low price tag is no indication of the quality of this mic.
Both mics sounded good from the side, by the way, though the C1 maintained its original a little better. The B1 sounded a little honky to my ears.
I've been using the B1 on my 18" floor tom, and I have to admit that I'm very happy with it. I prefer it to all of my other mics, including an SM57, the 414s, and a KM184 I borrowed to test. What can I say? If it sounds good, it IS good.
Finally, I tested both mics on my 5'10" Kawai grand piano. They were serviceable but boxy-sounding in the same close-mic position as my two AKG414s. However, when I moved them into the room about 10' from the piano, I knew either one would be perfect for a room mic on this instrument.
The B1 looks and feels great. It's about half the size of a C1 and it comes in a colorful cardboard box with a pouch, a foam windscreen and a mic clip. The hard case and the shockmount that comes standard with the C1 would be too much to ask for at this price.
As far as specs go, here's what the enclosed pamphlet says:
Pressure-gradient transducer Transformerless circuitry Large diaphragm pressure gradient capsule (didn't they just say that?) employing 3 um gold sputtered mylar diaphragms Ultra low-noise FET preamplifier
Frequency response is listed as 20-20,000 Hz; noise level is 12bD-A (IEC651); S/N Ratio is 82 dB; maximum SPL is listed at 137dB.
I do not want to sound like a cheerleader for Studio Projects. When I test a product of theirs that I don't like, I promise I'll let you know. Fortunately for everyone involved, that just hasn't happened yet. I cannot speak for gear snobs or fans of high-end boutique microphones, but for anyone else looking to beef up their mic closets, the $79 B1 is an unbelievable value and a very useful tool. I bought the one I tested and will no doubt buy a couple more just to have around.
For more information visit studioprojectsusa.com.
Doug Robinson is a jazz composer and multi-instrumentalist. He has just completed writing and recording his first feature filmscore. Check out his new album, JAZZOOO's "Two Days In November," at www.dougrobinson.com.
This review has been updated and amended April 2005 for Studio Reviews. Portions of this review were published by Digital Pro Sound in January 2003.