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Every audio company out there has produced a condenser mic, so what makes a good one vs. a bad one? The Samson MTR231 Condenser Microphone shows that condensers with more than one mode can be had inexpensively for both home and pro studios alike.
It’s certainly big, considering there’s a one-inch gold sputtered diaphragm hidden behind its grille. Three field patterns are selectable via a switch on its side: cardioid, omnidirectional and bidirectional. A 10dB pad switch is also located on the metal casing. The whole package comes in a padded metal case and includes a nice shock mount and pop filter.
Sound-wise and structurally it can handle a lot, and with the three modes, it can cover a wide range of sonic ground: vocals, acoustic instruments, drums, electrics, and pretty much anything else out there. Put it near the sound source, select the mode, and there really isn’t a bad sound that it captures. For vocals, it’s exceptional, with plenty of clarity and no distortion or grittiness, even at “red line” volume levels. It’s likely the mixing board will clip before the mic causes any problems in that area.
For any studio this could solve a lot of problems. One downside for such a great package is that the mode slider switch on our test unit was slightly intermittent (though your mileage will vary). Sliding from one mode to another didn’t do anything; toggling it back and forth, however, it would switch. Then the problem would disappear in later sessions. Maybe just a ghost in the machine, who knows?
That said, with a street price of $199, it’s a problem that can’t be overlooked, especially considering how much the gold diaphragm must cost, vs. a simple switch. Hopefully it was just our test unit (and we’re betting it was, since we’ve never had a problem with Samson gear before), because in every other way it really delivers, and would be great in any studio.