The world of audio and musical equipment can be a tricky one to navigate at the best of times. With so many different products, conflicting opinions and confusing reviews, it’s hard to know what’s actually the best product for your needs. Luckily, the team at Mixdown have put in the legwork for you, sifting through the spec-sheets and putting the products through their paces to bring you Mixdown’s Picks - a new series of expansive, category defining product guides across our digital channels. Anything that has made the cut has rated highly across the board with the Mixdown staff, garnering a unanimous tick of approval from our staunch critics.
For this installment, we're diving deep into the world of studio microphones, exploring the massive range of ribbon, condenser and dynamic options on the market for savvy producers, engineers and project studio enthusiasts.
Category: Condenser (Small Diagphragm) | Pattern: Cardioid
Key Features: Designed for uber-engineer Steve Albini (Nirvana, The Pixies, Big Black) by forward thinking Californian manufacturer, Josephson Engineering, the e22S is a premium small diaphragm, side address condenser, designed to the very strict specifications and technical requirements of Mr Albini himself.
In his initial list of demands and considerations for head designer David Josephson (look it up, it almost reads like a manifesto!), Albini made a pointed request for a slender, side-profile topography, in turn allowing for ease of placement amidst the jungle of drum hardware and mic stands that tend to surround the average kit setup.
Another key consideration was to ensure that the mic bore with it, the ability to handle extreme sound pressure, with both the capsule and chassis exhibiting the kind of durability capable of withstanding the rigors of clumsy engineers and even clumsier drummers. The end result is an absolute masterstroke in modern drum mic design, not to mention as novel a solution as we have found in how it tackles the banal practicalities of drum recording.
Needless to say, the e22s is the absolute placement king, and when used in conjunction with a mic stand with multiple pivot points, allows for one of the most streamline and hassle free mic positioning workflows you are ever likely to encounter. The space conscious, minimalist chassis and side address functionality make it a natural choice for any number of drum applications, being absolutely at home on toms or in tandem as a stereo overhead, but perhaps it’s as a snare top/bottom, where its unique skill set is on most obvious display.
A presence peak at 8khz, along with the e22s’ excellent off-axis rejection properties (perfect for nullifying hi-hat bleed and kit spill), combine to make what might possibly be the best snare mic out there at the moment, providing clear, accurate sounding top, with a surgeons ability to hone in whatever is placed in it’s direct line of incidence.
It goes without saying that the e22s is an essential piece of equipment for anyone chasing the famous Albini drum sound, but don’t think for one second that drums are its only forte. With a max SPL rating of 144 dB and a self-noise of 15 dB, the e22S sits comfortably amongst the premium small diaphragm condensers in its class-echoing it’s ability to draw out intricate detail from the drum kit and applying that same voicing to a variety of different sonic sources, acoustic guitar and hand percussion being just a couple of obvious examples.
Aesthetically speaking, the e22s looks like something straight out of NASA (in the best way possible). It’s machined brass casing and matte black finish giving the mic a sleek, futuristic appeal that just screams ‘Hi-Tech’.
An avid proponent of condensers for tom and snares (in order to properly capture attack and dynamics), Albini has been able to build a career on his signature drum sound, praised for its sense of space and realism against the maelstrom of loud guitars and vocals that tend to underpin so much of his work. The exceptional clarity and transient response of the e22s really lends itself to capturing the intimate details of a drum and allowing these details to punctuate a dense mix.
Mixdown Says: Albini himself claims to have used the e22S to great success on a variety of sounds beyond the drum kit, most notably on guitar amps and acoustic guitars.
The overall quality of the capsule, make the e22s a ‘pro choice’ for any application where a small diaphragm condenser would generally be appropriate. I can see it being a solid choice for any number of close mic sources, as well as for experimental ambient placements like Moses Schneider’s “Wurst” technique (look it up, you won’t be disappointed) - the thoughtfulness of the e22S’s design is most obvious when experimenting with microphone placement amidst a crowded drum kit and for this, there is really nothing better. When it comes to recording drums, mere centimetres become priceless real-estate in the game of microphone Jenga, you can see why Albini wanted this microphone to be tough as nails when everything starts falling.
Overall: With its premium price tag, the e22S might seem like a leap of faith for some recording engineers, but rest assured that its practicality and versatility will no doubt earn it a spot in the starting line-up of any recording date. It’s ability to provide instant professional sounding results on key instruments like snare and acoustic guitar, mean that the e22s is just as much an investment in quick and easy capture as it is in streamlining placement. All-in-all, a best in class microphone for the drum kit and beyond.
Find out more about Josephson Microphones via their Australian distributor Mixmasters.