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Podcasts have well and truly exploded into the mainstream, in many ways superseding the more traditional forms of media and becoming a pop cultural phenomenon all of their own. The biggest names in podcasts are today, some of the most influential figures in all of entertainment (not to mention single handedly making conversational, voice driven media a thing again).
Given this increased presence on the world stage, it should come as no surprise that we are also concurrently experiencing a boom in regards to the availability of high quality, studio-grade podcast mics hitting the market, as more and more people look to try their hand at the burgeoning format, inspired by the Joe Rogans’ and Bill Simmons’ of the world.
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Needless to say, with so much attention on the medium and so much fresh blood entering the fold, the industry is taking note with a host of new brands and Pro Audio manufacturers throwing their hat into the ring on the quest for podcast supremacy. Whereas in the early years there was undoubtedly a select few models that dominated the space, today the standardisation of podcast microphones are a much more open playing field, with the big winner in all of this being the budding creative spoiled for choice amongst the plethora of awesome (and affordable) podcast mics at their disposal.
512 Audio, (the Content Creator Arm of Texas based studio stalwarts, Warm Audio) are one of the freshest on the scene and if their awesome new Limelight Large Diaphragm dynamic is anything to go by, are making a valid claim as one of the brands best poised to take content creation microphones into the new decade, with a host of affordable and innovative products under their sleeve, including the new Limelight Large Diaphragm Dynamic mic.
Like broadcast before it, podcasting is a medium which lives and dies by the clarity of its audio and the cleanliness of its diction, with the end goal being to create as much of a direct, intimate line of intelligibility between presenter and audience as possible. This of course means closer mic positions, increased sensitivity to plosives and an eschewment of ambience of any kind – it’s all part of the podcast MO. This is one of the main reasons that we see such a preference for Large Diaphragm Dynamics in the podcast space. Their enlarged diaphragm and optimised topography are ideal for providing an increased low-end response for that ‘voice of god’ radio announcer effect, while the fact that they are dynamic offers a whole bunch of advantages pertaining to room ambience and internal shock handling capabilities that a more sensitive mic just wouldn’t allow for.
The Limelight is 512’s first foray into the Large Diaphragm Dynamic market and more than delivers on this front, but with an obvious nod to the growing army of podcasters and streamers waiting in the wings, with a host of convenient technical features designed to get the most out of less than ideal civilian setups.
Unlike 512’s, wider panned, midfield-oriented Skylight condenser mic, the aptly named Limelight provides a much tighter pickup pattern and decreased sensitivity at distance, which makes it an absolute killer for spaces with zero acoustic treatment (like the majority of home studio setups) The combination of a narrow, hypercardioid pickup pattern, as well as the Limelight’s slightly higher than average impedance combine for a more creator-specific design, one that falls between many of the traditional broadcast-centric offerings out there.
On paper, the Limelight is a large dynamic mic with a broadband frequency response from 50 Hz to 15kHz – exactly what you would expect from a mic of this type in regards to listed frequency range, but to go off the specs alone would be to do this microphone a grave injustice.
In practice, the Limelight provides exceptional low-end reinforcement and an extremely usable proximity effect at close range, with an upper mid clarity that allows it to hold its own in the same league as other microphones of the more expensive variety.
The inbuilt shock absorption technology (a running theme of 512’s releases thus far) is very adept at dealing with unwanted lip knocks and other plosives at all but the most extreme of placements, while the listed 138 dB max. SPL will provide more than enough acoustic leeway for anyone not named Alex Jones.
A hypercardioid mic through and through, the Limelight does an awesome job rejecting off-axis audio, in a slightly more aggressive manner than other mics of this type, which in turn makes it an extremely adept mic for cramped spaces and multiple guests. Its presence boost in the high frequencies keeps things clear and legible even at close proximity, providing all the clarity you need to get your point across well and truly.
One noticeable takeaway is that with the Limelight being a hypercardioid mic, you may notice some noise at the null point, but this only really reveals itself if you are adjusting a mic stand or engaging the HPF with the microphone live (something you would probably be better off doing before you record!).
Once such adjustments have been made, it’s smooth sailing all the way, with an innate ability to fatten and flatten a sound in all the right ways, in turn giving vocals a compressed, premixed, condenser-like quality that instantly adds a sense of professionalism to anything passed through it. The Limelight’s ability to instantly ‘radio-fy’ a close miked presenter and provide a consistently usable capture straight out of the box is no doubt one of its strong suits and is worth the price of admission alone (especially for those new to podcast production).
At first glance, the Limelight clearly takes its visual cues from the famous large diaphragm dynamics of yore and in this regard, it is everything you would want to see in a mic designed for this application, at least at the visual level.
Weighing in at 350g, with an all-metal black body and silver mesh grille, it’s considerably lighter than many of its contemporaries, making it a perfect match for a broad range of desk-mounted boom arms and consumer level mic stands.
Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of the Limelight is how little gain is required to get it moving. Unlike so many of the bigger, heavier mics in this category, the Limelight can operate comfortably on just the standalone gain of your mixer or interface, without the requirement of a cloudlifter or external booster of any kind. This goes a long way to streamlining signal flow and minimising setup time and is yet another optimisation designed to yield instant creative returns from its intended market.
All in all, the Limelight is a perfect introduction to Large Diaphragm Dynamics for the budding creative, with a host of application-specific features that combine to make it one of the most adept plug-n-play mics out there at the moment, at least in terms of providing instantly usable results with a minimum amount of turnaround time. Its consistent and legible sonic capture, combined with its more than serviceable gain properties make it a podcast mic with the masses in mind.
It’s so simple to use and create with, that it’s hard to imagine a more ideal introductory peripheral for the home podcast setup, it’s all there the minute you plug it in.