JZ Microphones | intshop.jzmic.com | Expect to pay: $999
Latvia is a favourite country of mine for a variety of reasons. For starters, it is the birthplace of fan favourite 7-foot-3 NBA centre Kristaps ‘The Unicorn’ Porzingis (a man capable of draining 3-pt shots from the concession stands). Another reason to love Latvia is it’s recent emergence as something of a technological hub for another major passion: forward thinking studio solutions.
Names like Sonarworks, Gamechanger Audio and Erica Synths are just some of the Latvian based audio companies who have been making major waves in recent years, and now (thanks to microphones like the BB29), you can add JZ Microphones to the list of Latvian brands taking the audio community by storm.
JZ Microphones have been pushing the envelope in microphone technology since 2007, piquing the interest of many recording engineers, and finding their way onto more and more big time recording sessions, ahead of many traditional European heavyweights in the space.
The latest in JZ’s range of handcrafted microphones, the BB29 is a large-diaphragm cardioid condenser microphone handcrafted in Latvia’s capital, Riga and boasting some truly unique sonic properties that are sure to see it become a familiar go to mic for countless engineers moving forward.
JZ Microphones are known for their striking designs, and the BB29 is no exception. The capsule is housed in a black grille, with the circuitry encased in slick matte black metal. Four stainless steel spools that allow the shock mount to hold the microphone protrude from its sides, casting an interesting silhouette that separates it from many of its contemporaries.
For those who elect not to purchase the shock mount, a standard microphone mount is found at the base of the microphone, and it is these integrated mounting options that really give the BB29 it’s unique and singular aesthetic. It has the uncanny quality of seeming to be a classic microphone in design and look, despite resembling nothing before it.
The BB29 features JZ’s trademarked Golden Drop capsule technology which contributes to its unique frequency profile and exceptional transient response. JZ Microphones use a gold covered membrane with a precise pattern of gold dots across the diaphragm to achieve a lighter and faster moving diaphragm compared to one of an equivalent size. This manifests itself in the BB29’s exceptional high frequency response and detailed upper register, adding instant life and vitality to any source that requires it.
The Golden Drop capsule design also means less distortion, quicker recoil and in turn, an exceptionally fast transient response that makes it an absolute no-brainer for detail-oriented and critical recording applications. With just a single diaphragm, the BB29 maintains its tonal balance even at close proximity, albeit at the cost of being locked into a cardioid polar pattern (but as a microphone primarily working in the nearfield, the lack of multiple polar patterns is seldom missed).
From the offset, the BB29’s unique capsule topography and frequency profile gives it a decidedly distinct sound, separate to many other large diaphragm condensers you may have encountered. A lifted top end with a slight boost in the low-mids in turn make the BB29 an obvious choice for vocals and acoustic guitar, but it is capable of providing new and interesting textures on all but the most top heavy sources.
The high end lift is slightly dipped around 10kHz to neatly avoid excess sibilance, and the lift continues into frequencies higher still, allowing the BB29 to capture a professional sounding vocal sheen that cuts right through a mix without the assistance of EQ.
The single-diaphragm design works wonders for vocalists who have a habit of getting too close to the microphone, an important tool in the arsenal of any recording engineer for when studio technicalities get in the way of ‘expression’. This works a treat for other instruments as well, with the BB29 being a perfect fit for acoustic sources like steel string guitar and piano, injecting darker sounds with a much needed jolt of excitement, while also taking to compression extremely well.
Another unique aspect of the BB29 is the way this inherent spriteliness is offset by the presence of a transformer, housed in the microphones body. This transformer has the effect of subduing some of the potential for harshness, while also giving the BB29 a modern ‘premixed’ quality that allows it to sit nicely within the context of a mix, with very little processing required.
While the BB29’s unique tonal character is not always appropriate for everything (brighter sounds like brass may have their shrillness emphasised if miced up incorrectly), the sources it does pair with, it pairs with better than almost anything out there, with a detail and airiness that puts it at the very top of the heap for microphones of this type. For dulcet sources like plucked double basses and cellos and softer tuned percussion instruments such as marimbas, the BB29 may well be the new MVP.
All in all, the BB29 is a bold statement, both visually and sonically, representing the very essence of boutique microphone design. For mic obsessives, it carves out a singular niche that is all its own, using cutting-edge technology to create a microphone that is sure to be a valuable addition to any studio and will constantly surprise with what it can be paired with and the results it can yield.
Like that other famous Latvian unicorn, the BB29 is something of a new breed, with enough sonic upside to impress even the most stringent of microphone classicists.
Find out more about the JZ Microphones Signature BB29 here.