Audix VX5: American Built Budget Condenser Vocal Microphone
What do Travis Barker, Buckcherry and Ani DiFranco all have in common? Give up? They all swear by Audix microphones. From its humble start in Redwood City, California in 1984 to its move to a state-of-the-art facility in Wilsonville, Oregon in 1991, Audix has a long-standing reputation of engineering and building world-class microphones. They are also one of the seemingly dwindling group of pro audio companies who have managed to maintain the entire design and manufacture of their product line domestically. There's something I find oddly satisfying knowing I could jump in the car and be at their facility in the matter of a few hours. While vocally speaking their primary focus has been leaning towards the live end of sound Audix has recently introduced some rather capable workhorse products that sonically speaking are at the level where they could pull double duty to provide some very satisfactory results in the studio as well.Without further adieu ladies and gentlemen allow me to introduce you to one of the latest offerings from Audix to visit the TMV test barn: The Audix VX5 condenser microphone.
THE AUDIX VX5: LOOK AND FEEL
As a departure from the typical all-business tuxedo black satin finish Audix has upped the ante with the VX5. In addition to a slimmer than average shaft this bad boy sports a rather subtle but sexy silver recessed lower grill which according to Audix also serves to provide some additional acoustical qualities. While it doesn't scream look at me its one of the nicest looking handheld mics I've had in my hands recently.
THE AUDIX VX5: DURABILITY AND USEABILITY
Unscrewing the pop screen reveals beauty is more than skin-deep as the capsule is also enclosed in an additional solid meshed polished cylinder so if durability were a concern for you its a safe bet the Audix VX5 could withstand a hell of a drop and survive unscathed. While I tend to prefer handheld microphones with a thicker handle the slim shaft on the VX5 combined with its balanced weight proved to be quite comfortable when used for extended periods. After a couple sessions, I found myself actually preferring it over some of the other mics in my arsenal.
THE AUDIX VX5: PRICING AND COMPETITION
At a retail price of $249 its pretty clear Audix has aimed the Audix VX5 squarely at some of its notable competition. In fact, the veteran condenser Shure Beta 87A also retails at $249 which I find hardly to be a coincidence. T his class of mic, commonly referred to as budget condensers are generally geared to pull double duty both live and in studio.
It must also be noted however that these aren't to be confused with studio condenser microphones which still typically will have a superior frequency response. That being said a well-engineered electret condenser using modern design technology will give you sound nearly approaching that of a studio condenser on top of the fact their typically super cardioid pickup pattern will offer fairly good sound rejection off axis. That's not to say you can't use a dynamic to record vocals but given the choice between a dynamic handheld and a condenser you generally are going to have better results with the latter.
With the VX5 Audix has also added in a few additional features that normally aren't found in a condenser mic in this price range that could potentially come in handy. Those include a recessed -10db pad switch as well as a 150hz bass rolloff both of which may come in handy given the VX5's fairly hot 6.9mv sensitivity. In light of durability, I especially appreciate the fact that these switches are actually chassis mounted with recessed screws. As is fairly standard with a condenser style mic the Audix requires phantom power to operate so you will need to make sure your mic pre supports this.
THE AUDIX VX5 TEST: THE CLARITY OF CONSCIOUSNESS
For the actual test my signal chain consisted of the VX5 running into a TC Helicon VoiceLive for preamp/phantom power into a Mackie VLZ-1602 out to a pair of Mackie SRM-450 active monitors in my 13x13 studio. To get a feel for how the Audix VX5 would perform in different live environments my first test was performing vocals with pre-recording backing tracks followed up by the second test of performing with live drums, guitar, and bass - some very high SPL's for a rather small room.
For the first test upon initially firing up the VX5 with all EQ zeroed out as well as bass roll-off / pad disengaged on the mic I was initially quite disappointed just how little gain before feedback the Audix exhibited - significantly more so than my Shure Beta87A. Afterfurther experimenting with monitor placement as well as some EQ adjustment I still was not happy with the results. However, after engaging the bass roll-off I was pleasantly surprised that this was able to eliminate nearly all of my feedback issues and after a slight EQ tweak to compensate for the room I was able to get the mix up to performance levels. This is when what makes the Audix VX5 special became apparent. My vocals with the Audix VX5 took on a clarity and airiness that I have difficulty creating this side of a full blown studio condenser. They were not thin nor were they muddy on the lower end. They possessed a very natural quality to them that just sounded right. Along with an extremely low handling noise, the Audix VX5 sounds more expensive than it is.
Test number two with the full band also proved interesting. While it should come as no surprise the VX5 does not handle extremely loud environments as well as a dynamic hypercardoid would it performed admirably well. I might add that my small square studio is not likely an accurate representation of a performance environment so getting a workable sound in a fairly high SPL environment is a fairly good indication that the Audix VX5 would perform quite well in a more typical performance setting.
WRAP UP: SONICALLY SLICK
The Audix VX5 represents yet another fine offering from Audix. From a clarity of sound standpoint it without a doubt ranks right up at the top of my list when stacked up against some of its notable competition from the likes of Shure, Rode, and Electro-Voice. It sounds good right out of the box requiring little if any EQ to get the sound dialed in. The quality of craftsmanship is top notch and the 3-year warranty lets you know Audix stands behind their products. Short of full on screamo or extremely heavy metal acts this is one of the few mics that I feel confident would work well with nearly all voice types as it posesses a very natural frequency response. The Modern Vocalist rates the Audix VX5 as highly recommended.
Audix VX5: Specifications
Type Pre-polarized Condenser
Frequency Response 40 Hz - 16.5 kHz +/- 3 dB
Polar Pattern Supercardioid
Impedance 150 ohms
Sensitivity at 1k 5 mV / Pa
Equivalent Noise Level 26 dB (A weighted)
Signal to Noise Ratio 68 dB
Off Axis Rejection >20 dB
Maximum SPL1 40 dB (w/ -10 pad)
Power Requirements 9-52 V
Connector Switcraft Male XLR connector
Polarity P ositive voltage on pin 2 relative to pin 3 of output XLR connector
Housing / Finish Die Cast Zinc Black E-coat
Weight 227 g / 8 ounces
Length 181 mm / 7.1 inches
+1 (503) 662-6963
Review by Travis North