1 pointIn a world full of manufacturers who offer various dynamic microphone models, a handful of proven classics rule the market. Many will agree that the design of this type of instrument has been pretty much perfected and completed over the years, so is it worth paying attention to similar products that still pop up from time to time? We chose one recent entry that has made quite a big name for itself, the JZ Microphones’ HH1, and tested it to see whether it really is an improvement of age-old microphone technology. The HH1 is a handheld dynamic microphone made by a European company called JZ Microphones. It’s their first product to feature a dynamic capsule. They claim it is “developed in best traditions of JZ Microphones” and provides users with “extended frequency range to suit most vocal and instrumental needs.” Neodymium magnet equipped cardioid capsule is housed in a handcrafted metal body with a special shock-mounting technology. It comes with a rather elegant pouch and a microphone clamp. Lighter and brighter That’s the thing with JZ Microphones: it seems that everything they make has some unique visual twist. As you can see, the same goes for the HH1. One has to admit that the microphone looks awesome: matte black coloring, a fancy logo, and diamond-shaped flat-fronted grille. It is the size of a typical dynamic (58 x 172 mm), has an XLR-3 connector, and an extended frequency response (50 Hz – 18 kHz). Weighing 280 grams (9.8oz), it is a bit lighter than the SM58. The frequency graph that comes along with the microphone shows a noticeable peak at 5 kHz and shelving-down right before 200Hz, meaning that it’s lighter and brighter than most standard dynamics. The simple geniality of a flat grille JZ Microphones says that the HH1 is a perfect fit for vocals, drums, and guitar amps. We tested it in various scenarios for all three applications. We started by trying it on both male and female vocals, and were impressed instantly. It turns out this mic needs little to no EQ. Gone were our fears that the HH1 would have a cheap brightness you get from low-quality mics. Instead, it had great clarity on male as well as female vocals. The HH1’s flat grille has to be mentioned here as well. It keeps the sound source on-axis while avoiding tone and level variations. It was the same story when it came to the acoustic guitar, which produced just the right amount of brightness even at close distances. The flat grille also made for easy, spot-on guitar amp miking (obviously). It was a good fit for a snare drum as well, providing much-needed definition. Among all the pros, the only con I could think of would be a mild self-noise (the HH1 has a pretty strong output). To be frank, it is not even close to being a real problem (at least for us, in our setting it wasn’t) but it is a bit more noticeable than that of other classics. HH1 – a dynamic with distinct studio mic pedigree In conclusion, the HH1 easily fits among the best sounding industry standard dynamic mics. It has its own sound but isn’t a black sheep or avant-garde in any way, and if the market for dynamic microphones wasn’t so oversaturated, this little piece of technology would make the competition worried. It is hard to be completely blown away by yet another dynamic because there are so many to choose from. However, there’s no denying that with the HH1, JZ Microphones has managed to raise the bar for sound and design. It is very apparent that this dynamic mic was made by people who mainly specialize in high-quality studio microphones. It is elegant yet very well built and should withstand the punishment of live performances. If you’re ready to try something new, don’t hesitate and get one of these. This can be an excellent choice for rehearsal studios, live performances, demo making, and bedroom studio projects. Find out more about JZ Microphones products.
1 pointEuropean company JZ Microphones is amongst many manufacturers that offer a modern take on vintage sound. Their Vintage 11 (V11) is said to produce very smooth sounding top end, and in theory, should be very good for voice-over work. But the concept of “modern vintage” still sounds a bit vague and lacking explanation to some. Needless to say, we got our hands on one of these mics to see what it does. When it comes to striking visual design characteristic of JZ Microphones, the V11 is no exception. This thing looks like it belongs in the interior of an expensive luxury car, perhaps as an ashtray or a compartment for your diamond encrusted smartphone. A modern take on a vintage sound The V11 is a high-performance cardioid condenser microphone with a one-inch gold sputtered capsule (JZ Microphones patented GDC capsule making technology). JZ Microphones claims that while the microphone is quite versatile it works best on acoustic guitar, vocals, and wind instruments. The frequency graph of V11 shows a noticeable bump in the lower end and suggests it is designed to deliver smooth, rich, and warm sounds. The V11 has a large diaphragm 27 mm (1,06") capsule, extra low self-noise level (6,5 dB (A)) maximum sound pressure level (SPL) of 134,5 dB, class-A discrete electronics, and gold-plated output contacts. It comes with an external specially designed shock-mount and, just like all other mics that JZ Microphones produces, is handcrafted. Noticeably above the similarly priced competition Opinions about microphones are subjective, but it has to be mentioned that V11 has caught the attention of award-winning producer Rafa Sardina (Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Stevie Wonder). Sardina has repeatedly stated that he loves many JZ Microphones products and judging from the interviews, the V11 is one of his favorites. We tested it on both male and female singers, trying out a number of singing styles and settings.6 Other “Vintage” series mics (V47, V67) are supposedly made to bring back the sound of all time classics but with the V11 (11 stands for 2011 – the year in which the mic was launched) the company’s founder and designer Juris Zarins hoped to create a microphone that would give you a vintage vibe, but with quite a bit of modern mic-making tradition present in design and during production. The sound, however, shows why JZ Microphones is confident enough to call it the “next classic” on more than one occasion. It proved to be a true gem when it came to spoken word performances. This microphone doesn’t look the part, but it is indeed an excellent tool for radio and performs exceptionally well as a voiceover microphone. Minimal to no EQ intervention is needed, in my opinion. When it comes to singing, it is quite warm yet does not lose clarity. Also, if the bass lift is not welcome at all, you can deal with it easily. The built-in shock-mount is very simple, easy to use, and actually works. The V11’s price tag makes it fair to compare it to all other work-horses that are used for spoken word and broadcasting, and the V11 stands out with a more refined, classy sound. You can just feel that it wasn’t designed as a budget microphone meant to overwhelm the market. They’ve obviously put serious thought into it. I can’t find any problems with construction or sound. I’m going to guess that the reason for this is that the company mainly produces expensive “premium” class microphones and hasn’t really optimized the V11’s production to fit the mid-range price tag. I am pretty sure that most if not all of the high-grade components they use for their most expensive mics are in the V11 as well. After all, are there many other mid-priced microphones that have impressed the likes of Rafa Sardina? In conclusion All in all, what strikes me is the big picture. From what’s written in brochures, the big claims and peculiar marketing strategy might make some buyers confused. I’m still not sure why the whole “modern yet vintage” concept was chosen. In reality, it is simply a very good, very well built, warm-sounding studio microphone with an attractive price tag (and from what I can see, they have generous discounts very often). Someone who is operating on a budget looking for that hi-end studio sound should consider the V11. Accomplished pros have no reason to shy away from it, too. Granted, it is not made to compete with and function like more expensive studio classics, but it is so much more (I can’t stress this enough) than the price tag suggests. Find out more about JZ Microphones products.
1 pointFor about ten years, a European company called JZ Microphones has made its flagship Black Hole 2 (BH2) studio microphone, supposedly a versatile, visually stunning, and beautifully sounding mic that “easily finds its place among celebrated all-time classics”. It seems that up until now critics have showered this piece of technology with one favorable review after another (to the point where it almost gets a bit ridiculous), so we thought we’d give it a try and see if it really deserves such generosity. The looks JZ Microphones present their BH2 as a “premium”, “high-end” studio microphone, but I’m sure most of you will agree that it does not really look the part. First of all, there’s a hole in the middle. The microphone seems to be rather small and thin, and it doesn’t look like it will fit in a standard spider shock-mount. It leaves you with quite a few questions when you unpack it for the first time, but let’s take a look at some important facts in the brochure. The tech BH2 is a fixed cardioid, large diaphragm 1,06" (27mm) condenser microphone with one large, true electrostatic capsule inside the compact head. Qualities that make it stand out amongst the rest of the herd are JZ Microphones’ patented capsule making technology, Golden Drop Capsule (GDC). Once this technology is implemented, it gives the microphone extra low self-noise level of 7,5 dB (A), discrete class-A electronics, maximum Sound Pressure Level (SPL) of 134,5 dB, and a unique reverberation-canceling shape. It also comes with a specially designed shock-mount and is made by hand. The sound When we decided to test the BH2 we came up with quite an obstacle course: we would use it in all sorts of vocal applications with numerous singers and different types of voices. Upon playing back the very first takes, it became clear how unfair it was to judge this microphone by its looks. The recorded voice sang to us with almost no coloration yet the sound was very flattering (especially for male vocals, as it later became clear) and seemed polished. BH2 presented itself to us in a very primal way. It was like being approached by a large wild animal: you feel its presence instantly. There was no need to analyze the sound or compare it to something else. It was clear right then and there that this mic should not be disregarded. It produces very crisp, detailed voice recordings and would probably do an amazing job with rap vocals. It performs very well both close up and from a considerable distance and captures clear recordings of multiple singers at once. Sure, it gave off U87 and C414 vibes (as often mentioned in reviews), but the amazing part that there’s a very large, dominating chunk of its own personality in there. It delivers the actual sound of whatever it is you’re recording with no apparent noise and features ridiculously low, yet beautiful coloration. This microphone is made for professionals and should be used in high-class studios. To a seasoned recording engineer, it will deliver the pristine sound that is expected of such a specialist. To a singer, it will bring out the very best characteristics of your voice. To someone who is not yet ready, it will tell it to you straight and emphasize your shortcomings. There is no disputing that putting “premium”, “high-end” (or any other fancy English words that the BH2’s European engineers can think of) on to the box of this microphone is completely justified. Although the unusual shape and origins of this microphone can leave you perplexed at first, it soon becomes clear that back in 2007 when JZ Microphones created the BH2, they came up with a whole new design for technology that recently celebrated its 100th birthday. Find out more about JZ Microphones products.