When I was sent Studio Projects’ new CS5, I was eager to get to know her, to find out if she had a unique personality. Would she be sultry like a C 12, prissy like a U89, or kind of haggard and raspy-sounding, like the older gal a few barstools over? Time to find out.
Sporting serious curves (such as a 27mm wide capsule), the Studio Projects CS5 is at home at just about any party (she switches between five polar patterns: cardioid, wide cardioid, hypercardioid, omni, and figure 8, and has rolloff pads that can attenuate the signal by –5, –10, –15, or –20dB, allowing the mic to handle up to 156dB SPL). In her time, she’s heard it all (her frequency response is between 20Hz and 20kHz), and she can cut through the BS with a lowpass filter that can be engaged at 3, 5, 7, or 15kHz and a high pass filter that can be applied at 50, 75, and 300Hz—both at 6dB/octave. And while she has a bit of baggage—a pretty sturdy flight case and a shock mount—it’s the good type. Want to learn more? Check out her personal ad at www.studioprojects.com.
On our first date, I thought that the CS5 would hit it off well with a singer I was scheduled to track—a female contemporary artist seeking a pure, clean sound. She has a natural warmth to her voice and wasn’t looking for any additional coloration, so I set her up with the CS5, in cardioid pattern, with no filters or pads engaged.
The vocalist wanted to track with the rest of her band, so I put her and the CS5 in the live room, surrounded by gobos, and sent the signal into a Focusrite VoiceMaster Pro, patched into a Teletronix LA-2 (set to –2dB), recording into Pro Tools. In this rather straightforward application, the CS5 imparted a pretty honest sound, though the high end did seem a tad boosted. However, in this instance, this was a good thing as we didn’t have to EQ the track at all when mixing.
Before I commit to a relationship with a mic, it’s important that it gets along with my close friends, so I invited a male vocalist over that I had worked with for years. He can be tough on mics, as his voice is really boomy and a little shrill in the high end. It was clear that the CS5 was going to have to make the first move if the session was going to work, so I engaged the low and high pass filters at 300Hz and 7kHz respectively—bingo.
Just to see how worldly she was, I invited a guitarist over who plays this terrible guitar that I swear was purchased out of a Sears catalog. I consider this guitar the instrumental equivalent to the drunken, obnoxious friend that your wife can’t stand, but since you’ve known him since high school you still invite him over for the Super Bowl. Expecting disaster, I placed the CS5 about 2" off of the sound hole, using the wide cardioid pattern, and brought a Shure SM81 along (set up over the bridge), because that’s the only mic that’s ever liked this guitar. I used a No Toasters Nice Pair preamp to power the CS5, and sent the signal straight to Pro Tools. With the first strum, it became obvious that the CS5 was not going to get along with the source, despite our best efforts. Lesson learned: What goes in comes out . . . including with the CS5.
While the CS5, due to her range of features, is very versatile and can hold her own on nearly every session, she’s also brutally honest. I appreciate that quality in a mic. As long as you have a good source, you’ll get a good sound with the CS5, which is preferable to spending tons of time trying to “alter” a track so that it sounds like the player intended it to sound. In short, she gives what she gets; so if you or your instrument suck, you’re probably not going to get along with the CS5. But if you have a good sound, you might just find her to be the perfect date.
PRODUCT TYPE: Multi-pattern condenser mic. TARGET MARKET: Project recording studios looking for a single condenser that works well in multiple applications. STRENGTHS: Exceptionally versatile due to tons of options. Accurate sound. Inviting price point. Good accessorizing. LIMITATIONS: Nothing significant. LIST PRICE: $1,149.99 CONTACT:www.studioprojects.com
To say that the Studio Projects CS5 ($1,149.99 [MSRP]) is a full-featured microphone would be an understatement. This hefty large-diaphragm condenser mic offers five selectable polar patterns (cardioid, wide cardioid, hypercardioid, omnidirectional, and figure-8) as well as four pads (-5, -10, -15, and -20 dB), four lowpass filters (3, 5, 7, and 15 kHz at 6 dB per octave), and four highpass filters (50, 75, 150, and 300 Hz at 6 dB per octave). The pickup patterns, pads, and filters are selected with thumbwheels positioned around the top of the mic's body. This array of options, together with the ability to handle SPLs up to 136 dB without a pad, makes the CS5 a true multiapplication tool for recording.
I received a pair of CS5s, each packaged in a foam-lined aluminum carrying case along with a windscreen and a halo-type shockmount. The stand-adapter can be screwed onto either the top or bottom of the mount, allowing you to easily position the CS5 as needed. The mount is sturdy and can handle the weight of the mic (1.7 pounds) without drooping.
I put the CS5 through its paces while recording the upcoming release for engineer Steve Orlando's band, the Jingle Punx. During these sessions, the CS5 was used to capture male and female vocals, electric guitars, trumpet, and drum set. I also used it to reamplify vocals, drums, and guitar solos.
For heavily distorted electric guitar, I set the mic to cardioid, engaged the -10 dB pad, and placed it as close to the amp grille as possible. Orlando switched in the 50 Hz highpass filter and the 15 kHz lowpass filter to help clean up a somewhat mucky aspect of the sound and tame the bright overtones. The resulting sound was full and chunky. The CS5 also performed well as overheads and as room mics on drum set, sounding bright and clear with plenty of detail and fullness, especially on the toms. This mic is relatively flat in the midrange, and with the help of the onboard filters, there was no need to add EQ while tracking.
On a female vocalist with a mellow voice, the CS5 sounded clear and smooth. However, it wasn't particularly flattering on a male singer with a harsh-sounding voice: it accentuated his voice's high, nasal quality. The other male singer fared better because his voice was less harsh, and its gravelly timbre was well represented by the CS5.
The Studio Projects mic sounded nice on trumpet. I placed the CS5 about two and a half inches from the bell with the 7 kHz lowpass filter engaged. Without the lowpass filter selected, the sound was too bright. With this setting, however, the CS5 took on the darker quality of a ribbon mic. Orlando compared it favorably to the Cascade Microphones Fat Head, one of his favorite ribbon mics, saying that while the Fat Head had a bit more fullness in the low end, the highs (with the CS5's 7 kHz rolloff engaged) were fairly similar.
For reamplifying vocals, drums, and guitars, the CS5s were set up in an ORTF arrangement at a height of 7 feet and placed 35 feet away from a Crate P.A. system. The mics were angled up at the ceiling, with the wide cardioid pattern selected on each. The 75 Hz highpass filters also were engaged to remove low-end rumble. With their relatively flat frequency response, the mics worked well in this application because they didn't add unwanted color to the sound.
Swiss Army Mic
The CS5 can be tailored to suit a variety of sound sources and high-volume situations. With its array of selectable patterns, pads, and filters, not to mention a street price of around $850, the CS5 offers maximum versatility at a reasonable cost. What's not to like about that?
PRO AUDIO REVIEW.COM's REVIEW:
Read Review at proaudioreview.com Freedom of choice is a beautiful thing, whether we are talking about the right to pursue happiness, the ability to drive an inefficient car, or perhaps just having a microphone with five patterns, four low pass filters, four high pass filters, and four pads. Freedom of assembly is great, but please don't forget my shock mount and a flight case. If I'm being honest, I'd really like a foam windscreen as well. In this age of (perhaps) dwindling freedoms, it's nice to know that finding a microphone with the above features is easy, so long as you select the new Studio Projects CS5.
The first thing that you will notice about the CS5 is its weight, almost two pounds of solid feeling, satin finished goodness. The second thing you'll notice are all of the rotary thumbwheels. I've never seen a microphone with four thumbwheels on it before, though I'm sure someone will write in to tell me about a microphone with 5 thumbwheels. The plethora of thumbwheels kind of reminded me of a Fender Jaguar, or one of those Italian celluloid top electric guitars of the 1960's — in a good way, of course!
The CS5's self noice is a fairly subdued 12 dB (A-weighted), frequency response is stated as 20 Hz – 20 kHz with no deviation stated in the specifications, though the included frequency response charts seem to show a maximum deviation of about +6dB at around 12k whilst in omni mode. For the most part the frequency charts show this microphone to be on the more linear side, especially in wide-cardioid mode. The sensitivity is given as 14mV/Pa. The diaphragms are six micron in thickness and measure 1.06 inches and the CS5 is a bipolar output transformerless design.
The included polar patterns, pads, high-pass and low-pass filters are as follows: Cardioid, Wide Cardioid, Hyper Cardioid, Omni; -5dB, -10dB, -15dB, and -20dB Pads; 50 Hz, 75 Hz, 150 Hz, and 300 Hz high pass filters @ 6dB/octave; and 15kHz, 7kHz, 5kHz, and 3kHz, low pass filters @ 6dB/octave.
The CS5 comes in a nice aluminum "flight-lite" case and includes a clever shock mount and foam windscreen. Interestingly, stereo pairs are not available. According to the manufacturer, this is because all CS5 microphones are within 1 dB of each other, basically allowing any two CS5's to act as a matched pair.
The fit and finish of the microphone is very nice, and the thumbwheels feel sturdy in their mounting and positive in their action. If there were no label on this microphone, it might be difficult to guess who manufactured it, and in what country (China) it was manufactured.
The shock mount is quite different than the traditional shock mount normally included with most microphones. I immediately appreciated that the shock mount screws into the microphone, which has some felt at the bottom to eliminate any metal to metal contact. I think it would be impossible for this microphone to fall out of the shock mount as long as it was screwed in securely.
Due to the shock mount's unique design, it's possible to position the microphone anywhere in a 360-degree sweep without unscrewing the microphone from the shock mount or mic stand, since the microphone can be rotated around the spine of the shock mount. Isolation-wise, it was comparable to most "normal" shock mounts, but fell shy of the acoustic isolation offered by the very best. Because of the shock mount's low profile, it also lends itself well to Blumlein setups using a standard dual microphone bar.
I found the CS5 to deliver good results as a drum overhead microphone when placed about two feet in front of a Premier birch jazz sized drum kit. It was great to be able to compare polar patterns with the flick of a switch, though you should be aware that any changes to the functions controlled by the thumbwheels will introduce a very loud pop. So you'll absolutely want to make sure to mute the preamp or console before making any changes. The tonal balance of the microphone is more neutral than is commonly the case, which is actually a nice change of pace. Cymbals sounded natural, especially so when the microphone was set to wide-cardioid.