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Hands On - Quality Microphones (part 5)

Strange as it may seem, some microphones are not made in Austria and Germany. The Sanken CU-41 comes from the land of the rising synthesiser and is one of the most expensive mics around at a list price of around £2360...

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Sanken CU-41

Strange as it may seem, some microphones are not made in Austria and Germany. The Sanken CU-41 comes from the land of the rising synthesiser and is one of the most expensive mics around at a list price of around £2360. Introduced in 1983, the CU-41 is already well established and the price is, in terms of what you get for your money, quite justifiable. So what, you may ask, do you get from this mic that you don’t get from a Neumann U87, AKG C414 or Beyer MC740 at half the price?

You’ll know as soon as you pick up this mic that you are handling a precision instrument. I would say that it oozes quality like an expensive Swiss watch if it wasn’t for the fact that the comparison would be better made the other way round. Apart from exceptional build quality, what this microphone has that others don’t is an extra diaphragm. One diaphragm handles low frequencies and the other smaller diaphragm handles the highs. It’s a bit like a loudspeaker in reverse where you find a large woofer and a tiny tweeter, linked together via a frequency dividing network, or crossover. In most microphones the response has been optimised for on-axis pickup, which usually means in effect that the frequency response at angles other than 90 degrees to the mic’s ‘line of fire’ is rather less than flat, sometimes markedly so. The response of the CU-41 is practically flat from 125Hz to 12.5kHz from the front all the way round the side as far as 120 degrees. This is a remarkable achievement which gives the CU-41 a incredibly solid sound which really comes into its own when you use two CU-41s (and to hell with the expense!) as a stereo pair. As part of its ‘no-compromise’ design, the Sanken CU-41 is cardioid only, with no attenuator and no filter. It is quite sensitive to mechanical noise and Sanken recommend using the S-41 shock absorbing stand adaptor.

By David Mellor Thursday January 1, 2004
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