The APEX 580
The APEX 580 is the newest member of the APEX microphone family.
See the bottom of the page for a solution the one problem we found with the 580
We had some quesions come into the email box about the new APEX 580 and at the time, we had only seen it in the store. Our friends at the local music store let us take one back to shop and to see how it performed. This is what we found.
Very Nice Package
You can sure see that the product managers at APEX have upped their game. This mic shows itself very well and looks for all the world like something in a completley different snack bracket. The price however is still very reasonable. In Canada it comes in well under $400 and about $349 in the USA but you can find it for as low as $325 in both countries. It has the very stylish open faced shock mount so your talent can get up close and personal with the mic and it comes in one of those nice looking aluminium flight cases too!
All the Right Features
The 580 has all the features you would expect from a studio grade condenser mic. It also has new kind of capsule that looks to be 35mm in diameter and not the 32mm version that is so common.
There is 3 polar pattern and something else that is unique. There is a two frequency high-pass filter selectable to 75Hz or 150Hz and there is a two position PAD for 10dB or 15dB reduction, allowing the mic to handle levels up to 148dB according to the spec sheet.
We took the time to plot the 580. What we see from the response that it is a K67 capsule design. That is a 7dB lift at the peak, around 15KHz, but without the compensating internal de-emphasis. You can read what we mean by that in our article on the FAR 67.
The FAR 47 on the other hand shows the classic mid-range lift exhibited by the K47 capsule. This particular K47 capsule has bit of extension making it more like a the classic u47 plots. Maybe that's why I like it?
The 580 also seems to lighten up the bottom end a bit. This could the capsule, but it could also be the electronics design internally. In either case the effect is the same. We test at .5 metres and so normally a little proximity effect is seen on cardiod mics like in the FAR 47 graph. The 580 has less.
And the sound?
So we wanted to record with this thing and put it up against something we do here. So we took our one of the early 47 prototypes that we built. It's uses a P K47 capsule and 6922 tube. Very straightforward goto kind of mic.
The shootout is in this pair or recordings below. The APEX 580 actually sounds very good. On a male speaking voice there is much less energy above 10KHz and the differences in response are not as noticeable. The response of both mics is down a touch in the low mid-range, but the FAR 47 has a little more stuffing below 100Hz due to proximity effect and an extended low end electronics.
Note: The podcast references the fact that is was "33 degrees" in the Toronto area. That is 91.4 degrees Fahrenheit for those who are used to that scale.
Other Audio Samples
I simul-recorded some Acoustic guitar with three microphones to show the effect of capsule response on something people here all the time. The recordings were made .5 metres (1.5 feet) away from the mics, which were all lined up horizontally in front of the body of the guitar.
And although the FAR 47 sounds OK in this role and with a touch of EQ would work fine, the extended low end of the mic adds mud for this application
I found the sound of the 580 really showed it's stuff with the high end lift. Of course this is the K67 style capsule, un-corrected doing what you would do yourself with an Equalizer. Lifting the high end always makes an acoustic guitar sound nice.
To prove the point, I simul-recorded with one of our 251 style mics using a CEK12 capsule which has a similar response to the one in the 580.
What's that Hisssss?
So with all these good things to say about the 580 we did find one big surprise. There is more noise in this mic that I have ever seen before in a FET mic or any mic for that matter. The graph below is the actual spectrum analysis of the silent sections of the podcasts above.
You can see that the APEX 580 when set to record the identical level as the FAR 47 is creating about 15 dB more noise above 2KHz than the "old fashioned" FAR 47 tube mic. This is a very bad place to have noise because our ears are most sensitive between 2.5KHz and 3.5KHz.
This puts the mic outside of professional quality for me, so I guess I will have to see what it takes to make the noise go away.
It's important to note that this could be just a bad FET in the one I got.
The APEX 580 had some real promise. The sound is good, the mechanics are great and it is full featured. If that noise can be removed they have a winner.
If not, it's just a general purpose mic for loud sound sources.
Noise Update and Solution!
We have some very good friends, Rob Nation and Joe Vaughn, who own and operate EMAC Studios in London Ontario. http://www.emacstudios.com/ We spent some very enjoyable time producing records at their top flight facility.
Their newest engineer Patrick Fowler is a fellow alumni from Fanshawe College Music Industry Arts program and he took it upon himself to open the APEX 580 they bought to find out where the noise was coming from.
Turns out, after thoroughly cleaning the boards with 99% isopropyl alcohol, the noise was gone!
Nice work Patrick. Can do attitudes like that make for great studios.
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