As you can imagine we at Production Expert get a chance to test a vast amount of the latest software and hardware but once in a while a brand approaches us that we have no experience of. This was the case with JZ Microphones (pronounced Jay Zed, not Jay Zee). This is how I got on using the JZ Microphones Black Hole BH-1S and the BH2 in a tracking session.
JZ Microphones Black Hole Series
It’ safe to say that from a style and design point of view JZ mics have very much forged their own path. Their are two models in the Black Hole range. The duel diaphragm multi-pattern BH-1S Condenser mic and the single diaphragm cardioid BH-2. Other than a slight variation in the logo design and the pattern and pad switches, the mics look pretty much the same. They also sound pretty much the same when you set the BH-1S to cardioid, thus making these 2 mics very useful as a stereo pair. Both mics have a nice chunky feel and weight to them. The outer coating of the body makes the mics very tactile, these are really nice mics to hold and to set up.
JZ Black Hole BH-1S Features
3 polar patterns
2x Large diaphragm 1,06" (27mm) Golden Drop Capsule
-10 & -20dB PAD
Extra low self noise level - 7,5 dB (A)
Maximum Sound Pressure Level (SPL) - 134,5 dB
Price BH-1S $1999. BH-2 $999.
One of the key features of the BH series mics is the “Golden Drop” capsule. This new microphone innovation means that the all important capsule is lighter than normal, which in turn means it can respond better to fast transients giving a clearer, cleaner sound with less overall colouration or distortion, but that is not to say this is a flat sounding mic. It does have a tone to it, but to my ears it’s a very subtle and pleasing tone which works extremely well on male and female vocals and on electric guitars.
The Shock Mount
The BH mics have a very original mounting system. The hole in the mics (see what they did there?) has 2 metal mounting pins in it and the shock-mount fixes to these. It’s a very neat solution that makes it very quick to get the mic on or off the stand. I was a little concerned that I had not mounted the mic correctly at first but it really is as simple as making sure the two prongs of the mount are positioned correctly. The mount is stable enough to support the mic inverted or even on a stereo mounting bar (more of this later). When in place on the mount the mic, from some angles looks like it is floating in mid air.
Black Hole In Session
JZ claim that the BH mics are total all rounders so I wanted to put them to work in a real session, starting with drums.
I set up the pair of BH mics on my stereo mounting bar above my kit. Yes I know the mics are very very close to the roof but you have to work with what you have and my ceiling is very low.
The two audio files below show off how the pair of JZ BH mics sound as a stereo pair above the kit and how they blend with the other close mics. It’s a really full kit sound with a nice amount of clear top end without being harsh or cutting. When you add the close mics the stereo overhead pair you get a really nice fat (or should that be phat) kit sound.
I have a selection of small valve or tube amps in the studio that all run to my Grossmann quiet cab. With a bit of adjustment I managed to get the BH-2 to fit into the cab when the lid is closed which is the entire point of the Grossmann cab. I then came up with a couple of different parts to fit the basic outline of the track. In this case I did not use the Royer R-10 ribbon which lives in the Grossmann. I normally use to blend into another mic to give a part some ribbon warmth. However, all you are hearing is the BH-2 which again much like on the drums gives me plenty of top end without that nasty harshness which can build up with lots of clean choppy guitar parts. The bottom end is also full, but not boomy.
For this kind of R&B funk style track I did not want the normal big strumming acoustic guita chordal parts. I wanted something more melodic to answer the vocal. Below you can hear a small excerpt of the acoustic guitar track recorded using the BH-1S close up just above the sound hole.
There are two different real percussion parts on this track, a tambourine and shaker egg. Tambourine has a habit of being quite tricky to record as it is a very dynamic instrument and the accents in a part can distort the mic in a very harsh and aggressive way. No such issues with the BH-1S.
The vocal or top line is clearly where the BH series are designed to shine. As with all the tracks thus far there is no EQ or compression on any of the tracks. What you are hearing is what went down the mic, including all the dodgy notes along side the occasional good ones. To my ears the vocal sound clean, clear and up front. It’s a smooth sounding vocal even when the voice itself is quite husky (that’s me trying to go all gangster).
The Full Mix
Below you can hear the full mix of the song “Moves Like Bernardette” by friend of the blog Rex Strother. This started out as a loop based song that got “the treatment” with real instruments to make it a little less R&B and a bit more funk. As with the other tracks there is no EQ or dynamics processing, just reverb to help the instruments feel in a space.
I get to play with lots of mics in by my “day job’ in the studio and with my Production Expert hat on. I think my own personal collection is back up to well over 100 mics which is a lot, but stealing this from guitar players; How many is the right number of mics to have? Always one more!
The JZ Microphones Black Hole series are really nice mics. They feel good, they are easy to set up and record with and the results I think you will agree sound great. Can’t really ask for much more than that from mics that are very competitively priced. I have a friend who is shopping for a multi-pattern condenser mic right now and I have no hesitation in recommending the BH-1S to him or to you. Both the multi-pattern BH-1S and the cardioid BH-2 are very fine good allrounder workhorse mics. Are they a good fit for you? Well you had better get to your local dealer and try them out.
If you want to find out more about the JZ Microphones Black Hole series or the other mics in the JZ range check out their website.