I’ve said it before and I’ll happily say it again, “I love microphones”. I have done ever since I was a kid and realised you get what you pay for. But what happens when a manufacturer of super high end microphones comes up with a product that is gunning for some of the biggest and most well respected names in the business at a price point that is one of the most hotly contested in the industry? Can the team at Soyuz Microphones create one of their hand-built masterpieces and still sell it for between £1000 and £1500 UK Pounds? Let’s find out by testing the new Soyuz SU-023 or Bomblet microphone.
Soyuz, which in Russian means Union, are a joint Russian and American company, however, all the manufacturing takes place in their factory in the Russian city of Tula, about 2 hours drive south of the capital Moscow.
As I said before all their mics are hand made, and by that I mean hand made not just hand assembled. Almost all the components for the mics are drilled, milled and turned by hand on machines of incredible accuracy, and many of the machinists who operate these machines learned their craft in the aerospace and weapons factories of the old Soviet era.
The Soyuz SU-023 Bomblet
The Bomblet, which given the mics styling, feels like a very appropriate name, is Soyuz’s first exploration into creating a large diaphragm condenser mic for under £1500. The Soyuz SU-019 which I reviewed back in June 2017 has a street price of around £1900 and is also a fixed cardioid condenser mic and follows the more traditional Soyuz brass and white colour scheme while the new SU-023 goes for a what I would call a semi-brushed chrome over brass look.
As it turns out, this finish is almost impossible to photograph without your own image being caught in the reflexion. Sorry about that.
The Bomblet is a very easy microphone to setup and use. Like an instamatic camera from 1983 you just point it in the right direction and let it do the rest. On the top of the rare Soviet era triple back plate capsule you can see the Cardioid logo indicating which side of the mic is the front, just incase the Soyuz logo the outer body of the mic was not enough of the clue.
Also included in the box is a small plane black -20dB attenuator or pad block. There are no switches or controls on the mic so if you are recording a louder sound source, like drums for example, you simply unscrew the capsule, screw the -20dB pad block to the body and screw the capsule to the pad block. I’m not sure of the science behind this but I can only think that is has something to do with keeping the signal path from the capsule to the microphone circuit as pure as possible, and I suspect it also helps keeps production costs down through simplicity. As it turned out, in my recording session with voice and all acoustic instruments I did not need the pad.
Cutting The Right Corners
In an effort to keep the production costs of this mic down some corners have been cut, but not in a way that you the user/recording engineer/artist would ever notice.
The stand mount for the SU-023 is a very simple bent metal plate that screws in under the mic. You could if you want to buy an off the shelf shock-mount but the supplied very simple sturdy mount gave me no issues and in fact, made it easier to work with and move the mic around quickly.
Another cost saving has been made on the mics transformer. Most of the Soyuz mics use custom in house wound transformers. The SU-23 uses a proprietary toroidal transformer. To be honest, I would not have known or cared if I had not been researching this article. What I do see is that this Bomblet has it’s electronics mounted on a PCB and does not use the normal stacked disk arrangement that the more expensive Soyuz mics employ. This must save a lot of time and in turn money in the production process.
You do still get a lovely wooden box with delicate magnetic locking to keep your mic looking nice.
Type- Condenser microphone
Capsules- Two 33mm membranes (one gold sputtered)
Frequency Range- 30Hz/18kHz
Polar Pattern- Cardioid
Impedance- 190 Ohms
SPL -140 dB Equivalent Noise- 18 dB (a-weighted)
Power- 48 V Phantom
Size- 194mm length x 47mm diameter
Extras- wooden microphone box, -20 dB pad, mic holder
As with all the microphones I test I like to put them to work in a real world session, then give you the chance to hear not only the mix but also the stems of the session. Other than a little reverb and some limiting to bring up the level of the final mix, these are naked, unprocessed tracks. No EQ, no compression, no sweetening of any kind.
I’d like to think the results of this test speak for themselves. The SU-023 is a great sounding mic and to my ears really works well on the acoustic guitars and mandolin. It helps the instruments shine just enough without being harsh. I think I might have just found my first choice acoustic guitar mic.
For vocals the Bomblet does not have a big fat bottom end sound, but to be honest, very often we would roll that off using a high-pass filter anyway.
The SU-023 also really worked for the percussion tracks. It sounds daft to admit it but recording a good natural Tambourine sound is very tricky. You don’t want to much of the bite of the jingles and the Bomblet added an almost dark overtone to the particular tambourine I chose. It really worked.
So, in answer to my initial question, I believe the team at Soyuz have pulled off creating a fantastic handmade microphone that will truly stand up for it’s self in the £1000 and £1500 price bracket. The current UK RRP is £1299. Yes it’s still a lot of money, but as said at the top of this piece, you get what you pay for.
It also turns out that I am not the only fan of Soyuz mics on the Production Expert team. Check out Kevin Becka’s article on recording Vintage Drums where he uses four Soyuz mics including the Bomblet on toms.
You can also find out more about the SU-023 Bomblet and the other mics in the Soyuz range at their website.