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M-Audio have announced the release
of the Sputnik
large-diaphragm studio multi-pattern tube condenser microphone. M-Audio tell us that the Sputnik is based on classic vacuum tube design principles and manufactured in stateof-
the-art facilities to exacting standards and that it delivers the lush, classic sound that is normally
associated with rare and expensive vintage mics.
Here's what they have to say in their press release...
Building on years of expertise, the M-Audio engineering team conducted exhaustive research into signature microphonesâ€”and listened extensively
to clean, vintage recordingsâ€”examining what gives the worldâ€™s best high-end studio condensers their ineffable qualities. They distilled the best
characteristics of classic vacuum tube designs into a single world-class mic with M-Audioâ€™s trademark value pricing.
When tweaking the Sputnik micâ€™s capsule, M-Audioâ€™s design team worked closely with top L.A. recording engineers. In final side-by-side listening
tests, these pros put it up against some of the worldâ€™s finest vintage mics costing many times more. In particular, many observed that Sputnik
exhibited the coveted low and low-mid qualities of the Neumann U47 and the upper-mids and highs of the AKG C12â€”making it ideal for faithfully
recording a wide range of sources including both male and female vocals. All agreed that Sputnik performed flawlessly for the most critical
Sputnikâ€™s combination of military-grade vacuum tube, ultra-sensitive 3-micron evaporated gold Mylar diaphragm, solid brass construction, and
selectable cardioid, omni and figure-8 polar patterns makes it ideal for a wide variety of voices, instruments, and applications.
The Sputnik mic circuitry is designed around a military-grade 6205M vacuum tubeâ€”a diminutive pentode wired as a triode yielding output behavior
like that of a perfect current source (making it tolerant of a wide range of load conditions). The tube operates at high voltagesâ€”allowing an
enormous dynamic rangeâ€”but with less heat dissipation than other designs. This means, in part, that users can easily hang this mic upside down
or orient it upright without having to worry about overheating the capsule.
M-Audio also mounted the tube itself upside down to facilitate shorter connections that, in turn, make for more controlled impedance and less stray
capacitanceâ€”a design trait shared by German mics like the revered Telefunken 251. The Sputnik also employs a socketless design eliminating the
potential for impedance mismatch, signal deterioration and contact corrosion.
Research shows that tubes go bad within the first 10 hours. We
hand-pick military-grade tubes to ensure the highest specs, consistency and reliability, then burn them in for a week so users do not have to worry
about changing tubes in the first place.
Sputnikâ€™s Class A amplifier circuit is an all-discrete transconductance design based on thermionic studies by researchers at Harvard and the
American Institute of Physics. The amp uses a classic cascode circuit to increase the gain-bandwidth product and eliminate the effects of parasitic
capacitances, giving the system a wide frequency response. The resulting high output impedance makes the mic very tolerant of load conditions
(itâ€™s in the meg-ohm range so it acts like a perfect current source).
While the tube does all the heavy lifting, Sputnikâ€™s head amp employs an n-channel depletion-mode JFET for biasing so users donâ€™t get nasty
artifacts like hum and crackle that are common to tube-only designs. In essence, the Sputnikâ€™s tube circuitry delivers ultra-smooth harmonic detail
and rapid response to signals with fast rise/fall times, thereby eliminating transient problems. The amp is quite linear and features graceful overload
characteristics and an enormous dynamic range due to high-voltage operation. These qualities simply cannot be achieved with a standard
transistor amplifier or one of the more common Class A tube designs.
Where many of todayâ€™s microphones cut corners with a metallized plastic backplate, the Sputnik features a precision-machined, solid brass
backplate that yields much greater crucial rigidity, precise tolerances and faithful sonic reproduction. The Sputnik also boasts a dual-backplate
design similar to the one that lends the AKG C12 its trademark open, airy quality. In addition, M-Audio tunes the backplate for optimal on- and offaxis
frequency and pickup response, and pattern symmetry.
A microphoneâ€™s ability to capture detail owes primarily to the thinness and uniformity of its diaphragm. Sputnikâ€™s durable mylar diaphragm is an
impressive 3 microns thinâ€”a spec that carries a much higher price tag in most other mics. M-Audio also uses a high-precision evaporated 24-karat
gold process to coat it for conductivityâ€”which yields a much more uniform result than the sputtered gold or sprayed-on processes used in many
other mics. Here, too, this delivers higher precision and tolerance within and between Sputnik mics. The specs on Sputnikâ€™s diaphragm and
backplate are only possible using computer-controlled manufacturing processes in a state-of-the-art facility.
The Sputnikâ€™s power supply features a sophisticated circuit designed to ensure optimal performance of the mic and audio signal path. It also
features a voltage ramp-up when powered on in order to further extend tube life. As an added bonus, an automatic load-sensing circuit
compensates for varying transmission line impedances, allowing users to run cables as long as 200 feet.
The Sputnik micâ€™s space-age â€œlollipopâ€� design minimizes diffraction from the body, resulting in superior off-axis response. The body itself is durable
solid brass with an attractive polished nickel finish.
The Sputnik mic is manufactured with a close tolerance of Â±1.5dB across the entire frequency range. That means that any two or more Sputnik
mics purchased at any time qualify as a matched set for stereo recording.
The Sputnikâ€™s frequency response is 20Hz â€“ 20kHz Â±1.5dB; the sensitivity is 30mV/Pa (-30.5dBV) and the max. SPL at 0.5% THD is 132dB (or
142dB with the 10dB pad). It also features a low-frequency roll-off and multiple pick-up patterns (cardioid, omni, figure-8). Sputnik includes a
professional shockmount, dedicated power supply, 7-pin mic cable, grounded IEC power supply and a custom flight case.
Adam Castillo, marketing director at
M-Audio has the last word, â€œM-Audio has been consistently proving that a world-class mic doesnâ€™t have to cost thousands of dollars. With Sputnik, we looked closely at the mics that well-established working professionals use consistently for critical recording tasks, and
we used that as our starting point. Our track record in using the latest manufacturing advances to make affordable studio technology enabled us to
deliver one of the best microphones at any price.â€�
Price and Availability
Sputnik is expected to ship in April and carries an MSRP of $699.95.