Please click the PLAY button below, before you start reading this review.
If, by any chance, you started reading this blog right here… please listen to the audio sample above first. That way you know what it’s all about. You might want to put your favorite pair of headphones on, but you don’t have to.
After listening to the intro, do you have a favorite? Do you even have a way of telling which mic might be more expensive? I get to test quite a few microphones in my studio, and I often have a hard time explaining the price tag on a particular mic. Let’s do another test.
Let me just say that I think both microphones had very good off-axis rejection. Both demonstrated a decrease in sensitivity as I moved around the mics. Both also had a clear off-axis coloration (a distortion or change in the frequency response of the reproduced audio signal). This was to be expected since mic number 1 has a super cardioid polar pattern and mic 2 is a super cardioid as well. If your VO studio isn’t very well isolated, these microphones will pick up less ambient noise than cardioid mics, which is always a good thing.
Here’s the third test.
A quick correction. There isn’t always a correlation between the price of a microphone and the lack of self noise. Expensive vintage or vintage-style mics are often noisier than newer models. The Rode NT1-A has a self noise of 5 dBA and only costs $199.
To my ears, microphone 1 is the clear winner and I fully expected that. This microphone has a self noise of 11 dBA and mic 2 has a self noise of 15.8 dBA. Self noise, by the way, is the signal the microphone produces of itself, even when no sound source is present. It’s also known as “equivalent noise level.”
Now, audio engineers can quarrel about how much self noise is too much. Too much self noise can be distracting to the listener, so a lower number is better. However, the ambient noise in studio spaces and other recording environments usually exceeds 10 dBA, and so the benefit of a low self noise mic will be lost. To me 11 to 15 dBA is still acceptable, and at 20 dBA the self noise will clearly be audible.
Before I reveal the microphones, here’s one last test:
Ideally, I’d like my studio mic not to pop with every plosive, but mic placement and mic technique can go a long way to prevent that from happening. Instead of using an annoying pop filter, I will never talk straight into the microphone like a radio jock. I place my mic slightly above my head and that way the air coming out of my mouth when I speak will never hit the diaphragm.
In my test I talked straight into the microphone to see how it would respond. You can clearly hear that the second mic is more prone to popping which is no surprise if you look at the more open design.
One last thing before the reveal. The sensitivity of microphone 1 is -24 dBV/Pa, and the sensitivity of the second mic is -35 dBV/Pa. Sensitivity has nothing to do with how fragile a microphone is. It is a measurement of how well it converts acoustical energy to electrical energy or how “hot” or loud a microphone is. A lower number indicates a hotter microphone, needing less gain from a preamp which could lead to quieter recordings.
Here are the two microphones:
Microphone 1 is the Sennheiser MKH 8060 and microphone 2 is the new CAD E40. Now here’s the kicker: the Sennheiser 8060 retails for $1500 and the CAD E40 costs $100. Click here for a $10 rebate.
I realize this is an unfair comparison between two very different microphones, but remember this: your clients will never hear an A/B comparison. That’s only something people who are interested in audio equipment do. According to the specs the Sennheiser is the better microphone, but is it $1400 better? I think not!
I asked Gary Byers from CAD to tell me more about the E40. This is what he said:
“There was definitely a specific sound we envisioned for this mic. The E100Sx was a pretty dramatic departure from the previous version (the E100S), although more similar to the original E100. The new E40 utilizes a medium diaphragm capsule similar to the one found in the original E100. First, we wanted to remove a little bit of the accentuated low end found in the E100Sx. Second, we wanted to add a slight (nearly undetectable) accent on the higher frequencies. We feel we achieved the desired sound with the E40 capsule. We made some minor changes to the electronics as compared to the E100Sx, but they are certainly very similar apart from the capsules.”
The CAD E40 feels solid and quite heavy (1.98 lbs./0.9 Kg), and the housing is similar to the older Equitek™ models. Not having to design a new housing must have made it easier to keep the price as low as possible, as well as the fact that the E40 is built in China. It comes in a protective cardboard box and is already placed in its CAD-specific shock mount. I’m glad CAD added a few spare elastic bands, because two of them broke when I screwed the mic onto my boom arm. It’s a pain in the neck to replace these bands, and if you ever need to do so, click here to watch a video of how it’s done.
There are two switches on this microphone (switches my Sennheiser 8060 does not have). A -10 dB switch for when you’re recording a loud source, and a 100Hz high pass filter designed to cut out extraneous low frequencies. This will help you get rid of nasty low rumble in your recordings, like the noise from trucks passing by.
Having had the chance to play with the CAD E40 for a week or so, what do I think of it? Well, to put in in one sentence, I feel this microphone performs way above its price point. To be honest, when a microphone sells for around a hundred dollars, I don’t expect much. It’s like a cheap voice over. He or she doesn’t have anything to prove. But the E40 pleasantly surprised me.
Even though this is not the quietest microphone you can buy, the super cardioid polar pattern is perfect for voice overs who don’t yet have the budget to totally soundproof their space. This mic will zoom in on your sound, and thanks to a very effective off-axis rejection, it picks up very little ambient noise. I would recommend using a pop filter to keep the plosives at bay. It even has a desired lift in the upper frequencies which seems to be the thing, these days. The bottom end is solid, but never muddy or over accentuated.
Overall, the new CAD E40 offers amazing bang for your buck, and I would not hesitate to recommended it as a great starter mic if you’re on a budget. And with the $10 off coupon it’s almost a no-brainer!
PS Many thanks to CAD for sending this microphone to me for review. The opinions in this article are mine and mine only. Please keep in mind that there are many factors that can influence the sound of a microphone, such as the person using it, the entire audio chain, and the acoustics of the recording space. This means this mic will not sound the same on your voice as it does on mine. But what you get for the money will not change.
David Holmes says
The frequency response and price puts me in mind of the NT1 (boring, I know, but I always thought much better than it’s price point).
Do you feel the E40 outranks the Nt1 for quality and warmth?
Thanks again for your blog.
Paul Strikwerda says
Good question! The Rode NT1-A is an interesting microphone with extremely low self noise, but it’s a cardioid. It costs twice as much as the CAD E40. If I were just starting out and would have to choose, I’d rather have a mic with a bit more self noise but with a super cardioid pattern because dealing with ambient noise would be more important. As for warmth.., as a VO I bring warmth to every read 😉
Bruce Nix says
Wow! I listened first, because I am good at following instructions 😀 I could hear only a subtle difference in the second mic being just a tad brighter to my untrained ears at least. That is such a vast difference in almost every way. Thank you for another insightful and educational post!
Paul Strikwerda says
You’re welcome, Bruce. I agree with your ears. The CAD is definitely the brighter mic. Most new mics that come out will have this upper frequency lift. It seems to be a trend.
Paul Vinger says
Hi Paul – Thanks for this interesting comparison! I listened on my iPhone speakers, MacBook speakers, and with in-ear monitors. On the first iPhone listen, the mid-tone presence of Mic2 jumped out to me, making #1 feel dull in comparison… but as it went along, that “presence” began to feel a touch kazoo-like. This carried over to the MacBook speakers and my Shures – where, also, any perception of dullness in Mic1 disappeared, and Mic2’s self noise jumped out as a distracting buzz between words. Would you advise someone looking to book work with the CAD to consider mid-tone EQ, and a de-buzzer?
Paul Strikwerda says
When audio professionals like you and me listen to these samples, it’s like we’re putting the audio under a microscope. We absolutely should, but it’s easy to forget that people in the “real” world listen on crap computer speakers, smart phones, and tablets that cannot capture a lot of detail. On top of that our VO often is part of a mix which drowns out a lot of unwanted noise. I don’t think beginning voice overs will want to bother with things like EQ and debuzzing. They just want a cheap mic that gets the job done. I believe this CAD could be that microphone.
Nevin Stoltz says
Great comparison Paul. Listened on my studio headphones. In the first test as well as the off axis test you can definitely tell the difference. The E40 sounds brighter and fuller compared to the 8060. To me, the 8060 sounds a little bit muddy, which I don’t like. The self noise is definitely noticeable, but your points about the studio noise floor make that a non-issue really.
The difference in price compared to quality is just insane. Much like fashion, many times with audio equipment you’re paying for the name recognition. In todays age of recording at home, there are so many VO doing jobs with mics that sound just fine and clients are none the wiser.
Paul Strikwerda says
Most of my clients don’t ask what microphone I’m using. Do you ever ask a contractor what drill he uses? No! All you care about is that the job gets done. However, in a time where every hopeful is trying to “break into voice overs,” finding out what microphone people use is one way to separate the wheat from the chaff. That’s why some agents now have lists of “approved” microphones. If you don’t use a TLM 103, a 416, or a U87, you’re out of luck. Oddly, they don’t ask about preamps or ways in which a studio is isolated.