Back in September of 2012 I wrote one of my most popular blog posts. It was a review of a microphone no one had ever heard of. Yet, after the article was published, scores of voice over colleagues rushed to get their hands on this strange looking thing: the CAD E100S.
For the record, my review came long before YouTube booth junkie Mike DelGaudio made the E100S his go-to reference microphone.
E stands for “Equitek” by the way. Equitek is CAD’s name for a unique microphone amplifier circuit design.
The E100S had a fixed supercardioid polar pattern and the lowest self-noise rating of pretty much any microphone in the history of microphones: 3.7 dBA. It came in a nice cherry wood box, already resting in a specially designed ‘stealth’ integral shock mount.
My 2012 conclusion:
“The E100S has all the characteristics to become a voice over’s secret weapon.” At $499, it’s half the price of a Sennheiser 416 with more bells and whistles.”
A NEW MODEL
This year (2022), CAD retired the E100S, and replaced it with the almost identical looking E100Sx. It’s also a large diaphragm studio condenser microphone with a supercardioid polar pattern. If you’ve read or seen some of the early reviews, you may have noticed that all the gear gurus came to the same astonishing conclusion:
This new E100Sx is NOT the same microphone as its predecessor.
Stop the presses!! How can this be?
You mean… CAD (which stands for Conneaut Audio Devices), actually released a microphone that is different from the previous model? Well, isn’t that something?!
Of course the question on everyone’s lips is: Is this new model any better than the near-perfect E100S?
Before I answer that, let’s look at some of the differences between the old mic and the new mic.
THE OLD VERSUS THE NEW
The one thing that you’re going to like is the price. The E100Sx costs $299 which is $200 less than the old model. It no longer comes in that fancy cherry wood box, but frankly, who cares? The Sx is well-packaged in a cardboard enclosure with pictures of all the previous incarnations from the first 1992 model to the present one, the fourth generation.
This new CAD is no longer “Made in the USA,” but in China. My guess is that this might have changed for two reasons. The first one is pretty obvious: price. The second one may have to do with quality control issues the E100S seemed to suffer from. Most mics were perfectly fine, but every now and then someone would complain about a specific microphone being uncharacteristically noisy.
Speaking of noise, the new E100Sx has a respectable equivalent noise level of 9.5 dBA, versus the 3.7 dBA in the older model. As a comparison, the MKH 416 has a self-noise of 13 dBA, equal to the Rode NTG3. In general, anything lower than 15 dBA is considered to be good, and I couldn’t hear any self-noise on the Sx.
The old E100S was slightly more sensitive, -30dBV, with the Sx coming in at -32 dBV (the same sensitivity as the MKH 416). The new model has a frequency response of 20Hz – 18 KHz, and the old one 40 Hz – 18 Khz.
The E100S had a 80 Hz high pass filter. The new Sx has a 100 Hz high pass filter. Both have a -10 dB pad. The E100Sx weighs 31.68oz (900g), and the E100S came in at 22oz (610g).
Lastly, the E100S had a silver grille. The E100Sx’s grille is black.
Click here for a spec sheet of the E100S.
Click here for a spec sheet of the E100Sx.
Now, if you look at the frequency response charts, you see two, quite different microphones. The (old) E100S had an extremely flat response, with a 4dB presence peak extending between 4kHz and about 12kHz, above which the response rolls off smoothly. The successor isn’t nearly as flat with less of a smooth roll off.
Here’s the E100S, followed by the chart for the E100Sx:
How does this translate into sound, you may wonder?
Well, one of the most commonly recurring comments regarding the E100S was that it was a tad on the “harsh” or “tinny” side, depending on the person using the microphone. Or, as the reviewer for the Sound on Sound magazine noted:
“The presence peak in the E100S brings out the diction very nicely, however, with the sung vocals of some vocalists, that same peak occasionally proved counter-productive, drawing attention to sibilance, or producing a slightly edgy character on some female vocals.”
It wasn’t a major complaint, but it seems that CAD took these comments into consideration when the design process for the E100Sx began (late 2019). To my ears, this new rendition appears to be more sonically similar to the original version (the E100 from the 80’s) than the E100S was.
Rather than simply trying to replicate and improve the E100S, the team at CAD gave the E100Sx a more vintage sound. To my ears, the E100S has more clarity, and the E100Sx is less bright and much warmer. I think that’s actually a good thing! And if you engage the high-pass filter on the Sx, it sounds more similar to the E100S.
In some ways the E100Sx reminded me of the JZ Amethyst microphone which I used to own. It retails for $1,199.00. For a more extensive comparison (19 mics!), check out Mike DelGaudio’s review on YouTube.
If you want audio samples of the old E100S, click here and go to my 2012 review (the blue and bold words are always hyperlinks). Here’s a sample I recorded with the new E100Sx. Please put on a pair of studio headphones for more detail.
For a second opinion, watch this video by one of our colleagues, where Wayne switches back and forth between the old and the new model. Now, bear in mind that these comparisons usually don’t happen in real life. I’ve never had a client tell me during a session: “Can you please switch to a different microphone so I can hear the contrast?” The audio you deliver is either acceptable or it is not. End of story.
As an aside: is it fair to compare a $300 to a $1500 microphone? I think so, and I’ll tell you why. When evaluating auditions, no casting director is going to wonder “What mic is this talent using?” unless the audio quality is terrible. Price is only relevant to the buyer. I don’t think clients care how much you spend on your gear, as long as it sounds professional. Secondly, how much of that $1500 really goes to brand name and marketing? And finally, a more expensive microphone can never make up for bad voice acting.
I am always excited when a brand like CAD comes out with a new mic. The only problem is, the E100Sx hasn’t had time to prove itself but we cannot fault it for that. My new microphone, the Sennheiser MKH 8060, came out in 2011, and it has earned its stellar reputation over time.
I certainly like the price point of the E100Sx, and it is built in a facility that makes nearly half of the other CAD products. In addition, the standard warranty on the E100S was 2 years, which could be extended to 5 years. The E100Sx standard warranty is 5 years, and I think that’s a sign of confidence.
The build quality of the new CAD is top-notch, and the rectangular design certainly stands out. It does need its dedicated shock mount, and once one of the elastic bands breaks, it is a pain to replace. I found a video showing the replacement process, and you can click here to watch it. I should also add that these bands are thin and not super strong for such a heavy microphone. While screwing the mic to my microphone arm, one of the bands broke, and the same thing happened when I took it off the arm again.
Because of the supercardioid polar pattern this microphone does well in spaces that don’t have as much acoustic treatment, which is a bonus for budding VO’s on a budget.
If you have a booming, low voice, this is probably not the best mic for you, but higher male and female voices will do much better with the new Sx than with the discontinued E100S. I have used the Sx for about two weeks now, and I find it amazing to have a microphone in front of me that’s $200 cheaper, but doesn’t look or sound cheap at all.
Why spend $1200 on a Neumann TLM 103 if you can get a CAD for a quarter of the price? Believe me, no client is going to reject the audio recorded with the E100Sx, unless you seriously mess up.
As you can tell from my old review, I loved the E100S, but compared to the Sx, it now sounds a bit cold and clinical. I actually prefer the warmth of the new microphone, and it goes on my list of mics I would recommend without reservation!
Many thanks to CAD for making it possible for me to review this microphone. I greatly appreciate the opportunity, but it did not influence my opinion.