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M-Audio Sputnik Multi-Pattern Tube Microphone

Bring the lush, classic sound of a rare vintage mic to your studio with M-Audio's Sputnik. Its design is based on that of great vintage tube mics. (14) Read 6 reviews for this product | Rate and review this product
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Product Description

The new Sputnik large-diaphragm studio tube condenser microphone is based on classic vacuum tube design principles and manufactured in state-of-the-art facilities to exacting standards, this multi-pattern, large diaphragm studio condenser delivers the lush, classic sound that is normally associated with rare and expensive vintage mics.

Building on years of expertise, the M-Audio engineering team conducted exhaustive research into signature microphones and listened extensively to clean, vintage recordings, examining what gives the world'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-Audio's trademark value pricing.

When tweaking the Sputnik mic's capsule, M-Audio's design team worked closely with top Los Angeles recording engineers. In final side-by-side listening tests, these pros put it up against some of the world'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 C12making 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 recording situations.

Sputnik'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 tube -- 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 voltages -- allowing an enormous dynamic range- 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 capacitance -- 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. They 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.

Sputnik'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 cascade 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 (it's in the meg-ohm range so it acts like a perfect current source).

While the tube does all the heavy lifting, Sputnik's head amp employs an n-channel depletion-mode JFET for biasing so users don't get nasty artifacts like hum and crackle that are common to tube-only designs. In essence, the Sputnik'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 today'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 off-axis frequency and pickup response, and pattern symmetry.

A microphone's ability to capture detail owes primarily to the thinness and uniformity of its diaphragm. Sputnik's durable mylar diaphragm is an impressive 3 microns thin -- 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 conductivity-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 Sputnik's diaphragm and backplate are only possible using computer-controlled manufacturing processes in a state-of-the-art facility.

The Sputnik'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 mic's space-age 'lollipop' 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 +/-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 Sputnik's frequency response is 20Hz - 20kHz +/-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.

zZounds is an authorized dealer of M-Audio products.
Weight, Dimensions, and Manufacturer Part Numbers
Shipping Weight: 12 lbs
Shipping Dimensions: 16 x 12 x 5 in
Manufacturer Part Number (MPN): 9900-51754-00
If you have additional warranty questions, please contact the manufacturer at 401-658-5765
Customer Reviews
5 out of 5 (14 ratings) Rate and Review This Product
"at this price get a 6 pack to take home"
Sound: solid flat responsive and controllable Feature: the cage and the suspension xtra rubber mounting came in handy after 2 1/2 years of constant use Ease of Use: this mike is so much more flexible than most tube mikes it will bring back the meaning of 'hi fidelity' Quality: nice finish , reliable so far no let down Value: if it were available when i started out Neuman would not have gotten a cent from me Manufacturer Support: m-audio has always been hard but not impossible to get a hold of and always deals swiftly with issues The Wow Factor: looks sharp Overall: bought it 3 years ago now and no regrets
Style of Music: Rock, "Alternative", "Country", "Jazz",etc,
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This review has been selected by our experts as particularly helpful. "Simply stunning. Fantastic mic."
Sound: All I can say is WOW. This mic sounds amazing. I've never used a C-12 or U-47, so I can't say that it measures up to the classics, but it IS the nicest mic I've ever used. Right out of the box I did a quick acoustic guitar track and vocal to see how it performed and I was blown away. With no EQ or effects, it sounded ready for mastering. The pickup patterns are great. The proximity effect on cardioid and figure 8 was less pronounced than a lot of the other condensers I have which leaves the sound more open and true, but it's still there when you need it for close sounding vocals. Rear rejection on cardioid was perfect, allowing you to record in a less than perfect environment if necessary. Loud volumes don't even phase this mic. It's a workhorse, with finesse. Detailed but forgiving, like your own ears. Feature: 3 pickup patterns, (Cardioid, Figure 8 and Omni) and a LF rolloff. Comes with Shockmount (AND a spare elastic I might add), power supply, 7 pin cable, microphone cover, and a sexy carrying case. I can't believe all that is included at this price. Ease of Use: It's a tube mic, so there's a little more setup required with the power supply, but that pretty much just impresses musicians in the studio. Quality: Solid. Heavy. Shockmount is well made. Value: For the price, I don't think you'll find a better mic. M-Audio makes some audacious claims about this mic, but it really DOES actually deliver. The Wow Factor: The ladies love it. This thing is a sexy head-turning beast, shiny and space age looking. It's my favorite piece of gear to bring out to impress the clients. People love singing into it (especially when they hear how good they sound). Overall: This mic does a lot of heavy lifting for you. It takes less time to find a good placement because it has such a natural open sound. If you have a good recording room, just leave it on omni and put it wherever you want. It'll sound good. M-Audio nailed it on this one.
Style of Music: Rock, Electronic, Ambient
10 of 11 people (90.91%) found this review helpful. Did you?
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