Category Archives: Russian Microphones.

Oktava MK-012 Matched Pair. My favourite Stereo Microphone Techniques.

If you are looking for a small diaphragm condenser microphone that will add extra sparkle to your high end, more presence to your mids, and greater weight to your bass………… then the Oktava MK-012 is definitely not for you!! However, if you are looking for an accurate microphone which simply reproduces what it hears, then the Oktava MK-012 is definitely worth considering.

Oktava Mk012 Matched stereo pair.

I bought a matched stereo pair about 10 years ago (direct from Oktava) and they have earned me more money than any other mics I own! I have used them on hundreds of live shows for many different purposes, including drum overheads, hi-hat, Latin percussion, grand piano, acoustic instruments, and as ambient mics. However, it is on classical music recording that they really excel. I have used them in a variety of stereo configurations and in each case they provide a clean accurate account of the performance, capturing the finest nuances of timbre and texture.

Here below are my favourite stereo microphone techniques illustrated with the Oktava Mk-012s  

These microphones have not been ‘modified’ in any way and the recordings linked below have not been EQ’d or processed. Although the streaming quality is reasonably good, for more detailed listening most of the tracks can be downloaded off Soundcloud in their original full resolution wav format.

Near-coincident X-Y crossed pair at 90 degrees gives a phase-coherent stereo image with excellent positionality. The angle between the mics can be altered to suit the width of the subject and the relative distance of the mic placement. Particularly useful for chamber music and small ensembles. Cardioid or hyper-cardioid capsules can be used.

Oktava do now make a dedicated figure of eight capsule. In which case a pair of those would be another option.

CLICK HERE for sound clip of wind quintet.

N.B. The shock mounts are Rycote InVision  INV-7   and (below with piggyback clips)


M-S pair using the Oktava figure of eight adapter which utilises 2 cardioid capsules back to back, in opposite phase. The Mid mic can be cardioid, hyper-cardioid or omni. As with the X-Y array, the M-S pair produce an accurate phase-coherent image. Works exceedingly well on wide subjects such as orchestras and choirs, particularly when the mic position needs to be close to the performers. Has the additional advantage that the relative levels of the mics can be manipulated in post-production. (Reducing the level of the Mid mic and raising the Side channels widens the image. Increasing the Mid and lowering the Sides ends in Mono!)

CLICK HERE for sound clip of male voice choir with brass.


ORTF pair. Cardioid capsules set at 55 degrees and spaced 17 cm apart. Emulating the inter-aural time differences between our ears this configuration produces a detailed but somewhat more diffuse stereo image than the previous examples. This array produces a good sense of depth and perspective. Many engineers argue that ORTF pairs give a more ‘musical’ sound. (?) Excellent for choirs and orchestras.

CLICK HERE for orchestral sound clip


Oktava MK012 Jecklin Disc

The Jecklin Disc takes the principles of the ORTF pair one step further and introduces a foam and fur covered 12”disc between the microphone ‘ears’, emulating the reflective, and shading characteristics of the human head. This array utilises a spaced pair of omni capsules angled slightly outwards. The Jecklin disc with a pair of MK-012s produces a remarkable sense of ‘being there’. Excellent in situations where, along with the performance, you want to capture the acoustics of a great sounding hall or church. Good with subjects of any size and can be positioned at a distance without losing ‘presence’.

CLICK HERE for sound clip of violin concerto

CLICK HERE for sound clip of choral concert

CLICK HERE for sound clip of A Cappella singers in small church

 Anecdote

Some years ago whilst recording a live performance of Monteverdi Vespers, I was somewhat taken aback at the start of the concert by the following occurrence. As the choir processed in from the back of the church, they suddenly started singing!! Arrgh! With almost any other array this would have been a recording disaster. As it was, the pick-up of the Jecklin disc with its MK-012 omnis is pretty much the same from behind! The choir processed down the length of the church and filed past on either side of the mic stand and took their positions in front still singing! Sounded great!


Response graphs

One thing I particularly liked about my MK-012s when they arrived, was the inclusion of individual printouts of the response characteristics of each of the 6 capsules. Below is the printout comparing the matched frequency response of the 2 cardioid capsules, complete with handwritten details!

Oktava MK012 Frequency Plot for individual cardioid capsules.

Tech Spec for Oktava MK012

P.S.

Having provided a neat wooden box it is commendable that Oktava didn’t waste money on fancy, glossy, printing on the packaging! No hype, no bullshit, no celebrity endorsements, just a great sounding pair of mics !

Oktava MK012 Fancy Packaging 2

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Dynamic Microphones for Classical Recording?!

In the late 1950’s Electro-Voice ceased production of both ribbon and condenser microphones. In an article in his series ‘MICROPHONE FACTS for the operating engineer’ Electro-Voice founder Lou Burroughs explained the decision and presented reasons why dynamic microphones were, in every way, superior. The feeling at Electro-Voice was that ribbons and condensers were too fragile and prone to failure and that dynamics were solid and reliable and sounded better. Towards the end of the article (referring to dynamics) Burroughs declares that ‘These are the microphones of the future’.

Today, although dynamic mics are still revered for their robustness and ability to handle high SPLs they are not generally considered to be sonically superior to all other microphones! Indeed, I can’t imagine many engineers taking a pair of dynamics out to record an orchestral concert of classical music instead of their usual selection of condensers and ribbons.

Compared to condensers Burroughs claimed that dynamics have a ‘smoother high frequency response’ and so, here (by way of an experiment) are a  couple  of clips from an orchestral concert I recorded recently using a pair of Soviet Era, Russian, Oktava MD186 dynamics! I was simply curious to see if Lou Burroughs maybe had a point?

CLICK HERE for End of Beethoven’s Fifth

CLICK HERE for Mozart Piano Concerto

OKTAVA MD-66a Noise-cancelling Microphone (1979) Brand New!

Oktava MD-66a New Old Stock

A Rare Find! Still wrapped up in it’s original box!

According to the yellowing Russian leaflet pictured above, the Oktava MD-66a is  a ‘Dynamic coil microphone meant for sound amplification of speech and air traffic/transport controllers/officials communications.  One direction microphone.’  (literal translation)

Oktava MD-66a Grill

AKG D58 and Oktava MD66 Frequency Response comparison v2

Although the Oktava MD-66a doesn’t look anything like an AKG D58 it is clear from the 2 frequency response graphs above that the design intention of both mics is fairly similar, with a steep cut from the mid-range downwards and a considerable boost to the frequencies which affect the intelligibility of speech. N.B. The dotted line on the AKG graph shows how the low-end frequency response is restored to flat when the sound source is very close to the mic (bass proximity effect).  Low frequency sound emanating from further away, however, will be greatly attenuated thereby improving the clarity of the close mic’d sound.

Oktava MD-66a Polar Plot

The polar plot also shows a  narrowing of the high frequency response on axis. High frequency sound arriving off axis will therefore be considerably reduced.

Although I don’t have any ‘air traffic’ or ‘transport’  to control or ‘officials communications’  to make, it does occur to me that this neat little noise-cancelling dynamic might have many other uses.

CLICK HERE for Acoustic Guitar & Harmonica.

P.S.    Having taken the MD-66a out on a number of live gigs recently it is currently my favourite mic on snare. It delivers a crisp, fat, punchy sound whilst picking up very little of the bass drum.

OKTAVA MD-186 A Classic Clone?

It is quite a few years since AKG stopped manufacturing the remarkable D224 cardioid dynamic. There are still some appearing on eBay but the supply of ones in good working order is dwindling. I was therefore very curious when I spotted a Russian microphone which I had never seen, or heard of before, that looked somewhat reminiscent of the D224. It had a similar twin capsule design with separate elements for treble and bass, which means that like the 224 it would not exhibit proximity effect. It also appeared that the frequency response was not dissimilar (30Hz – 18kHz).  It even had an almost identical-looking stepped roll-off filter at 50Hz.  So to satisfy my curiosity I bought 2!

Oktava MD186

When the mics arrived I was immediately reminded of a well-known brand of margarine which has the slogan ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter!’ However, unlike the margarine that wouldn’t fool anyone, these Russian microphones look and sound very similar to their Austrian counterparts. Even the nickel plating appears to be as good as anything found on an AKG. It rapidly became clear that the Oktava MD-186 is not simply a cheap ‘knock off’.  It is a very solid, well-engineered, high quality, professional microphone.

Oktava MD186 Logo Closeup

Oktava MD186 Roll-off switch

Oktava MD186 Frequency Response Graph

Oktava MD186 Frequency Response Graph

So does it really sound anything like the classic AKG D224 ?  

Below are links to 3 very different sample recordings:-

CLICK HERE for Voice recording comparing an AKGD224 and the Oktava MD-186.

CLICK HERE for  Clarinet recorded on the MD-186

CLICK HERE for Live recording of Guitar and Cajon on MD-186 x2 

My two MD-186s are from the tail end of the Soviet era (1989 & 1990) when Oktava was still wholly owned by the Russian State. Although manufactured around a year apart they sound identical to one another. So much so that I would  not hesitate to use them as a stereo pair.

In Conclusion.

Looking on Oktava’s Russian website I was excited to find that the MD-186 appears to be still in production!    

 http://www.en.oktavatula.ru/production/dynamic_mic/

  However, upon further investigation I can find no retail outlet actually selling them! It has been suggested to me that maybe they are only on sale to Russian TV and Radio Stations.  Or it could be that they are no longer manufactured and Oktava simply haven’t updated this web page on their Russian site! Whatever the explanation it seems a great pity that these classic dual element dynamic microphones are no longer available from Oktava………… or AKG !

BBC Engineer Recommends ORTF!

Some years ago a colleague of mine was given a useful piece of advice by an elderly ex- BBC engineer…….. When preparing to record an orchestral concert, if setup time is in short supply, the simplest and safest choice of microphone assembly is an ORTF pair, which can be guaranteed to give good results in almost any situation.

Recently I have had cause to test this theory, with only a 15 minute ‘window’ in which to set up mics and no proper sound check!!

Oktava MK012s set as ORTF pair ready to go on a tall stand behind the conductor.

Viewed upside down,Oktava MK012 cardioids set as ORTF pair ready to go on a tall stand behind the conductor, angled downwards to point towards the woodwind.

And so……………. was our old chum from the BBC right?

Here is a clip from the concert.