Picking up the RE20 for the first time the expression ‘built like a tank’ immediately springs to mind. Weighing in at 1lb 10oz everything about this microphone is heavy and solid. Able to operate in conditions of extreme temperature and humidity the RE20 can also handle pretty much unlimited SPL. If I was commissioned to record an erupting volcano, or maybe a nuclear explosion from close quarters this is the microphone I would choose! In addition it also has a wide, flat frequency response, uniform cardioid polar pattern and excellent transient response all of which allows the RE20 to compete with the very best of studio condensers.
Here below is the manufacturer’s Technical Data and Service Sheet for the RE20
Short History Lesson.
At the tail end of the 1950’s Lou Burroughs, co-founder of Electro-Voice announced that the company was to move away from the manufacture of condensers and ribbons and concentrate on producing dynamic microphones. He believed that condensers and ribbons were too fragile and temperamental and that dynamic microphones were superior in every way. He declared ‘These are the microphones of the future’.
Throughout the 1960’s Electro-Voice developed a series of quality dynamic microphones based on their famous Variable-D design, starting with the EV664 ‘The Buchanan Hammer’ and culminating in 1968 in the now legendary RE20. The advertising clip below for the EV666 illustrates how the Variable-D design uses phase cancellation to reduce unwanted pickup from the rear of the microphone and thereby ‘create a uniform cardioid pattern at all frequencies.’ The most obvious practical advantage is that ‘proximity effect’ is pretty much eliminated. This allows the user to address the microphone from very close quarters without any unnatural rise in bass frequencies.
Right from the start the RE20 proved to be an enormous hit with radio stations, recording studios, PA companies and performers. The RE20 was used for lead vocal on two albums by Stevie Wonder, ‘Talking Book’ in 1972 and ‘Innervisions’ 1973. Producer Robert Margouleff said that the RE20 helped achieve a “close, intimate sound”. Tracks such as ‘Superstition’ and ‘You Are the Sunshine of My Life’ are outstanding classics of popular music.
Impervious to Popping.
Another important feature of the RE20 worth mentioning here is the internal ‘pop’ filter. Every entrance to this mic is protected by a barrier of thick foam. I can think of no other microphone like it! For singers, actors and broadcasters who are prone to ‘popping’ or sibilance the RE20 is the solution to the problem. Even from a distance of ½ an inch it is almost impossible to make it ‘pop’!
Soooo…. In Conclusion.
Apart from close up recordings of plosive tongue twisters what else is the RE20 good for? Over the years it has been used for many things. Apart from broadcasting and vocals it has gained a considerable reputation on kick drum, guitar (electric and acoustic) bass (electric and upright) and brass instruments of all shapes and sizes. To be honest it is one of those very rare microphones that will sound great on almost anything!