Elation KM 201 specifications
ELATION KM 201 - Studio Sound review. July 1997. Vol39 No7
The Russian mic must now offer more than military styling and an indecipherable manual. Dave Foister approaches a new one.
THE RUSSIAN MICROPHONE industry is becoming a major force in the market. I imagine many Western companies would give their R&D budgets to achieve the kind of impact and growth the Russian manufacturers have managed. The novelty may have worn off, but in the cold light of day the microphones still look good, and have genuinely expanded our choices.
A new offering like the Elation KM 201 has therefore, perhaps lost the advantage of the early arrivals in that it is no longer a curiosity. Now we must approach it without surprise, and without being patronising, expecting it to perform to professional standards and to stand up to established competition in itís own right. Commendably, it emerges unscathed from the scrutiny; like many of the Russian models, this microphone would be impressive whatever itís origins.
The Elation is a modular system; one slim preamplifier body accommodates a variety of different capsules offering a range of polar patterns. The standard kit has the body plus three heads in a classy oak box, the superior finish of the exterior promising much from itís contents.
The capsules fix to the body by means of screw threads and these score over some other such systems in being far less delicate. Some microphones of this type seem more inclined to mate cross-threaded than properly aligned, resulting all too often in the uncomfortable nerve-jangling mangling of soft metal and the eventual stripping of the threads. The Elation heads line up positively and the broader threads lock down securely first time. The capsules themselves are little bigger than on some systems with a reassuring chunkiness and particularly clear engraving of the associated polar pattern.
The three capsules supplied with the kit cover the expected trio of cardioid, hypercardioid and omni, and because of the apparent robustness of the components, changing them round during a session is a far more practical proposition than it is with some systems. Swapping the heads is in fact the only adjustment possible on the KM 201; it has no filters and no pad, claiming an impressively high SPL handling capability combined with low noise. The only other item supplied in the kit is a basic plastic stand clip, complete with thread adaptor, which although looks cheap and cheerful, almost is if it was not actually designed for this microphone, grips the body well and supports the weight without drooping.
So far the impression throughout (with the possible exception of the clip) is of quality and good design. Happily this also extends to the performance of the microphone, which exceeds the expectations. This is undoubtably a good general purpose workhorse but in many situations it can be more than that.
Used on individual instruments within a horn section, the kind of role a microphone like this is likely to be playing a lot of itís time, gave more than the routine material, with an extra bite that I put down to extension of frequency response rather than lumps and bumps in it. Confronted with the kind of awkward oddities I get presented with on a regular basis, like bass clarinet, it continued to deliver the goods with a completeness to both ends of the spectrum that left the easily-compromised sound intact. It surprised on vocals , with either the cardioid or hypercardioid head in place; any expectations of a small sound in proportion to the size of the microphone itself were confounded by a big, full delivery coupled with a good resistance to popping. Itís never going to replace any of the big classics as anyoneís favourite vocal microphone, but itís certainly capable of doing the job.
Determined to test both dynamic extremes, I fitted the omni head and stuck it inside a kick drum for some overdubs, expecting to have to rescue it once Iíd heard the resulting mess and replace it with something more suitable. Amazingly it produced a particularly clear result with itís lack of proximity effect helping to avoid muddiness. The punch of the drum was tangible, and there was no indication that the microphone was struggling in any way.
I was provided with a pair of 201s, so was able to try various stereo setups as well as individual instrument miking. Spaced omnis worked particularly well, as drum overheads (still no headroom problems) or for orchestral section pickup. I also used them on a grand piano with impressive results.
Everyone now acknowledges that there are cheaper alternatives to many of the established microphones, models that deliver the required sonic performance at a fraction of the cost. Some have their trade-offs, most commonly a build quality that doesnít inspire confidence in their ability to withstand the rigours of the studio for years; the Elations seem to suffer from no such drawbacks and can be wholeheartedly recommended.