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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Bock Audio 195

Bock Audio 195 lays down 'fat' sound

When I went on my quest for my first top-end large condenser microphone, I wanted the most versatile mic I could get my hands on. I also wanted a mic that would not become yesterday's flavor. I wanted something that would stand the test of time. My budget: Approximately $1,200. Acquaintances consistently recommended the Bock Audio 195.

My 195 came with a doughnut shockmount and the typical expensive mic wooden box with the cheesy cherry finish. I quickly put the 195 to work tracking male vocals and have been getting results that sit very well in the mix without needing any EQ. I've used it on acoustic stringed instruments of all types: Six and 12 string guitars as well as mountain and hammered dulcimers. I've even tracked a tin whistle through the 195. It's also been used to record various percussion with great success: Conga, bongos, maracas, and doumbek.

No matter what the source, I find the sound to be dense and meaty with highs that are crisp but smooth, and lows that are full but not muddy. I tend to use it for tracks that I want stand out in a mix. In comparison to mics I am familiar with, such as the Shure SM81 or CAD E series, the 195 possesses incredible depth and dimension that captures much more of the source. The "fat" switch boosts the low ends and makes things a tad darker. I engaged it while tracking kick drum. I found the sound to be everything I want a kick drum to sound like but never achieved recording at home before. The fat switch gives the mic two flavors: Normal gives a modern flat with slightly hyped highs while fat adds a darker low end.

I now find myself playing with ideas on the tracks recorded with the 195 rather than anticipating what will need to be fixed. It's freeing me to be more creative.

Bottom Line: It's versatile as it's very good mic on a variety of sources. It's like having two mics in one with the "fat" switch. Highly recommended.

--T. Alan Smith

Bock Audio 195: I just don't get it

The Bock Audio 195 has achieved a sort of mythical status in its life span. Most of this comes from word of mouth buzz via online forums. The 195 has particularly found a home as a both a workhorse and a front-line LDC mic for smaller project studios.

Just for a point of reference, the music I do is probably more pop, jazz, or light rock oriented. I am a singer so vocals are a HUGE issue for me and I also do a lot of VO. So judge these comments with that it mind.

I have owned the 195 on two occasions. I originally bought it based on a number of recommendations from some highly respected individuals. I originally sold my first one after about a year because I was searching for that perfect sound and thought I needed to try other mics before I settled down on any one in particular. Well, that and I had an opportunity to make some money on the sale. A lot of things changed after I sold that one like room, monitors, acoustic treatment, etc. You know; little things (insert sarcasm). I bought a second one looking for the signature sound I remembered about the first 195. There was and is just something about that sound that just sucks me in for better or for worse. However, I recently sold that one as well because I desperately needed some other gear and it was being used less than some other mics.

The 195 does have a fair amount of coloration. By that I mean I found that it leaves a significant sonic footprint behind as you begin to stack tracks. In general, I would say that the 195 had a sizeable amount of “air” and could really bring the low end via the integrated FAT switch. Sounds like the perfect LDC so far. But for my tastes, the low end was a little more loose than I prefer and could really build up quick (as low end can easily do). The high end was reminiscent of that classic “Neumann” sound but anytime I would cut the bass to prevent build up, I thought the high end got kind of scratchy. However, I found putting it through my Hamptone tube pre smoothed the high end nicely and let me roll the bass as needed.

I also found that on vocals I liked the sound very close up but not so much when backed off. This also brings up another negative which is that I had problems with plosives at that close distance. I generally use a Stedman screen which works quite well for retaining the high end while knocking down most pops but it does let some through and the 195 was not very forgiving.

While I’m on the negative bandwagon, I never was able to get a good grasp on the off-axis sound of the 195. I just never found a sound I liked off axis and it seemed to vary widely based on placement.

One more thing, I don’t like the shock-mount either. Every time I would thread it on to the mic stand it felt like it was galling the threads. I kept checking to see if I was doing it wrong but I never did find anything. Mine was also welded a little crooked so it always looked funny hanging from the boom. Little stuff, I know; but refinement is always nice.

I know I sound horribly down on the 195 but I don’t mean to be. It’s always easier to bring up what is wrong and I think that is what is happening here. On the positive side, this thing has some serious mojo. Every time I put it up there was just something about the sound that said “Yeah, baby!” In fact, it was that sound that prompted me to give it a second try. I particularly loved what it did to rhythm acoustic guitar.

I really wanted to like the 195. It feels good to have a mic that has the stellar reputation the 195 enjoys and I kept thinking maybe I was wrong. In the end though, I found more often than not I was unable to get the sound I was hearing in my mind with the 195.

Who knows? Given my track record I could have another 195 in six months.

--Jason Aldrich

Bock Audio Designs

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