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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Josephson Engineering C42

Josephson Engineering C42 mic hears the detail in instruments

The Josephson Engineering C42 is regarded by many as the entry point for a professional quality small diaphragm condensor mic. It has been compared favorably to such mics as the Neumann KM184, which retails for a substantially higher price than the C42. This is an exciting product for many because, if it lives up to the hype, it brings a professional small condenser within monetary reach of the project studio owner or hobbyist. Since I could find very few bad comments about this mic on the internet, and dozens of good comments, I decided to take a chance and order a pair. I'm glad I did, because I consider it one of the best mics I own.

While these mics are not the perfect fit for every source, they have shined on what I bought them for (acoustic guitar, drum overheads, and hand percussion), and do a good job on almost everything else I've tried them on. These mics are very detailed, very quiet, very sweet sounding, and a little on the bright side, though I never found them grating or harsh sounding.

The C42 is fairly small, about 3.75" X .75". They can be purchased singly for $399 or in matched pairs for $899. The singles are a silver color and the matched pairs are black.

I bought two singles rather than a matched pair, because the small differences between individual mics were not enough to warrant the extra $100 for the matched pair for what I do in my studio. These mics are cardioid only and don't come with a pad. Josephson does offer a version of the C42 designed specifically for high SPL sources, but I tested the standard version on such loud sources as snare and drum overhead, and I experienced no problems with excessive levels or clipping.

I have used these mics quite a bit over the past few months on sources ranging from tamborine to vocals. Since I bought these mics primarily for acoustic guitar, I tested them out on that source first, both in mono and in stereo. In my opinion, the results were great and better than anything I had gotten in the past. These tracks had enough sparkle on the high notes to cut through a busy mix, without ever being harsh, and the low end was accurate, focused, and pleasant sounding. I recorded stereo tracks using an X-Y mic'ing placement, and the level of realism and detail in the track was something new to me, as I had never used an instrument mic of this quality before. I have cut some really gorgeous acoustic tracks and that alone is worth the price of admission.

In one session, I recorded several tracks of hand percussion, including tamborine, one of those lemon-shaped shakers, cabasa, and cowbell. In each case, these tracks were part of a busy mix, and the C42's high-end detail really helped them cut through. I felt they were perfect for the songs I was working on that day, but they may not be in situations where you need a more subdued sound. I know of many engineers that like ribbon mics or Earthworks omnis on hand percussion, and this sound was pretty far removed from that. However, I personally think the C42 did a great job on hand percussion.

I also had the chance to cut some drum tracks with this mic, including drum overheads and snare. On snare, I wasn't too thrilled with it. Since it lacks the natural compression that you can get with a dynamic mic. The initial transient crack of each snare hit passed too quickly, leaving only the body of the snare track. Since I use snare tracks primarily to represent that crack, I would probably never reach for the C42 on snare. Drum overheads are a different story altogether. Before I got these mics, my primary drum overhead mics were Oktava MC012s. The Josephsons are a definite step above the Oktavas. The snare cracks with the Josephsons, but only thuds with the Oktavas. Cymbals sound amazingly detailed and real with the Josephsons (every ping of the ride cymbal comes through distinctly) while the Oktava track had a slightly smeared cymbal sound. Don't get me wrong. The Oktavas are great mics at their price level, and for certain kits with overly bright cymbals I would probably prefer the Oktavas.

So, in the end, I agree with the assesment that the C42 represents a great initial step into the world of professional level instrument microphones. They were not perfect on every source, but what mic is? All I know is that for the sources that I bought the mic for the C42 is a significant step up from what I've used in the past.

The Bottom Line: The C42 hears the detail in instrument sounds. It competes favorably in price and truly is an all around microphone. Highly recommended.

--Jeremy Jensen

Josephson Engineering

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