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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Oktava MK-012

You'll be Russian to buy the Oktava MK-012 small condensers

Have you heard about the Oktava MK-012? It's the Russian small condenser microphone that gets a lot of word-of-mouth publicity for being a good value in instrument condensers. The official Oktava website refers to the mic as the MK-012. These mics, when matched properly, are a good addition to any project studio.

The MK-012 is rated at 130dB max SPL in the 250-8000Hz range @ less than 0.5% THD. Standard 48v phantom power is required. The mic weighs in at 70 grams, is roughly 0.75 inch in diameter and 4.25 inches in length without the -10db pad (the pad is about 0.75 inches long and screws on between the mic body and the capsule). The included clips are a sprung metal retaining clip that does an adequate job of holding the mic in place. It looks crude but cool, and gives the mic a different vibe in my opinion. In essence, it looks Russian to me.

In use, the Oktava MK-012 is extremely handy for everything you need in a small diameter condensor mic in the studio.

On acoustic guitar, the MK-012 captures a very nice overall sound. Fingerpicked playing comes across with good attack and ring. The woody sound of the guitar comes across very well too. The mic didn't mind me slapping the guitar around a bit. Transients make it through the mic quite nicely on acoustic guitar. The low-end response can crap out when close mic'ing so careful positioning is necessary. Once I found the sweet spot it was downright beautiful. All the smack and pluck is very nicely reproduced. You've got to hear these mics on acoustic guitar.

On drum overheads, the mic proved to be equally useful. Cymbals are full sounding but not overly bright, and the attack of the drums comes across very well. I love the way the ring comes across from my Arbiter snare with the MK012s. Toms have a well-rounded sound as well, with useable low end. Hi-hat came across very nicely as well, with good cut. I will be using these mics more as drum overheads, the sound is quite pleasing. X/Y pattern gave good imaging and an accurate sense of space.

On vocals, the MK-012 can surprise you. In a blind listening test or two, this mic has surprised some of the golden ear crowd on how well it can translate the human voice. However, forget about it for vocals unless you've got a quality popfilter such as a Stedman PS101. The MK-012, when unprotected, cannot handle a "P" for anything and will totally crap out on you. So, don't even consider using it for studio vocal mic'ing unless you put Stedman PS101 or other quality popfilter in front of the mic.

The mic requires a fair amount of gain compared to some other small condensers I've had around the studio. I like a mic that requires more gain for overhead application. Quite often, I find that a loud drummer (aka me) can overload mics at minimal gain settings. The MK-012 never required cranking the preamps. It just needed more gain.

The -10db pad proved to add nothing noticeable to the sound to my ears. The pad seemed to be very clean. But, between loud drums, close mic'd acoustic guitar and vocal tests the pad was was never necessary.

The Bottom Line: This little Russian mics is a strong performer and should be seriously considered by any studio. You must be careful when positioning on acoustic guitar, but once you're there it's smooth sailing. Many folks look to small diaphragm condensors for overhead and acoustic guitar recording. For them, the Oktava MK-012 is their ticket to ride. Recommended.

--Warren Dent


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