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Pro Studio review - 20010

Hebden Sound modular series

Intent on reviving the Calrec microphone heritage, Hebden Sound offers the modular 2000 series. Dave Foister considers his options

SS0200TT01WHILE SOME CREATE new brands of nostalgia, others offer the genuine article. Of all the pieces of equipment in the studio, the ones most likely to be able to trace a long heritage are the microphones, and of those some models will have been in more or less continuous production for decades. This perhaps is the mark of a true classic, that it does its job so well there's no need to replace it or even upgrade it; it can carry on holding its head up despite the onward march of the technology around it.

Although they may not be the first to spring to mind, the Calrec 1000 and 2000 series belong in this category, and earlier this year we had the chance to look at the first of a whole range of revived Calrec models from Hebden Sound. Although, sadly, production of the originals ceased some years ago, Hebden has a good claim to authenticity, being run by ex-Calrec man Keith Ming and being built to a large extent in original Calrec metalwork. The capsules and electronics are all new, but many of the casings are Calrec stock with new badging. At the time of the original review not all of the new range was available, but now we can examine the rest of the modular 2000 series.

The original range was divided into two series. The 1000s were all-in-one fixed pattern microphones, while the 2000s offered the flexibility of modularity at a slightly higher price. Both used identical internal designs, the only difference being the facility to unscrew the 2000 heads and swap them around. This is precisely the arrangement continued by Hebden, and it is the final additions to this range that have now become available.

The 2000 Series has at its heart the CB20C preamplifier body, in itself a similar length to the fixed 1000 series bodies. There is, then, a choice of four capsule heads to select different microphone characteristics, although the choice is not as big as it sounds since there are only two polar patterns on offer. The CC03 is the only non-cardioid, being a simple omni with no variable characteristics at all. The other three are all cardioid. The basic one is the CC50, an unadorned capsule that effectively forms a CM1050C; the CC51 adds a high-pass filter; and the CC56 goes one further by enclosing the diaphragm in a windshielded basket. The 52, 53, 54 and 55 are on an island in an unknown ocean with a flight of Grumman Avengers.

All are supplied as complete units in the familiar soft foam-filled cases, and a noteworthy feature is the unusually robust mechanical construction of the joint between body and capsule. The most common difficulty with modular microphone systems is the fineness and softness of the screw threads that join the two parts together; whether this is felt to be necessary in order to provide adequate electrical contact or screening at the join, or for precise mating of the parts, is never clear, but it often seems far to easy to cross-thread the capsule and cause damage to the soft metal. This is unlikely to be a problem with the 2000 series, as the threads are relatively coarse, locating easily with each other. The centre contact is a much thicker spike than usual, meeting a large sprung plunger in the centre of the body end. The result is a system one feels more than usually comfortable with when changing the heads.

This is useful to know, as in the absence of any switches on the microphone body a head-swap is the only way of introducing a filter. The filter as fitted in the 51 and 56 is subtle yet effective, making little general difference to the sound other than getting rid of the rumbly stuff. It deals well with unwanted proximity effect, and the additional windshield on the 56 makes a worthwhile difference to close plosives, again without compromising the inherent sound. And the sound, once again, is the eye-opener about these microphones.

What the anonymous-looking microphones have always offered is an amazingly complete sound; warm and full for a small diaphragm, but still detailed and open at the top. They are surprisingly neutral, with a precision about them that makes them ideal workhorses for throwing at just about anything. There might be a temptation with microphones in this price range to regard them as the ones to make up the numbers when all the best ones have been chosen, but that would not do justice to the capabilities of the Hebdens. The omni CC03 is the least familiar of the four, and shares the same full open character with an even omni polar pattern. To have this available to attach to an existing body rather than having to buy a dedicated omni is an attractive option.

The heyday of the Calrecs came at a time when low-priced competition for the big names was thin on the ground. That may have changed, but the quality of the Hebden revival models has not. They are still excellent value for money and an asset to any studio.


Hebden Sound, Lee Mount, Cross Lanes, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire HX7 7EW, UK.
Tel: +44 1422 842443.
Fax: +44 1422 846278.
Email: kming@hebdensound.co.uk

US: Fortress Group, 1722-38th Avenue, San Francisco, CA. 94122.
Tel: +1 415 665 6680.
Fax: +1 415 566 0510.
Net: http://www.fortress-group.com/


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