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Hands On – Quality Microphones (part 5)

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Sanken CU-41

Strange as it may seem, some microphones are not made in Austria and Germany.
The Sanken CU-41 comes from the land of the rising synthesiser and is one of
the most expensive mics around at a list price of around £2360. Introduced
in 1983, the CU-41 is already well established and the price is, in terms of
what you get for your money, quite justifiable. So what, you may ask, do you
get from this mic that you don’t get from a Neumann U87, AKG C414 or Beyer
MC740 at half the price?


You’ll know as soon as you pick up this mic that you are handling a precision
instrument. I would say that it oozes quality like an expensive Swiss watch
if it wasn’t for the fact that the comparison would be better made the
other way round. Apart from exceptional build quality, what this microphone
has that others don’t is an extra diaphragm. One diaphragm handles low
frequencies and the other smaller diaphragm handles the highs. It’s a bit
like a loudspeaker in reverse where you find a large woofer and a tiny tweeter,
linked together via a frequency dividing network, or crossover. In most microphones
the response has been optimised for on-axis pickup, which usually means in effect
that the frequency response at angles other than 90 degrees to the mic’s
‘line of fire’ is rather less than flat, sometimes markedly so. The
response of the CU-41 is practically flat from 125Hz to 12.5kHz from the front
all the way round the side as far as 120 degrees. This is a remarkable achievement
which gives the CU-41 a incredibly solid sound which really comes into its own
when you use two CU-41s (and to hell with the expense!) as a stereo pair. As
part of its ‘no-compromise’ design, the Sanken CU-41 is cardioid only,
with no attenuator and no filter. It is quite sensitive to mechanical noise
and Sanken recommend using the S-41 shock absorbing stand adaptor.

David Mellor

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David Mellor