M-Audio Sputnik Vacuum Tube Condenser Microphone

M-Audio Updated: 2008-11-11 RSS
M-Audio Sputnik Vacuum Tube Condenser Microphone

M-Audio's Sputnik mic signals the end of microphone envy. Based on a classic vacuum tube design and manufactured in state-of-the-art facilities to exacting standards, this multi-pattern, large diaphragm studio condenser delivers the lush, classic sound normally associated with rare and expensive vintage mics like the U47 and C12. Sputnik's combination of a hand-picked military-grade vacuum tube, ultrasensitive evaporated gold Mylar diaphragm, solid brass construction, and multiple polar patterns makes it ideal for a wide variety of voices, instruments, and applications.


3-micron, evaporated-gold Mylar diaphragm
new old stock 6205M vacuum tube
cardioid, figure-8, and omni polar patterns
-10dB (attenuation) pad
80Hz 2nd-order high-pass filter
solid brass body with polished nickel finish
dedicated power supply with included 7-pin cable
professional shockmount
soft cloth bag
custom flight case

Signature Sound
Great sounding vocals and other acoustic tracks start with the microphone itself. Building on years of expertise, our engineering team conducted exhaustive research into this phenomenon and established just what gives the top high-end studio condensers their ineffable qualities. Then they distilled the best characteristics of these classic vacuum tube designs into one extraordinary mic with M-Audio's trademark value pricing. In fact many listening test participants feel that the Sputnik mic exhibits the praised throaty lows and low-mids of the Neumann U47 along with the upper-mids and open airy highs of the AKG C12—making it ideal for faithfully capturing a wide variety of sources including male and female vocals.

Built for the Pros
When tweaking the Sputnik mic's capsule and circuitry, we worked closely with top L.A. recording engineers and producers to make sure we hit the proverbial nail squarely on the head. These are professionals who have some of the world's finest vintage mics at their disposal. And in final side-by-side listening tests, these same pros agreed that Sputnik performed flawlessly for the most critical recording situations.

More Than Just a Great Vocal Mic
Many microphones are best used for specific applications—which is why most engineers have a more-than-modest investment in a locker full of mics. We spent many engineering hours working to insure that Sputnik would provide excellent results in a wide variety of situations: Vocals have that signature sound. Saxophones are both throaty and silky. Pianos and acoustic guitar are clear and full-bodied. Brass and woodwinds are realistic. And hand percussion is tight and crisp. Sputnik allows you to put any instrument in the spotlight—and selectable cardioid, omni, and figure-8 patterns give it the flexibility to be your ultimate secret weapon in the studio.

Optimized Electronics
Sputnik's Class A amplifier circuit is an all-discrete transconductance design based on thermionic studies by researchers at Harvard and the American Institute of Physics. The amp uses a classic cascode circuit to increase the gain-bandwidth product and eliminate the effects of parasitic capacitances, giving the system a wide frequency response. The resulting high output impedance makes the mic very tolerant of load conditions (it's in the meg-ohm range so it acts like a perfect current source). And while the tube does all the heavy lifting, Sputnik's head amp employs an n-channel depletion-mode JFET for biasing so you don't get all the nasty artifacts like hum and crackle common to tube-only designs. In essence, the Sputnik's tube circuitry delivers ultra-smooth harmonic detail and rapid response to signals with fast rise/fall times, thereby eliminating transient problems. The amp is quite linear and features graceful overload characteristics and an enormous dynamic range due to high-voltage operation. These qualities simply cannot be achieved with a standard transistor amplifier or one of the more common Class A tube designs.

Solid Brass Backplate
Condenser mic design is based on the changing capacitance between the moving diaphragm and fixed backplate. Where many of today's microphones cut corners with a metallized plastic backplate, the Sputnik features a precision-machined, solid brass backplate that yields much greater crucial rigidity, precise tolerances and faithful sonic reproduction. We use a dual backplate design similar to the one that lends the AKG C12 its trademark open, airy quality. We also tune the backplate for optimal on- and off-axis frequency and pickup response and pattern symmetry.

Vintage Tube Warmth
The Sputnik mic's military-grade 6205M vacuum tube is a diminutive pentode wired as a triode; the output behavior is like that of a perfect current source so it's tolerant of a wide range of load conditions. The tube operates at high voltages—allowing an enormous dynamic range—but with less heat dissipation than other designs. As a result, you can easily hang this mic upside down or use it upright without having to worry about overheating the capsule.

We've also mounted the tube itself upside down to facilitate shorter connections that, in turn, make for more controlled impedance and less stray capacitance—a design trait shared by German mics like the revered Telefunken 251. The Sputnik also employs a socketless design eliminating the potential for impedance mismatch, signal deterioration and contact corrosion. What about changing tubes on the fly, you say? Research shows that tubes go bad within the first 10 hours of use. We hand-pick military-grade tubes to ensure the highest specs, consistency and reliability, then burn them in for a week so you don't have to worry about changing tubes in the first place.

Beauty is More Than Skin Deep
Sure, the Sputnik mic's space-age "lollipop" design is cool, but it's truly functional as well. It minimizes diffraction from the body, resulting in superior off-axis response. And the body itself is durable solid brass with an attractive polished nickel finish. Sputnik delivers in both performance and looks.

Close Tolerance for Matched Sets
Sputnik mics are manufactured with a close tolerance of ±1.5dB across the entire frequency range. This means that any two or more Sputnik mics you buy qualify as a matched set for stereo recording.

3-micron Evaporated Gold Diaphragm
A microphone's ability to capture detail owes primarily to the thinness and uniformity of its diaphragm. Sputnik's durable mylar diaphragm is an impressive 3 microns thin—a spec that carries a much higher price tag in most other mics. We also use a high-precision evaporated 24-karat gold process to coat it for conductivity—which yields a much more uniform result than the sputtered gold or sprayed-on processes used in many other mics. Here, too, this delivers higher precision and tolerance within and between Sputnik mics. The specs on Sputnik's diaphragm and backplate are only possible using computer-controlled manufacturing processes in a state-of-the-art facility.

Everything Included
With the Sputnik mic, you'll be up and running as soon as you open the box. Each mic includes a professional shockmount, dedicated power supply, 7-pin mic cable, grounded IEC power supply, soft cloth bag and a custom flight case. All you need to do is plug it in and open up a channel.

Custom Power Supply Delivers 200-Foot Cable Runs
The Sputnik's power supply features a sophisticated circuit designed to ensure optimal performance of the mic and audio signal path. It also features a voltage ramp-up when powered on in order to further extend tube life. As an added bonus, an automatic load-sensing circuit compensates for varying transmission line impedances, allowing you to run cables as long as 200 feet.