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