JZ Microphones – A Review
Recently I had the great opportunity to try out some new mics. This time around I got to test out JZ Microphones for a few weeks. Thanks Kate! Each JZ mic is hand crafted in Riga, Latvia. And when I say handcrafted, I mean it, every component is meticulously hand-soldered. This isn’t your Chinese-made condenser. This is the real deal.
The first mic I wanted to try out was the Vintage 47. In a similar analogy, just like the Blue Mouse (the original black one with the killer transformer) sounds remarkably similar to the Neumann U47 FET, the JZ Vintage 47 sounds remarkably similar, as well. Insanely accurate and smooth reproductions of bass frequencies and a top sheen that sounds gentle and bright with out being brash and overhyped in the upper highs like many of the more popular chinese-made condensers. This mic shined on vocals, bass guitar, cello and snare drum. The Vintage 47 is an electrostatic pressure gradient fixed carioid pattern mic. Maximum SPL is 134dB so you are more than welcome to try this on kick drum, just like the U47.
The Vintage 67 is supposed to be an echo of the Neumann U67 which is a tube mic. While I enjoyed the detail and precision of this mic, I didn’t find it sounding much like a U67. Possibly because the circuitry is vastly different and the Vintage 67 didn’t have a Telefunken EF86 tube inside.
The staple of JZ mics is their Black Hole series. They say that having the hole in the mic reduces intermodulation distortion and reflections. Either way, they look really interesting and is certainly a good conversation starter as you are mic’ing up a band. The Black Hole BH1 is a great sounding, well-made mic. It has three polar patterns to work with: Omni / Cardioid / Figure – 8. There is also a pad. I used this mic for vocals and it stood up nicely amongst my other mics. It certainly has a usable sound and given the right circumstance this mic can really shine with the right vocalist. It was also used for electric guitars, a mono drum overhead and on a banjo. All gave wonderful open-sounding results.
And next to Vintage 47, my favorite JZ mic was the in the Bat BT201. These mics offer removable and interchangeable capsules (small diaphragm condensers) which are magnetically held in. It’s pretty innovative as screwing in new capsules while isn’t intensely time consuming, does add up – especially when you are trying to capture a moment. Changing a capsule with the Bat series mic took no longer than 4 seconds. The capsules offered are the omni, wide cardioid and -20dB padded down wide cardioid. I loved the omni and the wide cardioid. I used a pair as overheads for an incredible drummer and they shined. Added the perfect top to a drum kit. It certainly complemented the Shure SM81. I liked the extra breath and wideness of the polar pattern. The SM81 definitely sounded more boxed in than the Bat BT201. I also enjoyed using the omni capsule for acoustic guitar. The bizarre thing that happened was the mic still passed signal even with out a capsule. Could the signal have arced? Either way, any mic that can record with out a capsule is something to try out!
I also had the opportunity to try out the rate Bat BT301. Certainly all the JZ mics are unusually designed, but this one was that much more. The 301 was very similar to the 201, but without removable capsules. The 301 offers a fixed cardioid pattern capsule. What’s most interesting about this mic is the 21mm mid-sized capsule making it perfect for acoustic guitar or even violin or viola.
Each mic I tried out from JZ was impeeciably designed and built strong. Juris Zarins, the owner and designer of all the mics really has something to say in a world where everyone and their Mom is designing and manufacturing mics. These mics aren’t cheap and rightfully so. They sound incredible, feel incredible and work incredibly well. My only complaint is that because of their unorthodox shapes the shock mounts that are used are not as easy to use as traditional mounts. But that’s a small aspect that is easily overlooked by the beautiful mic it’s holding up.