Chinese Mic VS German Gefell
What are they like and are they as good as a US$2500 mic ?
Recently I had the pleasure of taking home a hand made german Gefell US$2500 mic and a Chinese copy mic home to compare. I wont name the Chinese mic, the reason being that the same mic is made in the same factory and copied in other factories under different brands. Naming 1 or 5 of these brands would be unfair to those brands. I will name the Gefell simply for the reason as I could not fault the mic and this article wont hurt the name Gefell. After reading online reviews, hearing lots of sales people and owners of this mic rave about its sound. I wanted to put these claims to the test to find out if they really are as good and/or better than a Neumann mic as some people are claiming. Unfortuantely I did not have acess to a Nuemann u87 but I did have a mic which was just as good as Gefell was once part of Neumann before the company was split up and sold to Sennheiser. Theres more on the ties between Gefell and Neumann on thier web site.
The Gefell mic tested was the one at this link.
Overview of test
Both the Gefell and the Chinese mics looked very similar. Both were valve mics, and both had a very similar looking power supply with multiple switchable patterns on the supply. The test was done through all monster cable and a mindprint dtc preamp. The test was very simple, record both mics with nothing changing other than the mic.
What did they sound like ? Well At first there was little difference between the two mics, they both sounded great. Warm detailed and had nice natural compression due to the valve. The Gefell had a much faster transient response after listening closer and a smoother top end. Every little lip movement I made was picked up, as I switched the Gefell away from omni it did loose this extra top end ever so slightly which was not due to the top end changing but the increased proximity effect. Other wise the quality of the two mics sounded very very similar and for a homestudio I found it hard to justify the price difference...
That was until I looked/listened even deeper which most people testing a microphone side by side in a store would most likely not do. To test the mics patterns I wanted to hold the mic in my hands and rotate the mic whilst speaking at the same level and distance from the mic, this was to test the different pick up patterns. Straight away I noticed that the Gefell had next to no handling noise, the capsule is shock mounted meaning when in the spider shock mount there's no mechanical connections to the room as the mic has essentially two forms of shock mounting for the vibrations to overcome. This was a huge difference as the chinese mic boomed with the slightest movement. When in the shock mount the chinese mic was fine however the rejection of the gefell is worth mentioning.
Listening to the polar patterns I noticed that the frequency response of the Gefell in omni was perfect, all the way around the mic the freq. response was the same with only small treble deviations of less than -3db on the sides, next to no change at all in the sound. The Chinese mic was all over the place, the only thing which stayed similar was the output level but the top end suffered heaps around the mic. The same went for cardiod and when I tested the figure 8 pattern the biggest differences between the mics were shown clearly. The Gefell's figure 8 was perfect, the response was exactly like a figure 8. Speaking at the sides of the mic was about -30 / 40db lower than the front and rear with both front and rear sounding the same. I was blown away by how smooth and perfect the pattern was, smooth tapering of the sound as you moved around the mic. The Chinese mic's figure 8 shape I almost wouldn't call it figure 8 after using the Gefell, talking on the sides was around -10db down and the pattern was very unsmooth. Not to mention the freq. response changes as you moved around the mic.
For room micing or classical recordings where you want a good room sound captured, this is a huge weakness of the chinese mic. Even in cariod pattern the mics frequency response changed greatly around the polar pattern, the gefell showed an even response which explains why these mics are valued greatly by classical recording engineers.
To summarize what the difference's are...
All of these points made me reconsider why I was looking for another mic. Did I want a cheap Chinese mic that sounds great only on axis but is similar to the other fixed cardiod Chinese mics I already own. Or did I want a mic with a useable figure 8 pattern and a smooth omni pattern ? Yes I would consider a fixed cardiod Chinese mic if I was starting out and wanting a quality mic on a budget. But after a few mics in the collection then a good figure 8 is what you may want.
If your looking at buying a Chinese mic make sure you hear what it sounds like on and off axis and check that it really is as good as other mics that cost more and that it fits what your wanting to purchase.
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