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GC is blowin Oktava ML52's out at 200 bucks. Most people seem to be gawking at the 100 for MC012's, but I wanna know bout this one. Anyone used it? Is it worth having around cause it's a ribbon or is the money better in the bank saving for a royer? Does it have that ribbon "warmth" that is so often spoken of? I have a some condensers (rode, oktava, AT) and the regular dynamics. Anyone have much to say?


sapplegate Mon, 09/15/2003 - 17:58

IMO it is definitely worth $200. Whether or not that $200 is better used saving for a Royer, only your budget can decide. (For sure, you won't confuse it for a Royer).

It is a warm mic, with a subtle dip in the upper-mid response and a gently rolled-off high end. It does need a decent mic pre with some low-noise gain to it. Sounds good on horns, great on electric guitars. I think it's a nice color to add to your pallette, and $200 is a really good price. I'd say go for it.

anonymous Mon, 09/15/2003 - 23:36

I'm a big fan of this for the price - very usable, much more fun than their tube mic, and quite a bit more output than many of the vintage ribbons kicking around. If you don't already have a fig-8 mic, this really opens up your stereo options. This is one of my favourites for mid-side micing electric guitars.

anonymous Mon, 09/22/2003 - 08:23

picked up the oktava and hated it. It must have been damaged. Sounded dull, not warm. I expected a low output, but this unit performed badly on acoustic guitar. Close to get the output but far for Proximity effect. Couldnt balance it (my pre's are not the best i admit). I returned it for store credit and bought some nice cables. Oh well, just save for an AEA maybe. Or get some new pre's.

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anonymous Mon, 09/22/2003 - 11:01

loosegravel, guitar center sells the "bad bunch" of oktava mics. That's why people try to sort through several at a time and pick the best, the sound of these mics vary so much because oktava lacks good quality control. Places like The Sound Room ( tests and sorts through Oktava mics and sells the better quality ones. I'm not sure if they sell this particular mic.

KurtFoster Mon, 09/22/2003 - 11:46

I would recommend the Royer, AEA or a Coles over any Oktiva mic any day. In the end, the Royer, AEA or Coles quantify more as an investment with a better chance to recoup some return if you should ever decide to unload it, not to mention that the Coles, AEA's and Royer's are great sounding mics.

I realize that $200 is hard to resist, but IMO all you get for that is unfulfilled promises. At some point you will become disillusioned, put it on the shelf and go purchase something else for more money. Save yourself the time, effort and expense and go for the throat the first time out. It really is the lest expensive way to build a good collection of gear. The name brand stuff always delivers, while cheap stuff is at best iffy. I have spent the past summer checking out many of the more inexpensive mics on the urging of members here. I am still in this process but what I have discovered so far is, that my first reactions to these products was IMO, more or less correct. I have yet to be impressed with any of the Russian or Chinese capsule mics. So far I have found them all to be strident and splattery in the high frequency regions. Not smooth at all. I still have some hope for a couple of the Chinese mics but I reserve judgment until after some sessions that I have scheduled soon. If they prove themselves to be of note, I will let you all know about it. There is no one who would like to see some quality inexpensive mics (and mic pres) on the market more than me. So far, in my judgment, for mics, Audio Technica has been the most successful in achieving this goal. In the pre department, the best values I have discovered have been the Sebatron and the JLM TMP 8. Those Australian guys have this mic pre thing down!

If all you want is a collection of mics that looks cool then by all means go for the budget / low dollar items. But if you want something that really sounds good, stick with the Japanese, European and American products, with the exception of the JLM and Sebatron pres.

bopmachine Tue, 09/23/2003 - 04:46

I've gotta agree with Kurt. Those mics sound terrible. I am a real ribbon fan, and have a nice collection ranging from RCA, Altrec, B&O and coles. That mic doesnt even come close. "Vieled", "dull" and muffeled all come to mind with that mic. BTW they were tried through a viper, which has to be the most ribbon friendly mic pre ever.

If you want a good cheap mic buy a Shure SM57. It will sound better.

anonymous Tue, 09/23/2003 - 09:19

I wasn't gonna get into this but ..... I used the ml52 and royer on a session recently . true the royer was more Hi-Fi but I preferred it on my clients acc guitar to the royer . This mic is going to be useful on some sorces but not on others ( just like any other mike ) .the reply" just buy a 57" is not very fair, it doesnt sound anything like a dynamic mic ,good or bad.
I would recemend getting one . it wont make you a great engineer, but you will have another color in your palette .

I gotta run .....going to guitar center to pick one up.

bopmachine Tue, 09/23/2003 - 22:42

Your right it doesnt sound like a dynamic - good or bad. BUT a dynamic like the 57 or 58 will sound a whole lot better on a whole lot wider range of choices. Of course at the end of the day my opionion doesnt count for much. As people are fond of saying "use your ears". I did and did not buy it.

I really only meant my post to be taken as saying the oktiva doesnt sound like what most people expect from a ribbon mic. I suspect people will buy it for the fact that it is a ribbon, but be dissatisfied with it.

anonymous Thu, 09/25/2003 - 20:26

Originally posted by Kurt Foster:
The name brand stuff always delivers...

Well, I hardly have Kurt's depth and breadth of experience, but I still think "usually delivers" might have been a little safer...

I've used plenty of name-brand products that, how can I put it delicately... sucked. (I'll name names if you insist.)

And there have been many times when a not-so-high-end name has come out with very interesting products. Alesis has certainly come out with it's share of gawd-awful crap, but there are very few preamps out there that I would trade even-up for a VIPRE.

I've gotten some fabulous results with a pair of MC012's. If you can find good ones, they are definitely an incredible bargain compared to what you would pay for KSM184's and c451's. The ones I own are not rotting away on any of my shelves.

I can't comment on the oktava ribbons. Never heard them.

KurtFoster Thu, 09/25/2003 - 21:32

OK White Swan, your point is taken. My statement may have been a bit broad but I still stand by the intent of the comment. Yes, I have heard some Neumann and AKG mics that were gawd awful .. but time honored standards like RCA 44’s / 77’s, U87’s or 414’s are always going to be great. This is what I intended to communicate. I admit that I missed the mark.

The stuff that AKG and Neumann (and others) make that sucks, is primarily being designed and marketed for the budget “prosumer” or “home studio” market, for the people who don’t know any better, who are looking for that “free lunch” I keep mentioning. They are tradeing on the consumers ignorance. But any of the truly pro makes and models of gear are always going to deliver and hold value over a period of time. I will not back down on the concept that great gear rules and all this budget "prosumer" stuff is pretty much crap, no matter how much criticism I receive for saying it. There are some who seem to think I don’t know what I am talking about but I have to say that after reading some of their recommendations and comments I have to assume that they can’t hear very well or are driven by other motivating concerns. I don’t deal in gear or manufacture it. I don’t get paid to say the things I say, as a matter of fact, it sometimes costs me cash to do a review because of shipping charges (not all mfrs. pay for return shipping).

If I ever hear a Russian or Chinese mic that I think sounds good, I will say so (real loud, like I did when I discovered the Sebatron vmp pre amp). Please don’t forget that I was the only reviewer online that would give the Sebatron a shot. Others were too busy trying to knock the product without ever hearing it, saying it possibly couldn’t be any good at the price. It turns out that the thing is absolutely awesome and now everyone is getting on board and all the detractors are eating their words or are mute. So it’s not like I won’t give inexpensive gear a break! Actually, there is no one who would like to see quality affordable tools made available, more than me. Contrary to popular opinion I am not made of money either. As a matter of fact, I am probably on a more restricted budget than most of the people who post here and at other audio BBs, being retired. It is for this reason I encourage people not to waste their money on sub par gear, only to become disappointed and then have to purchase what they should have got in the first place, while being unable to recoup any of their investment in “rack crap” because it isn’t worth squat on the used market. This falls under the heading of, “A bird in the hand, is worth 2 in the bush”.

We constantly get these questions and inquiries where people ask, “What is the best inexpensive mic or pre?” (or any other thing they may be asking about) and then in another post that same day or week, they are asking "How do I get that sound?" Well a large part of the answer is with quality mics, pres and speakers. I just don't think one can cheap out in these departments and achieve acceptable results. I am constantly amazed at people who will spend a small fortune on digital gear, software packages and plug ins that will be useless within a few years at best, but who are reticent to invest in quality transducers and front end that will be a lifetime investment.

Richard Monroe Sat, 09/27/2003 - 06:24

Well, I guess I'm in the middle here. I tend to disagree with Kurt (this is like a motorboat with a terrorist bomb up against an Aegis missle cruiser). I have found the Oktava MK012 to be a damn near world class overhead. I also have gotten stellar results from Studio Projects C-3, C-4, and Oktava MK319, up against some dreadnought class mics, such as C414 and B.L.U.E. Kiwi.
On the other hand- ML52- that's a different story. Taylor Johnson at the Sound Room declined to carry the mic, stating that marketing it would be contrary to his policy of offering fair market value. That's pretty much all I need to know.
In conclusion, I only partially disagree with Kurt. Those MK012's up against Earthworks, Josephson, KM84/KM184, will probably lose when examined critically. That's not the question. The question is- did they *sound good*? I have found Studio Projects C-3 to compare very favorably to a KSM44. Is it an ifet7 or a U87? No. Somebody buy me a U87 for Christmas, please. We all have to draw our own conclusions about what is "good enough" vs. what really does suck. As far as ribbons go, there's alot of evidence that the ML-52 is not the silver bullet.-Richie

KurtFoster Sat, 09/27/2003 - 13:04

I have a p[air of the SP C4s here that Alan Hyatt kindly sent for me to check out. I have done some preliminary tests on them and they seem pretty good! I will be recording some live drums tomorrow and I will be using them with both the cardioid and omni heads on them for overheads, through a pair of Neve / Amek 9098 pres with the eq switched off in order to do a good review of them. From what I have heard from them so far, I have high hopes that the C4s will be a good sd option for those on a budget. At about $400 for a matched pair, with shock mounts and a hard carrying case, these would be a bargain. I will be comparing them to a pair of AKG 460s and vintage 451s. Someday, someone will come up with an inexpensive mic line that really cuts the mustard, I am sure of that. But so far, I haven’t heard it myself. That’s not to say there isn’t something out there, just that I haven’t heard it yet. I keep looking though!

anonymous Sun, 09/28/2003 - 07:25

I have bought some very inexpensive mic's that have really come thru for me ... If someone gave me a choice for the same money , I would go for the more expensive mic's for the simple reason that most more expensive mics are just plain made better , and have better resale value...Another thing that I have learned over the years is something an older gentleman in the industry told me that I NEVER forgot ...He said that you can pay a fair price for a good sounding mic, but it's the big money that you spend OVER the top of a "good" sounding mic, that makes a "GREAT" sounding mic !!...This goes for just about any piece of gear that you buy..That liiiiiiittle additional sound that that makes you go 'oooooooh my ' comes from a higher quality mic is what you pay the biggest part of the cost for..

anonymous Sun, 09/28/2003 - 14:12

Man, I just got a Wollensak consumer level reel to reel tape machine from a thrift store for 5 bucks. The thing is old as dirt and came with a nifty mic. I post this here because the mic had amazing character. The only positive thing I found in the russian ribbon was an old time-y sound. But some carbon mic thrift store relic gave me more USEIBLE character.

anonymous Sat, 10/04/2003 - 12:49

While i think there are alot of faults with the ML52, i'll only impart a quick story. I decided to try this mic on a vocal one day. Male artist, needed some low end help with his voice.
I put aside my Sony C800G which i LOVE LOVE LOVE, and plugged in my $200 ML52 thru a 737 and a Lang PEQ2 into a rosetta and final the 888.
After LOADS of high frequency EQ to put back what the mic wouldnt give me, as well as some de essing, the end result was what i would call a fabulous vocal sound. Now the C800G would have started me one hell of a lot closer to a great vocal sound, in my opinion, the ML52 came thru in the end. I really dont care what amount of processing i had to do to it, the low end presence that it gave this singer was wonderful.
just some food for thought.
Now i will say it sounds terrible on most things, and needs a load of processing in general, and the output gain is pitiful, but, i was shocked at how good i got it to sound on a lead vocal. take that for what its worth.
Full Time Dreamer

Richard Monroe Sat, 10/11/2003 - 04:43

Well, I guess I have to eat my words, here, a little. I picked up an ML-52 last night at GC for $175. At the price point, I habd to hear it myself, figuring if it really sucked, I'd return it. Now, I have 0 experience with Royer, RCA, et al., but I've got a few mics in the cabinet. Up to now, this project studio's main vocal mics are B.L.U.E. Kiwi, Shure KSM44, Rode NTK, AKG C414B-ULS/C2000B/D320B, Oktava MK319, Studio Projects C-3. With the exception of the Kiwi, these aren't dreadnought class vocal mics, but it isn't exactly Radio Shack, either.
Initial impressions of the ML52- It's smooth, and dark, not unlike it's cousin, the MK319. My wife described it as warm and soft. I'm not a technogeek, so I won't wow you with descriptions about scooped midranges, etc. All I can say, is that with the mics I listed above in the cabinet, this mic is going to spend a lot of time on the stand.
BTW, initial tests were done with an Avalon AD2022, and it sounded better on my voice than any of the mics listed above, with the exception of the Kiwi, which just sounds different. The Kiwi reproduces a whole lot of detail, which is good on some material, and not so good on other pieces. The NTK airbrushes a lot of that detail away, but can also be harsh, especially in the midrange. The ML52 has more pronounced proximity than either of the above (duh-ribbon/figure of 8, etc.) and scrubs off some of the highs without messing with mid range/intelligibility too much. I'm guessing it will rock on my friend Carolyn, a particularly strident mezzo soprano. Is it worth $175 to me? Hell yes!-Richie

anonymous Mon, 10/20/2003 - 16:01

I just picked one up too. I bought solely for the recording of electric guitar. I've been testing the hell out this mic for a couple days now, as I have a variety of amps around. So far, I am very stoked. It does a great job "smoothing" the frequency response of edgy amps(i.e. vibro-champs, silvertones) and it doesn't dull smoother amps(i.e. Bandmasters, Marshalls).

It's a great mic for 200 bucks. But every one of these mics comes with a handwritten response curve. Mine has one wild looking curve with bumps and dips everywhere. So matching these guys has to be one hell of a feat. I'm not gonna try to find a match. I might try to find one that is nothing like it, though.

I also bought the 219 and the MKL2500 tube mic. The tube mic is coming from another store so I haven't tried it yet. I'm taking it to a post studio and throwing some voice talent at it to see how it works. I've heard even less about this mic than the ML52. If it leaves much to be desired, it's worth hot-rodding at $200. I'll keep you all posted.

Thomas W. Bethel Wed, 02/04/2004 - 04:04

I went to my local Guitar Center store before Christmas. They were having a two for one sale on Octavia microphones. I had heard about the ribbon microphone and wanted to try one out. We took about 5 of them into the "pro audio room" and plugged them one at a time into a good quality PreSounus SP-20 preamp and listened to the results on Mackie 824s that were on stands in free space. The differences between microphones on the clerks voice was AMAZING no two sounded the same. One was muddy another one shrill or tinny one was very open sounding and one was dull and lifeless the final microphone was so low in level we could not audition it.

There was no changes in anything other than unplugging one microphone and replugging in the next. The clerk even agreed to read the same thing over and over (a brochure on SHURE microphones) so we would get exactly the same source material. I was AMAZED. This company must have ZERO quality control and must have individual workers each making a microphone to their own liking. I have heard demos done this way with Neumann and Schoeps microphones and yes there were subtle difference but these effects were not subtle.

So I guess the moral to this story is if you are going to purchase on of these microphones you should take the time to audition all of them that the store has in stock ( if they will let you) since no two of them sound the same.

I wound up not purchasing them since I was not sure why they would all sound soooooo different.

I am use to using RCA 77-DXs or Royers but these Octavias were so far from what I was use to I though I was listening to a different animal altogether.

I did purchase a pair of the Octavia lipstick condenser microphones and used them to record a bell choir and was very happy with the results. (The two lipstick microphones sound slightly different but not the vast difference like the ribbons)

KurtFoster Wed, 02/04/2004 - 11:53

Thanks for that ... and therein lies the rub with most inexpensive Russian and Chinese mics.. QC is almost non exsistant. Product quality can vary widely. I have heard tales of MXL / Nady type mics breaking or not working soon after they were purchased.

Studio Projects (Allan and crew) QC and match all mics coming through their company. The junkers get culled out and sent back to China to become who knows what (???) .

The moral is "there is no free lunch" or "you get what you pay for" .

Oktiva is a Russian company and IMO, is therfore comprised of "commies in economic rehab" . In the past these people had no motivation to build a good or better product. No matter what they did they got the same pay.. no incentive. It's a cultural difference. With PMI, at least you have born and bred capitalists at this end of the distribution, who understand that only consistant, well built and durable products should reach the market place.

Thomas W. Bethel Wed, 02/04/2004 - 17:43

Originally posted by Kurt Foster:

Studio Projects (Allan and crew) QC and match all mics coming through their company. The junkers get culled out and sent back to China to become who knows what (???) .

The moral is "there is no free lunch" or "you get what you pay for" .

They probably get sold to Guitar Centers...

anonymous Wed, 02/04/2004 - 17:45

You described the problem precisely!--I lived in Russia for many years and know that.
The lack of quality and inconsistancy of ML52 is in three areas:
1) Poor quality of output transformer
2) Inconsistancy of ribbon tension, which multiplys by the fact that it has actually two ribbons, side by side.
3) The grill rings like crazy. Flatpicker told me that his Oktava's grill actully 'nicely' tuned into G cord.

Some diyers remove the brass perforated jobies in front of ribbons, replace stock transformers with Lundahl LL2911s, and damp the grill. They report excellent results after modification. The proper tuning of the ribbons will enhance the performance even further.