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Hi, I am new here. I own an Oktava MK-012-01 microphone, that I am not too satisfied with. Even without the -10 db filter, it records very quiet, and I have to use Wave Pad to increase the volume.

I was in Guitar Center today (not looking to buy a mic) and started talking with one of the guys. He said the Oktava was very poorly made and that a loud noise could distort the element causing it to malfuntion like that.

So, I started asking about other mics. I have heard a lot about Shure, but he said that unless I bought the $350 Shure they were not as good as some of the lower cost mics. He showed me a few things, but then said there is one that is really great, but it is a little more than the ones I was looking at (which were around $200). It was a Sterling Audio ST55. Turns out it was not more, only $199. The guy said Sterling Audio was the new name of Groove Tube, which I have heard of. I bought it.

Now, Groove Tube says nothing about a name change on their site, and the www. site is under construction. Has anybody heard about this mic or this company? I hate forum posts that ask what is the best . . ., so I will not ask that, but can somebody tell me for around $200 what is a good mic for recording acoustic guitar (actually I play a Greek bouzouki which is like a long neck acoustic mandolin, but a lot of people don't know what that is). I have heard the Shure SM81 is great. I could spend the $350 that costs, but is there something better at that price point?

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moonbaby Thu, 06/08/2006 - 08:30

Hi, and welcome to RO!
I, too, couldn't find a related site for "Sterling Audio" that was pertinent to microphones. Just some A/V installation company, and I find iit hard to believe that GT would use another company's name to launch a new line of mics, especially when GT already has an agreement with M-Audio.
Anyway, you don't say how you like this new mic. Nor do you mention WHAT you are using as a preamp for it to feed your soundcard. That may be your problem right there. If you are plugging the mic directly into a soundcard/box, you will get poor performance from almost ANY mic, especially that Oktava (isn't that a ribbon mic?). You may very well need to look at a decent preamp instead of another mic....
That said, I have recorded lots of stringed instruments from all over the globe. The Shure SM81 is VERY hard to beat. You really have to spend a great deal more to improve upon it. DPA has some great mics ($1300) but the price...The only real viable alternative to spending 350.00 on an 81 is to spend $275.00 (+/-) on a Crown CM700, which I also have and like on various string and percussion instruments...But consider your preamp first...

anonymous Thu, 06/08/2006 - 09:46

Thanks for the great advice. I have not tried the mic, because I am so mad at Guitar Center for selling me this thing, which nobody in the world has ever heard of, that I am going to return it, upopened. I am using one of those Fostex MR-8 digital recorders, with no preamp. What is a good preamp for such a setup that would not break the bank.

By the way, I think the Octava is a cardioid, not sure though. I have read some stuff on the Internet that these are great mics for recording acoustic instruments. Now, the Guitar Center, that sold me this thing, says, they are poorly made and break very easily. What gives with that?

moonbaby Thu, 06/08/2006 - 10:50

OK. First off, the pick-up pattern ("cardioid") is one thing, the element(ribbon, dynamic, condenser,etc) is another.The MK012 is a "small diaphragm condenser" (SDC), not a ribbon. The Oktava mics suffer a VERY mixed reputation because they were originally made in Russia and were represented by US importers ("The Sound Room") who had a say in the quality control of those mics. Now, they are made in China, and the quality is crap. So it looks like you got a Chinese one, eh? This is why the descrepancy between the reviews and the experience. It gets worse because BOTH makes are still on the market!
Anyway, a decent condenser mic is very sensitive and has a relatively "hot" output. You shouldn't need a preamp to boost it up to use with that Fostex mixer/recorder gizmo you have, as long as the Fostex has "Phantom Power +48vdc" switched on. If that isn't on or available on the Fostex, that's a BIG problem. Another issue is you're wanting to return the Sterling mic to GC. Have they said that they will take it back? GC (and many other online stores) will NOT take back any mics due to "state health code reasons". You may very well be stuck with it. This may not be a bad thing. First, I'd check with them on that. Then,if they say "NO!" to a return, open it up and give that mic try! I'll bet it sounds better than that POS you first bought. There are several SDC made in the

anonymous Thu, 06/08/2006 - 12:18

Just got off the phone with Guitar Center. You freaked me out about that no return policy, which they do state on the back of the receipt, but did not mention to me. I spoke to the manager, and he is taking it back.

I have separate phantom power on the Octava. From some quick research on the Internet, I found that they were made in Russia and China, but I think the Chinese ones are MC-012, while mine is an MK-012, so I think it was one of the Russian ones. The pro audio manager at Guitar Center did say that they were inconsistent from mic to mic, even on the Russian made ones. My Octava from day one always recorded quiet, so I don't think I damaged it.

I did some research on Sweetwater and got a little education on mics using their buyer guide. So the Octave is a condenser, just like the Shure SM81. I also saw the Crown you mentioned. But hey, I also saw the BlueBird. What kind of price increase were you talking about over the Shure to get better than that SM81? The BlueBird is around $500, but is it better than the Shure SM81. Those Blues are supposed to be handbuilt and unbelievable, but is something in their line at that price point going to perform better than the Shure?

What about preamps. Would I need a preamp with the Shure, the Crown or the Bluebird. What would you suggest as a good preamp, if needed?

anonymous Thu, 06/08/2006 - 14:12

Just got off the phone with Groove Tubes. They told me that they designed and are manufacturing (in China) the Sterling Audio microphones. However, when I explained what I was using it for, the tech guy told me that the 55 would not be his first choice for micing an acoustic instrument (he suggested the GT33, GT44 or Convertible). I am still going to return this mic, because 1) the guy at Guitar Center told me that Groove Tubes changed their name to Sterling, which is just not true. A lot of companies make products for other companies to put their name on, but it doesn't mean the same quality control goes into it or that the design is the same, especially when the other company is trying to meet a price point; 2) Sterling Audio is an unknown entity, and I don't know if they will be around in 6 months to honor a warranty, or even how these mics are rated. I feel my money would be better spent on a Shure, Crown or Blue, even if I have to shell out more bucks (and you can bet that will be happening at someplace other than Guitar Center).

I appreciate your help, and would still like some information regarding my questions on Blue and preamps. Thanks.

moonbaby Thu, 06/08/2006 - 15:13

B.L.U.E. mics started showing up in the 90s, and they were made in Eastern Europe by people who handcrafted the products with care and precision. But sometime in the past year or so, it has become evident that they are no longer made there, but in China, and the original factory is making another brand. So goes the global marketing thing....
Besides, as a rule, you want to stick to a SMALL diaphragm condenser for your bouzouki, not some behemoth LARGE diaphragm condenser. LDCs are great for voacls, drums, etc, but not on that instrument. The BLUE is a LDC...leave that for a Mariah Carey wannabee! And remember that these dudes at GC and Sweetwater have a priority to SELL stuff to earn a living!
They are not going to look out for what's best for you, but what is best for their wallet and employer. They are going to push the stuff that has the biggest profit margin.
Personally, I would stick to the SM81 or the Crown. I also have the Audio-Technica AT4041 (another SDC mic), and you might look at their AT4031
if you are on a budget... These manufacturers are the real pro's at making QUALITY mics that are reliable and musical. And shop at places like Full Compass...they offer some very good deals on all sorts of mics.
Stay away from GC for stuff like that.
As for preamps, that's for another time....I have a Florida thunderstorm looming over me this time of day and I have to shut down...LATER!

anonymous Thu, 06/08/2006 - 20:04

Thank you so much for this excellent advice. I will check out those other mics and Full Compass.

When the storm is over, if you could let me know if you think I would need a preamp with something like the Shure SM81, and suggest something in the $200 or less range, I would greatly appreciate it.

Thanks a million!

moonbaby Fri, 06/09/2006 - 07:10

Sorry about the delay there....
As far as preamps are concerned, the ones that are marketed in the $200.00 range are, by-and-large, cheap junk ( sorry if I offend anyone).
But then the preamps in your Fostex are probably pretty mediocre as well. What to do? Get online with dbx dealers ( like Full Compass, B&H Video, BSW, etc) and see if any of them has a deal (maybe 'B' stock?) on a dbx 286a mic processor. This is the ONLY 'budget-priced' preamp out there (street price about $200.00-250.00?) that is worth looking at. And the reason is that it has a very good dynamics section: compressor, a de-esser, and a downward expander, plus some Hi- and Low-end 'Detail' EQ controls. Don't let all that stuff scare you. They are all very easy to use, and they work well on all sorts of sources, not just the voice. It also has a decent mic pre that has a Low-cut filter and phantom power. The downward expander is great for keeping "the room" out of the mic signal, a BIG problem for people who are using the typical living room or bedroom to record in. You might even find the de-esser useful in keeping the upper harmonics of your bouzouki from being too harsh. And everyone needs a dbx compressor from time to time! All you have to do is plug the 1/4" line out from that to a line input on 1 of the channels on your Fostex. Try to avoid the mic input on the Fostex at all costs when using an external preamp. Higly recommended for what YOU are doing...

anonymous Fri, 06/09/2006 - 18:24

I personally think you got a bad 012 mic. I originally got a pair for my lo-budget projects, and to save my 414's from damage and for hi-end projects. When I first used them I was amazed how good these were. Later on I did the Scott Dorsey mods to them and now I use them exclusivly for overheads and acoustic instruments. If you got the metal mic clip it's Russian, if you have the plastic mic clip it's from China. I have heard a few of the China made 012's and they sound pretty good too. I have never heard one with low output.
Are you recording thru a console? Did you try the mic before you bought it (at Guitar Center)? If you were to take it back and show them the low output, there should be no problem exchanging for a good one. 012's rock

anonymous Sat, 06/10/2006 - 16:40

Sterling Audio returned

I do have the metal Octava mic clip, so I guess it is the Russian made one. I bought this about 4 years ago in Chicago, and now I am in Virginia. I didn't try it before I bought it, I just went on the advice of the salesman. I also didn't do any research, but I figured it was only $100. Anyway, it was always quiete but the sound quality seemed good. I don't go through any kind of a box or mixer, just phantom power to the Fostex.

I returned the Sterling Audio Mic on Friday. I had spoken to the manager and explained about how nobody ever told me microphones were not returnable, and that the salesman had lied to me about the true nature of Sterling Audio. He said he would personally take care of me on Friday, but when I got there, he was out, but there was my good old salesman (really salesboy, but still, most of these kids probably know more about recording than I ever will). However, this time, I had done some research and gotten the excellent advice from this forum. He said he had been "fully briefed by the manager," and that he "absolutely wanted to take care of me right." He wanted to know if it was just the fact that it was made in China that bothered me. Truthfully, I was tired and didn't have the energy to get into it with him, so I just asked him to give me a refund. He still wanted to try and sell me something else, and said they had the Groove Tubes GT55 listed as the same entry as the Sterling Audio and for the same price. I told him, Groove Tubes told me it was the wrong mic for what I wanted to use it for, as did Moonbaby. I told him they suggested a small diaphram condensor like the Shure SM81, so he tried to sell me that. However, I had already checked with Full Compass, and their price was way below Guitar Center. So, I WILL NEVER SPEND ANOTHER DIME AT GUITAR CENTER (just in case you think I am kidding, in 1989, Circuit City tried to pull a little bait and switch on me, and when I discovered this, I got a full refund, and have never walked into that chain again.)

I will be buying the Shure Sm81 and the DBX 286a. A lot of my bouzouki buddies will not play without plugging into a BBE Sonic Maximizer, I think the 336 or 386 version. What exactly is this and is it different from a preamp. Would it make my recordings sound better, or is it just for live performances? Thanks.

Derrick111 Wed, 06/13/2007 - 08:01

cmkaco wrote: I own an Octava MK-012-01 microphone, that I am not too satisfied with. Even without the -10 db filter, it records very quiet, and I have to use Wave Pad to increase the volume.

Hi, would you be interested in selling that Oktava? I want to try some mods and if this one isn't working very well... sounds like a good candidate. You mentioned that you are in VA. Are you anyware near DC/MD/No. VA? That's where I am. Thanks,

Dosser Wed, 06/13/2007 - 09:04

It may be possible that your salesperson wasn't really lying to you, just that he did a bad job of explaining the situation with Sterling/Groove Tubes.

As I understand it, Guitar Center was until recently the only nationwide "Chain" store to distribute Groove Tubes, making it an exclusive for them. That exclusive agreement had ended, and the Sterling name came about as a way to sell Groove Tubes mics and still have some type of exclusivity. This new agreement between GT and GC is just a branding deal, to set GC apart a bit from other dealers.

hueseph Wed, 06/13/2007 - 09:06

Did you return/sell this already? I don't know if anyone has pointed it out yet but the MK-012 requires a full 48v+/-2 to function properly. Some preamps/interfaces don't supply a full 48v. Some of them 25v some even as low as 12v so if the mic is underpowered, of course it will sound weak. Just a thought before you commit to selling or returning it. I would go with the suggestion of trying a new preamp.

Cucco Fri, 06/15/2007 - 16:48

So much to say....

what part of VA? (which guitar center?)

GT distributes exclusively through GC and a partnership has been reached in which GC would carry its own brand of mics (made for GT to their specs and sold by GC).

Second, all microphones need a preamp. All. The one in your Fostex (if there is one) is certainly not worth the opamp it uses. An outboard pre would be a big step up - even a budget preamp. consider a used aphex 107. the dbx stuff is nice to, but you will likely not need the compressor and other features based on what you've already stated. Avoid the BBE stuff - it's a waste of money.

Stay with the small diaphragm condenser. Shure sm81, AT4041 Crown, etc. For what you're doing, you will want a stereo pair.

As for sweetwater, they are a very good company and while they are on commission, they do look out for their customers. if in doubt, call my guy Craig at 1374 and tell him I sent you. He WILL treat you right!

As for the Oktava, there's clearly an issue. the output on the mk012 is not the hottest output, but it's certainly drivable by even the crappiest preamp!

If you in or around Fredericksburg give me a hollar. i'll come by and give you a hand.



anonymous Mon, 07/27/2009 - 16:04

I stumbled across this thread and figured I chip in my 2 cents a year to late anyway. Nothing here seems to be said about how this microphone ( the Sterling Audio condenser) actually sounded in use mixed in with other instruments in a recording or live sound environment, by the original purchaser. There is plenty of "Someone said" or "You should" etc. etc. But in reality a competent engineer will find a use or sonic hole for a variety of mics. Sterling Audio products aren't intended for high end budgets but instead they offer a nicely polished product for a great price.
It all sounds like brand sensitivity or bias without regard to real world use or results.

rockstardave Tue, 07/28/2009 - 11:54

sterling mics are NOT going anywhere anytime soon.

they make a lot of money for the stores that sell them, which is why sales people are quick to recommend them.

that said, their mics are pretty good! with sterling you arent paying for a name (like Shure, BLUE, Neumann, etc). so what you are paying for is the equipment itself. their mics are great bang-for-the-buck but will never be the best.

and, for moonbaby- the sales staff at stores like GC, Sweetwater, Full Compas, etc want to treat customers right because this industry is built on REPEAT customers. a salesperson who sells a mic to make an extra $10 is depriving themself of a long-term relationship with a customer who , in the end, will probably spend thousands throughout their musical career.

i have found my local GC sales crew to be very smart and see the big picture like this. anything else would be childish and poorly thought-out.

ALSO , when i buy at places like sweetwater i dont have the ability to see, feel, and try out gear that i want.

to me it's a no-brainer to shop at an actual store with actual people who can provide actual help with actual gear.

anonymous Fri, 09/04/2009 - 20:13

A gc pal of mine at pro audio strayed me away from a blue bird mic i was looking to buy due to so much praise given to them in the budget mics thread in the pro audio gear section. He suggested i get a .......... Sterling Audio at the same price. It was truly nothing to look at compared to the blue bird. Eventualy after talking a while he introduced me to the mic i am currently considering buying . Being i was a junior broker for commodity trading in the past, i understand the aggresiveness a salesman can have to sell. However! I like to believe i trust the dude. He was telling me how his associate had his tlm 103 stolen! Probably by a thief. Anyhow, since gc emps can get big discounts on sterlings, he purchased an st69 tube mic. Later literally telling me that he is glad his tlm103 was stolen because he would have never purchased the st69. I kept hassling my pal as if he was a stranger to catch a bluff somewere and couldnt quite get one. The sterling st69 will run about 600$ compared to the tlm 103 for a grand$ . If what he is telling me is his true opinion then the name of a brand compared to a no name is about a 400$ difference. But being that i have read various forum based articles and reviews about them , some ppl still seem to bash sterling audio while many reviews of the st69 only complain of exclusivity dealerships. ( could be a paid off reviewer or two not really saying thier true cons) . Then again... My gc friend invited me for a mic testing .. Thats pretty confident on his part for Claiming the sterling st 69 being a no name quality mic

Davedog Fri, 09/04/2009 - 23:23

I would have no problem plugging in a specific piece of gear that has been shown to fullfill its task without regard to the badging.

Senoir. At that $600 price-point I would be looking at many more mics than just that one for your needs. And who knows, It could be the real deal.

There are a lot of mics, IMHO, that are better for lead vocals than the TLM103. This is a mic that requires certain things to be great. A lot of people love them. A lot more do not. My use of one is limited so I cannot accurately claim to have all the answers concerning your friend's claims after his loss of his Neumann.

I also dont know how he used it and in what environment.

But, to compare two mic technologies on similar sources is to expect them to both be different at those prices.

An LDC that is tube driven compared to an LDC which is transformerless is as I said, two different animals with the same mother.

I would certainly expect them to be quite a bit different especially if there is quality of design and build involved.

And there might be the ONLY reason that one sounds better on a given source than the other.

jammster Sat, 09/05/2009 - 09:16

Davedog wrote: There are a lot of mics, IMHO, that are better for lead vocals than the TLM103. This is a mic that requires certain things to be great. A lot of people love them. A lot more do not.

Yeah, I made the mistake of buying a TLM 103 for vocals. Truth is its great at most anything BUT vocals. Its more of a sampling mic, or instrument mic. Don't get me wrong, I still like what the TLM 103 can do and I will keep it in my collection, just not right for vocals.

After all the reading I've done about vocals I would choose a Mojave Audio MA-200 over anything now!

But back to the topic at hand, Sterling audio is a brand made by Groove Tubes for Guitar Center. I really am not very happy with Guitar Center, I vow not to give them my money any more!

anonymous Sat, 09/05/2009 - 14:10

I understand being the case about guitar center being a retailer. Blah blah your not the only one.
These last few days i have been doing extensive research on microphones in the 800$ range. I have been looking at some microphones such as the avant cv12 which is a c12 wannabe, ( turns out its apex460, a telfunken m16 ablnd a marshall 390 or something) then i have been hearing about sterling being another filler mic set ( except for it having the specs by pittman which i take as credible design) . Or how all budget mics are harsh on the highs etc. The only mic i am sure about wanting to own would be a pearlman tm2 for 200 more.

On top of that, all my internet research is being done on an iphone!
But rather than to bring woe to the table i will say that sterling audio brand st69 has had clout among some , and the avant c12 another chinese mic has been used to record taylor swifts vocals on her latest album.
There i just made myself feel better about

rainsong23 Sun, 11/28/2010 - 17:05

After reading this thread and a bunch of other stuff on the internet I am considering getting one of the ST mikes. I hear a lot of good things about the ST55. What I wonder is how are the ST59, 66, 77 different? I see on musicians friend that the price goes up. What I'm wondering is are they just better versions of the same mike, or are they designed for different purposes? I'd want something that would be good for vocals, but also if it's good on Accoustic guitar and djembes that would be great. Anyway, I keep reading that the 55 is great bang for the buck. Wondering if it's worth my while to spend more bucks? Do I need more bang? I'm not a professional, just hobby stuff for myself but want something pretty good, but probably don't want to spend more than $400. However the 55 is listed for $200. I'm currently using Garage Band on a MacBook Pro with a Motu 8-Pre interface. The 8-Pre has the built in 48 volt pre amps built in. These days I use an SM58 and sometimes even my D112 as I find it can be a bit more warm on my voice, but I'd like to try out a condenser, don't want to break the bank or my wife might want to break me, but don't want complete junk either. Any advice on the difference between the various ST mikes in the line would be much appreciated. I live in Korea and I have a feeling the stores might be unlikely to let me test stuff over here. I know I read that only Guitar Center can sell these but there are no Guitar Center at all over here. I wonder if can even find them. I might just have to order from musicians friend.