Synonymous with vintage style, Sontronics, the British manufacturer of studio technologies, has, over a number of years, produced a full range of microphones that each represent meticulous planning and fine attention to sonic detail. However, seating itself well within the notoriously difficult ‘bass instrument condenser microphone’ market, we take pleasure with introducing you to the Sontronics DM-1B. Designed by Sontronics founder, Trevor Coley, the DM-1B is a microphone that effortlessly holds a ground of its own against the historical ElectroVoice RE 20 and premium priced Milab BDM-01.
Priced on the street at £299.00, the condenser DM-1B is not within the ‘average’ consumer price-point for dynamic bass suited microphones like the AKG D112 or Audix D6, but the nature of the DM-1B is much more exciting thanks to its premium design. Featuring a large diaphragm condenser capsule that withstands a massive 155dB’s (with the -15dB pad engaged) tuned to beautifully capture the click of the beater, the body moving thump of low-end pressure and articulated boom decay, the price of the DM-1B actually is exceedingly affordable for the what you get and you can use it with great results on kick drum, bass cab and many other low-end rhythmic instruments. In fact, we consider the Milab BDM-01 to be its nearest competitor and at around $890 you really do get a lot more for your money with the Sontronics brand.
Moving on to the unboxing, this is a fairly straightforward affair. The DM-1B arrives in a standard white box containing a nice aluminium mini flight case with a small black placard listing the Sontronics logo and product name so you don’t get mixed up with other microphones. Inside this flight case the DM-1B sits, waiting for you encased in medium-density grey foam. The flight case appears to be of solid construction and could easily take a life on the road if it wasn’t for the silver plastic carry handle. I have to say that this is the only let down here, but you really can’t judge a microphones performance on its given accessories. Browsing over the aesthetics of the microphone, it looks like it was designed ‘back in the day’ and this is actually something that I, although subjective, find quite pleasing. Moving on, this is a quite large microphone and has a solid weight to match but is not so big that you can’t precision fit it in the sound hole of a kick drum. The fact that, like many other bass instrument microphones, this is a end-fire microphone makes this possible in combination with the attached rocker mount. Even though the DM-1B is a condenser microphone, overall the build quality feels right up there and could probably take a battering, although perhaps it would be a bit easier for the engineer if the -15dB pad switch was not so recessed on the back. Inside the DM-1B the actual microphone capsule is mounted on a specially designed plastic cup that has three legs, this really helps to distribute drop-shock so if it takes a fall the internals have a great degree of damage limitation. In fact during my career as a record producer, I personally worked with a number of Sontronics microphones and found them to be totally reliable… Even the infamous Abbey Road Studios regularly use Sontronics mics including the DM-1B. Finally, Sontronics offer a lifetime warranty on their products so if they can do that they obviously have a great deal of confidence with their product lines.
During testing at The Pro Audio Web Blog we have not experienced any issues with positing of the microphone in any application you could possibly imagine. Being a cardioid condenser microphone it does require phantom power (48v) to operate, but it is unlikely that you will be using this on a basic or portable input rig, so you should experience no problems here. During testing we paired the DM-1B with the microphone pre-amps on a Prism Sound ‘Orpheus’ as they offer crystal clear performance, so now lets talk about solo performance. When the DM-1B was positioned just inside the the resonant head, through the sound hole by approximately four inches and aimed towards the kick beater we found that it performed at its best. Without any effects added to the input my instant impression was that this really is a serious microphone and did not appear to need any equalisation to fit well in the overall monitor mix. The sound was full and had all the click attack and a big round punch that you want out of a microphone that is designed specifically for this setting. It is probably important to add that the DM-1B seemed to capture very little spill from the rest of the higher frequencies of the overall kit. During mixing very little needed to be added other than some compression and it was easy to see how just from the raw-recording that you could make the most out the of DM-1B in almost any genre of music. Moving on to performance on bass cabs, yet again, the DM-1B did not fail to disappoint. The tone was detailed and focussed yet warm and because of the 155dB tolerance you can crank up the amp to some extraordinary levels without noticeable distortion. In this setting there is little to say that isn’t anything but promising.
Overall the DM-1B is a brilliant microphone that performs exceptionally in a variety of settings. When considering the current price against its performance The Pro Audio Web Blog cannot rate the DM-1B highly enough so we gladly award it with our editors choice award and a full 5/5 rating.