PCRECORDING.COM - Audix SCX-One Review
The SCX-one from Audix is a small transformerless studio condenser microphone that packs a big punch. I received the microphone in a little black case from Audix. My first impression was that it seemed so small. Well, all appearances aside this microphone performs big with a capital B.
The SCW-one features four interchangeable capsules that change the type of polar pattern the microphone uses. The choices are Cardioid, Hypercardioid, Omni, and Omni-presence. Audix recommends the cardioid capsule for directional recording or live sound. The hypercardioid capsule is recommended for increased rejection of off-axis sound sources. The omnidirectional capsule is recommended for choir/orchestral applications where environmental ambience needs to be included as part of the recording. Lastly, the omnidirectional-presence capsule is recommended for applications that need an increase in high frequency sensitivity. I was sent only the cardiod version for this review.
My system consists of a Pentium II 300, 128meg RAM, 20 gig HD, running Windows 98. I used the SCX-one with Cakewalk 9.02, Samplitude 2496, DDClips Pro, n-Track Studio, and Pro Tracks. It worked flawlessly in all applications. I recorded numerous instruments and my vocals with the SCX-one in my home studio. I found the response to be flat overall with a touch of high frequency boost, as is indicated in the graph below. The line for the microphone I tested is the brown topmost line.
This microphone was designed to be very sensitive and it was throughout this review. I recorded acoustic guitar, my flutes (bamboo, Native American), and my Gibson SG running through an Ampeg amplifier. The microphone was remarkably clear, giving full representation of the sound it was recording. The acoustic guitar's tones were fully present and equally represented. I did several different things with the guitar - - flat-picking, finger-picking, drop-D drone, and slide picking. The microphone picked up transient harmonics yet fully represented the bottom end in all these settings. One thing I did truly stood out - - I was using the slide and hitting some harmonics, I then plucked the high E string way up high while holding the slide on the string. I then just listened to the harmonics and slide string fade out. The microphone picked it all up with clarity. I felt like I was right inside the noise. I tested the microphone's SPL tolerance by suddenly strumming my guitar very loudly. The microphone tolerated the sudden increase in volume very well with no noticeable overloading.
On the SG, the microphone's sensitivity worked to its disadvantage. The microphone picked up all the noise from the amplifier as well as the signal. However, it accurately represented the signal coming out of the amplifier. I would not recommend this microphone for this application.
With the flutes, the microphone worked best after careful placement of the microphone relative to the aperture on the flutes. It is difficult to record flutes because of the aperture noise (breath noise) that can intrude on the musical note. Once I found the right placement, the SCX-one did a very credible job of picking up the musical tone of each flute. I was able to hear and distinguish the deep resonance of my large bamboo flute compared to the sweet high timbre of my cherry Native American flute.
I also tested the microphone with some non-musical techniques. I recorded my fingers snapping, "desk-drumming" with my fingertips, pages flipping through a manual, my computer monitor and sipping my ever-present cup of coffee. On all of these I could hear everything. Even down to the sound of the skin on my fingers rubbing before the snap.
I then tested the microphone for my singing voice. As Cliff Castle of Audix told me, though some people do use the microphone for voice work, it is not designed to be a "vocal" microphone. In my opinion, its sensitivity in some instances can work against this application. Keeping this in mind, I was very careful as to my placement and used a pop screen. Singing directly into the microphone was not successful - the force of the air flowing from my mouth dominated. Singing over it with it angled slightly upward relative to my voice, with a pop screen was more successful. The microphone worked best for vocals for me at a distance of about 12 inches. The quality was good then, accurate and flat. I just wish I had a better voice! I can see this microphone being used for voice-overs where the speaking voice does not transmit much volume or air.
As an aside, Cliff Castle told me that Audix just released the VX-10 - - a hand-held condenser microphone specifically designed for vocals and based on the same cylinder as the SCX-one. This would be an interesting microphone to review.
As you are probably aware, one of the challenges of a home-based DAW studio is isolation of the inherent noise that emanates from the computer and monitor screens. In addition, if your home studio has any other noise issues, you must deal with those as well. So the question becomes is there such a thing as too much sensitivity? As stated, the microphone was very sensitive, such that it picked up all nuances and noises present in my studio. During my recording sessions with this microphone, I discovered noises I did not know could be picked up while recording in my studio. Things like my waterpipes creaking when someone ran water, the clothes washer in the back room. I had to be extremely careful about noise coming from my system bleeding into the recording. The microphone was particularly sensitive to "media" noise such as my monitor and harddrive.
Does this mean the microphone is not good for the home-studio? No, this is a welcome problem because it ensures that you are picking up all the signal you need for a top-notch recording. However, it does present some potential challenges for the user if you have a noisy recording environment. Does this mean you should not get it? Not at all, the user should make every effort to reduce inherent noise anyway - - this applies with any recording device or set-up.
This microphone provides for very detailed, accurate recording in a wide variety of settings. It has a big open sound - - with robust bass and a slightly shimmery high end. I see it as being particularly useful for recording choirs, acoustic instruments and other instruments with high, fading transients such as cymbals. It captures everything and provides an essentially flat response. I would not recommend this microphone for individual vocal recording nor for electronic devices such as a guitar amplifier. I would highly recommend this microphone for anything acoustic and anything whose every detail you wish to capture. This is an outstanding microphone.