Let me start out by saying that my experience with small-diaphragm tube condensers has been limited. I've never owned one but had on occasion used the McHugh Military tube pencil that The Hangar owns. John Peluso sent me only a single P28 to audition, so I felt handicapped in not being able to use it as a stereo pair in most of the ways I would apply small-diaphragm condensers-in front of an orchestra, as piano overheads, on guitars, etc.-in ORTF, X/Y, or spaced pair. But I've used regular SDC and LDC mics aplenty. Then it dawned on me this is a better way to tell the qualities of a mic; after all, two is only a multiple of one.
The P28 comes in a handsome aluminum carrying case. It's housed in a nice wooden box lined with red velvety material. The standard P28 has a cardioid polar pattern (but an omni can be special ordered). The tube is an EF 732. It comes with a power supply, a seven-conductor mic cable, a power cable, and a shockmount. The website states, "This microphone is inspired by the legendary pencil vacuum tube microphones by AKG and Neumann. It has an extremely low noise floor for modern digital recording. Featuring a warm rich tone, capturing the low frequency detail and high frequency air of the classics." Whereas I can't respond to the comparison with the AKG and Neumann models, the rest I can attest to as being accurate.
All my testing, with the one exception noted below, was done at my studio or in the field using Millennia HV-3 mic preamps into Metric Halo ULN interfaces; 24-bit at either 44.1 or 88.2 kHz; into Digital Performer 4.61 or the Metric Halo Record Panel; on either a Dual 2.7 GHz Mac G5 or a 1.67 GHz PowerBook.
The first two times I used this mic was on upright bass players at a couple of jazz remote gigs. In both cases, I used two mics: the P28 mid-fingerboard, and an AEA R84 in front of the soundhole about 2.5 ft back. This wasn't a good configuration for it, as the P28 is very sensitive. It picks up everything. But I could tell that the characteristics of this mic are wonderful. It's very neutral and warm-full spectrum, well balanced. In the first session, the bass player, in talking back, being of course closest to this mic, sounded amazingly good. I had small regrets I didn't try it out on our vocalist.
Next I set it up for some acoustic guitar work with my Taylors. I was actually very much amazed. I actually heard things I hadn't heard before while playing and recording my guitars, including the most annoying moving of my lips. That aside, this mic sounds wonderful on my guitars. I wish I had two to use. Full-bodied tone and no boom, even on the dreadnought. Nice, clear, bright highs. But smooth, not brittle.
I've had it set up as a room mic alongside a pair of Peluso CEMC-6s. They're just set up, and I hit record whenever there's anything to record: students, bull sessions, jam sessions. It's great as a room mic.
Even though I only had one mic to test, I decided I had to hear its use as a drum overhead. I gave my trusty drummer buddy Rick Lotter a call. He has a small but respectable studio. We tracked into a True Systems P2analog through a Focusrite ISA 220 at 24/48 into DP. Both of us have been favoring the Peluso CEMC-6 pencil for drum overheads in general. In comparing the two, we both loved the body and the high mids of the P28. It has a bit more presence than the CEMC-6. Tighter in the low end-less "woofy" according to Rick. Interestingly, neither one of us would have described the CEMC-6 before as "woofy". I actually thought the low end was slightly stronger, with no boomy presence in the P28. The high mids were gorgeous. The highs of the snare really popped open, and the cymbals were not too bright, brittle, nor harsh like so many modern, hyped mics. It sounds like a very expensive tube pencil with its smooth response.
Next, I tried it briefly on a 7 ft Yamaha grand piano. Normally, I use a pair of AT4050s or less often C 414s. I like the AT4050s on the piano, if for no other reason than that's what I have. But they sound good. I put up my single P28, and, well at this point I can't say I was pleasantly surprised as nothing surprises me any more in the Peluso line, but let's just say my faith wasn't shaken. It sounds great. I placed the mic in the center about 1 ft back from the hammers and 2 ft up. The P28 really captured the full range of the piano. The deep lows were there as were the highs. I'll say it again; this mic picks up great detail. Very natural and not hyped, which I love about it and most of the Peluso line.
Doing these reviews is taking a lot out of me. I've got to try and find out how I can swing buying two of these now! I'd really like to put these on the piano instead of my AT4050s. They also make great room mics and great acoustic guitar mics. I'm sorry to say I didn't try them on electric guitar. My thought was acoustic instruments and room. At less than $800 street, it's a steal. ($898 MSRP; www.pelusomicrophonelab.com)
Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.