As I mentioned in the previous issue's "Gear Geeking" (Tape Op #86), the Pegasus was one the most exciting products to be unveiled at the AES Convention. Unlike most tube mics on the market today, this one is not based on any classic designs. It utilizes unique, original circuitry as well as numerous electronic components commissioned specifically for this mic. Only 100 Pegasus mics will be made - individually numbered and hand assembled, one at a time. In the weeks following the convention, senior contributors Joel Hamilton and Allen Farmelo each took the Pegasus for a spin, and their stories follow. (By the way, despite what Joel might think, my eyeglasses are $50 closeout frames from RudyProject.com.) -AH
Plastic bags stuck in the leafless trees in Brooklyn, blowing in the autumn wind, whisper the names of the faceless hopefuls whose dreams did not come true. How do you bring color to a written story? How do you put romance in a sound? How do you design a new microphone from scratch and bring it all the way to AES!!?!? Ronin Applied Sciences are two guys who came out of left field and knocked us all on our asses at Javits Center in New York.
Some of the old guard were conspicuously absent from the ever shrinking, numbered aisles at the exhibition, while a new breed cropped up in the deepest corners of the hall, in the corners that smelled like cat pee (near the Tape Op booth) - or even one row farther away from the Epcot-themed uber-booths of the software companies and the globalized-dumbing-down-the- summing-box contest happening closer to the entrance. In the rows that in fatter economic years would have been reserved for the Bluetooth A2DP-equipped Jet Ski or the $7 million, 6 ft long speaker cable, there was some really cool stuff going on from the likes of Radial Engineering, Thermionic Culture, and a handful of other cool people, like Women's Audio Mission.
I walked over to the Tape Op table to say hello, and Andy Hong appeared out of nowhere and told me I had to check out a couple of local guys with a mic they had designed and assembled themselves. Andy always seems to have just arrived from the future (or a really expensive eyeglasses store), so I took his advice and walked the 17 steps over to where the mic was hanging from a Latch Lake stand (Tape Op #67) looking completely awesome.
The moment I saw the Pegasus, I knew it was something I had to check out. It clearly was informed by classic designs, but even from 6 ft away, you could read the intent. This was not another copy, clone, or "tribute" mic. This seemed to be something else - something that could stand on its own two feet aesthetically, without looking like an allergic reaction to classic mics, or trying too hard to distinguish itself as "new" or "different". Ferraris have four wheels, a couple of seats, a steering wheel, headlights... you know, certain aspects of form certainly follow function, and this thing looked chock full of function.
At this point, I was finally able to talk to the guys, including Dimitri Wolfwood, the designer of the mic. We hit it off, and I invited them to come out to Brooklyn for the Tape Op-sponsored dinner/hang at a place near Allen Farmelo's place. At the dinner, the Ronin guys continued to make an impression - smart, well spoken, clear vision and mission. They agreed to bring the mic over to the old Studio G on that Monday. In the meantime, we wound up talking for ages with some great peers and old pals and the whole thing felt like we were the survivors of whatever music- industry-extinction-level event brought the old guard to its knees at the AES before this one. A super-positive, enthusiastic, and forward-thinking vibe permeated the cold autumn winds blowing the leaves off the trees in Brooklyn that night.
So here is the deal - I finally got the Pegasus in my hands, and I was freaking out about how cool it looks, how well it is made, the size of the power supply, and the general vibe of the presentation. If Bruce Swedien, wearing a wizard hat and dock- worker coveralls, was all set to kill a unicorn in a sequel to The City of Lost Children, this mic is what he would use to beat it over the head, without a doubt. We mounted the mic on a stand after marveling at its craftsmanship and turned it on. The voltmeter on the massive power supply swings pretty hard to the right as it starts up. This mic, I was told, takes a minute or two to warm up. It also puts out line level.
Thinking its output was going to be super-crazy hot, I put the Pegasus into an old compressor, just as a volume knob, basically. I used a Collins 26-1U because it has a big rotary stepped attenuator that is really nice - and because it is just generally a flattering part of the chain. The first thing that came to mind when I heard the Parkington Sisters playing as a string quartet through the mic was this: it sounds like an amazing mic preamp. That's a weird statement, but I really feel like it is true. The sound of the mic is like a classic German tube mic preamp - very similar to a TAB/Siemens V72. The overall sound is dense, open, very detailed - and quality. It brings romance to the source - and intrigue.
I recorded a bunch of string section stuff with a pair of original Soundelux U95 tube mics (not 195s) on a stereo bar and a crazy binaural head thing I had built by Brad Banks. In addition, the Pegasus, in omni mode, was kind of centered on the quartet at head height (6 ft or so) above the floor. Medium to small-size room, terra cotta floor, wood walls - I know this live room at Studio G really, really well, so it's easy for me to differentiate what I hear of the room versus the character of the mic. I was thoroughly impressed.
It turns out I was on the right track when I told Dimitri that the mic sounded like my V72, one of my favorite tube preamps. He let me know it was an astute observation, because the Siemens tube in the mic is actually used for gain, rather than as a buffer/impedance matching device like in most old school mics.
Overall, the Pegasus is totally cool. You can be proud to own it, and you can feel certain that it will record almost anything you put in front of it well. You can put it on a stand and elicit that magic relationship between artist and gear, in which the performers feel like what they are doing actually matters to the world. This is that elusive quality that comes only with top-level recording equipment - a certain message to the artists being recorded that they are on the right path... in the right studio... that the person who put that piece of gear in front of them actually cares about their song. It's that kind of microphone. If shown intent, it lends a certain gravity to the recording situation. That is a very elusive and incredibly salient feature of the "old classics" that get referenced ad nauseam on the interwebs these days.
I also believe that the people who make this mic are incredible people. That adds up to something I fully can get behind. I know in my head that Dimitri would talk to you on the phone on the off chance that the mic woke up grouchy for you right before a session. I would bet money that he would have a solution for you, and make it right - before the clients showed up. That is support. That is commitment to producing an amazing microphone.
Some things I would love to see included with the Pegasus: a shock mount, or less vibration at the capsule, or both. I also wish there were some indication that the microphone is powered on aside from the voltmeter (which by the way, looks awesome on the beautiful power supply). Even if the voltmeter had a $.02 LED backlight, it would let me know the mic was on immediately before the voltage comes up and pops the neon tube voltage regulator to life. I would also love to see some sort of locking power switch or guard around the power switch.
In short - this is a killer microphone, and I will be getting one very soon (if not before this is printed). The people who make the mic have a vision and are pursuing this vision with the highest quality possible throughout. Considering that even the oil-filled capacitors inside bear the company's logo, the $4250 list price is insane - a no-compromise build for a price tag that befits mics of lesser quality.
The leaves blowing off of the trees on the street outside the studio, four sisters playing beautiful string parts inside, and the Pegasus recording the performances with poetic intent and solid craftsmanship. This mic could be a treasured part of your collection. These "hopefuls" behind Ronin Applied Sciences will not remain faceless for long in the Pro Audio market, I hope.
-Joel Hamilton, www.joelhamiltonrecording.com
I used the Pegasus on two singers. Graph Rabbit was tracking hushed vocals over acoustic guitar, and we found that the mic made his vocal sound enormous, yet not hyped in any way. A second singer, Elska, was also delivering relatively hushed vocals, and her voice was incredibly well rendered with the Pegasus. In cardioid mode, the mic remained clear and focused when either singer was off axis, even though low end fell off at the outer boundaries of the polar pattern, a behavior not unexpected. Switching the polar pattern culled a nice change of tone - midrange coming forward in figure-8, low end getting a lift in cardioid, and the mic being predictably flat in omni. Proximity effect wasn't nearly as pronounced as with many mics I use regularly, and there was a larger, more forgiving distance where proximity effect took place. This required less effort from each singer and from me as engineer. Definitely use a pop filter, though, as that diaphragm likes to move quickly.
Both singers raved over the mic. Graph Rabbit said that he "loved singing into that mic," and that, "if I used that mic on my album, I'd have to use it on my whole album because the sound is so big." Elska said, "I feel like I have so much control with this mic. The clarity and presence made me feel powerful."
As a producer, I can say that a mic that makes the singer feel good is a great vocal mic. As an engineer, I'm going to hazard a guess that the main reason these singers loved this mic was that it has an incredibly consistent response. No matter which vowel or fricative one is singing, and no matter how loudly or quietly it is sung, the mic holds its sound where other mics (especially the U 47 and the U 67) will change their tone in a less predictable way. Both Elska and Graph Rabbit were delivering delicate vocal performances where only a slight variance can be rendered as an enormous difference. The Pegasus ensured that the tonal changes across a vocal track were not so big as to be unusable. The closest to this well-behaved linearity that I've experienced with a tube condenser was with a Telefunken ELA M 251 (Tape Op #34), but even that mic's tone would shoot off at angles during vocal performances where the Pegasus would have held its ground.
It's easy to associate linearity with sterility, and I have a tendency to herald the musicality of non-linearity. But the consistency and accord offered by the Pegasus sound is a really great trait, being a major component in its sound. Rather than string together a bunch of bias-forming and inadequate adjectives, let me just say that the Pegasus doesn't sound like a U 47, U 67, C 12 or 251, but it is every bit as good as any of them. Because it has its own sound and characteristics, it could likely come to stand aside these classics in the pantheon of tube condenser mics. Amazingly, it costs a fraction of the price these other mics command.
I echo Joel's list of things I'd like to see: a recessed power switch on the power supply; a light on the power supply so I could see into the tracking room whether the mic is on or off; a shock- mount, which is highly needed as the mic is so sensitive to low-end rumble. ($4250 MSRP; www.roninappliedsciences.com)