This multi-pattern, large-diaphragm condenser mic is hefty and appears to be very solidly made. It does not ping at all when flicking any part of the mic with your finger. The all-metal shockmount — which comes with extra elastics — is well designed and does not sag with the mic at any angle. The mic screws into the mount directly, and adjusting the final direction of the mic is a little tricky; it's a process of turning the mic while loosening and tightening the thread on the mount, and the threading is a little sticky. There is no other mount included, and I am not aware of another mount that would work. The mic is about 10'' in height. It comes with a decent flight case. The frame and grille of the lollipop head is mirrored gold, and the mic body is black. The only branding is the Monoprice "M" logo on a glued-on badge; it doesn't actually say "Monoprice" anywhere. The gold labeling is engraved. I like the way it looks. In my studio, my 600850 pair came to be known as the "Monopops." Two musicians simultaneously said "Wow!" when they first saw them. Another singer was intimidated by the pair of mics configured for mid-side recording and did not want to sing into that setup.

In listening tests, the 600850 was remarkably similar in character to the previously reviewed Monoprice 600800 mic [Tape Op #96], but a little bit brighter. Measurements suggested the same thing, with uncannily similar traces — despite my imprecise setup — with a little more high-end energy shown on the "Monopop" trace. This is remarkable, because shining a light into the lollipop head, the 600850 does not look like it employs the same capsule as the 600800 does, and the physical chambers around the capsules of the two mics are completely different. Like the 600800, the 600850 manages to be bright without being harsh or sibilant. Regardless, I still preferred the raw sound of a 600800 pair for drum overheads due to the 600850's extra brightness. On the flip-side, using two 600850 mics in a stereo pair on steel-string acoustic guitar was better — really, really nice — and configured in a Blumlein pair, they are my new favorites for this task.

Switching patterns while the mic is powered up produces a minor thud/crackling for a second. Then, curiously, the mic is muted for a couple of seconds after switching. Also, it takes a few seconds for the mic to come up when first turning on phantom power — presumably from capacitors charging up. Rejection from the sides in figure-8 mode is really good, better than on my Shure KSM44. Same with rejection from the rear when switched to cardioid, which is even much better than on the fixed-cardioid 600800! Practical noise measurements indicate that the 600850 is just slightly noisier than the 600800; the noise also carries a little more high-frequency content — probably commensurate with the extra brightness. In real use, this mic was very quiet however, like the 600800, and there was no issue with the signal-to-noise ratio, even with high gain on the preamps. I had to use my best tripod boom stands because the budget stuff was not going to work, except for straight-up positioning, due to the weight of this mic. I still had one near-miss even with the good stands; luckily there was a wall very nearby.

I asked to review a pair of 600850 mics because I was anxious to try Blumlein pair and mid-side stereo mic'ing with two mics of the same model. I've written about mid-side, but in all the years have never experimented significantly with Blumlein. I'm sold. This is my new favorite way to capture a room or close-mic a stereo source. I don't know how much of this comes from these particular mics, or just the Blumlein technique in general, but I kept getting an acoustic sphere of truth every time I tried it. It seemed to capture a circle of air around the source, somehow hearing the room a little bit, but not too much. It captured the most accurate sense of location and distance I've ever heard from stereo room recordings, other than maybe with my Crown SASS-P stereo PZM, which captures way too much ambience to be practical in most indoor situations. In one case, had we played around more with the physical setup, I don't think there'd have been a need for any close mics to get a full-sounding recording.

What was remarkable to me is how good the 600850 Blumlein pair made my living room sound — much better than it really does. There was slight ambience but not the boxy ambience I expect. Group vocals sounded really great. When singers leaned in closer, they were very present. I have not tried it yet, but I think even a lead vocal would work well. Even the bass amp sounded good. Blumlein pair recording with the 600850 sounded so involving that I got sucked into just listening to the fresh recordings when I should have been doing other things. Collapsing to mono sounded fine too, maybe a little beefier, but no issues with phase cancellation. Amazingly, a single mic captured more muddy ambience than the Blumlein pair with the mics in figure-8 mode. Magic.

Mid-side recording was also successful with these mics. I did some experimenting with mid-side mic'ing a lead vocal to give mixable stereo air, and this worked well enough that I want to experiment more. In any regard, the 600850 "Monopop" works well as a cardioid lead vocal mic for the male and female voices I tried. So one could nix the side mic anyway if you want to try this. I also tried mid-side with acoustic guitar, but far preferred the Blumlein pair. Mid-side can sometimes feel slightly like it's pulling my ears out from my head.

I took a peek inside the 600850 and was greeted by three separate through-hole circuit boards and a shielded transformer. It looked like it would be easy and fun to mod. The parts were not name-brand, but looked to be upscale based on certain clues, like an oversized low-value coupling capacitor that was obviously not electrolytic. It was not immediately obvious how to open the lollipop head to peek at the capsule, so I quickly stopped trying.

There are other brands of multi-pattern mics out there; most are more expensive, but some are cheaper than the 600850. I am tempted to try some more to continue the Blumlein adventure, but I had such a good time with these mics — and just viscerally enjoyed the results each time so much — that I want this sound regardless of what else is on the market. For example, while my Shure KSM44 is a quality offering too, I personally liked the "Monopop" a lot more, even though the Shure is more expensive, and getting another KSM44 to complete the pair is outside of my budget. The Monoprice 600850 Lollipop-Style condenser mic is obviously a spectacular value no matter what else is out there.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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