When a piece of equipment comes along that challenges the norms of the day, I always take notice. "Normal" is an ever-shifting sandbar in the harbor of consensus, and it never holds still for long in our business. Placid Audio came along many years ago, and from their first run of Copperphone mics [Tape Op #42], I bought one right away; and after hearing it, I subsequently bought a few more. With the initial release of the Copperphone, there were folks that embraced the concept right away, and those that simply didn't get what it was meant to do. "So it's meant to sound broken?" Jump to over a decade later, and the Copperphone has become something of a standard, or at least an indicator that you are in a certain type of studio that understands that this is a valid color on the palette as much as any other.
Now, Placid Audio has released the Resonator mics. In practice, they are like the Copperphone — limited bandwidth and full of character in the range they are willing to reproduce. I was lucky enough to try a handful of Resonator mics as part of a beta-testing type situation, that ultimately narrowed down a varied group of mics to two models — Resonator A and Resonator B.
I had Bernard Purdie in the studio, along with the Charles Bradley horns and some other killer musicians, and both Resonator mics saw some love on the drums. For example, I had the Resonator A near the hi-hat, to the right of the kit (audience perspective — always), and it did exactly what I had hoped it would do; it caught weird peaks in the toms and snare, and gave an interesting midrange character to the whole kit, but mostly to the snare and hat. It immediately reminded me of the breakbeats I love from the late ‘60s through the mid ‘70s — the "clack" of the hat and snare, and the consistency of the overall sound.
When I am mixing, I know the "DNA" of a given track is in the midrange. It's that DNA that will inform the development of the lows and highs, and the depth and width of all the other elements. With a midrange character that is alive and resonant and animated, the low end can be bigger. With a midrange character that remains transparent and yet somehow anchors the center of your mix, the stereo image becomes easier to widen without giving a sense of synthesized space. The Resonators can inject some of this midrange character into the rest of the tracks you are capturing. The Resonators can infuse the sounds with some of that DNA that allows for low-end extension, while holding the mix in place and helping to keep the composition and arrangement balanced for all of the harmonic content. The Resonators can also bring a sense of nostalgia to that midrange character, even when the lows and highs are extended in a very modern and hi-fi way — again, with a tip of the hat to the vintage sounds of mixes made before tweeters, or for playback formats that were not up to reproducing 20 Hz – 20 kHz.
The difference between the Resonator A and B models is not that dramatic. The way I use these mics, it almost doesn't matter to me which one is put up. The heresy in that statement will surely be tempered by the subtlety of the choices, and the fact that both mics have the same end result — the midrange character is enhanced and modified. The way it is modified is as varied as any mic placement/application ever has been, and so the fact that there is a difference at all to the two Resonator offerings simply means you can choose between them, or not.
I am a complete fan of Placid Audio and the company's new Resonator A and B mics. These are valid choices, even if your collection already includes a Copperphone or Copperphone Mini [Tape Op #85]. (I have a couple of both.) I have used Placid Audio mics on tons of sources — from drums to Marxophone to horns to vocals to Optigan — and they always seem to create energy in the midrange that is incredibly useful during the mix. The new Resonator mics are no exception.