Nearly all of the condenser microphones we know and love employ round capsules. Notable exceptions include rectangular-capsule Pearl and Milab mics (which, like the Ehrlund, are Swedish in origin), Bock’s Elliptical 5ZERO7, and three Audio-Technica models (which utilize smaller rectangles). I’m certain that diligent research could uncover others, but overall, the circle’s hegemony is strong.
Cymbals, gongs, and drums are also almost-always-round. But while these instruments are designed to resonate when excited, it’s theoretically best if a mic capsule moves only when directly influenced by sound pressure. Herein lies the logic behind Ehrlund’s triangular condenser capsule.
Anyone who’s ever played one of the old Trixon Speedfire bass drums (whose shape might best be described as the marriage of a triangle and a lopsided egg) likely understands why they were more famous for their looks than their sound. Owing partially to their odd shape, a Speedfire kick doesn’t behave very much like other drums. In general, triangular membranes don’t vibrate the way round ones do — impulses decay more quickly. With their fixed-cardioid EHR-M, Ehrlund aims to take advantage of the highly-controlled impulse response that’s inherent in a triangular membrane design.
The novel capsule is mated to high-quality transformerless electronics, and first impressions led us to try them on a classical piano session as a spaced pair, 2 m outside an excellent, recently-rebuilt 1890s Steinway C.
When removed from their modest wooden boxes, the mics present themselves well enough. They’re rather large, and although it’s a common prejudice to conflate weight and quality, the EHR-M are both well-made and lightweight, owing to their aluminum bodies and transformerless electronics. For a mic that excels when it’s at (spoiler alert!) moderate distances from the source, this attribute increases flexibility of positioning; even medium-quality stands are unlikely to sag or droop under the weight of an EHR-M.
The sound is — in a word — different. Broadly, I perceived an extended bottom, emphasized top, and understated midrange. Outside the Steinway, our first impressions were positive indeed; the low-end extension was notable and effortless, and the top-end “reach” was striking. They sounded lovely at this distance!
The authoritative bottom end made me curious to later hear the Ehrlund on upright bass. I was impressed again, and it was once again interesting just how different the sound was from the vintage Neumann U 47 that often lands on bass at our studio. I remain drawn to the U 47’s large and enveloping rendering of double bass, but the EHR-M is cool in a different way — ample low end, but in a manner that’s uncommonly forward, direct, and focused. The “reach” we noticed on piano seemed here to reach almost inside the carved top of the bass itself. It’s hyperbolic, but I joked that you could almost imagine you were listening to the world’s best-sounding bass DI. Out of curiosity, we positioned a vintage brass-capsule AKG C 414 head-to-head with the EHR-M and tried combining them in mono. Individually, the two were so different that I wondered whether they might be complementary, but it was quickly apparent that the Ehrlund prefers to stand alone. When it does, however, the results are excellent in a manner that, to me, recalls some of the better Telarc Jazz recordings of the compact disc era.
Aside from the double bass, I had less success with the EHR-M in close applications. Contributory to my struggles might’ve been a gap between what I’m used to hearing from a condenser and what this mic delivers (it’s just so different). Despite trying a range of placements and distances, for example, I was unable to get a good result on a vintage Martin acoustic guitar. I couldn’t make the critical midrange to speak in the way I wanted, and I couldn’t shake the perception of a boomy bottom. After verifying that I indeed had the capsule pointed the right direction, I tried every position I could think of (even mic’ng the fingerboard) before switching to the vintage C 414, which gave instant gratification. In hindsight, the EHR-M’s feature set (very open weave on the headbasket grille, lack of a pad, pronounced rising top-end response, and high sensitivity/output) might have been clues that this mic would excel most at moderate distances.
Speaking of that sensitivity — a pad of 10 to 20 dB would’ve come in very handy, and would be a worthy inclusion should Ehrlund make a version 2. A short experiment outside kick drum was curtailed because of obvious clipping. A glance at the manufacturer’s published specifications revealed that the EHR-M only claims a maximum SPL input of 105 dBA, and with no pad between the mic’s capsule and electronics, we quickly moved on.
I remember wishing I had an occasion to try the EHR-M on pipe organ. I imagine that its bottom and top–end extensions (its response is listed as 7 Hz – 87 kHz!) and detailed rendering of sources at distance could prove advantageous in such an application. And though it would probably be academic in most real-world environments, the extremely impressive 7 dBA published self-noise figure certainly would not hurt!
All-in-all, the EHR-M is a quality microphone that’s almost certainly unlike anything else in the mic locker. If you’re looking for something in the tradition of the classic German and Austrian condensers, this isn’t it. But if you need a mic that excels at distance-mic’ng with focused, articulate rendering of extreme top and bottom (and are willing to embrace a somewhat unusual, restrained midrange), the EHR-M is a worthwhile and intriguing listen!