We're lucky when three experienced audio professionals come together with their perspectives and experience for a deep dive into a product that deserves close attention. Studio owner/engineer/musician John Vanderslice [Tape Op #10], engineer/gear builder Bryce Gonzales [Highland Dynamics], and studio technician Steve Veilleux bring their thoughts on Josephson's C725 microphone.
The C725 is a stunning new addition to the inventory of my favorite microphone manufacturer: Josephson Engineering. I own and operate Tiny Telephone Recording in San Francisco and Oakland, where we have long cherished our collection of Josephson microphones. Despite the fact that we are obsessed with tape recording (nearly all our sessions are on 24-track Studer decks), our team of engineers doesn't care about using vintage equipment for the sake of nostalgia – we value highly functional tools that give us excellent fidelity and the freedom to be radically creative in the studio. Josephson delivers on this priority, perhaps more than any other maker of modern recording equipment, which is why we use their tools every single day.
I've known for a while that Josephson was working on a tube version of the C716 [Tape Op #87], which has been a favorite at Tiny Telephone for years. Upon opening up the case, this seemed about right: the body of the mic is nearly identical, with the same "aeration" pattern aluminum alloy basket/windscreen, the internally shock mounted Series Seven capsule, and the beautifully designed rotating bracket mount. But upon taking out the power supply, I discovered that the silver finish and the tube circuitry are just the tip of the iceberg of what distinguishes the C725 from its 700 Series predecessor.
While the C716 is a fixed cardioid pattern, the C725 is switchable between five different patterns: omni, subcardioid, cardioid, hypercardioid, and figure-8. In addition, there is a switch on the power supply that flips between "sun" and "moon" modes. While in sun mode, the mic behaves normally with a very high sensitivity that's similar to the C716. When switched to moon mode, the sensitivity drops from 25 mV/Pa to 8 mv/Pa, and the output drops around 10 dB while the sonic character of the microphone changes significantly. The best way to describe this change is that it takes on similar characteristics to the e22S (the unique side-address cardioid condenser from Josephson); it behaves more like a dynamic microphone in sensitivity and output and has a more forgiving relationship to transient information while retaining an extremely wide frequency response with exceptional fidelity. In addition, moon mode also boosts the C725's maximum SPL from 134 dB to 144 dB, allowing for more headroom with very loud sources at close range without distortion. This hybrid of condenser and dynamic characteristics is something very special to me. I've never encountered it anywhere outside the Josephson line. When I take both the sun and moon modes into account, alongside the five available patterns and exceptional FET-tube hybrid design, the C725 has to emerge as the most versatile mic I've ever had the pleasure of working with.
This microphone shined in moon mode on louder sources; the signal at very close range on a kick drum head and bass cabinet was exceptionally clear, and switching to figure-8 added a smooth lift to the bottom end without sounding too boomy or overwhelming. The C725's performance for vocal recording in sun mode was outstanding, easily rivaling the transparency and musicality of our best tube mics, namely our Neumann U 67 and SM 69. I found that the tube-like behaviors of the microphone were more pronounced in sun mode: the slight compression of transient information, the warmth and clarity of the top end, and the softer overload characteristics were all more apparent. This was especially useful on voice – with barely any distance between the singer's mouth and the microphone, the signal was crisp but with a slightly rounded edge and free of excessive plosives/sibilance thanks to the diffusion pattern in the design of the basket. As an omni room mic in our echo chamber, the C725 translated the complex array of reflections around the room into a coherent monaural picture, with especially fine detail as each decay would near its end.
As the owner of a small arts business that is trying its best to practice the highest levels of craft, I have endless respect for David Josephson and his company. With the design and release of every one of their products, there is a no-bullshit vibe that spurns hype and nostalgia in favor of functionality and imagination. They make their own capsules and are one of the very few companies to do so. They are honest – their website reads: "We'd like to perpetuate the fiction that buying a particular microphone will make all your recordings more wonderful. Too bad it isn't true." It sure isn't, but there's a good chance that if you know what you're doing with a C725, you can make something pretty close to magic.
-John Vanderslice tinytelephone.com
Years ago I used a Josephson mic during a session in Canada and found it to be one of the best mics in that studio, so I used it on multiple sources and it worked for almost everything. The C725 has those same qualities. It's well made and generally seems overbuilt. The metal is solid, it looks well machined, and all parts fit and feel great. The adjustable mounts used to angle the mic look like they'll work for a long time, unlike the cheap metal found on many other mics. I like the look of the C725's grill. It seems very strong, like it could take a fall and not dent like most mics do. The provided cable, and the sockets and plugs, are all high quality; better than standard five or seven pin XLR connectors – not easy to accomplish with the limited and expensive connectors available on the market. Everything about the C725's build seems aimed at a long lifetime. Josephson knows what fails first and therefore put thought into using the best components.
I recommend this mic for a few reasons. Firstly, it sounds great and reminds me of the vintage gear I like. It can be easy to make things sound boring, but it's hard to make something that reacts the way I hear and feel. I don't really know to explain it, but I just know some gear I'll use longer than others – it's easy to design that out by making equipment that sounds like everything else. This mic is engaging to listen to, and that's the biggest deal for me. I don't feel the C725's tone will fatigue or wear me out, and it's unlikely I'd want to sell it after a year to try something else. The C725 sounds good enough to always find a use on a session, and do a good job at it. I feel like after a year I could try it on something I wouldn't think appropriate and it could be my new favorite mic for that source. I know the C725 will have longevity. At this price, it would have to be that good, and I think it is.
Another reason I'd buy the C725 is its ability to bring the best sound out of the equipment around it. When you use a mic this good, the tracks you record with it keep getting better as you go through the process of making a record, unlike a track you might have to work harder on, or one you keep trying to help with different effects or equalizers. It's expensive, but if you use it a lot over the years it becomes a bargain. Sessions go faster with better sounding gear like this mic. When artists hear instruments and vocals coming across better right away, they perform better. Josephson's quality control and attention to detail outcompetes most mass-produced gear and you can feel it. They are in this market for the long haul and still listening.
-Bryce Gonzales highlanddynamics.com
I began my assessment of the C725 by simply powering the microphone up and performing several listening tests. In terms of noise floor, frequency response, and overall sound quality (in both sun and moon settings), I was immediately impressed with the Josephson's performance. As listed by the manufacturer, the sun mode has more body with a generally fuller sound, while the moon setting offers a clearer tone with less body (but still had depth at the same gain setting as sun mode). I ran the mic through a real time analyzer and also tested it with program material. The C725's frequency response curve was quite linear from 40 Hz all the way up to 16 kHz. (Note: My testing was not performed in an anechoic chamber, or with flat response loudspeakers. Frequency response of this mic may extend beyond my testing, depending on environment and/or higher resolution monitors.)
Mechanically, the Josephson's overall build quality is quite impressive. The capsule assembly is extremely rigid, with a large dome shaped, solid machined Delrin (high-grade resin) base extending two inches down into the mic body. The brass ringed capsule is mounted directly through the Delrin base with all brass hardware and a brass screw that floats in two separate tuned urethane dampers, making for excellent internal shock mounting of the capsule. The capsule itself consists of two machined acrylic plastic rings with a brass ring on each side that holds the gold sputtered Mylar diaphragms. There also appears to be several brass inserts inside of the capsule assembly. It's all very clean with precise craftsmanship – definitely a well-built capsule. Below the capsule mount assembly is the circuit board for the FET electronics and output transformer. This is connected perpendicularly to a circular base that holds the EF806S tube, the voltage regulator, and several other electrical components. The circuit boards are firmly connected to the capsule base with steel hardware and a slot system that keeps them in place. The EF806S tube also has two rubber O-rings on the outside of the tube for shock relief.
Electronically, the two-stage mic circuit is unique in that it uses a FET transistor common source amplifier with a vacuum tube grounded grid amplifier.The signal from the capsule drives the FET transistor using the tube to provide the power. This allows for the dynamic quality of the vacuum tube to control the operating point of the FET transistor. Also, sun and moon modes provide the option for additional negative feedback into the gain stage, resulting in less distortion with more linear range. In over 20 years as a studio technician, I've never seen a circuit quite like this used in a microphone. Most mic's circuits (including those in present day to vintage Neumann and AKG mics) use either a single FET driver or tube driver design. I haven't seen this type of cascode (two-stage amplifier) hybrid circuit used in a mic like the C725 before – a very smart and unique design.
The external housing of the C725 is solid and built like a tank, with a .1875-inch 6000 series aluminum alloy with a nickel-plated satin finish. The windscreen is also quite interesting in that it's molded directly to the body and is also the same thickness, which gives the entire outer assembly a very rigid character. The windscreen's pattern is very organic and seems to shield the mic without impeding the capsule's performance. The stand mount is a simple but effective system, with a strong and rigid U-shaped bar that offers excellent maneuverability in positioning the mic for many different recording situations. The mic cable is made from top of the line Mogami 20002 wire for excellent flexibility and longevity. The power supply is smartly laid out with robust construction. The front panel offers clearly labeled polar pattern and sun/moon selectors above a multi-pin Tuchel mic input jack and an XLR output connector. The power supply's rear panel offers a fused IEC connection.
In conclusion, I feel the C725 is an extremely sturdy and finely constructed piece of recording equipment – an all around stand out microphone. With a unique cascode circuit design and durable housing, it's obvious that Josephson has spent a great deal of time and effort in building a quality microphone that will last for many years to come.