I first heard about JZ microphones years ago when my friend, singer Leah Siegel (Firehorse), gave me a BH-1 Black Hole [Tape Op #71] mic she’d received as partial payment for a session. She didn’t need it, and I am always into checking new mics. I fell in love with it. For a mic (and company) I’d never heard of, it sure sounded great on all sorts of sources: Kick drum, front of the kit mic, acoustic guitar, vocals... you name it. It is just a solid sounding and useful microphone to have around – and to this day, it gets used all the time. When friends reach out in need of a good mic for an extended loan, I often let them take the Black Hole, and they all fall in love with it too.
The latest offering from the Latvia based JZ Microphones is the BB29 Signature Series microphone. Its look is similar to the Black Hole in some ways, but has a solid body instead of the long rectangular hole that defines the look of the aforementioned. It also has some physical similarities to Blue’s Blueberry microphone. The BB29 is a pressure gradient electrostatic transducer mic with a cardioid polar pattern, utilizing a “gold drop” capsule sputtering technique with a transformer-coupled output stage.
The mic arrived in a foam-packed cardboard box with a separate shock mount. I wonder if this is an early production model, or if later versions will come in a foam-lined wood box (like the Black Hole), or molded case of some sort? That’d be a nice addition! The BB29 itself feels good in the hand, and its connections are snug.
Like most of us in the audio world, I’m reduced to doing sessions by myself these days. I have a studio packed full of great gear but brought a small selection of equipment home to have some toys for demo work, mix projects, and miscellaneous audio needs. I have my Schoeps CMC 6s, a Bock Audio 195 [Tape Op #84], a Shure SM7 [#36], and the usual smattering of Shure SM57s and SM58s. These mics get the job done, but it’s always nice to have a new toy, and a reason to flip on the gear to make some noise. For review purposes, I made a quick demo of a tune I found in my voice memos using only the BB29: Drum machine, live drum kit recorded in mono with the BB29 out in front of the kit (to get a healthy amount of kick but with a good balance of everything else), acoustic guitar, some random percussion banging, and vocals. I DI’d the bass – it was late and I was lazy.
Now there are reasons we use different mics in different situations and for different instruments, but that’s not always an option. Certainly, having a selection of nice mics is a luxury I am grateful to enjoy, but many folks just getting going on their recording journey are equipped only with a small interface, some plug-ins, and a single mic. Sometimes that’s all you need. For example, Logan Farmer [Tape Op #139] recently released Still No Mother, a lovely record made with one mic and very limited gear.
I thought the BB29 did an excellent job overall. It has a nice airy presence that’s especially fitting for vocals and acoustic guitar. Specs show a gentle roll-off starting at around 40 Hz, a little bump at 500 Hz, a slight rise from about 1 kHz up to 8 kHz, where it dips a touch and then rises a bit again before it begins to gently roll off at around 12 kHz. The BB29 paired nicely with a variety of preamps and took a little EQ here and there well when appropriate. What I noticed was that I wasn’t immediately looking to EQ tracks recorded with this mic, as it has a fullness and quality found in many more expensive options.
I recently did some background vocals on a friend’s project that he sent over, and for this I paired the BB29 with my Retro Instruments Powerstrip [#82]. I compressed the signal going in, EQ’d it a bit to stay out of the way of the lead vocal, and with a splash of reverb, boom – it sounded like a record. Because I do have the luxury of microphone options, I like to mix flavors up a bit on productions, so the BB29 is a welcome option to have set up and ready to go when needed. At a sale price of around 650 bucks (shock mount sold separately), this is a solidly performing mic to have in the closet without the trouble (or price tag) that comes with a classic vintage mic. Use it, abuse it, and enjoy it. I still love my workhorse JZ Microphones Black Hole, but the BB29 is a welcome new guest at my studio.