I recently became frustrated with what felt like an all too common theme in the conversation about gear: a hyper-reverence to the gold standard “classic” mics and how out of reach (financially and otherwise) they can be for most working engineers and musicians. As recording industry professionals, the idea that in order to operate at the highest level we are relegated to a specific, expensive, and dwindling stock of gear was simply unacceptable to me. I went down the rabbit hole, looking specifically for new mics to try.
Enter the Myburgh M1. After listening to the audio samples on Myburgh’s (very slick) website and clocking the thumbs-up on Joe Barresi’s [Tape Op #23] Instagram page, I reached out to the company’s founder, Andrew Myburgh, through a mutual friend to see if I could take one for a spin. The M1 is a large diaphragm tube condenser microphone featuring a German-made Thiersch Elektroakustik Mylar M7 capsule and a Russian military-grade long-life tube. The microphones are manufactured by hand in Berlin, at a clip of about ten per month – having first hit the market in January 2020 after a few years of research and development. Once we got past some pandemic-related supply chain hurdles, I was delighted to receive a matched pair of Myburgh M1s direct from the factory.
What immediately stood out was the rock-solid build quality and intense attention to detail. That build quality applies even to the (seemingly) indestructible hard shell case with molded foam to securely cradle the microphone and accouterments. This cut-no-corners attitude is a theme throughout the design and build of the M1, and is commensurate with what one would expect at this price point. Inside the case is the microphone in a latching box, the power supply, and a proprietary cable with swiveling Tuchel mount (more on that later). I was immediately impressed by the elegance of the design and form factor, from the head basket to the swivel connector to the polar pattern potentiometer. I find the mic body’s blue-grey color quite pleasant, with enough personality to be recognizable but not stealing the show or feeling over the top when set up in a recording session.
Upon removal from its case, I noticed the microphone itself is pretty heavy. Andrew told me this is due to most of the body of the mic being machined out of solid brass, helping to mitigate interference and to aid with threading. With this weight, the swivel mount had better be as tough as the mic, and it is. I found that it closed tightly and securely without much fuss, and that more often than not any need for adjustment was due to using a stand that lacked a counterbalance or sandbag. The power supply is also built to last and features a variable detented potentiometer for polar pattern selection, with a “true cardioid” pattern via push/pull. This allows the mic to gain about 4 dB output above the already very low noise floor.
As mentioned before, the M1 relies on a Siegfried Thiersch Mylar M7 capsule, which is not exactly new at this point. However, Myburgh enlisted the help of Andreas Grosser and Eckehard Dux to implement and perfect the circuit until it felt right, also auditioning different bodies and head basket designs for optimal sonics. In addition to a NOS rationed military-grade tube, the M1 sports custom-designed audio and power transformers made by Pikatron. After speaking with Andrew, it seems that no detail was left to chance, and it shows in the final product.
In use, the M1 performs beautifully. I was able to use the microphone during several different tracking situations in commercial studios and DIY spaces, on everything from drums to vocals. I found it flattering, responsive, and versatile, just as I’d hoped. One big thing that caught my attention right off the bat was the aforementioned low noise floor and (as Myburgh calls it) its “monster” output. This makes the M1 adept at tracking quieter acoustic instruments, without having to worry about unwanted noise and artifacts, and with a detail and depth that one may not expect from a tube condenser. On the other side of the glass, the low noise floor and linear frequency response lend to the M1’s versatility, as it can be paired with an engineer’s choice of preamps and other outboard gear to achieve the desired tone while always maintaining its flattering detail and immediacy.
Speaking of linearity, I will say that given all of the clones and homages on the market these days, one might have expected something a bit more colored or hyped from a new large diaphragm tube condenser. My personal experience with microphones that are trying too hard to sound “vintage” or “vibey” is that they simply wind up feeling artificial and take the sound further away from something finished sounding. However, the M1 is quite capable of holding its own in any tracking scenario. It takes processing very well, including bold EQ – even heavy [Antares] Auto-Tune [Tape Op #126] and modern processing – all while maintaining sonic impact and depth.
On vocals of all ranges, the M1 shines with a clarity and gravitas that can’t be faked. Even with minimal processing and somewhat modest preamps, it delivered a vocal sound that was present and detailed without sounding hyped. The mic responded well to the singer’s mic technique and distance, making the recording of even quieter, breathy passages a snap. Building intricately layered vocal stacks was a pleasure. Additionally, the M1 responded beautifully to a heavy-handed processing chain. With some extra compression and EQ, it felt like a top-shelf pop vocal mic.
I loved the way the M1 felt on acoustic instruments. It captured my road-worn Martin D-18 guitar in a complete way that didn’t make me feel like reaching for a small diaphragm condenser or ribbon to complement it, and immediately sat well in the mix. The M1 may be my new favorite piano mic, sounding detailed and gentle when tracking a Yamaha upright. This made the sometimes-arduous task of fitting a stereo piano into a mix much simpler. My colleague, Peter Geiser, took the mics for a spin and offered similar observations, although it wasn’t quite right for the song he was working on that day, which called for a darker, lo-fi sound.
On drums, the M1 is also a workhorse. I tried it on the front side of a kick, as a far room mic, and as stereo overheads. The clarity, noise floor, and ability to handle high SPLs make the M1 highly effective in all of these roles. The raw signal coming from the microphone is such a pristine starting point that the possibilities start to feel endless when compression and EQ enter the conversation. Peter Geiser had a similar experience, using the M1 as a mono overhead in a session with drummer Pepe Hidalgo Ramos. He also recorded some of the finest handclaps anyone could’ve asked for, which can be a nightmare when using the wrong microphone.
Another thing Peter pointed out was that the swivel connector could make positioning the M1 a little difficult when mic’ing certain elements in tight spaces. For example, setting up a stand to reach out from behind an upright piano can be tricky because the M1 can’t swivel 360 degrees. I mentioned this to Drew, and he said they are looking into solutions. Typical harnesses and baskets are unreliable with the M1 because of its weight. Aside from this minor gripe, Peter and I found the mic easy to use with no real surprises. Just make sure to have a stable stand!
The main goal of any selection we make in the studio (when it comes to microphones, outboard gear, instruments, and performers) is to minimize the amount of work needed to bring a sound to its final form. The M1 is the shortest distance to that goal. And while this microphone is certainly not cheap, I feel it is reasonably priced given its versatility, build quality, and overall sonic gravitas. ($6495 MSRP; myburgh.eu)