I work in studio recording, location sound, and live performance. For me, versatility is king, and I'm constantly searching for tools that allow me to minimize my kit and do more with less. With this in mind, Earthworks Audio's SR117 is exemplary. I love how natural this microphone sounds.

First, it has a mostly flat frequency response. This means it can be used in an array of diverse applications. I've recorded trumpet, baritone horn, drums, vocals, upright piano, and amplified instruments with this microphone, and every time it has delivered an accurate and transparent result that responds beautifully to EQ. Without EQ, the Earthworks SR117 sounds somewhat contained compared to similar mics such as the Neumann KMS 105 [Tape Op #43] and the Shure Beta 87A. Both have fairly even frequency responses, but they do sound a little hyped and slightly airier in their top ends when compared to the SR117. This smooth response is one of the first things I fell in love with when using the SR117, particularly when recording very loud sources. When I'm recording trumpet, other supercardioid microphones can sound a little harsh. The SR117's even top end response is perfect in these instances.

Second, I was surprised at how well the SR117 handled high SPLs from a screaming trumpet. As a horn player, high SPLs are a constant concern, and this microphone perfectly balances the sonic fidelity of a crispy supercardioid with the pragmatic benefits of a dynamic mic. Once levels were dialed in, I had no issues with high SPLs when recording voice, drums, and horns. I've never particularly enjoyed recording horns with unforgiving condenser microphones, especially with dynamic players and in environments over which I have little control. The SR117 is easy to use in these circumstances, and it is uncommonly forgiving of loud horn players, drummers, or vocalists who might randomly push air a little too hard.

Third, the SR117 has sensational noise handling. While recording loud sources with microphones mounted to stands, I'm used to dealing with significant noise created by the vibration of these stands. For anyone who records a lot of drums, especially large kits with players who hit hard, handling this type of stand-borne noise is a problem. Even without being placed in a shock mount, the SR117 is terrifically merciful in these instances, and is helpful at handling these unintended vibrations.

Fourth, the SR117 demonstrates excellent off-axis rejection, making it a preferable option for multi-mic setups like tracking drums, live bands, or working in noisy environments. At an off-axis, 90 to 180 degree angle, the sound coloration is not harsh or tinny, which can be the case with other handheld microphones. In all of my tests at 90 to 180 degrees, the off-axis rejection of the SR117 was better than the KMS 105. Interestingly, the SR117's off-axis rejection responded better in my tests than dynamic microphones like the Shure SM58 and SM7B [#36]. The only exception to this superior rejection occurred at 180 degrees, when the sound source was extremely close to the SR117's diaphragm, around 1 to 2 inches away. In this case, the off-axis rejection was very similar to the KMS 105, but the SR117 rejected fewer low frequencies than an SM58 or SM7B. That's an overly complicated way of saying that the SR117's off-axis rejection is fantastic, practical, and doesn't harshly color the sound.

Fifth, this microphone looks and feels substantially constructed, with a solid metal body and windscreen. It's slightly heavier than an SM58 and feels rugged and sturdy in my hand.

Finally, at only $199 the price is undeniably remarkable. If anyone is looking for an affordable microphone with a wide possibility of applications, a uniform and transparent frequency response, excellent SPL and noise handling, and superior off-axis rejection, Earthworks Audio's SR117 should be at the top of their list.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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