In Tape Op #37, I reviewed the ADK A-51 Model A, a modestly-priced large-diaphragm condenser. Although the Model A is a more affordable mic, the company offers a wide range of products including a top-of-the-line tube series. There are three variations of the ADK tube flagship: the TC (a fixed cardioid), the TT (a variable-pattern), and the CE (a limited edition of the TT with a hand-selected new/old stock GE 6072A Jan vintage tube and a slightly different body). All three models come with a robust shock mount, an aluminum case, a remote power supply (with variable pattern selector on TT and CE models), and requisite cables. For most of the review I used a TT, but I've tested all three models extensively.
For vocals, I invited some local musicians and lay people to do some blind tests. We compared the ADK TT against a Korby Convertible Elam 251, a Neumann U 67, and a U 47. Using an a cappella vocal track, everyone chose the TT and the 251. Most described them as "glossy and forward." For round two, I asked the group to pick a favorite: the TT or the 251. The majority chose the 251. For a third test, we ran the same vocals with a full-band backing track. All bets were off. No one could consistently choose one mic over the other.
I also tried the TC's and TT's as drum overheads. The results were amazing. The ADK's are simply the finest drum overhead microphones I have ever auditioned. (As a drummer, I have auditioned a ton of mics in search of a sound that satisfies me). Typically, overhead mics represent the kit or the cymbals well, but not both. The ADK is the best of both worlds for drums. The snare and toms have a round, meaty tone, and the cymbals are silky, but not harsh. There have been several recordings where I mic'ed the whole kit, but kept only the ADK's and the kick mic for the final mix.
The TT and CE are great in omni mode for acoustic guitars and percussion. I like them in figure-8 mode for many vocalists. They can also be very effective on guitar amps, especially tweed and blackface combos.
If you can get by with just a cardioid mic, there is no other mic in this price range that can touch the TC. Please reread the last sentence. If you have some extra cash, I advise the TT or CE for the extra flexibility. If you're still holding out for a "big name" mic, consider this: when people play our recordings they don't know what mic we used. They just hear the sound. With ADK tube mics, I get the sounds I want at a price I can afford. I urge you to get these in your studio for evaluation. I'll bet they won't be going back to the dealer! (Let me know at email@example.com.)