Schoeps is a family-owned German company that's been producing top-quality mics with a minimum of fuss for over 50 years. They make a huge variety of small- diaphragm capsules and transformerless amplifier bodies that can be easily mixed and matched, all machined and classified with Teutonic precision. I have a pair of their bog-standard 48 V, Class-A CMC 5 amplifiers (which sound anything but bog-standard), but they also produce the CMC 6 amplifier, which operates on 12 V or 48 V power and has a response extending down to 20 Hz, and the CMC 6 Ug"xt", whose response extends all the way up to 40 kHz and beyond. And don't get me started on the capsules, which include six types of cardioids, four omnis, and a slew of others.
But you shouldn't get sidetracked by the boffinry behind these mics; they don't just spec out well, they sound great too. My MK 41 caps have a little bass roll-off (they're 2 dB down at 100 Hz) so they seem to have little or no proximity effect, and they almost make Neumann KM 84's sound like large-diaphragm mics in comparison. As a friend put it after hearing them for the first time, they're "sparkly." However, they deliver an incredibly detailed sound at all frequencies, and their brightness is very musical. The low end is there alright-it just doesn't overwhelm the rest of the sound.
They've been great on loads of stuff-and not just your typical SD condenser applications either. Yeah, they were good on guitar and piano, but they also worked well on background vocals, where their lean sound made them a perfect complement for leads recorded through a more aggressive sounding large-diaphragm mic. Madly enough, I even got good results when I tried one on kick in a song where I was looking for something a little lighter than normal.
They're quite hi-fi when used with transparent preamps, which can sound a bit too classy for some of the music I record. However, I tried them through a Neve 1272 and a Daking and loved the sound; the tonality of the preamps was unaltered but delivered with extra detail and precision.
One word of warning: these mics do not like over- compression. In that "what if..." spirit one gets when trying new gear, I tried slamming one through a Distressor on 6:1, with about 12 dBs of gain reduction on acoustic guitar. Yuk. The result was brittle and harsh, and a shadow of the Schoeps's usual sweet self. Anyway, you'll find yourself compressing and EQ'ing a lot less when using them, as their sound holds its place in a mix more easily than that of other mics, even at lower volumes.
Finally, the Schoeps line is modular, so you can start with just one capsule and then add more as your needs demand and your budget permits, which seems to me like the ideal solution whether you're upgrading or just starting your mic collection. (MK 41 $782 MSRP, CMC 5 $640; www.schoeps.de)