Nevaton is a Russian microphone manufacturer that formed in 1947 when an acoustic laboratory established itself at the Leningrad Optical and Mechanical Association (LOMO). In 1954, the laboratory joined the newly formed scientific and industrial association named EKRAN. Until 1987, this laboratory did research and design for microphones such as the LOMO 19A19, a highly-prized valve mic from the former USSR, most notably used by Pink Floyd. In 1991, a new company founded entirely by former LOMO engineers emerged-Nevaton LTD Enterprise. St. Petersburg is Nevaton's home base, where all of its microphone components are made in-house.
The Nevaton MC416 is a condenser mic with four polar-patterns (cardioid, wide-cardioid, omni, and figure-8), dual 33 mm gold-sputtered diaphragms, Class A electronics, and a 10 dB pad. It'll handle SPLs as high as 150 dBA, meaning you can stick it in a kick drum and not worry. Its shape is rather unique for an LDC, with a narrow shaft (like an SM58) and a large head (like most LDCs). It looks like it was designed to be hand-held, though I don't imagine it being used this way very often. The dark gray powder coating over the weighty brass housing is attractive but not flashy, and overall, the mic seems like it will withstand years of studio abuse. A red LED shows that phantom power is applied and tells the user which side of the mic to address. The switches for both the pad and the polar patterns are continuously rotating in either direction. These switches were confusing for a minute, but once I realized what was up, they made perfect sense; you can't force them beyond their intended position. The MC416 ships in a velvet-lined wooden box and includes an off-the-shelf rubber-isolated shockmount by Shockproof. The shockmount is the only weakness in the overall package, as the rubber can fatigue over time. On the other hand, replacement is inexpensive, unlike many shockmounts.
I had the good fortune of not knowing how much this mic cost when I tried it out, so my judgment was a bit less skewed than it might have been otherwise (when possible, I'm going to remain ignorant of price when evaluating gear for review). In a nutshell, the MC416 sounded a lot like a Neumann U 87-so much so, in fact, that I was assuming that this mic would cost a lot more than its $1200 street. Of course, not every U 87 sounds the same, but in terms of locating the sound of the MC416, the U 87 is it. The bottom is solid and punchy, the mids articulate, and the top had that distinctive edge to it that I associate with U 87s. However, unlike newer U 87s, many of which can have a harsh quality in the sibilance range (say 5-10 kHz), the MC416 was smooth here, much like a very good vintage U 87-present, but not harsh. Because of the smoothness in this commonly-problematic frequency range, the M416 is the best sounding LDC I've heard in its densely-populated price bracket. In fact, the MC416 has won a number of vocal mic shootouts while in my possession, and I've used it on male and female vocals in varying styles. It did lose out to a cherry 1958 Telefunken U 47 on a session with Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Gray Reverend (with Jason Swinscoe of Cinematic Orchestra producing for his new label, Motion). Prior to the U 47 showing up, however, the MC416 was holding the lead spot on vocals, and everyone was surprised to be falling for this mic no one had heard of. On acoustic and electric instruments, it continues to consistently behave like a really nice U 87. I liked it on acoustic guitar a lot, as it delivers articulation without harshness. The hypercardioid pattern is handy to have on hand as well, and the MC416 doesn't load the bottom end with this setting as excessively as, say, a comparably-priced AKG C 414. I was totally impressed.
The Nevaton line consists of a number of interesting mics, including a stereo LDC with variable pickup angle, a stereo/mono mic using one dual-sided diaphragm, a small-diaphragm condenser, a lavalier, and a shotgun. What impresses me is that they each seem to be exclusive designs featuring unique diaphragms that vary in size. This shows me that Nevaton isn't repackaging the same parts into slightly different mics in order to flesh out their line and hit different price points, but that they are building their mics and components in-house in order to meet very specific design goals. I imagine that these manufacturing practices have a lot to do with the company having been built on such a long tradition of internal research and design, and perhaps even with the isolation that Russian industries endured during the decades-long Cold War. Without romanticizing industrial practices of the past, I think that all the parts being built and assembled under one roof contributes to the quality of these mics.
Probably like many of you, when I use a piece of gear I get an intuitive sense of it-a vibe. In the case of the Nevaton mics, the vibe was very similar to the feeling I get when using excellent vintage mics that were also typically designed and built under one roof. To be finding this vibe and such great sound in mics in this price range is impressive. Bravo!
($1595 MSRP; www.nevaton-microphones.com)
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