Praise for the original TS-1 (Tape Op #60) was generally universal across print journals and web discussion boards. What did Chameleon Labs do to improve this well-received device? The new TS-1 MK II comes in a hard case filled with accessories that will be appreciated by all ranges of engineer. In addition to a foam windscreen, shockmount, and the standard cardioid small-diaphragm capsule, the MK II package comes with much more. First, there is an improved power supply that features a variable heater voltage. Users can vary the volts going to the tube heater from Cool to Normal to Warm. This allows the US-made MIL-SPEC 5840 NOS tube to really sing, depending upon your environment. The new power supply also has a carry handle, which is appreciated by those who work in live rooms covered in power supplies! Additionally, the upgraded 7-pin mic cable is now longer, reaching 25 ft, which makes for easier setup when using the TS-1 in overhead configurations. If you like the pencil-mic sound, there is also a small-diaphragm omni capsule. But the treat is the added TS1-L large-diaphragm capsule. Regularly $200 street, this TS1-L is capable of cardioid and omni patterns. That’s like getting a different second mic for free.
To avoid repetition of the original TS-1 review, we tested the MK II as a stereo pair (we already owned a TS-1 MK I) and used the TS1-L extensively. It took 10 seconds of playback to tell you I am a fan of the TS-1 for drum overheads. Running an original TS-1 and the MK II through a pair of Neve clones gave a balanced representation of the kit. Adding a kick mic gave us a very usable drum sound. Adding a snare mic gave us the ability to further alter the smack of the snare, but was not strictly required. Sometimes less is more, and a pair of TS-1s for overheads is a great example of the quick path to a very respectable three-mic drum sound. I should mention that the TS-1’s were about 9 ft over the snare head. In addition to height, we had to experiment with the front to back placement to get the best balance of drum to cymbals (as one would do with any OH placement). Too far over the kick gave too much washy high-end, and too far behind the drummer’s head and the center image was too weak. We also found that giving the TS-1s more distance in terms of height over the kit resulted in a more natural sound. Moving them lower gave a more direct and hyped sound.
While the TS1-L might not go toe-to-toe with $2000 vocal mics, it was a very usable for singers, back-up, and voiceover work. Newer engineers should grab a MK II kit just to cross off LDC vocal mic from their short-term purchase list. Where we really liked the TS1-L was in omni mode. Both as a room mic and close-in on instruments, the TS1-L provided very nice results. As a mono room mic for drums, we placed the TS1-L about 12 ft away from the kick at about belt height. We walked in an arc until we found the optimal sound “corridor” where the snare, kick, and cymbals mixed themselves. For acoustic guitar, the TS1-L avoided much of the boom associated with recording acoustics via LDC mics. On a Martin D-35, the TS1-L was at home about 18’’ off of the 12th fret. Meanwhile on a Taylor, which is brighter, placing the TS1-L feet away and at ear level with the player gave a nice balance of shimmer, bass strings, and room tone. The TS1-L was not overwhelmed by the harmonics of a Fender Rhodes through a tube amp. I suspect the omni mode helped tame what can be a difficult instrument to record. But during all the tests we kept saying, “I could use this on any session.” Of course, that assumes you aren’t already using your TS-1 in a small-diaphragm application — such good problems to have!
The TS-1 MK II package is now the value deal to beat in the microphone market. More-established studios will want (at least) one for use as a small-diaphragm mic. Yes, it is more “colored”, but proper placement will showcase the tube’s effect on the sound, which I found time and again to be pleasant and musical. Studios with smaller mic lockers will appreciate the added flexibility of the TS1-L head. And if you are just starting out, I can’t think of a better way to add this much mic’ing capability to your collection for this little money. Chameleon Labs have done a great job with an already strong product. Dealers beware — these will be flying off the shelves.
($599 street; www.chameleonlabs.com)
by Chris Koltay
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