The C716 is the long-awaited addition to Josephson Engineering’s acclaimed Series Seven family of mics. It was developed and designed in the beautiful California coastal town of Santa Cruz, CA. I think it’s a very important microphone.
My recording studio, Tiny Telephone, owns twelve Josephson mics. I’m a believer. But I’m also a deeply cynical business owner trying to survive in a forever-shrinking service sector. I would be thrilled to point out any missteps or miscalculations in the mic, but there are none. The machining and build-quality are stellar. There are no electronic switches. (God, I love this.) The advance word on the C716 was that it’s a cardioid, single-output version of the C700 (Tape Op #62). It is, but there are changes and improvements as well.
The C716 houses a gold-diaphragm Series Seven capsule, but instead of being set in figure-8, it’s a single cardioid output. The internal circuitry uses a Class A FET front end with an active, balanced, transformerless output. The body of the C716 is very similar to the C715 (Tape Op #78); the basket and body are a single piece, and the now-patented random-scatter “aeration” pattern in the grille eliminates internal microphone reflections and standing waves. As a bonus, the aluminum alloy basket is an effective windscreen. I believe this is a major improvement in basic microphone design. The capsule is internally shockmounted, and I’ve found no need for external isolation.
Most manufacturers are interested in aping a mic that came out in 1947. Josephson seems to be looking forward, and I believe they are the most interesting mic manufacturer today.
The C715, which is a transformer-based LDC with a sweepable capsule pattern from cardioid to omni, has a more gentle top-end roll off that you would expect from a single diaphragm. That capsule’s lineage can be traced back to the excellent Sony C-37A. The C715 is a much slower mic (it has a big Lundahl transformer) than the C716, and that can work very well on instruments that have abundant transients (vibraphone) or when an engineer needs to control top end (a strident or overly bright singer).
The C716 is fast as hell and electronically uncontaminated, and when paired with a high quality mic preamp (like the Forssell SMP-2), it can deliver a fidelity that is simply shocking. The top end of this mic is impressive; it does the rare trick of sounding infinitely open and incredibly natural in the upper reaches of the spectrum (15 kHz and up). I’ve had great luck adding a tube compressor to the signal chain to police front-end transients when needed.
The C716 capsule is derived from the Siemens/AKG CK 12 design that founder David Josephson marks as a “very significant advance” in capsule design. The reliability and consistency of that design has been further improved by Josephson. In interviews, he’s mentioned that the capsule sounds “precise in cardioid” and creates “not punchy, but present sound.” Agreed.
Ah, precision. That’s my holy grail. I’m not a huge fan of “colored” microphones. I do understand the desire for strange, fucked-up, and irrational compressors and effects. But I prefer mics that can grab the most high-resolution image possible. Introducing color, anomalies, and distortions is as easy as adding an old passive cinema filter to the signal chain, or a Bogen RP2 tube preamp, or exploring the outer banks of the LFO circuitry in a Lexicon Super Prime Time — easy. But most of recording is capturing an instrument in a room, and you’re going to need at least one very good microphone to do that right.
I haven’t found a good sounding instrument or voice that the C716 doesn’t translate with style and grace. If the singer is bad, the piano digital, or the guitar tragically intonated, this mic will not help you.
It must be pointed out that Josephson Engineering manufacture their own capsules, and I think this is supremely important. You would assume that the big players in the $4,000+ mic world all do, but recently, I had a mic tech list the companies that outsource the single most important element in their product, and the list is quite depressing. I certainly trust a third party to provide a high-quality transformer or XLR connector, but a capsule is much more likely to see environmental damage or be severely compromised in use than any other microphone component. I once owned a Neumann U 67 that had a small flake of tobacco on the edge of the gold diaphragm; the tech guessed it had been there for decades.
You know when you pick up a mic, hesitate, and then slowly put it back on your shelf? Or do you have pieces of rack gear with so many sub-sub-submenus that you just never find yourself actually using them? Gather them in a box and start unloading them on eBay. Sell your plasma to make up the shortfall. Then buy yourself a wonderful new C716. ($3995 street; www.josephson.com)
–John Vanderslice, www.johnvanderslice.com
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