As anyone who's seen the TV show Portlandia knows, in our little city, the dream of the 1890s is still alive. People cure their own meats, roast coffee, raise chickens in the backyard, and pickle any food item, but they also build their own mics. Self-described bricoleur, Philip Graham, builds these mics in his NE Portland basement out of plumbing fittings, bike parts, and stainless steel bolts - and they do not resemble any microphones I've ever seen. Looking like a steampunk's bong meets Sherlock Holmes' Dictaphone, the Edwina mic features a pivoting head assembly with two-layer mesh grille, functionally similar to the BLUE Dragonfly's [Tape Op #22]. This allows for that extra special placement I appreciate (like over and around an acoustic guitar or toms) and also means that it can swing between front and side-address use with ease. Though Philip specifically designed this mic to be used live mostly with vocals, it does quite well at more sources than that and is also a great - and unique looking- studio tool. I tried mine out on acoustic guitar, lead and backing vocals, and even cello, with great results all around. The mic has a sound that does well in a mix, allowing details to still hold up even when the track is in the background. Lead vocals worked so well that I resisted pulling out mics that cost ten times more. That's unusual at this price point for a picky bastard like me. I asked some local recordist pals what their experiences had been with the Edwina mic, so read on... -LC
"Phil got in touch with me to see if I'd like to try out his mics for The Robinsons' acoustic performances. I went over to his house, met his lovely family and pet rabbit, and left with a pair of Edwina mics. We had a few weeks to kill before any show dates. Immediately threw them up and ran tests through them and found them to be incredibly warm - very ribbon-sounding on playback. In short, I've used them on everything from piano to drum overheads, and they sound as good as they look."
-Kevin Robinson <therobinsonsmusic.com>
"I really love the 'Oh, wow' aesthetic of the Edwina. Clients react to having it placed in front of them in a very positive way. I love the low noise-floor and the great sonic detail. I really liked the Edwina on acoustic guitar. It sounded surprisingly similar to my Groove Tubes MD 2A... to the point where, when speaking through the microphones, we found it hard to tell which one we were listening to. But when the vocalist started singing, or even belting a vocal, the 2A would warm up in a way that the Edwina wasn't capable of, and the 2A sat in the mix a little better."
-Pat Kearns <permapressrecording.com>
And Philip adds: "I have found an improvement to the circuit for better SPL handling that I'm implementing right now. I'm happy to swap out older mics for new ones if users have had any issues with loud sources. Very few have mentioned running into this, but it is real for extremely loud vocals or very close-up percussion."
How much better does that get? We've got a guy in town building retro-futuristic microphones and working with his users to fine tune them. Now we just have to put a bird on it, as he offers custom etching. Or maybe we can pickle it? (Sorry - another Portlandia reference.) ($499 direct; www.eartrumpetlabs.com) -LC