When you look at the Violet Design Amethyst Vintage microphone for the first time, chances are you’re going to experience a mild case of déjà vu. Actually it’s not déjà vu, without getting into the long and sordid story complete with international lawsuits, suffice it to say Violet Design was the actual manufacturer for a successful vendor of very stylish microphones (which incidentally are now largely made in China).
In any event, the Amethyst Vintage is an exceedingly well finished cardioid true condenser microphone constructed in Latvia to what could best be described as “old world” quality standards. The Amethyst is the kind of product that is likely make you smile each time you take it out of its box, it feels solid in hand, appears graceful to the eye, and gives the impression of being from a bygone era.
There are two versions of the Amethyst microphone, the Standard which has a single 1” center terminated capsule, and the Vintage (reviewed here) which has dual diaphragm 1” center terminated capsule. Both are constructed from six micron gold sputtered mylar. The solid state output section of the Amethyst is of a transformerless design, biased into Class A. Self-noise is a very low 7dB (A-weighted).
While the appearance of the Amethyst may seem somewhat unconventional compared to garden variety microphones, the isolated quasi-lollipop microphone head does provide a more acoustically transparent setting for the capsule. This manifests itself in a sound that is decidedly more natural than other microphones in its price class.
The Amethyst microphones feature neither level reduction pads nor high pass filtering. While this is a minor inconvenience, it is in keeping with the minimalist audiophile-like sensibilities of the product and completely eliminates the possibility of signal degradation due to the effects of the filters and/or gain reduction circuitry as well as the associated switching involved therein.
The Amethyst ships in a velvet lined cherry wood box which is a step above the quality of box that you would normally expect for a microphone at this price point. As for included accessories…there are none! (Actually that’s not true, there is an included European microphone thread converter insert) The stylish and effective ASM shock mount is an optional accessory. While it possible to mount the Amethyst directly to a microphone stand, in all but the most serene settings you’re going to want to have the benefit of the shock mount. I found stand-borne resonances to add an undesirable lower midrange thickening during testing with K&M folding and Atlas wheeled studio boom stands.
Unusual in this day and age, Violet Design microphones carry a five year warranty in the United States. It’s clear that Violet Design has great confidence in their products to offer a warranty this long, and given the excellent build quality, I don’t feel that their confidence is at all misplaced!
The Amethyst Vintage provides a modern up-front presentation on male vocals that easily cuts through a mix, yet never sounds harsh, strident, or sibilant. It also has the kind of dimensionality that you might normally expect to hear from a high end tube microphone. If you’re planning to get up close and personal with the Amethyst, don’t forget to use a pop filter as the microphone can be somewhat susceptible to “p-pops” if you’re less than two inches from the grille.
With a maximum SPL rating of 134 dB, I had no qualms about placing the Amethyst Vintage in front of a vintage Marshall JCM-800 half stack. The Violet microphone sounded great in this application, tight and punchy with a very clear transient attack especially on the Marshall’s clean channel.
On a small Polytone bass combo with a 15” Gauss speaker, the Violet sounded rich and smooth micing the output of an FBB Custom fretless bass. Though it delivered almost as much low end as a vintage AKG D12e, the upper midrange frequencies were rendered much more realistically.
Used approximately 1 ½ feet in front of a 20” Premier birch jazz kick drum, the Amethyst sounded clean and deep, combining rather nicely with an Audix D6 used inside of the drum. I’m not sure that the venerable Neumann U47 FET is appreciably better in this particular application.
Suspended 3 ½ feet above a drum kit, the Violet sounded both immediate and warm. This is the kind of overhead microphone that can really “glue” a drum kit together, making it sound coherent and powerful.
The combination of excellent sound, build quality beyond reproach, a five year warranty, and pricing not all that much higher than some microphones that could uncharitably be viewed as semi-professional, make the Violet easy to recommend. While not exactly inexpensive, it represents excellent value in today’s competitive market.