A lollipop that doesn’t suck
If you are looking for a big impressive looking microphone, you will probably not be interested in the Audix SCX-25. On the other hand, if you are looking for a big-sounding microphone that can fit where other microphones could never go, the SCX-25 might be just what you are looking for.
The SCX-25 represents the top-end product offering from Audix, who have during the 1990’s built an enviable reputation based upon well priced, and rugged dynamic microphones.
The transition from dynamic microphone manufacturing to condenser microphone manufacturing might seem like it is a level up in complexity of execution. In fact it is quite the other way around! Consider how many companies make good quality dynamic microphones; you can pretty much count them on one hand. Compare that to the legions of condenser microphone manufacturers (domestic “boutique” manufacturers and low-end overseas manufacturers, and everything in-between) and a different picture emerges.
The SCX-25 may cause people to reassess their conceptions about Audix just being a dynamic microphone manufacturer.
All Day Sucker
The SCX-25 is a side-address externally polarized (true) condenser microphone that operates in a cardioid only pattern. True to its minimalist design, there are no pads or low cuts switches of any kind, and the microphone is transformerless. The SCX-25 is finished in a semi-matte black and with shiny brass rings around the top of the mic body, and around the capsule head.
To the best of my knowledge the only other currently produced microphones that use a lollipop type of arrangement are the Blue microphones, and the MBHO 608. While those microphones may have a visually similar body/capsule arrangement, the Audix microphone differs in that the capsule is mounted in the capsule head with an innovative suspension system that actually shock-mounts the capsule within the internal brass ring. According to Audix, this eliminates the need for an external shockmount.
Though it weighs in at only six ounces, it has a very substantial feel to it and all of the metalwork and laser engraving is done to a very nice standard. For the most part, the preamplifier section of the SCX-25 is of a surface mount topology, with a few “through-hole” parts populating the circuit board. The SCX-25 is constructed in the USA and carries a one year warranty.
The SCX-25 features a gold-sputtered diaphragm that is 25 mm in size. The stated frequency response is 20 Hz – 20 kHz, with a dynamic range of 121 dB (1kHz at max. SPL), signal to noise ratio of 80 dB (1 kHz at 1 Pa), self-noise of 14 dB SPL, and a max input level of 135 dB SPL. Self-noise is stated as 14 dB.
Audix includes a very nice foam lined wooden case, a somewhat cheap feeling microphone clip (and a European thread adapter insert) with the microphone. The case, incidentally, can hold two SCX-25’s, so you can take a pair on the road in style with just a single case.
I checked out the (unmatched) pair of SCX-25’s on a variety of sources. All testing was carried out using the following equipment for monitoring and recording: Neotek IIIc console, Urei 809 and Fostex NF-1 monitors, DAV Electronics Broadhurst Gardens (solid state) microphone preamp, Peavey VMP-2 tube preamp, MCI/Sony JH-24 multitrack and Studer A 80 RC master two track recorder.
Vocals – The SCX-25 was a really nice departure from the over-hyped midrange of many inexpensive condenser microphones. Ostensibly, the midrange presence boosts that many microphones exhibit is designed to increase intelligibility and clarity. Often I find this effect merely distracting, and multiple tracks recorded with a microphone with an obviously boosted midrange area can quickly build up a hump in response at the offending frequencies.
The SCX-25 eschews this aberration in favor of a clean, natural sounding midrange. Male vocals have all of the bite and edge of the singer, and are able to cut through a mix, yet they never sound shrill or strident.
Utilizing a variety of preamps, I found that the SCX-25 mated nicely with both solid state and tube based units. During a recent session, I put the SCX-25 up for a very closely mic’d and quietly sung vocal track. Both the singer and I were very pleased with the resultant sound, which was big sounding, yet not lumpy with the proximity effect that can sometimes plague a large-diaphragm microphone.
Kick Drum – I may as well start off by saying that the SCX-25 is not the microphone of choice for putting in the kick drum. As a matter of fact, I didn’t really put the SCX-25 in the kick drum, placing it outside of the drum instead. According to Audix, the SCX-25 can be damaged by the kind of SPL’s that are generated inside a kick drum, and to be fair, Audix does make a wide range of drum-oriented microphones all of which are both less expensive, and better suited to drum level SPL’s.
Still, I often do like the sound of a large-diaphragm condenser microphone in and/or around a bass drum, so I engaged in a bit of experimentation with the SCX-25.
Using my 22” GMS maple kick drum (set up with an Evans EQ 2 batter head, and a cutaway resonant head) and the preamps on my Neotek I first placed one of the SCX-25’s about 2 feet away from the outside edge of the front of the drum. I got a nice woody sound, with a good dose of low frequencies, but obviously a large amount of leakage from the other components of the kit. I then moved the microphone a bit closer (about 1 foot away) from the outside of the drum and the sound was definitely improved in terms of balance, but it did seem like the microphone was starting to near its limits, sounding at times a little bit edgy and strained.
Clearly it was time to bring out the Sonotube! As mentioned in my article “How to Record a Kick Drum” EM July 2002 I sometimes like to employ a large Sonotube (which is a thick cardboard cylinder used for pouring concrete forms) to form a tunnel to extend the bass drum and capture the bass wave without all of the leakage. Using my four foot Sonotube, the SCX-25 really delivered the goods, sounding quick and meaty at the same time. Just the same, this Audix microphone would not likely be the first microphone you would reach for, for kick mic’ing duties.
Piano – Short of some seriously high dollar microphones, the SCX-25 is one of the very best microphones you could put into a piano. When I said “into” I did mean in-to rather than “near” or “around” or “close-by.” While I do have a nice selection of instruments both electronic and acoustic at my studio, one thing that I don’t have is a good piano. Though a nice grand is on the list of things to acquire, right now I make do with a Hallet Davis spinet that was a gift from my Grandmother when she sold her house. For a spinet it’s not bad (when it is in tune, that is!) but it is lacking in bass, and does sound a bit pinched in the mids. And that’s exactly what I heard when I put the pair of Audix microphones into the piano. Every flaw of my piano was perfectly reproduced, as it was! Believe it or not, I was actually happy to hear the sub-standard tones reproduced through my monitors, as meant that the Audix’s were doing their job well.
In the interests of fairness, I brought the microphones to a local venue which often hosts both jazz and classical concerts. They have a wonderful 1940’s Steinway D concert grand piano, which I have had the pleasure of both playing and mic’ing several times. Through the well tuned (for Bose) PA system, the sound of the Steinway was the best that I have ever heard it in that hall. The house engineer is considering purchasing a pair of the Audix’s, by the way.
Afuche-Cabasa – The Audix sounded quite good mic’ing the Afuche-Cabasa as well as some other percussive instruments such as tambourine, triangle, and gourd-shaker. While there was plenty of high-end detail, the sound was never spitty or harsh, which I would attribute to the lack of midrange hype. If you are trying to cut through a cluttered mix, however, you might find it necessary to dial in a bit of 2-4K to sharpen the sound a little bit. I did find the SCX-25 to be a nice choice for percussion overdubs, especially when used as a pair.
Drum Overheads – Using the stock Neotek preamps, I mic’d the studio’s GMS kit from directly in front of the kit, about 18” away from the kick drum both on the right and left side. I was very pleased with what I heard. The Audix’s sounded nearly as good as my reference microphones which are quite a bit more expensive. As a matter of fact, in some circumstances I could see preferring the sound of the Audix’s over my reference depending on the rest of the arrangement.
Room Mic – Using the above set up, I pulled the mics back into the room, this time about 10 feet from the drum kit. The SCX-25’s provided a nice picture of the actual kit in the room, but the sound was lacking a little bit of excitement. I think this might be due to the lack of presence boost in the microphone. The SCX’s did represent in a faithful way though the slightly dull nature of my tracking room. I liked the SCX’s quite a bit more using them as room microphones for ambient mic’ing of electric guitar amps. From distances ranging from 10 to 25 feet away from a Mesa-Boogie Dual Rectifier played through a Marshall 4×12 the SCX-25 pair sounded great, combining a wide and deep presentation along with warmth that once again was a nice change from the brittle presentation of many other microphones I have tried.
Trumpet and Trombone – Hey, I’m a really bad trumpet/trombone player. I was bad in high school band, and I’m even worse now! But that won’t stop me from adding a real trumpet or trombone track to a track that has some sampled or synthesized brass to give it the feel of something real. I tend to like dark microphones on brass, nothing sounds worse to me than the square-wave brass sound of early digital recordings, and perhaps from that trauma I like my brass to sound warm and mellow. Just like Kenny-G.
As I expected, the SCX-25 sounded really nice on the trumpet and trombone…provided that I didn’t play at very loud volumes close to the microphone. As with the kick drum, close proximity to extreme volume didn’t seem to be such a great combination for the SCX-25. Moving back a bit from the microphone proved to be the key to getting a nice sound. I did find myself wondering whether the issue was the preamp section or the actual diaphragm of the microphone running out of headroom. Could a pad be the answer?
Though I didn’t have the opportunity to record a full brass section playing together, I would imagine that the SCX-25 would do very nicely capturing a great sounding brass track from a few feet away, with or without added “spot” microphone tracks.
Guitar amp usage – Keeping in mind the SCX-25’s dynamic restrictions I tried one out on a Paul Reed Smith CE-24 played through a vintage Silvertone 1484 amp. The Silvertone is a small tube combo that has a single 12” speaker loaded in a semi open cabinet. I found that the Audix did a better job of capturing the actual sound of the amp than anything that I have previously tried. As with the recent review of the Audio-Technica 4040 I once again set up the second Audix two inches away from the open part of the cabinet, and was rewarded with a really nice thick sounding guitar track, once I had flipped the phase of the rear mic, that is!
Acoustic Guitar – I used the pair of Audix’ s in X-Y coincident, and neck/bridge placement arrangements to good effect to mic my Jean Larivee Jumbo cutaway acoustic. Even after over 15 years of recording experience, I am still sometimes amazed at just what a big difference a 1/4 of an inch of movement can make to the sound that the microphone captures. The SCX’s small physical size made positioning the microphones in a way that didn’t interfere with playing a snap. As an added plus, their light weight makes it possible to move boom mic stands all the way away from performers, giving them a little bit more space around them.
The SCX-25s sounded good in XY configuration, but I found that moving them in closer in neck/bridge configuration was quite a bit more pleasing. I liked the sound the best when the bridge microphone was about 8 inches away from the guitar, and the neck microphone was perhaps 12 inches away, and pointed at the neck/body junction. Using a tube preamp with the above set-up worked really nicely for recording a solo guitarist. Note that this is not the sound you would prefer if you need a bright sounding very “strummy” guitar track that needed to cut through a dense arrangement.
The Audix SCX-25 is a nice change from the usual large diaphragm condenser microphone. It sounds good on a variety of sources, and happens to sound great in several applications. Those looking for a compact microphone that eschews the normal presence peak will find this an especially appealing alternative.
If you are in need of an excellent piano microphone (especially for grand piano application) need look no further for an affordable choice. As an overhead drum microphone the Audix provides a transparent, but full sounding presentation that is up there with more expensive offerings.
Though I can’t recommend the SCX-25 for use inside of a kick drum (or other very high SPL applications), it does work very nicely placed a prudent distance away from high SPL sources.
While it is not an inexpensive microphone, the SCX-25 represents an excellent value in light of its sound and high quality construction.
Microphone (large diaphragm condenser)
EM Meter –
Features – 3
Sound Quality – 4
Value – 4
Pros – Smooth sound, small size
Cons – Limited SPL capacity
Audix SCX-25 Specifications
Element Externally polarized condenser
Polar Pattern Cardioid
Frequency Response 20-20000 Hz
Open Circuit Sensitivity 27mv
Impedance 200 ohms
Maximum input level 135 dB SPL
Self noise 14 dB
Dynamic Range 121 dB
Signal to noise ratio 80 dB
Phantom Power requirements 48V-52 DC
Weight 6 ounces
Dimensions 148mm long, 51mm wide at capsule
Output connector 3-pin gold plated male XLR
Supplied Accessories Wood case, mic stand adapter with euro thread