I'm using an Avantone Audio CK-1 pair for room mics at church and am very impressed with their quality and the versatility. They sound very good and very responsive. I'm loving them.
They sound amazing for Drums Overheads in XY and on Acoustic Guitars.
Great for Overheads
I went on a shopping spree and bought a bunch of new mics like the sm7b for vocals and guitar, the d112 for bass and kick drum, the e604's for toms. Out of all those mics I was most impressed with the CK-1's. if you need overhead mics but don't have a lot these are perfect. I hope to upgrade though because they still aren't top quality. but for $150 each they sound incredible. They look better in person than they do in the picture.
Great Room Sounds, Avantone is Awesome
I had purchased an Avantone CV-12 about a year and a half ago and it's been an outstanding mic, so when I started getting serious about recording room sound instruments, especially my classical guitar, I bought a couple of these and paired them with a Great River MP-500NV and a Shadow Hills Mono Gama. These Avantone CK-1 mics catch all the details of the guitar, and along with pre's, make both of my classical guitars sound incredible. One of the guitars is a high end Takamine and the other is a cheap Austrian brand, and they both sound stunning. I can't believe how good the cheap one sounds. It always this nasally character that I thought would shine on a recording, and sure enough what was in my head about that guitar came out finally with a great set of mics.
So I had a chance to record some drums with my brother this last weekend and the experience was so good that I had to write about these mics. We've both been playing for about 30 yrs and toured regionally together when we were in college. We play all the time still, in bands and recording. He's a mechanical engineer by trade (meticulous to the core) and has a great Yamaha Custom Series birch kit. He also has a Shure PGDMK6-XLR drum mic kit. We were pretty happy with the overhead sound from the Shures, but tried the Avantone's out of curiosity, and what a difference. Same pre's (Great River and Shadow Hills). These CK-1's had a warm, rounded low end and a sheen in the high end that was so different than the Shure's, which seemed a little harsh in focus with no high end shimmer and no detailed lows. That's when I really felt the power of the CK-1's. They made the drums sound like what you hear on records.
I have spoken directly with the owner of Avantone, and he was on the phone with me for almost an hour, incredibly friendly, driven, excited about his product. I also have the Avantone cube. I'm a big fan of this company.
Bang For Your Budget Buck
Skeptical when I first saw this mic with all of the "extras". I was looking for a decent pair of mics for the choir and this one seemed to be the ticket. I was sold by the reviews but missed using for Christmas a couple of years ago waiting for them to arrive. The first use was on mandolin, then a violin, aux percussion then eventually the Easter choir presentation. I had a pair of Crown CM700's and two CK1's and the ability to pick up with clarity went hands down to the Avantones. They are built solid, look great, have an awesome shock mount (which I plan to pick up more of for use with the Crowns and possibly our SM81's). Some of the reviews have mentioned some manufacturing related issues. I had a couple as well. The grille on the Cardiod capsule came off but a dot of SuperGlue took care of that just fine. One of the mics seems not to have the groove for the female XLR connector machined out sufficiently. Some of our mic cables just can't be used with that particular mic. It's probably something that I could fix with a small dremel bit but we have enough cables that work fine so I've never even messed with it. All in all Avantone still has a rock solid product for the price. It makes me want to consider some of the other mics in their line.
I haven't done any A/B tests against KM84s, but I have been very happy with recordings of piano and string section. The omni capsules in particular give a smooth and pleasing sound from close micing as well as back a bit for a roomier sound. The capsules are a bit tricky to change (very narrow threads), but all 3 sound great in their own way.
We're a simple group with fiddle, guitar & cello. The cello is fabulously rich acoustically, but has always sounded muddy in live sound and recording. I should say, however, that our options for mics heretofore has been very limited.
Well, the CK-1 with the hyper-cardiod capsule is wonderful. It feels solid, it performs well, with that capsule it picks up very little of the other instruments...it's well priced...in short, no complaints. [That summation may sound modest, but it's the thing I seek the most in sound equipment.]
Great little mic
My band uses this as a mono live-in-the-room mic to record rehearsals, and it does a great job. The drums are especially nice. For $150 you can't beat it.
You have got to be kidding me. Try these mics out for drum over heads, or put when up for hi hats. They sound amazing! At this cost I am going back for more.
This mic package is nothing short of amazing at this price point! I've used a lot of mics over the past 35 years or so and I know what a good mic sounds like, believe me. The Avantone Ck-1 sounds wonderful on everything I've used it on. Although it is bit on the bright side, it never sounds harsh or edgy like so many inexpensive SDC mics do. It has a silky smooth top end balanced with a nice meaty midrange and solid bottom end. It compares favorably to my Shure SM 81's (a bit brighter) and, while it isn't a Neumann KM 184 or (my favorite) the vintage KM 84, it is not far! Plus, it comes with three capsules, omni, cardioid and hypercardioid. Haven't had a change to use the omni for anything yet but the other two sound great on acoustic guitars, mandolins and other acoustic stringed instruments. Even used it with the hyper capsule for some VO recording and it did quite well, considering it is really an instrument mic. The main thing about this mic is how clean and quiet it is. It's built with very high quality capacitors and it really is evident in the sound of the mic. And the overall build quality is excellent...built like a tank! Comes with a very nice shockmount and in a wooden case too. Highly recommended.
Best Indoor location microphone in the world, for the money...
I've done a lot of indoor location recording the past 7 years. That said, I retired both of my high end shotguns from indoor recording and ordered a matched set of these puppies, after trying my friends set one tday "on a dare".
Simply the cleanest top end, and the best on-mic filtering I've ever seen indoors. Clear, crisp, great definition, good body and dynamics, along with a very controllable field [with 3 very different heads] and a bass pad that all but eliminates any low end dirt.
I have another friend with a set of similar Russian made mics [you know which ones] and they sounded like mud next to these.
For the money, the best mic you can buy in my opinion, bar none.
Awesome Pencil Condenser
I have been able to A/B the CK1 with other pencils 10x's the price range on Drums, Guitar, and Choirs. All I could say was WOW. 3 capsules, 10db pad, and HPF, all for $150. This mic packs a lot of punch into an affordable platform that meets, if not exceeds, the abilities of the more expensive pencils out there.
Update to previous review
It's a year later or so. These little pencil mics are tough as nails, and work well in a number of settings. They just were used as drum overheads at a live show and sounded great. The kick drum was miced with an AKG D112. Unfortunately, the drummer has a vintage Slingerland kit with no pillow in the bass drum and no vent. Cue up odd ringing sounds. The rest of his kit has similar issues, but the CK-1 handled it without ringing or other shenanigans. The cardiod capsules were on the mics for that purpose.
More typically, I use them as drum overhead for recording purposes. They pick up everything, so you have to keep the preamps at a fairly low level. For real recording engineers, this is probably obvious, but for a purely self taught basement guy like me, it was a surprise to find that you have to dial things back well below clipping to keep away from an overpowering hot sound and harshness. Dial them back, and you get what you want. Not a lot of color, and that's good.
Ribbons are my thing for vocals, and a large condenser or direct sound better for the upright bass, but these are perfect for drum overheads. I'll keep using the pair I have for a very long time.
Best value there is in pencil mics.
I've used KM184s, Røde NT5s, Oktavas, Schoeps… and they are all outstanding microphones. But none of them, except maybe the NT5, approaches the value of this package. I bought a pair, and was pleasantly surprised at how controlled the high end is. Used with my grand piano, a Kawai, which is in need of some regulation and has a somewhat strident high end, it somehow is able to maintain control and not sound brittle, as others have noted. This mic deals with the upper mid-range (2-5K) so deftly that they are useful where the others are not. I also used these in a live performance setting as ensemble mics for seven Dan Tranh zithers, and they did an outstanding job at catching all the nuances of those delicate instruments.
The build quality is acceptable, if not outstanding, but nothing that causes me concern. In regards to the customer who complained about the plastic case for the other two capsules, I also had the same problem, until I realized that the capsules are supposed to be placed in the case with the capsule facing up. For whatever reason, if placed upside down, they become very difficult to remove. I don't use that case anyway. They are secure in the wood case without it.
These are not Neumanns or Schoeps microphones, but I would hesitate to say that they are a lesser microphone. It's has it's uses in the professional's toolbox. And for anybody wanting a first pencil mic or set, these are unquestionably worth your time. You won't have to sell them in the future when you can afford more expensive mics. These are worth hanging onto. Highly recommended. If you've read my review of the NT5, I would say the same thing. If forced to choose between them, I would have to cut them in half length-wise and weld them together. Or as Radio once said, "BOTH!"
Very Glad I Own This Mic
I bought this mic to use on hi-hat, but so far I have used it on acoustic guitar, cello, and for room ambiance. At this low price, I was a little wary of the CK-1. However, it is worth every penny and probably more! It sounds and looks great. The wooden case is nice, too. The only thing that keeps my rating below a 5.0 is the fact that two of the three capsules included in the case had something smeared on the outsides of them. It took a little effort to get them clean. The sound was not affected; that was just odd to me.
Avantone CK-1 pencil condenser, my honest evaluation.
OK, so this is not a huge amount of money to pay for a small diaphragm condenser. I have other pencils, but I was really curious if the comments that I've read elsewhere on the web really matched what this mic is all about. The other selling point for me was an omni capsule, which I was lacking in my mic cab.
I first tried it in cardioid mode and was really pleasantly surprised by the definition and clarity of this mic. It does everything a small diaphram condenser is supposed to do and really causes you to take notice of how well it performs. This is going to be my go-to mic for about anything that I can throw at it, especially instruments with high top end potential like fiddle or mandolin. It actually seems to add a bit more presence in the upper mids that has the effect of smoothing out any tendancy toward edginess on these instruments.
My next experiment was changing to the omni capsule, wrapping the body in foam and tucking between the bridge feet of my upright bass facing upward toward the fingerboard. The resulting recording has sold me totally on this method and justifies the purchase of this mic for this use alone. This trumps my medium or large diaphram miking methods hands-down.
Three capsules to choose from certainly gives this mic a competitive edge over the competition.
Visually it is a stunning piece of kit and demands that you pay attention to it. If I were a budget-priced condenser and I didn't sound this good I certainly wouldn't draw attention to myself. The CK-1 has no problems living up t o it's racey appearance.
If the mic wasn't enough, the shock mount is a perfect match. It works great, and it's so beautiful you'll want to leave it out on the coffee table.
Nothing's perfect in this world, so I have to find SOMETHING to complain about. Two things; The tiny switches on the mic body do not instill confidence in their use, and the small plastic holder for the mic caps is a little too snug to allow one of them to slide in and out easily. I can live with that, the switches don't get used that often and I tend to keep the cardiod capsule on most of the time.
Although I purchased not really expecting this mic to meet the hype, its all true. I'm going to get another to use as a stereo pair. They won't be a matched set, but who's going to notice when these sound so lovely by themselves!
Great for what is is good for
These are very bright mics. They pick up everything, including handling noise, so it's good that they come with a solid shock mount. I bought two for use as drum overheads. They work for that purpose very well, especially with the cardioid capsule. The reviews that say the different capsules sound different are correct. I'm not sure how to explain how they sound, since sounds are not words, but there is a noticeable difference in sound.
I bought two of these, and they are the third and fourth Avantone mics in my closet. The other two are a CV-12 large tube condenser and a CR-14 ribbon. They all have very distinct characters, with the ribbon being the darkest and smoothest, and these being the brightest and most aggressive. They are all sensitive mics, so the shock mounts are important. Of all of them, I would say these are the least versatile, since they aren't well suited to vocals. For acoustic instruments, like my upright bass, they sound very good. Wrap one in foam and put it under the tailpiece of the bass, and it works well, for example. I expect they would do well for micing a violin or cello. I'm not as sure that they would be as good on a shiny sounding instrument like a trumpet.
Their reaction speed is good, which means they pick up the cymbals well and react well to the crack of a snare drum. I'm still thinking about whether I like them enough to skip micing the toms separately or not. Bass drums or bass guitar are not the best application to use these in.
As you can tell from reading this review, I have become a fairly loyal user of Avantone mics. I have others for different purposes, but my experience with all of them has let me to look to see if there's an Avantone mic made for the purpose I have in mind when considering another mic. I never, ever give a 5 star review, since nothing is perfect. These pencil mics are very good at what they do, especially considering the price. Plus, they look really nice and come in wood boxes that are protective and make them easy to store when not being used.
Used this on hihats in the studio, it was so clear and bright sounding. Haven't heard as much of it as I would like on other instruments, but on hihats, it's a boss.
A sketchy purchase gone GOLD!
First off, these mics do not come in stereo pairs, meaning that they do not test to see if two microphones have similar characters electronically but to be honest, unless you're going for orchestra recordings, I don't think that matters all too much. The company states "we set a much tighter tolerance level on all of our microphones including how closely they sound to each other. Weâ€™ve actually measured less than 1 dB between CK-1â€™s, so I honestly donâ€™t think that you will even notice a difference between any two." And I can hear that between the two. Also, if you're going to record orchestras you would probably want to have the high-shelf microphone.
Second, the presentation of the microphones can be a little deceiving, the pictures make the box look like it's foam padding, but when touching the inner case, it is not plush, it's really just a wood cut out with a nice velvet covering. The top, although, is foam'd. The additional capsules (Omni, Cardiod, and Hyper Cardiod) come in a plastic case, the one problem I have is that they fit a little too snug, I have to wait or shake the capsules out, which heightens my fear of dropping them. Other than that, I appreciate them not having the capsules roll around at their free will. The shockmount clips are made of real metal, are super heavy and easy to adjust. This allows me to relax whenever I have them up, knowing they will not fall out onto the floor.
Third, I believe, that the sound was clean enough, but still had character, and with the pad and lo-cut switches and capsules could be tailored to any instrument. The Omni capsule yielded more high end and a soft bottom end warmth, which I preferred in front of a soft acoustic guitar, bringing out the transients. The hyper cardiod has a low mid growl to it, which I enjoyed a couple steps back from a rock n' roll guitar amp. and the cardiod was nice as overheads on a drum kit (one mic above the snare and one mic past the floor tom) which helped keep the snare crack.
Lastly, the microphone looks and feel rugged enough, I've yet to crack inside to see the internal electronic construction. The manual it comes with isn't very good, which is why I am writing this review. I was hesitant when buying these mics for that reason, but for $150 per microphone, I figured I'd dive off, I was greeted by deep waters and I am diving deeper and deeper.
I really like how these sound on cymbals. With the hyper cardiod capsule the cymbals sounded less harsh then typical lower end mics.
Nice features, good price, great sound.
3 capsules, 10db attenuator switch, low cut switch, shock mount and a great sounding mike. Can't be beat for the price.
Knowing these were lower end mics, I wasn't expecting much. So the CK-1 sort of delivers in that area. Nothing to see here.
Can't see how anyone could used them for overheads unless you know you have a matched pair, which mine definitely are not. One is *significantly* different from the other, even when testing with same cable, preamp channel, settings, etc. It's like having two different models of mic. This is problematic for me because I don't like having to look at the serial number to remember which mic is hotter, or has specific characteristics. That adds some cognitive load to the proceedings, and tells me this mic can't be relied upon.
My main reason for getting these was to use them as instrument mics when recording two people playing guitar/uke. So I wanted them for the hypercard pattern, and the variety of capsules was a nice bonus. As hypercards, these work well with good isolation.
The capsules themselves are stored in a separate little box, which is poorly designed. Epic fail here as you either need pliers to extract the capsules, or you need to smack the box to get the capsules out (possibly damaging the capsules).
So, as they say, you get what you pay for. Maybe they will grow on me with more use, but so far they are quirky.
I think that for this price you really can't go wrong with this mic. However, compared to the KM184 there is a huge difference in quality and clarity. The CK-1 is responsive on acoustic guitars but seems to have an increased mid-range that is not found in the KM184s. I do feel like the construction is a bit weak and some part seems to be rattling around inside the mic. The capsules are not very easy to change but do sound very different from each other once you do switch them.
The mic clip that it comes with is very sturdy and secure.
I bought this mic to take on the road so that I can record ideas when not in my studio. I think it's perfect for that application.
Good mic with some issues...
Good for the money -but I exchanged my first one because it died very soon after purchase. The first one also sounded much different in the high end. This second mic also is the noisiest mic I have - it is definitely nice on certain things, though. It would be 4 or 5 stars if not for the noise issues...
I returned two of these mics because I was hearing lots of static as soon as I turned on my phantom power. There may have been something in my signal chain that caused this noise but I do not hear the same noise with my Blue Spark mic or my new Rhode matched Pair M5 mics. The interface that I'm using is a native instruments komplete audio 6. I replaced the CK-1 with the Rhode matched Pair M5 and like these mics much better, both as a stereo setup and as a single mic.