First Listen: Earthworks SV33 Studio Vocal Microphone

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How much does a microphone’s history contribute to its sound?

For classics like the Neumann U 67, Telefunken Elam 251, or Sony C-800G, the tubes and circuitry within them shape their sonic characteristics, creating an imprint instantly recognizable to audio engineers. Just the mere sight of these timeless mechanisms can inspire artists, setting up great expectations that singers seek to surpass when they step up to the mic.

But what happens when a new high-end microphone arrives on the scene — its signature sound a mystery, no advance aura to speak of? That’s when things get interesting for everyone in the studio. The vocalist and engineer are set free in a sense: The mic can be judged solely on its merits. No preconceived notions would interfere here. Aural information alone would shape the evaluation.

That’s exactly what happened in a special recording session held recently in Brooklyn. Tracking at His House-Innsbruck Studios, singer Candice Hoyes and engineer Roman Klun captured vocals using an LDC mic as-yet unheard by the outside world: Earthworks’ new SV33 Studio Vocal mic.

Total Transparency

Poised to make its public debut at AES NY 2017 (booth 416), the SV33 was 10 years in the making, and marks Earthworks’ first-ever microphone dedicated to studio vocals. A phantom-powered cardioid design, its frequency response ranges from 30Hz all the way up to 33kHz while its sound is what Earthworks calls “naturally flat,” or transparent in the best possible way.

Candice Hoyes with the Earthworks SV33 at His House-Innsbruck Studios. (Photo credit: Molly Ferrill)

“With the SV33, we’ve gotten all the effects of comb filtering out of the way,” explains Scott Lumsden, Sales Consultant & Audio Engineer at Earthworks. “As a result you can capture the essence of the person singing into it. It tends to sit better in the mix – the mixer can get to the creative possibilities, and not worry so much about corrective steps like compression.”

The culmination of over a decade of research and development, the SV33 will be available for an MSRP of $2399 when it becomes available in Q4 2017. “The SV33 is here to bring that lifelike feeling,” says Gareth Krausser, COO of Earthworks. “Singers can emote even more deeply with a microphone like this. We’re helping that creative spirit translate.

“Our goal is to make technology that gets out of the way,” Krausser continues. “With the SV33 in particular, we’re able to feel the sound come alive in a way that makes the technology all but disappear.”

World Premiere Recording Session

At His-House Innsbruck Studios, Candice Hoyes pointed her extreme vocals gifts to the Earthworks SV33. A classical and jazz singer with unmistakable soul, Hoyes’ rich voice made her a smart selection for the groundbreaking recording session.

Hoyes sang the classic song “The Nearness of You” into the SV33, captured by Klun into the Avalon 737 ST mic pre (a second SV33 in the booth recorded into alternative mic preamps). Then she came into the control room, listened to the a cappella recording, and provided her early impressions of the new mic.

Listening in: (l-r) Hoyes, Earthworks’ Scott Lumsden, and Roman Klun (Photo credit: Molly Ferrill)

“You hear a lot of nuances, a very detailed sound,” she notes. “You don’t want to feel inhibited at all when you’re a vocalist – you want to sing the way you feel. It’s good to sing with something like the SV33, that feels like an extension of yourself.

“I feel like this recording sounds quite like me: It has the natural expression and personality that you want to come through. You can think bigger about how you want to sound. I was relaxed singing into this mic, and that’s exactly why I felt free to take risks.”

The Mic In the Mix

A 2X Grammy-nominated producer, mixer, engineer, songwriter and beatmaker (Ornette Coleman, Norah Jones, Randy Brecker, Pete Seeger), Klun is partners with the celebrated drummer Aaron Comess (Spin Doctors) in their well-equipped Brooklyn facility.

“This vocal recording gives me everything I need to work with,” said Klun after his first listen of Hoyes’ track. “The low end, the air were all there. The Earthworks SV33 has a very big sweet spot that brings forward the intimacy in the human voice.

“Looking ahead in the production, I can already hear how this lead vocal is going to sit so clearly in the middle of the mix. A lot of mixers will tell you that the hardest thing to do is to get that vocal to the forefront – the vocal is always the struggle. With this microphone, there’s no more struggle.”

  • David Weiss

The SV33 Studio Vocal mic will debut at AES 2017.