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RØDE Classic II

 

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Rode Classic II

Januar 2001

 

RØDE Classic IIRODE DIVED into the valve microphone market a few years ago while the revival was nearing its plateau. The single Rode valve model was the Classic, designed to emulate the particular character of certain vintage designs, and was an instant success, partly because it had the necessary character in spades and partly because it was a real bargain. Since then Rode has broadened its appeal considerably, and one of the additions is a refinement of that first valve design, the Classic II.

At first sight there is little to distinguish the II from the original. Some physical details and accessories have changed, but the overall image remains the same--a conscious hark back to the fifties combined with a style all of Rode's own. The main differences between the two models are internal, and perhaps the most important of these is a completely new capsule, a 1-inch edge-terminated design whose performance is a step up from the original centre-terminated one. Together with refinements to the supporting circuitry, the result is improved behaviour all round.

As befits a valve microphone, the whole kit comprises a big aluminium flight case containing the microphone, its power supply, two stand mounts and all the necessary cables. Many of the components appear identical to those supplied with the Classic, but some are clearly upgraded versions. The microphone body itself is virtually unchanged, its simple cylindrical form half taken up with the grille. The difference is that whereas the original was attached to the stand with a side-mounted swivel bracket, this has a choice of separate stand mounts, both attaching to the base and locked in place by the connector. One is a simple swivelling ring, while the other is a much more elaborate suspension mount, big and sturdy enough to support the weight even though it's nowhere near the centre of gravity. The means of fixing has pros and cons--on one hand, there's no separate locking ring to get lost but on the other, if you want to change mounts you have to remove the multicore, which means switching off the power supply and then waiting for it all to warm up again.

The multicore itself is new, a heavy-duty oxygen-free copper cable with custom connectors on both ends whose alignment marks and screw-down collars make for a positive and secure connection. The length is not generous but extensions are available and there's enough for a normal studio application. It's important that the power supply ends up accessible, as the microphone is completely controlled from here--there are no switches on the body itself.

The power supply is a new model specifically for the Classic II, although it's very similar to the original and carries the same set of controls. Power is indicated by the now-obligatory blue led, and three rotary switches deal with the various adjustable parameters. There are two positions for both the pad (-10dB and -20dB) and the high-pass filter (no specs but one more severe than the other), and in the best traditions of vintage valve microphones there's a full set of nine polar patterns. With omni at one end, figure-of-eight at the other, cardioid in the middle and no less than three intermediate settings both sides, the directional flexibility is considerable and repays a bit of experiment. Those who have never had the pleasure of using a C12 in any of its variants can look forward to having their eyes and ears opened.

The improvements in the new Classic are individually small but taken in sum amount to a distinct step forward. I've had an original Classic since the early days, and its one mechanical shortcoming is the inability of the mounting swivel to stay locked off if any leverage is applied to the main body. The new stand mounts remove this problem completely, as well as lending it the reassurance of a proper shock mount. But the sound too takes a step forward, or perhaps that would be better expressed as a step backward. The character of the original model's presence lift was so confidently expressed as to come across as a distinct colour on some sources, perhaps too much in some instances; the Classic II retains the fundamental urgency but puts it across in a more restrained way. This gives it a home in areas where the original would have felt uncomfortable, such as classical violin; few would question the appeal of a real vintage valve in such an application but the Classic as it stood would have thrust it at you rather too strongly. The Classic II gives more of a smooth vintage flavour, bringing out all the sparkle of the instrument without losing the warmth or overdoing the impact that makes valves so good for vocals.

Rode is no longer a novelty name; its ever-increasing range has found it a home in a much wider range of applications than its early specialised efforts would have suggested. The Classic II reinforces a particularly successful branch of its endeavour, and once again offers real valve character, with even more smoothness, at an affordable price.

     

 

Januar 2001

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Røde Classic II Multipattern Tube MicMaj 2001

 

Several years ago, Røde introduced a multipattern tube microphone called the Classic. While the Classic certainly had a successful run, Røde engineers made improvements to the design and have now introduced the Classic II. There are some obvious differences between the Classic and the Classic II such as a new suspension-type shockmount, slightly different body styling, and more rugged connectors on the mic and power supply.

Not-so-obvious differences include a redesigned capsule, updated power supply, and refinements in the electronic circuitry. The redesign even extended to the mic's multi-pin cable; Event claims the new cable is much more robust than the one included with the original Classic. The Classic II ships in an aluminum flight case with compartments for the microphone, power supply, shockmount, and cables. In addition to the shockmount, a swivel-type stand adapter is supplied for applications where the shockmount isn't needed.

Out of the box, there were several things we liked about the Classic II, such as the heavy-duty multi-pin plugs on the cable that connect the mic to the power supply. Any guesswork regarding pin orientation is eliminated by white dots indicating the 12 o'clock position (the mic body has a gold dot indicating its front). A ground-lift switch is provided on the rear panel of the power supply, should you find yourself in a situation that requires it (we didn't). Though we didn't like the fact that the shockmount was made of plastic, it attaches to the mic quickly and easily: you rest the mic in the cradle and then screw the cable into the rear of the mic body, sandwiching the bottom of the mount in between. Done. This is an important improvement over the original Classic's mount, which was susceptible to stand-transmitted noise.

In the studio we used the Røde Classic II on a variety of acoustic instruments as well as vocals. On a session recording steel-string acoustic guitar, the Classic II sounded great. Top end was shimmery and extended (no tube murkiness here); in spite of the fact that the guitarist thought the instrument sounded bassy on playback, we felt it was quite well balanced. Since he was singing while playing, we tried the cardioid and the next-more-directional pattern in an effort to isolate the guitar from the vocal. Our success varied. On a song where the guitar was strummed, isolation was adequate. On a song that was fingerpicked rather softly, the gain on our Yamaha 02R mic pre had to be cranked up quite a bit to get a usable signal level to tape, and so the vocal was subjectively much louder. In any case, the Classic II picked up a sense of immediacy on the fingerpicked guitar with a crisp, percussive element when our player slapped the strings. Initially the timbre for the fingerpicked track was a touch heavy on the bass; moving the rolloff to the 12 o'clock position cured this. These sessions clearly revealed that the Classic II's noise floor is lower than that of the Classic. Since we had the Classic on hand, we were able to A/B the two mics, confirming that Røde has indeed succeeded in making the Classic II quieter than its predecessor. (Event says the difference between the self noise in the two models is 10 dB - down from 32 dB in the Classic to 22 dB with the Classic II - a significant difference.)

During the process of positioning the mic and getting levels, it was possible for us to experiment with the rolloff and pattern selector switches while not disturbing our artist.

Although switching wasn't totally silent - we wouldn't do this during a take - it was quiet enough not to annoy the guitarist. We quickly took to using the pattern switch as a means of tonal adjustment. Much as we expected, switching the pattern toward omni flattened out the bottom end, while moving the pattern switch to the one o'clock position added a touch of bass. We found the pad switch to be noisier when moved, and suggest muting input to the tape machine when changing it.

The transition between polar patterns is very smooth. In the first position from omni, we could barely detect a slight rejection of sound from the rear. As we switched the pattern toward cardioid, rear rejection increased and proximity effect became more evident. We found the cardioid pattern to have a wide front lobe; although it rejected sound well at 180 degrees, sound from ±45 degrees was picked up almost as strongly as sound directly from the front - and with very little off-axis coloration. In the figure-eight pattern, the 0- and 180-degree points sounded virtually identical. When used as a room mic for a live drum kit, the Classic II captured an excellent translation of the drummer's performance. The bottom end had plenty of slam without overcoming the rest of the kit. Cymbals were bright without sounding harsh, and stick hits on the toms were well defined.

For an a cappella lead vocal, we began by using the Classic II with the rolloff switched out. A popping "p" or two led us to switch the rolloff to the first position, curing the problem. The timbre of the vocal was very natural, and, since the singer was almost a foot away from the mic, the low-frequency response was smooth, with just the right amount of "chest" to the sound. At one point, our vocalist began whistling, and the Classic II clearly captured the whistle without picking up wind noise - which can be a problem with some microphones. When our vocalist began belting it out, the mic produced a bit of an edge in the sound, which we liked.

Between the pattern selector, rolloff switch, and positioning, this microphone can produce a huge range of sounds, making it a good all-around mic. Røde has made worthwhile improvements to the design over the Classic, without abandoning the personality of the original - which fans of the Classic will appreciate. Like the Classic, the Classic II appears to be a solid piece of equipment that ought to last for years.

 

 

 

 

Maj 2000

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