CAD Equitek E100S ($600 street)
A Versatile and Quality-Sounding LDC Mic in Affordable Form
By Jon Chappell
CAD Audio has been designing and building studio-quality products in the U.S. for over two decades. Their flagship Equitek E100 features the now-familiar rounded, rectangular shape, and is known for its quality and versatility for large-diaphragm condenser mics, rivaling many “historical favorites” as a budget-conscious choice for LDC duties.
The newest addition to the Equitek line is the E100S ($600 street), which is a side-address, supercardioid large-diaphragm condenser sporting a 1" nickel-plated diaphragm, silver-mesh grill, and smooth matte coating over the housing, which make it comfortable to handle (see Fig. 1).
Fig. 1. The CAD Equitek E100S is a side-address, large-diaphragm condenser mic for $600.
A supercardioid polar pattern is slightly more directional than a cardioid, but whose rear lobe of sensitivity is narrower than less-directional hypercardioid. So it’s the perfect mic for the stage where loud instruments make off-axis rejection more desirable, but where you still want cardioid characteristics. As well, if you have a nice-sounding room, the rear pickup factor of the supercardioid will add a dimensionality to your sound without your having to set up another mic or dial in electronic ambience. For critical studio settings, the ES100S boasts a very low noise floor (3.7 dBA) and features a fully differential, bootstrapped Quadra-FET circuit that the manufacturer asserts delivers high sensitivity and low-distortion characteristics. Indeed, this was one quiet mic, and yet one of its most attractive qualities is how it handled high sound pressure levels in a variety of settings.
The E100S comes professionally packaged in an attractive and sturdy vintage-cherry wooden case (see Fig. 2), with gold hardware and an engraved nameplate.
Fig. 2. The E100S comes securely packaged in a sturdy, handsome cherry woodgrain box.
Embedded securely in the foam is the E100S itself, already attached to its stealth shockmount. “Stealth” here refers to the fact that it’s one of the most subtle and non-visually distracting shockmount designs I’ve seen. In fact, when facing the mic head on, you’re almost not even aware of its presence. It almost looks like a hard-mount bracket, yet the mic is actually suspended by elastic bands (see Fig. 3).
Fig. 3. The stealth shock mount is low-profile and subtle.
Having a low-profile mount has other advantages, as well. Its reduced dimensions make the mic easier to manipulate in tight spaces (including being in proximity with other mics trying to share the sweet spot!) and it is visually unobtrusive (good for TV!). The slim front-to-back depth gives the mic a sleek, “slab-phone” look, and this, along with its rounded rectangular shape, makes its position very easy to assess when you’ve got the mic on an angle, or when you’re trying to change the attitude of the diaphragm in minute, subtle ways, such as close-miking a speaker cabinet.
Speaking of close quarters, the E100S sports a -10 dB pad, so that you don’t overpower the diaphragm with high SPLs. I often like to see either a -20 dB pad or a choice of -10 and -20, but I found that the E100S handled loud sources so well without the pad that the -10 pad usually handled the situation before I had to consider moving the mic. Plus, the steeper the cut, the more the character of the mic changes, so I found this solution to be perfect. Once, in my testing, I forgot I had the pad switch engaged and set up my ideal sound for some toms with the -10 pad activated. Despite the fact that I had optimized the sound levels with the pad engaged, when I removed the pad, I still couldn’t detect any distortion—even though the sound came blasting through. This diaphragm can take some hits! Additionally, the E100S has an 80 Hz high-pass filter, also known as a low-Z roll off. This addition makes it useful in live situations where you’re trying to cut down on various “rumble” sources (passing trucks, footstep across the stage, etc.).
I employed this mic on a variety of sources, from hand and trap percussion to vocals to guitars (electric and acoustic). The clarity and warmth of the resultant sound from the E100S was extremely pleasing and musical. Its “quality band” is quite wide, accommodating a diversity of source material. For example, when placed in front of a high soprano, the E100S seemed to mitigate some of the singer’s shrill tendencies, but did so without introducing any midrange fuzz. Conversely, the sound was quite transparent when placed about 6" from the 12th fret of my Gibson J-45 acoustic. The jangle factor—so critical in acoustic Gibsons—was faithfully captured, with balanced mids and transparent highs in perfect proportions.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was on high-SPL material, such as toms and speaker cabinets, both for distorted electric guitars punching out of EL34-driven Celestion “Greenbacks” as well as clean sounds coaxed through 6L6-powered Jensens. In all cases, the E100S “seemed to know” which qualities to compliment: facile capturing of the tom transients, full midrange girth of the Marshall or the alternately punchy and sparkly response of my Fender Vibro-King. The ability to handle the high SPLs made the mic quite versatile in close-, mid-, and ambient-miking of guitar amps.
Though CAD has been producing Equitek mics for some time now, and though I’ve known of their existence and excellent reputation, they’ve somehow escaped my microphone short list. No more. This E100S is so sonically versatile, you can use it on stage or in the studio, and its stand-out features of musicality and high-SPL-handling will save the day for you on a constant basis. Its shock mount and slim rectangular dimensions make it very easy to work with—both from a maneuverability perspective and for visual tweaking—and its low noise floor makes it equally adept at picking up softer sounds or handling slamming toms and screaming guitar cabs. For under $600, you can’t do better than the E100S for a quiet, versatile, user-friendly, and sweet-sounding LDC microphone.
CAD Equitek E100S Features and Specifications:
Jon Chappell is the author of The Recording Guitarist: A Guide for Home and Studio (Hal Leonard), Digital Home Recording (Backbeat Books), and Build Your Own PC Recording Studio (McGraw-Hill), and has written five books in the popular For Dummies series (Wiley Publishing).