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  • Beyerdynamic Opus Drumset Microphones

    By hcadmin |

    Quality Sound For The Working Drummer

    by Mark Parsons

    • All models offer excellent value
    • Opus 99/ST 99 mic'-and-stand combination is compact and practical
    • Opus 53 performs much better than its price would indicate


    Beyerdynamic has long been known as a purveyor of quality instrument microphones. (Their M-88 has been considered one of the classic bass drum mic's for over thirty years, with good reason.) Now the manufacturer has introduced their Opus series of microphones. And while these mics were designed for the working musician and are therefore built with cost in mind, I hesitate to use the term "budget" or "value-priced" when describing them. That's because after I used them for a while it became clear they were also built with quality and reliability in mind.


    The Opus series includes several drum-specific models. These drum mic's are available individually, or in four pre-packaged kits (designated Small, Medium, Large, and Extra-Large).

    The Test Drum-Mic' Kit

    We were sent the "large" drum-miking kit for review (official designation: Opus Drumset L). This consists of one Opus 99 kick mic' (and ST 99 stand), four Opus 88 clip-on snare/tom mic's, and a pair of Opus 53 small condensers for overheads. The whole kit comes in a foam-lined plastic case with cut-outs for additional mic's, should you wish to expand the miking configuration on your kit.


    For the purpose of our review, we set up a drumkit in the studio and equipped it with fairly standard mic's (from familiar brands) for each application. To test the Beyer mic's, we'd replace one of the "usual suspects" with the appropriate review model. This would not only give us a quick comparison with a known standard, but also provide a reference with which the reader is likely to be familiar. We also evaluated the mic's on their own merits, without regard to what was previously on the stand, because "different" is not always "worse."


    Here we go, from the bottom up.

    Opus 99 Bass Drum Mic'


    A nearsighted sound engineer could identify the Opus 99 as a kick mic' from a mile away. It's a beefy cylinder, 2" in diameter and approximately 5" long (including tailpiece). The aluminum and cast-zinc body is nicely finished in matte black. The stand mount incorporates a small elastic suspension, which should help reduce any mechanically transmitted sounds.


    The Opus 99 is a hypercardioid dynamic mic', and it has what the manufacturer calls an "optimized frequency response." This means that it's not designed to be flat, but rather to have a pre-equalized response tailored for the intended application (bass drum). A quick glance at the response chart confirms this: There's a small boost around 125 Hz, a slight reduction in the lower mids (centered at maybe 400 Hz), and a good boost of 6 to 8 dB up around 5 kHz. Looking at the polar chart also reveals that while this mic' does, indeed, have a tight pattern, it's tighter in the upper ranges as opposed to the bottom end. This should result in any shell ring picked up by the mic' being warm in character rather than harsh. But would the microphone sound like the chart looks?


    We ran the Opus 99 alongside popular kick mic's from AKG and Audix (the D112 and D-6, respectively), both of which are also in the "Pre-Q'd" category. We started outside the kick drum, which gave us a chance to use the ST 99 stand. This is a simple yet clever little device. The base is a T, with a short arm extending vertically from the base. (All three arms are approximately 7" in length.) The upright arm unscrews so that the whole thing goes into the case flat. The resulting mic' height is fixed at about 8", but that's a good, functional height for the intended application. The ST 99's stability is increased by the fact that the arms are all solid (rather than pipe), with the result that the stand—though small—is heavier than it looks.


    When we placed the Opus 99 a few inches in front of the resonant head of a 22" maple kick drum, it yielded a solid and clear representation of the drum's sound. The response was slightly more linear than that of the D112. The D112 had more mid-bass bloom to the sound, but it wasn't as articulate as the Opus 99 on top. Also, the Opus 99 didn't have quite as much lower-mid attenuation built into it. Subjectively, the D112 was a little "beefier," but with a little less clarity on top, while the Opus 99 was "punchier" with better attack characteristics.


    It took a few moments of puzzle-solving to get the ST-99 stand through a 5" port in the front head, but we managed to get it inside the drum and sitting on a small muffling pad. This placed the mic' in a useful position in the middle of the drum. (You could, of course, also mount the Opus on a regular low boom stand and place it wherever you liked.) Inside the drum, the characteristic traits of the Opus 99 were similar to those exhibited outside: a nice punchy sound, tight on the bottom with good beater attack on top.


    When compared to the Audix D-6, the Opus 99 was in the same ballpark. But again, it was more linear than the model it replaced, with the pre-equalization effect being a bit more subdued (not quite as massive on the bottom or snappy on top).


    The Opus 99 produced a tight, punchy, articulate sound from a variety of positions, which left us with a good overall impression. It generally needed no additional equalization, but it responded well when EQ was added to modify the tone. If you like the modern, pre-curved sound but you want something that's still somewhat universal in application, the Opus 99 is definitely worth a listen.

    Opus 88 Snare/Tom Mic'

    The Opus 88 is a small-diaphragm electret condenser, with a cardioid polar pattern. If the Opus 99 is obvious as to its purpose, the Opus 88 is more of an enigma, at least at first glance. The business end at least looks like a mic'—it's a small cylinder about 1/2" in diameter and 1/2" long. This is attached by a small gooseneck to an interesting-looking clamping arrangement, which also houses the mic's electronics. The clamp has two springs—one on either side of the mic' amp/XLR tailpiece—which put pressure on a pair of rubberized jaws. The jaws will open from 3/8" up to 11/2" to clamp onto your drum hoop. In practice this worked well, enabling us to mount the Opus 88 on drums with and without suspension mounts, using both flanged and die-cast hoops. Additionally, the short arm that holds the mic' pivots through a 300° arc. This, along with the gooseneck, allows you to place the mic' pretty much anywhere you want (within reason).


    The microphones that the Opus 88 replaced on the drumset were typical dynamics frequently used for snares and toms: Shure SM 57s and Sennheiser MD-504s and e-604s. Condensers and dynamics are different animals, so this wasn't meant to be an apples-to-apples comparison. But it does serve to illustrate the inherent differences between the two. (The dynamics were more like each other than any of them were like the condenser, so anything said about one of the dynamics used in this comparison pretty much applied to all of them.) When the Opus 88 was used over a snare drum in a typical close-miking location (a few inches over the hoop, looking down at an angle), it exhibited an extended range and better transient response (to pick up snare rattle, for instance) than did the dynamics. There was slightly less upper bass to the condenser—the sound was a tad less thick—but the articulation was great. Additionally, it had a higher output, which is typical of condensers versus dynamics.


    Next we tried the Opus 88 over a small tom, where the results were similar: More transient information was present and perceptible with the Opus 88, it was slightly less thick-sounding, and it captured the stick attack better.


    After that, we tried the 88 on a large tom, where we discovered something new: With the lower frequencies available from the source instrument, the Opus 88 actually had better extension into the low end. (It could reproduce lower frequencies.) It just didn't have the upper bass boost possessed by the dynamics.


    Overall, the Opus 88 sounded more "hi-fi" and clear than any of the dynamics. Yet it didn't sound so thin and clinical that it couldn't capture the beef of a tom or deep snare. Additionally, the clamping operation was not only clever in design but useful in operation. Very cool.

    Opus 53

    The Opus 53 looks nothing like the Opus 88, but the two models have some fundamental characteristics in common. The diaphragm housings look the same on both mic's, and judging by their sounds and response graphs, I'd venture to guess that their mic' amps are also very similar—if not identical.


    Like the Opus 88, the Opus 53 is a small-diaphragm electret condenser with a cardioid polar pattern. But this model looks like a typical small-diaphragm "pencil type" condenser microphone. At 1/2" diameter and just under 4" long, it's compact when compared to other models of its type. Additionally, its plastic/carbon fiber case keeps the weight down to under an ounce and a half—and also likely helps to keep the cost reasonable.


    We replaced Audio Technica AT-33Rs (older small electrets of a similar type) with Opus 53s for use as overheads. The Opus 53 has better extension in the high end. It could better pick out a hi-hat played with the foot within a dense tom pattern, for example. Yet it wasn't unduly harsh. When we used it to close-mike hi-hats, it again had a good transient response. It even worked on loud, bashing hats from a close distance, without getting overly brittle.


    Just for grins we ran the Opus 53 against a similar-sized small condenser that costs seven or eight times as much, comparing them in use as overheads and on a snare drum. This was a moral victory for the $139 Opus 53. True, the high-dollar Euro-mic' might have been a hair silkier on top, and it had a larger, rounder bottom end. But the Opus 53 acquitted itself well, yielding a very nice, musical sound in both applications. The sonic differences were nowhere near as great as the price difference.


    All of the Opus drum mic's were winners, and all provided good value for the dollar spent. But the Opus 53 was the real sleeper here. With a street price that Beyer estimates at $99 and a sound quality that's well into the triple digits, this mic' is a real bargain for anyone looking for a small condenser for either stage or studio.



    • Opus 53 overhead condenser $139
    • Opus 88 snare/tom clip-on condenser $209
    • Opus 99 dynamic kick mic' $379
    • Opus Drumset L drum-miking kit $1,399


    (631) 293-3200, www.beyerdynamic.com

    © 2006 MODERN DRUMMER Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.
    Reproduction without the permission of the publisher is prohibited.

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