Pros: This microphone represents a very good value for the money.
ELECTRO VOICE PL84S HANDHELD CONDENSER MICROPHONE
If you are looking for a relatively inexpensive mid-level condenser microphone that will provide you with professional sound quality, and which is suitable for both live as well as studio use, then you might want to consider taking a look at the microphone that I will be reviewing today. The Electro-Voice PL84S Handheld Condenser Microphone is a microphone that sells for a very reasonable price, and at below $100 Dollars, it is a microphone you may want to consider putting on your short list of possible choices. Electro-Voice is a trusted brand name among professional studio engineers and professional musicians alike, and they have been around for longer than most of the people who will be reading this review have been around, as they have been making fine quality products for decades. The Electro-Voice PL84S microphone brings the time tested expertise of Electro-Voice studio condenser microphones down to an affordable level. Although the Electro-Voice PL84S Condenser Microphone is a good quality vocal microphone, it is not high priced, and it represents a very good value for the money. I have been an owner and user of a number of different Electro-Voice microphones for many years, and I can vouch that these microphones are built to last. I have owned an Electro-Voice RE-20 that dates back to the 1970’s, and that microphone still works great today, and it is my favorite dynamic microphone for vocals. Read on and see if the Electro-Voice PL84S Professional Vocal Condenser Microphone sounds like a microphone that you may want to audition the next time you are visiting your local musical instrument store.
Since price is always an important consideration in making a decision to purchase any product, I think that would be a good place to start. The Electro-Voice PL84S Vocal Condenser Microphone lists for $230.00, but it can be had from most musical instrument chain stores and some of the better Internet electronics dealers for a discounted price of $95.00, which in my opinion represents an unusual value for ones money. Why this microphone should have such a high list price, in comparison to its street price, and the specifics as to why it should sell for such a discount to the list price, are not clear to me. Whatever the reason, I am pleased to be able to report it. Actually, in regards to this particular microphone, I purchased this PL84S, along with almost two dozen other microphones, from a local small mom and pop recording studio that had failed, and was going out of business. For those of you who are not familiar with the PL Series of microphones from Electro-Voice, these microphones are designed to be mid-level microphones, which can be used for either live or studio use. I really did not particularly need this PL84S, but the price was just too good to pass up. After using this microphone in my studio, I was very pleased with it however, and I certainly do not regret the purchase. Currently, my youngest son is using it with his band, and I am impressed with the overall quality of this microphone for both live and studio use.
Since the Electro-Voice PL84S Condenser Microphone is a lower priced mid-level microphone, I am going to assume that many of the readers of this review, who may be considering purchasing this microphone for themselves, may not fully be versed in some of the technical terms and jargon that are typically tossed around in a good technical review that describes the features and functions of a specific microphone. Bearing this in mind, whenever I have to use any technical jargon or terms in this review, I shall endeavor to describe in plain and simple to understand language, just what each term means.
Although the Electro-Voice PL84S is labeled as being a "professional" microphone, it is really a microphone that is a beginning mid-level professional microphone. In this case, the term "professional" is being used to differentiate this microphone from one that might typically be used for home use, such as might be the case with a microphone that is used with a portable recording device, such as a cassette recorder or the like. In the case of the Electro-Voice PL84S, the term “professional” is used to indicate that the PL84S can be used for more sophisticated purposes, such as for live performances of a rock band, or for more serious recording purposes than might typically be used by a home recording enthusiast, or even in some circumstances for professional use. Although the Electro-Voice PL84S is a microphone that can be found in some professional studios, one must not confuse this with meaning that it is a high quality professional recording microphone, as it was really designed to be used for live performances.
The Electro-Voice PL84S Professional Vocal Condenser Microphone is, as the name clearly implies, a "condenser microphone." A "condenser microphone" is a microphone with an assembly that consists of a flexible diaphragm located in front of a fixed or stationary backplate. This diaphragm/backplate assembly is what is known as a capacitor or "condenser," and it has the ability to store an electrical charge. When sound waves reach the flexible diaphragm, the sound vibrations cause the diaphragm to also vibrate. When the diaphragm vibrates, this causes a change in distance between the backplate and the diaphragm, and that effects the electrical field that exists between the backplate and the diaphragm. It is this change in the relative distance between the diaphragm and the backplate or "condenser" that results in a change in the voltage that exits between them, which in turn results in the creation of an electrical signal which corresponds to the vibrations of the sound source.
The Electro-Voice PL84S is a microphone with a "small diaphragm." I have already discussed what a diaphragm in a condenser microphone does above, so I won't repeat it here. In general, hand held vocal microphones will tend to have a small diaphragm. In general a microphone with a small diaphragm is a bit more sturdy, and is less susceptible to popping sounds from air currents from a singer's mouth when used as a vocal microphone. It is also less likely to pickup low end vibrations, and of course it is smaller, and thus a bit lighter. A large diaphragm microphone works best in a more controlled studio environment, where it can be placed on a fixed stand, with an external pop filter in front of it. Large diaphragm microphones are more susceptible to picking up extraneous vibrations and wind sounds, even when using a pop filter, because of the larger, more flexible diaphragm, which also by the way enhances the richness of the low end. In general, most hand held vocal microphones are going to be microphones that have a small diaphragm, and which have a built in pop filter. The Electro-Voice PL84S is no exception.
Although Electro-Voice PL84S is a condenser microphone, as I mentioned above, it is an "electret condenser" and not a "true condenser" microphone. O.K. so what does that mean? The Electro-Voice PL84S is a "permanently biased" condenser microphone, which is also known as an "electret condenser." A permanently biased or electret condenser microphone has a charged backplate that is created when the microphone is manufactured. Some condenser microphones are "externally biased," and they are known as "true condenser microphones." But I will leave the technical explanation of what an "externally biased" condenser microphone is, and how these two types of condenser microphones differ for another review at a later date. Suffice it to say here that both externally biased and permanently biased condenser microphones are good microphones, and in general are more sensitive than dynamic microphones. I would have no reservations in purchasing or using either type, and have used both in my studio. About 95% of the condenser microphones on the market today are electret condensers, including some very high priced studio quality microphones. Of course, because the Electro-Voice PL84S is a condenser microphone, it will require a phantom power source in order for it to operate correctly. Today, even some of the least expensive mixing boards offer phantom power, so that should not present a problem in most cases.
The Electro-Voice PL84S is a microphone that offers an extended frequency range, with a frequency response that ranges from 50 Hz. to 20,000 Hz. Although this is a wide frequency range, it is not full frequency microphone, which would be at least 20 Hz. to 20,000 Hz., which coincidently is the exact frequency range for a healthy young person. Because the Electro-Voice PL84S has an extended frequency response, the PL84S is a microphone with the ability to reproduce a very natural sound when reproducing the sound of a singer's voice, as well as for recording many different types of musical instruments, both acoustic and electric. This microphone is capable of reproducing warm lows to high frequency overtones. It is also a microphone with a good proximity effect, which means that when a singer gets close to the screen, and sings softly, this microphone can bring out a very warm, rich, and intimate vocal sound. Because the PL84S has a wide frequency response, it is also suited for recording various stringed instruments such as a violin, viola, cello, and even an upright bass as well. It is also an acceptable choice for recording acoustic guitar, piano, and for overhead use on percussion instruments and for recording the cymbals as an overhead for drums. I recently used this microphone to record a nylon acoustic guitar, and I was very pleased with the result, especially the warm low end, and crisp high notes. Obviously it is also an excellent choice for recording a singer's voice, as this is what it was specifically designed to do, and it does it well. For live use with a singer, this microphone produces its best results when it is positioned anywhere from 1 inch to 6 inches away from a singer’s lips. The closer the microphone is to the singer, the richer and more intimate will be the sound, which is called the proximity effect. For recording the spoken voice I prefer a distance of between 6 and 10 inches for the best results.
Because the Electro-Voice PL84S was specifically designed for live use, it was designed to function adequately well without the need for an external wind screen. It has a built in pop filter that reduces popping sounds from air currents, as well as from a singer's mouth. It also has a built-in shock mount that reduces and lessens the likelihood of vibrations being picked up from the stage, if it is being used on a stand, or from a singer holding the PL84S in their hands while performing. Thus, the built in shock mount and the built in pop filter will greatly reduce the chances of picking up unwanted low end rumbles, such as might travel up the microphone stand, and it also reduces the pickup of "plosives" or other wind noises that might be the result of a singer being too close to the microphone or possibly from an instrument that generates popping sounds due to wind. Personally, I would suggest the use of an external foam wind filter as well, as this will reduce the likelihood of ‘plosives even more. I guess you could say that I am a belt and suspenders type of guy. However, if you have ever had to try to conceal the sound of ‘plosives when you are doing a mix down of a recorded performance, you will certainly understand why I prefer to have an additional pop filter attached to the front of any vocalist’s microphone.
The Electro-Voice PL84S is a microphone with a "cardioid pickup pattern." This means that it will be most sensitive to picking up or reproducing sounds that originate from directly in front of the microphone, and conversely it will reject or be less sensitive to picking up sounds that originate from the sides or back of the microphone. This is an important feature, especially for a microphone that will be used in recording rooms that are not as acoustically ideal as might be hoped for, such as for home based recordings. It is also an important feature for use in a live performance, as there is reduced likelihood of feedback. Feedback is always a potential problem when using a microphone on stage during live performances. I must also say that I am very pleased that the PL84S has a built in On/Off switch. This is a great feature. There is another model of this microphone called the PL84 which does not have a built-in On/Off switch, like the PL84S does. By the way, the “S” stands for “switch” in the name PL84S. This is a great feature to have for a couple of reasons. For example, if for some reason this microphone were to start to feed back, one can immediately switch it off, and instantly kill the feedback. Another useful feature is that in some cases, the person who is going to be using this microphone may only be using it for certain songs or for limited background parts. For example, let us say that one of the members of the band only has a couple of vocal chores that they are called upon to perform each evening, and for the sake of argument, let’s say it is the drummer. One can set the level of the drummer’s vocal prior to the show going on, and then the drummer can switch the microphone off. When the drummer is ready for his vocal part, they can switch the microphone back on, and their vocal level will be perfectly set. This eliminates the need for the soundman to have to regulate the level of the microphone, as one would probably not want to have the microphone be kept open during the rest of the performance, as the sound of the drums would be being picked up by the microphone, and this would potentially effect the balance of the sound of the band.
Because of the high sound pressure levels typically generated by today's modern electrified rock musical equipment, one would usually consider using a high quality dynamic microphone for close micing of guitar and bass cabinets in a live or studio setting, as many condenser microphones are usually too sensitive for these purposes, or perhaps using a condenser microphone that has an attenuation switch which allows for increased headroom. The maximum Sound Pressure Level or SPL of the Electro-Voice PL84S is an amazing 141 dB, and as such, this condenser microphone is able to tread where many other condenser microphones dare not. This very high SPL makes this microphone capable of handling even very loud recording situations. However, that being said, I would still not recommend using this microphone in a very loud recording or sound reinforcement situation. If for some reason, such as in a home recording situation, one is going to consider using the Electro-Voice PL84S to record an electric guitar cabinet, I would recommend placing it no closer than about 18 inches from the cabinet and then seeing if it clips on the recording. If it does clip or distort, either lower the volume of your guitar amp (Heaven forbid), or move the microphone further away from the sound source. In general, I prefer a placement of about three feet for a condenser microphone like this one, especially if the sound source is really loud. Of course, the further away from the sound source, the greater the acoustics of the room that one is recording in will come into play. This microphone would really not be my first choice for recording an electric guitar cab, although home recording enthusiasts on a tight budget might have to resort to this. If one is going to use this microphone to record musical instruments, I would say that the best results would be achieved on acoustic instruments, such as with recording the nylon acoustic guitar that I described earlier. Remember, the Electro-Voice PL84S is designed to work best as a handheld vocal microphone, so keep this in mind when considering its potential uses.
The bottom line is that the Electro-Voice PL84S Professional Vocal Condenser Microphone delivers a good quality sound at a relatively inexpensive price. This microphone will deliver a better quality sound and will be more sensitive to the subtle nuances of a singer's performance than just about any dynamic microphone in this same price range. In using any piece of musical of electronic equipment, it is always best to keep in mind the strengths as well as the limitations of the tool that one is using Although the Electro-Voice PL84S could be used for professional studio vocal recordings, it is clearly designed to be most suitable for use in live performances as a handheld vocal microphone, or perhaps for home studio applications for recording vocals.
Well I would like to thank you for taking the time to read my review, but now, if you will excuse me, I must get back to my practicing.