The Audix VX-5 is a new handheld hypercardioid condenser microphone that he said was becoming very popular, and that reminded him of the old AKG C535. That got my attention since the C535 was one of my favorite vocal mics "back in the day."
Gene let me unbox the microphone and I have to admit that it had a nice look, and a great feel, but what a mic looks like doesn't matter much to me. The VX5 is made here in the USA, solidly built, and precise in its fit and finish. But again, how would it sound?
Since it's pretty much impossible to get a feel for a microphone in an office setting, Gene left the microphone with me, and I decided to try it out on an unsuspecting vocalist.
Jamey is a weekend warrior like many of you. He devotes his week to the world of information technology and spends his spare time playing and coaching lacrosse, along with coordinating the worship team at our church. He'll tell you that he's not a professional musician, but he is passionate about leading worship from behind his Ovation guitar and an Audix OM5 microphone.
The OM5 is one of my favorite vocal mics (yes, I know, I have lots of "favorites"). I've always been a fan of great dynamic microphones like the Sennheiser MD431, the Beyerdynamic M700, the Audix OM5, the Heil PR22 and PR35. These mics are share the characteristics that I want in a microphone – a slight midrange presence boost to help the vocal find its place in the mix, great detail and definition without exaggerated high frequencies, and a warm sound.
So I was taking a really nice microphone off the stand and asking Jamey to try the VX5. What would we think?
We plugged the microphone in, I walked back to the mixer and flattened out the channel EQ and off we went. The first thing that I noticed was that the microphone sounded a little bit thick, but with a nice, gentile high end. So far, it was pretty good. I noticed that Jamey's vocal found its place in the mix without a lot of equalization, but I still wasn't thrilled with the low end. I tried a couple tricks and just wasn't getting what I needed.
After the sound check was over, I asked Jamey what he thought. He had a big smile on his face and said that he liked it – a lot. So I asked what he liked about it.
Jamey felt that he could hear himself better in the monitors, and that the microphone sounded warmer and with a nice extension of the high frequencies. All in all, I think that it would be fair to say that he felt that the VX5 was a little more refined than the OM5. And he could hear himself better in the mix. I took what he said, and decided to leave the microphone on the stand for the worship service. But I did one sneaky thing.
As you can see in the photo, the microphone has a two-position pad on the left and a two-position bass-rolloff switch on the right. I found a small metal tweaker and engaged the bass rolloff.
Once worship started, I had no idea what I'd get out of Jamey's microphone, so I was a little bit nervous. The switch is labeled as having a 150Hz rolloff and since there's no documentation on the specification sheet, I didn't (and still don't) know how much roll-off there is. Right away, I noticed that Jamey's vocal opened up in the PA very nicely and that the boominess was gone. I guess that shouldn't surprise me. That's why the switch is there.
For the rest of the music and worship time that day, I simply listened, but I didn't realize how much I liked the VX5, until I put Jamey's OM5 back on his stand. To my ears, the OM5 sounded a little bit bland by comparison. I changed up the EQ a bit and had him sounding pretty good again the next week, but only about 90% as good as the VX5.
So I have mixed emotions about the VX5. It fit Jamey's voice very nicely, and it did a great job on the high strings of the piano the next week. But the VX5 got the best of the OM5 in what you might call a shootout. The Audix OM5 is a fantastic microphone and it sells for $169.95. The VX5 costs more at $249. Is getting an extra 10% in performance worth an extra $80?
My rule is that if you can afford it, better equipment is always worth the extra money. Nothing is free. Better equipment simply costs more, and we should expect to pay more for better technology and for better performance.
The Audix VX5 finds itself in good company among my favorite microphones, and would be a nice addition to your microphone collection for use on vocals and on piano. I haven't tried other applications for the VX5 yet, but I'd think that you'd probably also find good results on strings and other detail-oriented instruments where you need a nice, tight pickup pattern. Call if you have questions, or would like to try a VX5.