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Author Topic: Countryman ISOMAX 2-H  (Read 3897 times)

Craig Leerman

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Countryman ISOMAX 2-H
« on: January 18, 2015, 11:14:06 pm »



Countryman Associates recently shipped me two versions of the ISOMAX 2-H lightweight condenser microphone that's available in omnidirectional, cardioid, and hypercardioid patterns and designed specifically for hanging over choirs, orchestras, stage productions, audiences, and other groups.

As usual, let's start with the specs. The ISOMAX 2-H has a stated frequency response of 40 Hz to 18 kHz, an output impedance or 350 ohms, and a sensitivity rating of –40 dBV/Pa (10.0 mV 1 kHz open circuit). The maximum SPL rating is 130 dB at 1 percent THD, 1 kHz. Color options are black and white.

The mic head is smaller than a USB connector and weighs in at only 1/25 of an ounce, allowing a wide variety of placement options. It ships with a foam windscreen and 50 feet of attached cable on a small cable spool, as well as an attached XLR connector that houses the phantom powered pre-amp. The grille has a small red dot to indicate the front of the mic.



I received three cardioid and two hypercardioid models for evaluation. They look identical but can be distinguished by a small label on the front of the mic as well as a larger label wrapped around the end of the cable next to the connector.

About 4 inches of integrated steel wire on the cable can be bent to point and secure the mic in the desired direction, and it hardly adds any bulk. I also really like the small (about 5 inches in diameter) plastic reel that enables easy pay-out and wind-up of the cable. As we all know, cables exist for two reasons: interconnect, of course, and also to form into tangled messes, with the reel preventing the latter while affording extra protection from damage. That said, I wouldn't worry too much about damaging these cables, because they're more rugged than most I've run across on lavalier and headworn mics.



New Solutions
Plugged into my test rig in the shop, both mic versions sounded great. The cardioid model showed good pattern control with plenty of rejection to the rear, while the hypercardioid model exhibited a more narrow pickup pattern, just as it should.

I raised one of the mics in the air on a tall boom stand and could easily adjust the position by bending the built-in stiffener. The mic stayed where I placed it and even with the approximately 1-inch-round windscreen in place, it was visually unobtrusive. Audio quality was fantastic, and because these mics can handle a lot of SPL, we would have no problem using them over an orchestra or amplified instruments onstage.

Satisfied that everything was working correctly, we deployed all five mics for a school play. The proscenium stage in the multi-purpose room is about 35 feet wide but with only about 12 feet of ceiling height over the stage. Luckily there are a lot of pipes and rigging across the ceiling served as hanging points.

Because of budget constraints, only the seven lead actors were outfitted with wireless lavalier mics, but the rest of the cast all sang as a chorus and some other actors had minor speaking roles that needed to be amplified. Working with the director, we staged the performers who had speaking parts (but no wireless) into three separate areas across the front of the stage. When these actors needed to speak, they were instructed to move into one of the three areas, where we had flown single ISOMAX 2-H mics to capture their voices – a hypercardioid model on each side (closer to the PA stacks), and a cardioid model in the center.

Two more ISOMAX 2-H cardioids were flown equidistantly behind these mics to pick up the chorus. There wasn't anything available in the ceiling to hang these two mics, so I went to the local hardware store and purchased some 1/8-inch wire rope and clips, which allowed us to rig between two ceiling points and suspend the mics.

The installation guide included with the mics showed almost exactly the same installation for choirs but recommended using a turnbuckle to make the cable taught. Because our cross-wire was going to be hidden behind border curtains, (short curtains that run across the stage to lighting and rigging), any slight slack in the cable would not be seen by the audience. So we used plastic ties to secure the cable to the wire rope, and aimed the mic heads at the chorus zone on stage. When installed, the mics were about six feet above the heads of the chorus and almost invisible to the audience.



We rolled off everything under 100 Hz, and the mics sounded very natural in picking up speech. I left the cardioids flat but applied a bit of EQ to the left and right hypercardioids to make sure there wouldn't be feedback, due to their relatively close proximity to the PA. The hypercardioid pattern worked perfectly, and the cardioid pattern picked up a nice wide area and provided a full choral sound. The last set of overheads that we'd used for a play were about 30 times larger, had flimsy cables, and took a ton of EQ to get sounding "just OK." So score one for Countryman.

For the first time doing one of these productions, we had an uneventful rehearsal and performance. The mics picked up everything beautifully. Not only was the director happy, but we received several compliments from the audience.

Call For Backup
We took the ISOMAX 2-Hs out to another gig, a corporate meeting with audience Q&A, but didn't use them as intended. The plan was to place a couple of them over the audience to capture anyone asking a question who didn't walk up to the mic on a stand provided for this purpose. But because of a scheduling mix-up, the room wasn't available with much lead time so we didn't have a chance to hang the mics. 

However, we did use one of them as a backup podium and recording mic. Normally we deploy two mics at the podium, but the supplied podium only had a single threaded mounting flange, and it was also made of plexiglass, so adding another mic on a stand/base would look clunky. The usual backup plan when we can’t place a second mic is to attach a lavalier below the podium mic head. 

This time, though, with a bit of gaff tape, we mounted a cardioid ISOMAX 2-H to the single podium mic and ran the cable down the gooseneck. It worked perfectly and was a little less conspicuous than any lavalier we might have used for that purpose. In fact, this is our new go-to podium backup solution.

So if you're in the market for a small, very rugged overhead mic (or podium backup mics) that sounds great, can handle high SPL, and provide a lot of flexibility, then be sure to put the ISOMAX 2-H at the top of your list.

U.S. MSRP: $301.54
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I'm so old, when I was doing FOH for Tommy Dorsey, to balance out the horn section I would slide their chairs downstage and upstage to mix!

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