When you get tired of the politics of Brexit try a new game – the microphones of Brexit! Don’t worry Stateside you can do the same thing for Donald or Hilary! My favourite is Chancellor Merkel, nothing to do with her politics, it’s her choice in mircophones that sets her a cut above the rest. I can’t think of another world leader who draws on the serious fire power of the Gefell KEM 970. I got so excited I dug out my old review, but be warned these are not for the faint hearted (which is code for these are hellishly expensive) – contact John Willett at sound-link.co.uk, just be sure to be sitting down first!
If you’ve been paying attention to what’s happening in live sound – check out the AMSR section, page 67 if you haven’t – then you’ll know that line arrays are back with a bang, and this time you can hear that bang. Now we were all told as tiny audio children that a loudspeaker is merely a microphone in reverse (or indeed the other way round), what then about a line array microphone? A series of capsules vertically mounted in order to realise the benefits of a line array – notably a wide horizontal pattern with good vertical rejection. Well what about it… in only one paragraph we’ve invented the Gefell KEM 970, except of course they invented it first. The KEM 970 is the most striking looking microphone in the world – I know that’s a big claim but check out the picture. As soon as I saw it I had to try it, and up close the finish is very fine indeed, which is as it should be; Microtech Gefell has been making microphones for 75 years and its designers know what they’re doing. In the brochure the KEM 970 is described as, ‘the first and only microphone with non-rotational-symetrical directivity’ and a bit later as a ‘Cardioid Plane Microphone’ or more simply as a ‘flat cardioid’. In other words it’s a wide cardiod in the horizontal plane while being a gun mic vertically. In terms of acceptance angles, about 120 degrees in the horizontal and about 30 degrees in the vertical. Now what would you want one of those for? In Use My first port of call was as an audience mic. That might seem a little odd given the price and the pedigree but in the olden days TV audiences had column speakers dangled over them to provide PA with a minimum of spill on to the band mics. I was doing exactly the same in reverse; I wanted maximum pick up of the audience with maximum rejection of the band. Mal Pope and the Jacks in the Swansea Grand Theatre provided the occasion and the Gefell came up trumps, excellent rejection and great sound. The KEM 970 was designed in conjunction with the Institut fur Rundfunktechnik in Munich. The Gefell features eight capsules in a ‘columnar array’ (one above the other!), and the mic matrixes these capsules together in three frequency bands before delivering the output. The capsules are mounted in a grilled tube which is itself fixed to a metal rod hiding the cabling and providing a mount. The KEM 970 is supplied with a ten-metre cable that terminates in a seven pin Tuchel and a screw-in connector reminiscent of Neumanns of yesterday. I had the N970 analogue powering box (requires a mains supply though there is also a digital version). The box offers line level output with switchable 10 and 20dB pads. I was keen to get the KEM 970 into our music studio and Paul Jenkins our senior orchestral balancer was only too happy to oblige. The National Orchestra of Wales was working on the Barber cello concerto and Paul was able to rig the Gefell as a solo mic for the cello. The KEM 970 passed the test with flying colours offering a very tight window on the cello while at the same time producing sound quality in perfect keeping with the more conventional Schoeps mics Paul was using for the rest of the mix. Having done well in studio it was back on the road and a trip to Bristol with Huw Thomas, who shares his time between the orchestra and work for Radio 3. Huw spent an intensive day with the Nederlands Wind Ensemble in St. George’s Bristol. The results were fascinating with the nine players in a semi circle the KEM 970 was easily able to cover them all while the vertical rejection meant you could have just as much of that famed acoustic as you wanted. Gefell are very excited about the possibilities of slinging the mic over an orchestra when the requirement is a tight sound on the choir behind. That’s certainly an attractive prospect for us in Wales at St. Davids Hall, but unfortunately I didn’t have a choir to hand for the review. To complete the round up I ran some tests with the KEM 970 recording speech. In a highly reverberant room the polar diagram really pays off. With less sensitivity to reflections from floor and ceiling the on axis sound was noticably tighter than the standard cardiod of the Neumann KM184 but certainly gave nothing away in quality. Against a standard gun the comparison was most instructive. The Gefell simply sounds better (and so it should at the price), it doesn’t quite offer as much forward gain but outdoors seems less prone to the bounce of the ground which can add a boxyness (strange but true) to outdoor recordings. My only criticism of the KEM 970 is that it is heavy and cumbersome to rig and a mains powered box is always a hassle – the price you pay for a unique bit of kit I suppose – on top of a sizable wedge of cash. Conclusion Dirk Rowehl of Gefell said to me that the KEM 970 can’t break the laws of physics (it just looks like it does!) and of course he’s right, on the other hand it does exploit those laws marvelously. I’m not surprised that the KEM 970 works but I am surprised it works so well, and while being so very clever sounds so very good. Stereo working? Simply buy two.