A clean and clear dynamic vocal mic, well suited for instruments too!
Review by paul vnuk jr.
Gauge Precision Instruments is a US-based microphone company whose products take design initiatives from top audio engineers Chandler Bridges and Rob Chiarelli. The designs are manufactured in China, and every specimen is individually QCed in the US by Chandler and Gauge CEO Jeff Piergeorge. Mics that don’t pass through the gauntlet never make it out the door. This stringent process allows Gauge to offer consistently great-sounding products at affordable prices.
Darwin Grosse introduced readers to Gauge back in September 2009 with his review of the large diaphragm ECM-87. Mike Metlay took the same mic for a spin a decade later in our February 2019 issue as part of the ECM-87 Virtual Mic Locker, which uses the ECM-87 Mic Clone plugin to turn the ECM-87 into a modeling mic with a choice of eight classic mic models.
This month we’re looking at the Gauge ECM-80 Dynamic Vocal Microphone. Why are we highlighting a vocal microphone in our guitar issue? Gauge recommended that we try it on guitar cabs in last year’s ‘That One Electric Guitar Mic’ roundup, for its “…clear, crisp sound, along with a smooth midrange and excellent feedback rejection.” So then, let’s dig in and see how the ECM-80 fares on electric guitar, along with a few other instruments and vocals as well.
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The ECM-80 is a handheld dynamic mic with a dark gray rubberized body that cuts down on handling noise while feeling smooth in the hand. Visually, it’s reminiscent of the Telefunken M80 and shares the same body, which is not uncommon with Asian-sourced parts. Internally though,
it’s its own thing. It comes with a vinyl pouch and a high-quality mic mount.
I have to say, Gauge is spot on in its description of the ECM-80. It’s a very neutral mic from its midrange on down, with a crisp, bright, almost condenser-like top end. It has a very full and present proximity effect when placed tight up against a cab’s grille; this falls off fast beyond a few inches. It also has a very sharp off-axis rejection, making it a great candidate for stage work as well as for tracking live with a band in the studio.
I used the ECM-80 on congas, cajón, djembe, snare drum, acoustic guitar, electric guitar cabinet (a Fender Princeton reissue), and vocals. In each case, the words ‘condenser-like’ came to mind. It’s a bit brighter than I’m used to compared to the usual dynamic suspects like a Shure SM57 or Audix I5—both are more midrange heavy and thicker sounding by comparison. Interestingly, the ECM-80 is even a touch more open-sounding than the Telefunken M80, which is also known to have a healthy top end. On vocals and acoustic guitar, this
brightness gives the ECM-80 a clarity and dimension not often found in dynamic mics. On acoustic guitar and percussion, its sharp proximity drop helps capture detail minus boom and buildup, and it’s very workable on vocals; if you want more low end, eat the mic, and if you want less, simply back off.
On Screaming Guitars
We most often reach for a dynamic mic on electric guitar cabinets because of how they highlight mids and constrain the highs. Many of us then typically add a large diaphragm condenser to bring back some clarity. In this scenario, the ECM-80 could be swapped out with the LDC, or even used on its own, depending on the style of music and tone of the amp. I would consider using the ECM-80 over a condenser in certain situations. As a dynamic mic it can handle extreme volume levels, levels at which many condensers will break up, often even before you hit your amp’s sweet spot.
Bottom line: in side-by-side comparisons with each of the above-mentioned dynamic models, the Gauge ECM-80 sounds like none of the above. I’m always excited to have yet another affordable dynamic mic to add to my studio’s color palette.
Polar Pattern: Cardioid
Frequency Response: 40-18kHz
Impedance: 300 ohms
Equivalent Noise Level: 17dBb (IEC 651A)
Max SPL: 144dB (0.5% @ 1kHz)
More from: gauge-usa.com