Vintage meets modern in this tube-style small diaphragm condenser mic
Review by Paul Vnuk Jr.
For 18 years, John Peluso and Peluso Microphone Lab have been crafting microphones that are visually and sonically inspired by classic models of the past.
Peluso microphones are designed, assembled, and tested using house-manufactured components loaded into imported bodies and cases. In addition to mics such as the U 67-inspired P-67 valve condenser (reviewed May 2017), and the C414-inspired P-414 (reviewed May 2019), Peluso also offers original creations such as their 14 series ribbon models, the CEMC-6 pencil condenser, and the PS-1 handheld condenser. The P-28 on review taps into both paradigms.
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The hybrid approach
The Peluso P-28 is a tube-based pencil condenser microphone that takes its sound and inspiration from the classic Neumann KM 54 as well as the AKG C28. Released in 1954, the Neumann KM 54 was an early pencil condenser design that employed a sub-miniature tube and was known for its smooth, neutral tonality. The AKG C28 released in 1955 was also a small diaphragm tube condenser designed around a similar circuit topology as the AKG C12. It featured optional interchangeable capsules under its removable grille/windscreen. Its body was larger than most modern SDC mics, as it originally housed a full-sized tube before switching to a miniature Nuvistor tube in its third incarnation. The C28 offered an open, full low-end capture.
The Peluso P-28 has combined the best of both. Its 8″ x 1″ body, removable head grille, and all are visually reminiscent of the AKG C28. It comes stock with an 18mm edge-terminated cardioid capsule, and like the C28, an optional omnidirectional capsule is available. On the KM 54 side, it makes use of a similar subminiature triode tube. Sound-wise, it aims to combine the rich low-end capture of the C28 with the smooth, neutral top end of the KM 54.
Tube and FET
To yield the lowest noise floor possible, The P-28 is also a hybrid FET/tube design with a Peluso-designed FET amplifier before the tube stage, which is then rounded out by a custom-wound output transformer.
The P-28 comes in a kit that includes a felt-lined wooden box, external power supply, clamp-style shock mount, 8-pin screw-on multipin cable, and the mic itself, all housed in a slim, locking aluminum flight case. Matched pairs are available on request.
Sonically, the words ‘clear’ and ‘neutral’ come to mind, with a gentle hint of low-end richness. The P-28 captures a source with great detail, while exhibiting zero top-end hype or bite. I have reviewed a few tube-based pencil microphones in my day, and I was quite pleased with how low-noise this mic is; despite being a vintage-toned tube microphone, it’s cleaner and has a higher output than my beloved vintage Neumann KM 84.
To zero in on the sound and tone of the Peluso P-28, I did some side-by-side recordings alongside my above-mentioned 80s vintage KM 84, and the new RØDE TF-5 pencil condenser (reviewed October 2019). My goal was not to determine which mic sounds best, but instead to give an idea of where the P-28 lives on the sonic spectrum.
Tracked through a Millennia Media HV3-D preamp on a song with my usual test instruments of cajón, dreadnought acoustic guitar, shakers, tambourine, and vocals, the Peluso P-28 and RØDE TF-5 couldn’t be more opposite in their capture. The TF-5 is all about forward clarity and ultra-extended detail, especially in the 12kHz range, while simultaneously downplaying the 6kHz mid-tones. Switching to the P-28 brings the midrange back to the forefront and, while still clean and clear, tames the jangle found in tambourines, high-hats, and crash cymbals.
Side-by-side with the KM 84, both microphones offer a similar ruler-flat mid capture that in a mix is almost interchangeable. Having said that, the top and low-end tonality of both mics is pleasingly different. The KM 84 offers a very dry, blunt top end that actually comes across as slightly tonally nasal compared to the more diffuse, gentle openness found in the Peluso P-28.
‘Deep’ and ‘diffuse’ are the terms I would use when comparing the low end of each microphone. The KM 84 again is a bit blunter and more forceful, giving it the feel of a punchier low-end capture, where the P-28 is more diffuse, but somehow a touch deeper in its reach. I should point out that between the two, these low-end differences are subtle, and not as extreme as my chosen adjectives may seem.
The Peluso P-28 excels on most string instruments, especially acoustic guitar, alone or in a stereo X/Y set up. Speaking
as a percussionist, I love the full, open dimensionality of the P-28 on djembe, cajón, congas, klong-yaw (google it), doumbek, and tabla. It also excels in pairs for drum overhead duties, offering a full, rich capture of the kit with gentle cymbal control. As a spaced pair on drum overheads, the P-28 provides a large diaphragm condenser sound, but with the focus that a small diaphragm mic offers, so much so that I quite enjoyed a single P-28 as a mono drum overhead.
The last source that I will comment on is one where I don’t usually reach for a small diaphragm microphone, and that is vocals. Typically, this is because most SDC mics are prone to loud, obnoxious plosives that can literally stall the capsule and circuit of the mic. On the one hand, the P-28 is no different; close blasts of air are not its friend, but when used with a pop screen, thanks to its tonal similarity to a large diaphragm mic, the P-28 works just fine as a full, detailed, yet smooth vocal microphone.
The Peluso P-28 is a fabulous specimen of a small diaphragm tube condenser.
Its neutral, vintage-weighted sound makes it a literal natural on a variety of instruments, and despite its vintage tube nature, it’s as clean and quiet as most modern solid state mics.
Frequency Range: 20Hz-24kHz
Polar Pattern: cardioid (omni available by special order)
Sensitivity: 11 mv/pa
Impedance: 200 ohms
Equivalent Noise: 15dB (A)
Tube Type: 5744WB
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