Hebden Sound HS3000
Hebden Sound HS3000 Series
It’s a name that won’t be immediately stirring to all mic aficionados but recognition will be improved if we add that there is a connection
in lineage to the Calrec brand. Stick mics are enjoying a resurgence and one of the longest-lived types is available again for auditions.
JON THORNTON swaps his capsules.
T’S STRANGE, BUT SOMEHOW very satisfying,
that some microphone designs are so good and
respected that they simply refuse to fade away, no
matter what life throws at them. Instead, they seem to
posses the Phoenix-like ability to be constantly reborn
and rejuvenated. Hebden Sound’s latest offerings are a
case in point. They can trace their technical roots back
to an original Calrec design dating from the 1960s.
When Calrec made the decision to cease production of
microphones in 1994, ex-Calrec employee Keith Ming
licensed the design and carried on production under
the Hebden Sound badge. Following Ming’s death,
the company was acquired by yet another ex-Calrec
staffer, David Anderson. Until this point, the original
designs had been largely unchanged, but under
Anderson’s stewardship manufacturing processes
have been streamlined and the original product range
refined and developed.
The HS3000 series is the result and consists of
a standard preamplifier body coupled with a set of
interchangeable small diaphragm capsules. Available
as a single microphone body with one supplied
capsule, or as a matched pair with multiple capsules,
or indeed any permutation of the above — the
HS3000 series is almost unique in being a wholly
British designed and manufactured microphone.
The kit supplied for review was a stereo pair,
supplied in a very neat foam lined protective case with
a pair of omni and a pair of cardioid capsules. Also in
the case are a pair of solid microphone clips and a pair
of anti-vibration mounts. All in all it’s a very tidy and
aesthetically pleasing kit — with only one potential
problem. Maybe it’s the chunkiness and smooth
machining of the microphone body, and perhaps the
pistol grip looks of the supplied shock-mounts, but
I’m almost positive that
anybody taking this
through an airport
scanner would be
inviting the full-on
strip search...
long by 23mm
wide with a capsule
attached, the microphone
is quite compact but surprisingly
weighty at 290g. Changing capsules is
simply a matter of unscrewing one and screwing
on another, and the microphone is completely devoid
of any external controls. This minimalist approach
extends beneath the surface as the electronics have
been kept to a bare minimum with no unnecessary
filtering or other tweaking of the microphone’s
response. One big change from the original Calrec
design is that the output is now electronically, rather
than transformer, balanced.
With the cardioid capsule in place (subcardioid
and hypercardioid capsules are also available, but
weren’t supplied for review), the first test was female
vocals. My overwhelming recollection from using
Calrec mics in the past has been ‘nice but noisy’, and
I’m glad to say that this has changed. Certainly, one
expects a small diaphragm design to perform less well
than a large diaphragm design in this area, but the
quoted self-noise figure of 17dBA seems justified and
perfectly acceptable.
At a reasonable distance from the capsule, the vocal
was pleasantly uncoloured, if a trifle thin sounding
at the bottom end. Countering this, though, was a
marked absence of any mid-frequency aggressiveness
to the sound, instead retaining a natural, almost
soft quality with a hint of ‘air’ in the top registers.
Moving in closer showed a strong susceptibility to
plosives — no pop shield is provided, but is certainly
needed one in this application. On an acoustic guitar
as a spaced pair, the cardioid capsules did a fair job,
although there was a tendency for the sound to be
a little forced and closed in. This is surprising given
that the frequency response of the mics is very even
and smooth within the pick-up area with no sudden
tonal shifts as the source moves off axis. This same
characteristic, though, was beneficial when set up as
an overhead pair on a drum kit, helping to focus in on
the kit sound. Again, the response of the microphones
here was smooth, almost understated.
Returning to the acoustic guitar, again with a
spaced pair, but switching to the omni capsules
changed things considerably. There was a real sense
of the sound opening up and sounding less ‘recorded’,
even with relatively close positioning. At the same
time, the room acoustic never felt out of proportion to
the direct sound, just very natural.
At UK£365 for a single preamp body with one
capsule, these microphones are not without competition.
Additional capsules will set you back £195, and the
kit supplied for review weighs in at UK£1120 (two
bodies, two sets of capsules, case, etc.). They are only
available from Hebden Sound directly.
There are cheaper small diaphragm models out
there, both back-electret and true capacitors — but
the HS3000 series is different. These mics are British
to the core — simple and unfussy in appearance and
sound, they nevertheless just get the job done
without any aggravation. They deserve to
succeed for at least as long as their
predecessors. ■
Well built, simple and unfussy
design; neutral, understated sound;
interchangeable capsules really do
change the character of the microphone.
A pad would be useful; not for you if
you like a ‘tuned’ sound.
The HS3000 series individual
microphones are available in four polar
patterns: the HS3010
omnidirectional; the
HS3020 cardioid; the
HS3030 hypercardioid; and
the HS3040 subcardioid. All are also
available as stereo pairs.
Website: www.hebdensound.co.uk
April 2005
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