in Road Tests
Just when you think the pro-audio microphone market is well in hand by the big brands in the industry, up springs a viable contender with a lot going for it. Not only does Bob Heil’s Heil Sound enterprise offer some great professional microphones, but Bob does it with equal parts flair and engineering expertise. While the big brands have world-class product design facilities and worldwide manufacturing, Heil Sound does the same with a small staff located in the St. Louis metro area.
I received a couple of mics from Heil Sound for this review, and wanted to focus on the new PR 35 Dynamic Vocal Microphone and the unsung Handi-Mic that has a lot of utility. A couple of years ago, I had a chance to review the first offerings of the Heil Sound PR series of microphones, and I found the mics novel enough to gush lovingly over their sound quality and low cost of ownership.
When I originally reviewed the PR series mics (PR 20, PR 30, PR 40), I thought the PR 30 provided the widest frequency response and most natural sound for both live and recording usage. By taking the same large diaphragm capsule and squeezing it into a handheld chassis, the PR 35 delivers its capsule’s promise for handheld vocal mic usage. From the first look and feel of the PR 35, the size and rubberized handgrip distinguished itself from most other microphones. And being a committed geek, I had to unscrew the windscreen and see how such a large capsule got inside a normal mic body. And believe me, there is not much air inside the windscreen, as the capsule and sorbothane shock mount take up almost all the space.
And while the PR 35 handgrip is nicely designed with venting for its super-cardiod pattern, what makes the mic sound beautiful is the design of the dynamic motor and voice-coil assemblies. The trick is to employ the rare-earth magnet material Neodymium-Iron-Boron for a high magnetic field intensity, so that the large diaphragm can be wound with very few turns of wire to retain a low mass compared to other mic diaphragms. This low-mass, large-size property is what provides a wide frequency response in rugged assembly; and compares well in sound detail with large diaphragm condenser studio microphones.
Specification-wise, the rated frequency response is 40 Hz to 18 kHz in the -3 dB points with a nominal -52.9 dBu output at 1 Pa. The Heil Sound PR 35 weighs 10.5 ounces, which is fairly normal for a handheld mic and measures 7.67 inches in length. In listening tests using my own voice, I could not get noticeable distortion while shouting as loud as I could. Given its 600-ohm impedance and transformer isolated design, I found the PR35 flawless in bench testing and critical listening experiences.
What started out as a need to mic the high-rotor horn on Leslie speaker cabinets, the Heil Sound Handi-Mic is a 4.5-inch petite dynamic microphone that is turning into a secret weapon in a lot of sound engineers mic lockers. And like its PR 35 big brother, the Handi-Mic hides a nearly 1-inch dynamic capsule that provides impressive frequency response that works equally well on percussion applications as well as high-frequency sources such as cymbals.
A standard mic clip is provided for the Handi-Mic, as there is still plenty of mic-grip surface to work with, and could still work well as a vocal mic if desired. The Handi-Mic comes with the standard PR-series black lacquer finish over zinc alloy body. With its Neodymium-Iron-Boron magnet and 0.75” low mass voice coil diaphragm, the Handi-Mic provides a nice cardiod polar pattern for instrument sound reinforcement applications.
In the specifications, the Handi-Mic puts out -55 dBu at 1 Pa from its 600 ohm output impedance, and covers a 80 Hz to 15 kHz frequency response. Its light 7 ounce weight and 1.31-inch maximum diameter makes the Handi-Mic a small-profile mic for getting into tight drum kits and smaller guitar amp setups. In bench tests, I found the Handi-Mic easy on the ears, and pretty much distortion-less.
Out at the club gigs, the Heil Sound PR 35 and Handi-Mics were received well by the artists I worked with. The PR 35 can be unnerving to vocalists at first, because they are so trained to hear that 80 Hz to 250 Hz mic proximity effect. So, the initial comments by vocalists were, “great bass extension” and “different mid-range” using the PR 35 with its razor flat 80 Hz to 2 kHz frequency response. Most of the vocalists loved the rubberized grip, and a few threatened to steal it away from me to make the PR 35 their new vocal feature.
The Handi-Mic got the underrated attention it normally receives, and the small size often indicates to many musicians an anemic sound quality from experience. But once I got the musician back to the console, and PFL’ed the channel strip, the purity of the Handi-Mic converted the most die-hard large mic fanatic that good sounds can come from small packages. Overall, I would say these Heil Sound mics fill niches left open by usual suspect mics, and the prices are making the switch to Heil mics a no-brainer.
What It Is: Heil PR 35 and Handi Mics.
How much: PR 35 $299 SRP, Handi-Mic $110 SRP.
Pros: Great sounding, modest price, nice cosmetics.
Web site: www.heilsound.com