Review of the Electrovoice RE20 by TweakHeadz Lab
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Review of the
Electro-Voice RE20

Classic Mic for Radio and Broadcast

Alternative Broadcast Mics
 
 
Shure SM7B Dynamic Cardioid Studio Vocal Microphone
The SM7B dynamic microphone has a smooth, flat, wide-range frequency response appropriate for music and speech in all professional audio applications. It features excellent shielding against electromagnetic hum generated by computer monitors, neon lights, and other electrical devices. The SM7B has been updated from earlier models with an improved bracket design that offers greater stability. In addition to it's standard windscreen, it also includes the A7WS windscreen for close-talk applications.

Sennheiser MD421II Dynamic Cardioid Microphone
This Sennheiser microphone is a low-impedance (200 ohms) balanced output unit terminating in a standard 3-pin XLR-type connector. It features rugged professional construction and a 5-position bass roll-off switch.

 

Just ask leading radio announcers which mics they prefer.  Ask Rush Limbaugh, who I saw on the news the other night, speaking through a gold-plated RE20.  Whether or not you agree with his politics, there is no disputing his taste in microphones.  The RE20 is part of a larger RE product line by Electro-Voice, which includes the RE10, 11, 15,16, 27N/D, 38 N/D, 50, 55, 85, 200 and 410 and 510.  Whew!  Are there more?  Probably.   The RE20 and 27 are most known as broadcast microphones. 

Its not hard to see why the RE20 has such acclaim.  All you have to do is record yourself through one.  For my voice, which is in the baritone range, I can say I love this mic's sound.  It feels good too, made of steel, heavier than the average mic to my hand, an oh such a funky look with it's wide diameter.  A true classic. 

 

ElectroVoice RE20 Classic Cardioid Dynamic Microphone
Industry Standard Variable-D dynamic cardioid microphone is a favorite among broadcasters and sound engineers worldwide. The Variable-D design and heavy-duty, internal P-pop filter reduce proximity effect while the internal element shock mount reduces vibration-induced noise. Bass roll-off switch.

 

Subjective Impression

When I heard myself through an RE20 it was kind of cool.  We have all heard the RE20 before because it is used on so many broadcasts.  For me, it struck a subliminal chord somewhere.  Of course I had to try all sorts of preamp settings and compressor settings, run it through EQ and effects, gates, vocoders, pitch transformers to see how it held up.  It did well.  There was plenty of signal to tweak with and the raw audio was good strong and smooth. 

Details

OK, lets get to the details about the RE20 and show how it fits in with the rest of the microphone options.  The EV RE20 is  dynamic microphone in a fixed cardioid pattern.  That is the "heart shaped" pattern that rejects sounds from the back while capturing them from the front and the front left and right.  The range of the mic is stated as 45-18Khz and is generally flat with a slight peak around 9kHz.  There is no pad on the RE20, though there is a bass rolloff switch which starts its downward slope around 300HZ.  Being a dynamic mic, the RE20 does not need phantom power.  However, it does need a fair amount of gain at the preamp, about 55-60 db which is about the same as the Shure SM57.  Be wary if you have audio interfaces and mixers that can't cough up that much juice. 

Electro-voice says the RE20's Variable-D technology helps keep the proximity effect under control.  Unlike common dynamic mics, you can get very close to the mic and will hear very little bass boost.  Hence, radio broadcast engineers and announcers favor them.  In my tests I fount that to be true.  The mic remains clear sounding no matter how close you get.  And you can get very close, to the point where your lips are touching the mic  Its also a quiet mic in terms of handling noise.  It controls sibilance well.  Its not easy to pop a "P" and ruin the track.  Thanks to its cardiod characteristics, its a fairly quiet mic in terms of ambient noise too.  Even at +66db gain, it does not pick up a lot of room sound.  If you want to pick up some room tone with your voice, kick in a compressor. 

The mic has other applications beside broadcast.  Electro-voice's manual says "ideal for instrument recording, especially kick drums and acoustic guitars."  Many people think of it as one of the best mics for hip hop, rap and spoken word style vocals.  I'm pretty confident it could do well with a lot of things. 

RE20 vs. MD421

Probably a good comparison for the RE20 would be the Sennheiser MD421.  For voice over I think the RE20 slightly edges out the MD421.  However, for singing, sometimes you want a little bit of the proximity effect.  The MD421 lets you dial in as much as you want, whereas the RE20 the proximity effect is nearly absent by design.  So consider that, if you are stuck on that one.  And check out my review of the MD421.

RE20 vs. Shure SM7b

Make sure to read my review of the SM7b.  For broadcast and voice applications, the SM7b has the look, feel and sound of professional quality.  I love that big windscreen.  Yet there is something classic in the sound of the RE20 that the others can't quite match, as subjective as that sounds.  It's the sonic "signature", perhaps.  The SM7b has a fixed rolloff, perhaps not as effective as the MD421.  You can get very close to all three mics.  The SM7b does have a pad, so it, like the MD421, can be used on a drum kit very close to the drum head.

Who should get an RE20?

The RE20 is a classic mic with a signature sound.  if you are doing radio podcasts or voice over for video, this mic will be hard, if not impossible, to beat.  Just make sure you have a strong preamp. Because of this, its probably not well suited for a entry level studio with compromised preamps.  I think it is more for the intermediate and advanced studio.  For a pro studio its one of those things you have to have.

 


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