First Listen: A Review of the Soyuz SU-023 Bomblet

The SU-023 Bomblet is the newest in a long line of high quality, handmade mics by the brand, Soyuz Microphones. Every Bomblet is 100% hand-made in house by master machinists in Russia, including the mic’s capsule, which is modeled after the vintage 19A19 LOMO microphone. The capsule’s unique character comes from it’s triple back plate system which sets it apart from any other capsule in production.

This new FET condenser microphone also sports a unique circuit which was modeled around the original schematic designed by Soyuz’ own radio electronics engineer, Valery Nikolaevich. The SU-023 Bomblet’s transformer is hand wound at their factory and uses a specially designed toroidal core.

I’ve always been a big fan of FET condenser microphones. The Neumann U47 FET, Neumann U87ai, Gefell UMT 70S and Soyuz SU-019 have been a go-to for years on acoustic instruments, drum overheads, room tone, outside kick drum mic and warm intimate vocals. I’ve been lucky enough to use a variety of the world’s best FET condensers over the last decade on almost every source out there, and I have to say that the Bomblet is comparable to all of them. The overall sound and depth of the entire frequency spectrum, construction and feel are unmatched by anything in its class.

To hear the Soyuz SU-23 Bomblet in action, check out our demo video below which includes the microphone on upright piano, drums and acoustic guitar. Continue reading below to hear more of my in-depth thoughts on this new microphone from Soyuz. 

The first instrument I used the Bomblet on was an upright piano. These days, I haven’t been grabbing a FET condenser as my first choice for miking up a piano, as I’ve been drawn to the sound of a pair of Gefell M582 tube microphones with the UM70 capsule, a pair BeyerDynamic M160 ribbon microphones, or even a pair of small diaphragm dynamic mics such as the Shure SM57 or Sennheiser MD441.

A large diaphragm condenser can bring out a lot of mechanical noise of the piano, including the hammers or the sustain pedal, and have a build up of overtones that can cloud up a recording, especially if the player is heavy on the sustain pedal or recording an intimate tune. Of course, that’s not always the case, LDC mics are a great choice for capturing the most amount of detail, but I go through phases and every session is different, so I’ll never rule them out. Since I had these great new mics at my disposal, I wanted to put the Bomblet to the test on a variety of sources and this happened to be the first session that came up.

My typical upright piano miking technique is a spaced pair on the front of the piano, one microphone in the middle of the low end and one in the middle of the high end. I then put a tube condenser like a Neumann U 67, Neumann U47, AKG C12 or Sony C800G on the rear of the soundboard in the middle of the piano. I begin dialing in the front microphones, then bring in the tube condenser on the rear soundboard to fill out the frequency spectrum.

I used two Shadow Hill GAMA preamps followed by a pair of vintage API 550a EQs, and was so blown away by the sound of the spaced pair of Bomblets on the front of the piano that I didn’t even end up using the rear tube condenser for the session. The Bomblet had tons of depth in the low end, as well as a nice airy presence in the high end. They had such a warm dynamic or ribbon microphone feel to them, I ended up bypassing the EQ altogether.

I was very surprised with the natural sound of the microphone, rarely will I bypass an EQ, but in this case it seemed like I was taking away from the raw sound of the Bomblet. We shot the demo video for the Bomblet the day after that session so I left the microphones up, and if you listen to the recording in our video, it was the same setting as the previous session where no compression or EQ was used.

The next source I moved to was drums. I often use a pair of Coles 4038 ribbon microphones in a Blumlein pattern for the overheads, as it tends to have the widest stereo image and cuts down on the harshness from the cymbals.  If a drummer is really bashing the cymbals, I’ve even kept the Coles felt pouches on the microphone to cut down on the attack and overtones of the cymbals (which was a happy accident the first time I did it, but worked in the session so I left them on).

Since the Bomblet is cardioid by design, that wasn’t an option, so I went back to my old school technique of the spaced pair in drummer’s perspective. I put the left microphone over the area where the snare drum, rack tom and kick drum meet. The right microphone is positioned where the floor tom, kick drum and ride cymbal meet. I then pan the two microphones hard left and right.

In the Vintage King demo video for the Bomblet, I used a pair of Shadow Hills GAMA preamps with no EQ or compression, with no other close microphones on the kit. I had our video guy play some drums so I could dial in the sound, and while in the control room, it took me less than a minute to dial in an amazing overhead tone, I didn’t move the microphones an inch after setting them up.

I was monitoring through a pair of Acoustic Energy AE1 passive monitors, as well as the Acoustic Energy AE1 active set. Both of these sets of speakers don’t really put out a lot of low end, they are kind of like hi-fi Yamaha NS10s. We usually have a pair of Barefoot MicroMain26s up, which easily represents the low end of anything you throw through them, the AE1s tend to make you work a little more.

I was extremely impressed by how detailed the low end of the kick drum and floor tom were on the AE1s. The Bomblet also did a great job of picking up the detail of the cymbals without being harsh at all, which is pretty uncommon on the first positioning of a pair of condenser microphones. I cranked the snare a bit higher than I would normally prefer, but wanted to see how the Bomblet would handle the dynamic range of a really low kick drum and a high pitched, ringing snare drum.

I think the Bomblet did an incredible job of having a warm and balanced tone across the entire frequency spectrum. My favorite overhead tone in our demo video was the jazz style, it was pure and warm sounding, cymbals were present without being overbearing, and heard all the dynamics of the snare, toms and kick drum.

The final demo was on a Martin 000-16 acoustic guitar. On an acoustic, I typically grab a small diaphragm condenser like a vintage Neumann KM84, Neumann KM184 or AKG 451. I will then pair that with a ribbon or tube microphone like a Royer 121, BeyerDynamic M160, Gefell CMV 563 or Gefell M582. I position the capsules right next to each other, and if positioned correctly, there will be no phase between the two microphones. I use the condenser microphone to pick up the high end, presence and detail of the strings, the ribbon or tube mic is used to capture the low end and depth of the instrument. I usually keep them panned to the same position and use a volume blend of the two mics rather than EQ to find the tone I’m looking for. If EQ and compression is necessary, I sum those two tracks to one channel and insert the dynamics.

I wanted to see how a single Bomblet would hold up to this technique. I first positioned the microphone between the sound hole and where the neck meets the body. As I was dialing in the sound, it was sounding pretty boomy and lacked detail in the high end, but that is common with just about any microphone in that position. So before jumping to an EQ to sculpt the sound, I repositioned the microphone to the 12th fret position and increased the distance from the guitar to reduce the proximity effect.

Right away, this sounded much better and closer to what I would be looking for to sit in a track properly, but still wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be. So I engaged an EQ on our Tree Audio Roots console, which is similar in design to the vintage Universal Audio 610 channel strip. I did -4dB at 100Hz to tame a little bit of the muddiness in the low end, and boosted +4dB at 16Hz to add in some presence and air into the high end.

Once I did this, I was sold the Bomblet can hang as a single acoustic microphone. The acoustic still had great depth in the low end, the harmonic overtones were coming through and very pleasing, the high end was in your face but not overbearing. I would imagine if this was run through a Roland Dimension D to add some stereo imagining, it would sore in a  full band mix.

I think it would be hard to find a better FET condenser microphone in this price range, as the Bomblet is truly comparable to microphones five times the price. The Bomblet will quickly be finding it’s way into microphone lockers all over the globe, as it’s a great addition to any size facility from the small project studio to large commercial studios.

If you're interested in purchasing a Soyuz SU-23 Bomblet for yourself, be sure to contact your Audio Consultant at Vintage King via email or by phone at 888.653.1184.

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