Once again, I am going to delve into the world of microphones with this Samson CO2 Review. I am also going to take a look at why people use Condenser mics like this as opposed to Dynamic mics. I will also touch on whether a Condenser mic might be the best option for you.
But let’s start with…
- What is a Pencil Microphone?
- Condenser or Dynamic?
- Do some sound engineers prefer Dynamic mics?
- The Condenser advantage
- Samson Technologies
- Samson C02 – Overview
- The Build
- The Design
- Some Numbers
- The Performance
- Where are they best used for?
- Samson CO2 Review – Pros and Cons
- Looking for a Great Microphone?
- Samson CO2 Review – The Bottom Line
What is a Pencil Microphone?
Difficult as it may be to imagine, the name is based on its long cylindrical design. A bit like a pencil. They are Condenser mics that have a small diaphragm, by necessity, in this case, 12mm.
Many people consider the Condenser mic as a recording microphone. But they are capable of much more than that, as we shall see.
Condenser or Dynamic?
Before you go out to buy your new mic, you must answer that question. The age-old argument and a subject that can cause controversy. But at the end of the day, it can often come down to what you want to use the mic for.
A condenser will normally give you a better sound quality than a dynamic mic. Typically, dynamic mics are good for stage work. But some pros sing live using condenser mics.
Do some sound engineers prefer Dynamic mics?
There seem to be two main reasons why sound engineers prefer a dynamic mic. They feedback less, and they control bleed better. I go along to a certain extent with the first one. But the second I am not so sure about.
I would have thought that polar patterns and frequency response are more important. Wouldn’t they have greater control over bleed rather than the dynamic or condenser scenario?
The Condenser advantage
In a controlled environment, the Condenser mic has the advantage because of the quality of the sound. Their design allows them to produce a smoother response across the entire frequency range.
But having said that, they might not be suitable for recording every instrument. Issues like the SPL will come into play if you want to record a kick drum or other high decibel sounds. In this review, I’m going to take a look at the Samson C02, but before I do, who is Samson?
Established in 1980, they started from humble beginnings. They have now created a productive niche for themselves in the budget range microphone market. These days there are three companies, Samson Audio, Samson Wireless, and Hartke amplification. The latter being amps and cabinets for bass guitars.
They service 140 countries with over 250 products, and so expansion has been significant. They have achieved this by producing a product that has good quality and serves a basic function.
With their mics being made in China, this allows them to keep their prices competitive. The Samson CO2 is an interesting item from their product range, so what is it all about?
Samson C02 – Overview
This is a package offering two small-diaphragm design condenser mics. They have been designed to make them multi-functional with their decent SPL handling and low-mass elements.
They are an ideal addition to the smaller or home studio. Giving you an audio performance that is more than acceptable at a very affordable price point. But also with a variety of options for how and where you use them.
Are you in need of some mics for multiple placements for recording? If so, then the Samson CO2 is going to be worth consideration. So, let’s take a closer look…
Whatever environment you use your microphones in, they need to be well-made and quite sturdy. There are no complaints in that area with these. The construction appears solid. They have a plated brass housing which means they can withstand a few knocks. Also, the XLR pins are gold-plated, ensuring they will not corrode and will maintain good contacts.
Each mic is six inches long and about ¾-inch wide. There is a foam windscreen included. This might reduce wind noise if you are using them outside. In terms of reducing plosives from vocals, it doesn’t. You will still need a pop filter. But that applies to any mic in use in a studio environment.
There are mounting clips that hold the mic in a rubber sleeve. At face value, it looks quite effective. But it doesn’t remove vibration noises as a shock mount would do. However, it is still a better option than the usual stand clip, which is very rigid.
A nice touch is the carrying case. It is made of tough plastic and has a foam lining. If you need to carry the mics around with you, then it’s good enough to protect them.
It has a low-mass capsule with its 12mm diaphragm and has the popular Cardioid polar pattern. In a studio environment, this can be a necessary design feature for any mic.
Why do we say necessary?
The Cardioid pattern is great for studio use. This is because they are not as sensitive as other patterns, such as omnidirectional, to the reflection of sound in the room. However, that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to pay attention to the acoustics of the room just because you have a Cardioid pattern. But that is another discussion.
The Target Source
The Cardioid pattern is specifically designed to pick up the sound coming straight at it. It will also collect no sound from behind it and very little from the sides. It is, therefore, the ideal pattern for vocal and miking up numerous instruments for recording.
Cardioid mics are a little bit vulnerable to plosives, so you will need a strategically placed pop filter if you are recording vocals. That will almost certainly overcome the problem.
The Proximity Effect
Another issue you have to be careful of with the Cardioid pattern is the Proximity effect. As you move closer to a mic with a Cardioid pattern, you may notice an increase in the lower frequencies. This is known as the proximity effect. It doesn’t occur with an omnidirectional pattern.
It can be a good thing if you want to add a bit of natural depth to a vocal to give it some warmth. If you don’t need the extra bass, just move the mic away from the subject a small distance. You might have to try different positions until you get the sound you want.
The frequency range of 40Hz-20kHz is quite acceptable, and the SPL, though, is very impressive at 134dB. This will make it suitable to cover a range of instruments, including percussion.
The signal-to-noise ratio is maybe not so good at 71dB. The dynamic range of these mics is 112dB. There are no roll-off or pad switches on these mics. Being a condenser mic, it will require +48v Phantom power.
Given some of its specific attributes, especially a good SPL level, the Samson CO2 gives a decent performance in the studio. It can work with a wide variety of instruments and vocals at a decent level. Therefore for those that are on a tight budget, it is an ideal option. In fact, considering the quality, it’s one of the most affordable condenser microphones on the market.
It is going to be better at working with sounds that don’t require too much natural low end. Therefore, it’s one of the best microphones for acoustic instruments and percussion. The self-noise can be on the high side, so getting the mic in the best position and close to the instrument will make a difference.
Where are they best used for?
These are microphones for indoor use. And if you have a home or a small studio, then they are going to do a decent job. Overheads on drums, especially cymbals, are going to record well, as well as capturing a good room sound, as long as what they are capturing is loud enough to not cause issues due to the high self-noise factor.
They are also superb for piano and other acoustic instruments, as I’ve already mentioned.
But there is another side to these mics we haven’t even mentioned yet. They are great microphones for recording narration and voice-overs in some situations. Providing you use them indoors and have a pop filter, they are going to give you a very good recording. And as there are two, they might also be very good for interviewing.
Samson CO2 Review – Pros and Cons
- Well-made with a solid brass plated housing.
- Gold-plated XLR connections prevent corrosion.
- Frequency range of 40Hz-20kHz.
- SPL of 134dB.
- Has a decent foam-lined carrying case.
- Cardioid pattern.
- Small 12mm diaphragm.
- Very attractive price for two mics.
- Can generate some noise.
- Mounting is not as good as it could be for reducing vibrations.
Looking for a Great Microphone?
We have you covered. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Dynamic Microphones, the Best Snare Mics, the Best Choir Microphones, the Best XLR Microphones, the Best Condenser Mics Under $200, the Best Condenser Microphones, the Best Microphones For Gaming, and the Best Microphones For Recording Electric Guitar you can buy in 2021.
And don’t miss our comprehensive Samson G-Track Pro Review, our Samson Technologies Q2U Review, our Samson C01 Review, and our Samson Meteor Microphone Review for more awesome microphones currently on the market.
Samson CO2 Review – The Bottom Line
Samson has designed and built their CO2 to fit into a price bracket and performance level. It fits the profile of most Chinese-made mics, and in doing so, you can’t argue with the value for money aspect. If you set it up properly in a decent recording environment, then you are going to get some decent results.
You will find mics that have less noise, and some will have better focus, but they will probably cost quite a bit more. These mics, sold as a pair, are great for situations that require multiple microphone placements.
And if you are thinking about using Condenser mics for the first time, you are going to notice an improvement in recorded quality. At the price point, they represent good value for money and are a great entry into the wonderful world of stereo pencil mics.
Until next time, happy recording.