Friday, 14 October 2016

Products: JTS CX500 Series Miniature Condenser Microphones. Applications, Information and Accessories. Part One.

The JTS CX500 miniature microphone has become one of our favourite and indeed best selling products, but it's modest selling price sometimes belies it's quality and versatility. There are also now a number of different versions available for different instruments which supplied with different mounting accessories and connector options. So we thought it would be a great idea to put together a short blog post explaining the different models, their applications and a look at some of the different mounting options available. 
We'll split this information into two parts. 
In part one, we'll introduce the CX-500 family of microphones and take a close look at the general purpose CX-500
In part two, we'll take a look at the specialised variants. The CX500F flute mic, and the CX500Du dual diaphragm mic system which offers and additional PZM element for enhanced bass reproduction. 
We stock all CX-500 Series products and have demo versions. The Noizeworks is based in Rainham, Essex. UK. So if you want to try out any of the mic products with your instrument, then give us a call/email. All the contact details are on our website. 
www.thenoizeworks.co.uk

So anyway. Let's start our detailled look at these great little microphones.......


Introduction:

The CX500 Series of condenser microphones have been developed by JTS to offer a versatile miniature condenser microphone for use with a range of acoustic instruments at a much more affordable price than some of the more 'esoteric' products currently on the market. To offer versatility, a range of different models, mounting options, pre-amps and interfaces have been developed. Here we will explore and clarify these various options and offer advice on the application of the various microphones and options.

Microphone Models and Accessories:


Microphones:

CX-500: General purpose miniature condenser microphone for use mainly with acoustic and orchestral stringed instruments such as violins, violas, acoustic guitars, mandolins, banlos, etc. 
CX-500F: Miniature condenser microphone with mounting and flexible miniature 'gooseneck' particularly designed for use with flutes. 
CX-500Du: Dual transducer system specifically designed for enhanced bass reproduction. Designed for lower register stringed instruments such as cello and double bass but can also be used for violins, violas and acoustic guitars. 

Pre-Amps and Power Supplies:

MA500: Phantom power adaptor. Allows CX500 and CX500F to be used as a standard condenser microphone with mixers and mixer amps supplying phantom power down the microphone cable.  
PS-510: Battery/Phantom power supply. Facilitates powering of CX-500, CX-500F and CX-500Du via batteries or phantom power supplied by a mixing console. 
PS-510M: Enhanced version of PS-510 with headphone output for local monitoring.

CX-500 Miniature Condenser Microphone System:

We'll start by taking a look at the general purpose CX-500 and begin by taking a little break at this point, sit back, watch a video, and listen to some nice relaxing music:




JTS have provided a very useful video showing the application of the CX-500 mounted on a violin, so you can see how the microphone bridge mount works and get a flavour of how effective it can be sound wise. Obviously, this is only a video and a lot will depend on your computer speakers, etc, but you can get an idea of how much more effective close miking of instruments can be. 
It would be impossible to get any kind of stand mounted microphone anywhere near as close as this miniature mic, and a stand mounted mic would also restrict the movement of the player. 
By mounting the mic on the bridge of the instrument we can get very close to the instrument and get maximum lower register response through close proximity. 'Proximity effect' is the better bass response achieved through positioning a microphone closer to the source. 
The video also shows how effective a microphone can be in situations where the permanent mounting of pickup systems in instruments is unwanted or not possible, such as valuable orchestral instruments. 


So let's take a closer look at the CX-500, it's mounting options and pre-amps/interfaces. 
At the time of writing, the CX-500 was being supplied only with a number of mounting options and not packaged with the MA-500 phantom power adaptor, so the MA500 will now always need to be purchased separately. A CX-500 without the MA-500 adaptor can only be used with a compatible wireless system beltpack, or the PS-510/M battery/phantom power supply. 

Below is an image of the basic CX500 kit and accessories:



The CX500 microphone itself is at the top. It has approx' 2.5M of cable and terminates in a mini 4 pin XLR. There is a pack of replacement windshield. Two bridge mounts are shown bottom right, 5 stick-on mounts are shown and to the left are replacement stick on covers for the stick on mounts. In the centre is the MA-500 phantom adaptor not now supplied as standard with the CX-500

Powering Options:

The powering of miniature condenser microphones like the CX-500 can be a source of confusion. So we'll attempt to clarify this here:
Because it's a condenser microphone, the CX-500 has to be powered. This can be achieved in a number of ways: 
1) It can be plugged into a wireless microphone belt pack system. JTS wireless microphone beltpack systems terminate in 4 pin mini XLRs so you can plug the CX-500 into a range of JTS wireless systems for complete freedom. No additional power supply is required.
JTS Beltpack Transmitter.
2) Via the MA500 phantom power supply. Most modern mixers and mixer amps are capable of providing phantom power down the microphone cable. For this application you need the MA500 phantom power adaptor. This really allows the CX-500 to be plugged in and powered rather like any other condenser microphone. One side of the MA500 is a 4 pin mini socket for the CX-500 and the other side is a standard 3 pin XLR plug. Plug the CX-500 into the 4 pin mini XLR socket and connect a standard XLR-XLR cable from the MA500 to the mixer. Turn on the phantom power, bring up the channel and off you go. Incidentally, the MA 500 also has a handy clip that allows it to be clipped onto a belt or clothing strap, etc so it's not just dangling around your person or sitting on the floor.
JTS MA500 Phantom Power Adaptor.

3) Via the PS510/M phantom/battery power supplies. These units provide power to the CX-500 where there may be no phantom power available. Such as busker amps, etc. The PS510/M also offers the additional versatility of allowing powering via phantom power. So you have flexibility depending upon the available mixer/amp/PA setup you may be using and don't need to purchase an MA-500 for situations where phantom power is available. 


JTS PS510 Battery/Phantom Supply/Adaptor.


Mounting Options:

The CX-500 is supplied with a number of mounting devices. 
1) 5 x 'stick-on' mounts. These versatile little mounts are great for a variety of instruments. Violins, violas, mandolins, acoustic guitars, banjos, saxes, trumpets, trombones, and a variety of percussion instruments. Just stick the mount onto the instrument in the desired position and clamp the CX-500 into the mount using the cable. Her are some examples on acoustic guitar and a piano sound board:




Now I think at this point it's probably worth exercising some caution and common sense. According to JTS, the adhesive used on the stick on mounts have been specially developed and formulated to not cause any marks or damage to instrument finishes or lacquer. But I would hesitate to use these on very valuable instruments.

2) 500HG and 500HG1 bridge mounts are supplied. One of each. These are the devices the lady in the video was using. They are for over and under string bridge mounting of the CX-500. You can experiment with these and find out which works best on your particular instrument. These fit onto the strings behind the violin/viola bridge and then the mic cable clips into mount. As below:



Obviously, these mounting devices can be fitted or removed and make no contact with the body, so can be used with perhaps more valuable instruments. 

Of course, the CX500 mic is so small and so discreet that you can really mount them anywhere you like with a piece of tape. Put a piece of tape across the cable, just behind the mic capsule and stick it wherever you want! Use your imagination!


Advantages, Sound Quality, and Positioning:

The power of the CX-500 microphone lies in it's size. It's tiny dimensions alongside it's supplied mounting options, means that the mic can be positioned almost anywhere on the chosen instrument. It's true that smaller diaphragm microphones won't reproduce bass quite as well as a larger diaphragm mics, but as mentioned earlier, what you lose in capsule size, you gain much more by proximity. Because you can get the mic so close to the instrument source the low end response becomes more than enough and, the mid/high reproduction is detailed, bright and vivid.
Again, due to it's small size, and close proximity positioning, you don't need to crank the gain of your mic pre-amps. This means that background noise can be minimised and also high gain before feedback can be achieved. Anyone who has ever attempted to mic orchestral instruments from a distance with stand mounted condenser mics will testify how difficult it can be sometime to get enough sound into the system before it reaches the verge of feedback. 
Because you'll get more sound from the closely positioned mic, you can employ effects and processing more effectively. Adding reverb or deploying compression becomes so much more...well.....effective!
The use of all microphones will benefit from experimentation in terms of positioning, proximity and the use of external processing and EQ. The great thing about the CX-500 is that, because of it's small size, experimentation with positioning can be carried out. You can place it almost anywhere. 
I've experimented with and tried out the CX-500 on a range of instruments including violins, guitars and percussion instruments and have achieved great results in a short space of time with pretty minimal use of EQ and outboard processing. It's most effective roll is with orchestral stringed instruments such as violins violas and cellos. Fit the CX500 somehere on the body of a violin pointing towards the area where the bow meets the strings, or mount it via one of the bridge mounts, add a few dbs of bass EQ around 80-120hz and you'll be pretty close to a great sounding miked up violin. 
It works great with mandolins and guitars, but very often there are alternative options for these instruments such as pickups, and there are many great electro-acoustic guitars on the market with pickup systems, pre-amps and EQ ready fitted. But if you have an instrument without a pickup, or have an instrument on which you don't want to fit one the CX500 works great. 
Same really applies to saxes and brass instruments. It works really well, but there are other mics with larger diaphragms and better mounting options available such as JTS's own CX508 for these instruments.
They can work really well on some percussion instruments. Stick a couple of CX500's onto a pair of bongos and you'll get a great sound without the clutter and sight line problems of stand mounted mics. 
And, of course, for sound boys and girls and hire companies, keeping one or two of these versatile little mics in your kit bag will leave you better equipped for covering the many different situations and surprises you might be faced with. 

Conclusion:

So that about covers the CX-500 and hopefully explained and clarified some of the mounting and powering options available for the microphone. Remember, if there's anything your unsure about, give me a call or send me an email. All the details can be found at www.thenoizeworks.co.uk
Because, I use these mics in my own, admittedly now quite occasional sound engineering jobs I know them pretty well and I have demo models that you are welcome to stop by and try if you're based in or around the South East of England/London area. 

In part two, we'll take a closer look at the specialised CX-500 Series mics, the CX500F flute mic, and the CX-500Du dual diaphragm mic system for lower register instruments such as cello and double bass. 




As with all my blogs, the information contained here is presented in an informal manner to assist musicians and sound professionals in their artistic endeavors and equipment choices, etc. I accept no responsibility for any subsequent situations that may arise out of this information, errors that may be contained within, or the inability to interpret it correctly.







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All the best, Simon. The Noizeworks







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