Testipenkissä: Shure SM7B – studioluokan dynaaminen mikrofoni

Shure SM7B

Siitä lähtien kun Shure SM7 esiteltiin vuonna 1973 se on ollut tärkeä työkalu monissa studioissa ympäri maailmaa. SM7 suunniteltiin ennen kaikkea dynaamiseksi broadcast-mikrofoniksi TV- ja radiostudioihin. Shure antoi kehitystiimilleen käytännössä vapaat kädet keksiä ”ultimatiivista broadcast-mikkiä” yhtiön Unidyne III -kapselin toimintaperiaatteen perusteella.

Hieman suurempi kalvo (membraani) ja SM7:n erilainen runkorakenne – verrattuna tyypilliseen käsimikrofoniin, kuten SM57:een tai SM58:aan – saivat aikaiseksi herttakuvioisen dynaamisen mikrofonin, joka tarjosi epätavallisen lineaarista taajuusvastetta. Kapselin sijoittaminen noin puoliväliin mikrofonin kärjen ja rungon väliin vähensi myös ei-toivottua bassovoittoisuutta, joka johtuu yleensä suunnattujen mikrofonien proximity-efektistä. Sisäinen fantomikela eliminoi tehokkaasti sähkömagneettisten häiriöiden aiheuttaman surinan ja sirinän muuntajista, himmentimistä, langattomista laitteista ja vastaavista.

Alkuperäisen julkaisun jälkeen Shuren SM7 on saanut muuttamia pientä parannuksia. Nykyinen versio on nimeltään Shure SM7B (katuhinta Suomessa noin 365 €).

****

Myyntipaketista löytyy:

  • Mikrofoni itse, johon on kiinnitetty laitteen ohuempi tuulensuoja
  • Toinen, isompi tuulensuoja, joka on tarkoitettu ulkokäyttöön tai laulun/puheen lähimikitykseen
  • Ruuvattava adapteri, jolla mikrofonin kehtoa saa kiinni myös eurooppalaiseen mikrofoniständiin
  • Peitelevy, joka suojaa tahattomia EQ-kytkinten muutoksia vastaan

SM7B:n takalevyllä olevat kaksi EQ-kytkintä tarjoavat valinnaisen basson leikkauksen ja preesensalueen korostuksen. Kun laittaa molemmat kytkimet päälle, SM7B:n soundi on suhteellisen lähellä ”tavallista” herttakuvioista kapulamikkiä, kuten Shuren omaa SM57 tai SM58.

Riippuen siitä, haluatko käyttää SM7B:tä puomin varressa roikkuvana vai tavallisen mikrofonitelineen kanssa, saatat haluta muuttaa mikrofonin suuntaa ikeen sisällä niin, että takalevyn teksti on oikein päin. Käyttöopas kuvaa oikeat toimenpiteet, joilla SM7B irrotetaan ikeestä, ja miten sitä kiinitetään kääntämisen jälkeen takaisin pidikkeeseen.

****

Hyvä tapa suorittaa kuuntelutesti mikrofonin taajuusvasteen selvittämiseksi on tallentaa mikrofonilla vaaleanpunaista kohinaa.

Vaaleanpunainen kohina on eräänlainen keinotekoisesti tuotettu suhina, joka sisältää koko kuultavan taajuusspektrin. Toisin kuin valkoinen kohina, jossa jokainen taajuusalue on samalla dB-tasolla, vaaleanpunainen kohina on ”korjattu” siten, että kaikki taajuudalueet kuulostavat yhtä kovalta ihmiskorvalle. Tämä saavutetaan vähentämällä jokaisesta seuraavasta oktaavistaa yhdestä kolmeen desibelliä edelliseen oktaaviin verrattuna. Ihmiskorvaan valkoinen kohina kuulostaa suhteellisen rajulta ja purevalta, kun taas vaaleanpunainen kohina tarjoaa paljon tasapainoisemman kohinaspektrin, mikä helpottaa erojen havaitsemista mikrofonien erittäin tärkeässä keskialueen vasteessa.

Vertailin ensin Shuren SM7B- ja SM57-mallit keskenään:

Molemmat mikit äänitettiin Cranborne Audio Camden EC2 -etuasteella.

Minusta näiden mikrofonien väliset erot ovat helposti havaittavia:

Kun molempien mikrofonien kapselit/kalvot ovat yhtä kaukana äänilähteestä (Genelec 8030A -lähikenttämonitori), SM7B kuulostaa paljon pehmeämmältä verrattuna SM57:n suhteellisen voimakkaaseen preesenskorostukseen ja ohuempaan bassotoistoon.

****

Seuraavaksi käytin samaa asetusta vertaillakseni SM7B:tä firman viimeisimpään ”podcast-malliin”, Shure MV7X:ään:

Molemmat mikit äänitettiin Cranborne Audio Camden EC2 -etuasteella.

Minun korvaani Shure MV7X kuulostaa onnistuneelta kompromissilta yhtiön legendaaristen lavamikrofonien – SM57 ja SM58 – ja broadcast-mikrofonien elävän legendan – SM7B:n – välillä. MV7X:n soundi on bassoalueen lämmön suhteenlähellä Shure SM7B:tä, mutta tarjoaa samalla voimakkaamman preesenkorostuksen kuin SM7B:n EQ-kytkin.

****

Shure SM7B ei ole erityisen herkkä mikrofoni ja sen lähtötaso on suhteellisen alhainen.

Nettiforumeissa väitetään usein, että tavallisen ulkoisen äänikortin mikrofonivahvistin ei riittäisi Shure SM7B -mikin vahvistamisessa toimivalle signaalitasolle. Tätä mikrofonia myydään myös usein valmiissa paketissa phantom-syötöllä toimivan pikkuvahvistimen kanssa, joka sitten nostaa SM7B:n signaalitasoa huomattavasti. Usein mainitaan Cloudin Cloudlifteria, Tritonin FetHeadiä tai Thomannin FetAmpia sopiviksi lisävahvistimiksi tähän tarkoitukseen.

Päätin tuktia asiaa omalla Focusrite Saffire 6 USB -äänikortilla, vertailemalla Shure SM7B:n interfacen omalla mikkivahvistimella vahvistettua signaalia Thomannin FetAmpin kanssa äänitettyyn vastineeseen.

On totta, että Focusriten mikkivahvistinta piti avata melko lailla (noin 90%), kun mikki oli liitetty suoraan interfaceen. Soundi pysyi kuitenkin hyvänä, eikä mahdollisesta kohinasta tullut minkäälaista ongelmaa.

Thomannin FetAmpin kanssa oikean äänitystason löytäminen olikin selvästi helpompaa, ja Focusriten etuvahvistimesta tarvittiin vain hieman lisäapua (gainia avattu noin 25-30%). Lisäpalikasta syntynyt soundi oli kuitenkin käytännössä identtinen suoraan äänikortilla äänitetyn signaalin kanssa.

Loppupäätelmäni on, että laadukas audio interface voi hyvinkin toimia moitteettomasti Shure SM7B:n kanssa, mikrofonin ja äänikortin välinen edullinen lisävahvistin kuitenkin lisää signaalitason suhteen liikkumavaraa.

****

Koska pääpainomme täällä Kitarablogissa on musiikin tekemisessä kielisoittimilla, halusin selvittää, kuinka Shure SM7B toimii mikrofonina koti-/projektistudiossa. Tätä tarkoitusta varten äänitin kaksi demokappaletta.

Tässä akustinen demobiisi:

Samplatun bassorummun, haitsun ja lattiatomin lisäksi käytin laajan valikoiman erilaisia akustisia äänilähteitä:

SM7B kuulostaa erittäin hyvältä minkä tahansa soittimen eteen laitettuna. Soundi ei ole koskaan korvia raastava tai ohut, vaan positiivisessa mielessä ”neutraali”. Tämän tasaisen luonteen ansiosta on helppoa käyttää äänityssoftan EQ:t jokaisen raidan hienosäätämiseen. Shuren mukana toimitettu paksumpi tuulisuoja, nimeltään A7WS, mahdollistaa bluesharpun tai laulun lähimikityksen ilman hengitysäänien tai kovien konsonanttien aiheuttamia ongelmia.

Toisessa demobiisissä kuulaan vahvistettuja sähkösoittimia:

Seuraavat äänilähteet on äänitetty Shure SM7B -mikrofonilla:

  • Squier Bronco-basso soitettu Bluetone Bass 200 -hybridikombon kautta
  • kaksi raitaa Fender Stratocasteria (komppikitarat; vasemmalta ja oikealta) maustettu EHX Nano Small Stone -phaserilla Bluetone Black Prince Reverb -putkikombon kautta
  • yksi komppiraita Fender Telecasterilla (keskellä stereokuvassa) Bluetone Black Prince Reverb -putkikombon kautta
  • Fender Telecasterila soitettu soolokitara, joka meni Mad Professor Simble Overdriven kautta Bluetone Black Prince Reverbeen
  • metallinen shaker
  • tamburiini
  • yksi lauluraita

Jälleen kerran minulla ei ollut minkäänlaisia vaikeuksia äänittää biisin eri soittimia, ja miksauskin osoittautui hyvin ongelmattomaksi. Kuten totesin jo aiemmin, Shure SM7B kuulostaa erittäin neutraalilta, eikä vie ääntä mihinkään ennalta määrättyyn suuntaan. Tämä tarkoittaa, että tämä mikki ei koskaan toimi sinua vastaan, vaan jättää kaiken avoimeksi, jotta voit tehdä omat miksauspäätöksesi.

Shure SM7B:n kanssa käyttämästäni ajasta päätellen voin vain sanoa, että tämän mikrofonin legendaarinen maine ei johdu minkäänlaisesta hypetyksestä, vaan on pikemminkin sen toimivien ominaisuuksien seuraus. SM7B ei ole halpa mikrofoni dynaamiseksi mikrofoniksi, mutta se palkitsee käyttäjänsä erinomaisella, lähes lineaarisella taajuusvasteella, ensiluokkaisella hurinavaimennuksella, korkean äänenpaineen sietokyvyllä ja erittäin tasaisella suuntakuvalla.

SM7B toimii erinomaisesti lähes minkä tahansa äänilähteen kanssa. Kyllä, se suunniteltiin aikoinaan radio- ja TV-mikrofoniksi, mutta tämä Shure-malli tarjoaa niin paljon enemmän kuin pelkästään loistavaa puheääntä.

Review: The Shure SM7B – A Mic For All Seasons

Shure SM7B

Ever since the Shure SM7 was originally released in 1973 it has been a mainstay in studios – and even on stages – around the world. The SM7 was conceived, first and foremost, as a dynamic broadcast microphone for use in TV and Radio studios. Shure gave its R&D team virtually carte blanche to come up with the ”ultimate broadcast mic”, based on the design principles of the company’s Unidyne III capsule.

A slightly larger diaphragm and the different body design – when compared to a typical handheld mic, like an SM57 or SM58 – made it possible to come up with a cardioid dynamic mic that offered an unusually linear frequency range. Placing the capsule about halfway between the tip of the microphone and the body also cut down on unwanted boominess, often caused by the proximity effect present in unidirectional mics. An internal humbucking coil efficiently eliminates noise pickup via electromagnetic interference from transformers, dimmers, wireless equipment, and the like.

Since its original release in 1973 the Shure SM7 has gone through a couple of minor improvements; the current version is called the Shure SM7B (current street price in Finland around 365 €).

****

This is what you will find in the cardboard box:

  • The Shure SM7B itself with its regular, smaller windshield attached
  • A second, larger windshield for windier outdoor applications, or for close-miking vocal performances
  • A screw-in thread adapter from the larger US-standard thread to the narrower European standard for microphone stands
  • A cover plate to make accidental changes to the EQ-switches at the back impossible

The two EQ-switches on the back give you an optional bass cut and a presence boost. Engaging both switches will tailor the SM7B’s frequency response to something more similar to a ”regular” cardioid dynamic mic, like the SM57 or SM58.

Depending on whether you want to use the SM7B hanging from a boom arm or placed on a regular mic stand, you may want to change the mic’s orientation inside the yoke to have the legend on the back facing the right way up. The owner’s manual takes you through the correct procedure to unscrew the SM7B from – and reattach the mic back to – the yoke.

****

A good way of conducting a listening test to find out a microphone’s frequency response is to make a recording of pink noise.

Pink noise is a type of artificially generated hiss that includes the whole audible frequency spectrum. In contrast to white noise however, which features each frequency at the same dB level, pink noise is ”corrected” to have all the frequencies sound equally loud to the human ear. This is achieved by decreasing each higher octave by one to three dB in relation to the previous octave. To the human ear white noise sounds harsh and thin, while pink noise provides a much more balanced spectrum of noise, making it easier to notice differences in the all-important mid-range response of microphones.

My first comparison was between the Shure SM7B and an SM57:

Both mics were recorded through a Cranborne Audio Camden EC2 preamp.

The difference in sound is very obvious:

With the capsules/diaphragms of both mics being equidistant to the sound source (a Genelec 8030A nearfield monitor), the SM7B sounds much smoother compared to the strong presence lift and the discernible bass roll-off displayed by the SM57.

****

Next I used the same setup to compare the SM7B to the recent ”podcast model”, the Shure MV7X:

Both mics were recorded through a Cranborne Audio Camden EC2 preamp.

To my ears the Shure MV7X sounds like a compromise between the company’s legendary stage mics – the SM57 and SM58 – and the broadcast-cum-studio legend that is the SM7B. The MV7X comes close to the bottom-end warmth of the Shure SM7B, while at the same time offering more of a presence lift than the SM7B’s EQ-switch.

****

One thing the Shure SM7B is not is very sensitive (read: loud).

Internet forums are filled with threads discussing the compatibility of the Shure SM7B with regular computer audio interfaces. Many claim that the mic preamps in most audio interfaces may not offer enough gain to amplify the SM7B to an adequate recording level. Musical equipment retailers have also latched on to this idea, with many offering the mic in bundles with small phantom-powered JFET-amps that bump up the Shure SM7B’s output level by 20 or 30 dB. Products often mentioned in this context are the Cloud Cloudlifter, the Triton FetHead or the Thomann FetAmp to name only a few.

I decided to test how my Focusrite Saffire 6 USB got to grips with the SM7B’s output level, by first recording a bit of acoustic guitar strumming using the interface’s own mic preamp, after which I recorded the same passage using Thomann’s FetAmp between the Shure and the Focusrite.

I found that I really had to add a lot of gain on the Focusrite’s mic preamp (around 90% of the available gain) to get a healthy recording level out of the SM7B without the additional in-line amplifier. Despite the hefty gain level the recording sounded very good and wasn’t hissy or distorted in any way.

Inserting the Thomann FetAmp in the signal chain did make it much easier to get a good recording level out of the Shure SM7B. I only had to add approximately 25 to 30 percent of the Focusrite’s own mic preamp’s gain reserves. In terms of sound I could hardly make out any difference between using only the audio interface and adding the in-line amplifier.

To sum things up, I’d say that a decent audio interface should offer enough gain to work smoothly with the Shure SM7B. On the other hand, the signal boost that one of the relatively affordable in-line amps will bring to the table will make recording the SM7B noticeably easier.

****

As our main focus here at Kitarablogi.com lies in making music with string instruments, I wanted to find out how the Shure SM7B works as a mic in the home/project studio. For this purpose I recorded two demo songs.

Here’s the acoustic song:

In addition to samples of a bass drum, a hi-hat and a floor tom, I used a wide variety of different acoustic sound sources:

  • a metal shaker
  • a wooden shaker
  • a tambourine
  • a double bass
  • two tracks of acoustic guitar
  • a Weissenborn-type lap steel
  • an accordion
  • a harmonica
  • and several tracks of vocals

The SM7B worked great with any sound source I could throw at it. Nothing ever sounds harsh or thin through this mic, and it was easy to use the DAW’s own EQ to tailor each sound to my taste. The fatter windshield supplied with the Shure, called the A7WS, makes it possible to close mike a blues harp and vocals without any trouble caused by breath noises or plosives.

For the second demo song I chose an environment with electric guitars and amps:

This song contains the following tracks recorded with the Shure SM7B:

  • a Squier Bronco Bass played through a Bluetone Bass 200 tube hybrid combo
  • two Fender Stratocaster rhythm guitar tracks (stereo left and right) with an EHX Nano Small Stone phaser through a Bluetone Black Prince Reverb all-valve combo
  • a Fender Telecaster rhythm guitar track (centre) through a Bluetone Black Prince Reverb combo
  • a Fender Telecaster lead guitar track with a Mad Professor Simble Overdrive through a Bluetone Black Prince Reverb combo
  • a metal shaker
  • a tambourine
  • a little bit of vocals

Again, I had no trouble whatsoever recording the different instruments, and the mixing proved unproblematic, too. The Shure SM7B sounds very neutral – in the most positive sense – and doesn’t push the sound into any predetermined direction. This means it never works against you, but rather leaves everything wide open for you to make your own mixing decisions.

Judging from my time with the Shure SM7B I can only say that this mic’s legendary status is not down to hype of any sort, but rather a result of its set of features. The SM7B is no cheap microphone, for a dynamic mic, but it rewards its user with an excellent, almost linear frequency range, great hum rejection, a tolerance for high sound pressures, and very even directivity.

The SM7B works excellently with virtually any sound source you can throw at it. Yes, it was once designed to be a radio and TV mic, but this Shure microphone can handle far more than merely close miked speech.

Shure SM7B – You Tube: Electric Demo

Here’s a short electric demo song recorded with a Shure SM7B.

The Shure SM7B was recorded using a Cranborne Audio Camden EC2 preamp.

****

The following tracks were recorded with the Shure SM7B:
• Squier Bronco Bass through a Bluetone Bass 200 tube hybrid combo
• Two Fender Stratocaster rhythm guitar tracks with an EHX Nano Small Stone phaser through a Bluetone Black Prince Reverb all-valve combo
• Fender Telecaster rhythm guitar through a Bluetone Black Prince all-valve combo
• Fender Telecaster lead guitar with a Mad Professor Simble Overdrive through a Bluetone Black Prince all-valve combo
• A shaker
• A Sonor tambourine
• Male voice
****

The Shure SM7B was recorded using a Cranborne Audio Camden EC2 preamp.

Shure SM7B – You Tube: Acoustic Demo

Here’s a short acoustic demo song recorded with a Shure SM7B.

****

Instruments used:

• Samples of a bass drum, a hi-hat and a low tom (Garageband)

• Two shakers – one small metal, one wooden from the Gambia

Sonor tambourine

• Romanian 3/4 double bass

Tanglewood acoustic guitar

Bediaz Weissenborn lapsteel

• Vintage Frontalini accordion

Hohner Marine Band harmonica

• Male voice

****

The Shure SM7B was recorded using a Cranborne Audio Camden EC2 preamp.

Review: Three Solid Mahogany Soprano Ukuleles – Flight MUS-2 + Ohana SK-38 + Sigma SUM-2S

The ukes have been recorded with a Citronic RM-06 ribbon microphone plugged into a Cranborne Audion Camden EC2 preamp. All EQ-settings were kept identical between the three models.

Alkuperäinen suomenkielinen juttu on ilmestynyt Rockway-blogissa.

Vintage C. F. Martin Style 2 soprano uke

Most of us will have started learning to play the uke with an affordable instrument, whose soundbox is probably made – at least in part – from laminated wood. Over time our playing will have improved, making us feel that it was maybe time to step up to a higher quality uke, which in most cases will mean an all-solid instrument.

If you’re interested in the history of this diminutive instrument you will have noticed that C. F. Martin & Co is a legendary maker of ukuleles. Even though Martin is a company based in Pennsylvania, they have started crafting ukes during the ukulele boom of the 1910s already. Not content making mere copies of Hawaiian instruments Martin almost singlehandedly developed the ukulele further, raising the benchmark for how a great uke should look and sound in the process. Martin also sold bucketloads of the little instruments – their ”economy model” alone, the Martin Style 0, sold almost 90,000 units between 1922 and 1994, when the original production run ended (temporarily).

The Martin Company originally introduced three soprano models in 1915, named Style 1, Style 2 and Style 3. The higher the Style’s number the more intricate the cosmetic features, like bindings and rosettes, would be.

My personal favourite is the dark brown all-mahogany Style 2, which is why I’ve chosen three all-solid Style 2-copies for this review.

A word about friction tuners

Most ukuleles these days are made with geared guitar tuners, which make tuning relatively easy for beginners. This is due to the so-called gear ratio, meaning the number of turns on a machine head’s knob relating to a full turn of the actual tuner post. This is normally somewhere between 14:1 and 18:1, meaning 14 or 18 turns of the knob shaft will give you one full turn of the tuner’s post.

Friction pegs aka patent tuners

Originally, all ukuleles came with simple wooden friction pegs that kept the strings in tune by simple friction between the hole in the headstock (aka peg head) and the wooden peg. This is exactly the same type of system that’s still in use on violins or cellos.

In 1920 Martin started introducing new-fangled friction pegs – first on more expensive models, but then across their whole uke range – which offered a much smoother tuning action. Friction tuners contain no gears, meaning their ”gear” ratio is 1:1 (like on a wooden peg), but here the friction is caused by metal washers, or plastic washers, or metal springs, that are forced against the front and back surfaces of the headstock. Their ”action” or stiffness can be adjusted with the screw at the top of the tuning button.

I would never recommend giving a beginner an instrument with patent pegs, because learning to tune your uke properly is hard enough in the beginning. But there is no reason to be afraid of friction pegs, either, once you know the basics of tuning your instrument. Just keep in mind that very little goes a long way with patent pegs, when it comes to hitting the correct pitch. You should also keep the right screwdriver handy for quick adjustments of the pegs’ stiffness, which can shift between summer and winter, due to the headstock wood expanding and contracting according to the relative humidity.

Nowadays friction tuners are mostly found on vintage-style ukuleles, like on the three instruments reviewed here.

****

Flight MUS-2

Flight is a Chinese brand concentrating mostly on ukuleles.

The Flight MUS-2 (current price in Finland: 199 €; incl. gig bag) is their version of a Martin Style 2 soprano ukulele. This is a beautiful instrument that invokes its vintage mojo with the help of a matte open-pore finish over a rich brown wood stain.

Flight’s own additions to the recipe include wooden body binding – instead of the celluloid plastic used on the original – as well as a cream rosette around the soundhole.

The Flight MUS-2’s neck is solid mahogany, too, but made of three parts, with the neck heel and the upper half of the peg head glued to the neck’s long main part. This way of doing things is both more economic and better for the environment than carving the neck out of a much larger wooden blank.

The Flight’s fretboard and bridge have been made from walnut, while the top nut and the bridge saddle are genuine bone.

The MUS-2 uses a set of Gotoh friction pegs, which employ plastic knobs, silicone washers and metal sleeves to build up the necessary friction for keeping the strings under tension.

Neck width at the saddle is 34 mm, which is the de facto standard for most modern soprano ukuleles, even though this is two to three millimetres narrower than on most vintage ukes. The MUS-2 has a scale length of 34.9 cm, which is three millimetres longer than on a Martin soprano.

The MUS-2 has a nicely rounded D neck profile.

The workmanship on the Flight is on a really high level. My only, tiny bit of criticism points to the matte finish which is something of a fingerprint magnet on the test sample.

The MUS-2’s string action is modern and low. I measured 2.4 mm at the 12th fret for the g-string and 2.1 mm for the a-string. The action and the nicely rounded neck make for a very comfortable playing feel. Despite the low action, the Flight offers a very good dynamic range without any string rattles.

The Flight MUS-2 has a surprisingly big and full-bodied voice that projects very well, both to the player and to his (or her) audience.

****

Ohana SK-38

Ohana is brand situated in the US, but with most of its production in China. Ohana is the Hawaiian word for ”family”.

Ohana’s 38 Series comprises of all-solid Style 2-copies in different body sizes, with the Ohana SK-38 (current price in Finland: 348 €) being the soprano model.

Cosmetically the SK-38 probably comes closest to the spirit of a vintage Martin Style 2, except for the slightly larger-than-vintage soundhole (about 2 mm more in diameter) and the position markers copied off a Style 1 instrument. Our test sample was a tiny bit heavier than the Flight ukulele, but still super-light compared to most string instruments.

In terms of colour and finishing the Ohana SK-38 is almost identical to the Flight, with the finish seeming even thinner here. Visually the SK-38 evokes the pre-1926 Martins that sported a brushed on cellulose-based finish. In 1926 Martin phased in spray finishes to speed up production.

The soundbox’ top sports three-ply plastic binding (b/w/b), while the back is single-ply. The vintage-type rosette is made up of alternating thin black and white rings.

The Ohana SK-38 sports a modern solid-mahogany neck with separate parts for the neck heel and the headstock’s top half. The Gotoh patent pegs are the same model found on the Flight, too.

The fretboard and bridge have been carved from ovangkol. The top nut and bridge saddle are both bovine bone.

Neck with at the nut is 34 mm on the SK-38, while the scale length is 34.9 cm.

I would call the Ohana SK-38’s neck profile a slightly flatted C-profile, which comes close in feel to modern Martin soprano uke necks. In terms of playing comfort there’s not much to divide the three reviewed sopranos.

The SK-38 displays a very high level of workmanship; I own an older version of this uke – one that sports a nut and bridge saddle carved from ebony – and I must say the build quality on the new version has clearly improved.

The very low string action on the test sample is a good indicator of the quality of the fretting. I measured 1.3 mm for the g-string and 1.4 mm for the a-string at the 12th fret. Despite this low action I experienced no problems whatsoever with fret rattle.

The Ohana SK-38 has a very balanced voice with a tiny bit less bottom end and a tad more sparkle, when compared to the Flight. The Ohana projects very well.

****

Sigma SUM-2S

Originally, Sigma Guitars was C. F. Martin’s far-eastern brand, founded to combat the ever-increasing flow of Japanese Martin-copies in 1970. In 2007 Martin sold the brand to German company AMI GmbH, who has done quite a lot to raise the brand’s profile. Apart from copies of Martin guitars Sigma’s model range now also includes several Gibson-style acoustic guitars. Sadly, Sigma’s ukulele range has been discontinued at the start of 2022, meaning that the current stock of Sigma ukes in shops now will be the last, at least for the foreseeable future.

The Sigma SUM-2S (current price in Finland: 315 €; incl. gig bag) looks a bit more refined than the other two instruments in this review, due to its flat matte finish. The finish is very thin, but has been buffed to a flat matte sheen.

The SUM-2S is in the same weight class as the Ohana SK-38.

Anoraks would say that the Sigma SUM-2S is more of a ”Style 2.5” soprano, because it comes with the longer fretboard – offering 17 instead of 12 frets – of a Style 3 (and Style 5) uke.

In some respects, though, the SUM-2S comes closer to vintage Martin specifications than the other two contenders in this review:

Arguably the most important point here is the one-piece mahogany neck, which is a genuine rarity in this price range. Other features include a 36 mm wide neck at the nut, a smaller soundhole, the vintage-correct size and spacing of the position markers, as well as the original (shorter) Martin-scale of 34.6 cm.

The fretboard and the bridge have been made out of Indian rosewood, while the top nut and bridge saddle are genuine bone.

The Sigma SUM-2S uses Chinese Ping friction pegs, which produces the require friction by pressing the plastic tuner knobs into fat plastic washers. These pegs have been in for some criticism in a number of reviews, but to be fair, I haven’t had any tuning problems with the Ping pegs over the whole duration of testing the Sigma uke.

The neck profile on the Sigma SUM-2S is fatter than on the Ohana, but flatter than on the Flight, combining the best aspects of the two necks.

Even though the difference in neck width at the nut is only two millimetres, the Sigma’s neck feels roomier. This can make a huge difference in feel for people with large (or thick) fingers!

The Sigma’s set-up is very comfortable. I’ve measured an action of 2.1 mm for the g-string and 1.8 mm for the a-string at the 12th fret. The fretwork is excellent, meaning I’ve experienced no string rattles.

Like the other two instruments in this review the Sigma, too, came with Aquila Nylgut strings. Due to the slightly shorter scale length the strings feel maybe a little bit too slinky. I’d recommend trying fluorocarbon strings on the SUM-2S, which generally tend to feel a bit stiffer.

At first I thought the Sigma was quieter than the other two ukes, when in fact it even offers more of a vintage-style ”bark” for the audience (or a microphone). The smaller soundhole simply makes this ukulele project slightly less in the direction of the player himself (or herself). In terms of its sound the Sigma SUM-2S is the brightest sounding of the three reviewed models.

Pidä blogia WordPress.comissa.

Ylös ↑