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Old January 21st, 2014, 01:15 PM   #1
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Skip the Avantone CK-1

On a whim, I purchased an Avantone CK-1 to see if it was a viable budget indoor dialog mic for video. It isn't. If you are curious as to why, read on...

Many times at DV Info, people have written that specs only tell you so much. You really need hands-on experience (or recommendations from those with hands-on experience) to know for sure what does and doesn't work. My experience with the Avantone CK-1 confirms this wisdom.

So, why did I buy it? Three reasons: 1) the specs looked ideal for indoor dialog, 2) I couldn't find any reviews on it from videographers, and 3) it was cheap enough that I was willing to take a flyer on one.

Here are the specs:

* Polar Pattern(s): Cardioid , Hyper-Cardioid & Omni Capsules included
* Frequency Response: 25-20,000 Hz +/- 3dB
* Output Impedance: <=200 Ohms
* Maximum SPL: 138dB (0.5% THD @1000Hz)
* Sensitivity: 15mv/pa
* S/N Ratio: 1Pa 78dB
* Noise Floor: < 17 dBA
* Output Connector: Male XLR 3-pin
* Included Accessories: 3 Capsules, Padded Wooden Box, SSM Shockmount
* High-Pass Switch: 80 Hz 6dB/octave
* Attenuation Switch: -10 dB
* Power Requirements: Standard 48 Volt Phantom / 5mA
* Dimensions: (23mm) x (153mm)
* Weight: 5 oz.
* Finish: Polished Nickel trim / Metallic Cabernet Red Body

Wow. A mic with a hypercardioid capsule, good sensitivity, low noise, small size, and light weight. Perfect! The only negative spec is the red body. Black is better for video use.

The price? Under $150. Sold!

Physically, the mic, box, and shockmount are very nicely made, given the price. So far, so good. I did a quick test with the hyper capsule and the pattern seemed correct. Seemed a bit noisy though...

My son was the first to do a test. He shot a tightly framed self-interview shot using a Rode NT-1A cardioid side-by-side with the Avantone in a large, boomy space. When I got home, I was surprised that he chose the Rode. I figured that a hyper would be much, much better. He chose the Rode due to lower noise. Well, the NT-1A is super quiet. I figured that he could have applied a touch of noise reduction to the Avantone and it would win. Oh well, he had already delivered the edit.

Last week, we shot an interview in a quiet studio. I used the Sanken COS-11D lav (omni) and put the Avantone on a stand, just out of the shot. I recorded with the Fostex FR-2LE. As soon as I balanced the inputs, I knew that the Sanken would win. The Sanken was quiet, sounded beautiful, and we had minimal reflections to muddy the sound. The Avantone made it sound like we were recording next to Niagara Falls. It was so noisy that removing the noise would clearly hide the details from the voice. This was from a distance of about a half meter. Now I understand why my son previously chose the Rode track!

Oh well. I now own a nice wooden box, a small mic holder and a prop. I am personally convinced that this mic comes nowhere close to the published noise spec. Maybe I got a bad unit. I'll see about sending it back for a test/exchange. We will see...

In the meantime, does anybody else have experience with this mic?

If it had good noise performance, it might have been a nice budget (or backup) mic for indoor shoots. If a replacement is no better, then stay far, far away from this product.

I'll post an update if I get any more information.
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Old January 21st, 2014, 01:38 PM   #2
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Re: Skip the Avantone CK-1

Thanks, Jon. Your experience sounds wildly at odds with the published specs. I was wondering about those mics, myself.
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Old January 21st, 2014, 02:12 PM   #3
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Re: Skip the Avantone CK-1

Yes, The published specs do not look terrible. Sensitivity ain't bad @15mV The Oktava 012 & Neumann KM84 are around 10mV . Could just be a turkey.. like the Oktavas' infamous quality control. But what do you want for $150, even comes with a shock mount which doesn't 'appear' to bad either.
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Old January 21st, 2014, 05:06 PM   #4
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Re: Skip the Avantone CK-1

Yeah, the shock mount isn't great, but it would be a nice free-bee for somebody on a budget. It's basically a small cylinder with typical shock mount black bands. The bands aren't long so isolation will be limited. (Then again it won't droop.) You can aim the angle, which is nice. It fits 17mm mics. It beats a solid mount or nothing at all.

One minor issue is that the cardioid capsule doesn't fit in the plastic capsule case. Everything ships fine but when you go to use an alternate capsule, there's nowhere to put it!

I can accept these shortcomings, but not the noise. I'll keep digging to see if I just got a dog.
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