A Pro's Point Of View
Analysis Plus Pro Oval Microphone Cables
Review by Jim Merod
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Mark Markel of Analysis Plus sent a pair of twenty-five foot long microphone cables to be given repeated, serious, and merciless "on location" recording bootcamp treatment. These cables are built for work. They are somewhat like the new Nissan Z-3: a fetching aesthetic contour foxily disguising quick-rev high-octane engineering under the suave exterior.
Given the assignment to push these cables hard, I took them to my typical sonic trenches where mic cable
boot camp rookies slog through the mud of derelict treatment: nasty venues; ugly patrons; inconsiderate apprentice grunts (that worst of all pseudo-colleague, the house sound-plebe untutored in the etiquette of professional good humor); accidents caused by casual drunks; ordinary wear and tear cobbled from repetitive windings and careless stray feet; one's own unforgivable oversights and the hocus pocus disrepair of weary inattention. These elegant cables survived the whole demented
The Results Are Impressive. Follow
Background: Analysis Plus is now launching a line of extremely well-built mic cables, extending their product reach toward the high-end pro market. Part of the difficulty with this enlightened venture is the slow pace of emergence with the audiophile-oriented portion of the pro market. Truly, there is such an audience. It may be smaller than one might hope for, but it is growing even though the recent sluggish economy continues
to retard its expansion.
Nonetheless, Analysis Plus has a commendably clear idea, a strong product, and more than the usual savvy about what music -- and the recording of music -- demands. Perhaps, over time, such integrated parts of a single promise will give lesser (but well-distributed) mic cable lines a run for high-stakes recognition, respect and market share. To put the pro market opportunity bluntly: there is a need for superior, bullet-proof microphone cables of this advanced pedigree. The only issue is price. How much will the market support cables that cost several times (and more) the financial dent that studios are used to?
One aspect of all this is clear without doubt. Analysis Plus made a good choice right out of the gate: it constructed its Pro Oval cables with unusually well-executed design standards handsomely reinforced with an eye-catching cosmetic finish. Visual attraction cannot replace
bottom-line sound delivery. Not an issue here. Analysis Plus Pro Oval microphone cables are sonically magnificent.
Recently, I took these exotic-looking snakes to a high-profile (high-energy) gig in Balboa Park, San Diego's self-conscious nod to the gracefulness of European urban
glamour. The occasion was an all too infrequent quintet jam session pow-wow between authoritative Latin music gurus, Mexican-born guitarist Jaime Valle and Venezuelan-born pianist Otmaro Ruiz. Both are devoted to unabashed romantic emotion. Each is an exemplary practitioner of the world's most seductively lyric,
irresistibly rhythmic material -- the great Brazilian and Caribbean songbook. The two share a well-honed capacity to burn, torching any place or plaza inviting their collegial mayhem. When Otmaro Ruiz and Jaime Valle hit the stage, together or individually, it's
Of course, when provocateurs of their esteemed magnitude mingle artistic tricks and forces, one is witness to the sort of event that Hollywood and the glitzy Madison Avenue fabricators wrack their cliched brains to invent of out nothing. You are in the presence of "chairmen of the board" of adjacent musical empires
bivouacking. Without fantasy or false-hype, the occasion promises to be memorable. It also demands urgent attention.
Against the odds of musically sledge-hammered space, the Analysis Plus wires (unfazed) took on a genuinely stern challenge. Their assignment was: "Do Not Fluff This Rare Moment Of Organized Artistic Chaos!"
Chaos, practiced by musicians at this level of delicate knowledge, is mere appearance: a sense of random madness that, at each point, is charted spontaneously with inspired give and take among vamping piano accents, soaring guitar riffs, earth-shaking bass lines, and
double-barreled percussion ensembles that throw every conceivable jook and drum blast (conga blur, timbale explosion and bell trill) across a musical sea of rhythmic surf.
I assigned the Pro Ovals to a Neuman K-184 and an AKG 3000 (extended version) atop percussion kits commandeered by Allan Phillips and Gene Perry, immensely powerful, exceedingly gifted drummers whose studio and concert experience is long and rich. These
conguero/gigante cajones matadors congeal morbid torpor to a single instinct: if air around them does not laugh with their souls' double image, they squeeze audacity from indifference... humor from savage
doldroms. Stand back, mouth agape, and smile. LISTEN !
The pristine Analysis Plus wire had a heavy task. These cables were to make their mark or else. No excuses, no leeway, no tolerance from the cats on-the-scene. Do it. Or else.
If the Pro Ovals were to record high sound pressure level complexities cleanly, transferring angry sonic interactions from high-charged thumping instruments to waiting digital innocence, all unmusical (misanthropic details otherwise unmentioned) in Analysis Plus's design configuration must be purged (read: must be absent). These blissfully gorgeous cables' assignment was to snag the whole of many dancing parts and keep the discrete interior timbre of varying percussive accents
riveted in place.
They did. Without a hitch. Fresh out of the box. No break-in. Chalk one up for "Pro Oval" wire.
Next, I hauled these attractive (soon to become work-horse) cables up to Inglewood, for a live recording in the 'hood. Their task was to hold their own in the making of a two-album "in concert" recording. Dale Fielder's Group Force packed a full house in for a Saturday night recording and down-home, good time session . . . everything had to be right if the brazen goal -- one album from the first (baritone-sax lead) set, yet another from the second (multi-part jazz suite) set -- was to be met.
There was little or no room for error if, essentially, every note and each musical moment was to be turned into Clarion Jazz albums -- or, rather, a double album. In short, all the recording gear had to function without burps and hitches; the microphones and mic cables had to present themselves at the recording console with perfect demeanor.
This is not the occasion to praise Audio-Technica microphones, although they once more proved their mettle. But praise to the "Pro Oval" cables is in order because, faced with an eccentric baby-grand piano, they performed like champions. Pianist Danny
Grissett, soon to head east to The Wounded Apple, was in rare form. He converted a piano that tried to de-tune itself, tossing acerbic sonic colors across his agile lines, to an unwitting musical ally.
Chalk one up for Danny Grissett and another for Analysis Plus.
Soon after these "live" sessions -- on a series of 24-bit/192kHz DVD-audio recordings @ Chez McCormack, a recently-outfitted state of the art computer-based high-resolution sonic capture rig -- the Pro Ovals did their fine thing once again. The first such occasion brought them into play with romantically-inclined Latin (acoustical) guitarist Jose Serrano and two sidekicks devoted to gleeful manic cheer...
and cheer these unfazed mic cables offered, desporting themselves as before: professional cables of the first rank. The following session, later the same day, found a relaxed and funky blues band, headed by local solo blues legend
Gridder, doing finely-crafted damage to various covers...
all of it in good form, each song enjoyable and swift with down-home energy. The Pro Ovals looked the band, the music, the multiple takes and microphone set-ups directly in their collective bleary eyes -- and did not blink in turn.
Another chalk mark for Pro Oval mic cables. Three down. One more to go.
A week later, with the DVD-audio rig warmed up once more, two sound technicians at the ready, the Analysis Plus cables greeted the redoubtable flute-playing splendor of Lori Bell and the unmatched guitar and vocal art of Ron Satterfield. The less complicated duo date gave the cables a chance to show off. Their instrumental partner was a magnificent pair of THE
KA-04 mics in omni mode.
Since a DVD-audio multi-channel studio-controlled recording matrix offers a great deal higher resolution than even a 24-bit (48kHz) two-channel "on location" recording allows, the impressive openness of the signal chain that began with Taylor Hohendahl's very high-performance THE microphones coupled to a twenty-five foot long length of Pro Oval cables, directly locked to a Millenia four-channel mic preamp, was immediately evident.
Previous to that DVD-Audio configuration, as a 'control test' to get a better sense of the Pro Ovals' sonic signature, I joined the omni pair to another (well-made, well known and expensive) set of mic cables -- a twenty foot long pair -- and ran them, also, directly to the Millenia mic pre: not a bad signal chain in the least. The Millenia four-channel box is a sonic horse, one of the finest no worry, plug-and-forget-it units to be had. Taylor Hohendahl's special microphones are uniquely accurate and, also, charming to the ear: immensely open, with a long sonic reach and, in each imaginable way, eminently musical. There was not much to argue with as I sent music through that able series of fine recording instruments.
Nonetheless, once the Pro Ovals went back into the chain, the omni THE mic-pair came to fuller life. Their musicality became more apparent, and the Millenia mic pre's LED indicators
signaled that a one-notch (4+ dB) setting lower was preferable in order to arrive at a similar sonic level at the recorder. In sum, the Analysis Plus cables were better sounding and more transparent as well as quicker with greater bandwidth and sonic impact. They delivered more information than an already above-industry standards custom-made mic cable pair; and the music they delivered was more delicately nuanced with the slightest degree of signal warmth apparent.
The warmth that I've found as part of the Pro Ovals' sonic character is not an "additive" artifact. It is not in any way distorting, intrusive, irritating, degrading or deformative to musical signals. Simply (merely) the slight degree of warmth seems innate to the sound itself -- part of the music's own glory, a feature of what superior microphones and a splendid mic preamp are capable of sending forward. By contrast, other mic cables often seem a touch lean, perhaps "accurately analytic" or "pristinely raw and exact," but also less full-bodied with musically-engaging sonic wholeness.
I am certain that, over time, as the Pro Oval mic cables continue their work -- at, or near, the heart of future BluePort Sound recording chains in-the-field (down and dirty in the musical trenches at jazz and blues clubs, on stages, and even out in the open under tents and high night skies) ; or at the center of work at Chez McCormack's DVD-audio studio -- yet more finely nuanced discriminations will be possible. All cables have a temper of their own, including (most of all) mic cables, whose length and frequent
jousting in and out of sonic rigs have a way of "maturing" them... or breaking them down.
In the interim, as I amuse and perplex myself with the glory of these quite stunning cables, I salute Mark Markel's engineering design for product quality at an extremely high level of excellence: sonic results that are most accurately designated by the single word "musical."
Construction: Solo crystal copper, double shielding, conductive dielectric layer, patent hollow oval design,
low loss TEFLON dielectric, and custom XLR connector
10 foot $299
15 foot $498.50
30 foot $897
Add $29.90 per additional ft.
Analysis Plus, INC.
106 1/2 East Main St.
Flushing, MI 48433
Voice: (888) 579-0386
Fax: (810) 659-8101