Since 1969 the Electro-Voice RE20 has been a staple of radio
and recording studios. It’s a favorite for air and V/O work as well as for
recording drums, bass amps and horns. The RE27, introduced in 1989, was an
upgraded design, featuring a neodymium magnet and sleeker look. It packed a bit
more punch but with a somewhat brighter sound, and added an extra roll-off
Recently Electro-Voice introduced the latest in its RE line,
the RE320 — not intended to replace these studio workhorses but to present a
new take on those proven designs.
What sets it apart from the venerable RE20? The most obvious
difference is the color. The battleship gray of the RE20 and the brushed nickel
of the RE27 have been supplanted by a jet-black finish that retains the RE20
New and old
This is still a cardioid large-diaphragm dynamic mic. It
still uses humbucking coil technology to protect against EMI. It still uses the
neodymium magnet technology of the RE27, but with a re-engineered diaphragm for
better transient response.
Midday talent Beth Bacall
with the new EV model.
It also features Electro-Voice’s Variable-D pattern control,
introduced back in the 1960s with mics like the RE15. This solution, according
to EV, is designed to minimize tonal changes associated with proximity effect
and with sources moving off-axis. It’s intended to provide a predictable frequency
response even if the source is moving around the mic.
Beyond a different color, you’ll the frequency response
contour switch. This takes the place of the usual bass roll-off switch found on
the RE20 and gives the mic what EV calls “Dual Personality.” Rather than
providing a choice between a flat response and a bass roll-off, this provides a
choice between a flat response and a “kick” curve, tailored for use with bass
drums. It actually boosts the low end slightly while providing a 4.5 dB
midrange dip centered around 380 Hz, along with some high-end “air” boost.
According to the spec sheet, it also extends the low frequency response from 45
Hz down to 30 Hz. The drawback to this design is that it does away entirely
with the traditional bass roll-off, which some users may still require.It would have been nice if they could
have retained a roll-off switch in addition to the contour switch.
For radio, the obvious application is voice.
I immediately set about testing the RE320 by replacing the
RE20 in our production studio. It was connected to our console via a Symetrix
628 voice processor. I turned one of our production engineers loose with some
Using the same presets we used for the RE20 (compression, EQ,
etc.), he immediately fell in love with it. Next I introduced it to our on-air
studio. The general consensus was that it had a mellower sound than the RE27 we
normally use. It was tested using a Symetrix 628 and an Aphex 230.
Johnny Stone is PD and
morning host. He still gives the nod to the RE27.
In both cases, the brighter high end of the RE27 was evident
compared to the RE320, almost to the point of sounding brittle. The operators
also suggested that they didn’t have to work as close to the mic when using the
RE320, a testament to its improved Variable-D performance.
Our midday hostess, Beth Bacall, loved it. She raised quite
a fuss when I had to take it back. Program director and morning show host
Johnny Stone was ready to approve the purchase of one once he tried it, though
he still preferred the RE27. He chalked that up to being accustomed to the latter’s
On vocals, the mic lends itself easily to providing more
girth to a voice that might be lacking bottom end, such as a female voice. If
the voice is already deep, the reduced proximity effect in the RE320’s design
takes the excessive “boom” out while still keeping things warm-sounding.
Next, I tried the mic on a few other sources more likely to
be found in a home or professional recording studio.
On bass amp, the result was absolutely thunderous. Buckets
of low end while still preserving the snap of the strings. I found myself
deleting takes that were previously recorded direct through my favorite tube
preamp in favor of the RE320 going into a solid-state preamp. On a guitar amp,
the RE320’s performance seemed to rely more heavily on placement. Aiming it
toward the outer half of the speaker cone sounded too mellow for my taste,
almost muddy. But placing it dead center, aimed straight into the voice coil,
yielded very satisfying results.
Compared to the Shure SM57, a mainstay of guitar amp
recording, the sound had more body. While the SM57 gave plenty of bite, it
almost seemed shrill in comparison.
Finally, I tried it on bass drum. The “kick curve” feature
worked as advertised. It was hard to find a placement that didn’t work in some
way or another, but the best result was found simply putting it a few inches
from the rim, aimed right at the point where the beater meets the head. Running
it flat gave a very usable result, but it still had me reaching for the EQ.
Engaging the contour switch saved me the trouble.
Could I have still tweaked it? Sure, if I wanted to; but I
didn’t want to. The kick drum had a tight, punchy sound that sat well in the
As an engineer, I’m intimately familiar with the old saw “If
it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” One could be forgiven for wondering why
Electro-Voice would mess with such a time-tested design as the RE20.
+Sounds good on more than just voice
+“Kick curve” useful
-No bass roll-off
For information, contact
Electro-Voice at (800) 392-3497 or visit
Other engineers and DJs say the introduction of the earlier RE27
was met with divided opinions. Some loved it, others continued to swear by the
The RE320 seems to deliver the best of both designs.
Overall, I thought it sounded great on just about everything I used it. It’s
well built and good looking. I even like the new design of the included case.
Is it good enough to serve as your main on-air or production
mic?If the lack of a bass
roll-off switch isn’t an issue, absolutely.Most outboard mic processors include a roll-off control
Could it potentially replace your trusty RE20 or RE27?I thought it sounded better than both,
but that comes down to personal taste.Think of it as another color in your audio palette. But the street price
of around $299 makes it much less expensive than its predecessors and easily within
the reach of freelance VO artists and home recording studios. It’s worth every
penny. Do I have to give it back?
Curt Yengst, CSRE, is
assistant engineer at WAWZ, Zarephath, N.J.