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JZ Microphones Black Hole BH1S Review (+ What to Listen for When Evaluating a Mic)

Transcript,, I’m going to be doing a review of the JZ Black Hole microphone, so before I start getting into any of the specifics, I want to play something I recorded with the JZ microphone, explain the setup, and then explain what I’m listening to when I assess a microphone.


Okay, cool, so the way this is setup is we’re in an iso room, and we’ve got the JZ microphone set to cardioid pickup, and then we’re going into a BAE set only a couple of clicks over, I think about 30dB of gain, only because the BAE, as soon as you start putting more than 30dB of gain in there, it starts to saturate and impart its own tone for better or for worse, and I wanted to get a pretty neutral capture of this mic.

So okay, now what do I listen for when I’m assessing a microphone? I don’t really listen for good or bad, I think that that’s not really helpful. Every microphone can have its purpose and place, so it’s better to start putting characteristics onto a microphone.

The first is going to be the EQ curve. The EQ curve is going to be how it represents the broad range of frequencies from the lowest lows to the highest highs.

The second one is going to be the transient response — how the microphone is reacting to fast attack sounds, and the third is going to be the overall saturation or coloration of the microphone, how it harmonically seems to affect the sound that’s coming in, whatever it may be.

So I’m going to play that again, and I’m going to start with what I think is one of the most interesting and most pronounced features of the JZ microphone, the saturation curve.


So to my ear, there is very, very little component saturation at all. It’s actually an extremely transparent microphone, which is great, because when you want to represent the source as the source itself, you really want a microphone that has very low harmonic distortion, and if you want to hear context for the opposite of that, something with very high harmonic distortion, well listen to the sound of my voice as I’m speaking into the laptop receiver. There’s very clearly some high harmonic distortion in there. So polar opposite ends of the spectrum.

Now, saturation can be a good thing. Sometimes we want something to have a little bit more of a retro vibe, or we need something that’s going to roll off a bit of top end, or provide some harmonics or some density that isn’t necessarily there to begin with, and that’s where certain microphones like the vintage Neumanns, or generally older microphones start to sound really good to us, because there is a lot of component saturation in them.

Okay, so now let’s talk about the EQ curve.


This is pretty darn flat. Now, it might sound a little bit on the bright side if you’re not used to hearing things that are set neutral, but you have to keep in mind that a lot of the times when we’re hearing microphones, many, many, many microphones will start to roll off frequencies starting at around 10kHz.

Here, the JZ microphone is not rolling off any frequencies until around 16kHz. It’s staying pretty flat above there, and so that becomes perceived as bright. A lot of the times when we’re adding air, especially to a vocal, we’re actually restoring top end that’s being lost, so we’re balancing the top end more than actually hyping it up.

Here, we’re hearing something that actually has a very crisp, clean, clear top end, and so it could be perceived as bright. I don’t necessarily perceive it as bright, I perceive it as flat, and I think that’s pretty cool. In fact, I would say it’s very accurate and flat across the whole frequency spectrum, with maybe a little bit of pinch in the upper mids. There’s just a little bit of added something around 4kHz that gives it a little bit of extra brightness, but I would say it’s pretty flat throughout.

So if I was going to do anything that would require a really present vocal, or just really present sources in general, you know, stuff like Riggatone or Pop, then I think that we’re really looking at a very, very useful microphone.

Now, obviously, we don’t always want completely neutral. Sometimes, we want a microphone that’s going to add a little bit of love in a specific frequency range, like if we’re recording a kick drum, we want a microphone that’s going to probably roll off a little top, because we don’t need that, we don’t necessarily need cymbal bleed coming in, and you know, add some good amount of healthy subs, so we’re looking at microphones like D12s as an extreme example, because that is going to help a kick drum along.


But for a vocal, we’re going to want something that sounds as accurate to the vocal as possible, with some exception.

Okay, now let’s listen to the transient response.


So on all the “k” and “t” type of noises, those are transient sounds in a vocal, and those are very, very well represented here. Now, that does not necessarily mean it’s a good thing. For vocals, I really like good transient representation, however, for something like a front of kit capture, this could overload very easily. If we want an acoustic guitar and say, the acoustic guitar player is maybe not rhythmically great, or their guitar is particularly bright or stringy, then we might get sort of an annoying sound, because those transients could really get in the way of other things in the mix, but if we have somebody who’s — let’s say we’re playing upright bass, and we’re doing overheads a little bit further from the kit, or we want — or maybe our acoustic guitar player is like, really rhythmically popping, and has a great string sound, then we’re going to want really detailed transient representation, and this microphone is going to be a great choice for those purposes.

So okay, now let’s hear it in the context of a record. So this is flat, no effects, there’s no EQ or compression on the way in, this is what it sounds like without any treatment, doctoring, anything. Not even auto-tune.


Okay, cool, so I’m going to start adding some effects, and I’m going to explain what they’re doing and why I’m choosing to use them. Most of them are based on context, the only thing I felt like the vocal really needed for just like, general mix purposes was some compression, because there’s some louder passages and some shorter passages within the vocal comp, but we’re also going to be doing a little bit of delay and reverb, but let’s just do the delay reverb and auto-tune and see how that sounds.

[mix, vocals tuned with effects]

I mean, to be honest, I could probably get away with slapping on a little bit of compression, or even just doing some manual vocal rides, like really going in there and messing around with the clip gain, and I could have something that’s totally useable.

There is a little bit of like, room tone that kind of needs to be taken out, like one little notch here at 700Hz which will help it along.


I mean, to me, sonically speaking, that is excellent, and anything else that I’m doing from there is just going to be aesthetic or creative choices, not anything that’s meant to fix anything.

Now, based on the sound of the record, there’s a sort of dark, kind of sort of Post Malone-ish, almost a sad quality to the record, and so I kind of want to match the bit of saturation that’s going on, do something that stylizes the vocal a little bit more, so I’m going to do some compression, and some EQ and saturation as well, but you’ll notice that it’s not going to massively change the vocal sound.


Okay, so big conclusion here. The JZ Black Hole microphone, I would describe it as a very open sounding microphone. A very neutral and well balanced sounding microphone, with a really, really smooth sound, that captures the top end very naturally, and in an extended way. I would use it on pretty much any source that I felt would work just in its own tone, so anything that sounds great right off to begin with and I don’t want to mess with, JZ is going to be fantastic.

I would pretty much happily put it on any vocalist except for perhaps some vocalists who need a little bit of extra love in the bottom end, maybe something that rolls off a little bit of top, so if I was recording an Ariana Grande type vocal where it’s already naturally very bright, I might reach for something that’s more like a U47 where it’s going to shave off a little top, give a little bit of love to the lower mid-range, and help create something that’s a little bit fuller sounding, but for anything that’s already well balanced in tone, then the JZ microphone I think would be a better choice, and I think that as far as bang for your buck goes, this one is going to be really tough to beat. It’s a really darn good microphone that vastly outperforms its price point, so I’m definitely happy to have it, and I’ll be traveling around with mine recording Lijah, and Akon, and all those folks with it.

Alright guys, until next time.


Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is the recordist and mixer for multi-platinum artist Akon, and boasts a Grammy nomination for Jazz & Spellemann Award for Best Rock album. Matthew has mixed for a host of star musicians including Akon, SisQo, Ozuna, Sonny Digital, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development and 9th Wonder. Get in touch:

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