Egor Ubel
April 18, 2010
Extract from

Oktava MK-105 microphone: Tula is not just a... Part one

Sooner or later every person dealing with sound recording faces the problem of acquiring that or another equipment. And every such person faces the problem of choosing a microphone..

I’m not an exception. I got sick and tired of begging for microphones with racks from my friends-sounders, such as “Audiotechnica”, Sennheiser, AKG... It was high time to get one for myself! That is how I started studying catalogues, price-lists and test reviews. It was rather difficult to find an “Audiotechnica” mic in the city, though I did not take too many efforts. Sennheiser has good studio microphones, though they lack studio vocal ones. AKG has a wide product range in the city and different price rates. I’ve chosen one model for $500... and then I recalled Oktava microphones. I found their website in my browser and a dozen of forums and was really at a loss!

Tula is not just weapons factories, Tula gingerbread and samovars, it is also Oktava OJSC, operating since 1927! The factory is still alive and prospering. It is not just existing, it really prospers! The factory has a huge product range and INDECENTLY LOW PRICES. Design of every microphone causes kind smile and slight “nostalgie” on the far-away Soviet Union. Everyone in forums is crazy with happiness, i.e. they are invaluable. How it can be?! Why aren’t they upsold at domestic market, if everyone is so crazy and so little money? Though I preferred not to trust low prices and started studying them thoroughly.

Two weeks of continuous reading of forums and articles, talks and consultations from my colleagues and I get to know that it is the only right option in my case.

I have registered at the “official” (as I deemed) website and made an order. Order set was as follows:

Oktava MK-105 microphone — 1

Oktava ÀÌ-60/27 shock mount — 1

Order date — 30.03.2010

It was interesting to choose among delivery options: Post of Russia, Flippost Express Mail and other transportation companies and (ATTENTION, please!) “possible delivery with a train conductor”! I think this option is especially popular in Russia.

10.04.2010 — I got a notice about consignment arrival from Tula. I got it, paid (I spent a bit more than nine thousand for the whole set), brought it home and unpacked.

Packing of the consignment was amazing. Two printed boxes with complete data about their content. Date of production was below (next day after my anniversary)))! The first box: luxurious wooden casket. Plastic metal case from Neumann is a kindergarten versus this casket! Neatly packed microphone and passport were inside. The passport is a separate topic. Reading it you get unexplainable smile and “nostalgie” over the Soviet Union. The only modern feature is an e-mail and website. The problem of Oktava factory is that they CANNOT make exactly the same microphones. It means that selecting five or six microphones of the same model, you won’t find the same sounding. That is why the last page of passport accompanied with a sheet with frequency-amplitude characteristics of this very microphone. And this schedule was printed on a special machine, similar to the one used in hospitals to make cardiogram, rather than from .jpg on a printer.

The second box: it contained the spider shock mount with replaceable rubbers in a package. Less luxury, but still it was not less pleasant. Looking thoroughly you remember that Tula is not just Oktava OJSC, but also weapons plants. In some places execution was rude and again you get a smile...

Test. I brought it to my workplace, Cobra Music sound recording studio. My colleagues were really surprised to see my purchase. Having put it on a rack, I tried to plug the XLR cord. And what would you think? It stuck! Right in the middle and no go! Somehow two of us managed to get the plug off. We checked the manufacturer — Amphenol. It seemed to be a good brand... Let’s try plug it in Neutrik — as good as gone! Conclusion: microphone likes famous brands (no offense for Amphenol).

Let’s compare it with Neumann M147 Tube microphone and start recording speech from both microphones in parallel. The first that we noted Oktava had more tops. It seems that it has more accuracy and details. With Neumann we always put tops up, and it is not needed with Oktava, not more nor less. 1:0. Neumann mic is a tube and old one — as a result it is noisy and tube in pre-amplifier mucks up... despite of Oktava, which is simply a condenser mic with no noise due to phantom power! Yes, you can stick on this issue, but everything is good in comparison. And what a tight sound it yields in bass! It is gorgeous for recording a man’s bass. Generated dynamics really impresses: it perfectly shows itself at hardly heard whisper and scream as well.

Though you cannot cheat the ear. Neumann is more detailed than Oktava, it yields more sound shades. But this is Neumann and it costs about $4000. But this is Oktava and it costs 7,940! RUBLES!!! Do you feel the difference?! At such enormous difference in price they are still trying to challenge! No comments...

Now we’re going to order at least three more microphones.