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One of the best reasons to visit the B&H SuperStore in New York City is to physically examine the latest equipment for photography, video, personal and home entertainment, and pro audio. Getting to hold the latest DSLR camera in your hands and take a few test shots is the best way to determine if it's the right one for you. But where do singers, producers, and voice over artists go when they need to test out studio microphones and preamplifiers?
Deep in the heart of midtown Manhattan, in the middle of one of the city's busiest stores, hides a silent oasis where you can familiarize yourself with the finest recording equipment available. Where else in the world can you walk in off the street without an appointment and personally test out an array of over 60 of the world's finest microphones and outboard gear in a soundproof room? To the best of my knowledge, the B&H SuperStore in New York City is the only place where it's happening.
The B&H Mic Room, an audio fan's dream come true
The Mic Room at B&H is neatly tucked in the back of the Pro Audio Department on the first floor of B&H (420 West 34th Street & 9th Avenue). Like a vocal booth in a real recording studio, you can see the microphones through windows from the sales floor. All you need to do is ask a B&H Pro Audio Sales Professional to assist you in the room. Once inside you'll find several varieties of studio microphones, preamplifiers and channel strips, and a custom-built Summit Audio switching station. This unique switcher makes it possible to instantly change between 64 microphones and up to 32 different microphone preamps at the touch of a button.
The room holds a wide variety of mics, with prices ranging from $75 to over several thousand dollars. There are 25 microphones in the $300 and under range, so even if you're on a budget you can still choose the perfect mic. If you've ever wondered how an entry-level microphone would hold up against a top-of-the-line microphone, the B&H SuperStore is the place to find out, because the room also holds many of the world's finest mics. You can easily switch between large diaphragm studio condenser microphones, tube microphones, and even a range of ribbon microphones. With over 15 microphone manufacturers represented, you get a truly comprehensive overview of available options.
The Neumann U87 and sixty four other microphones await you.
The Neumann U87 is one of the most respected microphones in the industry, and it's amazing to be able to hear it through a bunch of different preamps so quickly. Audio Technica makes some great recording mics that many professionals swear by. Stop by and form your own opinion of the AT4040, AT4050, and AT4047SV. B.L.U.E. makes some of the most unusual looking microphones in the universe. You need to make a point of getting to our store to hear the Kiwi, or the more affordable Bluebird. AKG microphones have been a standard in recording studios for decades. Come listen to the 414BXLS, the C214, and the C2000B to find out why. sE Electronics have been making some real waves with their microphone designs in the past few years. You really have to listen to their Gemini2, SE2200A, and SE4 to appreciate the work they've accomplished. RØDE has become a dominant force in the world of pro audio. If you don't already own one, you need to hear their NT2000, NT2A, and the tubey K2. If you're wondering what that cool looking golden mic is, it's the MXL R77 Classic Ribbon Microphone. If you're not familiar with what ribbon mics sound like, you will be after a visit to B&H.
There's room for more than just one set of ears in the B&H Mic Room. There are two Aphex Headpod 454 headphone amplifiers in the room that make it possible for up to four people to listen on headphones. Each pair of headphones has its own volume control, to allow everyone to listen at a level they're comfortable with. So bring along your producer, your bandmates, or anyone who can help you make an objective decision as to which microphone best suits your needs.
"We wanted to make a microphone experience that was truly customer friendly. They could come in and they could just try it out." Ray Nostrand
If you've ever walked into a pro audio department at a store and asked to try out some microphones, chances are that the mics weren't already set up and ready to go. If the store did have some mics ready to demonstrate, it's a good bet they didn't have over 60 of them lined up. Ray Nostrand spent many years at B&H striving to bring the audio department to the next level. The idea of building a mic switcher that could also include outboard preamp switching was his, and he helped make it a reality. Now B&H is the first pro audio store in the industry to have a microphone testing room that makes complicated signal routing as easy as pressing a doorbell.
The Mic Room also features acoustic treatment from Auralex. This not only helps to deaden the sound for a more neutral testing environment, it also lets our customers check out these sound absorption products in person. The room has a lively variety of foam and panels, such as the eye catching SpaceArray diffusion system. The Mic Room is acoustically isolated with a floating floor. It's remarkable to walk in, close the door, and seal out all the noise from the store.
While it's amazing to see 65 mics all wired up and ready to go, it's even more miraculous to see three racks of outboard gear fired up and awaiting your signal. This is something that audio fiends like myself have always dreamed about. Take your pick of tube mic preamps, high end solid state preamps, and a bunch of channel strips. Again, we made a point to include a range of prices from around $200 up to around $4,000. Stop by the B&H SuperStore and you'll finally be able to hear what the Universal Audio LA-610 can do!
B&H's Bill Dexter tests out a customer's Sennheiser G3 in the Mic Room.
Having a way to seal out the noise of the outside world is very useful for addressing a range of audio issues. The Sales Professionals in the B&H Pro Audio Department regularly use the Mic Room to allow customers to test out shotgun microphones, lavaliers, and any equipment they may be curious about. B&H Store Manager Bill Dexter regularly uses the Mic Room to help customers better understand the equipment they're interested in buying, as well as gear that they already own.
When you're in the Pro Audio Department at B&H, be sure to also check out our new speaker room, with its wall of near-field studio monitors, wall of passive and active PA speakers, and a wall of portable PA systems. There are also two full-blown DJ rigs, a mixing console, and a complex routing system that enables us to easily audition any gear in the room. Bring along your iPod or a CD of your material, and we'll crank it up with our wall of sound. Stop by our store, say hello, and indulge yourself in opulent electronics!
Thanks for reading this B&H newsletter article! If you have any more questions about recording equipment, signal flow, or anything related to Pro Audio, don't hesitate to contact us online via live chat, on the phone at 1-800-814-2999, or if you're lucky enough to be in New York City, stop by the famous B&H SuperStore at 420 9th Avenue in Manhattan.
Sam Mallery is a location sound mixer, writer, and musician who lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.