William Shakespeare’s character Juliet is famous for saying “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. I can attest to this. We have massive rose bushes in our yard and every time I have to prune them, I spontaneously experiment with this theory by calling them all kinds of names. Especially when my arms get sliced up and my hands get skewered by thorns and one of my best shirts that I was too stupid to change out of gets torn. Yes, there are plenty of names getting flung at my roses*, and they simply sit there, unfazed, with mocking little smiles on their rosey little faces, looking pretty and smelling sweet, no matter my protestations to the contrary.

The same principle applies in other endeavors in life, such as reviewing microphones. Now, I wouldn’t want you to mistake me for a technical expert who can spout the complexities of audio physics. I only have five brain cells to rub together and I need three of those just for breathing and walking upright.

What I do know is when things sound good and when they don’t. The Stellar X2 microphone from Tech Zone Audio Products in Fontana California sounds good. Really good. Good enough that I use it every day. I even recorded my commercial demo with J. Michael Collins on it.

Of course, my opinion is subjective and no, I haven’t run an exhaustive study, recording different voices in a controlled environment on comparable microphones. That’s okay because that isn’t how I use a microphone. I use it for me, in my booth, with my voice. Or other voices that spontaneously come out of my mouth, depending on whether I took my medications that day. YMMV.

Not What I Was Looking For

When I installed the X2, I had been using an AKG c212. Both microphones are large diaphragm condensers, so I expected somewhat similar performance. After making the change, something wasn’t right. My noise floor went up 15dB. I thought there was a problem, so contacted the company for assistance. They were very responsive, but their suggestions didn’t help.

I eventually figured out that the problem was twofold. First, the 212 has a high pass filter switch and the X2 doesn’t. That makes a big difference, although this can largely be fixed in post. Secondly, the X2 is a lot more sensitive. If there is a butterfly flapping her wings outside the window to the room where my booth is, the X2 picks it up, prompting the prolific use of new names being flung in its general direction*. It continued to look just as pretty, again proving Juliet right.

Another thing: the X2 can be finicky about your mic technique. Angles and distance make a noticeable difference in sound, so it may take some experimentation to get the sound you want. This shouldn’t be a deal breaker, but if you are thinking of buying the X2, is something to be aware of.

You can go to the TZ website to check out all the technical specs if that interests you. They make it look pretty impressive. I’m sure I would be impressed if I knew what all of that stuff means. What I am impressed by is the clean, full sound. It is warm, without being at all muddy or dark. It retains a strong presence that is clear without any harshness. For another opinion, check out this review by “Booth Junkie” Mike DelGaudio. The one Mike reviewed is slightly different than the one available now, but the essentials are the same.

What’s in a Name?

What I am not impressed with is their name. Sorry TZ guys, but if you were naming a discount electronics store, Tech Zone would have been great. Such a great idea in fact, that if you had done that, I would probably be there right now. Tech Zone for a microphone company makes it hard for people to take your products seriously. You have to compete with companies like Sennheiser and Neumann. Those names sound serious. Technical. Substantial.

Those businesses are named after people who earned respect in their industry. Might I suggest a name change?  Hmmm . . . just picking a name at random . . . how about something like Gardner Technical (GT)**? That’s much better than Tech Zone. You’re welcome.

Likewise, Stellar X2 sounds like a product you would see on a home shopping channel. “And if you buy the Stellar X2 within the next 7 minutes, you’ll receive a 29 cent Bic pen at no extra charge!”

Words Need Not Apply

You’ll notice that the Sennheisers and Neumanns of the world don’t typically give you a sales pitch or description in their product names. TLM103. U87. MKH416. Their products are bad ass. They don’t need no stinking words attached. Again, just selecting letters and numbers at random . . . how about JG58**? Now that is striking. Hard hitting, no nonsense. And it doesn’t advertise the fact that this is only the second microphone you have made. The GT JG58**. BAM! Sounds like you poured gold into a mold and a microphone came out. I’ll buy two please!

The fact is, poor naming choices aside, the TZ Stellar X2 sounds like a much more expensive microphone. If you are looking for a microphone with a flat, balanced response which picks up the nuances of your performance but doesn’t break the bank, this one deserves a serious look. Trust me, it smells pretty sweet, despite the name.

* No roses or butterflies were harmed during the writing of this blog post.

** The use of Gardner, which is my last name, and JG, which are my initials, was completely random and not influenced in any way by personal preference, as attested to by the impartial auditors JonGar Incorporated.

Next week, I make Peter Dickson unhappy.

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4 Responses

  1. Thanks Jon for opinion. Not unlike roses, it doesn’t stink. Oh, and thanks for sharing your passwords with us! Your bank says I’m the new JG58! Thanks for that! Great job on the blog, keep it up!.👍

    • Thank you Jane for you kind words, although you might not want to admit to liking my writing style in public. I would hate to be the cause of the demise of your career.

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