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Review: Violet Design Flamingo Standard and Stereo Flamingo Microphones: Raise Recording Levels

December 2007 - Violet Design is not the first name that comes to mind when most people think of microphones, but that situation may change. This Latvian microphone manufacturer has been around since 2003, but made its way to the United States at last year's Winter NAMM. The company has about a dozen mic models, and for this review, I had the Flamingo and Stereo Flamingo.

These high-end mics look the part. Both come in beautiful cases, have a sturdy build and distinctive look. These mics inspire once in front of you, and many musicians will feel the urge to live up to the mic when it comes time to track with them.

The Flamingo Standard

The Flamingo is the flagship of the Violet Design arsenal. It comes in three designs: the Standard (the one I used), which has a dual-diaphragm large diaphragm transducer; the Vintage capsule, which uses the same transducer tuned to sound more like some of the famous mics of earlier eras; and the "Magic Ear" capsule, which is shaped like a human ear and offers less resonance than a round capsule.

The Flamingo Standard has a bright violet housing, which catches your eye. The mic body houses a Class A full discrete circuit tube preamp. The 6267 tube is mounted inside a heat sink, and the mic did not get overly hot even after several hours of use. This mic also has a ton of output. I could set my external preamps at about 75 percent of where I would normally have them with other tube mics. This is also a quiet mic, with extremely low self-noise. Some of this is due to internal shock-mounting, adding to the size of the mic itself. You'll definitely need a heavy-duty stand, and you'll want to pick up the optional shock mount in order to use this mic.

The included external power supply is a soft starting unit, which mutes audio until the tube has high voltage and is stable—a handy feature if the mic gets cold. A digital readout shows the actual voltage. All of this fits into a wooden case about the size of a mandolin case. I put the Flamingo up and brought in a male vocalist, who has a subtle voice and tends to sing on the soft side. Many mics cloud his vocal in the low-mids. Immediately apparent was the clarity with which the Flamingo can capture a vocalist.

It had an extremely warm tone, but at the same time it never got boomy or muddy—a common characteristic of mid-range tube microphones. This mic was sensitive, making mic technique crucial to capturing a good vocal take, more so than with most mics. But even when the vocal got loud enough to clip the preamp, it never distorted. A female vocalist demonstrated many of the same qualities, but highlighted the warmth of this mic even further. The Flamingo is one of the best-sounding vocal mics I have ever heard. I moved it to acoustic guitar, and again was struck by the depth and detail this mic creates. I got similar results on horns, woodwinds and violin. Tube mics can overpower some program material, but the Flamingo seemed gentle enough to handle about anything. It added color to the sound, but it always seemed like a natural outgrowth of the original instrument.

The Stereo Flamingo

The Stereo Flamingo is a different animal altogether. First, it looks like something out of a Terry Gilliam film with its two large globe capsules suspended in a shock mount rig around a small center cylinder. This is not a tube preamp. Rather, Violet has implemented an FET design, making it a little more transparent than the Flamingo. Its mounting makes it easy to change the angles of the individual capsules to widen or narrow the stereo image. In fact, it would have been nice to have a guide to help lock them into place at equal angles, but this was not a big problem. There is no power supply needed.

I put it up as an overhead pair for a drum kit on an acoustic pop tune, in the style of John Mayer. I added in a kick and snare mic to give me a little leeway to mix the kit, but once we finished tracking, I found that these mics were largely unnecessary. The Stereo Flamingo captured the entire frequency range of the kit with amazing clarity and accuracy.

I also tried it out on a six-vocalist section spread across the stereo field. Once I positioned everybody properly, which took a little experimentation, the results were amazingly satisfying.

These are expensive mics, and many studio operators are hesitant to spend more than a couple thousand dollars on a mic these days, as there are many fine mics available in that range. I understand and have often subscribed to that theory, but Violet Design makes a strong argument for spending the big bucks with these mics. Nothing that I've heard, outside of some astronomically expensive vintage pieces, compares to the Flamingo. Given the wide range of applications for these mics, it might be worth saving up and passing by a couple less expensive mics to pick one up. It will immediately raise the quality of your recordings.

– Chris Neville
Downbeat Magazine

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Choose Violet!



"We had great success recording banjo with the Stereo Flamingo for the Cherryholmes' latest release."


- Lee Groitzsch
Recording Engineer/
Studio Manager
(Skaggs Family Records)

 

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