Inside JZ Microphones: The science of recording innovation

If making studio microphones is a blend of art and science, what’s the perfect ratio?

Raimonds Ozols, electronics engineer with innovative microphone maker JZ Microphones, thinks he knows.

“I believe it’s 80/20. 80 per cent is science, engineering, and years of experience to make the best microphone possible, 20 per cent is art and design,” he tells Audio Media International

“JZ Microphones really try to stand out from the crowd with our product design. We have tons of feedback about our unique design approach and it’s usually the first thing the person says when seeing a JZ mic.”

Established in 2007, the company has developed an enviable reputation for innovative industrial design. Its hand-crafted condenser microphones are revered by artists and technicians alike. 

To learn the secrets of the brand’s success, and take a deeper dive into its unique Golden Drop Capsule technology, which is very much the heart and soul of each JZ condenser microphone, we quizzed engineer Raimonds Ozols, and Head of Marketing Andris Evelis.

The company was born in 2007, in Riga, Latvia. With two decades of research and work with many successful microphone models under his belt, lead designer Juris Zarins decided the time was right to follow his passion and create his own line of high quality studio recording microphones.

Combining patented capsule technology with precision electronics he created the first JZ model, the iconic Black Hole. It soon developed a legion of influential fans. 

Rafa Sardina, award-winning recording engineer and record producer says: “When it comes to microphones, I keep my Black Hole at the top of my mic arsenal. Truly stunning on acoustic instruments. So clear, smooth, and versatile. A real winner in all applications!”

Award-winning record producer and engineer Thom Russo adds: “I found the entire line of JZ microphones to be a substantial step forward into new microphone technology, that not only compares to the ‘classics’ we have all grown to love, but in some cases, almost beats them.” 

JZ Microphones are clearly impressing the right people. “Grammy-award-winning producer Marc Urselli recently sent me a picture with Bono using the Black Hole mic,” confides Evelis.  “However, I don’t know which record it was…”

So what’s the secret to the brand’s unique Golden Drop Capsule technology?

The key innovation, says Ozols, is the use of a lighter diaphragm, which moves faster and reduces coloration and distortion. “It works pretty simply!” he says.

“All other capsules in the market were (and still are) sputtered with gold. That means there is a very thin layer of plastic that is coated with the layer of gold. Why gold? Gold is elastic, it’s an excellent conductor, and it tolerates the environment well. It’s pretty much the best material you can use here.

“The only difference is that premium-level manufacturers use thinner, more accurate layers of gold, while cheaper mics made in China use thicker, less accurate layers. The thicker the membrane, the less volume and detail the mic provides, also the frequency response is different. So, in this case, the Chinese mics have the additional part on the electric plate that compensates for the low signal. There are lots of factors that impact sound quality.”

JZ Microphones has always pursued a different approach.

“We knew that to get even more detail and more clear sound, we need to make the capsule’s diaphragm lighter, less plastic, less gold. However, you can’t go with a thinner layer of gold because there must be an electric contact for each and every particle. In other words, back then, existing capsules had a thin enough layer of gold, so there was nothing to improve. Our solution was not to coat the plastic with gold at all; in our case, we cover the membrane with tiny drops of gold. As a result, our capsule’s diaphragm is lighter; therefore, it moves much faster and delivers more clarity, and precision!”

Many studio mics are defined by their own sonic character, and lend themselves to certain instruments and vocal style. JZ Mics have more universal appeal. The intention was always  to create natural and clean-sounding vocals, says Andris Evelis.

“We wanted to create a clean-sounding mic without colorations because neither the engineer or artist always wants the colored vocals; usually, they want exactly what comes out of the mouth. They want the same sound that they hear ‘in the room’. The Black Hole really works great when clarity and neutral sound is demanded – for example, modern pop vocals and hip hop vocals. Only later, our first clients started mentioning words like ‘crystal clear sound’, ‘super-detailed’ and ‘accurate’. Those are the benefits of using the Golden Drop Technology.”

“Emotion is by far the most crucial factor in music. Technically, if the mic can capture more detail, it will also capture more of the emotion. Of course, it’s not as if there will be more emotions; it’s just the fact that the listener will better hear what was already was created by the artist.”

And then there’s the issue of affordability. JZ Mics, and the Black Hole Series in particular, are a good deal more accessible in price than some comparable high performers – it’s one of the benefits of being hand-crafted in Latvia, says Evelis. 

“We think that premium-level handcrafted mics have to be affordable to many, so they can’t cost four or five grand. The main factor is that we sell directly to our clients using our online store. We try to avoid the classic distribution chain where every player gets its cut, and in the end, the price multiplies.”

So is Latvian DNA part of JZ Microphone’s USP?  Engineer Ozols says he thinks so.

“First of all, we have many pro audio companies here – Sonarworks, EricaSynths, Game Changer Audio and a few lesser-known mic manufacturers. Considering that we are less than 2 million people, I think it’s great progress! And historically we’ve had audio-related companies here in Latvia.” 

So ultimately, what sets JZ Microphones apart from rivals? 

“I think there are three things,” declares Andris Evelis. “First, it’s our Golden Drop Technology; right after an artist or engineer hears the mic for the first time, they fall in love with the clarity and detail. Second, it’s the unique design that drives eyeballs. Lastly, it’s the price. The fact that we sell directly to the customer really sets us apart.”

For more information on the JZ Microphones range, head to the official site at JZ Microphones.