jz microphones bb29

REVIEW: JZ Microphones BB29 cardioid condenser mic

The JZ Microphones BB29 features a bespoke capsule design and some serious electronics under its crinkly black exterior. Music technology lecturer and author Stephen Bennett delivers the Audio Media International verdict…

What is it?
The JZ Microphones BB29 is a large diaphragm condenser microphone with Class-A electronics and a transformer coupled output.

Whats great?
It’s a serious hand-built large condenser microphone with a sound quality to match. A transformer coupled output too I like transformers.

Whats not?
The shock mount, though effective, isn’t that easy to attach to the microphone. It’s also only available at extra cost.

The bottom line
The JZ Microphones BB29 is a great performer, features a unique capsule and a physical appearance that sticks out from the crowd.

It’s often said that you can’t have too many microphones. Even if your studio is equipped with a dozen of the most revered transducers ever created, there’ll always be a time when none of your cache is quite right for the task in hand. JZ are a Latvian company, established in Riga back in 2007, and since then, they have released an increasing range of intriguing microphones to help the engineer solve this problem! The microphone under review here is part of the company’s Signature Series, the JZ Microphones BB29.

Build quality
The JZ Microphones BB29 is a hand-built cardioid-only condenser microphone, finished in a black crinkle coating. The microphone is shaped as a rectangular box with a basket covering the capsule, while the base features an XLR female connector alongside a threaded hole, so you can affix the microphone directly onto a microphone stand—which can be useful in applications where space is restricted.

The microphone has four mounts on the side for a neat suspension cradle. It weighs in at 330 grammes and has enough physical presence to make any singer feel comfortable. The capsule itself is a 1” diameter design, created using JZ’s unique ‘Gold Drop’ technology, which the company say makes the transducer lighter and thus faster moving and reduces colourations and distortions. The electronics are a Class-A, discrete design with transformer output coupling and a nominal frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz, a dynamic range of 131dB and a 140dB maximum SPL.

Looking at the supplied frequency curve, the microphone has a gentle lift of a few dB from about 5kHz up until 15kHz, suggesting the microphone might be ideal for vocal duties or where clarity and sparkle is needed in the upper frequency range. The microphone is supplied in a foam lined cardboard box, but I suspect any owner would move it to a more secure location as soon as possible.

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I compared the BB29 with a 1970s U87, a 1990s U87i, a AKG ULS II and a Neumann TLM 107. As was predictable, perhaps, the JZ sounded quite different to the other microphones when fed through a Neve 1073 preamplifier—as did all the microphones from each other! The JZ was noticeably brighter than my vintage U87 and much closer in sound to the newer Neumanns and the AKG. However, the upper frequencies did not exhibit the ‘brittleness’ you find on some microphones in this price range and the transformer definitely adds a certain ‘roundness’ of tone that I also find in my U87s—but not at the expense of clarity.

Daily use
Fitting the cradle was a bit of a faff as you need to pull the bands really hard to get them stretched across the circular ‘lugs’. But once fitted, it proved effective in isolating the microphone from stand-borne noise. The microphone is as sensitive to plosives as any of the others I’ve tried, but the shape of the microphone worked well in the upside-down position which I find really helps avoid these problems. I didn’t find any issues with sibilance on a range of male and female vocals. I tried recording some backing vocals alongside some U87-recorded leads and the result sat very nicely indeed.

The BB29 has that quality many excellent microphones have that, with the right voice, very little processing is required to get a vocal to ‘sit in the mix’. I tried the BB29 on acoustic guitar and as a mono overhead on drums and produced very useable results. As I’m doing a lot of podcasting and the production of online teaching material these days, I tried the BB29 when creating a voice-over video. I actually got some compliments from students on the quality of the voice, so the BB29 must have been doing something right!

The verdict
It’s always nice to use a microphone that isn’t a retro clone of a ‘classic’. The BB29 didn’t disappoint when placed next to some serious microphonic competition, while the overall sonic nature is bright and forward, but not excessively so—it’s a very ‘modern’ sounding microphone. The BB29 has enough differences in electronics and physical design to make it stand out in a market dominated by re-badged and re-tweaked Chinese capsules and electronics. If you can’t record great vocals with this microphone, you really do have problems elsewhere in your recording chain.

Available now – £1,123 / $1,821

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