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Electro-Voice RE420 & RE520 Road Test

November 19, 2019

Electro-Voice RE420 & RE520 Road Test

The next generation of Electro-Voice RE Series condenser vocal microphones for live performance include the new RE420 (cardioid polar pattern) and RE520 (supercardioid polar pattern).

Both models incorporate internal shock mounts that help isolate the element from vibration and handling noise, and they also include a multi-stage pop filter that minimizes breath blasts and plosives. There’s also a 2-position switch to tailor the frequency response – “Flat” delivers the full frequency of the capsule while “High-Pass” position attenuates frequencies below 150 Hz.

Both models have a zinc die cast body coated with black polyurethane paint and Memraflex steel wire grilles. The primary visual difference between this two is that the RE420’s grille is black while the RE520’s is gray/steel. Both mics are the same size (7.6 inches long and 1.95 inches wide) with weight just over 11 ounces.

he mics ship with a zipper pouch as well as a stand clip with a thread inset to accommodate smaller mic stand threads. Note that both are also available as “head only” capsules for wireless systems with standard mic threads used by EV and many other manufacturers.

The specs: the RE420 has a stated 50 Hz – 20 kHz frequency response, selfnoise of 22 dB SPL (A weighted), dynamic range of 127 dB, 5.6mV/Pa sensitivity rating, output impedance of 200 ohms, and maximum SPL of 149 dB (at 1 percent THD); the RE520 has a stated 40 Hz – 20 kHz frequency response, self-noise rating of 17 dB SPL (again, A weighted), dynamic range of 133 dB, 5.6mV/Pa sensitivity rating, output impedance of 200 ohms, and maximum SPL of 150 dB (1 percent THD).

When the mics provided for this evaluation arrived at my shop, my first impression out of the box is that both are aesthetically appealing. The RE520, in particularly, is quite striking with its 2-tone appearance. Picking them up, they both felt “correct” in the hand, and plugging them into my test bench system revealed clear, true sound and very disciplined polar patterns. I can see the cardioid 420 being useful for vocalists who may not sing directly into the mic or for singers who may opt to share the mic with another singer at the same time. The supercardioid 520 is well suited for singers who can work the pattern while it helps in keeping off-axis sounds from bleeding in. The high-pass filter proves to help keep stage rumble and low frequencies out of the vocal channel, and I like that the switch is under the windscreen so it won’t get moved accidentally.

While I’m no singer, I know what my voice sounds like after all these years. To my ears, the RE420 and RE520 are very “natural sounding” and exhibit a smooth response through the vocal region. The mics have miniscule handling noise. EV provided me with two units of both models, and satisfied that all four were not damaged in shipping and working properly, it was time to take them to some gigs.

OUT IN THE WORLD

First up was male lead singer fronting a loud pop/rock band. We opted for him to use an RE520 to help reduce bleed from the band, leaving the frequency response as Flat. The other RE520 to a guitar player who sang harmonies, while the drummer was supplied with a RE420 on a boom that he would swing out of his way when not singing.

The lead singer told me he really liked his mic, commenting on how good it sounded in his wedge. Working the mix, I liked how much rejection the mic provided (both the guitar and bass players really crank it up) – a cardioid pattern would not have worked as well. Meanwhile, the drummer sang as loud as I can recall anyone singing at a gig and the RE420 handled it with ease.

Next, we ventured to handle a speech presentation, deploying the pair of RE420s for audience “Q&A” mics placed in the seating area aisles. While we mostly use wireless mics for this application, a few times a year in busy RF environments we need to go wired.

Because most audience members asking questions are not experienced presenters, often forgetting to tilt a mic toward their mouth and/or speak directly into it, we prefer a cardioid. The RE420s did a great job of capturing the voices of everyone who spoke. Meanwhile, one of the RE520 resided at front of house for announcements and introductions we were asked to make. Placed on a rubber-footed desk stand and with the switch set to roll off the lows, it proved more than up to the task.

THE JOURNEY CONTINUES

A few days later we worked with a praise band with a female and a male lead vocalist. Both of them utilized the RE520s with the low end rolled off. They were extremely pleased with how they sounded in their in-ear monitors, and I can verify that was the experience in the house as well.

Again, the rejection of stage noise by the pattern came through in a big way – despite eight musicians (including a horn section) located right behind the singers, there wasn’t a bit of bleed into the lead vocal channels. Curious to see what an RE420 would sound like on a horn, at sound check we put one on the trumpet. Suffice to say, we kept it there for the performance.

Shifting gears, we supported a harpist (7-pedal orchestra style) and her backing band of keyboards and drums who were playing a private party. An RE520 on a boom captured her vocals, with the switch to roll off the low end. Another superb result.

The other RE520 was placed under the ride cymbal because it was hard to hear the “ping-ping” from the drummer’s sticks (his preference is sticks with wooden tips) – basically, the ride just didn’t cut through the mix like it should. But after applying the 520, it most certainly did.

The next day we supported a female vocalist singing the National Anthem and another song at a large corporate meeting. She arrived a bit late (her flight was delayed) so she didn’t have time for a sound check, but we did get the chance to rough in her monitor mix.

I handed her an RE420 and stood onstage, dialing in the mix. We were definitely already in the ballpark, and then I received a big “thumbs up” from her during the performance and very nice compliments from her directly after it was over. She thought she sounded great in her wedge, and I certainly won’t argue, plus it sounded excellent in the house.

WRAPPING IT UP

The last stop on “Craig’s RE gig tour” was in support of a band at a corporate party in a hotel ballroom. The 4-piece band consisted of a guitarist, bass player, drummer and male singer who also played acoustic guitar. After talking to the singer at sound check and finding out he “eats the mic” (his words), we opted to provide him with an RE520 on him – and I’m really glad we did.

The room has a low ceiling (about 12 feet) and isn’t all that wide either, and the guitar player using one of our Fender Deluxe single 12-inch combo amps was a little too loud for the space. (Not his fault, he didn’t have the amp turned up all that high.)

I basically mixed the band volume around his guitar and having the RE520 with the supercardioid pattern out front gave me the rejection needed to keep the guitar sound out of the vocal channel. With the switch set to High-Pass, the vocal cut through nicely, sounding clear and natural in the house PA.

Electro-Voice has a couple of winners with the new RE420 and RE520. They sound and look great. Vocals are very natural and the roll-off switch is a handy feature. Handling noise is very low in handheld applications.

While they’re designed for vocals, as explained, I also used them in a few instrument applications with high success. As a sound tech I really like the added rejection of the RE520’s supercardioid pattern, but both mics would be an outstanding addition to anyone’s mic locker.

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